ESPN Heads Say Steelers Finish 3rd In AFC North Because Of Too Much Change

ESPN 2012 AFC North PredictionsESPN had their special 2012 AFC North preview show Tuesday and it included the division predictions of Herm Edwards, Bill Polian and Marcellus Wiley at the end of the show. Both Edwards and Wiley have the Baltimore Ravens winning the division while Polian has the Cincinnati Bengals winning it in 2012. All three had the Pittsburgh Steelers finishing third and the Cleveland Browns finishing last. Wiley did preface his pick of the Steelers finishing behind the Bengals by saying that the two will tie record wise and that the Bengals get the second spot due to tie-breakers.

The common theme heading into last season was that the Steelers were too old. Warren Sapp reminded us of this almost weekly on the NFL Network. This year the common theme seems to be that the Steelers have too much change. Well how are the Steelers expected to not be too old without change? Also did these three top notch analyst not look at the change that the Ravens have had this off-season?

Let\’s start with the Steelers change first. Their released players were Arnaz Battle, James Farrior, Chris Kemoeatu, Bryant McFadden, Aaron Smith and Hines Ward. That is quite a bit of oldness lopped off right there alone. Smith and Ward have since retired while the other names on the list are still without jobs. The contracts of William Gay, Jamon Meredith, Chris Hoke, Dennis Dixon, Anthony Madison, Mewelde Moore, Daniel Sepulveda and Max Starks were all up at the end of 2012 season. Hoke retired and only Gay and Meredith, a player that didn\’t even see a snap for the Steelers on offense last year, are the only player on that list of names that has latched on elsewhere. Rashard Mendenhall and Casey Hampton both are unlikely to be ready by the start of the regular season, but both will play at some point. The other change for the Steelers? New offensive coordinator Todd Haley replaces Bruce Arians.

Now let\’s look at the change the Ravens have had this offseason. Veteran Domonique Foxworth was the only player released and he ended the 2012 season on the injured reserve list. Ricky Williams retired. Chris Carr, Lee Evans, Ben Grubbs, Jarret Johnson, Brandon McKinney, Haruki Nakamura, Cory Redding and Tom Zbikowski were all free agents that have since signed elsewhere this off-season. Andre Gurode, Edgar Jones, Kris Wilson and Matt Lawrence were all free agents that have yet to latch on elsewhere. Other changes for the Ravens? Dean Pees was promoted from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator to replace Chuck Pagano, who left to become the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Former Colts head coach Jim Caldwell was hired as the new quarterbacks coach and replaces Jim Zorn. If the above is not enough for the Ravens in the change department, they will be without the services of Terrell Suggs for most of, if not all of, the regular season.

Seems like the Ravens also still have some age on their roster as well as Matt Birk will be 36 before the season starts Ed Reed will be 34 at the start of the season and Ray Lewis turned 37 earlier this month. Another starter, Bryant McKinnie, will turn 33 just after the season starts. I guess they are not old though in the eyes of the network talking heads.

This post might seem like sour grapes because the Steelers were ranked third by all three in the division across the board, but it is not. I can stomach the third place ranking if the reasoning behind it holds some sort of water. I too think the Bengals will be an improved team in 2012 that very well could compete in the division, and the Ravens and the Steelers are always front runners in the North. To merely say that the Steelers will finsish third because they had too much change when the Ravens have also had considerable change themselves is foolish and very narrow analysis. Sure the Steelers offensive line will likely consist of three new starters in Willie Colon, David DeCastro and Mike Adams, but if you think the new combination can be any worse than the last few years, you obviously have not watched many games. That change is well needed and for the better, even if it includes two top-rated rookies.

This is the kind of top notch analysis though that we have come to expect from the big E over the years though. If you watch ESPN for anything other than news and highlights, you really should consider a change yourself. A change of the channel.

  • Jefferson St. Joe

    My opinion is last year was our transition year. Mainly due to injuries, the younger guys stepped up and were able to manage 12-4. The 2012 record may not be as good, but the team will be improved by the end of the year.

    It will be a good fight with Baltimore and Cincy. Bring it on!

