The Pittsburgh Steelers finished the preseason winless at 0-4, and didn’t look good doing so. There are many fans and media in Pittsburgh that believe the Steelers will finish the 2013 NFL season at 8-8. The Steelers are faced with the usual questions heading into this year: Can the offensive line stay healthy? Can quarterback Ben Roethlisberger stay healthy and co-exist with offensive coordinator Todd Haley? Can the defense get pressure on the quarterback and force turnovers? Will they finally have a productive running game this year?
Before you say no to any of these questions, think about this. The Steelers aren’t the only team with holes to fill and questions to answer. Take the New England Patriots, for example. How will Tom Brady and the passing game do without Wes Welker, who is now on the Denver Broncos? Who is going to play tight end with Rob Gronkowski out due to injury? Will Danny Amendola stay healthy all year long and fill the void left behind by Welker? Can running back Stevan Ridley have another year like he had last year?
Now, onto the Baltimore Ravens. Can Joe Flacco avoid a Super Bowl hangover and lead his team back to the promise land? Who is going to become Flacco’s security blanket now that Anquan Boldin is on the San Francisco 49ers? How will the defense function without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed?
I believe the Steelers will surpass almost everyone’s predictions and finish 10-6, and win the AFC North title. Yes, I know they looked pretty bad at times during the preseason, however, think about this: It is highly unlikely that both the offense and defense unveiled all of their respective playbooks. Also, the starters really didn’t play much, except for the third preseason game, where most of them played the whole first half. It’s hard to get the offense and defense flowing when you are only in for a series or two while running the basic plays. It was hard to judge anything with the first team.
As we head into Week 1, remember this: As long as Roethlisberger is under center, you have a chance to win. It doesn’t matter who you play, he is what makes the offense go. I believe he is out to prove that he can run Haley’s offense efficiently. The newly installed zone-blocking running scheme should help the running game out a lot. When runs correctly, it can be devastating for opposing defenses. The defense has gotten younger, and LaMarr Woodley looks to be in much better shape than last year, and is in position to have a bounce back year.
The Steelers get the Tennessee Titans Week 1, so we’ll see if they’re up to the task of stopping the dangerous Chris Johnson and the Titans’ running game.
D.J. Vasil is Pittsburgh Steelers writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @DJV89. Like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.