By Jeremy Hritz
In the July 15, 2012 print edition of Pro Football Weekly in the article “Summer Session,” the publication made what it called a “Fearless prediction” about how each NFL team will fare during the 2012 season. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, PFW asserted:
The Steelers’ point-scoring issues of a season ago don’t repeat themselves. This talented of an offense should expect to at least rank in the upper half of the NFL in points scored, and it would be a surprise if the Steelers didn’t light up the scoreboard a little more this season. Added punch on offense would make Pittsburgh all the more formidable, considering the strength of its experienced, physical defense.
While most of these sentiments are shared by Steelers fans as a result of the numerous offseason moves, will they be able to meet these expectations? On paper, the addition of young, athletic offensive lineman to the starting lineup, and the injection of youth to a few defensive positions, looks promising. Whether or not it will be able to translate to success will be unknown until training camp.
PFW is making several assumptions in their prediction for the Steelers in 2012.
The first is that Todd Haley will make this a better offense.
Outside of the change in coordinator and the addition of two rookie offensive linemen, the offense will mostly be intact for next season. So how can PFW make the claim that the Steelers will improve? I don’t think there is any greater criticism of Bruce Arians.
The rhythm-less offense underperformed under Arians. Arians was not a coordinator who made his offensive players look good; rather, it was his players that made him look good. Think about it, without Ben Roethlisberger and his knack for converting the broken play into first downs and points, would the Steelers have beaten the Cardinals for their sixth Super Bowl? Earlier in the year, I wrote an article about Arians’ career as offensive coordinator and how the statistics show that year after year, it was nothing more than average. Haley comes to the Steelers with a history of leading explosive offenses that establish a tempo and score points, the converse of Arians, and the salient reason why the offense is expected to perform at a higher level.
The second is that the defense will continue to be dominant.
PFW says that the Steelers will be an even better team, considering the improved offense, and the “strength of its experienced, physical defense.” Last year, the Steelers finished ranked number one in overall defense, first in passing defense, and first in points allowed. However, the Steelers were shaky against the run last season, despite finishing eighth overall. While statistically it appears that the defense was dominant last season, the dearth of turnovers, sacks, and the susceptibility to the run made it somewhat of an off year. While much of the struggles on the defense last season were attributed to the age of some players (James Farrior, Aaron Smith), they have since been released. And the Steelers have made it a point this offseason to work some of their youth into the lineup at key positions. Hopefully, these changes will make a statistically strong defense a game changing defense that can force turnovers and make the big plays when needed.
The national media is starting to share the high expectations that Steelers fans have for their team in 2012, and there are no reasons to believe that they will not be fulfilled.
The pressure is on.