The Pittsburgh Steelers is next up to discuss on our 32 NFL Team breakdown. The Steelers Head Coach, Mike Tomlin, has been with the team 8 years now. He holds an impressive 68-36 record, taking the team to 2 Super Bowls but only winning one. He finished with the worst record of his career in 2012 (8-8) and will be looking to rebound, with a trip to the Playoffs.
Offense: Ben Roethlisberger is the face of the franchise in Pittsburgh. He almost holds every major passing record in Steelers history and, with 22 more touchdowns in 2013, he’ll be the franchise leader in that department as well. Having multiple injuries slow him up last season, Big Ben still managed to throw for 3,265 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. Pittsburgh, in the emergency that Ben happens to miss time due to injury (missed 3 in 2012), got a lot younger in the Depth Chart at back up. They signed Bruce Gradkowski during Free Agency, and Drafted Landry Jones in the 4th round of the Draft. I’ve always been a huge fan of Landry Jones; arguably the greatest Quarterback in Oklahoma Sooners history. I felt that, going into the Draft, places such as the Giants, Steelers, and Cowboys were ideal spots for Jones to land. He’ll have a chance to become accustomed to the play style and learn the offense well while sitting. Who’s running the football for the team next year is undetermined. Pittsburgh picked Le’Veon Bell with the 48th selection in the Draft, and he has the best opportunity to become the starter. Bell is a big man with very nice footwork. He needs to work on his pass protection however if he expects to be an every down back. Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman had their opportunities to prove they could handle the duties last year, but the team ranked 26th in the run. Dwyer was playing well during the 2nd quarter of the season but his play seemed to decline during the rest of the season. Opening holes for the Running Back will be a very talented Offensive Line. Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert will be the team’s starting Tackles next season, but which side each is playing isn’t solidified. Adams was stabbed during a car jacking in the Offseason, but should be fine by the time Training Camp rolls around. Roman Foster will be returning to starting Right Guard, while David DeCastro will try to make it through his 2013 season. A rookie in 2012, DeCastro missed a lot of time due to injures and will be a welcome presence this upcoming season. Maurkice Pouncey is arguably the best Center in the NFL. Pouncey is the anchor of the line and has made the Pro Bowl in each of his 3 NFL seasons. The main receiving options for the Steelers will consist of Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. They combined for 6 touchdowns for the team (21 plays for 20+ yards) during the 2012 campaign. Markus Wheaton, Jerricho Cotchery, and Plaxico Burress will be looked at to win their 1 on 1 coverages with those main threats on the field. Burress is on his last leg as an NFL receiver. This could possibly be his last season in the league. Cotchery is a 10-year vet who had one of his worst seasons statistically in 2012. Wheaton was drafted out of Oregon State and should have plenty of big plays for the team as their main slot receiver. He was a consistent player in college, so Pittsburgh is hoping they get the same results out of him. Heath Miller reinvigorated himself last season, setting career highs in yards (816) and touchdowns (8). If the Tight End continues to play that well in his 9th year with the franchise, he’ll be the usual security blanket for Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh ranked 21st overall last year in Total Offense, mainly due to their lack of a running game and Quarterback missing games due to injury. If Bell can run for 1,000 yards in his rookie year, it’ll make things a lot easier on Big Ben in the passing game, and the Steelers will be a dangerous team to play against.
Defense: Doing what they’re known to do best, the Steelers’ Defense led the NFL last year (1st against pass and 2nd versus run). Lawrence Timmons was a big reason for the team’s success, registering 106 total tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 3 interceptions (team leading), and 6 sacks (tied for team lead). He should be a Pro Bowl candidate this season at Middle Linebacker, starting along side Larry Foote. Foote led the team in tackles with 113 total in his 11th year, also recording 4 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. Lamarr Woodley is the team’s top pass rushing specialist, but hasn’t be able to play a full 16 games the past two seasons. He needs to return to his 10 sacks or more standard of play in the upcoming year. The combination of Woodley and Timmons, playing at the top of their games, is a major difference maker. Joining Woodley at Outside Linebacker will be either Jason Worilds or rookie Jarvis Jones. Jones was regarded one of the top picks in the draft at one point, so he was a steal for the Steelers at 17. In the past 2 seasons at Georgia, Jones had 28 sacks and 5 forced fumbles. Worilds brought the Quarterback down 5 times last year and, going into his 4th year, should be the starter for the team. It’ll be interesting to watch how that plays out because Worilds will have to play solid not to have fans grumble over when a 1st round pick will be ready to start. The duo at Secondary of Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark have been a force, when healthy together, for many years. Troy has had a rough last 2 seasons. Injuries have plagued him and if he doesn’t prove that he can be healthy enough to play the position, rookie Shamarko Thomas will be waiting in the shadows. Ryan Clark is going into his 12th season. Every year that has passed, he’s gotten statistically better at tackling, and totaled 102 over 2012. The starting Cornerbacks for Pittsburgh, Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen, only combined for 3 interceptions in 2012. They’ll need to double those numbers, at least, with the stress that the Steelers put on the passer. Terry Hawthorne was acquired during the Draft, helping out with William Gay and Curtis Brown, to fill in during other advanced receiver sets during games. Hawthorne intercepted 5 passes in his 4 years at Illinois. After leaving in 2012, William Gay signed back with the Steelers during the Offseason. Going into his 3rd year as a player, Brown is still looking for his first career interception. Steve McLendon will be the starter for the first time in his 4-year career. He’ll get the nod at Nose Tackle and should be an interesting person to watch as the season goes on. If by any chance he can’t hold up, Alameda Ta’amu is a large individual who the Steelers selected in the 4th round in 2012. The probable Defensive ends are Ziggy Hood and Brett Keisel. Some would like Cameron Heyward to win one of those positions with strong play in Training Camp, but there are a lot of questions surrounding his consistency. Hood has started 80 games in a row for the organization. Ziggy is very stout out End who is a force against the run and can put some pressure on the Quarterback. Keisel has been a fan favorite for quite some time now and had 8.5 sacks in 2012. The Defense will be just as big an impact as they were in the previous year if they can have all their key players firing on all cylinders.
End Result: I think Pittsburgh makes a Playoff run – going 12-4 in 2013.