The smell of training camp is in the air. The preseason is right around the corner. Teams are getting back together for the official start of the 2015 NFL season. With that, let’s continue our look at each division of the NFL, team by team, highlighting the good news, the bad news, and the overall impression.
Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5, 4-2 Div.)
Good News – Big Ben is the man!
Ben Roethlisberger was insane a year ago. If anyone was questioning whether or not he is an elite quarterback, look at the numbers he put up: 4,952 yards, 32 touchdowns (both career highs) and just 9 interceptions. He became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw 6 touchdown passes in back to back games.
Add in the fact that his receiving corps has another year under their belts. Guys like Martavis Bryant, who averaged 21 yards a catch last year and had a 94 yard TD grab, and Markus Wheaton, who proved to be an excellent possession receiver, round out a stacked lineup that is led by star wide out Antonio Brown and veteran tight end Heath Miller. Oh by the way, Antonio Brown led the league in receptions last year with 129. I can’t believe I am saying this but, watch out for the Steelers’ offense this year.
Bad News – Defense is a big question mark.
Hold on…this is the Steelers we’re talking about right? The historically dominant defensive team? The Steel Curtain? Well, here’s the deal. It’s 2015, which means Steelers greats like Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, and Brett Keisel are gone, and none of them are even the most notable loss. Long time defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau now works for the Tennessee Titans (you can check out The Jailhouse’s AFC South article for more information on him). This means an already suspect defense is now going through some major name changes. Will Allen and Robert Golden now look to be the starting safeties, a far cry from the dynamic duo that was Polamalu and Ryan Clark. For the first time in 11 years, someone other than Dick LeBeau will be coaching the defense. That side of the ball will now be managed by Keith Butler, who has been the team’s linebacker coach since 2003. This defense will have a new look in 2015 and it is hard to say how it will end up.
The Steelers will always be in playoff contention with Ben Roethlisberger under center. His playmaking ability along with the plethora of targets at his disposal allows this offense to keep up with any team. The suspension of running back Le’Veon Bell does raise some concerns, he will miss the first two games of the season. Bell was also out for the Wild Card round of the playoffs against the Baltimore Ravens. Without Bell, Big Ben and the Steelers only mustered 17 points in a disappointing first round exit from the postseason. Bell’s suspension along with the uncertainty on defense raises more questions than usual with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Still, anything is possible with Big Ben.