Found August 24, 2013 on Steel City Sports Report:
Every year around this time, Pittsburgh Steelers fans come down with what they describe as "Steeler Fever", a city-wide epidemic that consumes the attention of Pittsburgh for four months. This year, there's a new symptom to this "Steeler Fever": blind optimism. Maybe it comes with the territory of expecting a winning season and a deep playoff run every year, or maybe it's because the Steelers still have a handful of core players from their Super Bowl run in 2008. Either way, the general consensus among most fans and local media (surprise, surprise) is that last year's 8-8 record was a fluke and the Steelers will rebound to post double-digit wins.Don't count on it.Not after the Steelers, a team that has ranked in the bottom third in points scored the past two years, lost their biggest weapon in Mike Wallace to free agency. While Mike Wallace didn't do enough, at times, to earn a huge contract with Pittsburgh, his speed will sorely be missed. Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, and Markus Wheaton are all possession receivers. None of them have the speed to stretch the field or the size to allow Ben Roethlisberger to put the ball up in the redzone. That leaves Heath Miller as Ben's only big target and, unfortunately, he'll miss a big chunk of the season due to knee injury from last year. "Maybe the Steelers can run the ball more!"Doubt it. The offensive line has been atrocious in preseason and their overall play has been poor for, oh, the last seven years. The line has a lot of supposed depth and talent, but until they prove they can keep Ben upright and open up holes for the ground game, they can't be called an asset. As far as running backs go, the Steelers are missing a feature back and lack depth. Isaac Redman Larod Stephens-Howling and Le'veon Bell cant play due to injury, and Jonathan Dwyer doesn't WANT to play half the time because keeps tapping himself out of games. Regardless, even if everyone was healthy, the back with the best chance to make an impact is Bell, a rookie. Above everything else, even if the Steelers had talented running backs and wide receivers -like they did in 2010- this offense lacks direction and an identity."The Steelers have won with an average offense because of a dominant defense."That is true, but how much excitement can one have about the defense when their best players are in the early-mid thirties? Troy Polamalu has played one full season just once in the last four years and he missed nine games last year with an injury. At 33 is Ike Taylor going to continue to perform at a high level? Will Ryan Clark match his season from last year, arguably the best of his career?The loss of Casey Hampton is going to be a problem when it comes to stopping the run, the loss of Keenan Lewis is going to be a major problem against the pass, and the loss of James Harrison, well, might not be a huge problem after all. The Steelers had the number one defense last year when it came to yards allowed, but they were -10 in turnovers thanks in large part to being 15th in sacks. With a struggling offense, the Steelers need to take the ball away and if the defense cant get to the quarterback, that likely wont happen as often as it should.After looking at the schedule, 6-10 looks entirely possible. The Steelers already struggle against teams that, on paper, are worse than them (losses to Tennessee, Oakland, Cleveland, and San Diego last year). The Steelers will face Oakland on the road again this year, where they are 2-5 in Roethlisberger's career. They will also play on the road against New England and Green Bay, while their game against Adrian Peterson and the Vikings is in London. Don't forget the Cincinnati Bengals who are projected to win the division this year, the Cleveland Browns who have improved, and the defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens.The Pittsburgh Steelers refuse to talk about rebuilding. They still see some solid pieces in the locker room that have produced two Super Bowls and three AFC Championships in seven years. But it's time to face facts. Good teams get old and they have a hard time replacing key players when they're picking late in the draft every year for nearly a decade. The Steelers' 8-8 record may have been disappointing last season, but based on what they're facing this year, 8-8 might be an achievement. Photo courtesy of bleacherreport.com
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