To say that expectations are down for the Pittsburgh Steelers would be an understatement. It is also no secret that the team’s financial debacle may be the reason for such an eventful off-season in the “Steel City.” After a number of key off-season departures including Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis, and James Harrison, the team is hurting on both sides of the football.
So what can you expect to see out of the 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers?
Barring a terrible draft class, a process that Pittsburgh and general manager Kevin Colbert have down to a science, there should be optimism surrounding the Steeler franchise.
For starters, the usual cast of characters—Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu, and LaMarr Woodley. But, this may be the first year that the team may have a solid offensive line headed into the season. With Maurkice Pouncey, 2012-picks David DeCastro and Mike Adams, and the Marcus Gilbert/Max Starks tandem, Pittsburgh may finally have an elite group of big men to protect their number one asset, Roethlisberger.
Despite Mike Wallace leaving for greener pastures, the team will be returning two solid receivers in Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. With a deep draft class, Pittsburgh could find their third dynamic piece to complete a scary-good receiving corps for the 2013 season.
The biggest question heading into the season is in the backfield. Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer, the Steelers’ two running backs on the current roster, averaged just 3.8 yards per carry and 2 TDs apiece. As a unit, the Steeler backs rushed for 1,406 yards all season, a number that includes non-roster players Chris Rainey and Rashard Mendenhall. For perspective, six players in the National Football League amassed more yardage on their own than the five Steeler rushers combined. Running back is a major priority entering the draft, and the Steeler brass should target an explosive prospect to compliment the bigger, bulkier backs on the roster.
As for the defense, age and depth are the major concerns. After losing five starters and with over six starters over age 30, Pittsburgh needs to build toward the future rather than continuing to live in the past. Players like Ziggy Hood, Lawrence Timmons, Cameron Heyward, and Jason Worilds are going to be relied upon more than in past seasons. If the team is build upon a top-10 defense, Dick LeBeau and company are going to need to infuse some youth into the defensive squad.
With a deeper draft class, the Steelers should be able to pick up some quality depth in the later rounds. Guys like Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo, Missouri Southern defensive lineman Brandon Williams, and LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu should all be available late on day two. Sure there are concerns, but if anyone can turn a negative into a positive, it’s head coach Mike Tomlin and his staff.
Ideally, the team should address the linebacker, running back, receiver, and secondary issues if they are to be successful in the 2013 season. Expectations are low for one of the winningest franchise in the league, but that may fuel the fire for a breakout season. With the world-champion Ravens experiencing a transition period of their own, this may be the year that the Steelers return to the top of the AFC North. Don’t count out the dangerous Cincinnati Bengals though. As for Cleveland…well, there’ll always next year right?
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