In past years, I haven’t really struggled too much with coming up for a final record for the Pittsburgh Steelers but this year is far different.
With injuries, suspensions and questionable moves, this season has been very difficult to predict. My previous predictions haven’t been too bad. I think I’ve missed by no more than two games which isn’t perfect but I’ll take it in the grand scheme of things.
It’s so difficult to predict mid-season injuries of not only the Steelers but also their opponents when sitting down to do this. Without delaying things too much more, let me break down where I see the Steelers finishing in 2015.
The Steelers will finish 9-7 in 2015.
While much of my reasoning centers on the defense, that unit is certainly not the only reason I see the Steelers finishing just one game above .500. Let’s remember the offense will be without Le’Veon Bell for the first two games, Martavis Bryant for the first four games and Maurkice Pouncey for at least the first eight games.
The offense received a major jolt when Bryant was given his helmet after the six games of the season in 2014 and the numbers bore that out. With him not available and the same exact guys in Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and Heath Miller on the field (sans Bell for two games), I have a hard time seeing the offense on this blistering pace many see.
The pressure on Ben Roethlisberger is already immense and more will now be expected of him especially in the first quarter of the season. I see him rising to the challenge but I also fear he will try to do too much. He has to take what is given and go from there.
I also think DeAngleo Williams can be an effective replacement for Bell but his health issues of the past concern me.
As for the defense, I do actually think this unit will get better as the season moves on but I think the growing pains through the first ten games or so will be too much to overcome.
What we saw in the preseason was not good, but it was also about as “vanilla” as it could get. Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler, as is the case with most teams in the preseason, didn’t gameplan for his opponents. What he did was use the time to evaluate his players on what they could and couldn’t do. This is partially why Shamarko Thomas now finds himself on the bench for the opener.
Despite the fact I think the defense will get better, I’m still extremely pessimistic about the secondary. I see little improvement in Cortez Allen. I have little hope that Mike Mitchell will play better than he did last season regardless of his health. With all due respect to Will Allen, if he is our starting safety for all 16 games then my pessimism level grows.
The addition of Brandon Boykin was a good one and a needed one especially with Senquez Golson on Injured Reserve. I believe he can be a serious asset to the defense but he can’t be relied on to do too much.
I expect good years from Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and Ryan Shazier. The latter will make mistakes but I also believe he will make plays as well. Lawrence Timmons is not a vocal leader but he must lead somehow. He is the veteran presence who will be on the field the most and his health is paramount to the unit’s success.
I like the move the front office made to get Josh Scobee and I’m fine with the choice of Jordan Berry at punter. The recent addition of Jordan Todman will give a huge boost to the kick return game which has been sorely needed. While I’m not crazy about Antonio Brown returning punts, he’s clearly the best option.
There’s a lot to like with the 2015 Steelers but ultimately I think the difficulty of the schedule, the suspensions/injuries and young defense are too much to overcome. I see the Steelers finishing 9-7 and tied for second in the AFC North. They will not make the playoffs either.