The Pittsburgh Steelers might be great again, but probably not this season. For 2013, at least, this looks like an organization that’s in a temporary state of retreat before it gears up for 2014.
2013 Super Bowl Odds: +1235
Notable Change #1:
The Steelers suffered three high-profile losses this past offseason, the first one being the exodus of linebacker James Harrison to AFC North Division rival Cincinnati. ESPN’s April 21 wire-service story on Harrison’s switch of teams put the matter plainly: “The former Defensive Player of the Year was a casualty of Pittsburgh’s move to get under the salary cap. The Steelers and Parise negotiated but couldn’t reach a deal on a reworked contract. Harrison was entering the final two year of a $51 million extension signed in 2009. He missed the first three games last season with a knee injury, but finished with six sacks — tied for the team lead — as the Steelers finished No. 1 in defense for the fourth time since Harrison became a starter in their 3-4 alignment. He moves to a defense that finished sixth last season and lines up in a 4-3. Middle linebacker signed a new deal last month, keeping one of the Bengals’ captains. When he signs his deal, Harrison will have been under contract with three of the AFC North’s four teams. An undrafted free agent in 2002, Harrison played two seasons on the practice squad before he was signed by the . They let him go, and he ended up back in Pittsburgh.”
Notable Change #2:
The Steelers also watched running back Rashard Mendenhall go to the Arizona Cardinals. Here’s what ESPN’s report stated on March 13, when the story broke: “Mendenhall had led the Steelers in rushing for three straight seasons before a disappointing 2012 season marred by injuries and a one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team. He was suspended for a game in December for not attending a loss to the Chargers after he found out he wouldn’t dress for the game. He also was inactive for two games after fumbling twice on four carries in a loss to the Browns. Mendenhall also was slowed by injuries. He tore the ACL in his right knee in Week 17 of the 2011 season and didn’t return until Oct. 4 of last season. His return didn’t last long, though, as he strained his right Achilles four days later. The 25-year-old running back has rushed for 3,549 yards and 29 touchdowns in 57 career games.”
Notable Change #3:
The Steelers lost one of the fastest and most dynamic perimeter playmakers in the NFL when receiver Mike Wallace went to the Miami Dolphins. Wallace was a core member of the Steelers’ receiving corps when they won the AFC title and reached Super Bowl XLV against the Green Bay Packers in February of 2011. Wallace stretched defenses with his speed and posed a threat not just on vertical pass routes, but when catching short passes in open space. The Steelers will have to radically rework their offense in order to compensate for the loss of a considerable amount of speed on the edges.
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