Up next in our fan previews is Henry and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
How long have you been watching the NFL?
I first started watching around 2007 as it was a decent sport on a Sunday night but I lost interest and I picked it back up in 2012.
How did you become a fan of the Steelers?
The Steelers were the best team on the first Madden game I owned. Also Polamalu’s hair, as he was the cover star on that game.
Who was the biggest loss for your team in the offseason?
The Steelers are probably the most stable franchise in the NFL so unsurprisingly not a lot happened this off season with no major coaching or front office changes. The only notable players to leave were Ladarius Green but he was barely fit last year and Lawrence Timmons who was ageing. Losing Green is limiting as it leaves the team with one of the worst collections of TEs in the league, Jesse James is a solid no.2 at best.
Whilst it isn’t a loss, by far the biggest off season problem is Le’Veon Bell’s contract situation. Him holding out isn’t a big deal but it’s clear him and the team aren’t even close to agreeing terms making it likely he won’t be at the Steelers beyond 2018.
Who was the best addition?
Steelers are rarely busy in free agency and just added depth with guys like Justin Hunter (who Ben loves for some reason) and Tyson Alualu.
We took TJ Watt in the first who fills a big need at OLB as we can’t rely on James Harrison still being amazingly effective at 39 but he’s very raw as a pass rusher so may not improve the team that much.
Also picked JuJu Smith-Schuster who’s a WR which could be a big help as it’s underrated how bad the Steelers passing offence was down the stretch last year so having another reliable receiver alongside Brown will make a big difference.
But for all of those reasons the return of Martavis Bryant is even bigger so I’ll pick him. He’s a freak and is by all accounts in better shape than ever before. One of the best deep threats in the league. Could make the Steeelers offence what it was meant to be last season.
Assuming no major injuries, what is the floor and what is the ceiling for your team this year?
Floor is probably losing to the first elite team we face in the playoffs just like last year. That happens if the secondary doesn’t improve with more experience (two of the starters last year we’re rookies), there isn’t an improved pass rush (Bud Dupree doesn’t improve) or if Ben’s iffy play last year was a sign of decline. Otherwise this team is very strong, even without an elite passing offence the run game will destroy most teams as last year showed and the defence is competitive because of a strong front 7.
The ceiling is the Super Bowl after a dominant season. If Ben plays like he did in 2015 with all of the major weapons (they haven’t played together for a very long time) he could very well win MVP. The other major impediment to this happening are the Patriots who have a very good record against this team. They destroyed us in the Championship game as Bell was injured and the defence’s simple zones were pulled apart by Brady. Team is hoping to play more man coverage mostly to slow down Brady but that’s reliant on the young defence stepping up.
Who is the biggest threat in your division?
It’s either the Ravens or the Bengals. Ravens are probably the most boring team in the NFL, offence is tedious, it’s best player is a guard ffs, and the defence lacks exciting players. However I expect their defence to be very good and their offence vaguely competent.
The Bengals need their OL to take a big step forwards and they lost two more major parts of it. But they’ve got talent all over their roster so it’s not hard to see how it could make them competitive.
Which player are you most excited to see in action?
Really spoilt for choice when it comes to exciting players. Both Brown and Bell are amazing players to watch but it has to be a, hopefully, more mature Martavis Bryant. He’s just ludicrously athletic and I’ve missed having a deep threat who can actually catch.
What is your team’s biggest strength?
Biggest strength is tough as there are a few with the superstar offensive players but I reckon it’s the offensive line. There are the early draft picks like Pouncey or De Castro who are easy to notice as make big plays in the run game. It was, however, a long derided part of team but Mike Munchak has worked miracles with it; turning guys like Villanueva, a 6’9 former college receive turned solider, into an above average LT. Also the depth is good with guys like Hubbard being good enough to not be a liability.
The biggest weakness is the pass rush. Whilst the secondary probably has less talent, this is likely to be more damaging. D-Line guys like Tuitt, Heyward and Hargrave are underrated and can pressure the QB but really it’s all about the OLBs. Only James Harrison has proven he can consistently pressure the QB and he’s 39 so will have to be used carefully. The other major options are Watt and Dupree and as I said earlier they’re both raw. Beyond that are bland options. Desperately need sacks and pressures to complete this improving defence.
To win the Super Bowl my team need to…..
Stop Tom Brady.