Offense: The Pittsburgh Steelers offense has long been about the power running game. The hiring of new offensive coordinator Todd Haley was an interesting move considering the contrasting styles. Haley’s offense uses more of a spread look using 3 or 4 wide receivers and designed for the running back to attack the perimeters. Quarterback Ben Rothlisberger has the ability to play in any type of offense and has seemed like lately he wants to pass the ball more. The Steelers best wide receiver, Mike Wallace, has not signed his franchise tender and Pittsburgh’s offense would not be as explosive without him. Running back Rashard Mendenhall will probably miss the first half of the season recovering from his knee injury he sustained during the 2011 season. Isaac Redmon and Jonathan Dwyer will compete for the starting running back spot and fill in until Mendenhall is ready. The offensive line is where most of the Steelers concerns are and they addressed that in the 2012 NFL Draft. In the 1st round they selected guard David Decastro who will remind you of former Steelers All-Pro guard Alan Faneca. In the 2nd round Pittsburgh picked tackle Mike Adams who carried a 1st round grade by many draft experts, but slid because of off the field issues.
Defense: The Baltimore Ravens defense (that I call “The Fantastic Four”) and the young pups of the San Francisco 49ers are about the only NFL defenses that can compare with the dominating Steelers defense (known as “Hawaii Five-O”). Some of the key guys having gotten older but still perform at a high level. Nose tackle Casey Hampton controls 2 gaps and stuffs the running game at the line of scrimmage. The Steelers use a base 3-4 defense and before the retirement of James Farrior during the off season had perhaps the best linebacking unit in the NFL. James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley bring the pressure from off the edges and both had 9 sacks in 2011. Lawrence Timmons is the most athletic of the crew and will take over the role of captain in the middle with Farrior gone. The straw that stirs this drink is safety Troy Polamalu who can play in the box against the run while also blitzing the passer and then has the range to defend against the pass deep. Whenever Polamalu is not in the lineup the Steelers defense misses his playmaking abilities, but when he is healthy it is almost impossible to have consistent success against them.
Season Outlook: I see the Steelers being more vertical in their passing game with Haley as the new offensive coordinator. Pittsburgh has two factors it needs to get taken care of before the season starts to transition well into their new offense. 1.) Wide receiver Mike Wallace is still unsigned and needs to get a deal done before the end of preseason and 2.) the offensive line will need to get settled and gain some kind of chemistry, all while keeping Big Ben from getting harassed in the pocket. The road to success and winning their AFC North division will more than likely go thru them or the Baltimore Ravens. That being said, the drafting of Decastro and Adams plus the return of tackle Willie Colon (injured during 2011 season) just may be the difference in keeping Big Ben and the offense from getting pressured by the Ravens’ Haloti Ngata, Terrence Cody, and Ray Lewis when the two teams meet. Head coach Mike Tomlin helped build the once famed “Williams Wall” in Minnesota and now has helped put together the number one ranked defense in 2011. Overall, once Mike Wallace signs, the offense should be fun to watch and the defense that has aged some should still be dominant as long as “Hawaii Five-O” is on the field.
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