Are Pittsburgh Steelers fan expectations too lofty?
The Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 preseason went about as well as can be expected. In fact, when you look back at their 3-0 preseason record, you could say it went about as perfect as possible. What has happened with the fan base after the exhibition season has finished? They’ve gone from doubters to believers in the blink of an eye.
While some talked about a potential playoff berth, now some are talking about Super Bowl.
Think I’m joking? If so, just go look on any social media platform where Steelers fans congregate. While not all fans would fall into this category, are those expectations set by those who are thinking big for the 2023 Steelers season too lofty?
Let me start by saying the preseason was good enough that it could change even the most skeptical fans into optimists, but we’re talking about the preseason. It’s the preseason, the games don’t count. And not only that, the opposition rarely puts forth their full arsenal of players and game planning in these games.
But can’t the same be said about the Steelers and how they approach these tune-up games?
It is at this point when we have to try and decipher if these fans with high expectations are setting themselves up for a let down. Are these thoughts and feelings too much? This was the exact conversation I had with Tim Benz of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on my Friday “Let’s Ride” podcast. Time spoke about how he feels the team, both offensively and defensively, is ready to take the next step towards meeting fan expectations.
The offense looked legitimate vs. the opposition in the preseason, and the only thing which seems to be able to get in their way is themselves. In other words, the coaching staff. Sure, injuries and mistakes can derail any plan, but will the Steelers coaches be willing to put games on Kenny Pickett’s shoulders before it is required? Last season was a situation where the team simply relied on Pickett only when they had to. If that happens again in 2023, it could be a long season.
Defensively the question I asked was if this 2023 defense was better than the 2022 unit, and that is not taking Watt’s injury into account when looking back at last season. It looks vastly different at positions like ILB, CB and Safety, but different doesn’t always mean worse. Benz talked about Teryl Austin’s approach, and how this unit has a better mix-and-match approach to the game. Something which can benefit them week-in and week-out as the teams they play, and how they attack defenses, will vary greatly.
Ultimately, the Steelers expectations are high naturally, but are ratcheted up even higher after the 3-0 preseason. What will happen when the games start to count? Will the offense continue their dominance? Will the defense stand tall when it matters most?
These answers will dictate whether fan expectations are too lofty, or more realistic.
If you want to hear the interview with Benz, check out the player below to listen. In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to SCN for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1.