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2014 PITTSBURGH STEELERS FOOTBALL PREVIEW

July 28, 2014
INDIANA SPORTS PAGE



2014 PITTSBURGH STEELERS FOOTBALL PREVIEW 

Pittsburgh Steelers (1977 - Pres)

2014 RECORD: 8-8 

HEAD COACH: MIKE TOMLIN…71-41 @ PITTSBURGH 

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: TODD HALEY 

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: DICK LEBEAU 

OFFENSE PPG: 23.7 

RUSHING: 86.4 

PASSING: 251.1 

TOTAL OFFENSE: 337.5 

DEFENSE PPG: 23.1 

RUSHING: 115.6 

PASSING: 222.1 

TOTAL DEFENSE: 337.6 

INTERCEPTIONS: 10 

SACKS: 34.0

 Pittsburgh Steelers (1968 - Pres)

Missing the playoffs isn’t something the Steelers and their fans are used to. That’s why the thought of missing the post-season again hasn’t happened since 1998-2000 seasons. There is a problem though….the Steelers don’t have enough weapons to make the playoffs. 

QB Ben Roethlisberger is still playing well at 32 and will call his own plays again in 2014 but will need reinforcements. “Big Ben” threw for 4,261 yards and 28 TD’s but also threw 14 INT’s. Pittsburgh’s offense played much better in the second half of 2013 (28.2 PPG in the last nine games) and that is reason for hope.

Roethlisberger saw Pittsburgh’s rushing attack rank 27th overall in the NFL averaging only 86.4 yards per game. Le’Veon Bell missed several games with a foot injury and averaged only 3.5 yards per carry. When healthy, Bell brings power to the backfield and can catch the ball out of the backfield. LeGarrette Blount and rookie Dri Archer will also see time in the Steelers backfield. 

Roethlisberger will have Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown back after having an excellent 2013 campaign (110 receptions, 1,499 yards, 8 TD’s). Joining Brown will be Markus Wheaton, rookie Martavis Bryant and TE Heath Miller as Pittsburgh’s main threats. Wheaton is coming off a hand injury and Bryant (Clemson) gives Pittsburgh a big, fast receiver they have been lacking. The Steelers lost Jerricho Cotchery to free-agency (Carolina). 

The offensive line will be a strength with all five starters back including Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey. Pouncey missed most of the season after tearing the ACL in his knee. Joining Pouncey will be LT Kelvin Beachum, LG Ramon Foster, RG David DeCastro and RT Marcus Gilbert.  

Pittsburgh’s defense will be younger in 2014 after struggling last season to stop the run and their inability to get to the opposing QB. SS Troy Polamalu and CB Ike Taylor will be the only two contributors over 30. DC Dick LeBeau will count on OLB Jason Worilds who came into his own last season. OLB Jarvis Jones will need a break-out season after managing only one sack in eight starts. Jones was Pittsburgh’s number one draft pick in 2013. Rookie Ryan Shazier (Ohio State) will get the start inside along with veteran Lawrence Timmons.  

Joining Polamalu and Taylor will be former Carolina FS Mike Mitchell. Mitchell had an excellent season for the Panthers in 2013 before signing with the Steelers. Mitchell makes Pittsburgh much younger and faster in the secondary. Taylor lost his starting job to Cortez Allen after opposing teams went after the veteran most of last season.  

The DL will be led by DE Cameron Heyward who had five sacks in 2013. Heyward led the Steelers in QB pressures and played well against the run. Also on the line will be NT Steve McLendon, DE Cam Thomas, rookies Daniel McCullers and Stephon Tuitt. Pittsburgh will have troubles up front because of the lack of depth. 

There must be a sense of urgency for the Steelers because time is running out on Roethlisberger, Polamalu and Taylor. If the offense can stay healthy and the defense makes strides, there is a chance they can make the playoffs. If not, another average season is coming and the Steelers will have an early vacation. 

