High Five: 5 Bold Predictions for the 2014 NFL Season

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Aug 21, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Brandon Bair (93) disrupts the throwing attempt of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) during the first quarter of a game at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

4) The Steelers will finish last in the AFC North

The momentum of this era of Steelers football comes to a halt this year.  I cannot see how anyone can make the argument that Pittsburgh got better this offseason.  Starting last February, the ol’ black and gold were in the red; $6.75M over the salary cap.  Notable moves were subsequently few.  LaMarr Woodley and Larry Foote would release in an effort to roll back the clock on a rusting Steel Curtain, but beyond the resigning / restructuring of several key veterans’ contracts, the same roster that went 8-8 last year stayed in place.  While rookie Ryan Shazier and second year player Jarvis Jones would appear to be a frightening duo within the defensive, they cannot be expected to do it all.  Arguably, the weakest aspect of Pittsburgh’s scheme last year was their press corners, a situation that has not changed much.

Still as long as their defense is led by Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau, the capacity for big plays remains.  Unfortunately, the offense is even more concerning.  The recent DUI and misdemeanor charge of possession for both of the Steelers lead running backs, LeGarrette Blount and Le’Veon Bell, is the punctuation mark for a running game that was already showing very serious problems.  Through three preseason games, Pittsburgh has only accumulated 54.3 rushing yards and zero rushing touchdowns, both good for 31st in the League.  As if negative portents from the rushing game weren’t enough for new Offensive Line Coach Mike Munchak, the offensive unit as a whole has struggled in the preseason, including recently paid center, Marquiese Pouncey.

Despite the tale-of-two-quarterbacks in Cleveland, the Browns are more than capable of beating the Steelers for two reasons: Joe Haden and rookie Justin Gilbert.  The rest of Cleveland’s secondary notwithstanding, Pittsburgh does not have one, let alone two, wide outs who can consistently get separation.  The Browns should be able to load the box, stop the run, and force Big Ben to make challenging throws, leading to a defensive game that Cleveland can win.  Welcome to the cellar of the AFC North, Pittsburgh; you might be there a while.