Time to break out the jerseys and grab my Terrible Towel, because the Pittsburgh Steelers are almost ready to open training camp and I’m excited for it. I love reading about all of the players arriving at camp, some in big fancy vehicles, some in golf carts (it’s happened).
I love reading the newspaper online about the battles that are taking place, how the roster is taking shape, who looks impressive, who is overweight and who the next superstar might be. This year is no different for the Steelers as they come in with high expectations internally but nationally, most “experts” predict they will finish no better than second and probably more likely third in the AFC North.
I dislike “experts” because most of them base their judgments off of last year’s team and how they performed. Most of the time, the “experts” will pick the teams to finish in the same spot they did from the year before. Don’t get me wrong, they try not to make it too obvious by predicting one team who was close the previous year to finally make the jump to No. 1 – or that dark horse team to win it all. When the latest predictions come in, take a look at where teams are projected to finish this year and compare it to last year’s team record and place they finish and you will get my point.
I’m an expert. I’m an expert fan and I’m very knowledgeable about my team. Where I may differ from other fans is my ability to judge the team based on what they truly are. The Steelers were 8-8 last year and it was very disappointing. Will they finish 8-8 this year, 9-7, 6-10? There are so many factors that go into each season and the success of each, so it’s difficult (but fun) to predict a final record.
As it stands today, I’d say the Steelers are about a 9-7 team. I believe their defense, if it remains healthy, is good enough to hold most teams to 17 points or under. I believe the offense, if it remains healthy, is good enough to score more than 17 points each game. This is where week-to-week factors come into play. Let’s say the Steelers are 100 percent healthy and the Patriots are 100 percent healthy going head to head, who wins between the two teams? It could be 5-5 if they played 10 times against each other.
Has Baltimore really gotten that much stronger from a 10-6 finish that all the “experts” say they will win the AFC North? Has Cincinnati? Has Cleveland? (Forget Cleveland.) New England could go into the season as the favorite by “experts” to win the Super Bowl. Then Game 1 and Tom Brady is lost for the season.
Are the Patriots still the predicted winner? Not a chance. When predicting a season, you have to factor in everything. The teams’ strengths, the teams’ ability to score, the teams’ ability to stop the scoring against them, the teams’ health situation and so many other things go into it. So you have to go by the only thing you can: assumption. You can assume a team will stay healthy enough all year and compete based on the talent they have on the team plus their strength of schedule.
About the only real determining factor for a team is the depth of its roster. A lot of teams have that star running back, quarterback and solid offensive line to block or protect. What if one player goes down, can that player be replaced and the production remain? How about two players? Three?
Steelers fans know this all too often when it comes to the health of the team. QB Ben Roethlisberger has scared us so many times now, it’s become a yearly question: when and how will Ben get hurt this year? The offensive line has been moved around so much; the Steelers’ left tackle this year was the starting right tackle last year. Depth is a huge key to a team’s overall success because injuries are going to happen. You must have guys who can step in and hold the fort down until the injured player comes back.
This season, the Steelers are starting off fairly healthy, aside from Mike Adams being stabbed but should be OK. Ben just had minor surgery to his knee but he seems to be fine. Troy seems to be fine. These are some of the biggest questions with the Steelers.
Can they stay healthy enough through a 16-game schedule and the playoffs to make it to the Super Bowl? They surely have the talent to make it to the Super Bowl but how is their depth? Another article will be coming just before training camp about all the battles to be won during the preseason. Some of the “experts” will start weighing on their predictions for the season and all the fans will be gearing up for a great ride, hopefully.
Everything depends on too many circumstances to truly know, but what we do know is it’s going to be a lot of fun!