Friday, September 7, 2012

2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Offense Preview

The 2012 season is upon us and we are wrapping up our previews with a look at what to expect from your Pittsburgh Steelers. There has been quite a bit of roster turnover from last season. On offense, there are 5 men in the starting lineup that are different than the starters that took the field last year in Baltimore. On defense, there will be anywhere between 3 and 6 new starters, depending on how injuries play out. Today, we're going to take a look at the Steelers offense.

Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich, Charlie Batch

There was some media-driven speculation that Charlie Batch might not make the 53-man roster, but those rumblings were put to rest when Homestead Charlie had a fantastic game against Carolina. Having three veteran quarterbacks on our roster is a luxury - just ask anyone that had multiple quarterbacks get injured last year (Chicago, Houston, Kansas City, Indianapolis). Steelers quarterbacks were often in the line of fire in the Bruce Arians offense as he relied primarily on the five guys up front to block. From what we've seen, it looks like Haley is more willing to use backs and tight ends as additional blockers to give Ben more time. Ben has looked sharp in the preseason, and as the Haley playbook expands, we're looking for a big season out of 007. Ben's best drive was a two-minute no-huddle drive against the Bills where he absolutely picked them apart. Haley used the no huddle more in the preseason than Arians did all of last year. That should excite you.

Running Backs

Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, Rashard Mendenhall, Chris Rainey, Baron Batch

During the whole offseason, all the talk was about how Isaac Redman was the presumed starter this season. Redman has been slowed by a few preseason injuries but can still be the short-yardage pounder when needed. With just a few days before the opener, Rashard Mendenhall is now back in the conversation after having a stellar practice just 9 short months removed from tearing his ACL against Cleveland. Jonathan Dwyer had the best preseason of his career and showed both a burst, power, and the ability to run physical and challenge defenders. Chris Rainey might be the most electric back to wear a Steelers uniform since Eric Peagram. The Steelers have shown they want to get the ball in Rainey's hands any way they can - either in kick returns, on screen passes, or lining him up as a wide receiver.

Wide Receivers

Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery

I will challenge anyone that this is the best 1-4 receiving group in the league. The Steelers might now have the best group of receivers they've ever had. Even with Wallace's holdout, he should be ready to ball and the Ben-to-Wallace connection has consistently been one of the best big-play combos in the league. Antonio Brown emerged last season as one of the most clutch receivers in the league, hauling in a ton of third down receptions. Manny Sanders has battled through injuries in his first two seasons and he looks fully healthy heading into this year. Cotchery is a solid veteran that gives the Young Money crew a stabilizing presence. Any one of these four can beat you at any time, and Wallace, Brown and Sanders are absolute burners that are threats to take any pass they catch to the house.

Tight Ends

Heath Miller, Leonard Pope, David Paulson, Weslye Saunders

Heath is probably the most under-rated tight end in the league. He does it all, catching and blocking, and he does it well. Leonard Pope is a Haley favorite who has followed the coach from Arizona to Kansas City to Pittsburgh. Pope isn't spectacular, but he should be a solid number two. David Paulson was a bit of a surprise to make the roster, but the seventh-round pick provides a nice security blanket in the #3 TE/H-Back role. Weslye Saunders will serve a 4-game suspension to start the season for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug (according to Saunders on Twitter, it was Aderall, which is also used to treat ADHD).

Offensive Tackle

Max Starks, Marcus Gilbert, Mike Adams

The Offensive Tackle position has been somewhat of a revolving door (both literally when Jonathan Scott manned the position, and figuratively with all the bodies that have run in and out). Scott is (thankfully) gone and in his place is rookie Mike Adams. Adams has all the physical skills to one day be a starter, but he'll have the luxury of sitting behind Max Starks, at least at the beginning of the year, to learn the NFL game. Marcus Gilbert started 14 games at RT as a rookie and should take the next step forward this year.

Offensive Guard

Willie Colon, Ramon Foster, David DeCastro, Kelvin Beachum

In a move that many media members and fans had anticipated for a long time, the Steelers were finally able to move Willie Colon inside to guard. The excitement over first round pick David DeCastro has dwindled a little with his injury in Buffalo, but all reports are that he should be able to return to the lineup in the middle of the season. Ramon Foster is a more than adequate replacement at right guard in the mean time. Colon is an absolute mauler and should be a vast improvement at the LG position.


Maurkice Pouncey, Doug Legursky

Maurkice Pouncey has been in the league two years and has gone to the Pro Bowl both times. Both of his seasons have been marked by injuries, and he still has some room to improve his game. Yes, I said it, a two-time Pro Bowler can improve. That's not a knock on Maurkice as much as it is a statement of just how much upside he has. If he continues on his current trend, he could wind up right up there with Webster and Dawson as the best Steelers centers of all time.


Shaun Suisham

The Steelers decided to stick with Suisham again this season after he finished last in the league in field goal percentage last season. Suisham got a push from undrafted rookie Daniel Hrapmann, who in addition to having an awesome name was 5-for-5 in preseason field goal attempts. Suisham was dreadful from 40+ last year and will have to be better at putting the ball through the uprights this season.

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