Have Same Old Steelers Evolved?

Mike Prisuta believes an offense that's taken the next step would lead to a Steelers team that's taken a gargantuan step. But has it?

So in the end it came down to Chris Scott over Tony Hills, Steve McLendon over Corbin Bryant and Weslye Saunders over John Gilmore in getting to 53?

That must mean the Steelers are a pretty good team.

No wonder the offensive players, from Ben Roethlisberger to Willie Colon, are publicly pronouncing a sky-is-the-limit mantra when it comes to assessing their platoon's perceived capability, and Mike Wallace is contemplating the Steelers becoming "legendary" overall if they put it all together.

That must mean there is great belief in the room as well as great potential.

The stated goal at the outset of every season is to add to the franchise's collection of Lombardi trophies on display on the South Side. And that's an objective that's taken seriously enough that as recently as the preseason finale at Carolina Charlie Batch was looking ahead to the impending regular season as an opportunity to "get the bitter taste out of our mouths."

All the Steelers did last season was make it to the Super Bowl.

There's no reason not to consider them favorites or at the very least co-favorites to make it at least that far this season.

They have the continuity, chemistry, coaching, camaraderie and combustibility to make that happen.

They're talented enough, experienced enough and -- here's the key -- versatile enough to slug it out or shoot it out.

That, at least, will be the expectation.

No more winning with defense and an offense good enough not to screw things up.

No more winning with defense and running the ball and other forms of ball-control offense.

And, most significantly, no more winning with an offense that sometimes combusts and sometimes confounds. The Steelers' offense ought to find that next level, that extra gear this season. No matter how the defense performs, the offense ought to be able to score in the 30s with regularity. And that should give the Steelers the long-sought-after dimension of going into a game against New England and expecting to beat Tom Brady at his game.

They haven't really had that in recent seasons, not against the Patriots, at least, despite having gone to half of the Super Bowls in the last six seasons.

They should have it this year.

And if they have it they ought to be an absolutely lethal team. That potential component is perhaps getting lost in the shuffle that is another impending matchup with the supposed-to-be-hated Ravens.

But Roethlisberger may have inadvertently tipped a hand as to how the Steelers perceive themselves when he opened this week speaking about the dangers of getting "caught up a little bit in being too conservative and not turning the ball over" against teams such as Baltimore.

"I think at some point you have to flip that around and say, ‘Well, let's just try to go score points on offense,'" Roethlisberger added. "We'll see as we get closer what approach we're going to take."

They either will or they won't. But either way the Ravens aren't the team that figures to get in the Steelers' way along the way to a fourth Super Bowl appearance in seven seasons.

That team would be New England. That's why, no matter what happens on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, what happens on Oct. 30 against New England will matter more. That latest invasion of Pittsburgh by Belichick and Brady will close out the Steelers' first half.

And that result will provide much more insight as to whether these Steelers really are on their way to becoming legendary, or if they're destined to accomplish whatever it is they achieve this season the hard way.

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