  • Jason White

    What do those so called experts know? Nothing! I’ve done a better job over the last 5 years predicting the Steelers season outcome than ESPN. I’ve been within one game each time except once when predicting their record. The only time I was wrong was in 2009 when the Steelers uncharacteristically fell apart due to injuries among other things. The last 2 seasons I was 100% correct picking them to go 12-4 in both seasons. I wanted Todd Haley to be our new OC cause i feel he will balance out the offense. That balance alone I believe will catapult the offense. I predicted early on that they will finish with a 14-2 record in 2012. It’s a rather bold prediction and I won’t stray too far away from that before the start of the regular season. The Ravens will fall out of the playoffs and the Bengals will provide the most competition in the AFC North for the Steelers, I predicted a series split between the two.

  • mokhkw

    Change is ok if it means you’ve improved, which I think the Steelers have this OS, on the other hand I think the Ravens have lost some ground.

    As for the Bengals – Mike Brown runs the show & the last (and only) time they had back-to-back winning seasons was 1976…..

  • Obviously, it is going to be extremely hard to 12-4 again.

    I can see us with anywhere from a 9-7 to 11-5 season this year. Is 11-5 enough to win the division? Does 10-6 get us to the playoffs?

    It is really not a knock against us but rather, it is a ‘kudos’ to the Bengals and Ravens.

  • Andrew

    Perhaps these experts were factoring in the unmentioned loss of William Gay, considering many likewise experts called for drafting a CB in the first round.

  • Eric87

    Steelers finish 3rd in the division huh? Wut are these guys smoking?

  • Pat

    That’s why they play the games, Bengals will not be as good as these experts believe. The fact that Ray Rice and Flacco will hold out might decimate the Ravens.

  • Kcv442

    I love sour grapes! Lol, but seriously, when was the last time any talking head gave the steelers the respect they deserve? I think we’d have to go back to when Christ was a baby! You make some great points about the massive changes in Baltimore, and let’s not forget that the bengals are, well, the bengals. Barring anything unforeseen, steelers take the division again this year.

  • Eric87

    I like our chances in the division. The Bengals have a sophomore QB-WR tandem, could they slump? That is a possibility, plus they have problems showing up every season. The Ravens were decimated by FA’s leaving the team, and switching D-coordinators could have an effect, plus the loss of Suggs is humungous. I have seen no huge loss on our team other than leadership, which other vets now gotta step up and take over. Im not into predicting records until you kinda see what the preseason unveils. The Steelers should be fighting for the top spot though, imo

  • Greg F

    Last time they counted the Steelers out they went to the Superbowl in Dallas…just saying

  • SteelerDave

    I have long stopped watching ESPN shows and might view highlights only sometimes.

    As for my prediction, I see the Steelers taking half a season for our O-line to gel, the new starters to settle in and the new offense to be fully understood as a unit. Once that happens their is no reason we cannot go 7-1 over the second half so I would venture to say 11-5 on the year and open the playoffs as the 5th seed.

    Cincinnati is improved but they always have trouble putting together back to back winning seasons. I look for them to finish at 11-5 also and to win the division in a tie-breaker. Baltimore has even more key changes and even more age in key positions and will take a step backward and finish 9-7. Cleveland will finish 6-10 after a horrid slow start.

  • Steel City Texas

    Who gives a dam what the sports cheerleaders got to say we will show them just watch !! Even when we beat the best teams we still don’t get are credit so we just got to take it !! And what was the giants record last year ? And how far did they make it !! Once we get this O line right we will be unstoppable !!

  • James

    The question is.. how quickly can the Steelers pick up the changes in the new offense? If they successfully pick it up quickly, they will thrive. If it’s so complicated that they don’t grasp it until the end of the year, the division may be too competitive for them to thrive. At least they’ll face the Ravens a little later in the year.

    Anyone but me notice Ben’s lack of enthusiasm for the new offense? He was asked if he liked what he sees and his body language was like.. uhhh..’sure’ as if he knew he had to say the right thing to prevent more controversy in steeltown.

  • Cory Barbee

    Since the NFL network started….I personally don’t watch ESPN for football analysis….that’s why football is so great…every year is a new year and anything can happen…if you’re reading this stuff and getting worked up a bit…your Steeler passion is in the right place!! Go Steelers and let’s smash some Raven ass!!

