Pittsburgh Steelers hope a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

Let’s review the Steelers’ offseason after a boorish 2012 season which landed the Steelers in third place in the AFC North for the first time since 2009. The team lost starters at wide receiver, running back, nose tackle, tight end, kick returner and nearly losing new No. 2 receiver Emmanuel Sanders thanks to a risky lowball contract tender that lost $700,000 in salary-cap space.

It’s got many believing the Steelers’ offseason losses are already weighing heavily on their 2013 season. But which of these five starters are worth crying over?

Is it tears of frustration for the talented former No. 1 pick Rashard Mendenhall’s departure? While recovering quickly from late 2011 ACL surgery, Mendenhall’s final season in Pittsburgh could not rehab his image with coaches and management (and fans) and that’s even if he becomes the greatest Cardinal running back in history.

Dec 30, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Plaxico Burress (80) celebrates a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns during the second half of the game at Heinz Field. The Steelers won the game, 24-10. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Wallace was a weapon that played with the safety lock in 2012. He never took plays off yet he was clearly not in focus. Teammates Will Allen and Antonio Brown have both hinted that Wallace’s concentration was on the future, not the football. His 2012 season was plagued with ill-timed drops and fumbles which made the Steelers lose. Now he is in Miami where we will enjoy watching him crush New England twice a year.

The Steelers did gamble their pennies to soften the loss by ponying up for Emmanuel Sanders, signing him away from the rival Patriots. It was a risk considering Sanders and Wallace were the “dropsy twins” last season. Roethlisberger was robbed of a rich fantasy football 2012 season thanks to the hands team of Wallace and Sanders.

But Sanders understands Todd Haley’s system the best – and Roethlisberger had no problems finding Sanders in their first season in the offense. Sanders was consistently open when he fumbled or dropped the ball. The Steelers front office still listened to their star quarterback and placed their bets on Sanders.

The Steelers also signed another safety net for Roethlisberger, keeping 6-foot-5 Plaxico Burress one more season. Haley needs to illustrate his genius by shifting “Miller time” to the tall and reliable Plaxico Burress.

Before blowing up his knee in Week 16, Miller had 71 receptions and a career high 861 yards and eight touchdowns. Old or not, Burress played well in rare opportunities last year. He is still a strong endzone receiver and has better hands than any Steeler tight end not currently suffering from an ACL tear.

The jury is still out on the defense’s offseason losses.

We all thought James Harrison was a Steeler for life. There is no draft pick that can outplay him and his replacement Woirlds has not shown any consistency. Woirlds will get a draft-pick competitor but he has shown a quick burst to the ball in his limited starts. He is not the brawler that Harrison was yet can deliver big hits from all directions on the field.Steve McClendon will take over as starting nose tackle to replace the Big Snack, Casey Hampton.  The undrafted McClendon got a three-year contract this week after a brief RFA flirtation with the Green Bay Packers. McClendon is a powerful lineman with a nose for the ball and the quickness to get to it. He’s a different player than the immovable turtle that is Hampton.

With new starters McClendon and Worilds to go along with Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood, Lawrence Timmons, Troy Polamalu and Cameron Heyward, LeBeau’s schemes have additional levity. Without Harrison disrupting the passer, creative opportunities are the Steelers’ best chance to return to the top.

Topics: Emmanuel Sanders, James Harrison, Jason Woirlds, Pittsburgh Steelers, Plaxico Burress

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  • Luster

    Wow — you really make some interesting and informative reads. I wonder — do you think Ben is getting the old sit down talk in terms of him only seeming to see Sanders and missing opportunities across the middle of the field. I mean Ben had more than a couple ridiculous throws for interceptions, missed conversions and big gains

  • Jeff Johnson

    I hope the Patriots crush Wallace twice a year