Every year we see breakout players on every team. No matter what the position, some player will exceed expectations and will either prove their high draft spot or prove to be a gem in the draft. This is no exception for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Antonio Brown did it in 2011. Keenan Lewis did it in 2012. Last year we saw several players breakout. Jason Worilds, Cameron Heyward, and David DeCastro all started to show why they were picked so high in their respected drafts. Now that they have had breakout seasons, more is expected of them. Breakout seasons are for players who didn’t have high expectations at the beginning of the season or even players overnight become NFL superstars, no matter how well they were known on their respected team. Here’s your predicted players on the Steelers who will have breakout seasons this coming NFL season.
Last year was supposed to be Cortez Allen’s breakout season, and it didn’t go quite the way we expected it to. First off, he struggled in camp with injuries and that translated in to the regular season. Second, when he finally did get on the field, it seemed that the injuries were still hampering him, as his play wasn’t starter worthy. He was soon replaced by William Gay. After he was benched, things did get better. He had two interceptions after that, one which was a pick 6 against the Green Bay Packers, a play that sealed a much-needed win for the Steelers. Allen is entering his fourth season, one that’s a contract season for him. If you remember, Keenan Lewis didn’t breakout until his fourth season, so if that’s any indication, Allen will have a very good season because he has played better in his first three seasons than Lewis did. He should have a full understanding of they system at this point and going into the offseason with another year under his belt should only benefit him. Add that to a very possible high pick cornerback coming to the team and Allen able to sort of mentor should also help his confidence and transfer to a leadership role on the soon to be young secondary.
We all had much bigger expectations for Jones after he was a potential top 5 draft pick who fell to the Steelers at pick 17. The guy was a complete stud at Georgia, but that didn’t quite translate to the NFL. To be fair, Jones has done something a rookie on the Steelers defense hasn’t done since 2001, he started the season. That alone should tell you the talent and potential Jones possesses. Like I said, the potential this young player has is unbelievable. Pair him with Worilds who had a breakout season of his own last year, and the Steelers will have a very scary outside linebacker corps. With his rookie season now out of the way, this kid has the discipline and knows what he has to work on to be the sack master once again. He is going in to the offseason as the starter, which also help him and his confidence. Yes, it takes several years for rookies to really play to their talent level on the Steelers defense, but did you watch the season closer against the Browns. If that doesn’t show you the potential Jones has, I don’t know what will. He only got better throughout the season and is progressing faster than any Steeler defender has in recent memory.
Bell is one of those players who already has very high expectations for next season, but will break onto the scene not just for the Steelers, but for the entire NFL. That is how good of a year Bell can have. He has a new running backs coach that recently coached the best in the business, AP, (however Kirby Wilson was a very good coach himself) and has a hall of fame offensive line coach coming in to coach a line who also possesses the potential to be a very dangerous unit. One of the best centers in the game will be coming back to lead the way as well, Maurkice Pouncey. And don’t forget about Bell himself, going into the season knowing he’s the starter and building on his rookie season. That alone is enough to expect great things, let alone the new coaches and teammates. He has Will Johnson as his fullback, a player that should also build upon his first two seasons and take his game to the next level. Bell has very high expectations as the Steelers running back next season, but could also breakout into not just a Steelers star, but an NFL star where everybody knows his name.
While I think Jones, Allen and Bell will have the biggest breakout seasons this coming season for the Steelers, there are certainly others who can step up their game. Will Johnson will never get much attention no matter how much he steps up his game due to the position he plays. The kid had good rookie season as the Steelers fullback and was expected to have an even bigger role for the Steelers in his sophomore season, however wasn’t much involved. If Todd Haley will realize he has another weapon in disguise, Johnson can become a very productive fullback and have a long career with the Steelers. Him and Bell compliment each other very nicely. Shamarko Thomas won’t have a breakout season until he takes over for Polamalu, but I definitely think he will take his game in to the next level for us to feel comfortable him taking for Polamalu once he finally does ride off in to the sunset. The last one to watch is Vince Williams. I believe he will be one of those players it will take a couple seasons to get all his potential out of him, but I expect too see a player who has obviously grown from their rookie seasons and is trying to prove their position as the not just the stop gap but the permanent position at the starting inside linebacker position.
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