Back to back 8-8 seasons and consecutive years of watching the playoffs from the couch has prompted many offseason changes for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Free agency added seven new faces to the roster but the Steelers also let nine of their own free agents leave for other teams. The source of the franchise’s mediocrity and resulting offseason moves can be justified by the following 2013 failures:
1. SLOW RUNNING
2013 Total Rushing YPG Rank: No. 27
The Steelers were very aggressive in addressing their rushing game this off-season. They fired offensive line coach Jack Bicknell and upgraded by nabbing former Titans head coach Mike Munchak to fill the position. Munchak will try to boost the progress of a young and talented offensive line.
The Steelers also added running backs coach James Saxon, formerly of the Vikings. He will go to work with Steelers rookie of the year Le’Veon Bell. Bell ran for 860 yards and rumbled for eight touchdowns after missing the first three games of the season with injuries.
Mike Tomlin deftly coerced coveted free agent LeGarette Blount to help Bell reignite the running game in Pittsburgh. Blount averaged 5.0 yards per carry as part of the New England Patriots’ running back-by-committee system. He racked up almost as many touchdowns as Bell (7) in his limited opportunities.
2. HOLEY RUN DEFENSE
2013 Run Defense Rank: No. 21
The Steelers lost a starter (Brett Keisel), a former first-rounder (Ziggy Hood), and their top backup (Al Woods) from their below-average defensive line. They have added only one player, former Charger Cam Thomas, to replenish the losses. They will need the draft to reset and return to their once-vaunted run defense.
3. SAD SACK OF SHAME
2013 Defensive Sack Rank: No. 25 (34 sacks)
To boost production, the Steelers cut Woodley and tagged Worilds, who led the Steelers in sacks (8). The Steelers brought in former Bills linebacker Arthur Moats to be a potential rotation player; however, the best chance to increase their sacks in the upcoming season is the advancement of their 2013 first round pick, Jarvis Jones.
Drafting another first round OLB is unlikely yet the Steelers won’t hesitate to add some competition. After all, Worilds is currently slated to be a free agent next season.
4. NOT SO SPECIAL TEAMS
2013 Mat McBriar Punting Average Rank: No. 33 (41.3 yd)
2013 Zoltan Mesko Punting Average Rank: No. 31 (42.5 yd)
2013 Kick Return YPG Rank: No. 15 (0 TDs)
The Steelers went through three punters and three primary kick returners in 2013. And to no one’s surprise, none of them will be in a Steelers uniform in this upcoming season.
Former LSU star punter Brad Wing was signed to a futures contract and the left-footed problem child will get a shot to reform and improve the Steelers dismal special teams impact. Wing was the considered the best punter in the 2013 class yet went undrafted. He was cut in training camp by Philadelphia.
The Steelers kick returners were slooooowwww but steady last year. Fans didn’t have to pray over their rosaries every time their main returner Felix Jones fielded a kick.
Unfortunately, they also got just as much viewing excitement from a touchback. Look for the Steelers to spend some of their nine draft picks on special teams.