Sunday, August 16, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - Pittsburgh Steelers

PITTSBURGH STEELERS                                         

2014 Record:  11-5-0 (1st in AFC North)

HEAD COACH: Mike Tomlin

New Players in 2015 - DeAngelo Williams

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 -  2nd in NFL (411.1 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 -  18th in NFL (353.4 ypg)

Offense:  What will quarterback Ben Roethlisberger do for an encore this season?
All he did in 2014 was throw for a team record 4,952 yards along with 32 touchdowns and just nine interceptions.
The running game is equally strong with Le'Veon Bell (suspended for the first two games) starting after a big year in which he gained 1,361 rushing yards (4.7 ypc average) with eight touchdowns along with making 83 receptions for 854 yards and three touchdowns. DeAngelo Williams was signed as a free agent and Dri Archer is also back to provide depth.
The wide receivers are led by All-Pro Antonio Brown, who led the league with 129 receptions for 1,698 yards and 13 touchdowns. Along with Brown are Martavis Bryant (26 receptions for 549 yards, 21.1 tpc average and eight touchdowns) and Markus Wheaton, who had 53 catches for 644 yards and two touchdowns.
The tight end is veteran Heath Miller, who is one of Big Ben's favorite targets. He caught 66 passes last year for 761 yards and three touchdowns.
The line has center Maurkice Pouncey, guards Ramon Foster and David DeCastro and tackles Kelvin Beacham and Marcus Gilbert.

Defense:  The line will have Steve McLendon playing at the nose tackle with Cameron Heyward (tackle) and defensive end Stephon Tuitt in the 3-4 alignment. Heyward led the team with 7 1/2 QB sacks last year.
Ryan Shazier and Lawrence Timmons man the inside linebacker spots while Arthur Moats (four sacks) and Jarvis Jones will play outside linebacker. Veteran James Harrison (5 1/2 sacks) is back to provide depth along with top rookie draft pick Brad Dupree (Kentucky), Sean Spence and Vince Williams.
The secondary will see William Gay (three interceptions) and Cortez Allen (two picks) at cornerback. Shamarko Thomas and Mike Mitchell play safety. Robert Golden, rookies Senquez Golson (Mississippi) and Doran Grant (Ohio State) and Antwon Blake will also be available.

OUTLOOK FOR 2015 - While the Steelers offense has made significant strides in the last few years, the defense has taken a step back from their usual greatness.
The run defense was decent last year, but the pass defense was terrible, ranking 27th while allowing 253 yards per game and also giving up numerous big plays of 40-plus yards.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin is defensive minded, so if Pittsburgh wants to return to the post-season and go further, the defense must improve, especially in the pass happy NFL.
With Ben Roethlisberger at the helm, the Steelers should once again be among the best offenses in the league. Le'Veon Bell will miss the first two games (suspended) this season, but he should once again be among the top running backs in the game. He is also very adept as a receiver out of the backfield.
The targets available in the passing game provide Pittsburgh with big play capability as Big Ben knows he can chuck it down the field at any time. He threw for back-to-back 500-plus yard games last season and opposing defenses know they can't keep eight men in the box when the Steelers offense is on the field.
The Steelers will once again be competitive in the AFC North and have a chance to make it two straight division titles. An extremely difficult schedule will push the team and a 9-7 finish wouldn't be surprising at all in what could very well be another three-team division race to the wire.

Week 1 - at New England Patriots
Week 2 - vs. San Francisco 49ers
Week 3 - at St. Louis Rams
Week 4 - vs. Baltimore Ravens
Week 5 - at San Diego Chargers
Week 6 - vs. Arizona Cardinals
Week 7 - at Kansas City Chiefs
Week 8 - vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Week 9 - vs. Oakland Raiders
Week 10 - vs. Cleveland Browns
Week 11 - BYE WEEK
Week 12 - at Seattle Seahawks
Week 13 - vs. Indianapolis Colts
Week 14 - at Cincinnati Bengals
Week 15 - vs. Denver Broncos
Week 16 - at Baltimore Ravens
Week 17 - at Cleveland Browns

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