Pittsburgh Steelers: Final thoughts on the preseason

The Pittsburgh Steelers concluded their preseason with a 10-0 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night. The Steelers finished the preseason with a 1-3 record.

While a 1-3 finish is poor, it’s still better than the 0-4 preseason record of last season. A lackluster preseason usually isn’t a reason to hit the panic button, but last season the 0-4 preseason translated into an 0-4 regular season start. Despite a 1-3 preseason record, fan need not worry, last year was last year and this preseason shouldn’t worry you.

The Steelers — like the majority of teams in the preseason — had their fair share of highs and lows. In their only preseason win, the Steelers looked sharp against the Buffalo Bills, but looked lousy in their third preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Here are some final thoughts on the Steelers’ preseason finish:

Ryan Shazier will be a key contributor

In three preseason games, I saw enough to where I’m confident in linebacker Ryan Shazier‘s ability to be a key component to this defense. Even as a rookie, he will be the playmaker the Steelers have needed. He’s fast, athletic and has a certain intensity that fits the Steelers’ defensive mindset.

I put my foot in mouth when I bashed the Steelers for taking him in the first round, and I might have to do the same should Shazier turn out to be a bust — but that seems unlikely.

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Ike Taylor (Usable)

The Defense still needs work

Even though Shazier will give the defense a boost, there’s still work to be done. The game against the Eagles is a prime example of how vulnerable the secondary still is. Ike Taylor isn’t the player of seasons past and it could be a long year should he be unable to tune things up.

The pass rush is going to be better, with Lawrence Timmons, Jason Worilds and (hopefully) Jarvis Jones leading the charge. The defense has the potential to rack up significant sacks this season.

The defense is younger, but it’s not quite there.

The offense will be succeed

Even though the offense struggled in Philadelphia, Ben Roethlisberger and company have the ability to be something special. With Roethlisberger at the helm, the chance to win is always there. Antonio Brown should have himself another Pro Bowl season and Markus Wheaton will come to form.

Another exciting tool in Todd Haley‘s arsenal is third round pick Dri Archer. Archer will be used in a variety of ways and it gives the Steelers a weapon of all trades. I fully expect Archer to be used a lot this season.

The backfield is solid as well. As long as Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount can keep themselves out of trouble, the Steelers’ running game will be the best it’s been in years.

The Steelers season could go either way, really bad or really good. I’m not sure there’s in-between. A lot of dependency will be on younger players this season, but if there up to the challenge Mike Tomlin‘s squad will return to the playoffs.

It’s a big season for the Steelers and we’re close to seeing what’s in store.