Season Preview: Pittsburgh Steelers

Sports Mole previews the season ahead for AFC North side the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to bounce back in the 2013 season after a disappointing campaign last time out as they missed the playoffs.

Mike Tomlin's side struggled throughout the year despite having the best statistical defense in the NFL, as injuries to Ben Roethlisberger held their season back.

The Steelers will be hoping for an improved performance from their offense this season in the toughest division in the AFC.

Sports Mole takes a look at what the season ahead holds for the Steelers.

Head Coach: Mike Tomlin

Last season: 8-8

Review: The Steelers got off to an indifferent start in the last campaign as wins over the New York Jets and the Philadelphia Eagles were dented by defeats to the Denver Broncos, the Oakland Raiders and the Tennessee Titans.

However, after losing to the Titans on Monday Night Football, Tomlin's side showed their pedigree with four successive wins to lift their record to 6-3 in the AFC North.

An injury to Roethlisberger in their victory over the Chiefs was to be costly as Tomlin's side lost five of the next six, including three division games against the Cleveland Browns, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens to fall to 7-8.

The Steelers lifted their record to 0.500 mark with a 24-10 win over the Browns on the last day of the season but it wasn't enough to secure a playoff berth.

Notable Ins

Jarvis Jones: The Steelers selected Jones with the 17th overall pick in the 2013 Draft. The 23-year-old was a standout player in his time with the Georgia Bulldogs in the college game, but fitness doubts caused teams to pass on him in April. He has the skill set to rush the quarterback in the mould of James Harrison and across from LaMarr Woodley, the duo could form a formidable pass rush for the Steelers this season.

Markus Wheaton: Another Draft selection by the Steelers in April out of Oregon State. He showed promise during his time in college and has impressed during his side's pre-season games. A lot will be expected of him to replace the departed Mike Wallace in the offense, which he will have to pick up quickly due to the lack of depth at the position this season.

Notable Outs

James Harrison: The veteran linebacker moved to the Steelers' division rivals the Cinicinnati Bengals in the off-season after eight years with the club. His skills have faded slightly over time but the Steelers will still miss his presence in the locker room and out on the field. His ability to rush the passer could also be a loss depending on how quickly Jones adapts to the NFL.

Mike Wallace: The 27-year-old wanted to be paid like a top receiver but the Steelers were unwilling to give him the big bucks, so he joined the Miami Dolphins. Tomlin's side will miss his ability to stretch the field with his pace and his chemistry with Roethlisberger, who always seemed to find Wallace on his extended plays from outside the pocket.

Key Player Offense: Antonio Brown

Key Player Defense: LaMarr Woodley

Rookie to watch: Markus Wheaton

Pre-season form: 0-4

Prediction: 9-7 – There a lot of question marks over the Steelers going into the season. Their defense should be one of the top units in the NFL, if they can keep their players healthy but that is a big if considering their bad luck with injuries over the past year. Roethlisberger is one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, but he doesn't have many options to throw to, which will see them struggle against the better teams in the league. They could be a playoff team this year, depending on the strength of the AFC, as a 9-7 record could see them sneak in.

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