2011 Record: 12-4 (2nd AFC North)
Projected 2012 Record: 10-6 (2nd AFC North)
Key Arrivals: OLB Brandon Johnson, TE Leonard Pope
Key Departures: (Still in talks with WR Mike Wallace), RB Mewelde Moore, CB William Gay, OT Jerome Meredith, WR Hines Ward (Retired), LB James Farrior, OG Chris Kemoeatu, DE Aaron Smith
The Steelers are still trying to come to an agreement with WR Mike Wallace, and they’ll need him with the retirement of longtime WR Hines Ward, and a thinning core. Wallace and the Steelers need each other: Wallace won’t get a groundbreaking contract from anyone else in the league this year, and the Steelers won’t be able to put up huge numbers through the air without him. He has become their best option and he is what they need to succeed, he opens doors for Emmanuel Sanders and company.
At running back, Mendenhall lead the Steelers to a 14th ranked rushing attack with 118.9 ypg, they’ll need to rely heavily on him this upcoming season, as well as Isaac Redman and rookie Chris Rainey. Steelers will need to resemble the Steelers of old if they want to contend for the AFC North, they don’t have the firepower to put up the Offensive Fireworks they did last season (10th in passing, 253.4ypg). They drafted two offensive linemen early, Guard David DeCastro (Stanford), and Tackle Mike Adams (Ohio State), which will be needed as the Steelers were 24th in sacks allowed last season (42).
They lost a few pieces on the defensive side of the ball: gone are William Gay, James Farrior, and Aaron Smith, but in come rookies Sean Spence, Alameda Ta’amu, and Terrence Fredderick. They’ll get tested early against the Manning-led Broncos, then face a stout passing defense against the Jets, the schedule clears for them a little down the way, they don’t get whittled by back to back to back road games or playoff contenders. A veteran QB, coach, and defense (though a few players are teetering on the “older” side), coupled with a decent schedule will net the Steelers 10-wins and a possible playoff appearance.