Pittsburgh Steelers (1968 - Pres)

2014 Steelers Draft: 

RYAN SHAZIER
6-1  237  ILB  Ohio State
How He Fits In: This is the way Coach Mike Tomlin explained it almost immediately after the pick: “He is a guy who will be on his feet, making sideline-to-sideline tackles associated with today’s football. What we needed was a defensive playmaker. He fits the bill in that regard. Not only in terms of his skill-set, but in terms of what he did there on the field. Highly productive football player, over 100 tackles the last two years. He gets after the quarterback, he has rushed the passer, and he makes plays in coverage as well. That’s what he is, he’s a defensive playmaker. Bigger than anything, bigger than any position needs, what we needed was a defensive playmaker.” It doesn’t sound as though Shazier is going to be spoon-fed the defense and allowed to come along slowly. There will be expectations for him to get onto the field as a rookie, and more than just that, expectations to make plays as a rookie that positively impact games.

STEPHON TUITT
6-5  303  DE  Notre Dame
How He Fits In: Leading up to the draft, defensive end was a need on two different levels: an injection of top-end talent was necessary as was an injection of sheer numbers because of the unsettled situation of the overall depth. Tuitt will celebrate his 21st birthday on May 23, and despite being so young he already has logged significant playing time at a major college program. Prior to the draft, the team had seven defensive linemen on its roster, and only Steve McLendon and Cam Heyward had started games for the Steelers. Cam Thomas had been added as a veteran free agent, but the rest of the names on the depth chart – Al Lapuaho, Brian Arnfelt, Nick Williams, Hebron Fangupo – have to be characterized as potential instead of production. Once upon a time, when the Steelers had Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, and either Kimo von Oelhoffen or Brett Keisel starting along the defensive line, rookies had the luxury of time to learn before being thrown onto the field. Those guys are gone. That era is over. Tuitt gets no red-shirt season.

DRI ARCHER
5-8  173  RB/WR  Kent
How He Fits In: Sort of the offensive version of Ryan Shazier in one respect, Archer was picked to be an offensive playmaker. Run it, catch it, return it. Doesn’t really matter, especially if you’re lining up for an extra point on the ensuing snap. The Steelers made a couple of previous attempts at filling the role of offensive playmaker, first with Chris Rainey and then with LaRod Stephens-Howling, but neither of those moves panned out as hoped. Archer is faster than either of those other guys, and he’s also the best receiver of the three, with receiver being defined as a player who can run routes and catch passes, as opposed to someone who serves primarily as a check-down option. The Steelers are smart enough not to expect a 173-pound person to serve constantly as Ben Roethlisberger’s bodyguard on pass plays, but Archer – who did 20 repetitions on the bench press at the Combine – will have to show sufficient toughness and have the willingness to put his body in between the pass rush and his quarterback when it’s required. His rookie season will be measured on touches and what he does with them, as opposed to starts.

 

MARTAVIS BRYANT
6-4  211  WR
How He Fits In: There are some positions where being designated a starter is significant in that it genuinely dictates playing time. Other positions, not so much. Receiver is one of those not-so-much positions, what with the way the game is played at the NFL level. Whether Martavis Bryant is a starting wide receiver for the Steelers in 2014 is irrelevant, just as it was irrelevant for Antonio Brown during the 2011 season when he caught 69 passes for 1,108 yards despite starting only three of the 16 games. Bryant has a chance to become Ben Roethlisberger’s tallest target since Plaxico Burress, and he can expect the Steelers to give him every opportunity to take ownership of what that role turned into with Burress. Just as improving their takeaway total on defense is a goal for 2014, so is improving upon their red zone efficiency, which was in the bottom half of the NFL last year. This is why Bryant was drafted, to help them in that area of the field by providing Roethlisberger with an option unique to the others at his disposal.

SHAQUILLE RICHARDSON
6-0  194  CB  Arizona
How He Fits In: The Steelers entered this draft with a need at cornerback that appeared to be similar to their need along the defensive line, that being a combination of more top-end talent as well as adding overall numbers. But the Steelers have said the way the picking progressed they really didn’t have much of an opportunity to address this area in the early rounds. The Steelers had drafted six cornerbacks in the middle rounds over the last five drafts, and the reason their depth chart is in its current state is because Cortez Allen is the only one left. Allen, Ike Taylor, and William Gay are the guys with the starting experience, and Richardson will be in the mix for a roster spot with Brice McCain, Antwon Blake, Isaiah Green, and Devin Smith. All of those guys have more NFL experience than Richardson, even if it’s just a training camp’s worth, but none of them entered the league as a higher draft pick.

