Steelers 2013 Season Preview And Prediction

The 2013 NFL season gets underway tonight, so now it’s time for my yearly preview of the Pittsburgh Steelers upcoming season along with my prediction.

Offense: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger appears to be healthy, and he looks good physically. It goes without saying that the Steelers only have a shot this season as long he is stays that way. Roethlisberger is the king of third downs and play-action, and a good running game will only enhance both of those qualities.

The offense will likely have to lean on a running back by committee until Le’Veon Bell is fully healthy and able to carry the load. While Isaac Redman might be the starter initially, I expect both LaRod Stephens-Howling and Felix Jones to be used as complements to him until Bell is ready. I hate using a committee of running backs, but I just don’t see any way that they can avoid it at the start of the season. Stephens-Howling appears to be a good fit for the offense, and he should see plenty of work on third down in the first half of the season. All four can run the outside zone, but they will need good blocking in order to have success.

Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth will surely be missed at the start of the season. It will be a plus if Miller can play before the bye week, but I can’t help but think he will miss the first four games. I hope I am wrong. While David Paulson is an adequate receiver, he’s still lacking a lot as a blocker. Being that both David Johnson and Michael Palmer won’t produce much in the passing game, they better make their blocking contributions count. Make no mistake, it will be a bumpy road until Miller returns as the tight end group is average at best without him.

The hamstring injury suffered by fullback Will Johnson couldn’t have come at a worse time. Johnson is not only a good blocker, but great out of the backfield as a receiver. I hope they don’t rush him back as they can’t afford for his injury to be one that lingers.

As far as the offensive line goes, we will know real quick whether or not Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert are ready to live up to their second-round selections. Both were average during the preseason, and that doesn’t give you a warm fuzzy feeling inside. I am not worried about the interior line as I feel Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Ramon Foster are more than capable in not only the run game, but pass protection as well.

This offensive line has zero depth and they really can’t afford an injury. While Kelvin Beachum might be a jack of all trades, he is a master of none of them. I really only feel comfortable with him playing right tackle at this point, so an injury to one of the three interior positions could be brutal. Guy Whimper and Cody Wallace? You better hope that we never see either play.

The wide receiver group, along with Roethlisberger, is the strength of the offense. At some point, Markus Wheaton will pass Jerricho Cotchery on the depth chart, but don’t underestimate what the veteran brings to the table on third downs and as a run blocker. Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders can each catch 70 passes this year, but they have to start showing that they are red-zone threats. With Miller sidelined to start the season, you have to wonder where the receiving touchdowns are going to come from as both Brown and Sanders have combined to produce just 12 of them in their first three years in the league.

Defense: The starting 11 players on defense should be fine this year, and the defensive line is deep at the end position. While Al Woods makes a great fourth defensive end, I really hope we don’t have to see him play a lot of nose tackle because he doesn’t have a lot of experience at the position. While nose tackle Steve McLendon should help the pass rush this year, there will be times against the run that he won’t keep the linebackers covered up. He is a strong kid, but he needs work when asked to two-gap

I think LaMarr Woodley is poised for a big year, but the jury is still out on what will happen on the other side. If Jason Worilds wants to get paid by another team next year, he has to outplay rookie Jarvis Jones right from the start. That being said, Jones will see action this year, and it’s only a matter of how much. As fast as he’s progressed, you still have to think that he hasn’t mastered the entire defense just yet. That will come, but until it does, I suspect he won’t get as many snaps on defense initially unless Worilds falls flat on his face at the start of the season.

As long as Lawrence Timmons stays healthy, there’s no reason to think that he won’t be a beast in 2013. Larry Foote is another year older, but should have one decent season left in him. As long as he stays covered up, he will be fine. There is no experienced depth behind Timmons and Foote, so you better hope the two starters stay healthy. While I do think Vince Williams is the future, he will have his share of growing pains if asked to play a lot during his rookie season. Kion Wilson is unproven while Terence Garvin is a candidate to bounce back and forth from the practice squad. Should Sean Spence somehow make it back this season, that would be a huge plus.

