After stumbling out of the gate, recording just two wins in their first eight games (2-6 ATS), the Pittsburgh Steelers rebounded in the second half of the 2013 NFL season, going 6-2 down the stretch (7-1 ATS) to finish with a record of 8-8. But after missing the NFL playoffs for a second consecutive year, the Steelers are currently a distant 33/1 in Super Bowl XLIX futures wagering
Not surprisingly, change is in the air in Pittsburgh, currently listed as 5.5-point favorites in their 2014 NFL season opener against the visiting Cleveland Browns. Their most notable offseason addition is running back LaGarrette Blount, who recently inked a two-year deal. Blount comes over from the rival New England Patriots, where he recorded a personal best seven rushing TDs in 2013.
The signing of Blount provides the Steelers with depth at RB, where sophomore Le’Veon Bell is expected to be the go-to guy. Bell was impressive in his rookie campaign, breaking Steelers’ legend Franco Harris’ rookie record for yards gained from scrimmage.
The Steelers are also expected to go with a combination of youth and experience at wide receiver. With Jerricho Cotchery moving on to the Carolina Panthers and Emmanuel Sanders bound for Denver, the mantle of No. 1 RB could fall to Markus Wheaton. Wheaton saw limited action in his rookie season after suffering a badly broken finger.
The Steelers have also brought in free agent veteran wideout Lance Moore. The 30 year-old Moore knows what it’s like to battle for an NFL job. After going undrafted, Moore bounced around the NFL and NFL Europe before finding a home with the New Orleans Saints. Reports indicate that Moore has already stepped into the role of mentor for Wheaton, who will face tight scrutiny as a starter in Pittsburgh.
Veteran cornerback Ike Taylor will be returning to the Steelers for a 12th season. While the 34 year-old, who has won two Super Bowls with Pittsburgh, remains far from a lock to be a regular on a young Steelers’ squad, he is expected to provide much needed depth after Pittsburgh opted not to select a CB in this year’s draft.
The future of Super Bowl XLIII heroes and current free agents LB James Harrison and WR Santonio Holmes remains up in the air, but circumstances could see them return to the Steelers. With LB Jason Worilds currently sidelined with a leg injury, the door may be open for Harrison to return. However, it appears less likely that Holmes will be part of the Steelers mix in 2014.