For the Pittsburgh Steelers 2011 was a season that started with plenty of promise but after injuries ravaged the team of some of its most talented players, it came to an abrupt end much sooner than expected as Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos ended the Steelers Super Bowl run in the wild card round with a 29-23 upset.
The image everyone takes away from that game is Demaryius Thomas taking catching a pass from Tim Tebow and sprinting through the Steeler defense all the way to end zone, ending the game and the Steelers hopes for a seventh Super Bowl title in one fell swoop.
However, 2012 is almost upon us which means it’s a new year in the Steel City and despite some changes to the coaching staff and personnel, the Steelers seem set to once again challenge for the Lombardi Trophy.
The Steelers did say goodbye this offseason to long-time contributors Hines Ward, Aaron Smith and James Farrior but that’s life in the NFL and even with those departures, there is definitely enough talent on the roster which is led by starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, to compete for another championship.
In the past the Steelers have been known as more of a running team but with the continued development of Big Ben and the emergence of young playmakers Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders along with Mike Wallace, gives Pittsburgh the potential to be one of the best passing teams in the NFL.
Furthermore, the Steelers top running back Rashard Mendenhall will likely miss the start of the season due to an ACL injury suffered near the end of last season. In his stead, third-year man Isaac Redman will likely assume the starting role and last season he acquitted himself well in limited action, carrying the ball 110 times for 479 yards and three touchdowns.
Defensively, the Steelers will not change much from last season, although they will need to replace Farrior and Smith in the starting lineup, but outside of that the defense should be the same old blitzing defense we have come to know and love since Dick Lebeau has agreed to return for another season.
As always, the key for the Steelers defense will be the health of Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu, who actually started all 16 games last season. Yet, two other key players on the defense Lamar Woodley and James Harrison, the team’s dynamic pass-rushing duo missed a combined 11 games last year and will need to stay on the field if the Steelers are going to contend in 2012.
The bottom line with the Steelers is this; if they can stay healthy on defense and Big Ben can become an elite passing quarterback, there is good reason to believe this team will be right in the thick of things come December and January.
For now though, here is the FantasyPPR.com projection of the Steelers 53-man opening day roster:
QB (3): Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich, Jerrod Johnson.
RB (5): Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, John Clay, Chris Rainey, FB David Johnson. Rashard Mendenhall – PUP.
WR (5) Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerrico Cotchery, Toney Clemons.
TE (3): Heath Miller, Leonard Pope, Wesley Saunders.
OL (9): Mike Adams, Willie Colon, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, Ramon Foster, Doug Legursky, Trai Essex, Jonathan Scott.
DL (7): Casey Hampton, Ziggy Hood, Brett Keisel, Cameron Heyward, Steve McLendon, Al Woods, Alameda Ta’amu.
ILB (4): Lawrence Timmons, Larry Foote, Stevenson Sylvester, Sean Spence.
OLB (5): James Harrison, Lamar Woodley, Jason Worilds, Chris Carter, Brandon Johnson.
CB (5): Ike Taylor, Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown, Terrence Frederick.
S (4): Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Will Allen, Ryan Mundy.
ST (3): K – Shaun Suisham, P – Jeremy Kapinos, LS – Greg Warren.