Friday, August 22, 2014

2014 NFL PREVIEW - Pittsburgh Steelers

PITTSBURGH STEELERS                                    

2013 Record: 8-8-0

Key Additions: RB LeGarrette Blount; WR Lance Moore; DL Cam Thomas; WR Darrius Heyward-Bey; LB Arthur Moats; S Mike Mitchell; CB Brice McCain.

Key Losses: WR Emmanuel Sanders; FS Ryan Clark; LB LaMarr Woodley; WR Jerricho Cotchery; DL Ziggy Hood; DL Al Woods.

HEAD COACH: Mike Tomlin

Offense: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is the key to the offense, coming off a season in which he threw for 4,261 yards with 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Bruce Gradkowski appears to be the backup quarterback this season.
The running game may be in question following the arrests of both LeGarrette Blount and Le'Veon Bell for illegal possession of marijuana. As far as on the field, Blount came over to the Steelers from New England, where he rushed for 772 yards (5.0 ypc average) and scored seven touchdowns. Bell led Pittsburgh in rushing last year with 860 yards (3.5 ypc) and scored eight touchdowns while also catching 45 passes for 399 yards. Rookie Dri Archer (Kent State) may get a shot if either or both of the top runners gets suspended for any prolonged length of time this season.
The wide receivers are led by Antonio Brown, who stepped up big time last year, catching 110 passes for 1,499 yards (13.6 ypc average) and scored eight touchdowns.
Markus Wheaton, Darrius Heyward-Bey or Lance Moore (37, 457, two TD with New Orleans last season) are the other receivers looking to line up opposite Brown this year. Rookie Martavis Bryant (Clemson) is another option for the Steelers. Tight end Heath Miller (58, 593, one TD) is steady and will be a main target for Roethlisberger once again.
The line has center Maurkice Pouncey, guards Ramon Foster and David DeCastro and the tackles will be Kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert.

STATS - Pittsburgh's offense was lackluster a year ago, averaging 337 yards per game (20th in NFL) while the running game finished a disappointing 27th overall, gaining just 86 yards per game. The passing game averaged 251 yards, which ranked 12th overall. The Steelers averaged just over 22 points per game (21st) while turning it over 24 times. Roethlisberger was sacked 43 times last year.

Defense: Steve McLendon is the nose tackle along with ends Cameron Heyward (five QB sacks) and either Cam Thomas or rookie Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame) in the 3-4 defense. Veteran DE Brett Keisel is back for another season to add depth.
The linebackers are Jason Worilds (eight QB sacks) and either Jarvis Jones or Chris Carter on the outside along with either rookie Ryan Shazier (Ohio State) or Vince Williams playing the inside backer along with ILB Lawrence Timmons.
The secondary has safeties Mike Mitchell and Troy Polamalu (two interceptions) and cornerbacks Ike Taylor and either William Gay or Cortez Allen.

STATS - The defense was in the top ten last year, allowing 338 yards per game to finish ninth overall while giving up 23 points per game. The run defense was surprisingly vulnerable, finishing 21st in the NFL and allowing 116 yards per game. The pass defense was average at best, giving up 222 yards (9th overall) and the Steelers had just 34 QB sacks. The takeaways were down as well as Pittsburgh had just ten interceptions and ten fumble recoveries.

OUTLOOK: After missing the playoffs for the last two years, the Steelers are anxious to get back to it and Head Coach Mike Tomlin knows they can do better.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger can't do it by himself and the team needs the rest of the offense (beside Big Ben and Antonio Brown) to step up in 2014 if they are to return to the post-season for the first time since 2011.
The defense has to play better as well, especially against the run, which has always been a strong point for this team in the recent run of success they have enjoyed in the past ten years, including two Super Bowl titles.
If the defense improves and the offense gets things going with the running game to ease the pressure on Big Ben and company in the passing game, the Steelers will be a team that could very well make a deep playoff run but if they don't, then expect another mediocre type season in Pittsburgh.
The call here is for a 9-7 finish for the Steelers in 2014 and a third straight season of missing the playoffs.

Week 1- vs. Cleveland
Week 2- at Baltimore
Week 3- at Carolina
Week 4- vs. Tampa Bay
Week 5- at Jacksonville
Week 6- at Cleveland
Week 7- vs. Houston
Week 8- vs. Indianapolis
Week 9- vs. Baltimore
Week 10- at NY Jets
Week 11- at Tennessee
Week 12- BYE WEEK
Week 13- vs. New Orleans
Week 14- at Cincinnati
Week 15- at Atlanta
Week 16- vs. Kansas City
Week 17- vs. Cincinnati

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