2012 Record: 8 – 8 (3rd in Division)
General Manager: Kevin Colbert
Head Coach: Mike Tomlin
Offensive Coordinator: Todd Haley
Defensive Coordinator: Dick LeBeau
Special Teams Coach: Danny Smith
Overview: The 2012 season was a disappointment for the Steelers and their fans. After a decade of prosperity for the Steelers, they may finally be hitting their decline. The Steelers are an old franchise, and I’m not saying they have been around for a long time. According to age, the Steelers are one of the more veteran squads in the league, and that may lead to their downfall. 2012 was an injury leagued season for the Steelers. That can be credited to their age or bad luck. Either way injuries can ruin a season. Can the youth of the 2013 Draft class bring new life to the aging Steelers? We will have to wait and see.
Offense: Total Offense (21st), Passing (14th), Rushing (26th), and Scoring (22nd).
Injuries killed the Steelers on offense in 2012. The first major setback on offense was rookie David DeCastro going down with a torn MCL. Mendenhall was also lost for the majority of the season to a knee injury. Big Ben was lost in week 11, but eventually returned to regain a handle on a anemic offense. The Steelers were pretty one-dimensional without Mendenhall and a banged-up offensive line which lead to putting all of the work on Roethlisberger’s shoulders. Therefore once Ben went down that burden was left to Charlie Batch and then to Byron Leftwich. That is not the ideal situation for any football team.
Defense: Total Yards (32nd), Passing (32nd), Rushing (31st), and Sacks (15th).
The Steelers keep up the trend of monstrous defensive play in the AFC North. They were top-2 in the league for total yards, passing, and rushing. This isn’t anything new from the Steelers though, quite frankly, we expect it. Even as this defense ages it still produces thanks to great players and great coaching by Dick LeBeau. Even though players like Polamalu, Harrison, Keisel, Clark, and Taylor are great players and are Steelers through and through they will need to be replaced soon than later.
In 2012 the Steelers had five games where they lost by three points ( Oakland, Tennessee, Baltimore, Dallas, and Cincinnati). This may not mean they missed the game winning kick, but at some point a kick may have been missed to lose by three. The Steelers also won three games by three points or less. Again, this does not mean the game was won on kicking, but it does play a factor at some point in the game. This is pretty much the story of the Steelers kicking in 2012. The kick return game help set up nice field position, but didn’t change the course of too many games.
2012 Offseason Impact:
Key Acquisitions: TE Leonard Pope and ILB Brandon Johnson.
Key Losses: QB Dennis Dixon, RB Mewelde Moore, OT Max Starks (eventually resigned/PUP), G Chris Kemoeatu, DE/DT Aaron Smith, ILB James Farrior, and DE/DT Aaron Smith.
Round 1, Pick 24: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
Round 2, Pick 56: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Round 3, Pick 86: Sean Spence, LB, Miami
Round 4, Pick 109: Alameda Ta’Amu, DT, Washington
Round 5, Pick 159: Chris Rainey, RB, Florida
Round 7, Pick 231: Toney Clemons, WR, Colorado
Round 7, Pick 240: David Paulson, TE, Oregon
Round 7, Pick 246: Terrence Frederick, CB, Texas A&M
Round 7, Pick 248: Kelvin Beachum, OG, SMU
As far as Free Agency goes this was a bland off-season for the Steelers. They didn’t lose anyone that would really hurt them, besides maybe Max Starks, but the players they lost were replaced by a really solid draft. I will say this now so you all understand my future player and personnel articles. I am a fan of drafting offensive line. The formula usually works out to be good line + good quarterback/running back x good receivers = good offense. There are obviously exceptions to that rule, but I believe in building from the offensive line up (unless you draft a quarterback talent like Peyton Manning). DeCastro is a name that you will be hearing for a long time in Pittsburgh. He is nasty in the run game and anchors in the passing game. Mike Adams was one of the falling offensive linemen in the 2012 draft along with Jonathan Martin and Cordy Glenn. Not an elite talent offensive tackle class, but to get Adams at 56 is a great pick. I like the top-5 picks for the Steelers. Overall this draft made for a solid off-season.
Key Acquisitions: CB William Gay, QB Bruce Gradkowski, and OT Guy Whimper.
Key Losses: OT Max Starks, OT Willie Colon, CB Keenan Lewis, S Ryan Mundy, RB Rashard Mendenhall, WR Mike Wallace, and OLB James Harrison.
Round 1, Pick 17: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Round 2, Pick 48: Le’Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State
Round 3, Pick 79: Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
Round 4, Pick 111: Shamarko Thomas, S, Syracuse
Round 4, Pick 115: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
Round 5, Pick 150: Terry Hawthorne, CB, Illinois
Round 6, Pick 186: Justin Brown, WR, Oklahoma
Round 6, Pick 206: Vince Williams, LB, Florida State
Round 7, Pick 223: Nick Williams, DT, Samford
Another off-season where the Steelers didn’t do much in free agency, but the Steelers don’t build their team through free agency. They build through the draft. That is exactly what they did this year. I really like all of their selections besides Nick Williams, but that’s only because I don’t know much about him. The Steelers lose Harrison, but instantly replace him with a younger version of himself in Jarvis Jones. Jones will reek havoc in NFL backfields. Bell will come in and try and replace Mendenhall and he probably can. