Steelers May Have a Diamond in The Rough
Offseason additions have been plentiful throughout the AFC North during the past few months. Now that OTA’s have concluded and we await the start of training camp, it’s far too soon to determine which team in arguably the most unpredictable division in football improved the most.
Do the Browns win with media wonder boy Manziel?
Can the red-headed rifle Andy Dalton take control of his team again?
Does the Pittsburgh defense return to old-school form?
Here’s a quick rundown of potential storylines to watch as we enter the summer.
Biggest addition: Entire draft class. The Bengals aren’t big spenders, so their building comes from guys like CB Darqueze Dennard from Michigan State.
Biggest loss: Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer. Losing him might just hurt the chemistry of the defense.
A running game renovation to come?
Is it possible that we see a three-headed monster invade and annihilate the North in 2014? Marvin Lewis’ offensive attack already had Gio Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis in their backfield, but the addition of LSU’s Jeremy Hill might prove to be the final weapon needed in the arsenal to take the Bengals offense to a new level this fall.
Hill is an interesting guy to watch. His production as a Tiger was strong, but there’s definitely concern about off-field issues, alll of have been chronicled by NOLA.com.
Former LSU running back Jeremy Hill dealing with past off field issues head on at NFL Scouting Combine
Will the draft class have an immediate impact?
Expect Hill and fellow RB draft-pick James Wilder Jr. to turn heads right away, but there’s definitely more to look at when it comes to the defensive side of the football.
Darqueze Dennard will be a big asset to the secondary, filling in as a starter right away. Other notable names to watch will be DL Will Clarke and DB Victor Hampton.
An interesting pick to keep an eye on is former North Carolina Tar Heel center Russell Bodine. He projects to be a backup interior lineman in 2014, but an injury up front could lead to a very interesting experiment early in the season.
Bodine wasn’t dominant in college, so it’ll be intriguing to watch his development.
Biggest addition: LB Karlos Dansby and three WRs (Austin, Hawkins, Burleson).
Biggest loss: WR Josh Gordon – without question.
Does Manziel give the team the best chance to win?
The hype is inevitable, but anyone that is convinced that the 21-year-old Manziel is a better option than Brian Hoyer needs to take a major step back and assess the situation.
Hoyer was not bad last year.
Game tape of the 2013 season shows some impressive flashes of brilliance. He can control a game and effectively put his team in a chance to win the game late.
Manziel? Merely a hyped-up college athlete that doesn’t project well in the NFL. For the Browns staff to feed him to the wolves right away would be not only a hazard to their future as a team, but a risk for Manziel.
Heck with the quarterbacks, who is playing receiver?
Josh Gordon and Greg Little won’t be playing in the Factory of Sadness in 2014, so the Browns will look towards secondary options to get the job done against some stingy defenses they’ll face this season.
The addition of Miles Austin looks good on the surface, but how can the coaching staff trust that the former Dallas Cowboy standout stays healthy? His issues with injuries have been highly documented throughout his time in the NFL. Consistent contributions from Austin are hardly a given.
Other guys to watch are Andrew Hawkins from Cincinnati and Nate Burleson from Detroit. Travis Benjamin might end up being a nice hidden gem once the season kicks off.
Biggest Addition: Not one stands out, but LeGarrette Blount, Mike Mitchell, and Cam Thomas will all be nice additions in Pittsburgh.
Biggest Loss: They didn’t lose too many notable standouts, but the departure of Emmanuel Sanders might prove to be costly on offense.
Is the secondary where it needs to be?
The team did sign former Panther safety Mike Mitchell to play next to Troy Polamalu, but Mitchell is another guy doesn’t provide a lock-down presence for the Pittsburgh defense. He can be very good, but he doesn’t have an elite overall skill-set to make him a projected immediate difference-maker.
Things are still pretty weak at the cornerback spot for the team. Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen will again lead the way for a group that doesn’t have notable depth. This definitely has to be worrisome for defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau who will look to ratchet up the heat on quarterbacks with his front seven to protect that back end.
Is Dri Archer the guy?
The Kent State standout made a name for himself in his final collegiate season, so it was no surprise to see the Steelers jump on him early in the draft. Although he was projected as a late-round pick by many, Pittsburgh decided to make a splash and select him in the third round.
Archer projects to get snaps on the offensive side of the ball right away, and he should compete for return duties with guys like Markus Wheaton. His breakaway speed and electrifying play-making abilities might cause some troubles around the AFC North. The Steelers may have reached but Archer could prove to be a diamond in the rough.
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