Hritz: 2012 Steelers Season Prediction # 2: Post Draft, OTAs, & Mini-Camp Edition

By Jeremy Hritz

Back on April 23, I posted my first edition of the Pittsburgh Steelers season prediction prior to the NFL Draft, noting that I would update it multiple times leading up to the season. This is the second version of the season prediction, and it takes into account the draft, OTAs, and mini-camp. In the first edition, I had the Steelers finishing the season 11-5 and winning the AFC North. I also had the Ravens finishing 11-5 but losing out on the tiebreaker because of dropping both contests to Pittsburgh. Below is an updated analysis of the 2012 season (The final update will be posted after the final roster for the season is determined).

PREDICTED STARTING LINEUPS

OFFENSE
WR1 Mike Wallace
LT Mike Adams
LG Willie Colon
C Maurkice Pouncey
RG David DeCastro
RT Marcus Gilbert
TE Heath Miller
RB Isaac Redman
FB David Johnson
QB Ben Roethlisberger
WR2 Antonio Brown

DEFENSE
LDE Ziggy Hood
NT Steve McClendon
RDE Brett Keisel
LOLB LaMarr Woodley
LILB Larry Foote
RILB Lawrence Timmons
ROLB James Harrison
LCB Keenan Lewis
FS Ryan Clark
SS Troy Polamalu
RCB Ike Taylor

SEASON PROJECTION

Week 1 9/1: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Denver Broncos 8:20 ET, NBC

April 2012 Prediction:
The success of the Steelers in this game is going to hinge on the effectiveness of Peyton Manning and whether or not he will be able to play at a high level after sitting out last year. My belief is that he will, and the fact that the Steelers lost to Denver last year with Tim Tebow at quarterback does not make me very confident about this game. Manning immediately improves a dismal Bronco’s passing game from 2011 and when factoring in a strong running game, the Steelers will have trouble slowing down both. Take Ryan Clark out of the picture, and I have the Steelers beginning the season 0-1 in a close game. I may change my mind on this one as we move closer to the season, but there will be too many intangibles for the Steelers to overcome.
Broncos 23 Steelers 20 (0-1)

June 2012 Prediction:
I am a bit more confident about this game today than I was when the schedule first was released, and mainly because of the improvements to the offensive line, and the struggles last year that the Broncos had stopping the run. Shutting down Manning is still a concern, but I believe the Steelers will be able to control the clock and keep the ball out of Manning’s hands. Still a close game, but I’m changing to the Steelers.
Steelers 24 Broncos 23 (1-0)

Week 2 9/16: New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 4:15 ET, CBS

April 2012 Prediction:
“The Sanchez” and the Tebow circus comes to town for the home opener, and while the Jets will have revenge on their mind for losing in the AFC Championship a few years ago, their anemic offense will not be able to overcome the Steelers defense. The true identity of the Jets offense revealed itself at the end of the season last year, and the defense is not as good as it once was. Both teams will rely heavily on the run, and the Steelers will win by a touchdown.
Steelers 21 Jets 14 (1-1)

June 2012 Prediction:
No change here, except for an additional field goal for the Steelers. Chalk it up to the improved running game, again.
Steelers 24 Jets 14 (2-0)

Week 3 9/23: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Oakland Raiders 4:15 ET, CBS

April 2012 Prediction:
Not a fan of long trip to Oakland here, but the Steelers will have time to rest the following week with the bye, so it will not be as significant of an issue as it could be. The Raiders will be led by a lesser-version of Carson Palmer, who the Steelers have been solid against over the past few years. With a new head coach in Dennis Allen, there will be some growing pains in Oakland, and it will be too early in the season for those things to be overcome, especially against the Steelers.
Steelers 27 Raiders 16 (2-1)

June 2012 Prediction:
No change.
Steelers 27 Raiders 16 (3-0)

Week 4 9/30: BYE WEEK

Week 5 10/7: Philadelphia Eagles vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 1 ET, FOX

April 2012 Prediction:
The Eagles underperformed in 2011, and there will be much pressure on Andy Reid and his coaching staff to put together a winner this year. The addition of DeMeco Ryans and a full year under Juan Castillo should result in a better defense for the Eagles. Also, the productive running game of the Eagles led by LeSean McCoy could give the Steelers fits, especially if the running defense is not shored up from last year. This is one game I do not like this early in the season coming off of the bye.
Eagles 20 Steelers 13 (2-2)

June 2012 Prediction:
Something that I did not take into consideration in the last prediction was the pass rush of the Eagles, which could cause the Steelers fits. This will be a great indicator early in the season to see just how improved the offensive line really is. I still don’t see the Steelers winning this game, and Michael Vick’s scrambling ability to could cause some problems for the defense. No change to the prediction.
Eagles 20 Steelers 13 (3-1)

Week 6 10/11: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Tennessee Titans 8:20 ET, NFL Network

