Overall, a good season for the Steelers as they fought through the loss of LeVeon Bell to make it to the Divisional Playoff round. Despite the loss to the champion Broncos, things are still looking bright in Pittsburgh with Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger. In an usually tough AFC North, Pittsburgh looks to get back to the top of the mountain. Let’s look at the Steelers.
Strongest Position/Area: Skill Positions. Obviously, there is a lot of firepower with this offensive unit. There were third in the NFL in yards per game and passing yards per game. They were able to accomplish this without LeVeon Bell. Now that Bell is back, the trio of him, Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger form an extremely dangerous group. The Steelers have depth at running back with DeAngelo Williams. I also like Ladarius Green as well. Wide receiver took a bit of a hit from the one year suspension from Martavis Bryant, and guys like Markus Wheaton will have to pick up the slack, but they have the talent to do it.
Weakest Position/Area: Tight End. Heath Miller was such a “staple” in the Pittsburgh offense. He was a solid pass catcher, blocker, and leader in the locker room. Do they have someone on this roster that can do what Heath did? I mentioned earlier that I like Ladarius Green, he is officially out of the shadow of Antonio Gates but he is not known as a great blocker and has not caught more than 40 passes in a season. Matt Spaeth is a blocker, but a non-factor in the passing game. Jesse James only caught eight passes in eight games last year. Green gives the position potential, but this is a big question mark going into the season.
Strongest Position/Area: Front Seven. I really like the front seven as they have undergone a bit of change in recent years as they have added more speed to the linebacker position with guys like Ryan Shazier. We have always known Pittsburgh to be big and physical with their front seven. The change has worked out well. They are still a top 5 defense at stopping the run, also Pittsburgh was third in the NFL with 48 sacks with the front seven accounting for 41 of those sacks. Cameron Heyward looks like he is becoming a consistent pass rusher, and Stephon Tuitt picked up his game with 6.5 sacks last year. This front seven is still relatively young as well with one potential starter being over the age of 3o.
Weakest Position/Area: Secondary. The secondary was “hit and miss” in my opinion. They really struggled in coverage, 29th in the league in passing yards allowed per game. Opponents threw for 29 touchdowns last season against the Steelers. I think having a first-year coordinator in Keith Butler played a bit of a factor, but also I don’t see a bunch of play-makers. William Gay and Russ Cockrell are OK, but they drafted Artie Burns for depth. Shamarko Thomas is slated to step in for the departed Will Allen, but he has not been in a starters role since he has been a Steeler. There are holes here that must be filled for the Steelers.
Draft Report: Pittsburgh attacked secondary needs with their first two picks in Artie Burns and Sean Davis. Burns was a bit of a surprise in round 1, but has 1st round talent with his athleticism which is something the Steelers need. Davis played both cornerback and safety at Maryland, another speed guy for Pittsburgh to mold. Look for him to possibly start at safety. Javon Hargrave is a small school prospect who has great size for a defensive tackle. The Steelers continued drafting defensive-heavy with their later round picks drafting two linebackers.
Spotlight Player: LeVeon Bell. Bell is probably regarded as the best “all-around” back in football. He has size, elusiveness, the ability to be a factor in the passing game and he is a good blocker. Being productive is not the issue, his health is the problem. He tore his MCL in Week 8, and while he should be healthy for the start of the season, Steeler fans are praying he stays in good health. With Bell in the lineup, he adds multiple dimensions to the offense, and while DeAngelo Williams is a good player, he does not strike fear in defensive coordinator’s hearts like Bell does.
Up Next: New England Patriots