At the beginning of each season, the crew and I get together to launch our ‘predictions’ for the upcoming season. Below, you’ll see the predictions we made. Those that were correct are in green. Those in red were misses.
Over/Under: Antonio Brown 1800 Receiving Yards (He finished with 1,284)
Ben: Over. Not as sure about 2,000. That would take AB being targeted approximately 215 times. The Steelers have never thrown even 600 passes in a single season. It would appear that getting AB over 2,000 will take him getting over 1/3 of the total targets. If that happens, something else has gone terribly wrong and he’s being thrown to constantly because no other reliable targets are healthy.
Chris: Over. The Steelers may need Antonio more than ever this season, especially with Bell out the first 3 games. After that, Ben still has a lot of unproven pass catching targets in Sammie Coates, Jesse James, and Eli Rogers. If those guys have issues early with drops, or being where Ben wants them to be, look for him to force more to his go to guy.
Cnic: Over. If you look at the schedule and the cornerbacks he will be facing (not like it matters), Brown should abuse them. The AFC North does not possess good secondaries and Brown will face them six times. Also, due to Ladarius Green and Martavis Bryant’s absences, Brown will need to step it up even more. I’m not overly convinced Sammie Coates, Markus Wheaton and Eli Rogers can make up for the loss of Green and Bryant.
Marc: Under. I think he’s going to be in the 1,600-1,800 range but I think he falls just short. Part of this will be due to my concern over who develops as a viable second threat. Is it Coates? Wheaton? Rogers? James? I just don’t know.
Over/Under: Ben Roethlisberger throws for 30 touchdowns (He finished with 29)
Ben: Over. I’d put him in the 31 to 33 range.
Chris: Over. I think that Ben’s numbers may not be as crazy as some expect this year, because of the above comments about pass catchers. I could see them leaning more heavily on the run game. That being said, if he’s healthy then I’d say over 30 is a good bet.
Cnic: Over. I think health is a big concern, but if healthy he can throw for 31-33 as Ben stated.
Marc: Over. I agree with Ben that it will be around 31-33 and I also agree with Chris. I don’t think the ridiculously huge numbers are there for Big Ben but that might be a good thing. The Steelers will run the ball more and I think both Rogers and James will be viable red zone threats.
Over/Under: The defense records more than the 48 sacks they had in 2015 (They finished with 38)
Ben: Under. I think it will be more than 40, but Dupree missing at least 8 weeks and the defensive backfield being at least an early liability will limit the number of safety and cornerback blitz opportunities the team used last year to create pressure. I expect more 4 man rushes this year.
Chris: Under. I think that this team was fortunate to have as many sacks as they did. I could see a slight uptick from Tuitt and maybe Chickillo, but besides them where do you see an improvement coming in that department? I think James will only slow down, and Jarvis is what he is at this point. If Dupree were playing a whole season I think there’d be reason for optimism.
Cnic: Under. Teams will pass a ton against Pittsburgh’s defense, but the pass rush has been poor for a while now and the loss of Bud Dupree surely doesn’t help.
Marc: Under. I immediately point to the absence of Bud Dupree but I also think this team is still weaker on the edges than some believe. In order to get to the number of sacks they want, Keith Butler is going to have to be quite exotic and I’m not sure he has the personnel for that.
Over/Under: Ladarius Green plays in eight games (He played in six)
Ben: Under. And, when he plays he’ll be less than impressive. This is looking to be one of the most disappointing free agent signings in years. Despite what the Steelers say publicly, I have been told repeatedly that they have buyer’s remorse. But, you need look no further than the manner in which the Burgh beat writers refer to him as a mistake and an embarrassing signing for confirmation of this. If they feared any reprisal from the Steelers, they would not be so cavalier about using those descriptors; nor would they publish things like “you should see his teammates roll their eyes when they are asked about him.”
Chris: Under. However, I do think that he plays this season.
Cnic: Under, I agree with Chris. I’m disappointed to say the least.
Marc: Under. You can pretty much read Ben’s comments and those go for me too. Everything I’ve gathered tells me this was a bad signing and somewhere in the Steelers’ front office someone screwed up big time by not vetting Green nearly enough.
