Babes Breaks Down The AFC North Competition: Pittsburgh Steelers

Featured, Sports and Bets — August 1, 2014 at 10:10 am by

by Babes

Sizing Up The Competition:
Continuing our “sizing up the competition” series, we come to the scourge of the Earth- the Pittsburgh Steelers. By far our most hated opponent, the Steelers are constantly a thorn in the Ravens’ side. It seems like even when the Steelers are shitty, the Ravens still somehow end up splitting with them. Ugh, and yes, it’s safe to say that I genuinely hate the Steelers! So, here is my unbiased breakdown of their 2014 upcoming season.
Mike Tomlin enters his eighth season as head coach with two Super Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl win under his belt. But the Steelers haven’t reached the postseason since 2011, and things aren’t exactly looking bright right now. Big Ben is one of the best signal callers in the business, but there are reports that he isn’t happy that he wasn’t offered an extension this offseason. Poor guy. But extension or not, this is a make or break year for both Big Ben and Mike Tomlin.

Offensively, the Steelers will once again be under the thumb of Todd Hailey. After a dismal start last season, the offense picked it up late in the year as the Steelers did make a late push for the playoffs. As I eluded to already, QB is not the problem, as Big Ben is a top ten signal caller in the league. It’s the running game that needs to improve drastically for this team to succeed. The Steelers ranked 27th in the league running the ball, and lead back Le’Veon Bell only managed to average 3.5 yards per carry. This year they added bruiser LeGarrett Blount to take some of the pressure of the second year player, Bell. They also drafted Dri Archer who is an absolute lightning bolt. They plan to use him in a Darren Sproles type role, which means getting him the football in space in any way, shape, or form. Will Johnson returns as the blocking fullback and he can also double as a blocking tight end. The one two punch of Bell and Blount should keep front sevens honest this year.

At tight end, old faithful, Heath Miller will once again be Big Ben’s security blanket. I swear it feels like Miller has been in Pittsburgh since the 70’s. He doesn’t exactly scare defenses with his ability to stretch the seem, but he is one savvy son of a bitch when it comes to getting open. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thrown my remote at the television because Miller converts another damn third down against the Ravens. Matt Spath and David Paulson offer little to the passing game, but are integral parts of the running game as blockers.

At wide receiver, Antonio Brown has evolved into a bona fide number one wide receiver. He amassed almost 1500 yards last year and I expect much of the same this year. The Steelers let both Emmanuel Sanders and Jericho Cotchery walk this offseason, so they have 113 receptions, 1342 yards, and 16 touchdowns to make up. They hope second year wide out Markus Wheaton can take over the starting job opposite Brown. Newly acquired Lance Moore will play the slot, and the Steelers hope to get a contribution from rookie fourth round pick Martavious Bryant. Lance Moore should provide Big Ben a reliable chain mover inside, while Bryant should be able to stretch the field with his speed. Overall though, this group has a ton of question marks outside of Brown.

The offensive line in Pittsburgh has been a very sore subject the past few years. The Steelers keep spending high draft picks on their line, and these guys just don’t work out, for whatever reason. The second round pick of two years ago, Mike Adams, is the backup swing tackle, which is hardly what the Steelers envisioned for him. Instead, journeyman Kelvin Beachum starts at left tackle. Although thrown into the fire last year, Beachum actually did a decent job, enough to keep the job for this year. Ramon Foster mans the left guard spot, and is an average starter. The strength of the Steeler line resides in the middle with center Maurkice Pouncey and right guard David Decastro.  The problem for Pittburgh is that the two have barely played with each other, as one of the two is almost always hurt. Another former second rounder, Marcus Gilbert, should start on the right side at tackle. If this group plays up to their potential, then maybe Ben won’t have to run for his life all the time to make plays this season

On the defensive side, coordinator Dick Lebeau is still going strong even though his unit is slipping. The Steeler D has gotten a little long in the tooth these past two years, and they are hoping an influx of young talent this year will revitalize them. They still deploy an attacking, zone blitzing, 3-4 scheme, but they had a tough time generating much pass rush last year. That’s definitely not the norm for a Dick Lebeau defense.
On the defensive line the Steelers signed Cam Thomas from San Diego to play the five technique. He pairs with Cameron Heyward at defensive end and Steve McClendon inside to make up an average front three. The Steelers did infuse some young talent behind these guys by drafting Stephon Tuitt and Daniel McCullers. Both should push the incumbents for serious playing time.

The linebacking core is traditionally a strength of the Steeler defense. They were able to franchise tag Jason Worilds, who finally came into his own last year with a team high eight sacks. Second year man Jarvis Jones will man the other outside spot. Jones had a subpar rookie year, but the Steelers expect a big jump in his sophomore campaign. Inside the Steelers return vet Lawrence Timmons, and they drafted Ryan Shazier in the first round to play the buck linebacker spot. Overall, this is a shell of what the Steeler linebacking core usually looks like, but this group does have a tremendous amount of upside.

In the secondary, the Steelers showcase their prize offseason acquisition in free safety, Mike Mitchell. They didn’t have a lot of money to spend this year, and Mitchell is where they decided to spend it, so obviously they expect big things. Hair doll himself, Troy Polamalu, is still hanging on at strong safety, but his days are most certainly numbered. It’s tough to watch the great ones fall off so fast, we as Ravens’ fans went through the same thing with Ed Reed. I think this is Troy’s last year, at least in a Steeler uniform. At corner, veteran Ike Taylor is going to be a liability this year, as is starting nickel William Gay. Cortez Allen is the Steelers best cover man these days, but I’m not sure he’s ready to lock onto each team’s number one receiver every week. To me, this Steeler secondary is vulnerable and counting too much on Mike Mitchell and his great speed to mask some deficiencies. Sharmako Thomas waits his turn at safety behind Polamalu. I don’t understand the thinking behind bringing Troy back at such a steep price for a cap strapped team, when they have a young ascending player in place like Thomas, but whatever.

Shaun Suisham has shown the ability to kick in the tough environment of Heinz field, but he offers nothing special. Dri Archer should be dynamic for Pittsburgh in the return game this year.
Overall, I see too many holes in this team for them to compete for the division. The Steelers waited too long to get younger on defense and it’s showing. They are also showing the effects of investing a lot in the offensive line early in drafts, only to get minimal in return. I see the Steelers fighting for an 8-8 season, but I wouldn’t be surprised at 6-10. I wouldn’t be upset either.

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