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Pittsburgh Steelers

Division: AFC NorthGM: Kevin ColbertHead Coach: Mike Tomlin
2012: 8-8 (3rd AFC North)vs. division 3-3
Points21.0 (22nd)
Yards332.8 (21st)
Pass Yards236.7 (14th)
Rush Yards96.1 (26th)

Steelers look to bounce back after down year

Key Additions

CB W.Gay, QB B.Gradkowski,
RB L.Stephens-Howling

Key Subtractions

WR M.Wallace, OG W.Colon,
LB J.Harrison, CB K.Lewis,
OT M.Starks, DT C.Hampton,
RB R.Mendenhall

After back-to-back 12 win campaigns in 2010 and 2011, last season was not at all what we have come to expect from one of the most consistently good teams in the NFL over the last decade.

The Steelers started the season 6-3, but looked very un-Steeler like during a late season slide that saw them lose five of their last eight games and slip to third in the AFC North with an 8-8 record.

The late collapse marked the end of the road in Pittsburgh for many of the team's starters as the Steelers embarked on a summer of cost-cutting.

James Harrison, Casey Hampton, Mike Wallace, Max Starks, Rashard Mendenhall, Willie Colon and Keenan Lewis are all gone leaving a slate of rookies and former backups looking to fill the holes.

How well and quickly some of the new faces are able to fit in to head coach Mike Tomlin's master plan will go a long way in determining how the Steelers fare in 2013.

Rediscover the Run

It has been a long time since there has been a true, every down back in Pittsburgh. Rashard Mendenhall was supposed to be that guy after Willie Parker left in 2009. That never quite worked out due to a variety of injuries and off-field problems.

With Mendenhall off to Arizona as a free agent, the team drafted running back Le'Veon Bell out of Michigan State.

Bell was injured in camp and will miss a game or two at the start of the season, but at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, he will eventually bring size and versatility that the team's other running backs just don't have.

The rookie led the NCAA with 383 carries last season at Michigan State and also caught 32 passes. He looks like the part of an every down back and will be given every opportunity to take the Steelers' job and run with it.

If he can, it will make life easier for Ben Roethlisberger who is hoping for a healthy season after battling a variety of injuries and playing in pain the last few years.

Roethlisberger had minor knee surgery in June, but looks to be 100 percent heading into the season and ready to get back to the form he displayed at the beginning of last season.

Playing Catch

Roethlisberger won't have his favourite target with him this season as last year's No.1 receiver Mike Wallace left for Miami in free agency. That leaves the team with holdovers Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders as the top options along with veterans Jerricho Cotchery, Plaxico Burress and rookie Markus Wheaton to round out the receivers.

Brown has been a solid No. 2 for the last two seasons catching 69 passes for 1,100 yards in 2011 and 66 for 787 yards in 2012. The Steelers are banking he is ready for a bigger role.

Sanders is also in line for more work and while he has proven to be a reliable target he only has 94 catches for 1,290 yards in the last three seasons. Burress meanwhile is really just hoping to prove he still has something left in the tank and stick on the roster.

What the team is really hoping is that they have an eventual replacement for Wallace in Wheaton, the 79th pick in the draft. The Oregon State product should see plenty of time on passing downs and as he builds a rapport with Roethlisberger could feature more prominently in the offence.

The O-line is another question mark for the Steelers with the losses of left tackle Max Starks and guard Willie Colon. (-TSN.ca)

Analysis: Jones was diagnosed with spinal stenosis diagnosis and that dropped his stock out of the top five in the draft. However, Jones is a dangerous pass rusher off the edge and will be next in a long line of outstanding Steelers' linebackers... Bell could signal a return to a more power running game for Pittsburgh. He has the rare ability to run people over or catch passes out of the backfield and does both very well... Wheaton is a speedster that will help stretch the field now that Mike Wallace is gone. He will need to show he can hold up against more physical defenders. (-TSN.ca)

Round 1 17th overall Jarvis Jones OLB Georgia
Round 2 48th overall Le'Veon Bell RB Michigan State
Round 3 79th overall Markus Wheaton WR Oregon State
Round 4 111th overall Shamarko Thomas SS Syracuse
Round 4 115th overall Landry Jones QB Oklahoma
Round 5 150th overall Terry Hawthorne CB Illinois
Round 6 186th overall Justin Brown WR Penn State
Round 6 206th overall Vince Williams LB Florida State
Round 7 223rd overall Nick Williams DT Samford

Big Shoes To Fill on D

The departures of linebacker James Harrison and defensive tackle Casey 'Big Snack' Hampton left the Steelers with two glaring holes on defence.

First round draft pick Jarvis Jones seems like a natural fit to fill Harrison's shoes and provide an immediate boost to the pass rush. Jones led the NCAA in sacks last season at Georgia with 14.5 and the Steelers were very happy to see him still around at the 17th pick.

Filling in for Hampton will be fourth year pro Steve McLendon. McLendon filled in well when called upon as Hamtpon's backup last year and the Steelers clearly felt they saw enough from him to let Hampton walk in free agency.

