The Pittsburgh Steelers started to show their age in 2011. They were inconsistent early in the season, but bounced back to make the playoffs. They didn’t get very deep. They lost to Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos in the first-round.
Pittsburgh addressed their offensive line issues in the draft by picking guard David DeCastro and tackle Mike Adams. They will have to mature in a hurry, since Ben Roethlisberger needs to stay off his back.
Mike Wallace has a contract issue that has been a distraction all offseason. Rashard Mendenhall will start the season on the sideline, which will be the biggest hurdle early in the year. The season has already been a chore and they haven’t played a regular season game yet.
Key Additions: TE Leonard Pope, OG David DeCastro, OT Mike Adams, RB Chris Rainey, LB Sean Spence, TE Justine Peelle, DT Alameda Ta’amu, WR Toney Clemons, TE David Paulson and LS Matt Katula
Key Losses: CB William Gay, RB Mewelde Moore, WR Hines Ward, QB Dennis Dixon, LB James Farrior, OT Jamon Meredith, P Daniel Sepulveda and DE Aaron Smith
Non-Division Schedule: AFC West and NFC East
Fantasy Sleepers: RB Chris Rainey and WR Jerricho Cotchery – Mike Wallace is marred in a contract dispute which may not be resolved before training camp. Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown will step up and fill the need, but Cotchery lends veteran leadership to the position. He could take over Hines Ward’s role. He will not be a superstar, but a possession receiver that could steal a few touchdowns inside the red zone. Another sleeper possibility sleeper is rookie running back Chris Rainey. Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer will be the primary backs while Rashard Mendenhall starts out the season on the sideline, but keep an eye on Rainey.
Team Analysis: New offensive coordinator Todd Haley loves to air it out, so the pressure will be on the offensive line. Roethlisberger could have his best statistical season if they they do their job. Speaking of the passing game, Antonio Brown stepped up in the second-half of last year and it due for a breakout season. Mike Wallace has held out for most of the preseason, which is never a good thing when going into a new offense. Rashard Mendenhall is hurt and will most likely be out until the the fifth week. Pittsburgh will have to rely on a group of inexperienced backs early. The defense looked old at times last season and they didn’t do a lot in the offseason to address getting younger. They will need to stay healthy (i.e. Troy Polamalu) and use their experience if they hope to keep up with youth. In 2011, they lead the NFL in pass defense, but the loss of William Gay could hurt them. I don’t see Pittsburgh starting off well in 2012. They face tough defenses in their first four games when they will be without Mendenhall. I see Pittsburgh losing a few games they usually win, especially if they become one-dimensional. Baltimore looks like the team to beat in the AFC North, so the Steelers will be fighting for a Wild-Card spot.
2012 Wins Over/Under Line: 10.5 (Prediction: UNDER)
2012 Projected Win/Loss Record: 9-7