April 2012 Prediction:
The Titans will be another improved team in 2012, and the short turn around from the Eagles game to this game will prove to be a challenge for the Steelers. While it looks like Matt Hasselbeck will start for the Titans, second year signal caller Jake Locker could challenge him. Running back Chris Johnson will look to rebound this season, but the Steelers shut him down last year. While this will be a tough game played in an energized environment, the Steelers are more talented than the Titans, enough to help them eek out a close win.
Steelers 17 Titans 14 (3-2)

June 2012 Prediction:
No change, except an additional field goal for the Steelers via running game.
Steelers 20 Titans 14 (4-1)

Week 7 10/21: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals 8:20 ET, NBC

April 2012 Prediction:
Another prime time game for the Steelers. It will be interesting to see the growth that Bengals QB Andy Dalton will make in his sophomore year. While he demonstrated that he has the tools to be a great quarterback, defenses seemed to catch up with him at the end of the season. The Bengals will be a challenger for the division this year, and I see the Steelers splitting the series. This round goes to the Bengals because it is at home on a Sunday night.
Bengals 21 Steelers 17 (3-3)

June 2012 Prediction:
No change.
Bengals 21 Steelers 17 (4-2)

Week 8 10/28: Washington Redskins vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 1 ET, FOX

April 2012 Prediction:
Just what the doctor ordered after a loss to a divisional opponent. If in fact the Redskins do take Robert Griffin III and he is anointed the starter, then he will undoubtedly struggle against the Steelers defense. The Redskins were an offensively challenged team last year, and while Griffin may eventually be a threat, he will not be in this game. RG3, welcome to Heinz Field.
Steelers 30 Redskins 10 (4-3)

June 2012 Prediction:
No change.
Steelers 30 Redskins 10 (5-2)

Week 9 11/4: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New York Giants 4:15 ET, CBS

April 2012 Prediction:
This is a game that many football fans will be looking forward to as draft classmates Eli Manning and Roethlisberger will square off for only the third time in their career. This game will be billed as a showdown between two, two-time Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, with questions all week long building up to the game as to who the better QB is. This will be a game that will be all about the quarterback, and while Manning has shown that he is clutch, nobody has a bigger chip on his shoulder than Roethlisberger. Steelers win a huge game on the road in the final minutes.
Steelers 27 Giants 24 (5-3)

June 2012 Prediction:
The more I think about this game, the more I see its psychological implications. As the defending Super Bowl champions, the Giants will be looking to prove their worth during the regular season, and not just in the post-season. And for the Steelers, if they can knock off the Giants in their own building, it will go a long way in establishing the belief that they can win another championship. Coach Tomlin will have them up for this game. No change in my prediction.
Steelers 27 Giants 24 (6-2)

Week 10 11/12: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 8:30 ET, ESPN

April 2012 Prediction:
Romeo Crennel has a 26-41 head coaching record, and he replaces Todd Haley in Kansas City, the Steelers new offensive coordinator. There will be a subtext in this game of revenge, as Haley would love nothing more than to light up the scoreboard against his former team. On a Monday night in Pittsburgh, look for that to happen.
Steelers 35 Chiefs 7 (6-3)

June 2012 Prediction:
No change. This will be Monday thumping, no doubt.
Steelers 35 Chiefs 7 (7-2)

Week 11 11/18: Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 8:20 ET, NBC

April 2012 Prediction:
Thankfully, the Steelers/Ravens matchups do not occur until later in the season. The unfortunate aspect is that they will play twice three weeks. The outcomes in these games will determine the AFC North winner, and the Steelers will have a sour taste in their mouth from last year’s dual losses to the Ratbirds. Several players have departed from the Ravens, and there are still contractual issues with Ray Rice and Joe Flacco. Also, the age of stars such as Ray Lewis and Ed Reed eventually will begin to impact their play, and this will be the year that it will happen. I see the Ravens taking a step back this year, and I like the Steelers in both contests.
Steelers 20 Ravens 16 (7-3)

June 2012 Prediction:
Nobody saw the injury to Terrell Suggs coming, and the impact that it will have on the Ravens defense is significant. Even if he does return, he will be ineffective. I already had questions about the Ravens defense which I believe will take a step back this year. Still no new contracts for Rice or Flacco, and Reed is even whining about current contract. Suggs’ absence is worth three more points for the Steelers.
Steelers 23 Ravens 16 (8-2)

Week 12 11/25: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns 1 ET, CBS

April 2012 Prediction:
The Browns will be improved this year, and they always play the Steelers tough. However, with poor quarterback play not looking to be resolved any time soon, the Browns will still not be able to compete just yet. However, with Mike Holmgren slowly building the roster, the Browns will eventually begin to challenge in the North. Steelers easy in both contests.
Steelers 28 Browns 10 (8-3)

June 2012 Prediction:
A rookie, Brandon Weedon, starting against the Steelers defense? Thank you, Cleveland.
Steelers 35 Browns 7 (9-2)

Week 13 12/2: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens 4:15 ET, CBS

