COLUMN: Steelers off to a hot start

First 7-0 start since 1978, observations at mid point of season

At the halfway point of the season, the Steelers are 7-0. Good enough for the best record in the National Football League. The last time the Steelers started a season 7-0: 1978.

Jimmy Carter was the President of the United States.

The average cost of gas in the U.S. was about 70 cents.

The Bee Gees had three No. 1 singles in 1978, “How Deep Is Your Love,” “Stayin Alive” and “Night Fever.” And Pittsburgh won its third Super Bowl championship that year.

Here are some key observations I’ve seen so far this season.

Ben Roethlisberger

Ben is back. He’s thrown 15 touchdowns and four interceptions. Those four interceptions tie for sixth-fewest in the league. Roethlisberger is doing his part and not turning the ball over very much. When you have a quarterback that doesn’t turn over the football, you are in a good position to win. He looks as motivated as ever to lead the Steelers to another Super Bowl.

Roethlisberger isn’t flashy like Patrick Mahomes or Russell Wilson, but he gets the job done. The key is the offense, which is designed so Ben can get the ball out of his hands quickly. He is averaging 6.6 yards per attempt which is the lowest in his career.

The Steelers offense will continue to be successful if they call plays where Ben keeps dinking and dunking down the field. It’s not the most exciting football to watch, but it’s working for the offense. The Steelers are fifth in the league in points per game at 30.1. They didn’t have a single game last year where they scored 30 points. That’s due to Roethlisberger’s return.

Chase Claypool

Kevin Colbert nailed this draft pick. Claypool was a second-round selection out of Notre Dame in the 2020 NFL Draft and is leaving his mark early. He leads the Steelers with 375 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns.

Claypool also added two rushing touchdowns. He scored the go-ahead touchdown in the Steelers win over the Baltimore Ravens last week.

Standing at 6’4”, he’s the big target the Steelers missed since Martavis Bryant departed in 2017.

If they throw the ball to him, giving him a chance to catch it, he will come down with the ball. I wasn’t expecting him to produce as much as he has so far this season. With his size, he creates a mismatch for opposing cornerbacks. He showed it in the game against the Philadelphia Eagles that he can take over.


The defense is good as advertised. They rank fifth in yards allowed giving up 310.7 yards per game. They’re first in the league with 30 sacks. They are tied for second in the NFL by forcing 13 turnovers and fifth in rushing defense, giving up 96.9 yards per game.

At the beginning of the year, I said they can be a top-five unit and they are. The defense keeps this team in every game, and comes up with big plays in key situations. The defense has two touchdowns.

Both of those scores are off interceptions. One by Minkah Fitzpatrick and another one by Robert Spillane. Their biggest strength is getting to the quarterback. They have recorded at least one sack in 64 consecutive games. One player that stands out for me on defense is Vince Williams. 

He’s having the best season of his career. Tied for the league lead with teammate T.J. Watt, recording 12 tackles for loss. If Williams can continue his solid play, this defense will get even better.

The Steelers’ last three wins were against three good opponents. The Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens. They now have a combined record of 15-7. The Steelers’ next three opponents: the Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals and Jacksonville Jaguars have a combined record of 5-17-1.

There is a strong possibility they go into the Baltimore game on Thanksgiving night 10-0. If the Steelers continue to play like this, they could be the number one seed in the AFC and a Super Bowl contender.

Gas is now more expensive than it was in 1978. However, it’s nice that the Steelers are 7-0 for the first time since 1978.