July 19, 2014

NFL Picks: 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers Team Preview & Win Total

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 16-16 over the last two seasons. This is a proud franchise that is accustomed to fighting for championships, and going .500 just isn’t going to cut it for Pittsburgh. Mike Tomlin’s seat is getting a little bit warm, and there could be big changes coming for this team if the Steelers don’t find their way back into the playoffs in 2014.

While there isn’t a new coach yet, there are going to be a lot of new players on this year’s team. There were more than a dozen veterans from the 2013 who weren’t retained in the offseason, and some of them were big names who have been long-time starters for the Steelers. Ryan Clark, Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood, and Lamarr Woodley were among those who were let go.

In some of the past years, injuries were the main reason the Steelers weren’t able to reach their full potential. Last year, the Steelers stayed relatively healthy, and yet they still weren’t able to do any better than 8-8. This team needs to get better on both sides of the ball. Let’s take a look at the 2014 Steelers.

2014 Pittsburgh Steelers Offense

Pittsburgh got 16 games out of Ben Roethlisberger for the first time since 2008, but it still wasn’t enough to keep this offense moving consistently. The Steelers finished 19th in the NFL in total offense. Big Ben had a solid season himself, throwing for 28 touchdowns compared to just 14 interceptions, but the running game was nearly non-existent. With no running game, it allowed opposing defenses to pin their ears back and get after Big Ben at every opportunity.

The Steelers offensive line continues to be a real problem spot. Mike Pouncey was a Pro-Bowler in each of his first three years in the NFL, but he went down with a season-ending injury in week one last year, and that crushed the offensive line. This team badly needs a healthy Pouncey at the center spot. Mike Munchak was added as the offensive line coach, and that should help this group in 2014.

Le’Veon Bell and LaGarette Blount will share the running back duties in Pittsburgh this year. Bell is the more versatile back, but Blount will likely get a lot of carries down by the goal line because of his size and strength. Keep an eye on Dri Archer as well, if the team can get him the ball in open spaces he could do some real damage.

Mike Wallace is no longer here, and Antonio Brown becomes the number one option. Lance Moore was brought in to be a second option for Pittsburgh, but expect the production from the wide receivers to be down this season.

2014 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense

Little by little the vaunted Steelers defense has sprung leaks the past few seasons. The veterans who used to be dominant are no longer the forces they used to be. The team hasn’t gotten enough production out of their young draft picks. Pittsburgh had to make a bunch of changes in the offseason, because this defense was getting too old.

Free safety was a real problem for the Steelers last year. The team let Ryan Clark go because he didn’t have the speed anymore. The biggest signing of the offseason for Pittsburgh was Mike Mitchell. Mitchell was a huge reason the Panthers secondary was tremendous in 2013. Mitchell will protect the deep areas and allow Troy Polamalu to come up and be a force near the line of scrimmage. The Steelers only picked off ten passes last year, so this group needs to force some more turnovers this season.

Cam Thomas was signed to play the nose tackle spot. Thomas will be relied on to help the defense do a much better job than it did last year against the run. Ryan Shazier will likely get playing time early on at the linebacker spot, as the Steelers are a bit thin there. It’s a transition year for this defense.

2014 Pittsburgh Steelers Schedule

Week 1- Cleveland

Week 2- @Baltimore

Week 3- @Carolina

Week 4- Tampa Bay

Week 5- @Jacksonville

Week 6- @Cleveland

Week 7- Houston

Week 8- Indianapolis

Week 9- Baltimore

Week 10- @New York Jets

Week 11- @Tennessee

Week 12- BYE

Week 13- New Orleans

Week 14- @Cincinnati

Week 15- @Atlanta

Week 16- Kansas City

Week 17- Cincinnati

The Steelers schedule is back-loaded. The schedule looks easy early on, but the last five weeks of the season are extremely tough. Those two games against Cincinnati in week 14 and week 17 should be important to both teams.

2014 Pittsburgh Steelers Free Win Total Pick: Under 8.5

You can get under 8.5 for +120 or +125 here. Pittsburgh still has lots of question marks and periods of transition can be tough for a defense like this one. The offense hasn’t been great for quite a while, and it has been up to the defense to carry them. I don’t think the defense is good enough to carry all the weight anymore. Look for another .500 season or possibly even a little worse from Pittsburgh.

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