A Different Feel To The 2013 Steelers

By Jeremy Hritz

There’s a different feel to the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason, despite the popular perception that the team is undergoing a transition and consequently, will not improve on their 8-8 performance from a season ago.

While fingers are quick to point at a aged defense, an average receiving corps, and an inexperienced offensive line and running back stable, there isn’t much acknowledgement of the new additions and fresh starters as reasons for optimism outside of the Steelers locker room. And now with Ben Roethlisberger recovering from a knee clean-up, the demise of the Steelers is even more anticipated in 2013.

On Saturday, in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Brett Keisel talked about the influx of first-year starters and new faces on the team. He said, “It’s a good thing, you know? We have a lot of young guys who are expected to come in and play great ball. That’s the way the business goes, each year you have a different team, each year you have a new guys who have to step up and make plays. We expect these guys who are given opportunities to step up and make plays.” Keisel is primarily referencing the defense of which nearly 30% will be comprised of new starters, those being Steve McLendon, Jason Worilds, and Cortez Allen.

The impact of these new players on the defense has yet to be seen, but it is a reason for optimism.

Over the past several seasons, the line-up on defense has mostly been static, outside of Keenan Lewis and Ziggy Hood, or changes due to injuries. While that line-up had undoubtedly been successful, its productivity and ability to influence the outcome of games had waned. With the addition of McLendon, Worilds, and Allen, the hope is that these players can rejuvenate the defense’s ability to smother offenses and to create turnovers.

There is similar optimism on offense as well, with a young and talented offensive line. With four of the five projected starters drafted no later than the second round, the potential is there, at least on paper, for them to be a great unit. The biggest obstacle in their way to success? Staying healthy.

Additionally, the uneven performance at the running back position during Rashard Mendenhall’s term could now be just a memory, as rookie Le’Veon Bell is expected to be the bruiser that Mendenhall could not. While there is concern that the expectations are too high for Bell, again, his potential for production is also a cause for much optimism.

Whatever it is, this Steelers of 2013 seem to have a different feel and a new found focus. Whether it is Larry Foote saying the team is “pissed off” about not making the playoffs, or McLendon aspiring to be great, or Plaxico Burress saying that Antonio Brown is going to be one of the most feared receivers in the league, the central topic of the Steelers this offseason has been one of improvement.

Just what type of outcome will the untested starters produce in the upcoming season? The answer is still cloudy. Yet, if it is in alignment with the optimism and focus that the Steelers are exuding this offseason, a return to their winning ways may be in order.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    The great way that this team typically moves forward with promoting guys to starters, it is usually done with proof already in the pudding. In other words, Allen is now a projected starter, but it isn’t like he has no experience or has shown he can’t play. We bring contributors to our system along slowly, but effectively so we maintain consistency on some level.

    Personally, I think the largest changes we will see this year are on 2 fronts.

    1. The offense will be more comfortable with the offense and more unified. If they stay healthy…watch out.

    2. Hunger. This team struggled to finish out the year, and except for quite a few last play of the game losses, they would have made the playoffs. Then they watched their biggest rival win the Super Bowl. The desire to win before they retire will help the vets be hungry, and their desire to win their first will get the young new starters hungry. I am excited about it.

  • DoctorNoah

    I am wondering, based on all of the standard press conjecture, what the surprises of the season will be. That would be a fun post. Is it Worilds’ pro-bowl season, the emergence of a surprise threat from Marcus Wheaton? Does Redman show some new flash, win the starting job, and rush for 1400 yards? Or do we go 0-3 and have a spat of angry recrimination between Ben and Haley? Or something? Would be fun to see people’s predictions of the surprises of the season.

    Personally, I predict everything falls into place, we go 13-3 and win the AFC North. I also predict Flacco struggles an the Ratbirds go 7-9.

  • cencalsteeler

    I agree. Last year, players holding out, not showing up to OTA’s, disgruntled players learning new systems, contract negotiations. This season, there’s no B.S.! The vibe out there seems to be a good one, which breeds success. Have to give props to the coaching staff and fo for taking notice and correcting issues from last season.

  • steeltown

    Well said

    I’d also add speed.. the addition of Shamarko as well as the promotions of Worilds, C.Allen and McLendon will only add more speed to an already physical Defense.. and despite the loss of Wallace the addition of Wheaton and implementation of a younger OL and new blocking scheme should add more speed to the Offense

  • cencalsteeler

    Love your prediction!

  • RMSteeler

    Steelers are flying under the radar this year, with many NFL “experts” writing them off as an afterthought, with the common consensus that the team will be as bad, if not worse than last year. I expect the defense to perform at its typical high level. The offense needs to average scoring 7 to 10 more points a game than last year. An impact like that would be huge.

  • steeltown

    Indeed.. especially considering most games we lost by 3pts

  • charles

    Good objective article. Hoping Heyward and front seven on D return to Steel Curtain standards.