Last year: 8-8, second place in AFC North
Acquisitions: Mike Mitchell, Lance Moore, Ryan Shazier, LeGarrette Blount, Darrius Heyward-Bey (smh)
Departures: Ryan Clark, LaMarr Woodley, Ziggy Hood, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery
Vegas 2014 win total over/under: 8.5 wins
About that banner image: Andy Behrens recently pointed out that Ben Roethlisberger is in excellent position to break Brett Favre’s all-time career sacks taken record of 525. In fact, based on the rate that THE BEN gets put on his ass, barring an entirely possible early retirement-via-crippling, he should shatter the mark within just a few years. I’m all-in about celebrating this and am starting the 526burgh rally cry right now. I may even make a T-shirt if I’m motivated enough to ever figure out how.
Five ways Joey Porter will toughen up the Steelers linebacking corps:
— Mandatory bullet-in-the-ass training camp initiation.
— “WE GOT JOHNNY FOOTBALL WEEK 1 I WANT YOU TO FISTFIGHT SIX DRUNKS THIS WEEK TO PREPARE!”
— Starves, beats and sings off-key to Jarvis Jones.
— Daily unpadded Oklahoma drills versus his pit bulls.
Fan forecast by Christmas Ape:
Last year, I predicted that the Steelers would be a middling team, then they started the season 0-4 and were A TERRIBLE TEAM. The once-vaunted defense didn’t force a turnover until mid-October. Boy, was my face red. Eventually, however, the Steelers kind of got it together, beat a bunch of other bad teams, had their head coach wander onto the field, progressed to the mean and were denied the final spot in the playoffs either by Antonio Brown stepping out of bounds on a near-miracle play against the Dolphins or Ryan Succop missing a field goal against the Chargers in Week 17.
Instead of San Diego, that could have been Pittsburgh reaping the benefits of another Andy Dalton postseason implosion only to get trashed by the Broncos in the next round. NO FAIR!
But 2014 is a new season and the Steelers are a team assembled in a newly middling way. No more old-ass Ryan Clark! No more fat-ass LaMarr Woodley! That said, there’s no reason to believe they’re a legitimate threat even in the weak AFC. That’s how it looks as they remain dangling on the precipice of Ben “Rapey Groot” Roethlisberger being hit too many times to be able to breathe, so it’s important to enjoy these seasons of losing fewer than 10 games while they last.
Depending on luck, I see the Steelers finishing anywhere between 7-9 and 10-6. They’re still more or less an average team, albeit with a favorable 2014 schedule (drawing the AFC South is nice, even if it means inexplicably losing to a garbage Titans team for a third straight year).
I wouldn’t be a pessimist if I didn’t have reservations that things won’t even go that well. 34-motherfucking-year-old Ike Taylor is still the team’s best corner by a significant margin even as his ability swiftly drains from his body with each passing day. I speak of him as though he’s a geriatric even though he’s only two years older than me, but that’s the shitty sports fan’s prerogative and I am happy to embrace it. Surely a front office said to be as savvy as Pittsburgh’s must have addressed this glaring weakness in the draft, right? LOL NOPE. They took another linebacker in the first round and didn’t pick a defensive back until the fifth.
I’ve come around on the Ryan Shazier selection and believe he very well may be a good player but that doesn’t much help the fact that the secondary is going to sssssuuuucccccckkkk.
Speaking of the draft, the Steelers went full Al Davis and emphasized speed above nearly all else. Not that there isn’t logic in that approach given that people have been deriding the roster as old and slow for the past few years. Nevertheless, Pittsburgh really doubled down on fast people. They even got Dri Archer, a tiny running back who posted the best 40 time at the combine this year. Todd Haley is thrilled about making him the next Dexter McCluster/Chris Rainey type back who catches dump passes in the flat and does nothing.
To be fair, the Steelers didn’t completely ignore the secondary in the off-season. With their limited cap space, they found a way to sign Mike Mitchell, a hard-hitting safety whose glaring weakness is said to be, well, covering people. Now, subpar coverage skills can be hidden when you’re playing behind the awesome Panthers’ front seven like Mitchell was last year. No such luxury now, unless Joey Porter can unlock the power of double-digit sacks out of everyone by spraying spittle on them (worked for Bill Cowher, tbh).
Oh, and the offense is counting on a second-year wideout who had only six receptions in his rookie season to be their no. 2 receiver. That’s neat.
Having missed the playoffs the past two years, I imagine there’s a good deal of pressure on Mike Tomlin, Boss Todd and Santa LeBeau to make it back to the postseason. I still like Tomlin and LeBeau, so it would be nice if they did, even if I don’t see them making a whole lot of noise should that happen.