The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season came to an abrupt and painful end in 2014 as the Baltimore Ravens marched into Pittsburgh and defeated them in the Wild Card round 30-17. Here we are eight months later as the Steelers start their 2015 campaign tonight in Foxboro against the New England Patriots.
Looking at the 2015 Steelers team as whole, a few things are clear. This offense is going to be electric to say the least. Ben Roethlisberger, who threw for just under 5,000 yards last season will lead the high-powered offense with the help of his favorite target, Antonio Brown, who led the NFL in both receptions (129) and receiving yards (1,698) last season. Lets not forget about Le’Veon Bell who last year rushed for 1,361 yards. He will be eligible to play in Week 3 after serving his two-game suspension. Each one in the trio is a top five player at their respective positions and is the primary reason the Steelers will have a top offense in the NFL. Throw in some contributions from Heath Miller, Markus Wheaton, and Martavis Bryant (after he serves a four-game suspension), and this team could average close to 30 points per game.
The question is, will that be enough? The Steelers defense was not quite terrible last year, but it definitely wasn’t good. New defensive coordinator Keith Butler will be put to the test, not only replacing a legend but to make this defense formidable once again. The biggest issue with the Steelers defense has always been their secondary. They gave up 4,049 yards through the air last year and 30 passing touchdowns ranking 27th and 28th in the NFL. For the most part, they return this season with the same starting secondary with the exception of Shamarko Thomas replacing Troy Polamalu at strong safety and the departure of Ike Taylor. A big part of the problem last year was free safety Mike Mitchell. He had zero interceptions and was burned on many occasions by opposing wide outs. He needs to have a bounce back season if this secondary wants to have any success. The front seven actually doesn’t look to bad. Cameron Heyward is an emerging star and got paid this offseason. The linebackers, led by Lawrence Timmons, also have potential to be very good. It will be interesting to see if young guns Ryan Shazier and Jarvis Jones can stay healthy and make some key contributions. As a whole, the defense has its questions. The defense also has a lot young players with upside and a ton of speed, which should make for some exciting plays.
The Pittsburgh Steelers will go into the 2015 season with the hardest strength of schedule with their opponents having a combined .579 winning percentage in 2014. In my opinion, this will bode well for this team as in the past; they have struggled against lesser opponents (see Tampa Bay, Cleveland, and the New York Jets just last year). If the offense does what is capable of and the defense just treads water, I think the Steelers will go 11-5 once again and will win their second straight AFC North title. They will then lose to the New England Patriots in the AFC title game which transitions nicely to my next prediction of tonight’s game. It is going to be a tough one. Both teams will pass for a bunch of yards but in the end the absence of Le’Veon Bell and presence of Tom Brady will be detrimental to the Steelers. Gronk will score three touchdown and the Steelers will lose 42-31. Other than that, it is sure to be an exciting Steelers season.