Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, left, talks with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on the first day of teh teams NFL football minicamp Tuesday, June 11, 2013 in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
by Mike Pelaia
It’s only June and already the supposed NFL pundits are writing off 2013 for the Steelers, saying their time has passed them by, they are no longer a Super Bowl contender and may not even be a playoff team. Knowing this team and how they operate, that assertion seems a bit presumptuous.
The Steelers are always on a quest to win the title and don’t take years off in that expectation. They expect to contend for title number seven this year and here are the top six reasons why they can.
The number one reason is Ben Roethlisberger. When you have a franchise QB, you’re always in the hunt. Big Ben is a top five QB and can change the flow of a game on his own. He was having a career year in 2012 up until his injury and there is no reason to think he can’t do that again. He has the drive, he has the skill and he has the ability to carry this team on his back.
The veterans are embarrassed about last year’s 8-8 finish. They know they fell short and they also know they are approaching the end of their careers. Guys like Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Brett Keisel and Ike Taylor could all be in their last year with the Steelers and they want one last shot at winning another title together. They’re motivated, they’ve been working hard in the off season and they don’t want to fall short two years in a row.
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive linemen Ziggy Hood (96) and Brett Kiesel (99) perform agility drills during the NFL football practice on Wednesday, June 5, 2013 in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
There will be rookies at key positions who will be pushing for playing time, in turn pushing the vets in front of them to work harder. First round pick Jarvis Jones, second round pick Leveon Bell and third round pick Markus Wheaton could all push to be starters immediately. This means that these 2013 top picks will gain meaningful experience early in their careers or it means they will push guys like Jason Woirlds, Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and Emmanuel Sanders to work harder to keep their jobs. With this type of internal competition going on it helps players grow close with each other and will assist in team chemistry early on, something the team appeared to lack in 2012.
Mike Wallace is gone. He was a talent, no doubt but he was trouble in 2012. He was far too concerned about his contract that he forgot how to catch the ball. He was too outspoken and caused a divide in that locker room. The team appears to have learned from their locker room shortcomings in 2012 and is ready to put that behind them.
Todd Haley and Ben Roethlisberger have a full year together under their belt and are committed to working together to get better. With another offseason to work on the Haley system and perfect it, the Steelers offense should be stronger and better than they were in 2012.
The Ravens aren’t as good as they were last year, the Bengals always find a way to fall short and the Browns are the Browns. This all means the Steelers should have a great shot at a division title, putting them in the playoffs. After that, anything can happen.
For all the fans, “experts” and players who say the Steelers are too old, done, and not a factor, these six reasons say otherwise. They say the team is still a factor, still a force and ready to win title number seven in 2013.
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Ike Taylor (24) makes a catch in drills during the NFL football practice on Thursday, June 6, 2013 in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Editor’s Note: Mike Pelaia hosts the website Steel Nation Association www.steelnationassociation.com – Covering the Steelers and helping Children’s Hospital All Day Everyday. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.