Nick Wright, a co-host of Fox Sport 1's First Things First morning show, made some comments about the Pittsburgh Steelers which came off as a "hot take" for anyone who isn't a member of Steelers Nation.
I'm not here to parrot word-for-word what Wright said about the Steelers, rather, I have some more to add to it.
For those who missed what Nick Wright said, here's the short segment from this morning:
"The Steelers have earned the right to say: 'We lost to the Jags, we're going to wax them this weekend & then we're going to redeem the loss to the Patriots." — @getnickwright pic.twitter.com/u4oZFIc3CW
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) January 10, 2018
Wright's comments only appear to be "off" with a media obsessed with the New England Patriots. If you were to skim through sportsbooks sites, like My Top Sportsbooks, you would notice that most have the Patriots as the overwhelming favorites to repeat as Super Bowl Champions.
Yet, that sentiment doesn't sit well with anyone following the Steelers. (Or for that matter, anyone capable of rational thought.)
Wright made some great comments about the Steelers. Though several teams share the same record, no one in the NFL has a better record. The Patriots are going through their own drama, while the Steelers have shed most of theirs. They dumped their own baggage (James Harrison) and moved beyond small fires which were more smoke than substance with Ben Roethlisberger's "retirement", Le'Veon Bell's "holdout", Antonio Brown punching a Gatorade cooler or pick anything random people complain about with Todd Haley.
Instead, the loss of Dan Rooney and the injury to Ryan Shazier has strengthened this group and given them purpose. As they head into the Sunday's Divisional Round rematch against one of the three teams they lost to this season, the Jacksonville Jaguars, it's hard not to advocate for why the Steelers should avenge their earlier Week 5 loss.
Since that poor showing in a 30-9 loss, arguably no one has been hotter than the Steelers. Wright correctly points this out but doesn't elaborate that the Steelers were a botched replay call away, the Jesse James touchdown reversal, from going undefeated since the loss to the Jaguars. That's a fact which supports hypothetical evidence that the Steelers offense started slow. Everyone has a short memory as to how Martavis Bryant wasn't "getting the ball" and Le'Veon Bell "showed signs of rust".
Those narratives are behind this Steelers team now, with Bryant having turned his season around, but still not equalling another receiver on the roster: and no, that receiver isn't All-Pro Antonio Brown, who despite missing over two games worth of playing time, still led the league in receiving yards.
That distinction would go to a rookie, one who fans pondered picking when Pittsburgh was already flush at the position. JuJu Smith-Schuster soared to stardom with 58 receptions for 917 yards and 7 touchdowns.
In fact, that old narrative of not having receivers or Le'Veon Bell being the second-best receiver on the team (as a running back no less) are long gone. But the scary part is if Bell was the second-best receiver, is he now the fourth-best or lower even with 85 catches this season?
That may not bode well for a Jaguars team that has struggled to move the ball behind quarterback Blake Bortles. In their previous matchup, the Steelers trailed at halftime 7-6, and even led 9-7 during the third quarter, before Ben Roethlisberger threw a bunch of interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.
That's been the new script for the upcoming rematch: Big Ben wants to avenge that game. In saying so, several Jaguars defenders have mocked Roethlisberger, but the fact of the matter is, for every critic pointing out how good the Jaguars defense is, they are failing to recognize that "Sacksonville" actually finished second in the NFL in team sacks.
The team who finished first? None other than the Pittsburgh Steelers, a defense which has been underrated for a variety of reasons. Yes, the Steelers have given up big plays, but who hasn't?
And yes, the Steelers dropped an ugly game against the Chicago Bears as well. That game was played into overtime and could've been a victory for Pittsburgh, but it wasn't. However, should we hold that loss over their head? What I'm not seeing is anyone pointing out that the Jaguars were swept by division rival Tennessee this season, lost in OT to the New York Jets, and also dropped games to the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers.
Yes, the vaunted Jaguars defense gave up 23 points to the Josh McCown led Jets, 27 to the Blaine Gabbert led Cards, and in his fourth start after being with the Niners for a month relinquished 44 points to Jimmy Garoppolo and company.
That leaves the "what if" door open. We know that the Steelers laid an egg against the Jaguars earlier in the year, but a lot has changed since October 8th. With the exception of missing Ryan Shazier, the Steelers will have all of their starters healthy, well-rested, and ready for Sunday. Their roster boasts the most Pro Bowl players and most All-Pro's in the league.
If people really are sleeping on the Steelers, it's a shame. However, it's where they like to be: an underdog with a chip on their shoulder and something to play for. They're playing for Dan Rooney. They're playing for Ryan Shazier. And they're playing to avenge regular season losses.
That's a dangerous combination and one that any team in the league should be wary of. If you are the Steelers, ending the 2017 season with anything less than a seventh Lombardi trophy would be considered a disappointment.