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Behind Enemy Lines: Pittsburgh Steelers

Major props to this man.  I hate his team but have a tremendous amount of respect for him.
Major props to this man. I hate his team but have a tremendous amount of respect for him.

2011 Recap: The Steelers had another excellent year in 2011, finishing 12-4 and in second place to the Baltimore Ravens. Due to the NFL's quirky poor logic, they had to go on the road to play the Denver Tebows. Everyone knows how that ended. Still it was a good year for the team in black and gold. Ben Roethlisberger threw for the ninth-most yards and posted the tenth-best passer rating. I still hate him.

Offseason Review: There are two things that jump out to me here. Mike Wallace still hasn't signed his RFA tender. Antonio Brown just received a big deal from Pittsburgh and he's a good player...but he's not Mike Wallace. I'm interested to see how Wallace's career plays out. We've seen him develop into a playmaking wideout. Unfortunately for him a lot of that production is a result of speed, and that doesn't always lead to great long term success. Will he play this year? Will he be productive? Think of your fantasy owners Mike, and get to camp...I'd like to make the playoffs one year.

In a coaching move the team let offensive coordinator Bruce Arians leave for Indy. From my limited knowledge of the situation, he didn't seem well-liked by the fans but I was impressed with his results. The team got away from their ground and pound style in favour of a passing attack. Todd Haley is the incoming offensive coordinator. I think KSK gives a pretty good summary here.

Hit the jump for the draft review, player spotlights and some inside info from Neil Coolong of BTSC.

Draft Review: I'm going to keep this very short. It hurts me deeply that David DeCastro is a Pittsburgh Steeler. I try not to think about it. The rest of the draft doesn't elicit nearly as much emotion. I'm not too worried about Mike Adams but I like the acquisition of Sean Spence in the third round. Dick LeBeau will have some fun with him.

Most Dangerous Player to the Titans: LaMarr Woodley frightens me. He has become a force in Pittsburgh's unique 3-4 defense.

Overrated Player: Ben Roethlisberger. Hear me out on this one. I'll try to separate out my hate for him and what I think of his game. He's a very good quarterback. Solid. Above average. He's even made some big time plays to bring in Lombardi trophies. I'm not going to knock him for that. I just don't think he's elite. My argument is not that he's bad, just that he's not in that top level club yet. He is still a top 10 quarterback.

Underrated Player: I like Heath Miller a lot. He's not a Gronkowski or Graham but he's a good tight end for the system. Solid blocker and decent passing option.

Insider Info: Here's what Neil Coolong of Behind the Steel Curtain had to say:

The last two times the Titans and Steelers have squared off (Week 5 in 2011 and Week 2 in 2010), Pittsburgh's defense has suffocated Tennessee's offense.

Most notably, the Steelers forced seven turnovers in a 19-11 win in 2010 and QB Ben Roethlisberger threw five touchdowns in a 38-17 win in 2011.

Obviously, times change. The Titans will likely benefit more than most other teams in the NFL with a full offseason schedule, and either the year of work QB Matt Hasselbeck now has with this offense (or Jake Locker's full offseason of studying) will benefit what was already a decent offense in 2011.

While the possible suspension of WR Kenny Britt looms large, Tennessee's Week 6 match-up with the Steelers might be right in time for him to return and break onto the scene (assuming he is suspended). Either way, Britt is one of the more formidable offensive forces in the league and will be a difficult assignment for any defense.

It's a league of receivers, and the Titans have one of the best per-snap playmakers. Britt's involvement in this game could dictate the final score.

The Steelers, meanwhile, have a tough slate of AFC opponents this year, with Tennessee, Denver and Oakland on the road, but a new offense that will be built to utilize the depth the Steelers enjoy at their skill positions should improve a head-scratching 20.3 points per game (tied for 21st in the NFL). Despite the offensive short-coming, the Steelers were 12-4 last year, losing to three playoff teams (Baltimore twice, Houston and San Francisco). Look for the Steelers to stay north of double digits in wins and compete for a berth in the conference championship game.

My Thoughts: Mike Tomlin is a great coach and he'll have his squad ready for another run this year. Dick LeBeau returns again and his defense will continue to stump opponents. This team is well-built, well-coached and loaded with talent. Even with the Mike Wallace situation up in the air, this team will be darn good. I think the Steelers will be the class of their division.