The Steelers had a pretty sad year in 2012. Ooh sure they led the league in total defense but they were 27th in the league in interceptions and a -10 in turnover differential overall. Combine that with a well below average offense and you’re left with an 8-8 team that misses the playoffs. In the offseason things didn’t get much better for the Steelers as they lost Mike Wallace to Miami, Rashard Mendenhall to the Cardinals and were forced to release James Harrison who jumped to a division rival. Filling these holes is… well… no one…
They drafted Le’Veon Bell in the second round to be the new starting running back but he’s already sprained his foot and even though he’s not expected to miss a lot of regular season time, he’ll still be well behind in his development. Don’t be expecting the world out of him. As for replacing Wallace they decided to stand pat in the hopes that Antonio Brown will take another step forward. It’s going to be a tough year to be a Steelers fan.
-RB Le’Veon Bell
-CB William Gay
-QB Brad Gradkowski(yeah the word “key” may not apply here)
WR – Mike Wallace
LB – James Harrison
RB – Rashard Mendenhall
Ben Roethlisberger was having a great year in 2012 when he went down with a shoulder injury and there went both his and the Steelers’ seasons. He’s an elite option when he’s healthy and has a history of being able to tough it out. He’s easily the least of their offensive worries.
Le’Veon Bell is probably going to be a solid running back. It just probably won’t be in 2013. He will be running on a tender ankle behind a below-average line. Not exactly the recipe for success. Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman will battle for those extra carries and it won’t be the worst running game in the league, just don’t expect anything spectacular.
Wallace will be missed. Antonio Brown is a solid receiver but a team really needs two great options if they want to be competitors in this league. After Brown you’re looking at a motley crue of options that includes Plaxico Burress, Emmanuel Sanders and Jericho Cotchery. Yeah that about says it all.
The Steelers were the number 1 ranked defense in the NFL last season but it wasn’t as good as it looks. They gave up little yardage but conceded more points than that ranking would suggest. They still have a few playmakers but this isn’t the same defense we’re used to.
The line is a work in progress. Youngsters Cameron Heyward and Ziggy Hood still haven’t found themselves and with Brett Keisel nearing the ugly side of 35 they need to start stepping up. The linebacking corps has taken hit after hit these last few years. Losing Harrison and Jay Farrior puts large holes in the intensity and leadership angles of this defense and unless 1st rounder Jarvis Jones finds success very fast, this season won’t be as tidy as 2012.
The secondary was absolutely elite last season but lost Keenan Lewis and that will be a big blow. Neither Cortez Allen nor Ike Taylor is anywhere close to as good. Ike Taylor in fact looks like he’s heading the wrong direction. Troy Polamalu might be the best safety in the world when he’s healthy, at least that’s what Steeler fans tell us… Problem is that he’s NEVER healthy.
Shaun Suisham is the model of consistency. He’s not going to battle Greg Zeurlein for length records but he doesn’t miss from reasonable distances. Drew Butler wasn’t a star punter in 2012 and will need to be much better or Brian Moorman will take his job. It appears as though Sanders will handle the return duties as Brown will have too much work on his plate as the #1 WR. Sanders isn’t as explosive as Brown but probably won’t fumble as much.
This is easily the strength of the team and Tomlin does his job well. In this league fortune favours the bold and that is why he is successful. Not only does he believe his team is going to make the play when he makes a ballsy call, but every player on the field does as well.
The Studs: None really. Perhaps Antonio Brown but that remains to be seen.
The Workers: Roethlisberger should do yeoman’s work and will put up solid numbers. He’s a decent choice as a QB2. If your league gives you points for return yardage Emmanuel Sanders could be valuable.
Overrated: The team’s defense. Not enough turnovers for high fantasy value. Go after Chicago instead.
Should Win: Tennessee, @NY Jets, @Oakland, Buffalo, @Cleveland, Cleveland
Favourite: Chicago, Detroit
Toss-Up: @Minnesota, Miami
In Tough: @Cincinnati, Baltimore, @New England, @Baltimore, Cincinnati, @Green Bay
Thoughts: They are going to have to win every game against a similarly skilled team they have. They’ll have to do no worse than split against both Baltimore and Cinncy and then they’ll have a chance. Realistically we’ll have to accept their regression and a .500 season.