As kickoff approaches, it is clear that the Pittsburgh Steelers will be looking to both open the 2012 campaign on a high note and to avenge the disappointing playoff loss to the Denver Broncos in the 2011 playoffs. Of course, no one can say how this game will turn out, but one thing is certain, it should be an interesting match-up, with some intriguing storylines on both sides.Todd Haley’s offense really look like? Will the Steelers aging and beat-up defense be able to stand tall against Peyton Manning? Will Manning be the same quarterback as he was prior to the neck injury? These are just three of many that will be on display.
On offense, the Steelers may have a new coach and a new philosophy, but at the heart of it all is Pro Bowl quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger is solid, and should have a chance in this new attack to put up career numbers in 2012 and take the offense to a higher level. Unfortunately, the entire offensive package has not yet been unveiled and there will be questions until it happens. This is one area to watch, as the team needs Roethlisberger to win against the Broncos and beyond.
Along those lines, two areas to close pay attention to are the offensive line and running back situation. The starting offensive line looks to be improved even without first-round selection David DeCastro who is out with a knee injury. New left guard, Willie Colon will be making his regular season debut at the position, but by all accounts, he was one of the highlights of training camp and looks natural inside. Ironically, the addition of Colon became the major upgrade this offseason, as once DeCastro went down, none of the other rookies were ready to step in to galvanize the offensive line.
For the Steelers to win, this group of tackles Max Starks and Marcus Gilbert, guards Colon and Ramon Foster and center Maurkice Pouncey must play well and both protect Roethlisberger and open running lanes. Unfortunately, at this point, who will be carrying the ball may be more of a question mark.
In what looked like it would be Isaac Redman’s job to lose at the beginning of preseason, injuries popped up and now his availability is in question. However, the Steelers got a surprise this week when former starter Rashard Mendenhall returned to practice and worked to a point where he could see action. For Mendenhall, this could mark an incredible recovery from an ACL injury, and a huge boost for the team. However, his availability and effectiveness are still in up in the air at this point.
If they cannot go or are limited, running backs Jonathan Dwyer and Chris Rainey will be forced to carry the majority of the load. Yes, both were camp sensations, but there is some worry with Rainey, whose diminutive size, will prevent him from carrying a large workload.
Wide receivers Mike Wallace will make his season debut and it would not be a surprised to see him get some action early to stretch the field. Antonio Brown, Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders will look to continue to get comfortable on offense and build upon the success they enjoyed in the preseason.
Defensively, the Steelers will be challenged by the new offense being led by Manning and his cerebral approach to the game. Another issue for the team will be health and how the thin air in Denver will affect depth. One player to continue to watch is nose tackle Steve McClendon, who had a dominating preseason. His development on the interior of the defensive line has been one of the most important stories of to come out of training camp and should allow Casey Hampton to stay fresh throughout this game and the season.
With Ziggy Hood, Brett Keisel, Cameron Hayward, Al Woods and Hampton, the defensive line should be able to keep a rotation, something that did not happen during the playoff loss where the team lost two defenders to injury and were left with three defensive linemen for the majority of the second half.
One of the big stories of the week came from the linebacker position, where Pro Bowl outside linebacker James Harrison is still recovering from minor knee surgery and may not be available week one. With inside linebacker Stevenson Sylvester ruled out and Jason Worilds still rounding into shape, the team will likely turn to Chris Carter opposite of LaMarr Woodley. Depth will be a huge issue with veteran Brandon Johnson and undrafted rookie Adrian Robinson the only reserves available.
The battle between Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen was fun to watch during preseason. Both players had solid camps and could solidify the fort opposite Ike Taylor. Who will start? Honestly, it does not matter as both look to play big minutes against Manning and the Broncos. With Troy Polamalu in place, the team will actually be without the services of Ryan Clark against the Broncos, as head coach Mike Tomlin will not subject Clark to the risks of complications from his sickle cell trait. In his absence, backup safety Ryan Mundy will again start at free safety against the Denver Broncos. However, there is a big difference this season in what will be expected from his performance. Unlike last season, when they took on a Broncos team led by Tim Tebow in the playoffs, this team will look very different.
Special teams is always at the forefront of games and again could be huge in the outcome. In the return game, Rainey was electrifying at times during preseason and will look to make an impact. The biggest change on special teams came when the Steelers fired Special Teams coach Al Everest midway through training camp.
- Be sure to "like" Steelers 101 on Facebook and to follow Steelers 101 on Twitter
- Text "oneteam" to 20222 to donate $10 to the One Team for the Lights charity initiative.
- Be sure to “like” Sports Media 101 on Facebook and to follow Sports Media 101 on Twitter
Related VideosReturning Soon!!!!
No related posts.