Don't look now, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are now the top team in the AFC North at 6-2-1. Though the team started off the season struggling and many questioned its ability to compete with the elite teams in the conference, the Steelers have proven that they are for real. Here are five reasons why the Steelers are legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
5. Mike Tomlin at the Helm
Championship experience is something that can't be overstated in a hyper-competitive league. Mike Tomlin knows what it takes to bring his teams over the top, and this year he has the tools to get it done. Amidst rumors of being on the hot seat and criticism, Tomlin has managed to continue winning. His experience will play a crucial role in the latter half of this season.
4. The Offensive Line is Unstoppable
Simply put, the Steelers have the best offensive line in football right now. There's a reason that Ben Roethlisberger wasn't touched at all during the game against the Panthers and why the offense as a whole has been so productive. From B.J. Finney to Matt Feiler, the line is just impenetrable and a reason why the Pittsburgh offense just won't stop striking.
3. James Conner is a Pleasant Surprise
Not a lot of people expected James Conner to be as effective as he has this season. The third-round pick has been a very pleasant surprise for the Steelers this season and with the status of Le'Veon Bell still unclear, Conner has emerged as a solid replacement. Conner is averaging 4.7 yards per run and has racked up an absurd amount of yards from scrimmage this season.
2. Antonio Brown is Out of His Mind
The Steelers needed Antonio Brown to have a sensational year, and the wide receiver is not disappointing. Arguably the top receiver in the NFL right now, Brown is averaging 12.1 yards per reception this season and has racked up 10 total touchdowns already. Against the Panthers, he had six catches for 96 yards and tore the Carolina defense apart.
1. Big Ben is Still Big
Ben Roethlisberger is the key to the Steelers' success, and he hasn't let the team down. Against the Panthers on Thursday, Big Ben had a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3, completing 22 of 25 pass attempts for 328 yards and five touchdowns. The 36-year-old isn't showing any signs of slowing down, and if he continues to streak, the Steelers can't be counted out.