As far the secondary goes, the starting four plus William Gay should be just fine. Behind those five, however, is a lot of inexperience. Curtis Brown hasn’t proven that he’s anything more than a special-teams player and while Shamarko Thomas looks like he has a promising future, he’s yet another young defensive player who needs time and grooming. Any long-term injuries suffered by this secondary will be hard to cover for. Troy Polamalu has to stay healthy this year.

Special Teams: The preseason was used to weed out players and now Danny Smith has his guys. Don’t read too much into the preseason because there was a lot of shuffling going on. Adding Zoltan Mesko should stabilize the punting and there is no reason to think that Shaun Suisham will backslide.

Thomas, Wilson, Williams, Brown will see a lot of time on special teams as will Antwon Blake and Chris Carter. I like this group and am expecting a few turnovers this season. More than anything, I can’t see this group being as bad as last years.

Stephens-Howling and Jones aren’t flashy kickoff returners but they are more than adequate. At some point, I fully expect that Wheaton will become the full-timer punt returner so that Antonio Brown no longer has to worry about that duty.

Schedule: This is a good year for the Steelers to have a soft schedule. While a soft schedule doesn’t guarantee wins, facing a lot of young and unproven quarterbacks won’t hurt. Their toughest opponents will of course be the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals.

In order to win the division, the Steelers have to win four of their six divisional games. Outside of those six games, they will need to win at least five of the remaining ten games. They can make the playoffs with a 9-6 record, but they will be doing a lot of scoreboard watching in week 17 if that is the case.

Prediction: The 2013 version of the Steelers is not a very deep one, and that means they are only two or three injuries away from having serious issues. The move to youth had to happen at some point, and they can absorb that youth easier on offense than they can on defense.

Heading into their first meeting against the Ravens, this team needs to be no worse than 3-2. Going 4-1 in those first five games would be huge. Unlike last year, they have to beat the inferior teams without quarterbacks, so they must easily handle the New York Jets, Oakland Raiders and the Buffalo Bills. If they lose any of those three games, they will likely finish 8-8 or worse this season.

Because of their lack of depth, I have the Steelers going 10-6 at best this season. They will make the playoffs with that record, but the health of the team from that point forward will decide how far they go into the playoffs. If Roethlisberger stays healthy, he is good for eight wins, so I will add two more on top of it.

Can this team win it all this year? Anything is possibly when you have a great quarterback. Do I think that they will? No.

I sure hope I am wrong.

  • Mike.H

    Last season, our boys logged 5 losses within the last 7 games, inexplicable losses to San Diego@ home and to others. Hard to stomach.

    [ we sleep walked and played without passion nor focus]. I hope we get pass it.

  • T R

    Good Preview and Prediction.. Althought i am stil sortta talking trash.. I am the must unsure of this season then i have any other. Granted i have talked alot more trash then normally in the past. I guess i calm down my trash talking. Maybe that was the reason of our demise last year.. You should heard my big mouth.. LOL but i am humble now.. for a few games at least.. Lets Go Steelers.. It starts again now..

  • Jason Brant

    I’m in agreement for the most part.

    Our starters can hang with anyone. Our backups… not so much.

    11-5 or 10-6. I think our offense is going to be incredible this year.

  • Bell Cow

    My prediction is 9-7. We lack quality depth at too many positions and it’s naive to think players such as Ben, Polamalu, and the starting offensive line will stay healthy all season. Also, our special teams is still a big concern. In my opinion, the most important player this year is Bruce Gradkowski. It’s almost inevitable that Big Ben will go down for at least 2-3 games so the team may be relying upon Gradkowski to hold down the fort and help win at least 1 or 2 games for us. On a positive note, the AFC is very weak this year, so it’s posible that 3 teams from the North will make it and 9 wins may be good enough for a wild card spot. Lets just hope we don’t loss games against inferior teams such as the Titans, Jets, and Raiders because we cannot afford those type of losses. I don’t envision a Super Bowl, but a wild card spot is a possibility.

