2_Pittsburgh Steelers1

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AFC NORTH STEELERS 2014 STRENGTHS: • Veteran quarterback, strong leadership in defensive backfield, consistent special teams Steelers Offense JUSTIN K. ALLER/GETTY IMAGES SPORT The Steelers won six of their last eight games to turn a slow start into an 8-8 finish. During the final eight games, the offense finally began to click with nearly 27 points per game. When the Steelers were operating the no-huddle offense, they seemed to be at their best under quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He proved to be very durable last season and guided the offense quite effectively in the second half of the season. Losing the likes of Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery at wide receiver won’t be easy. But there are enough pieces in place for the Steelers to be successful. Young wide receivers Lance Moore and Markus Wheaton will get every chance to succeed. If they can understand all the wrinkles involved with the no-huddle offense, the Steelers could wind up being a surprise team this season. Running the football will be crucial to the entire offense being in sync. The Steelers almost certainly will improve on the 86.4 rushing yards per game they managed last season. Le’Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount and third-round draft pick Dri 2014 WEAKNESSES: • Holes on offensive line, questionable depth at linebacker, weak pass rush and rush defense PITTSBURGH Archer should be a major upgrade over last season. Consistent offensive line play will be vital for the running game and no-huddle offense to work. Bell is the key at running back as he compiled 1,259 yards from scrimmage, the top numbers by a rookie in a Steelers uniform since Franco Harris in 1972. Pretty impressive company. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley will be searching for ways to produce a balanced offense, and this year, there are more than enough options. If Roethlisberger can stay on the field like he did last season, the Steelers could very easily be back in the playoffs in 2014. If Roethlisberger goes down, it will put that much more pressure on the running backs and wide receivers. Offensive Player to Watch Breaking a franchise record set by a legend such as Harris is amazing. Even more amazing is this: Bell has so much room to improve. He even missed the first three weeks last season with an injured foot and came back to post solid numbers. The Steelers finished tied for 27th in yards rushing last season and Blount likely will get plenty of snaps as well. Bell’s ability to run between the tackles, break plays outside and catch passes out of the backfield makes him dangerous. That type of versatility is a perfect fit in the Steelers’ offense. Keeping Bell fresh, however, is just as important, so having a pair of strong running backs will be a nice problem for Haley. Bell showed what he could do last season. Doing it now when teams are gearing up for him will be a tougher task. Steelers Defense In past years, the Steelers were among the best teams in the league in terms of rushing the quarterback. That wasn’t the case last season. The Steelers compiled only 34 sacks, their worst total since 1990. Plain and simple, the Steelers must be able to Le’Veon Bell


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