This past season was a disappointing one for the Pittsburgh Steelers. A team that is a perennial Super Bowl threat failed to even make the playoffs and had their worst record since the 2006 season. Still, the Steelers managed an 8-8 record and should make a strong push for the playoffs this season. This will be Ben Roethlisberger’s 10th year in the league which is hard to wrap my head around. The Steelers have an interesting mix of young players and veterans. Their offense is extremely youthful with the exception of Roethlisberger and the defense is full of experienced players with the exception of Cortez Allen and Steve McLendon. The young players will benefit from the Steelers seasoned personnel such as Head Coach Mike Tomlin, Defensive Coordinatior Dick LeBeau, and Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley. This offseason the Steelers lost skilled players such as James Harrison, Mike Wallace, and Rashard Mendenhall but looked to replace them all in the draft.
2013-2014 Projected Record (10-6).
The Steelers offense struggled this past season behind a weak o-line and run game. The o-line is still questionable but reports have confirmed it has improved as well as the Steelers running back situation. They drafted Le’Veon Bell out of Michigan State who should be their workhorse this season. Bell is a great addition who will help the ground and pound game progress in Pittsburgh which will be imperative to their playoff run.
Draft Grade: A-
Pittsburgh’s draft class wasn’t very highly touted but I think looking back in a couple of years it will be a memorable one. Their approach was simply to fill the holes that James Harrison, Mike Wallace, and Rashard Mendenhall left via free agency while choosing the best players to do so. The most pressing hole was the one that Harrison left. He was a pass rushing monster and the heart of the Steelers defense over the past few seasons. In the first round the Steelers used their number seventeen overall pick on Outside Linebacker Jarvis Jones out of UGA. Jones led the NCAA in sacks and has drawn comparisons to Von Miller but unfortunately suffers from a condition called spinal stenosis. This should affect the longevity of his career but initially he should serve as an impact player. He will rightfully replace Harrison. In the second round, Pittsburgh shocked everyone by drafting Le’Veon Bell as the second running back in the draft. Many thought that RB Eddie Lacy would go before him but I do like the pick. Bell can do it all by rushing, blocking, and even catching passes well. He should be a significant upgrade over sluggish Rashard Mendenhall and will be in the run for offensive ROY. In the third round they drafted Markus Wheaton out of Oregon State. He won’t replace Mike Wallace but he will replace Emmanuel Sanders in the slot. Antonio Brown will fill in for Wallace as the “x” receiver and Sanders will fill in for Brown as the “z” receiver. Wheaton is a bit undersized but is very quick and tough. He is comparable to T.Y. Hilton.
Week 9 @ New England- Two perennial powerhouses facing off in the heart of the season will indicate if the Steelers are legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
Week 13 @ Baltimore- One of the most heated rivalries in the NFL will be featured on Thanksgiving day this year. It could also very well determine who will make the playoffs in the AFC North.
With the departure of Mike Wallace in free agency, Antonio Brown emerges as the number one receiver in Pittsburgh. I predict that Brown will have a monster season this year and could potentially see over 100 receptions. Like most receivers on the Steelers roster, he lacks in size but that doesn’t limit his game. Brown is still a physical receiver and a terrific route runner. He will shine in his first season as the Steelers number one receiver and most likely make the people of Pittsburgh forget deep threat Mike Wallace.
Last season, the Steelers ranked 26th in rush offense. This was mainly due to the terrible play of the Steelers offensive line. Players such as guard David DeCastro and tackle Marcus Gilbert suffered an ACL tear and an ankle injury respectively. DeCastro never saw the field during the regular season game and Gilbert was out for the season after week six. With these players coming back healthy, the Steelers offensive line will significantly improve directly affecting their run game. Le’Veon Bell should thrive in his rookie season with a new revamped offensive line. With the ground attack back in Pittsburgh, look for the Steelers to find themselves back in the playoffs this year.