It’s still only June, but KC Joyner of ESPN.com believes the Pittsburgh Steelers will win the AFC North division after back-to-back 8-8 seasons.
In his Wednesday Insider post, Joyner listed six reasons as to why he believes the Steelers will return to the top of the AFC North and we will have a look at each of those.
1. Run Blocking Could Reach An Elite Level
Joyner believes that the return of center Maurkice Pouncey in 2014 will play a major role in the Steelers offensive line possibly reaching an elite level in 2014. It’s hard to shoot any holes in him basing his argument on just one player, but Joyner doesn’t even touch on the Steelers addition of new offensive line coach Mike Munchak during the offseason. In addition, he fails to mention that the use of the outside-zone blocking scheme in 2014 fits the running style of second-year running back Le’Veon Bell. Right guard David DeCastro also figures to have his best season as a professional as well and Joyner doesn’t even touch on that.
2. Improved Decision Making Of Ben Roethlisberger
Joyner points to Roethlisberger’s solid bad decision metric over the course of the last three seasons as the main reason why he believes the Steelers quarterback will once again have a low interception total in 2014. While he doesn’t mention it, this will be Roethlisberger’s third season playing for offensive coordinator Todd Haley, so the two should be very well in tune with one another at this point. The addition of more no-huddle offense in 2014 is also another factor that Joyner fails to point to.
3. Addition Of Big Play Threats Dri Archer and LeGarrette Blount During The Offseason
While Blount is a big back, Joyner is quick to point out that the Steelers offseason free agent addition has the ability to break off big runs. In fact, since coming into the league in 2010, Blount has 69 runs that have gone for 10 yards or more. As far as Archer goes, he had 75 runs of 10 yards or more during his four years at Kent State. Haley’s chore in 2014 will be to figure out how to get him touches during his rookie season.
4. Improved Pass Rush
While Joyner fails to provide any real reasons as to why the Steelers pass rush will improve in 2014 outside of the additions of draft picks Ryan Shazier and Stephon Tuitt, the continued improvement of Cameron Heyward and Jarvis Jones, along with those additions can’t hurt based on what we’ve seen over the course of the last three seasons.
5. Emmanuel Sanders Easily Replaced
Joyner believes that the offseason loss of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders will be easily replaced in 2014. He points to the fact that Sanders quality of receptions last season ranked near the bottom of the league when compared to wide receivers that saw at least 100 targets. Instead of listing the potential production that second-year wide receiver Markus Wheaton will have in 2014, Joyner instead believes that newcomer Lance Moore will provide more quality receptions than Sanders did last season.
6. AFC North Weaker In 2014
Lastly, Joyner believes that the competition the Steelers will face in the AFC North in 2014 will be weaker. Joyner hints that the Cincinnati Bengals losing both of their coordinators will play a role in them coming back to the pack. In addition, he doesn’t believe that the Baltimore Ravens will improve any over last season.
So now that you see Joyner’s six reasons as to why he believes the Steelers will win the AFC North in 2014, do you believe they’re legitimate enough? In addition, what other reasons should Joyner have included?