April 2012 Prediction:
See comments from first Ravens game.
Steelers 21 Ravens 19 (9-3)

June 2012 Prediction:
Add three points to the Steelers.
Steelers 24 Ravens 19 (10-2)

Week 14 12/9: San Diego Chargers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 1 ET, CBS

April 2012 Prediction:
The Chargers had serious protection issues last year that resulted in shoddy production by Phillip Rivers. The Chargers were not anything special on defense either, and they missed the playoffs. The Steelers normally play well against the Chargers, but coming off of a big emotional win against the Ravens, I have them slipping up here and dropping this game.
Chargers 24 Steelers 13 (9-4)

June 2012 Prediction:
I am sticking with the prediction for this game for the moment. I have heard Rivers talk a great deal this offseason about the Chargers being “hungry,” and I believe him. The fact that Eli and Ben have rings and he doesn’t drives him crazy. I see the Chargers rebounding this season, at least in the regular season.
Chargers 24 Steelers 13 (10-3)

Week 15 12/16: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Dallas Cowboys 4:15 ET, CBS

April 2012 Prediction:
This will be a fun match-up with much history and tradition. The Cowboys are talented offensively, yet they have underperformed the past few years. Rob Ryan leads an improved defense, yet their secondary is deplorable. DeMarcus Ware off the edge is scary, especially if the Steelers offensive line does not improve. Not a must win game. Cowboys win at home. Fans begin to panic.
Cowboys 24 Steelers 20 (9-5)

June 2012 Prediction:
Another matchup that will test the new Steelers offensive line and will be fun to watch. If the Steelers can protect Roethlisberger in this game, they can win. However, at this point in time, Ware and company plus home field advantage give the Cowboys the edge.
Cowboys 24 Steelers 20 (10-4)

Week 16 12/23: Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 1 ET, CBS

April 2012 Prediction:
See comments from first Bengals game.
Steelers 27 Bengals 21 (10-5)

June 2012 Prediction:
No change from June.
Steelers 27 Bengals 21 (11-4)

Week 17 12/30: Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 1 ET, CBS

April 2012 Prediction:
See comments from first Browns game.
Steelers 21 Browns 10 (11-5)

June 2012 Prediction:
Will Brandon Weedon still be starting here? Or will it be Colt McCoy? Doesn’t matter, as this is a late Christmas present for the black and gold.
Steelers 28 Browns 10 (12-4)

April 2012 Predicted Steelers Record: 11-5

June 2012 Predicted Steelers Record: 12-4

April 2012 AFC North Predicted Finish
1. *Steelers, 11-5
2. Ravens, 11-5
3. Bengals, 10-6
4. Browns, 6-10

June 2012 AFC North Predicted Finish
1. *Steelers, 12-4
2. Bengals, 10-6
3. Ravens, 9-7
4. Browns, 4-12

There is much more evidence at this point than there was prior to the draft that the Steelers will have a successful year, mainly because of the improvements to the offensive line. However, it remains to be seen just how effect they will be which will make for an intriguing training camp. Roethlisberger is also primed for his best season, and I believe that the change in offensive philosophy will impact his game in a positive way. The added youth on defense should address the issues from the 2011 season. The bottom line, the Steelers will finish 12-4 again, but will be much better prepared to make a run at another title.

  • JAMESH

    For a moment there, I thought I was reading a Bleacher Report story. Forgive me.

  • Jeremy Hritz

    Forgiveness granted.

  • Mustwin

    i live in philadelphia and went to school in dallas. losing to the eagles and the cowboys will be my demise!!!

  • SteelerDave

    I agree with most of the prediction except for the San Diego game. I believe we will have the power run game going full speed and play action passing working out very well by week 14 and against a questionable Chargers defense, we will score at least 30 points while controlling the clock. Rivers can be jealous all he wants but he alone, against our pass defense – improved by a healthy pass rush of Harrison and Woodley, will not be able to will his team to a victory. Steelers 30 – San Diego 17.

  • Jb

    Completely legitimate prediction for the season. I’ve heard several sport predictions forceast a down season for the Steelers. I think the Steelers this year could be a little like the Giants of last season. With the current changes on the team (new offense/coordinator – new starters on the offensive line – new starters all over the defense – adjusting to the different running backs) inconsistencies should probably be expected. The Steelers most likely will need time to find their rhythm. And, I could see Steelers fans being anxious throughout the year… again, kind of like the Giant fans were last year. But, this Pittsburgh team is talented, and if they pull it together in time they could make another serious run through the playoffs… and to the SB.

  • Jprankster2005

    I see Will Johnson winning out….. Especially if he plays just as good as David in Preseason that will help them save about a million bucks plus have a younger guy…… I hope they go in that direction…..

  • Ahmad

    I can agree with all of these except losing to the Chargers. Rivers has never beaten us at Heinz Field and I think he only has one win against us in his career. With that said, I give the Steelers a final record of 13-3. Since the Steelers play a lot of tough teams this year, they can’t play down to competition like they normally do and that will lead to more wins.