  • thatninjab

    I actually see us finishing at least 14-2 if Roethlisberger and Troy P stay healthy and Curits Brown never surpases 3rd on the CB depth chart, but that is wishful thinking considering the Steelers recent injury history. This year we are sufficiently deep at most positions save QB, OL and Safety. With that said, we have never been deep at those positions.
    I predict that our front seven, specifically our Outside Linebackers and DE’s will be more effective because the depth and talent will afford lots of opportunities for rest, recovery and rampage.

  • Jason

    At least 14-2? Wow I need some of what you’re smokin! LOL. I hope you’re right but I see Dave’s 10-6 a little more realistic. 14-2 is a lofty goal for the most loaded of teams.

  • thatninjab

    Not really. We weren’t necessarily loaded the last time we won 14 games. We just had a solid identity. This year I think we will have the most effective offense since Mike Mularky left town. With a little heflp from the health gods anything is possible.

  • Ahmad

    If Polamalu stays healthy all year, stack another 2 wins on top of that to give us a 12-4 record.

  • steeltown

    People need to give some of these guys more credit, yes Vince Williams and Shark Thomas will have “growing pains” but they are still very intelligent, athletic and physical players and I don’t see us completely falling on our faces should they be forced to start. The OL is of course the elephant in the room, as they go so goes the Offense… Also if (god forbid) Ike and/or Cortez go down for any extended period of time we may start giving up some chunk yds and get into some shootouts

  • VaDave

    My prediction? The final record will be predicated on the amount of injuries incurred. Anything else is wild speculation at best. Our systems on both sides of the ball are sound. The issue is whether or not the subs can execute it if forced to play a significant amount of snaps. Like last year for an example, when you are forced to play your eighth best offensive lineman for half the season, it’s going to be serious trouble.

  • Garrett Hunt

    The offensive line depth scares me

  • Marcus

    They are going to have to actually score touchdowns when they are in the redzone. If they can do that, and win the turnover battle they have a shot.

    I think Polamalu needs to stay healthy too.

    There is no reason we should not have an offense that is as dynamic as the Texans. The talent on the o-line is there, Haley has to be less predictable, and get this running game off the ground.

  • steeltown

    Agreed…Brown and Sanders need to step up in the redzone

  • Mkeller

    Because of the depth and the need for a healthy Ben I would agree on 10-6 as the high end and 6-10 on the low end. But that’s why they play the games. Keeping my fingers crossed Le’Veon gets healthy and is the real deal. That would change the look of the offense immensely. I think the defense (barring an injury to Timmons) is going to be real tough so they should be in just about every game.

  • Weiss Chad

    I liked what I saw out of ben this pre season.He was moving around more and throwing deep more often.He looked more like ben of old improvising a little.Even though he was having a great yr last yr just didnt seem himself.Things obviously changed record wise after he went down.I can’t wait to see bell play a cpl games .I agree haley has to be less predictable.I cant wait to watch zone blocking scheme.Wheaton will be a boost to this team.I’m curious what d line will be like and if keisel ends the yr behind heyward or maybe woods over ziggy?Im cant wait to see woodley and polamalu back to form.Will timmons go to pro bowl like he should have last cpl yrs?Will williams or maybe spence take over for foote?And of course j.jones vs worilds.Is there any chance shmarko plays in the slot over gay or atleast over brown on depth chart at nb.Oh yeah my personal favorite Cortez Allen is gonna be a star on this team imo

  • blackandgoldBullion

    49er’s Top 5 started 19 of 19 games for the O Line last year with their Zone Blocking scheme. I think the scheme helps put the Linemen in less precarious situations with hopefully less 300 lb’ers falling on your knees. In the last few years the locker room for the Steelers has often resembled an Emergency Ward. The health of the OL is tantamount for the Steelers having a successful season.

