Injury and inconsistency were the story for the Steelers in 2012, and even though it is no excuse, injury was the main reason they had to watch the Ravens run through the postseason and win the Super Bowl. It is a new season for Pittsburgh, and after an offseason that has had its ups and downs as well, will the Steelers be able to challenge the Ravens, or even the Bengals for that matter, in the AFC North and the NFL odds?
The biggest issue the Steelers faced last season were the injuries to Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben was limited to only 13 games this past season, and after he went down for good, the Steelers’ offense fell apart. They did not have a capable back-up to get the ball to the wealth of talent that the Steelers still have, and if Roethlisberger can’t stay healthy this year, it might spell the end for the Steelers.
Roethlisberger’s injury problems were not the only issue. Rashard Mendenhall (now with the Cardinals) got hurt early in the season, and the combination of Jonathon Dwyer and Isaac Redman were both awful, but the health of the offensive line also contributed to that. All in all, multiple Steelers (especially on offense) who are/were key to the team’s success missed multiple games last season. Big Ben of course missed three, Troy Polamalu missed nine, Ike Taylor missed four and Lamar Woodley and James Harrison both missed three.
However this is right around the average for most teams. If you look at total games missed by teams like the Cowboys, Packers and Redskins, you’ll understand that there were a lot of teams that were a lot worse off than Pittsburgh. Can we blame the 2012 season the Steelers had solely on injury? I don't think so. However, it was certainly a key contributor to the 8-8 SU season.
It should come as no surprise that the key question for the Steelers this season is health. Roethlisberger had to get unexpected, although “minor,” knee surgery about a month ago, and although he has missed all team offseason activities so far, reports say that he will be ready to start training camp, although we’ve heard this 1000 times before and all 1000 guys don’t start training camp.
Other issues for this team are the running game and how effective it will be. After Dwyer and Redman failed to move the ball very well last season, the Steelers drafted Le’veon Bell, a big bruising rookie to likely take over the starting RB duties in Pittsburgh. While I really like this kid, a rookie running the ball in the NFL is a huge variable.
I love the draft pick of Bell, but the loss of receiver, Mike Wallace drops the Steelers from a low A to a low B this offseason. I think Emmanuel Sanders will be fine next to Antonio Brown as their WRs, but if guys start getting hurt again early in the season, this team is destined for another mediocre year. I like their chances to challenge for the division, but I need to see some things from them in the preseason before I get really confident about adding the Steelers to any NFL picks.
My Grade: B-
Have a different opinion? Share it on our message boards!