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2014 Season preview

Here we are, a week away from yet another season of NFL football. Let’s hope that preseason is indeed meaningless!

Alright, let’s get down to it, starting with a look at the coaches.

Coaches – Well, what can you say at this point? Tomlin isn’t exactly a proactive head coach, and that’s putting it nicely, and there’s no been sign that is changing any time soon. Haley’s body of work is out there, if you will, and the results have been mixed with the Steelers thus far. There’s been talk of more no-huddle in the regular season, but until we actually see it fans everywhere should be doubtful. Promises have been made before with this offense and not delivered. I’ll just say this, no more 5 wide, empty set, I HATE IT, it basically tips your hand to the defense and offers no extra protection for a QB playing behind a still unproven O-line. Lebeau might have his hands full with some new players and a largely unproven front 7 along with an aging secondary. Mike Munchak was hired as O-line coach, good hire, we’ll see if he can improve and already improving O-line. I don’t know who the ST coach is but it might be time to fire him and just get it over with.

Offense – Big Ben and Antonio Brown are the only sure bets with this unit going into 2014. Heath Miller, normally money, is getting up in there in age and past injuries look like they may haven taken their toll on the warrior. TE looks to be a serious weakness with this team if Miller is unable to be effective this season. Outside of Brown, the Steelers WR corps is comprised of unproven players like Markus Wheaton and Justin Brown and older and injury prone players like Darrius Heyward Bey. O-line is still a question mark although the unit looked very good at times with Pouncey out of the lineup last season, probably the best its looked in years. RB looks to be solidified with the acquisition of Legarrette Blount and emergence of youngster Myron Bell. Depth looks to be a major concern with this unit and arguably with the entire team.

QB – Just say it with me Steeler fans – “Thank God Ben is our QB”, because after him it’s looking bad, really bad. Bruce Gradowski did a good impression of looking like an over the hill verteran QB with a noodle arm this preseasons and youngster Landry Jones is clearly not the answer as even a #2 QB.

RB – As mentioned the Steelers look to be fairly set with Bell and Blount as starters but after that it gets a little worrisome with small but fast rookie Dri Archer penciled at #3 and who the hell knows who else. This could really hurt the team at some point if there are injuries.

WR – Antonio Brown is money, after that it gets a little dicey. FA pickups Lance Moore and Heyward-Bey could be key contributors if they can stay healthy. Markus Wheaton looks to start opposite Brown and has shown some good things in preseason after not playing for most of last year, still a question mark considering experience. Youngsters Justin Brown and Martavius Bryant round out the group, both are very rough to say the least.

TE – Let’s hope Heath Miller can stay healthy and play at a high level because after him there is Matt Spaeth, the receiving dynamo and Michael Palmer. I still can’t believe Spaeth is back on the team.

OL – Lack of injuries is key, which given the recent history with this unit, is basically asking the impossible, because there is literally no depth here based on preseason play. Mike Adams, once a starter, has been demoted to backup status and he is probably the only decent backup. Marcus Gilbert and Kelvin Beachum are the starting tackles, serviceable for now, David DeCastro should improve even more this year at guard, opposite him is Ramon Foster. Maurkice Pouncey returns with a new contract, making him the highest paid center in the league, YIKES, let’s hope he actually stays healthy this year. The O-line last year arguably played better when Pouncey wasn’t in the lineup, which I guess is the reason Pouncey was rewarded with his gigantic new contract.

Defense – Like the offense, there really doesn’t seem to be much depth here. Cam Heyward and Troy Polamalu are the only sure bets going in to the season as impact players. There is some potential with some of the younger players, but time will tell. Contrary to popular opinion I think Ike Taylor can still be a shutdown CB but with the new emphasis on defensive holding his impact in that regard may be limited. Overall, under Tomlin’s tenure it’s hard NOT to see the softer approach with this defense with players like Ziggy Hood getting tons of playing time to prove themselves, largely failing and then moving on. This trend appears to be alive and well going into the 2014 season.go

DL – Outside of Cam Heyward there isn’t much to be excited about here as evidenced by the FO recently bringing back Brett Kiesel. Kiesel is a legend but he’s obvioiusly past his prime. Rookie Stephon Tuitt has shown some good hustle in the preseason, Cam Thomas was signed in FA and looks like he may be serviceable in spot duty, if he has to start it could be trouble. Steve McClendon is an enigma at NT, at times he looks good, other times not so much. Casey Hampton this guy is not.

