If you missed the Pittsburgh Steelers playoff game last season, it’s probably because they did not have one.
In a season that the Ravens hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, the Steelers finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs for the second time in the last four seasons. Could it possibly get any better for Ravens fans?
Seventh year Head Coach Mike Tomlin and his Steelers have a tough task at hand, as they have lost major contributors on both offense and defense heading into 2013. We know that Baltimore and Pittsburgh rival in plenty of areas, and the most recent is in number of new faces.
During the first moments of free agency, wide receiver Mike Wallace took his “talents to South Beach” and signed a five-year $60 million contract with the Miami Dolphins. Wallace was arguably overpaid by Dolphins ownership, but after the Steelers committed $42.5 million to Antonio Brown, who only had five touchdowns in 2012 and two touchdowns in 2011, the chances of Wallace remaining in Pittsburgh went from slim to none very quickly.
Can we go back to that for a moment?
$42.5 million for seven touchdowns in three seasons — Wow!
On the defensive side of the ball, had it not been for the Elvis Dumervil fax machine fiasco, linebacker James Harrison may have ended up in a Ravens uniform. However, even though he didn’t go to Baltimore, “Debo” indeed left the Steel City after eight seasons with the Steelers, moving from western Pennsylvania to Cincinnati, where he signed a two-year contract worth $4.45 million.
What to watch for:
Look Out: After the combination of Harrison’s decline in production, as well as a disappointing season from LaMarr Woodley, the Steelers immediately addressed their needs by drafting Georgia Bulldog Jarvis Jones with their 17th pick in the first round. Jones is a linebacker coming from a very good program, and he will be able to learn from veterans. He could step in and immediately improve the Pittsburgh pass rush.
Not So Hot: The largest void for the Steelers is at the running back position. Injuries cannot be predicted, but they can run an offense down, literally. And with an injury-prone quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, the running game is crucial. The guys currently on the roster did not light up the turf last season, so the Steelers drafted Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell in the second round. Along with drafting Bell, they also signed five-year veteran LaRod Stephens-Howling. In addition, veteran Rashard Mendenhall, the Steelers’ first-round pick in 2008, left in free agency for Arizona.
The Raven Edge: Pass Rush vs. New O-Line: Terrell Suggs has made it known that, “God can have [Roethlisberger’s] soul, but his ass belongs to me.”
With an able-bodied Suggs and the addition of Dumervil, Ben should once again be shaking in his boots when he looks across the line of scrimmage and sees purple. The new offensive line in Pittsburgh will have a tough task, as they are young and inexperienced (in fact, no player on the line has more than four years’ experience.) The Steelers also made a change at the offensive line coach position, hiring Jack Bicknell Jr., who was the O-line coach for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2012.
The Ravens and Steelers split their games last season, and this year the rivalry will conclude – at least for the regular season – on Thanksgiving night. As Orioles center fielder Adam Jones would say, “stay hungry.”
Ravens @ Pittsburgh week 7: October 20 at 4:25
Pittsburgh @Ravens week 13: November 28 at 8:30