5 Bold (and Slightly Less Bold) Predictions for the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers
Is it ever too early to make some bold predictions? Of course not. Pittsburgh Steelers training camp is coming soon, and the regular season is right around the corner. And I have a funny feeling that this is going to be a very memorable season.
Let’s take a look at some bold predictions for the Steelers for the upcoming season. And remember that I reserve the right to be wrong about no fewer than one, but no more than five of these predictions.
What are your bold predictions for the upcoming season? Maybe the Steelers go 16-0 in the regular season? Or maybe 0-16. Be sure to share them in the comments below.
The Steelers Will Win the AFC North
Going into the season, I presume that most pundits will be on one side or the other with the Steelers. They are either going to be the surprise team to turn things around or the team who has been passed up by the rest of the AFC North.
First prediction is this team rights the ship this season. This franchise hasn’t had a three-year playoff drought since 1998-2000. And the core of this team is tremendous. The offense will be anchored by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell, wide receiver Antonio Brown and guard David DeCastro.
If this team wins fewer than 10 games in 2014, it’ll be a disappointment. This team is just too well-coached, and has too much talent to have a repeat of the past two seasons. Prediction for 2014: 11-5 season and another AFC North title. Pittsburgh has the best quarterback in the division, and in this league, that is going to make all the difference in the world.
Le'Veon Bell Will Rush for 1,300 Yards
Even with the additions this team has made at running back, the Steelers running game is going to be all about Le’Veon Bell. Yes, LeGarrette Blount is going to snipe some short-yardage and goal-line touches. And yes, rookie Dri Archer might pull a carry or two away per game.
It won’t matter in the final analysis. Averaging just over 80 yards rushing per game should be easy for Bell. Last season, the Philadelphia Eagles led the league in rushing with 160.4 yards per game. While those sorts of numbers might be out of reach, Pittsburgh will improve on their 86.4 yards per game in 2013.
Obviously, an improvement like this also counts on the fact that an offensive line that was patched together like Frankenstein’s monster for much of the 2013 season. Fingers crossed that the return of a healthy Maurkice Pouncey will go a long way toward getting that run game on the right track.
Jarvis Jones Will Continue to Struggle
Of all the predictions on this list, this is the one that promises to get under the skin of Steelers fans the most. I’ll be the first to admit I was excited when the Steelers drafted linebacker Jarvis Jones in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft.
Jones was one of the most disruptive players in all of college football that season. His ability to impact the opposing team’s game plan was tremendous. However, within the confines of the Steelers defense as a pass-rushing outside linebacker, his lack of strength and explosion showed itself.
The hope was that a full offseason in an NFL-caliber strength and conditioning program would yield a beefier, better Jones. However, Jones reported to OTAs no bigger than he was as a rookie.
If the expectation is that Jones is going to line up against the opposing team’s left tackle all season long, Jones is sure to struggle again. For Jones to be successful, he needs to be moved around, allowed to freelance and not be put over the best lineman on the other team play after play.
2014 Is Jason Worilds' Last with the Steelers
It is unfortunate that a team with such a rich tradition of outside linebackers has struggled at the position so much in recent seasons. In 2013, we saw linebacker Jason Worilds come into his own as the starting left outside linebacker.
Worilds led the team with 8.0 sacks in 2013, as well as chipping in 63 total tackles. Unfortunately, Worilds is currently playing on a one-year transition tag contract. With training camp approaching, and no money left, it appears as if there will be no new contract for Worilds this year.
That isn’t to say Pittsburgh couldn’t try and sign him at the end of the season. However, at this point, it doesn’t seem likely. There are really two scenarios for Worilds’ situation, neither of which have him in black and gold next year.
First, he is able to get healthy and plays out of his mind in 2014. He builds on last season and cements himself among the elite pass-rushing linebackers in the league. All this success drives up his price, and the Steelers let him leave to greener pastures.
The second scenario is Worilds falters. Whether it is injury or poor production, he doesn’t play up to expectations. The front office has already shown that they are not opposed to letting marginal prospects leave, especially if they do not foresee growth. Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine a scenario where Worilds is on the team in 2015 either way—and playing at a high level.
Mike Adams Doesn't Make the Final Roster
Other than the defensive secondary, there isn't a unit on this team that needs closer attention than the offensive line. Last season, in the second half of the year, this group played very well. Even through injuries and shuffling of players, this group came together and led this team to a 6-2 record in the second half of the season.
This season, the starters are all but entrenched. If the season started today, it would look something like this:
- Left Tackle: Kelvin Beachum
- Left Guard: Ramon Foster
- Center: Maurkice Pouncey
- Right Guard: David DeCastro
- Right Tackle: Marcus Gilbert
Even though the tackles aren't household names, guys like Pouncey and DeCastro are among the tops at their positions. Nevertheless, with new offensive line coach Mike Munchak in the fold, it is expected that the play of the tackles will be elevated.
And unfortunately, that might just mean the end of the road for Mike Adams. The former second-round pick has been a disappointment during his short career. Granted, not all of that has been his fault.
Nevertheless, with players like Guy Whimper and Wesley Johnson on the roster, it is going to be a challenge for Adams. Both Whimper and Johnson have experience playing multiple spots on the line, which is a huge advantage over Adams.
Unless specified, all team stats are courtesy of steelers.com.