Injuries, age and underachievement will combine to produce Pittsburgh’s worst season since the Steelers plummeted to 6-10 in 2003. A last-place finish in the AFC North is my forecast for Mike Tomlin’s team, and it’ll mark the first consecutive non-playoff seasons in Pittsburgh since Bill Cowher’s guys missed three years running from 1998-2000.
Don Banks of CNNSI.com was certainly blunt with his thoughts regarding the 2013 Steelers. Negative opinion aside, I certainly cannot blame him for his concerns and his predictions though.
Cleveland and Cincinnati vastly improved from personnel perspectives during the most recent offseason.
The Browns boosted their pass rush, employed an offensive coordinator who can the team’s quarterback’s skill-set, and hired a defensive coordinator with a familiarity of the divisional foes. In addition, the Bengals acquired more weapons in the forms of Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard to hide their noodle-armed signal-caller. Even Baltimore plugged a number of holes on the defensive side of the ball with the likes of Elvis Dumervil, Marcus Spears, and Chris Canty.
While it is difficult to predict how well the Steelers will perform this fall, I will even admit that the Steelers have a number of pressing questions to answer as they head into the 2013 regular season.
On offense, a lack of a proven, and most importantly healthy, running back must be answered. Heath Miller’s absence is an enormous concern for Pittsburgh’s running and passing games, particularly in the red zone too. And despite his “pissy” attitude, Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Wallace and his production (2012: 64 catches, 836 yards, eight touchdowns) have left town to boot.
On the defensive side of the ball, the question of whether or not James Harrison can be adequately replaced by Jarvis Jones and Jason Worilds also looms large. How healthy that Pittsburgh’s veterans on the defensive side of the ball in general can stay during a 16-game regular season grind is also a big question. The cornerback depth behind Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen is nothing short of an ineffective “dumpster fire” of sorts.
I for one will not consider the Steelers to be a last place team though. Ben Roethlisberger still pilots the offense. The offensive line is as talented as it has been in the last decade, and the wide receiving corps is a talented quintet ready to strike. A healthy Troy Polamalu and an in-shape LaMarr Woodley could do wonders for a defense which is populated by the likes of solid veterans Ike Lawrence Timmons, Ike Taylor, Brett Keisel, Larry Foote, and Ryan Clark who might be in their “last hurrahs” with the franchise.
The Steelers might be “down” right now, but they certainly aren’t “out.” A third-place finish or second-place finish in 2013 might be more realistic, but there is more than enough talent on this team to keep them out of the cellar.
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