Pittsburgh Steelers Predictions
The Pittsburgh Steelers went 12-4 in 2011 and finished tied with the Baltimore Ravens for the top spot in the AFC North division. However, the Steelers were swept by the Ravens in the season series, which meant that they would have to go on the road to try and get back to the Super Bowl for a second straight season.
The Steelers got Tebowed by Denver in the first round, falling to the Broncos 23-29 in overtime. Pittsburgh was battling through injuries late in the year, and it was clear that Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t at 100%. Let’s see if Pittsburgh can rebound and win the AFC North in 2012 as I offer a team preview along with my division prediction below.
The Steelers ranked 12th in the NFL at 372 total yards per game last year, but they could only managed 20.3 points out of it. Their 18.3 yards per point was Pittsburgh’s highest number in years. A big reason for its lack of production on the scoreboard was turnovers. The team finished -13 in turnover differential in ’11 after going +17 in ’10.
Roethlisberger remains one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the league. He completed 63.2 percent of his passes for 4,077 yards with 21 touchdowns and 14 interceptions last season. However, he was sacked 40 times, which led to an ankle injury late in the year that he never fully recovered from. Big Ben will be working with a new offensive coordinator in Todd Haley as Bruce Arians has been shown the door.
Haley, the former Kansas City Chiefs head coach, plans on using a more balanced attack which should keep Roethlisberger healthy. Rashard Mendenhall had just one game with 20 or more carries last year. He rushed for 928 yards and nine touchdowns, falling just shy of reaching the 1,000-yard mark for a third straight season. Mendenhall suffered a torn ACL in the season finale and could open 2012 on the PUP list. That would leave Isaac Redman (479 yards, 4.4/carry, three TD in ’11) atop the depth chart to open the season.
The Steelers boast two of the best young wide receivers in the league. Both Make Wallace (72 receptions, 1,193 yards, eight TD) and Antonio Brown (69, 1,108, two TD) return. It will be tough to keep these two around because of the money they will demand, but if they do they’ll be in good hands for years to come. Veteran TE Heath Miller (51, 631, two TD) returns, while Heinz Ward has decided to retire.
The once-dominant Pittsburgh offensive line has seen numerous injuries over the last few years. They have addressed this need through the NFL Draft by selecting RG David DeCastro (Stanford) in the first round and LT Mike Adams (Ohio State) in the second. These two are expected to start right away alongside LG Willie Colon, C Maurkice Pouncey and RT Marcus Gilbert. This unit has gotten a lot younger and is certainly more talented.
The one constant in the Steel City is that Pittsburgh puts out one of the best defenses year after year. The Steelers have ranked in the top five in total defense each of the last five years, including first three times. That was the case again in ’11 as they allowed just 14.2 points and 272 total yards per game. While the stop unit continues to get older, it remains one of the best in the league.
The defensive line features 35-year-old NT Casey Hampton (31 tackles, 3.5 for loss) and 34-year-old RE Brett Keisel (48 tackles, 5.5 for loss). They have been two of the best in the NFL at their positions for years in the 3-4 scheme. Hampton, a five-time Pro Bowler, showed signs of slowing down last year as he missed three regular season games before tearing his ACL in the Wildcard game. He will open 2012 on the PUP, which prompted Pittsburgh to draft NT Alameda Ta’amu (Washington) in the fourth round. LE Ziggy Hood (31 tackles, 1.5 sacks) resumes his starting role.
Pittsburgh is known for having one of the best sets of linebackers in the NFL. That will be the case once again in ’12 as LOLB LaMarr Woodley (39 tackles, 9 sacks), LILB Larry Foote (47 tackles, 3 for loss), RILB Lawrence Timmons (93 tackles, 4 for loss) and ROLB James Harrison (59 tackles, 9 sacks) all return. The Steelers drafted Sean Spence (Miami) in the third round, and after registering 217 tackles and 31 for loss over the last two seasons at the U, he’ll be groomed to eventually replace Foote. While this unit is getting up there in age, it’s not short on playmaking ability.
If there’s one weakness on this side of the ball, it’s certainly in the secondary. That’s even with seven-time Pro Bowler Troy Polamalu (91 tackles, 8.5 for loss, 16 passes defended) leading the unit. FS Ryan Clark (100 tackles, 4 for loss, one INT) is back and he’s a good one. The CB positions will be manned by Ike Taylor (44 tackles, 16 passes defended) and Keenan Lewis (37 tackles, seven passes defended). These two are the biggest question marks, and they have little depth behind them.
AFC North Prediction – 1st Place (11-5 Record)
Despite losing 60 starts to injury last year, including a nagging ankle injury to Big Ben, the Steelers managed to finish 12-4. They should get much better health in ’12, while also improving upon their -13 turnover differential. Pittsburgh outgained opponents by 101 yards per game last season, which was tops in the NFL. Its offense should benefit from an improved rushing attack, which will take some pressure off of Roethlisberger. While the defense continues to age, it’s still one of the best in the NFL. After settling for second place behind Baltimore in the AFC North last year, the Steelers will be extra motivated to win the division in ’12, and they’ll get it done.
Individual Team NFL Season Predictions
|AFC West||AFC North||AFC South||AFC East|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Pittsburgh Steelers Predictions||Indianapolis Colts||New England Patriots|
|San Diego Chargers||Baltimore Ravens||Jacksonville Jaguars||New York Jets|
|Oakland Raiders||Cleveland Browns||Houston Texans||Miami Dolphins|
|Denver Broncos||Cincinnati Bengals||Tennessee Titans||Buffalo Bills|
|NFC West||NFC North||NFC South||NFC East|
|Seattle Seahawks||Chicago Bears||Atlanta Falcons||Philadelphia Eagles|
|St. Louis Rams||Green Bay Packers||New Orleans Saints||New York Giants|
|San Francisco 49ers||Detroit Lions||Tampa Bay Bucs||Dallas Cowboys|
|Arizona Cardinals||Minnesota Vikings||Carolina Panthers||Washington Redskins|
- Vernon Croy – says never to discount the Steelers.