How Many Pro Bowl Players for the Steelers This Year and Who? (5 were selected originally)
Ben: (7) Ben, AB, Bell, DeCastro, Pouncey, M. Gilbert, Heyward
Chris: (6) Ben, Bell, AB, Pouncey, DeCastro, Tuitt
Cnic: (5) Ben, AB, DeCastro, Heyward, Pouncey
Marc: (5) Ben, AB, Pouncey, DeCastro, Heyward
Breakout Player of the Year (This is Opinion-based)
Ben: Markus Wheaton. Wheaton finally makes good on his potential in a contract year. Having Antonio Brown on the same team drawing away a lot of the defense helps a great deal.
Chris: Stephon Tuitt. Tuitt is already a flat out great player, but he’s not a household name outside of Pittsburgh yet.
Cnic: Ryan Shazier. He’ll finally start to make the plays he was brought in for. I expect him to force more turnovers as well.
Marc: Sammie Coates. He’s gotten better in every preseason game and I think he just has too much raw ability to not make some big plays this season. He could be a year away for this selection but I’m going to roll the dice and say this is the year.
Steelers’ AFCN Divisional Record (Finished 5-1 with one loss to Baltimore)
Ben: 4-2. Two wins over Cleveland and a split with Cincinnati and Baltimore, despite both of those teams taking a step back in terms of roster talent.
Chris: I’m in agreement with Ben. I think Cincinnati is too good to sweep, and while I think Pittsburgh is clearly the better team matched up against Baltimore, we all know that doesn’t usually matter with this team.
Cnic: 5-1. Split 1-1 with Cincinnati. Win both over Cleveland and Baltimore. I don’t think the Ravens are good.
Marc: 4-2. On paper I really think this team should be 5-1 with a lone loss coming to the Bengals but as Chris noted, the Ravens have had our number of late and it doesn’t matter who is on the field.
Bold Prediction for 2016
Ben: The Steelers defensive backfield will be more than competent by December, but not before Steelers Nation overreacts to a few losses and calls for Colbert, Tomlin, Haley and Butler to all be sacrificed to the football gods by being air dropped into a live volcano.
Chris: Stephon Tuitt gets 10 sacks.
Cnic: Ross Cockrell leads the team in interceptions.
Marc: Special Teams’ Coach Danny Smith is fired in-season after his unit gives up touchdowns on a kickoff return one week and a punt return the next costing the team two games. He then joins Colbert, Tomlin, Haley and Butler in the volcano.
Final Record and Postseason Prediction (Finished 11-5, Loss in AFCCG)
Ben: 12-4, 1st in AFC North, Second seed in the playoffs. Loss in AFCCG to New England after beating them in the regular season. The schedule will actually work in the Steelers favor this year. Playing the NFC East and AFC East is a far easier draw than playing the NFC & AFC West like they did in 2015.
Chris: 9-7, Wildcard. Lose in the 2nd round . I really want to be more optimistic with this team. I could easily see them being much stronger than this, but for that to happen, one of 2 things needs to happen. Either A.) Someone among Wheaton, Coates, or Rogers really breaks out and plays well enough to keep this offense the truly elite unit that it is with Martavis Bryant in there or B.) The defensive secondary improves with guys like Justin Gilbert, Cockrell, and/or Sean Davis making a big step so that the defense becomes a strength rather than a weakness that allows some dropoff from the offense with the loss of Martavis Bryant.
Cnic: 11-5, 1st in AFC North, second seed in playoffs. I piggyback off of Ben’s prediction:
“Loss in AFCCG to the hated New England Patriots after beating them in the regular season. The schedule will actually work in the Steelers favor this year. Playing the NFC East and AFC East is a far easier draw than playing the NFC & AFC West like they did in 2015.”
Injuries and/or suspensions always seem to hit Pittsburgh hard.
Marc: 10-6, 1st in AFC North, third seed in the playoffs. The way this preseason has gone with the injuries and the Ladarius Green situation, I just don’t have the good feeling that they’ll be able to win a few games they normally would. I think they get past round one but lose one the road in round two.