Predicting the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Starters of 2014

Predicting the Steelers' Starters of 2014

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Slowly, the Pittsburgh Steelers are morphing from an older squad many accused of being slow, to a more moderately-aged team built on speed. From Antonio Brown and rookie Dri Archer on offense, to linebackers Jarvis Jones and Ryan Shazier on defense, the Steelers don't quite resemble the style of teams that went to three Super Bowls in six years, winning two. Here are the projected starters at every position in 2014.

QB: Ben Roethlisberger

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QB: Ben Roethlisberger

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No surprise here, as Roethlisberger starts his second decade as Pittsburgh's starting quarterback. From his rookie debut in 2004 to now, few quarterbacks have been more successful than Big Ben, who has won two Super Bowls, been to three, and all along never quite lost his style for holding the ball, making plays out of nothing and frustrating defenders. Roethlisberger staying healthy is the most important factor to Pittsburgh's success in 2014.

TB: Le'Veon Bell

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TB: Le'Veon Bell

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Due to a foot injury, it took a while for Bell to get going in 2013, his rookie season out of Michigan State. But by the end of the year, Bell showed the Steelers that they hadn't made a mistake in grabbing the former Spartan workhorse. Thought to be the established starter, Bell will face some competition in camp from recently acquired LeGarrette Blount. The two can pound the ball, but Bell earned the starter's role with his work last year.

H-Back: Will Johnson

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H-Back: Will Johnson

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Johnson is a bit of a hybrid. He can typically lineup as an offset fullback to lead blocks for Bell. But he also can lineup in a tight end role on running or passing downs, and will be sent in motion on both running and passing plays to either key Bell's run, set up a counter or give Roethlisberger a receiver in the flat either on a designed route or to get rid of the ball quickly in the face of the blitz.

TE: Heath Miller

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TE: Heath Miller

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Miller has been a mainstay in Pittsburgh just about since he was drafted out of the University of Virginia, and may well be the team's best ever at the position. Miller is an effective blocker in the Steelers' running game, can stay in to pass protect and has very sure hands as a receiver. He needs just 34 catches this year to reach 500 for his career. He's also only missed seven games in his nine-year NFL career.

WR: Antonio Brown & Lance Moore

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WR: Antonio Brown & Lance Moore

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In 2013, Brown emerged as a clear No. 1 WR in the NFL. He caught 110 passes for 1,499 yards and eight touchdowns, and he's still a danger in the return game, though Archer may take some of those touches away. Moore is in his first season in Pittsburgh after several strong years in New Orleans. He should fight off Darrius Heyward-Bey for the second receiver spot.

C: Maurkice Pouncey

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C: Maurkice Pouncey

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When Pouncey went down to injury almost right off the bat last season, it started a game of musical chairs among the offensive line that Pittsburgh never quite worked its head around. The line-caller on offense and an excellent blocker, Pouncey must be healthy the whole year for the Steelers to improve, and he's one of the best in the game when at full strength.

OG: Ramon Foster & David DeCastro

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OG: Ramon Foster & David DeCastro

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Foster isn't really heralded as a starting quality guard, but he has 57 starts under his belt in Pittsburgh, which isn't bad at all for a guy who was originally brought in as an undrafted free agent. DeCastro has settled in now into his place after two seasons, starting 15 games a year ago after missing a good chunk of his rookie season. DeCastro is a particularly strong run blocker.

OT: Marcus Gilbert & Guy Whimper

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OT: Marcus Gilbert & Guy Whimper

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Whimper has been one of Pittsburgh's most versatile linemen, jumping in wherever needed as various teammates went down with injuries, sometimes all in the same game. Gilbert has progressed rather slowly, but should be a starter at least to begin the 2014 season. New draft pick Wesley Johnson waits in the wings as a possibility at left tackle if Whimper falters or is needed elsewhere.

DE: Cameron Heyward & Stephon Tuitt

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DE: Cameron Heyward & Stephon Tuitt

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Nowhere is the Steelers' youth movement more clear than on the defensive line, where the three-man front will enter the season with a total of three years of NFL experience -- all of it from Heyward. He has begun to come into his own and is a deserved starter now. Tuitt, Pittsburgh's second-round draft pick out of Notre Dame, doesn't face a lot of competition for the other defensive end spot.

NT: Daniel McCullers

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NT: Daniel McCullers

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It's a simple fact that Pittsburgh's run defense is better with a huge man at nosetackle. Since Casey Hampton left, the defense hasn't been the same in the middle. McCullers is the man to change all that and the simple reason is that he's 6-foot-7, 352 pounds (and he's probably bigger than that). All he needs to do as a rookie is eat up blocks and create space for the middle linebackers to make tackles. McCullers will do that from Week 1.

OLB: Jarvis Jones & Jason Worilds

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OLB: Jarvis Jones & Jason Worilds

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This duo isn't on par with the Steelers' Super Bowl combination of James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, each of whom have not been re-signed by the club in the last two years. But Jones has the speed to shine on the outside and Worilds gets a chance to finally prove that he really can be the man as an outside rusher, something some fans are still doubting.

ILB: Lawrence Timmons & Vince Williams

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ILB: Lawrence Timmons & Vince Williams

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Of all the predictions here, if Roethlisberger is the safest, this is the most daring. Timmons is a lock for one spot. He has grown into a top class NFL linebacker and possible Pro Bowl starter. Timmons was in 126 tackles last year with three sacks and two picks. Williams is the question mark. With guys like Larry Foote gone, there was no clear heir apparent alongside Timmons. Williams will get first chance, but the position is a question mark.

S: Troy Polamalu & Mike Mitchell

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S: Troy Polamalu & Mike Mitchell

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The days of Polamalu combining with Ryan Clark to form one of the league's most physical and dangerous secondaries are over. Clark left for Washington as a free agent, and Polamalu is probably in the winding-down mode of what has been one of the best careers a safety has ever had. Mitchell arrives as a free agent from Carolina, and has massive shoes to step into with Clark's departure.

CB: Ike Taylor & Cortez Allen

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CB: Ike Taylor & Cortez Allen

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Taylor enters his 12th NFL season, all with Pittsburgh, and he'll still tell you he's one of the best in the game. On-the-field play might say different, but Taylor is no slouch and is still playing at a high level. His 12 pass breakups last year marked his 10th straight season with 10 or more. Allen likely wins the job at the other corner over William Gay, who will be in for nickel and dime packages.

Special Teams

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Special Teams

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Sean Suisham returns at kicker, after going 30-for-32 on field goals last season (both misses in a brutal 21-18 loss at Oakland). Brad Wing out of LSU is the favorite to win the punting job. Rookie Archer should get some chances on punt returns to spell Brown, while Brown and Archer, and perhaps Markus Wheaton will get chances early to return kickoffs.


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  • Daniel

    Ugly unacurate prediction…