AFC NORTH PROJECTIONS

Ravens (11-5)

Division Winner, solid season


Bengals (10-6)

5th in AFC, wildcard berth


Steelers (9-7)

6th in AFC, wildcard berth


Browns (6-10)

Almost there, but tough division

McLendon might not be quite as big in strong as Hampton, but he makes up for it by being longer and quicker.

Joining McLendon on the line are Ziggy Hood, who still has a ton of potential but has been inconsistent through four years in the league, and Brett Keisel. Keisel has been great for the Steelers since being drafted in the seventh round back in 2002 but he is in the final year of his contract and may be gone next season.

Secondary Strength

The Steelers secondary is getting up there in average age but it should remain a strength for the Steelers after leading the NFL in fewest passing yards allowed for the last two seasons.

Strong Safety Troy Polamalu is, when healthy and playing, one of the top defensive playmakers in the NFL. After missing nine games last season, Polamalu looks to be in great shape this season and is hoping to put his various ailments behind him. If he can stay healthy, which is a big if, the Steelers have one of the best safety tandems in the NFL with Ryan Clark.

Fourth round pick Shamarko Thomas also gives the club nice depth at the position and could eventually develop into one of the steals of the 2013 draft class.
At corner, neither Ike Taylor nor Cortez Allen is a star, but both a very serviceable starters and provide the Steelers with solid coverage.

What It All Means

The Steelers are one of the hardest teams to peg this season. With so many new starters this season the team could really go either way. On defence, the Steelers still have plenty of playmakers and should be very though once again. Offensively, the team has a few more question marks but it wouldn't be a big surprise to see Roethlisberger rally the troops and lead the Steelers back to the playoffs. On the other hand, the AFC North is going to be very tough with both Baltimore and Cincinnati looking good so it would be just as easy to see the Steelers lose a game or two from last year. (-TSN.ca)

OFFENCE

DEFENCE

LT

M. Adams
K. Beachum
J. Long
M. Farrell

LG

R. Foster
J. Cheadle
M. Golic

C

M. Pouncey
J. Malecki
J. Madsen

RG

D. DeCastro
C. Hubbard

RT

M. Gilbert
G. Whimper
D. Batiste

WR1

E. Sanders
P. Burress
M. Wheaton
D. Gilreath

TE

H. Miller
M. Spaeth
D. Paulson
J. McCoy

WR2

A. Brown
J. Cotchery
D. Moye
K. Moore

QB

B. Roethlisberger
B. Gradkowski
J. Wilson
L. Jones

FB

W. Johnson

RB

L. Bell
J. Dwyer
I. Redman
L. Stephens-Howling


Special Teams: K S. Suisham, P D. Butler, KR E. Sanders, PR A. Brown

Fantasy - By The Numbers

QB Ben Roethlisberger has averaged better than 250 yards passing in each of the last four seasons, and that's a 4,000-yard pace over a full year, but Big Ben missed four games last season and three games in 2010, so he doesn't quite provide optimal value.

Get ready for the fantasy season with the latest from TSN.ca.
Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | DEF
Fantasy Schedules: AFC | NFC
2013 Auction Values: Cheat Sheet
Fantasy Depth Charts: AFC | NFC

Roethlisberger is a pretty good fantasy backup, however, since your hopes won't be tied so closely to his health.

With WR Mike Wallace leaving for Miami as a free agent, that makes Antonio Brown the clearcut No. 1 receiver, with Emmanuel Sanders stepping into a starting role that offers potential value. Veteran Heath Miller is steady, ranking sixth with 3,262 receiving yards over the last five seasons.

Rookie RB Le'Veon Bell has a chance to be an impact first-year player, but veterans Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman gained experience last season too, so Bell will be pushed for carries.

Linebacker tends to be a productive spot in the Steelers' 3-4 scheme, with Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley the best bets but it's also possible that veteran Larry Foote could tackle enough and rookie Jarvis Jones could get to the quarterback enough to have fantasy value too. Safeties Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu are also productive, consistent veterans worthy of fantasy ownership. (-Scott Cullen)

WK AGAINST DATE WK AGAINST DATE
1 vs Sun, Sep. 8, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt 10 vs Sun, Nov. 10, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt
2 @ Mon, Sep. 16, 8:30pm et/5:30pm pt 11 vs Sun, Nov. 17, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt
3 vs Sun, Sep. 22, 8:30pm et/5:30pm pt 12 @ Sun, Nov. 24, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt
4 @ Sun, Sep. 29, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt 13 @ Thu, Nov. 28, 8:30pm et/5:30pm pt
5   BYE WEEK 14 vs Sun, Dec. 8, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt
6 @ Sun, Oct. 13, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt 15 vs Sun, Dec. 15, 8:30pm et/5:30pm pt
7 vs Sun, Oct. 20, 4:25pm et/1:25pm pt 16 @ Sun, Dec. 22, 4:25pm et/1:25pm pt
8 @ Sun, Oct. 27, 4:05pm et/1:05pm pt 17 vs Sun, Dec. 29, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt
9 @ Sun, Nov. 3, 4:25pm et/1:25pm pt      



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