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Pittsburgh Steelers Predictions

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The Pittsburgh Steelers have been a model organization over the past decade. They have not finished with a losing record since 2003, and in the meantime they have capture two Super Bowl victories. Unfortunately, they are coming off back-to-back 8-8 seasons, which left them on the outside looking in when talking about the playoffs. Many within the organization felt that the Steelers were getting too soft, which is why they set out to change their image this season.

Gone are some iconic veterans who are past their prime, and in is a young nucleus that figures to be the future of the franchise. Past Steeler greats like Brett Keisel, Larry Foote, Ryan Clark, Ziggy Hood and LaMarr Woodley are no longer with the team. That leaves just two defensive players with two Super Bowl rings, and they are Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor, who are starting to show signs of slowing down. Lawrence Timmons is the only other remaining defensive player who was apart of the league’s No. 1 defense just two years ago.

The Steelers are used to finishing in the top five in total defense every year. They slipped to 13th in 2013 at 337.6 yards per game allowed, including 14th in scoring defense (23.1 ppg). They came into the offseason with a clear goal, which was to improve the defense after spending the past couple of years trying to revamp the offense. General manager Kevin Colbert has executed that plan very well.

He used his first-round pick on Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, who has tremendous speed and will make plays all over the field. He’ll be an upgrade over Vince Williams while starting next to Timmons at inside linebacker. Jason Worilds, who led the team with eight sacks last year, is back at outside linebacker. With Woodley gone, it will be up to 2013 first-round pick Jarvis Jones to realize his potential after a disappointing rookie campaign.

Pittsburgh also used its second-round pick on a defender. It snagged Stephen Tuitt from Notre Dame to bolster the pass rush on the defensive line. He’ll start next to Cameron Heyward, a former first-round pick who played well last year with five sacks. Steve McLendon is a run-stuffing nose tackle who was actually able to replace long-time Steeler Casey Hampton admirably.

Safety Michael Mitchell was one of their top free-agent signings. He played great in Carolina last year and gives the Steelers some much-needed youth in the secondary. He’ll replace Clark and start next to Polamalu, who wasn’t very good last season. Cortez Allen started last year as a nickel corner but made his way into the starting lineup due to excellent play. The Steelers failed to find an upgrade for Taylor, who couldn’t have been worse last year and will be picked on again.

The offense certainly deserves a lot of the blame for the past couple of seasons. They finished just 20th in total offense (337.5 ypg) in 2013 and must be more explosive. Somehow, amidst the struggles, Ben Roethlisberger had one of the best seasons of his career. He threw for 4,261 yards and 28 touchdowns against 14 interceptions. That came after opening the season with six touchdowns against six picks, so he obviously caught fire late, and the hope is that he can carry that over into 2014.

Roethlisberger did lose starting receiver Emmanuel Sanders to free-agency this offseason. He still has Antonio Brown at his disposal, who may be the most underrated receiver in all of football. Brown became the first player in NFL history to have at least five receptions and 50 receiving yards in all 16 games, totaling 110 grabs, 1,499 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013. There are some promising candidates to replace Sanders, and fourth-round rookie Martavis Bryant tops the list. Marcus Wheaton is still around as well, but Jerricho Cotchery has departed. Tight end Heath Miller figures to be much more effective as he’s now two years removed from a torn ACL.

Le’Veon Bell was a bright spot for the Steelers last year as a rookie. He rushed for 860 yards and eight touchdowns and proved that he could be the same kind of workhorse that he was at Michigan State. He didn’t even crack the lineup until Week 4 due to injury, and he still managed to catch 45 balls out of the backfield. To help out Bell, the Steelers used a third-round pick on the speedy Dri Archer, while also signing LeGarrette Blount in free-agency. No back was as dominant as Blount in the second half of the season last year with the Patriots.

Finally, the Steelers managed to get some solid offensive line play last year. Guards Ramon Foster and David DeCastro surrendered only two sacks apiece. They will start alongside Maurkice Pouncey, who barely played last year because of torn ACL and MCL’s. It will be great to have him back because, when healthy, he’s one of the best centers in the game. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum finally provides the Roethlisberger with some protection for his blind side. He gave up just one sack over the final six games of the season. Marcus Gilbert is the one weakness at right tackle after allowing 11 sacks in 2013. He did have season-ending ankle surgery, so he was probably only playing on one leg.

