Week in Review: AFC North Preview

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Pittsburgh Steelers:

The Steelers came into this offseason with some financial issues. Over the cap, they would be unable to sign big names and would need to make some cuts in order to get back under the cap and to be able to sign some key guys, like wide receiver Mike Wallace. These cuts came in the form of veterans James Farrior,, as well as the retirement of Hines Ward. Still unable to add big named free agents, the Steelers went about building the team through the draft. They also made a coaching change this offseason, with Todd Haley coming in as the new offensive coordinator. This figures to be a positive move for the team as Bruce Arians had worn out his welcome with a lot of fans.

Draft: The Steelers biggest weakness may have been their offensive line in 2011. The Steelers immediately addressed the issue by drafting a guy who is considered a can’t miss prospect at guard in David DeCastro. They also added a talented Mike Adams with their 2nd round pick. They will be tasked with keeping Ben Roethlisberger upright this year and able to make use of his considerable weapons at WR. They also made some solid defensive picks with linebacker Sean Spence and tackle Alameda Ta’amu.. Overall, the Steelers had a very solid draft.

Strengths: The Steelers have the benefit of having one of the best QBs in the game in Roethlisberger, as well as a pair of dynamic WRs in Wallace and Antonio Brown. The additions to the offensive line should make it a strength as well, assuming the new picks are able to contribute. The defense, as always is a huge plus. A few of the veterans on the line have moved on, but there are young guys, like Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward, ready to step up. The linebackers are talented and fast. James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley will be coming after QBs, while Lawrence Timmons and Stevenson Sylvester will man the inside spots. Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau will get the most out of these guys and the backups.

Weaknesses: The running game is a bit of an unknown going into 2012. Rashard Mendenhall is unlikely to be ready for opening day after an ACL tear, and Isaac Redmon, while talented, has never had to carry the load. They will need a running game to keep opposing defenses from pinning their ears back to rush Big Ben. The Steelers secondary is also a concern. Troy Polumalu is a few hard hits away from knocking himself out of the league, and while Ike Taylor is good, he’s a bit overrated. Ryan Clark is a big part of the unit and if he’s out, they struggle. They could have used an addition at CB this offseason.The team also needs to work out a contract with Wallace, who wants a long-term deal. Failure to get him on the field limits the offense.

Prediction: The talk of the Steelers demise due to age is overblown. They’ll be right there at the end, and battling for the division title. I’ll say 12-4 and they win the division.

 

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