Todd Haley struggled to replace Bruce Arians in his first year as coordinator, as the team appeared to have trouble completely absorbing Haley’s schemes, although injuries clearly played a big role. He returns for another season with QB Ben Roethlisberger, but the team will try to improve its power running, third-down execution and red-zone performance.
TOP 3 OFFENSIVE NEEDS
RB — The Steelers have a big need at this position. Their one-time featured back, Rashard Mendenhall, is an unrestricted free agent. After a disappointing 2012 season, it’s unclear whether he will be back. RFAs Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman are serviceable but probably not lead backs. What’s more, the Steelers were expected to release second-year RB Chris Rainey after an off-field incident.
WR — Vertical threat Mike Wallace, an unrestricted free agent, is not expected back. If he departs, the Steelers will have need on offense, for Wallace’s ability to stretch the field must be respected by opposing defenses. Even if Wallace re-signs, the Steelers might want to add another wideout, what with No. 3 receiver Emmanuel Sanders potentially one year away from unrestricted free agency.
TE — The position looks like a need even if Heath Miller recovers well from a knee injury that ended his 2012 season. The Steelers’ TE depth isn’t a strength, and Miller will be entering his ninth NFL campaign.
Dick LeBeau might be the NFL’s oldest coach at 75, but he’s still pulling the strings properly. The Steelers’ 3-4 defense once more ranked highly despite injuries, age and decline in some individuals’ play. There is promise again in 2013, but youth and depth are sorely needed. The pass rush wasn’t as virile, LB play was uneven and the secondary had to cycle through a lot of bodies.
DL — The Steelers were good vs. the run and still have standouts in NT Casey Hampton and DE Brett Keisel, but they need to be replaced one day. Evander “Ziggy” Hood and Cameron Heyward are candidates, and Hood played well at times this past season, but they need more. There is no true replacement for Hampton on the roster currently.
OLB — The play of James Harrison, who could wind up being a cap casualty if the two sides don’t agree to restructure his current deal, dropped off noticeably and LaMarr Woodley was beset by injuries. Jason Worilds and Chris Carter have promise, but they’ll need to start replacing these giants that have made this “D” so good for so long. Harrison’s window as an elite player might have closed.
S — It’s the same story here. Injuries and age have compromised this group. Troy Polamalu couldn’t stay healthy and missed nine games this season. He turns 32 in April and might never again be the great player he was before. Ryan Clark is equally important — and though he only has missed four games in five seasons, he turns 34 in the fall.
2012 DRAFT REWIND
1st round (24) OG David DeCastro / Stanford (GP/GS: 4/3) – Skinny: Knee injury derailed his season; struggled once he returned.
2nd round (56) ORT Mike Adams / Ohio State (GP/GS: 10/6) – Skinny: Ran the ball very well in his starts; pass blocking lacked.
3rd round (86) ILB Sean Spence / Miami (Fla.) (GP/GS: 0/0 – Skinny: Special-teamer, coverage ‘backer spent season on injured reserve.
4th round (109) NT Alameda Ta’amu / Washington (GP/GS: 0/0) – Skinny: Has long way to go to get back in team’s good graces.
5th round (159) RB Chris Rainey / Florida / Florida (GP/GS: 16/0) – Skinny: Steelers cut losses with speedy back after battery arrest.
7th round (231) WR Toney Clemons / Colorado (GP/GS: 4/0) – Skinny: Cut, ended up on Jaguars’ roster.
7th round (246) CB Terrence Frederick / Texas A&M (GP/GS: 2/0) – Skinny: Giants signed him after Steelers cut him free.
7th round (248) OG Kelvin Beachum / SMU (GP/GS: 7/5) – Skinny: Bad preseason but was pleasantly surprising eventually.
SUMMARY: Some keepers here, but injuries crushed the group and character issues were a surprising development.