Why Steelers will — or won't — snap out of their funk
The Steelers' not-so-magic number is three.
They've gone successive seasons without a winning record — 8-8 in 2012 and '13 — or reaching the postseason. They haven't experienced three in a row since 1969-71, Chuck Noll's first three as coach.
These Steelers look to be younger, faster and deeper. Their expectations are not only to get back in the playoffs for the first time since 2011 but also to win the AFC North.
“I would hope we wouldn't be 8-8 again,” general manager Kevin Colbert said. “We never want to go through that extended (stretch) where you have to start over.”
But they are starting over, in a way, after swapping out all but six starters from their 2011 opener — the season after they last went to the Super Bowl.
Here are three reasons why the Steelers won't three-peat this season — and three that could doom them to another failure.
Why they'll be playing in January
1. They made all the right moves
Perhaps not since the early 1970s have the Steelers counted so soon on their two most recent draft classes. They didn't even pretend that first-round Ryan Shazier wouldn't start immediately, and as many as seven members of their 2013-14 drafts could be in their lineup. As defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said, the new requirements are that players play fast (on the field) and play quickly (as in now).
2. They're two-dimensional in a one-dimensional league
The shotgun, spread formation and three- and four wide receiver sets aren't just for passing downs. But offensive coordinator Todd Haley envisions a balanced offense that mixes Ben Roethlisberger's passing with a power/speed running game.
3. They finally have caught up to the rest of the league
Remember all that talk about the Steelers being old and slow? They're neither. They downloaded all kinds of speed during the offseason (Shazier, Archer, Mitchell, Stephon Tuitt), and LeBeau said this will be by far his fastest defense.
Why they'll be sad on new year's eve
1. They left help for Big Ben off their shopping list
The Steelers clearly got better on defense during the draft, but they waited until the fourth round to give Roethlisberger another receiver (Martavis Bryant). And after shedding Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders the past two years, their lone free agent receiver pickup (Lance Moore) will play mostly in the slot. If Markus Wheaton's sophomore season is anything like his injury-ruined rookie year, Antonio Brown might see triple coverage.
2. They didn't corner the market
Ike Taylor took a huge pay cut. Cortez Allen doesn't have a new contract. William Gay figures to come off the bench after being their top pass defender last season. During an era in which cornerbacks are as essential to a defense as a quarterback is to the offense, the Steelers did almost nothing to address a potential big-problem position.
3. Where's the rush?
Their defensive line is unproven, with projected starters Cam Heyward, Steve McLendon and Cam Thomas/rookie Tuitt combining for only 16 1⁄2 career sacks. The lack of an effective pass rush the past two seasons, when they were tied for 22nd in sacks, put pressure on the back end of the defense.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.