Will recent changes bring the Steelers back to prominence?
With the disappointing 8-8 outcome in the 2o12 season changes have been made on both sides of the ball. Some changes were due to contractual issues and others were trades and players being released.
Offensively Ben Roethlisberger no longer has the speedy Mike Wallace to throw passes. Wallace was traded to the Miami Dolphins. Emanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown are both capable receivers who along with older veterans Plaxico Burress and Jericho Cotchery will provide the provide Big Ben great targets to throw the ball. Between the upcoming draft and new acquisitions I think vertically the Steelers will be fine. They also have weapons at Tight End in Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, and David Johnson. All have good size and have a way of getting open when needed.
In the Steelers backfield the biggest change is the departure of veteran running back Rashard Mendenhall who signed a one year deal with the Arizona Cardinals. RB’s Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and Baron Batch should be sharing time in the backfield. The Steelers have also talked with RB Ahmad Bradshaw who is recovering from surgery and might be available for the season.
Major defensives changes came about during the offseason with the release of long time LB James Harrison who recently signed with AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals. NT Steve McLendon has been signed for the possibility of him replacing the aging 35 year old NT Casey Hampton. At this point in time it is not known if he will return or exit stage left.
The Steelers still have a great core defense in Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Ike Taylor, Larry Foote, Lamar Woodley and Brett Keisel. Lawrence Timmons, Sean Worilds, and Ziggy Hood will also be integral parts of the Dick Lebeau built defense which it seems whoever he puts at a given position things work. That is how the great Steelers defenses have been built.
Kick returner and RB Chris Rainey was cut by the Steelers for non-football related incidents. It would behoove the Steelers to either draft or trade for a dual purpose player, one that they can use on Special Teams and on offense.
With the changes that have been made the Steelers should still be able to contend in the AFC North and also within the league itself. They are going to have to finish games, playing 60 minutes and not 58:15. Stick the dagger in the heart. Mental mistakes late in games killed them last year. One of the biggest keys to returning to their winning ways is staying healthy, especially those older players who take longer to heal.
In my estimation the Steelers should do well this year. The offense has a year under its belt using Coach Todd Haley’s system. As I said earlier Coach LeBeau just puts together great defenses. Coach Tomlin and the rest of the coaching staff will have the Steelers ready to contend for another Lombardi Trophy.