    There are great 2nd and 3rd stringers at many other areas, so they should be fine there. Many games lost by 3 or 4 points last year must be reversed. Think of the special teams debacles that lead to losses– that WILL be better this year with our kickers allowing less potential returns. Think about the Defense allowing inexplicable 4th quarter comebacks last year — they will be beter this year with more pressure and more turnovers.

    Moye may also make an impact in the red zone, where they need to improve. I hate being nervous on 3rd and short, as I have been for many years. Get the jumbo linemen and TE’s out there and pound the ball in the red zone, with some occasional play-action surprises.

    LSH had a surprise start last year in Minnesota last year, where he run tough and had about 200 total yards. If they can continuously improve their blocking the running game should be greatly improved, especially once Bell gets going.

    Lastly, Ben, despite not being excited about the new offense last year, was tremendously efficient while free from injury. It is imperative that he minimize his chances for injury by getting rid of the ball quickly MOST of the time.
    After a bad year, the Steelers will surprise and win the division with an 11-5 record. Time to have fun!

  • chris ward

    The 2013 Steelers don’t have the quality depth at a lot of positions like they have had in years past. O-Line depth is a major concern heading into the season. The Offensive Line has to stay healthy and be productive in the run game and pass protection. If the run game is ineffective and Roethlisberger is not healthy this team can be looking at 8-8 or worse. With Dick Lebeau calling the defense and a healthy Woodley/Polamalu, the defense should be a top 5 defense as usual. Steelers do favor with a soft schedule but have to win the games they are suppose to win unlike last year. As long as Dick Lebeau is the DC in Pittsburgh the Steelers are going to be competitive. I believe with a healthy Ben and a solid defense the Steelers will go 10-6 in 2013.

  • steeltown

    I have a feeling Shark plays nickel before C.Brown does

  • Chris92021

    Best case scenario: the offensive line stays healthy, Big Ben stays healthy, Jarvis Jones lives up to the hype, Le’Veon Bell gets on the field, Troy Polamalu plays like it’s 2010, Cortez Allen and Emmanuel Sanders play way out of the Steelers’ 2014 budget, Steelers go 12-4 and win the 7th title.

    Worst case scenario: offensive line is a disaster, we see more Bruce Gradkowski that Big Ben, Le’Veon Bell makes everyone wish for Jonathan Dwyer, Jarvis Jones struggles, Sanders doesn’t do anything special, Ziggy Hood plays like an ordinary lineman, Steelers fall apart and go 6-10.

  • I predict we’ll start 0-2, so winning 14 straight (your prediction) will make this a special season indeed! Go Steelers!


    Good post.

    Best case I think they split with CIN and go 11-5…I’m thinking they will lose 1 @ home, and GB, CIN, NE, BAL on the road….at the same time I can see them losing both to CIN, or slip up in CLE and go 10-6.

    Expected…OFC to start slowly because Miller is out and the OL will need to smooth out the kinks…

  • Weiss Chad

    If they stay healthy they can go all the way.The tide has turned again and the NFC is the superior conference.Afc is wide open.

  • Douglas Andrews

    I agree with the article. My only concerns are if we have an injury in the secondary and C Brown has to come in and play. His play at CB thus far has been awful at best. Second if Ben stays healthy I dont see any reason why we can’t go at least 10-6. Last season we were 6-3 when Ben went down. Had he stayed stayed healthy I think we could have squeeked out 4 more wins to get to the playoffs. On paper I like this team better than last season’s and think 10-6 is being realistic.

