Pittsburgh Steelers: 5 Expectations Every Fan Should Have for Week 1

Dan Gigliotti@@dangigliottiCorrespondent ISeptember 5, 2012

Pittsburgh Steelers: 5 Expectations Every Fan Should Have for Week 1

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    Anticipation is mounting for the kickoff to the NFL season, which begins for Pittsburgh Steelers fans on Sunday when they travel to Mile High Stadium to face the Denver Broncos.

    Few games will be more exciting than a rematch of last season’s compelling Wild Card Playoff game that ended in dramatic fashion.

    Don’t expect Sunday’s game to go into overtime. Don’t expect Tim Tebow to magically teleport back to the Rocky Mountains to pull a rabbit out of his hat. Don’t expect to be devastated by a game-winning 80-yard touchdown to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of extra time.

    No, Week 1 dawns a new season. But if you expect not to be reminded 3,547,987 times of how excruciatingly epic that play was, think again.

    Here are some more things you can expect from Sunday’s primetime matchup.

Don’t Expect Mendenhall to Start

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    Rashard Mendenhall took regular snaps with the starting team at practice on Monday, participating in contact drills for the first time this season, according to NFL.com‘s Marc Sessler.

    Tomlin apparently is exploring the idea of inserting Mendenhall into the starting lineup over the current No. 1 on the depth chart Isaac Redman.

    Mendenhall was described by teammates as looking “incredible.” With a few more practices to go until the Steelers’ opener, expect Mendenhall to make a push for playing time on Sunday.

    Don’t count on it working out.

    There is no reason why Tomlin and his staff would choose to risk aggravating Mendenhall’s recovery from knee injury by giving him many touches in Week 1. Consider that the initial indication was that Mendanhall wouldn’t return to action until October. It is silly to think he is worth the risk of playing.

Expect Two No. 1 Wide Receivers

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    Mike Wallace reported back to the Steelers from his offseason holdout. Antonio Brown has been catching passes from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as the first option in the offense throughout the preseason.

    Who is the real No. 1 receiver in the Pittsburgh offense? Well, both of them.

    According to a report today on SportsIllustrated.com, Brown insists that there is no reason to define those roles and that he and Wallace can both be top-flight receivers. 

    Brown finished the 2011 campaign with over 1,100 yards receiving, but only two scores. Wallace finished the season with similar numbers, with nearly 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns.

    The obvious difference is, Brown has been in training camp for its duration, whereas Wallace will be getting acclimated on the fly.

    Indications are that Wallace will play, although his starting role is in question. Either way, he will garner enough attention to allow Brown to have a big Week 1.

    And why not have a couple of No. 1s? After all, sharing is caring.

Expect the Defense to Be Weakened by Injuries

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    According to CBSSports.com, James Harrison is recovering from the knee surgery he underwent on Aug. 15; he had a bulky back this summer; and, as we know, he sat out four games last season with a broken eye socket.

    As fellow linebacker Jason Worilds recovers from a wrist injury, questions are raised as to the effectiveness of the defense in lieu of their ailing defensive backfield.

    Defensive back Ryan Clark will be held out of playing in the high altitude in Denver due to a sickle cell trait that makes it a personal danger to perform athletically.

    According to CBS Pittsburgh, LaMarr Woodley was only playing at 65-70 percent in the Steelers’ final game. Will he be back to 100 percent? Will Casey Hampton’s torn ACL be fully restored? Who knows if Troy Polamalu will withstand another injury in 2012?

    The positive here is that none of these players are on the physically unable to perform list (PUP).

    Are these reasons to believe the top defense in total yardage allowed and pass yardage allowed from last season will truly be deterred? Considering Peyton Manning’s prowess in the passing game, there should be some nervous fans in the Pennsylvania area who will hope Manning won’t yet be back to speed.

Expect Manning to Be Back to Form

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    Unfortunately, that won’t be the case.

    The uncertainty left from injuries on the Pittsburgh defense gives more reason to believe Peyton Manning will continue where he left off in 2011.

    Manning has at least two viable targets at wide receiver in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Of course, he also knows how to make stars out of unknown players, as well.

    Despite a slow preseason, Manning will get numbers because, well, he’s Peyton Manning.

Expect McGahee to Be Stifled

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    Following some down years in Baltimore, McGahee reached the 1,000-yard rushing plateau again in 2011 for the first time since 2007.

    Don’t expect that to happen again this season.

    McGahee is in his 10th season and while he may or may not have a solid 2012 season with Manning handing him the ball, he will get halted on Sunday.

    The Pittsburgh defense is historically known for stuffing the run, rolling out lengthy streaks without a back rushing for 100 yards. The Steelers held opponents to under 100 yards rushing per game last season, allowed seven rushing touchdowns all season and held all but one rusher under 100 yards in their final 13 games, according to CBSSports.com.

    Get the point?