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2013 NFL Preview: Pittsburgh Steelers

by Photo of Kenneth Teape

An injury riddled 2012 led to disappointing results and people beginning to doubt the Black and Gold.

2013 NFL Preview: Pittsburgh Steelers

The NFL Season is getting closer and closer. The Baltimore Ravens took home the Super Bowl last year, but this next season will surely come with plenty of surprises. It's time to get ready for the start of the year by taking a look at all 32 teams to gauge where they are, starting with the worst and ending with the reigning Super Bowl Champs. It's the CHARGED.fm 2013 NFL Preview, and today we're previewing the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Last Season:

It was a disappointing season for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2012. Injuries decimated the roster throughout the season as they just could not overcome losses to multiple running backs and nagging injuries to offensive leader Ben Roethlisberger. An aging defense that was without leader, safety Troy Polamalu, did not help the cause either. The season started poorly as the Steelers went 1-2 into their bye week but a stretch of five wins in six games put them back on track. Roethlisberger was lost for the next three games and the Steelers went 1-2, killing any momentum for the remainder of the season in which they lose five of the last seven games.

It was a tough season in Pittsburgh but Roethlisberger still provided some highlights. Check them out here!

The problem for the Steelers all season was the offense. The Steelers have changed over time from the smash-mouth running team that would destroy teams physically to more of a passing team because of weapons such as Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Heath Miller. Because of that talent the Steelers finished in the top half of the NFL at 14th in passing, even after having to start a statue in Byron Leftwich and the elder statesmen Charlie Batch for three games.

Where they struggled was in the run game. Right from the start of the season the run game was a disaster and it did not get fixed throughout the season. Three different players started in the backfield for the Steelers and none were successful, evident by the 26th ranking the running game received. Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman all struggled, combining for 3.8 yards per rush. On eight occasions the leading Steeler had under 50 yards rushing. One game, third-string QB Charlie Batch led the team with 22 yards on the ground. Without a running game to compliment the passing game the Steelers offense was stuck in neutral all season and underachieved.

The defense on the other hand was outstanding. Even without Polamalu, more often than not the Steelers defense was the most dominating unit in the league. Week in and week out, the Steelers defense kept the team in games by allowing a league best 275.8 yards per game; they were first in pass defense at 185.2 yards per game and second in rushing defense at 90.6 yards per game. They also ranked sixth in opponents points per game even with average quarterback pressure (37 sacks on the season, tied for 14th) and barely forcing any turnovers (-10 turnover differential).

Offseason:

Key Losses (New Team): Mike Wallace, WR (Miami Dolphins); Casey Hampton, NT; Willie Colon, G (New York Jets); James Harrison, LB (Cincinnati Bengals); Rashard Mendenhall, RB (Arizona Cardinals); Keenan Lewis, CB (New Orleans Saints); Max Starks, OT (San Diego Chargers); Ryan Mundy, S (New York Giants); Doug Legursky, C (Buffalo Bills); Leonard Pope, TE (Chicago Bears); Jeremy Kapinos, P; Charlie Batch, QB; Brandon Johnson, LB; Byron Leftwich, QB

Players Added (Old Team): Brian Moorman, P (Dallas Cowboys); Matt Spaeth, TE (Chicago Bears); William Gay, CB (Arizona Cardinals); Bruce Gradkowski, QB (Cincinnati Bengals); Guy Whimper, OT (Jacksonville Jaguars); Michael Palmers, TE (Atlanta Falcons)

Players Re-Signed: Larry Foote, LB; Emmanuel Sanders, WR; Plaxico Burress, WR (Now out for season); Jonathan Dwyer, RB; Greg Warren, LS; David Johnson, TE; Stevenson Sylvester, LB

Players Drafted: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia; Le’Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State; Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State; Shamarko Thomas, S, Syracuse; Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma; Terry Hawthorne, CB, Illinois; Justin Brown, WR, Penn State; Vince Williams, ILB, Florida State; Nicholas Williams, DT, Samford

The Steelers will look a lot different next year as a lot of household names will not be suiting up for the black and gold next season. Mainstays such as Wallace, Hampton, Colon, Harrison, Mendenhall and Lewis are gone but in come some fresh faces that look to jumpstart the Steelers franchise again. The Steelers had one of the best drafts in the league as they hit pick after pick. Jones is an outstanding player; someone who was rated to go as high as one before some poor draft workouts is an amazing get at 17. Bell may have been a slight stretch in the second round, but when you think about what a disaster the offensive line was sometimes at Michigan State and how well he produced it is scary to think what he can do behind a line led by Maurkice Pouncey. Check out some of Bell's highlights with Michigan State and see for yourself why Steeler fans are so excited about adding him to the offense this upcoming season:

With burner Wallace moving on, Wheaton, a former track star, will take over the role as the player to vertically challenge a defense. Thomas looks like a steal in the fourth for the Steelers as he will learn from one of the best in the business in Polamalu. Jones in the fourth round is an interesting pick and will be worth keeping an eye on what kind of NFL player he becomes. He has prototypical size but did not perform as well as many had expected at Oklahoma. In typical Steeler fashion they did not make big splashes in free agency but brought in players that they are familiar with and feel will fit their system well.

Season Outlook:

There are people that are down on the Steelers coming into this season and that is a big mistake. This is a team that suffered through some serious injuries last season on the offensive side of the ball yet still managed to finish at .500. They did lose Wallace, which will hurt, but with the addition of Bell to the backfield the running game should bounce back this season, putting less pressure on the arm of Roethlisberger and the passing game.

As for the defense, they were a top unit last season and there is no reason to believe they can’t do it again. They return almost the whole unit and hope that Polamalu can stay healthy enough to remain in the lineup. They also upgraded big time by adding the best pass rusher the last two seasons in college football in Jones to an already stacked linebacking crew of Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley, Jason Worilds and Foote. They also have an improving Ziggy Hood and veteran mainstay Brett Keisel holding down the defensive line. This is a unit poised to be near the top of the NFL again.

If the Steelers can get the run game going it will be huge this season. That is a lot of pressure to bestow upon a rookie but he looks capable of carrying the load after what he accomplished at Michigan State. The health of Roethlisberger is also important as the Steelers offense will ultimately go only as far as he can take them. With a solid coaching staff led by head coach Mike Tomlin and enough hungry veterans in the locker room this is not a team to be taking lightly heading into the season; they can easily sit atop that division again if they can improve upon their 3-3 division record from last season.

Check CHARGED.fm to find the best NFL tickets all season long!


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