WESLEY JOHNSON
6-5  297  OL  Vanderbilt
How He Fits In: For the first time in the recent past, the Steelers will go into a training camp with some established depth along the offensive line. They will bring eight offensive linemen to camp who have starting experience in the NFL, and if Fernando Velasco re-signs as his rehabilitation from Achilles surgery progresses, that would make nine. There is a chance Johnson could unseat one of these veterans during the preseason, just as there is a chance a series of injuries could clear a path for him. But there would be nothing wrong with Johnson spending a season on the practice squad to learn the NFL game from Mike Munchak while honing his technique and improving his strength. Then in 2015 Johnson could come to training camp with an eye on a much bigger prize, and really, that’s the way depth is built in the NFL these days.

JORDAN ZUMWALT  6-4  235  ILB  UCLA
How He Fits In: Special teams. If Zumwalt wants a spot on the team’s 53-man roster to open this season, he had best become one of Danny Smith’s core special teams contributors right away. He will be joining a group of inside linebackers that includes veterans Lawrence Timmons and Arthur Moats, along with second-year pros Vince Williams and Terence Garvin, plus Sean Spence, and then there’s No. 1 pick Ryan Shazier. Even if Moats is considered an outside linebacker for the purposes of a depth chart, there seem to be too many players right now between Zumwalt and an immediate role on defense. That leaves special teams, and there is a definite need there.

DANIEL McCULLERS
6-7  352  NT  Tennessee
How He Fits In: Alameda Ta’amu couldn’t do it, and now he’s gone. Hebron Fangupo is still around, but he didn’t record a single tackle in any of the four games he played in 2013. There is a job opening on this team for a big, space-eating, disruptive nose tackle, or as General Manager Kevin Colbert termed it, “an obstruction.” McCullers has the size to fit the job description, but if he’s to succeed he will have to manage his size because there is such a thing as “too big.” He will be given every opportunity to show what he can do, and if McCullers can prove himself there is no one on the roster better suited to the job.

ROB BLANCHFLOWER
6-4  256  TE  Massachusetts
How He Fits In: When Matt Spaeth injured his foot during training camp last summer, the Steelers discovered they didn’t have another tight end who could give them the in-line blocking their running game needs for it to be successful. Can Blanchflower give the Steelers what Spaeth does? He will be competing with four veteran tight ends during training camp for what usually are three roster spots, and Blanchflower doesn’t figure to make enough of an impression with his receiving skills to earn one of those. It will be during those TE-OLB blocking competitions where Blanchflower will show whether he belongs in the NFL as a rookie. Or if he has enough promise to get a red-shirt season as a member of the practice squad.

 Pittsburgh Steelers (2002 - Pres)

2014 schedule: 

The Steelers will play five nationally televised primetime games, it was announced tonight when the NFL released its 2014 regular season schedule.


The Steelers will play AFC North Division rival, the Baltimore Ravens, in two primetime games, including the first-ever CBS Sports Thursday night game in Week 2 on Sept. 11 at M&T Bank Stadium at 8:25 p.m. Pittsburgh will host the Ravens in Week 9 at Heinz Field on Sunday Night Football (NBC) with kickoff set for 8:30 p.m.


Pittsburgh’s three other nationally televised primetime games include a Week 7 (Oct. 20) matchup versus the Houston Texans at Heinz Field on Monday Night Football (ESPN, 8:30 p.m.). The Steelers play at the Carolina Panthers in Week 3 (Sept. 21) on Sunday Night Football (NBC, 8:30 p.m.) and also travel to Tennessee for a matchup against the Titans on Monday Night Football (ESPN, 8:30 p.m.) in Week 11 (Nov. 17).


“Our 2014 schedule is highlighted by two national televised games against the Ravens as well as another nationally televised game at Heinz Field in Week 7 versus the Houston Texans,” Steelers President Art Rooney II said. “We are excited about playing five primetime games as it will give our fans around the world the opportunity to see us play. This season marks the 40th anniversary of our Super Bowl IX victory and we look forward to celebrating that milestone during our home schedule.”


The Steelers will be playing two Monday Night Football contests for the first time since 2008. For the second consecutive year, Pittsburgh will open its season at Heinz Field, this time with a 1 p.m. game against divisional rival, the Cleveland Browns.