LB – Once a mainstay strength of the Steelers, once the team’s identity, it’s hard to believe that isn’t the case anymore and maybe it isn’t although there are a lot of question marks with this unit. A LOT. Mainstay Lawrence Timmons is what he is at this point, a solid LB, hardly an impact player at the position though. Jason Worilds had a good year last year but consistency remains to be seen, it’s hard to imagine him in the same group as Greg Lloyd, James Harrison in terms of impact. Athletic rookie Ryan Shazier showed some flashed of brilliance in preseason at ILB including snagging an INT as he ran stride for stride with his man. With is smaller size how effective he will be against the run remains to be seen as he struggled with that at times in preseason. Jarvis Jones looks to be another Timmons, hardly an impact player, but may turn out to be a solid player at his position, it’s still too early to tell with Jones though, maybe he’ll surprise. Backups include unremarkable Vince Williams, Arthur Moats and often injured Sean Spence. Let’s hope Spence can stay healthy and contribute.

CB – The reliable Ike Taylor returns along with Cortez Allen as starters. As pointed out above, I believe Taylor can still play at a high level, although with the NFL continuing to crack down on defense that may hurt Taylor’s effectiveness. Allen should continue solid play opposite Taylor. Backups include Willie Gay and FA signings Brice McCain and Antwon Blake. Like with the rest of the defense it’s hard to get too excited with this group. Reality is Taylor is on the downside of his career even if he’s still effective, Allen will probably never be more than a solid #2 CB and the rest of the CB’s are strictly backup/nickel guys. Nickel and dime defensive matchups could be a problem.

S – FA signing Mike Mitchell replaces departed Ryan Clark at FS, but judging by preseason it looks like Clark never left as Mitchell’s slow speed and bad angles showed up a number of times. Hopefully Troy can still continue to play at a high level and help to create TO’s. Sharmarko Thomas showed some nice flashes in preseason, with some quick strikes, in space he could have some problems. Robert Golden and vet Will Allen round out the group, this is probably one of the deeper positions on the team right now.

ST – Hopefully punter Adam Podlesh doesn’t get injured because backup Brad Wing really struggled in preseason. To the point where it makes one surprised he’s even on the team. Reliable Shaun Suisham returns along with long snapper Greg Warren. Should be interesting to see how speedster rookie Dri Archer does with returns, not a fan of Antonio Brown still getting returns, hopefully some other players get in there. Overall, until we see otherwise, don’t be surprised by the same mistakes, holds, mental lapses that have been part of the Steelers ST’s since who knows when. If there’s improvement that will be a nice surprise.

Outlook – First thing everyone does when looking ahead at the next season is to look at the schedule and deduce the team’s chances for the new season. But in today’s NFL where parity reigns supreme, it’s largely irrelevant, and it’s especially irrelevant with the Steelers under Tomlin when you consider all the bad teams the Steelers have lost to under Tomlin in recent years. It simply doesn’t matter. Trying to predict a final record is pretty useless because I can see this team finishing anywhere from 6-10 to 11-5, a lot depends on luck, if Ben stays healthy and other factors like the youngsters stepping up. There’s just too many X factors, Tomlin’s inept coaching, Ben staying healthy,  youngsters stepping up, etc.  If I had to pick a record I’ll go with 8-8. Again. Let’s hope for the best and hope I’m wrong.

Finally, check out these awesome shirts we’ve made for Steeler Nation. The first wave includes “Fire Haley” shirts for all you fans who can’t wait for this guy to get the boot! We’ll be releasing more as the season goes on, ranging from modern all different Steeler eras. We hope you like them!

http://teespring.com/stores/steelcity-shirts

 

Shirts

 

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