Steelers to Begin Answering Questions on Peril, Potential vs. Titans

At 1:00 pm the Pittsburgh Steelers will open the 2013 regular season vs. the Tennessee Titans. And it is at that moment that the Steelers Nation will begin to get answers to some of the many questions that face their beloved franchise.

  • No one knows what to make of the 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers.

Many, if not most pundits are predicting 8-8, no playoffs, 3rd in the AFC North if not worse. Yet there are others predicting the AFC Championship.

Who is right?

  • The truth is no one really knows.

The 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers field a team that is riddled with question marks that intimate peril, yet each one of those question marks also offers potential.

Take the Steelers running back stable. Not happy with mediocre results in 2013, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin all but whipped the slate clean. Rashard Mendenhall is in Pittsburgh West aka Arizona. Chris Rainey, Baron Batch, and Jonathan Dwyer are filing for unemployement insurance.

Only Isaac Redman remains. Le’Veon Bell was to offer hope, but his NFL career amounts to four carries. Could Felix Jones realize that this is his last shot at NFL glory?

At wide receiver the Steelers situation is much the same.

Mike Wallace’s speed will be missed. But his lack of maturity and “me” focus will not. On paper Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders are more complete receivers.

But are they complete enough to make up for the loss of Heath Miller?

Lynch Pin on Offense – The Line

When “the Steelers have done it before they can do it again” emotions fade, any rational analysis will hold that the Steelers receivers and running backs will face learning curve.

The Steelers offensive line had been substandard for the better part of the Tomlin era. Some of it has to do with Ben Roethlisberger holding on to the ball too long, but even when you account for that Pittsburgh has not enjoyed consistent run or pass blocking since Alan Faneca departed.

As Steel Curtain Rising (and others) have repeatedly observed, the Steelers Brain Trust has invested heavily in changing that.

Keeping Ben Roethlisberger healthy is certainly the variable of paramount importance in this equation. But it goes quite beyond that.

Ben Roethlisberger’s, the receivers, and running backs have played a lot of winning football in 2008, 2010, and 2011 behind offensive lines that were playing musical chairs.

  • If the line’s personnel can stabilize and those men can stay healthy, and even begin to play to their pedigrees, then they can cover up for some growing pains in the skill positions.

But again, this depends on the players both developing and staying healthy, which has been a challenge recently. So there you have a question….

Word on Defense, it Isn’t Quite Polamalu or Bust, But…

The Steelers defense had its soul ripped out when James Harrison opted to walk over accepting a pay cut. But the heart of this defense is Troy Polamalu. As Tim Gleason aka Mary Rose of Behind the Steel Curtain has pointed out, Polamalu is like an expensive European sports car. When not in the shop, he is the ultimate football player.

Polamalu’s ability has almost taken on mythic proportions in Steeles Nation and perhaps those comparisons are simply exaggerations.

ESPN’s Scott Brown has calculated that the Steelers defense allows on average 5 fewer points when Polamalu is healthy.

  • It’s a good bet that the defense is stingier yet when Polamalu is healthy.

Beyond keeping number 43 healthy, there are other concerns and questions.

  • Can the Steelers make up for Harrisons and Casey Hampton’s run stuffing ability
  • Will LaMarr Woodley return to his explosive self?
  • Are either Ziggy Hood and/or Cameron Heyward going to have a break out year?

Right now these are all questions.

And there are others. Can Danny Smith transform the special teams into something that is not a glaring liability? What of the depth, the younger players that played so poorly in the preseason?

In a very short time Steelers Nation will begin getting some answers.

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