Last year, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers won the Superbowl after needing to win their Week 17 bout vs. the Bears just to get into the playoffs. The Pack have quickly become the league's most complete team, combining a star-studded group with great depth all over the field. At 7-0, the Packers won't have any trouble getting into the playoffs this season. They are still the favorites to win it all, but there's one team creeping back into relevance.
No, it is not the Philadelphia Eagles, fresh off of a romp over the inconsistent Dallas Cowboys.
No, it is not the New Orleans Saints, who proved they are still vulnerable after losing to the winless Rams.
No, it is not the Jets, who have been mediocre in the young season.
And no, it is not the New England Patriots, who have now conceded the top spot in the AFC.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are back and stronger than ever. Yes they are much older and definitely not as skilled as they were in the past few years, but no team is more fundamentally sound in football. The defense is back to its overpowering ways and with the emergence of Mike Wallace as the best deep threat in football, this team is for real.
The Steelers seem to always find a way to be in playoff contention year after year, but the amazing part is that they've done so with a very similar core. Roethlisberger continues to be one of the elite quarterbacks in the game, while Hines Ward and Heath Miller provide consistent production as secondary and tertiary options. On defense, we've heard names like Farrior, Woodley, Harrison, Polamalu, Keisel, Taylor, Gay, Foote, Timmons, Clark, and Hampton for years. I know the Ravens have boasted one of the best defenses in the game for the past ten years, but the Steelers, in my opinion, have the best defense in the NFL of the past decade.
Despite getting embarassed by the Ravens 35-7 in Week 1, the Steelers have bounced back and are playing great football now. They face a huge rematch next week against Baltimore, but I guarantee this game will be a lot closer. This game will be played at Heinz Field and I expect the Steelers to take care of business against their biggest rivals.
As of right now, we are right where we left off at the end of last season. The top two teams in the league are the Pack and the Steelers. Of course once the playoffs start anything can happen (Seahawks defeating the Saints), but don't be surprised if you see a rematch of Superbowl XLV in a few months.