10 musts for Steelers to rediscover winning ways
Five losses by three points. A merry-go-round at running back.
A quarterback who couldn't stay upright. A star safety and linebacker who couldn't stay healthy.
Much went wrong for the Steelers in 2012, as evidenced by an 8-8 record that was their worst during coach Mike Tomlin's six seasons.
The Steelers have a track record of turning themselves around following a disappointing season — for example, they played in the Super Bowl in 2010 after missing the playoffs in 2009. To accomplish a turnaround this season, much needs to go right.
Here are 10 things the Steelers must do this season to right themselves, one for each of the 10-plus wins they've averaged per season under Tomlin:
10—Don't fumble away opportunities. They gave the ball away 30 times last season. They took it away 20 times. Even a second-grader knows that's not good math.
9—Stay out of trainer John Norwig's office. The Steelers had only eight starters play in all 16 games last season. The San Francisco 49ers — they were in the Super Bowl, remember — had 17. Oh, and this means you, Troy Polamalu.
8—Start keeping up with No. 1. This might be defensive end Ziggy Hood's last opportunity with the Steelers to play like a first-round draft pick. Defensive end Cam Heyward gets a third chance, and even he acknowledges it's about time.
7—Keep the ball rolling. On the ground, that is. Only one Steelers team had fewer yards rushing in a 16-game season than the 1,537 yards accumulated by the 2012 team. Don't think there was a reason why they drafted Le'Veon Bell in the second round?
6—Don't act their age. They need established players such as Brett Keisel, Larry Foote and Ryan Clark to not play like old players. And they need rookies such as Bell, Jarvis Jones and Markus Wheaton to play like veterans.
5-Reach deep down. Depth is a major issue at numerous positions. They don't need only new starters to emerge, but new backups as well — almost across the board.
4-Discover a home run threat. Mike Wallace was a nightmare matchup for defensive coordinators because of the big-play threat he posed. Can Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders or Markus Wheaton, none of whom is blessed with Wallace's speed, develop into a similar downfield worry?
3-Find a way for 7 to go into 16. The general consensus around the NFL is if Ben Roethlisberger is in the lineup, the Steelers have a chance to win any game. Todd Haley's offense is designed, in part, to keep Roethlisberger upright and productive. Let's see if it can happen this time.
2-Keep things in line. Their offensive line not only is their youngest in 50 years, it has the potential to be one of the Steelers' best in a long time. But depth is a major issue, so Marcus Gilbert, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Mike Adams need to stay reasonably intact.
1-Don't be afraid to get in a rush. Nearly all that Dick LeBeau masterminds on defense is predicated on a strong pass rush. Now, James Harrison — one of the NFL's premier pass rushers — is gone. The Steelers need rookie Jarvis Jones to emerge in a hurry, or for Jason Worilds to do a reasonable impression of Harrison. If either one does, it could launch LaMarr Woodley toward a comeback season.
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