The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team in transition. Hopes are high that the 2013 season will be a renaissance instead of a rebuild.
For years, the Steelers were known as a smash mouth offense predicated on the running game, while a steel curtain defense kept opponents within reach. Bruce Arians was brought in as Offensive Coordinator in 2007 to energize the offense. Under Arians, the Steelers became a pass first offense that relied on an ever-aging defense to keep them in games. Ben Roethlisberger’s improvisational magic was called upon every game to buy time for receivers to get open downfield.
In 2012, the offense was handed over to Todd Haley, whose play calling focused on ball control and the short-passing game. The Steelers finished 2012 with a record of 8-8, their first non-winning season in six years.
During the offseason, the Steelers lost deep threat Mike Wallace to the Miami Dolphins and promoted Emmanuel Sanders to take his place. Antonio Brown will play opposite Sanders running the same route tree he did last year. It remains to be seen if he will be returning kicks or punts this year or if another player will emerge during the final preseason cut downs.
During the 2013 NFL Draft, the Steelers used their first-round pick on Outside Linebacker Jarvis Jones in hopes he could take the place of the departed James Harrison. Jones has the motor and the vision to give the defense the youthful shot in the arm it needs.
The Steelers spent their second-round pick on Michigan State Running Back Le’Veon Bell. While Jones addresses a critical need on defense, it’s drafting Bell that gives us a vision for the Steeler’s future.
At 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, Bell is built in the mold of a smash-mouth Running Back. With a 4.56 time in the 40-yard dash, he has the ability to take one to the house but his strength will be feeding his pads to opponents between the Tackles. Bell is exactly the kind of back the Steelers need to wear an opposing defense down early and grind out the clock late. The threat of Bell up front should keep single coverage on the receivers down field and help keep Roethlisberger’s jersey clean.
What will determine Bell’s success is the blocking of the offensive line. In their first preseason game, the Steelers offensive line looked disorganized and sloppy. Some of this can be written off as being part of the first preseason game and the fact that Bell did not play because of a knee bruise. If the line can live up to its talent while Bell acclimates to the speed of the NFL, the Steelers could return to the kind of smash mouth team we all know and love.
Eric Beuning is a Fantasy Football writer for RantSports.com.