The Steelers’ bye week will be on Nov. 23 (Week 12).


For the first time, flexible scheduling may be applied in Weeks 5-10. During that period, flexible scheduling can be used in no more than two weeks by shifting a Sunday afternoon game into primetime and moving the Sunday night game to an afternoon start time. Also, for the first time, a select number of games are being “cross-flexed,” moving between CBS and FOX to bring potentially under-distributed games to wider audiences.

“Flexible scheduling” will be used in Weeks 11-17 as it has been in recent years. In Weeks 11-16, the schedule lists the games tentatively set for Sunday Night Football on NBC. Only Sunday afternoon games are eligible to be moved to Sunday night, in which case the tentatively scheduled Sunday night game would be moved to an afternoon start time. Flexible scheduling will not be applied to games airing on Thursday, Saturday or Monday nights.


A flexible scheduling move would be announced at least 12 days before the game. For Week 17, the Sunday night game will be announced no later than six days prior to December 28. The schedule does not list a Sunday night game in Week 17, but an afternoon game with playoff implications will be moved to that time slot. Flexible scheduling ensures quality matchups in all Sunday time slots in those weeks and gives “surprise” teams a chance to play their way into primetime.


Thursday Night Football games this upcoming season will air on CBS and the NFL Network. CBS will televise eight early season games that will also be simulcast on the NFL Network. The NFL Network will also televise eight late season contests as the postseason approaches. The 16-game slate will include 14 games on Thursday nights and two late-season games on Saturday. All broadcasts will feature CBS Sports announcers along with NFL Network hosts and analysts.  


Fans can listen to every Steelers game throughout the preseason and the regular season on the Steelers Radio Network on WDVE-FM (102.5) and WBGG-AM (970).

 

