The past two seasons have been a struggle for the Pittsburgh Steelers, at least from a Steelers fan perspective. The Steelers have gone 8-8 the past two seasons, missing the playoffs both years. It’s the first time since 1998 through 2000 that the Steelers have missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons.
The second half of the season was one that had returned hope to many Steelers fans. After an abysmal 0-4 start, Pittsburgh won six of their last eight games and just barely missed the postseason.
Pittsburgh’s offseason was one that loaded Todd Haley’s offense, and I mean loaded. The Steelers signed their veteran tight end Heath Miller to an extension and signed veteran running back Lagarrette Blount to back up young Le’veon Bell.
After losing receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Jerrico Cotchery to free agency, Steelers signed Drew Brees‘ former favorite target Lance Moore and former Oakland Raider and Indianapolis Colt Darrius Heyward-Bey to join Pro Bowler Antonio Brown and give big Ben Roethlisberger quite a deadly receiving core. Along with a rejuvenated running back duo, we will have to keep an eye on Pittsburgh’s offense this year, one that was deadly enough last year.
The question mark for Pittsburgh right now, who knew that we’d ever be saying this, is their defense. The Steel Curtain turned out to be very whittled a year ago. It took more than 4 games just to force their first turnover, if you wonder why they started 0-4. They also allowed more plays of 50+ yards than anyone else, you’d think a bunch of veterans would play better, right?
These defenders weren’t getting any younger, and Pittsburgh made the decision to let the veterans go. After James Harrison left in last year’s offseason, the Steelers let go of linebackers Lamarr Woodley and Larry Foote along with free safety Ryan Clark. There was also the loss of defensive end Ziggy Hood. Pittsburgh still has veterans Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor and Brett Kiesel on their defense.
The free agent signings of cornerback Mike Mitchell and defensive tackle Cam Thomas have helped recover the weakened Steelers D.
Pittsburgh has some young linebackers that need to step up for that front 7 to return to its former dominance. They’ve spent their past two first-round draft picks on linebackers Jarvis Jones and Ryan Shazier. Jones had a less-than-spectacular rookie season, but has so much room to improve and great potential to have a break out year.
Shazier was question-mark pick at first, but after you see him run a 4.3 40 yard dash, you can’t help but fall in love. Their second round pick DE Stephon Tuitt is sure to have a big rookie year as well.
After how they finished last year and what they’ve added this year, many predict the Steelers to win the weakened AFC North and return to the playoffs. They certainly have the pieces to do so.
- Justin Hodges is a Staff Writer for ProSportsExtra.comĀ