  • charles

    Fundamental rule to get to the playoffs: beat the teams in your division. Duh. Each divisional loss needs 2 wins against other oppononents and that is not winning it is just breakeven.
    AFC North has the past few years been THE black and blue division, Haley is going in a different direction. He wants a quick, athletic approach. If, as you say, Adams and Gilbert can hold their own, then the Steelers, I think, will have a distinct advantage within the black and blue (slow and lumbering). If that is true we have a very good chance at reaching the playoffs it doesn’t matter what our record is.
    Defensively, while adding the excitement of Jones and the youthful vigor of McClendon, nobody thinks that we have speed in our secondary.Troy and Woodley both are looking very good, but the Ginns of the NFL are going to give us some trouble. We all know that the Steeler D can be stifling IF we can get pressure, it is the best over the top coverage.
    Young defensive front 7, Haley’s offense maturing as the season progresses and the Steelers could very well be the cream of the crop in the AFC. I think that we will know a lot by the end of the first half of the Titans game and we will certainly know a lot by the end of the game.
    My prediction is three first half sacks and 1 FORCED turnover and the Steelers have a better than 50% chance of being THE cream of the crop in the AFC…….

  • charles

    The rampage is the necessary evil that we need to be producing.

  • charles

    That would be the production that any team needs out of their draft class to become a ‘Super Bowl’ contender.

  • charles

    The first and last are good points AB and Sanders need to produce 7’s. And Haley’s predictability cost us 3 games last year.

  • Pete

    I like your optimism and I hope it’s that kind of year. I expect a better attitude from the young players than what we saw last year but with all the new parts, I expect something more like 9-7. If the O line jells quickly and the backs do their part, then 11-5 or 12-4 I can see happening.

  • joebabylon

    “William Gay will be just fine”. Really? I think he’ll be targeted constantly and will lose more times than win those rounds.

  • Pete

    I’m also thinking of 9-7 primarily because the O line needs time to jell, the backs need to perform and we don’t know what kind of pressure the defense will be able to bring to help the secondary. There are a number of questions that will be answered by the bye week and we’ll know what kind of team we have by then. I think Ben being healthy is the biggest factor. If the Steelers answer the bell, I can see 12-4 but I think they’re in tough to do that well.

  • PA2AK

    Not many teams we face will have a legit #3 WR. That’s who Gay will be covering, barring injury to Ike or Allen. Remember…he wasn’t brought in to be the #1 CB.

  • Deuce22

    Biggest thing they need to fix is the close games. They were 5-6 in games that were played that 7 points or less separated the game. If they can fix that 5-6 and make it even a 8-3 in those close games, they make the playoffs at the least a wildcard spot.

  • PA2AK

    So your saying our success is somewhat related to the health of our starters? Hmmmm…an astute observation, indeed. I would say sorry for being a smart-@$$…but I think your prediction kind of deserved it. Here’s one for you…there will be a flag thrown in the first game of the year.

  • Brandon

    Good stuff Dave, I see the steelers with a 10-6 or 11-5 this yr. We will be very good if we stay healthy at key spots

  • VaDave

    No need for an apology for being a smart a*s as I was being a smart a*s myself on the original post. That said, this years version of the Steelers has the least amount of depth we’ve seen in a long time. Losing one or two key players could very well change a 12-4 team into a 4 -12 finisher. Considering injuries being a constant factor, the lack of depth, the success of this campaign is hanging by a precarious thread.

  • Bob Graff

    I think we are going to see what we saw last season. Some thing will change but overall the same. 8-8 . Every team has some holes but we just have too many right now. Hopefully some of these young guys blossom. Like some one said that’s why we play the games.

  • PA2AK

    I’ve said it before, but I think I’m making and drinking my own steeler coolaide. I agree that we still have depth issues on OL, and I would rather not have to see Gay covering anyone’s #1 or #2 if there were injuries there. However, I think the depth at DL is better and fuller than it has been (while not ‘proven’ they haven’t had much of a shot to prove, but have stepped up in my eye). Same can be said for the LB’s. Some guys are young, but they have skill and many have greater experience and all around abilities. This should allow Lebeau to use nearly the full D playbook when spelling guys. This will allow him to do that more often, thus keeping the starters in better shape throughout the year. I think the OL is solid and will progress as the season unfolds. Hopefully that Zone scheme keeps them in better position to stay healthy. I don’t think the impact of injuries is any more or less detrimental this year than others or to this team more than others. It’s just something you have to hope doesn’t happen and see what comes of it when it does.