2014 ROSTER:

Active

#NamePos.Ht.Wt.AgeExp.College
76 Adams, Mike OT 6-7 323 24 3 Ohio State
28 Allen, Cortez CB 6-1 196 25 4 The Citadel
20 Allen, Will S 6-1 200 32 11 Ohio State
13 Archer, Dri WR/RB 5-8 173 22 R Kent State
69 Arnfelt, Brian DE 6-4 298 24 2 Northwestern
68 Beachum, Kelvin T/G 6-3 303 25 3 SMU
26 Bell, Le'Veon RB 6-1 244 22 2 Michigan State
41 Blake, Antwon CB 5-9 198 23 3 Texas-El Paso
87 Blanchflower, Rob TE 6-4 256 24 R Massachusetts
27 Blount, LeGarrette RB 6-0 250 27 5 Oregon
84 Brown, Antonio WR 5-10 186 26 5 Central Michigan
79 Browning, Bryant G 6-4 325 26 1 Ohio State
15 Brown, Justin WR 6-3 209 23 1 Oklahoma
10 Bryant, Martavis WR 6-4 211 22 R Clemson
54 Carter, Chris LB 6-1 248 25 4 Fresno State
88 Coale, Danny WR 6-0 187 26 1 Virginia Tech
42 Dangerfield, Jordan S 5-11 200 23 1 Towson
45 Davis, Bryce TE/LS 6-3 245 25 1 Central Oklahoma
66 DeCastro, David G 6-5 316 24 3 Stanford
61 Elkins, Chris OL 6-4 300 22 R Youngstown State
92 Fangupo, Hebron DT 6-0 324 29 2 Brigham Young
73 Foster, Ramon G 6-6 325 28 6 Tennessee
57 Garvin, Terence LB 6-3 221 23 2 West Virginia
22 Gay, William CB 5-10 190 29 8 Louisville
77 Gilbert, Marcus T 6-6 330 26 4 Florida
21 Golden, Robert S 5-11 202 23 3 Arizona
18 Goodwin, C.J. WR 6-3 190 24 R California University (PA)
5 Gradkowski, Bruce QB 6-1 220 31 9 Toledo
39 Green, Isaiah CB 5-10 180 24 2 Fresno State
49 Hall, Jordan RB 5-9 191 23 R Ohio State
79 Hemer, Ethan DE 6-6 285 23 R Wisconsin
85 Heyward-Bey, Darrius WR 6-2 219 27 6 Maryland
97 Heyward, Cameron DE 6-5 288 25 4 Ohio State
74 Hubbard, Chris G 6-4 286 23 1 UAB
67 Johnson, Wesley OL 6-5 297 23 R Vanderbilt
46 Johnson, Will FB 6-2 238 25 3 West Virginia
34 Jones, Howard LB 6-4 238 24 R Shepherd
95 Jones, Jarvis LB 6-2 245 24 2 Georgia
3 Jones, Landry QB 6-3 221 25 2 Oklahoma
8 Kay, Brendon QB 6-4 228 24 R Cincinnati
65 Lapuaho, Al DT 6-2 301 22 1 Utah State
71 Mauro, Josh DE 6-6 282 23 R Stanford
30 Maysonet, Miguel RB 5-10 210 24 1 Stony Brook
25 McCain, Brice CB 5-9 187 27 6 Utah
62 McCray, Emmanuel OL 6-5 316 23 R Mississippi
74 McCullers, Daniel DL 6-7 352 21 R Tennessee
90 McLendon, Steve NT 6-4 320 28 5 Troy
83 Miller, Heath TE 6-5 256 31 10 Virginia
55 Moats, Arthur LB 6-2 250 26 5 James Madison
45 Molls, Dan LB 6-0 238 23 1 Toledo
19 Moore, Kashif WR 5-9 180 25 1 Connecticut
16 Moore, Lance WR 5-9 190 30 9 Toledo
14 Moye, Derek WR 6-5 210 25 2 Penn State
82 Palmer, Michael TE 6-5 252 26 5 Clemson
81 Paulson, David TE 6-4 246 25 3 Oregon
62 Philon, Roy DT 6-3 291 23 R Louisville
4 Podlesh, Adam P 5-11 200 30 8 Maryland
43 Polamalu, Troy S 5-10 207 33 12 USC
38 Poole, Tauren RB 5-10 210 24 2 Tennessee
53 Pouncey, Maurkice C 6-4 304 25 5 Florida
31 Richardson, Shaquille CB 6-0 194 22 R Arizona
7 Roethlisberger, Ben QB 6-5 241 32 11 Miami (Ohio)
17 Sampson, Lanear WR 5-11 205 24 1 Baylor
50 Shazier, Ryan LB 6-1 237 21 R Ohio State
65 Simmons, Will G 6-5 342 23 R East Carolina
30 Smith, Devin CB 5-11 186 23 1 Wisconsin
71 Snow, David C/G 6-4 303 24 2 Texas
49 So'oto, Vic LB 6-3 263 26 3 Brigham Young
89 Spaeth, Matt TE 6-7 260 30 8 Minnesota
51 Spence, Sean LB 5-11 231 24 3 Miami
6 Suisham, Shaun K 6-0 200 32 10 Bowling Green
24 Taylor, Ike CB 6-2 195 34 12 Louisiana-Lafayette
96 Thomas, Cam DT 6-4 330 27 5 North Carolina
29 Thomas, Shamarko S 5-9 217 23 2 Syracuse
94 Timmons, Lawrence LB 6-1 234 28 8 Florida State
91 Tuitt, Stephon DE 6-5 303 21 R Notre Dame
35 Ventrone, Ross S 5-8 195 27 2 Villanova
72 Wallace, Cody C/G 6-4 300 29 5 Texas A&M
60 Warren, Greg LS 6-3 252 32 10 North Carolina
80 Waters, Eric TE 6-5 245 22 R Missouri
11 Wheaton, Markus WR 5-11 182 23 2 Oregon State
78 Whimper, Guy T 6-5 315 31 9 East Carolina
67 Williams, Nick DE 6-4 309 24 2 Samford
98 Williams, Vince LB 6-1 250 24 2 Florida State
48 Wilson, Kion LB 6-0 230 27 4 South Florida
9 Wing, Brad P 6-3 205 23 1 LSU
93 Worilds, Jason LB 6-2 262 26 5 Virginia Tech
56 Zumwalt, Jordan LB 6-4 235 22 R UCLA

Active/Physically Unable to Perform

#NamePos.Ht.Wt.AgeExp.College
33 Alexander, Alvester RB 5-11 213 23 1 Wyoming
23 Mitchell, Mike S 6-0 210 27 6 Ohio



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