  • TheLoneGranger

    The only change that can hurt the Steelers is Roethlisberger’s lack of acceptance of the new offense and his continued desire to play school yard football. If he can get his head around Arians being bounced and he is not always going to get his way, then the Steelers will excel.

  • Timmons

    ESPN probably posted that garbage to drive up the clicks on their sham of a website. Everyone knows that steeler fans are one of the most numerous fanbases in the NFL. What better way to get revenue for their advertisers than posting utter garbage on their site in the hopes of angering the steeler fans so they show up to read it? I am not going to even go to that site to give them the satisfaction of my click.

  • Kingmagyar

    Cincy will have one of those down years again as teams will not take them lightly and catch on to Dalton’s crutch AJ Green They also won’t have the benefit of an easy schedule like last year. Even with that easy schedule they finished only 9-7 and the only team they beat with a winning record was the Titans and they were 9-7. The Bungals have miles to go before they learn what actual winning football really is.

  • I didn’t see the show but lots of teams have overcome change. Given so many teams have gone “worst to first” over the last few years, that kind of logic is really out the window. I agree that Baltimore is where we were last year: they may stick it together with toilet paper and spit one more year, but i don’t seem them going deep. The bungles ironically scare me more…

  • Me!!

    Espn sucks!!! They are Steeler haters We’ll see.

  • I’ll be the first to give praise to the Bungles if they win the division but until they prove they can have 2 winning seasons back to back then Prove it. Yea the Steelers have their issues but so do the Cincy and Balt. If anyone expects Balt to sweep Pitt again this year they need to put down the crack pipe. And Ben chews up Ohio teams. So are the Steelers a lock to win the North? No, but they certainly are a better team then Cincy and just as good as Balt.

  • Cols714

    The Steelers went 12-4. The only reason they didn’t win the AFC North was because of one play by the Ravens.

    That’s the only reason. LeBeau calls a different defense, Flacco doesn’t throw it perfectly, Smith doesn’t run a great route, the Steelers go 13-3 and are probably the #1 seed.

    No other reason.

  • Andrewjos75

    We changed last year. Farrior saw his play time cut. When he was in there he was the defenses weakest link. Arron Smith was injured all year. Losing ward isn’t a drop off either. Casey Hampton held his own and was rested at times. Willie Colon was injured and is now back. If Adams isn’t ready they will sign Starks. That line is still improved. I don’t see the drop off. If our draft picks in the next few years don’t pan out then there we will see a drop off,but for now I see a little better team than last year. If anything the Ravens have drop off a little and the Bengals are a little better.

  • TheLoneGranger

    On Steelers’ Critics Wiley, Edwards, and Polian:

    “ We have to keep in mind one thing. Most critics don’t do anything. They can’t create. So what they do is criticize. They dump on things. They did the same thing to Dizzy Gillespie and Charles Parker … John Coltrane. I’ve always figured that critics were probably reincarnations of the mob that crucified Christ.”

    Pete Cosey, Electric Mud Guitarist

  • Chris92021

    Just the fact that there are over 20 posts here means you have a valid point. ESPN, the people who brought you Playmakers, Rush Limbaugh on Sundays, and the Decision. I stopped caring what ESPN thought years ago. I wish rest of Steeler Nation would do the same.

  • Broderick Wallace

    I respect very few opinions from analysts at ESPN. They hired Teddy “douchebag” Bruschi as an analyst. C’Mon Man!

  • steelerfan

    Hate to disappoint the Talking Heads, but the Steelers will win the division.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    It is sort of silly to look at the “changes” the Steelers made and think they will have a HUGE impact on the team overall. Yes, they will have impact, but not to the extent many of the “experts” think. Let’s look at each player which is gone.

    Dennis Dixon – 3rd string QB never saw the field in 2011

    Anthony Madison – Only played on the team…after the season was complete last year. Basically 1 game, the loss to the Broncos. Recorded…ZERO tackles.

    Mewelde Moore – 33 plays and 1 TD. That is what we got from him last year. May not have made the team last year if Batch doesn’t get hurt.

    Daniel Sepulveda – Only played half the year, and the guy who replaced him is already on roster.

    James Meredith – I may be wrong, but I don’t think Meredith got a jersey on any game day last year. How many snaps did he take? Honestly, I don’t think he took any.