Last Season
AFC North
Record
ATS Record
Home ATS
Road ATS
Over/Under
T-2nd
8-8
10-5-1
5-3
5-2-1
8-8
Offense Rank
Defense Rank
Turnover Margin
Points For
Points Against
20th
13th
-4
23.7
23.1
2014 Roster Changes
Draft Picks
ILB Ryan Shazier, DE/DT Stephon Tuitt, RB/WR Dri Archer, WR Martavis Bryant, CB Shaq Richardson
Additions
RB LeGarrette Blount, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR Lance Moore, NT Cam Thomas, ILB Arthur Moats, CB Brice McCain, S Michael Mitchell, P Adam Podlesh
Losses
RB Jonathan Dwyer, WR Emmanuel Sanders, WR Jerricho Cotchery, TE David Johnson, OT Levi Brown, C Eric Olsen, DE/DT Ziggy Hood, NT Al Woods, DE/OLB LaMarr Woodley, ILB Larry Foote, S Ryan Clark
Schedule
2014 Pittsburgh Steelers Schedule
Date Opponent
Spread (Est.)
Win Chance
9/7 Browns
-5.5
0.70
9/11 @ Ravens
+3
0.41
9/21 @ Panthers
+3
0.41
9/28 Bucs
-3.5
0.64
10/5 @ Jaguars
-6.5
0.72
10/12 @ Browns
+1
0.49
10/20 Texans
-4.5
0.67
10/26 Colts
-3
0.59
11/2 Ravens
-3
0.59
11/9 @ Jets
-2
0.53
11/17 @ Titans
+1.5
0.47
WK 12 BYE
-
-
11/30 Saints
-2.5
0.55
12/7 @ Bengals
+3
0.41
12/14 @ Falcons
+3.5
0.36
12/21 Chiefs
-1.5
0.53
12/28 Bengals
-1.5
0.53
Estimated Wins: 8.60

The Steelers have drawn a very favorable schedule in 2014. Their upcoming slate ranks as the eighth-easiest in the league this year. Their opponents went a combined 120-136 last season for a .469 winning percentage.

Getting to play the AFC South is a gift, while squaring off against the NFC South won’t be too tough considering two teams in that division went 4-12 last year. Aside from the six games against the AFC North, the Steelers are also set to do battle against the Chiefs from the AFC West and the Jets from the AFC East, who also finished second in their respective divisions.

While six of their first seven games come against non-playoff teams from last year, they do have to play four of their first six on the road. They then get three straight home games followed by two in a row prior to their bye in Week 12. They get three of their final five at home, including key games against the Saints, Chiefs and Bengals.

Pittsburgh will not be more than a 3.5-point underdog in any game this season, so oddsmakers in Las Vegas are giving this team some respect. It will be a favorite 10 times and an underdog six times. In that scenario, its win total should be 10 games, but it is only at 8.5. Check out below to see if I believe there is some value on the over.

Odds (Courtesy of Bovada)
Regular Season Win Total
to Win the AFC
to Win Super Bowl 49
8.5
12 to 1
28 to 1
2014 Predictions

The Steelers will be extremely motivated to get back to the playoffs after falling short the past two years with back-to-back disappointing 8-8 seasons. I like some of the moves they have made this offseason to upgrade the defense and hopefully get it back to being a top-5 unit, which it has been for years.

Roethlisberger hasn’t been as ‘clutch’ in recent years as he has been in the past. That was evident last year as the Steelers went just 2-5 in games decided by a touchdown or less. They also finished -4 in turnover differential. Those are two key factors that point to a bounce-back season for this team in 2014.

Taking some of the pressure off of Roethlisberger is an improved offensive line, as well as a three-headed monster at running back in Bell, Blount and Archer. This will be one of the better offenses in the league, which wasn’t the case last year. Rookies Shazier and Tuitt should help out right away on defense, as should free-agent signee Mitchell at safety.

I am very confident that the Steelers will win the AFC North in 2014. I look for the Ravens to be stronger than last year, but for the Bengals to take a step back due to having to face both the Broncos and Patriots in a tougher schedule this year. Pittsburgh is even one of my favorite sleeper picks to win the 2015 Super Bowl.

Projections
AFC North Finish
Division Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
1st
4-2
10-6
Over 8.5
Steelers Resources
More Steelers Predictions

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South
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NFC
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About the Author: Jack Jones has been one of the top experts on the site while competing against roughly 80 of the best handicappers in the world each year. He has made most of his money on the hardwood. In fact, he has finished in the Top-5 in college basketball each of the last three seasons (#5 2011-12, #5 2012-13, #3 2013-14). He was also the No. 1 NBA handicapper from 2012-13. As of early April, Jack has compiled an 802-631 basketball run that has seen his $1,000 game players profit $124,030. He was the No. 3 College Football handicapper in 2012-13. While he doesn't have any top finishes in the NFL, he has produced steady profits without killing his clients. Jack also was your No. 7 MLB handicapper in 2009 and backed it up with a No. 8 MLB finish in 2010. No matter the sport, the one thing you can count on with Jack Jones is that he won't leave any stone unturned. You'll know why he is on a game with his detailed analysis, and more times than not, you will come out well ahead against your book. Head on over to Jack's premium pick page to see what he has in store for tonight!
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