The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off of a disappointing 8-8 season that saw them miss the playoffs, something the Steelers and their fans are not used to. Pittsburgh is no doubt a football city. Even though they finished 8-8 last season, the Steelers’ front office didn’t seem to do much to upgrade the team over the offseason. This can probably be explained by two things: The Steelers never seem to have any cap space available and they don’t tend to make big free agency splashes.
The Steelers will be heading into the 2013 season without some longtime Steelers’ players on the roster. Casey Hampton will be replaced at defensive tackle by Steve McLendon, Jason Worilds will be replacing menacing outside linebacker James Harrison and Emmanuel Sanders will take over for Mike Wallace at wide receiver with Antonio Brown slotting in as the number one receiver.
There are two legitimate possible outcomes for the Steelers. For the best case scenario to occur, the team will need to stay healthy and have breakout seasons from some of their younger players. When I bring up health, I’m talking to you, Troy Polamalu and Lamarr Woodley. Polamalu is basically an injury waiting to happen at this point in his career, and he needs to find a way to stay on the field for the Steelers. He means everything to that defense when he is healthy. Rookies like Le’Veon Bell and Jarvis Jones will need to have an immediate impact at their respective positions. Everyone knows the Steelers use four linebackers, so Jones will need to step in and fill one of those roles effectively, despite only being a rookie. Bell will seemingly be given every opportunity to take the starting running back job, although he got injured in Monday night’s preseason game. A best case scenario for this Steelers team could see it being 10-6 and making the playoffs as a wild card team.
To me, the worst case scenario seems like the more probable scenario. For this to happen, the rookies won’t produce and the injury prone players will get injured. The young offensive line will have trouble getting into a groove and Ben Roethlisberger will be getting hit on every drop-back. The age on defense will start to become a problem and the Steelers will end up finishing 7-9 or 8-8.
The Steelers have a ton of tradition, but until the front office starts to draft more efficiently, thus bringing younger talent into the organization, I can’t see them keeping up with the younger and more talented Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North.