Saturday, August 17, 2013

NFL 2013 Preview - Pittsburgh Steelers

PITTSBURGH STEELERS                                                     

Head Coach: Mike Tomlin

2012 Record: 8-8-0 (3rd in AFC North)

New Players: RB LaRod Stephens-Howling; QB Bruce Gradkowski; CB William Gay; TE Matt Spaeth.

Gone Elsewhere: LB James Harrison; S Will Allen; WR Mike Wallace; OL Max Starks; RB Rashard Mendenhall; OL Willie Colon; DL Casey Hampton; CB Keenan Lewis.

Offense: The Steelers leader is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who passed for 3,265 yards with 26 touchdowns and only eight interceptions, while missing three games due to injury.
QB Ben Roethlisberger
Big Ben can't do it alone though and will have some new players surrounding him in 2013 as Jonathan Dwyer takes over as the leading running back after going for 623 yards with two touchdowns. Isaac Redman gained 410 yards and also scored twice last season.
Rookie Le'Veon Bell (Michigan State) will also be ready when needed. LaRod Stepehens-Howling is another option in the backfield and he also returns kicks.
The wide receivers will be without Mike Wallace, who went to Miami in the off-season. Leading the way in 2013 will be Antonio Brown, who made 66 receptions for 787 yards and five touchdowns. Emmanuel Sanders (44, 626, one TD) will be the other starter. In reserve is Plaxico Burress, Jerricho Cotchery and rookie Markus Wheaton.
The tight end is Heath Miller, who led the Steelers with 71 receptions for 816 yards and eight touchdowns. Backing him up is Matt Spaeth, who returns to Pittsburgh after two seasons in Chicago.
The offensive line had center Maurice Pouncey, tackles Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert. The guards will be Ramon Foster and David DeCastro.

Defense: It's a changing of the guard of sorts for the aging Steelers defense in 2013 as veterans James Harrison, Will Allen, Casey Hampton and Keenan Lewis all left during the off-season.
Troy Polamalu
There still is plenty of talent here in the 3-4 D with ends Brett Keisel (4 1/2 QB sacks) and Ziggy Hood teaming with nose tackle Steve McLendon up front.
The linebackers will be LaMarr Woodley (four sacks) and Jason Worilds (five sacks) on the outside with Larry Foote (four sacks) and Lawrence Timmons inside. Timmons led the team last year with three interceptions and six QB sacks.
The secondary is led by veteran safety Troy Polamalu, who missed all or part of ten games last year. The other safety is Ryan Clark (two INT) while the corners will be Will Allen and Ike Taylor. Rookies Shamarko Thomas (Syracuse) and Terry Hawthorne (Illinois) will get looks as well as they look for a chance to contribute.
The Steelers led the entire league in defense a year ago, allowing just 276 yards per game and were also number one against the pass, allowing only 185 yards per game. The Steelers were second in the NFL against the run, giving up 91 yards per game. 

OUTLOOK: While the team finished at .500 last year and OUT of the playoffs for the first time in three years, Head Coach Mike Tomlin, who has led the team to two Super Bowl appearances and one title (in 2008 season) knows the team is capable of making a playoff run once again.
The questions will be whether the adjustments "on the fly" will work with this aging team.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger enjoyed one of his better seasons (statistically speaking) in 2012 and will look to the new infusion of younger players to get the offense, in particular the running game, back in playoff form.
The Steelers were 21st in the NFL on offense (26th in rushing) last season, gaining only 333 yards per game. The running game (usually a strength) gained just 96 yards a game.
In addition, the Steelers must cut down the number of turnovers as they were a minus-10 on the turnover charts, including 16 fumbles.
The defense should be solid once again, in spite of the advancing ages of some of the core players there. A more consistent pass rush would be a benefit that would relieve some pressure on the secondary, which only had ten interceptions last season.
Pittsburgh is rebuilding it seems and with Roethlisberger in his prime, the time is now for the team as well as they look to return to the post-season. That might not be the case however as they attempt to hold off the ever improving Cleveland Browns while trying to catch up to the Bengals and Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens in the rugged AFC North.
How well they play in the division will decide their fate in 2013, so look for a 7-9 season this year in the Steel City as the changes made will hopefully pan out in the future.


Sept. 8- vs. Tennessee
Sept. 16- at Cincinnati
Sept. 22- vs. Chicago
Sept. 29- at Minnesota
Oct. 6- BYE WEEK
Oct. 13- at NY Jets
Oct. 20- vs. Baltimore
Oct. 27- at Oakland
Nov. 3- at New England
Nov. 10- vs. Buffalo
Nov. 17- vs. Detroit
Nov. 24- at Cleveland
Nov. 28- at Baltimore
Dec. 8- vs. Miami
Dec. 15- vs. Cincinnati
Dec. 22- at Green Bay
Dec. 29- vs. Cleveland

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