While there are many reasons to believe that the Steelers are strong AFC contenders, there are also many concerns amongst us Steelers fans as to who will start and who should start.
This is my preseason edition of possible starters, backups and likely scenarios.
Please leave me feedback and your thoughts as well!
First, Ben Roethlisberger. 11-3 playoff record. Two Super Bowls. Don't see him being dethroned anytime soon.
Second, Byron Leftwich. Leftwich has looked impressive in camp and at game speed. He has really good knowledge of Arians' system. He stands taller in the pocket than Batch and has better pocket awareness. The only knock here is his lumbering speed.
Third, Charlie Batch. Batch gets this spot on experience alone. Dixon is good, but he'll never be a starter here in Pittsburgh. He'll get the boot.
First, Rashard Mendenhall. No competition here barring injury. Great blend of speed and power. 13 touchdowns last year along with nearly 1300 yards. Glad to have him in the 'Burgh.
Second, Isaac Redman. Nearly a five-yard per-carry average with clutch receptions and short yardage situation runs. Could spell Mendenhall more often this year while creating a dynamic one-two punch.
Third, Mewelde Moore. Moore has excellent blitz-pickup skill and is the best receiver out of the backfield. His sure-handedness still makes him extremely valuable in late-game situations as well as deep punt return handling.
If the Steelers decide to go with a fourth back, Jonathan Dwyer seems to be the likely candidate. He has knowledge of the system, but he seriously needs to step it up. He is teetering on the edge here.
First, Heath Miller. Probably the most sure thing on the roster outside of Ben, Troy and Woodley. Heath can do it all, and he does it well. It's a shame that he isn't more highly regarded amongst NFL pundits.
Second, John Gilmore. Veteran was brought in for a reason. After allowing Matt Spaeth to go, David Johnson was thought to be the heir apparent. He hasn't proved much lately.
Third, David Johnson. Coming back to reprise the H-back role. Hopefully he'll step it up a little more. Don't think he is playing bad enough to lose at least this spot.
First, Mike Wallace. Speed is what defines Wallace. However, in his third season (also a contract year), it feels like he will be combining his speed, hands and experience to blossom into a top five NFL receiver this year.
Second, Hines Ward. A Steelers icon for over 10 years. The greatest receiver to ever put on a Steelers uniform. He holds onto a starting role because he is Hines Ward, and having him on the field is just as important as having Ben behind center.
Third, Jerricho Cotchery. Many will disagree with me here, saying that he was only brought in to be a fifth receiver. However, I do not think the Steelers signed a former starting receiver to play fifth fiddle to a bunch of young guns. The young money crew still isn't quite ready, and Cotchery is here to eventually jump into Ward's spot.
Fourth, Antonio Brown. He showed in his rookie season that he could make the big plays. He is now showing that he also hasn't slowed down. No sophomore slump for Brown, but he is still young. Route running needs to get more crisp, and there is no harm in holding him off for a year or two.
Fifth, Emmanuel Sanders. Same reasons as AB. These two will be the future of Steelers receivers—just not this year.
Left Tackle, Willie Colon. Besides Pouncey, he seems to be the best pass protector. It only seems right to have him protecting Ben's blind side.
Left Guard, Doug Legursky. Easily the smartest and most versatile player on the line, also the fastest. The Steelers pull a lot from the left guard spot and Legursky has the girth, speed and strength to get up field and block.
Center, Maurkice Pouncey. There isn't much of a competition here. The rookie is next in the line of great Steelers centers.
Right Guard, Tony Hills. A little tall to play guard, and maybe not prototypical, but he is also very athletic. In his third season with the team, Hills should be able to step it up at a new position.
Right Tackle, Marcus Gilbert. Yes, a rookie starter at tackle. This seems like the logical choice. He will have his ups and downs, but the line needs help now and I think Gilbert gives them some strength and quickness on the edge.
Rotation will include: Chris Kemoeatu. Jonathan Scott. Chris Scott. Trai Essex.
Right End, Brett Keisel. The Beard is back and has another solid two years in front of him. He is the heart of the line.
Nose Tackle, Casey Hampton. One of the best nose tackles in recent history. He is the definition of a nose tackle. Our linebackers don't run freely without him. I also want to add that Snack is on his career decline and Pittsburgh needs to address a pure nose tackle soon.
Left End, Ziggy Hood. This is finally Ziggy's time to take over. Aaron Smith is one of the oldest players on the team and hasn't played a full season in three of the last four years. Hood has played extremely well and deserves this.
Rotation will include: Aaron Smith. Cameron Heyward. Chris Hoke.
Right Outside, James Harrison. Former Defensive MVP has solidified his spot as the best outside linebacker in the NFL.
Right Inside, James Farrior. As long as he can play, he will start. Farrior is the heart and soul of the defense. He is smart and consistent. His play in coverage has declined recently, and talk of Stevenson Sylvester coming in on passing downs is a possibility.
Left Inside, Lawrence Timmons. In my opinion, the most athletic of the line-backing corps. He is by far the fastest, and also the youngest. He is a rising star and tackling machine.
Left Outside, LaMarr Woodley. Just signed a huge deal. One of the best outside linebackers in the game. No discussion necessary.
Rotational players include: Stevenson Sylvester. Jason Worilds.
Cornerback, Ike Taylor. Just re-upped his deal. Best corner on the team and best tackling corner in the league. Fits Dick LeBeau's scheme perfectly.
Cornerback, Crezdon Butler. The kid has good size and tackles well. Fits LeBeau's scheme just like Ike. I don't like McFadden here, although I feel that when it comes September 11th, McFadden will unfortunately win the job.
Strong Safety, Troy Polamalu. The hair...is everywhere.
Free Safety, Ryan Clark. One of the most under-appreciated safety's in the league. Because he is so good, Troy can do what he does.
Rotation to include: William Gay. Bryant McFadden. Curtis Brown. Ryan Mundy.
Punter, Daniel Sepulveda. When this guy is healthy, he is one of the best.
Kicker, Shaun Suisham. Will get the job, let's see how he does throughout a full year at Heinz Field.
Punt Returner, Antonio Brown.
Kick Returners, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.
These are my thoughts and opinons on the team if I were the coach. What do you think? Where can they improve? Who do you want to start?