Yes, now before you go crazy allow me to explain. I actually do not know where to begin. Let us start at their biggest problem, the offensive line. The only guaranteed starter on the line is Maurkice Pouncey, which is nothing to be excited about considering he did not play as well as his rookie season. Trail Essex, the LT (probably the most important position after QB in the NFL) is a free agent. Max Starks, probably the best lineman outside Pouncey on the Steelers, will likely miss the season due to ACL surgery. This is a huge problem, since the Steelers want to run more often to put less wear and dependence on Big Ben.
Speaking of running, Pittsburgh’s leading rusher for the past few seasons, Rashard Mendenhall, will likely miss the entire year due to ACL surgery as well. That means the starter will be Isaac Redman, who I actually really like and believe he is one of the most underrated RBs in the NFL. Only problem is, Redman is a restricted free agent this year. More on free agency in a minute.
Lets talk about the defense now. There is no doubt that Pittsburgh will boast a top defense for years to come. But will it be elite enough to carry the team into the playoffs? Lets take a look on the defensive line. Backup NT for the Steelers, Chirs Hoke, is retiring and will not return. The average age of the staring line will be 31 years old. That number is skewed by DE Ziggy Hood who only mustered 1.5 sack in 2011. This past season, the line combined for 4.5 sacks. 4.5! Pittsburgh was ranked in the bottom half of the league with 35 sacks.
Leading sack artist for the Steelers was James Harrison, who turns 34 next season, is constantly under scrutiny and has started to face bans. One more mishap and he can be suspended for a few games, which can hurt the Steelers. Pittsburgh may part ways with All-Pro LB James Farrior after he made many miscues in pass coverage. Pittsburgh’s LB corps, the heart of the defense and the top in the NFL not too long ago, may major changes.
Now you may think the Steelers will find a way to fix their problems through free agency. This is where it gets worse. The Steelers may be without their biggest play maker next year: Mike Wallace. Whether he leaves or not can severely hurt the Steelers. Recent history shows that Wallace will probably expect a deal upwards of $10-$11 million a year, considering how Santonio Holmes, a WR who did not produce at all the past two seasons, earned a deal worth nearly $10 million a year. Pittsburgh can give him his deal, the only problem being that Pittsburgh is already over $10 million over the cap according to ESPN, the Steelers would need to cut $20 million worth of players to make room for Wallace alone: http://espn.go.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/53990/schefter-on-the-steelers-offseason-issues. That does not include the money they would need to pay to retain key players such as Isaac Redman, Ryan Mundy, and Jerricho Cotchery. If they let Wallace walk, they would have issues at WR. Antonio Brown is a solid receiver, but he had success because Wallace drew double coverage and the attention of the opposing team’s top corner. Wallace has been linked to the Bengals and Ravens, which could become devastating for the Steelers.
Lastly, the Steelers will not benefit from an easy schedule like last season. They do not face the Colts, Jaguars, Seahawks, Cardinals, and Jaguars like they did last season. Instead, they will face one of the best all round divisions in the NFC East, with even the worst team, the Redskins, poised to make huge strides on offense and defense. The Chargers will not be an easy team to face, and Kansas City and Oakland can provide major upsets. In the division, the Bengals can revolutionize their team with $40 million in free cap space and two first round draft picks. The Ravens now have Pittsburgh’s number. Even the Browns, the worst team in the division, is a threat. They have an underrated defense and can make a splash in offense with 6 selections in the first 100 picks, including two first rounders.
Hey, wilder things have happened in the NFL.
Share your thoughts below and tell me if you agree or disagree with my points!
About the Author
Written by A.M. Ghesani