Behind Enemy Lines: Pittsburgh Steelers

Justin K. Aller

The Titans go up against the rival Steelers in Week 1. We continue our preview of Tennessee's opponents with our first look at an out-of-division team.

2012 Recap: Mike Tomlin's crew got off to a rocky 2-3 start to the year before hitting their stride in Week 7 and reeling off four straight victories. That win streak would soon be followed by a dry spell as the Steelers were victorious in only one of their following five games. They ended the year with a victory against the Browns but their 8-8 record would not be enough to get them into the playoffs. Pittsburgh ended up third in their division behind the the Ravens and Bengals.

Free Agency Review: The Steelers are not usually big players in free agency and that trend continued this year. Former Arizona cornerback William Gay was the most notable name they brought in as the team looks to strengthen a deteriorating secondary. While not an incoming free agent, the team matched an offer sheet for WR Emmanuel Sanders and he will be set for an increased role this season. In 2012 Sanders started 7 games (played in 12) and notched 626 yards and a touchdown. The speedy receiver will help fill Mike Wallace's spot in the lineup. Wallace left for a monstrous contract from Miami. Wallace is great at stretching the field and breaking free for long touchdowns, but Sanders should be an adequate replacement at a cheaper cost.

Draft Review: The headliner of Pittsburgh's draft is OLB Jarvis Jones. Jones was a highly-touted prospect that dropped to 17th for a variety of reasons, perhaps the biggest one being injury concerns. There is no doubt that he can fit Dick LeBeau's Steeler scheme though and could make an impact early on (assuming he can stay on the field). The offensive side of the ball was targeted in the next two rounds with RB Le'Veon Bell and WR Markus Wheaton. Many fans and media were stunned when Landry Jones was chosen with their second fourth round pick (115th overall). His accuracy at Oklahoma was solid and he may end up as a good backup to Ben Roethlisberger.

Most Dangerous Player to the Titans: Roethlisberger is a challenge to tackle and if he's given time to stand in the pocket Sanders and Antonio Brown will be the recipients of several long touchdown passes. Pittsburgh has shifted back to a more ground-based offense under Todd Haley but Roethlisberger remains the engine of this offense.

Underrated Player: Lawrence Timmons is often overshadowed by LaMarr Woodley but the right inside linebacker is an important cog in LeBeau's 3-4 scheme. He's started every game for the past two years and finished this season with six sacks and three interceptions.

Overrated Player: Troy Polamalu is an aging former Pro Bowler that has battled injuries for several years. Polamalu was great in his prime and could reach that level again but his play suffered last season. In fairness to him he only played seven games due to injury but it might be time to replace his name when talking about the NFL's best safeties.

2013 Outlook: The Steelers posted back-to-back 12-4 records before dropping to 8-8 in 2012. The talent and depth on the roster seem to have slowly eroded and now Mike Tomlin is tasked with getting more out of less. A softer schedule has made things a little easier but even that might not be enough to put Pittsburgh back in the playoffs. Todd Haley will be going into his second season as offensive coordinator but his system is not a good fit for Ben Roethlisberger. A more conservative offense and a declining defense may hold this team out of the elimination round.

Prediction: 9-7

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