Now that the 2012 season is in the books for the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s time to look ahead to 2013. While other teams, including two AFC North foes, are gearing up for the playoffs, the Steelers can only think what might have been.
While the Steelers are fortunate to have a franchise quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, it’s time to take take a serious look for a serviceable back-up or two. Both Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch are free agents this offseason.
Leftwich may have a cannon for an arm, but he is made of fine china. Exhibit A: he fractured ribs by falling down untouched.
As for Charlie Batch, time may have finally caught up to him. It seems like every preseason he’s always on the fringe of being cut, but he miraculously pulls through to be the third string quarterback. He’s a fan favorite, and I’d hate to see him go, but if his playing days are over he certainly had a memorable final game in Baltimore.
Big Ben may be half human and half machine, but he is getting smarter about playing through pain. If he is out for an extended period of time, the Steelers will need to be ready.
The offensive line is a bit of a conundrum. The Steelers have used several high picks over the course of the last few drafts to reconfigure the line, drafting the likes of Maurkice Pouncey, Marcus Gilbert, David DeCastro, and Mike Adams. Gilbert, DeCastro, and Adams all missed considerable playing time due to injury.
Depth should be the name of the game for the Steelers. Whether they continue to develop the line through the draft or look towards free agency remains to be seen.
Where do I even begin?
Quite frankly, the running game as dismal this year. Between the running back by committee, the fumbles, and lack of touches, the ground attack was a non-entity. Former first-round draft pick Rashard Mendenhall has, in all likelihood, played his last game as a Steeler. Neither Isaac Redman nor Jonathan Dwyer set the world on fire. Will the Steelers use a draft pick on another running back, or will they see if Redman and/or Dwyer can get something going next season?
For me, this was the most disappointing position in the 2012 season. Coming into the season, the Steelers were loaded with talent at wide receiver with Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Emmanuel Sanders. Unfortunately, you can have all the talent in the world but it doesn’t mean much without proper execution of fumbles. Dropped passes, fumbles, wrong routes, and general bone-headed decisions have been the hallmark for the wide receiver corp this season.
With Wallace probably gone, the Steelers will need to retool their receiving unit and play-calling. The Steelers are in need of a Hines Ward-like receiving who is willing to go over the middle of the field at the risk of being hit.
This is an interesting area for the Steelers. Injuries, age, and depth have been an issue for this group. James Harrison got off to a slow start this season, thanks in part to a lingering injury, but eventually showed flashes of his old self. But, much like James Farrior last year, Harrison may be the odd man out when it comes to the salary cap.
When it comes down to it, 2013 looks to be a transition year for the Steelers. This team needs to get younger, younger members need to gain more experience, and more depth needs to be added to the team as a whole. Things will be interesting in the AFC North to say the least.