The Steelers of Pittsburgh have a lot of fantasy football nerds hyped over their offense’s potential. They do everything right on the offensive side of the ball but for the Steelers, to enter a season and have their offense talked about more than their defense – it’s a rare occurrence – actually one might be hard pressed to see if that was ever the case for Pittsburgh.
This defense is young and is depending on their young core of linebackers to carry the weight of this unit. Jarvis Jones was a first-round pick in 2013 who seemed to be coming into his own last year until he got hurt. Ryan Shazier was their first-round pick out of Ohio State last season, but like Jones, had his share of injuries that slowed him down. This season, the Steelers kept putting faith into the linebacker surplus coming out of college and they drafted Kentucky linebacker, Bud Dupree in the first-round. Dupree is a nice athlete, but is raw when it comes to what they need: pass rushing. His instincts in the “search and destroy” department still need help, but he’s excellent when needed to drop back into zone coverage. With the right coaching he could develop into a nice linebacker. Lawrence Timmons and Arthur Moats are the veterans on this squad which is coming into the season under the radar. This has the potential to be the best linebacker rotation in the league if things pan out right. The health of Jones and Shazier will play a huge role.
The defensive line will look different without the intensity and the amazing beard of defensive end Brett Keisel. Nobody on this roster can fill the void the beard left (literally, the beard) but someone needs to be the aggressor up front. The Steelers are hoping to see more improvement from their sophomore end Stephon Tuitt. What he lacks in intensity, he has in intellect. He just needs to see the plays quicker as he at times is a step too late at the line. Steve McLendon may be the starter at nose-tackle, but the world wants to see more of the 6’7″ 350-plus pounder Daniel McCullers. McCullers is just a fun guy to watch, but it’s impossible to keep this monster on the field for too long, especially against fast paced offenses.
The secondary wasn’t too good when Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu were a part of it last year, and now with both men retired, the situation hasn’t gotten better. Their best player in the secondary may be a seventh-round pick from Louisville, safety Gerod Holliman. Holliman is more of a finesse player at the position, which is far from what fans in Pittsburgh are used to. Especially after seeing Polamalu for all those years.
Ben Roethlisberger is under center for what may be one of the more explosive offenses he’s had at his disposal. Ben was a marvel last year throwing thirty-two touchdowns and only nine interception for over 4900 yards. He still plays with a chip on his shoulder and is still elusive in the pocket regardless of his huge frame. If he had any issues with offensive coordinator Todd Haley before, he’s obviously passed it all now.
In front of Big Ben is all-pro center Maurkice Pouncey leads a steady and dependable offensive line that helped this offense finish second in time of possession, yards per game and passing yards per game. The impressive thing about this line is how a guard like David DeCastro or Ramon Foster are able to tail out and block on the outside in the screen game.
The Steelers offense was jump-started by running back Le’Veon Bell, who is suspended the first two games of the season for a DUI arrest. Bell had over 2200 yards last season and will continue to be the focal point of this attack. The Steelers got some insurance this season by signing long-time Panther DeAngelo Williams to the mix. Williams will be used mostly to spell Bell, but in those first two weeks, he will carry the load. Williams too often has been hit or miss week to week.
Remember when the Steelers had to decide between Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace a few years back? Safe to say, Pittsburgh made the right choice. For too long Brown, was going under the radar – this year, don’t expect to get him in the fourth round of your fantasy draft, especially after having a monster season with nearly 1700 receiving yards. Brown is accompanied by speed and athleticism all along the depth chart at the receiver position. People are expecting big things from former Clemson Tiger Martavius Bryant, who is a tall receiver with great speed; Markus Wheaton would be the number two wide-out on this team if not for the talent of Bryant – but Wheaton playing in the slot role, fits him better anyway.
The Steelers are primed for a deep playoff run, even with the lack of a secondary. They are multifaceted on the offensive side of the ball and an MVP caliber season from Big Ben should be expected.
Predicted Record: 11-5
Predicted Pro Bowlers: Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Ryan Shazier, Martavius Bryant, Le’Veon Bell