The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off an extremely disappointing season last year; going 8-8 and missing the playoffs is hardly the Steeler way. Coming into this new season there should be countless concerns and questions about a team that was so lousy last season. Here are 5 burning questions about the Steelers for this upcoming year.
5. Is Mike Tomlin’s job on the line?
An 8-8 season isn’t acceptable by any means for the Steelers’ organization. After a pitiful season, the head coach is first on the list to take all the heat. The Steelers haven’t missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons since 1998-2000 and if they were to miss them again this season, is the Tomlin era doomed? It’s mind boggling for me to believe that if the Steelers came up short again this year that Tomlin would get the boot.
Tomlin has proven himself as a great head coach for the organization which included two appearances in the Super Bowl, one of which he won. If the Steelers do miss out on the playoffs (again) then it’ll be interesting to see what kind of approach the organization takes with Tomlin. I don’t see him getting fired but it’s something to keep in the back of your mind.
4. Can Troy Polamalu be the player he used to be?
Polamalu is no doubt the face of the Steelers’ defense these days. Polamalu has become one of the biggest names in the NFL and rightfully so. He’s made such an impact for the Steelers and is definitely a key reason for all their success in recent years. However, Polamalu has seemed to have lost his edge. The Samoan hasn’t been the same spectacular play-maker and this is largely due to injuries. Polamalu hasn’t been on the field enough to make those jaw-dropping plays. This season, number 43 needs to come out and be that superstar that all of Steeler Nation knows he is. If Polamalu can get back to his old ways and stay injury free, the Steelers’ secondary should be much better than it was the previous season.
3. Can Ben Roethlisberger and Todd Haley coexist?
Last season Todd Haley took over as the offensive coordinator for the Steelers and it became evident that Roethlisberger wasn’t a big fan. Recently, Haley and Roethlisberger were named “most combustible” in 2013. Roethlisberger was almost too “buddy buddy” with former OC, Bruce Arians. Roethlisberger definitely wanted Arians kept around, but the Steelers brought in Haley. Haley isn’t afraid to get on Roethlisberger’s case when he messes up. This isn’t a bad thing at all; Haley is a coach and not a best friend. If Roethlisberger can’t take the heat after screwing up, that’s too bad. If anything, having a coach that will get in his face may just motivate him more.
Roethlisberger should excel under Haley in the duo’s second season of partnership. Haley has made it a point to add the ”dink and dunk” plays into the offense. These plays are beneficial to Roethlisberger because they keep him from taking a lot of hits. Keeping defenses from getting to Roethlisberger is something that is necessary due to Roethlisberger’s track record with injuries. Roethlisberger and Haley shouldn’t bump heads, expect Roethlisberger to flourish under Haley’s system this season.
2. Will the offensive line meet expectations?
The offensive line for the Steelers is looking to be promising this season. I know, you’ve heard this a million times, but this year the line truly does have a lot of potential. With the likes of young stud, David DeCastro and the very talented Maurkice Pouncey, the offensive line seems to be in good shape. However, having potential is one thing; utilizing it is another. A big question this season will be the offensive line and if they can meet the standards that are asked of them. Each season the Steelers’ offensive line is always racking up injuries. We can’t predict injuries so we just have to hold our breath and hope they all stay healthy. Should the line be healthy, they have every reason to be a solid group. If they can meet expectations, maybe Roethlisberger can stay healthy and do a whole lot more pocket passing and a little less improvising.
1. Can the Steel Curtain generate more turnovers?
Although the Steelers’ defense was ranked first in the NFL last season, it didn’t seem like they were. Maybe it was because the whole season was hard to watch but something was definitely missing. That something may be their inability to produce big-time turnovers.
Last season the Steelers weren’t making big plays on defense. If the defense had taken the ball away on more occasions last season they would of had a better chance of making the playoffs and winning some of the close games that went against them. The defense we’ve come to know usually managed to come up with some kind of game changing interception or forced fumble. That just wasn’t there last season; their play was, do I dare say, soft?
The Steelers defense needs to get back its reputation of being one of the best defenses the league has to offer. The Steel Curtain better make big time interceptions and knock the snot out of players, forcing them to cough up the ball. Generating more turnovers is an absolute must for the Steelers. After all, defense wins championships.