Pittsburgh SteelersRead the introduction here
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Denver Broncos tomorrow
2011 Record: 12-4
Key Acquisitions: Mike Adams, David DeCastro, Leonard Pope
Key Departures: James Farrior, Chris Kemoeatu, Mewelde Moore, Hines Ward
The Steelers have talent. They have a lot of talent. Roethlisberger is a top ten quarterback, and he has some offensive weapons around him. The unfortunate part is that they have been plagued by injuries on both sides of the ball. What's even worse is that defensively, not only are they fragile, the personnel is aging, and quickly. I think they'll be decimated by the injury bug this year, and it's finally the year for them to take a step back. They'll still be fine, but not in the playoffs.
Big Ben is a really good QB. He does a lot for this team, and his strong arm really helps with his young group of receivers. He also has a knack for avoiding hits by escaping the pocket while under pressure. His size and elusiveness in the pocket has been a key to his career because the offensive line hasn't been terribly consistent over the past few years. His ability to play through injuries is really valuable.
Rashard Mendenhall tore his ACL in the last game of the season, and he won't be available until sometime later in the years, if at all. Isaac Redman will take his place as the starter, and I don't know what to expect from him on a full-time basis. He and Jonathan Dwyer can be a fine duo. They can also turn out to be a complete disaster.
Mike Wallace is going to end his holdout and will probably report to camp tomorrow. Let's write him off for at least the first half of the season because people never do well coming out of a holdout, especially this late in camp and he won't get to practice for too long, and won't get into a preseason game. He's also at great risk to get himself injured. Antonio Brown will definitely fill his shoes pretty nicely. After him, there's Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery. Sanders is a young talent who has enough ability to step up into a bigger role. Cotchery is a reliable veteran with good hands. There isn't any depth after these four guys. Or three guys because I know and you know that Wallace will have a lost season.
Heath Miller is a good pass catching tight end who also happens to be a major factor in terms of blocking. He'll be more involved in the offense this year. Leonard Pope isn't great, but he's a good second option at the TE position.
First round pick David DeCastro was supposed to come in and provide an immediate boost to this line. Well, his ACL and MCL had other ideas. Now they'll have to use the motley crew of replacements who did a nice job for them last year, but there are possible issues with consistency. Fellow rookie Mike Adams is a good addition at the left tackle position. Willie Colon is really good when he's on the field. Will Willie be on the field? Time will tell. There's obviously Maurkice Pouncey, who is one of the best centers in the NFL. The position vacated by DeCastro could be the death of this offensive line, and this offense.
I see a real lack of a pass rush on this roster, especially with two of the key linemen coming off injuries. ACL alert! Third torn anterior cruciate ligament that I have mentioned so far. Casey Hampton will most likely miss some time at the beginning of the year due to his ACL. On top of that, he's 34, and I have questions as to whether or not he can hold up throughout the season. Brett Keisel and Da Beard will have to take a back seat to Cameron Heyward in 2012. The second year defensive end needs to develop. Keisel will end up playing a lot due to the futility of Ziggy Hood. Keisel will get hurt.
The bulk of the sacks on this team will be generated from the linebackers. Lamarr Woodley was dealing with a lingering injury and still ended up terrorizing quarterbacks. James Harrison is old, much like a lot of other defensive players. He's fine, but age will catch up to him. Lawrence Timmons turned in a productive 2011 campaign while Larry Foote isn't very good at this point in his career. Young players Sean Spence, Stevenson Sylvester, and Jason Worilds will be very important for this season and for the future.
Ike Taylor and Keenan Lewis are the cornerbacks. While Taylor was very good last season, he will always be remember for being victimized by Tim Tebow in the playoffs. Just a bad game, so he's still fine. Lewis was horrific last year when he was on the field. The safeties are both very good with good histories. Polamalu has concussion problems, while Ryan Clark is aging quickly.
Shaun Suisham isn't consistent at all and there is no telling how he will do this coming season. Punter Jeremy Kapinos was alright last year, but he could have been better. Antonio Brown is a very good return man, but I'm afraid that his new offensive role will scare the Steelers away from using him on returns too often.
9-7, 2nd in AFC North