By Christopher DiMarino
Part of knowing your team is understanding their competition (as the saying goes, keep your friends close, and your enemies closer). It is very important to see what teams the Steelers will play in the 2012 season and which may provide the biggest challenges. We all know that the Black and Gold will square off against the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens twice in the 2012 season. However, there are 10 other teams the Steelers will get meet on the field as well. Those teams are:
This schedule looks fair for a team that finished 12-4 a year ago. Playing the NFC East is usually a tall task. Dallas and Philly were disappointing in 2011 for the level of talent on their rosters. The Redskins will all but certainly get RG3 and the Giants were super bowl champs. Depending on when they play those teams can impact how difficult a game it will be because every team in that division is known for their streaky nature. They also get the AFC West, which was one of the worst but most competitive divisions last year. The other two teams the Steelers get the pleasure of playing are the Jets and Titans, who the Steelers have beaten in their last visits, yet always give them a good game.
Typically I look to see if the Steelers have to face Peyton\’s Colts, Brady\’s Pats or Brees\’ Saints and I was relieved to see that none are present. However, Peyton Manning snuck his way onto the Pittsburgh schedule by signing with the Broncos. Phillip Rivers, Mike Vick and Eli Manning are also on menu for the Steelers Defense. It will be a reunion for the Quarterback class of 2004. Overall, the Steelers play a few very good offenses.
Opposing defenses have had to adjust to the Pittsburgh Steelers transition from a run heavy system to a balanced attack. As much as the focus seems to be switching back to the run game, expect Ben Roethlisberger to throw for over 4000 yards again this season. Most of the Steeler’s competition boast average defenses but several underachieved in 2011. Divisionally, the Ravens and Bengals are two teams who are only looking to improve their great Defenses for 2012.
|Team||Offensive Rank Points||Offensive Rank (Yards)||Rank: Pass Offense||Rank: Rush Offense||Defensive Rank Points||Defensive Rank (Yards)||Rank: Pass Defense||Rank: Rush Defense||2011 Wins|
Analyzing this data is very arbitrary because many of these teams will be different next year. Coaching changes, free agents and drafted players can all contribute to a better (or worse) 2012. But looking at all the numbers, you can see that on average the Steelers are better than the competition. That is reflected in the win column. Their 2012 competition averages out to close to the dead middle of the league. The Steelers on the other hand boasted a top defense, and an offense just outside the top 10.
None of these numbers surprised me for the Steelers, but there are a few areas of concern. I think the key on offense is the red zone. In 2011 it seemed they could charge the field at will but were forced to settle for field goals far too often. This is noticeable by comparing the Steeler’s Offensive yards rank and points. They need to increase their point output by focusing on plays near the red zone and avoiding dumb penalties. On defense, all those number ones are marred by the 8th ranked run D. With the numerous injuries, this rank could’ve been worse. The overall success of the Steeler’s Defense (especially their passing D) relies on stopping the run. Perhaps this showed a need for better backups and to begin the transition to the new era of the Steeler’s front end. If they can improve in these 2 categories than I have no doubt that they will be playoff team in 2012.