    Arnaz Battle – Special Teamer only. He was the #5 WR who never saw the field. Somehow I think we have guys who can fill these roles.

    Bryant McFadden – A CB who quickly lost his position with the team. The only reason he got to play near the end was because Allen and Brown were both hurt. Had that not been the case would not have seen the field.

    Chris Hoke – Good role player, but was older and we needed to upgrade our NT depth.

    Chris Kemoeatu – Starter who was dumb as a brick. Would you rather have a returning former RT who many “experts” considered very good at his position moving to here, or this guy?

    Max Starks – Was a stabilizing force to the line upon his return. Would not surprise me if he at some point came back in either to push Adams or cause Adams was injured.

    William Gay – Starter by default. Was going to get pushed out one way or another by the young talent at the position. He was one of those guys who was always in position to make the tackle, but that was usually after the ball was caught.

    Aaron Smith – Here is one of those “old” guys. I hate that he is gone because he was so good, but he only played 15 games the last 3 years…total. We already have basically been playing without him.

    James Farrior – Heart and soul guy whose body needed to stop. He just couldn’t get it done any more. Loved him in his prime, but it was time. I do worry about this position, but it is a growing pain we will have to survive. ILB and S will be the primary draft day targets for the team next draft IMO.

    Hines Ward – Another guy I will miss. I hate to see him go. If we didn’t have Wallace and Brown and Sanders and Cotchery, I would worry about the performance loss, but I don’t.

    If you look at the guys we are losing, it is more about their leadership than it is their on field contributions any more. Farrior, Smith, and Ward were all leaders….that we will miss, but the on field stuff, I don’t worry about…not at all.

    Just looking quickly at the roster position wise for improvement, regression, neutral.

    QB – N
    RB – I
    WR – N
    TE – N
    OL – I

    DE – N
    OLB – I (only due to health of Woodley and Harrison for upcoming year)
    ILB – R
    CB – N
    S – N

    Specials – N

  • Woodleykills56

    If Herm knew anything he would still have a job in the NFL. And really take a look at Polian’s record. He’s missed or skipped over more players than great ones he’s drafted. Sure he drafted Peyton but look at his drafts year by year and its usually one name you recognise and that’s it.

  • Steelers4539

    One thing they are forgetting, we still have the best QB in the division, that is why we will finish in 1st place.

  • Jrobdove

    These guys are brain dead. Right now the changes are to the offense, which was not performing up to reasonable expectations, 20.5 pts per game. The weakest unit on the offense the line has made what maybe the biggest change in two players rated at the first round. Many of the other players look like good solid players that will play some role this year. This was one of those rare drafts where the guys you want and need fell to us. We have what looks like a team that will be improved from last year.

    We also have the bye early in the season on week 4. Most of our divisional games are at the end of the season and baring new injuries we should have our injured starters back and the offense well sorted out and clicking along nicely. I think this year Pittsburgh runs through the division and the afc and ends up with a first round bye.

    It would not be a surprise to see three teams from the afc north in the playoffs again either.

  • John A Stewart


  • Shannon Stephenson

    Out of all the guys we lost only 1 was starting at the end of the year….Farrior…and he was a liability last year with his play…Its the Ravens that should be looking up from the 3rd spot.

  • Daveb1952

    When the press/media actually starts publising the truth, I’ll start to pay attention to them. Frankly the fact is, we get more acurate sport news here…… Heck, most of the posters here have more of a clue as to what’s going on.

  • LucasY59

    I like the Idea of finishing the season out 7-1, teams that are playing their best ball at the end of the season are usually the ones that make it to and win the superbowl, like last year with the Giants, also the Steelers won superbowl 43 the last time they went 7-1 to finish the season.

  • zbluez1

    Someone call the medical staff because I think Marcellus, Herm, and Bill have dislocated more than a few brain cells. They all picked the Steelers to finish third in the division but the rest of ESPN and ” experts ” at large have ranked the Steelers at #5 in the future power rankings. How to explain the discrepancy in thinking? We have the ” too much change ” is bad camp and then we have the ” They have drafted to shore up their weak spots ” camp. When we start seeing the games played for real Steeler nation will see what camp isn’t medically injured or suffering from concussion syndrome.

  • 2011AFCNorthChamps

    Idk losing Suggs is huge but I dont think B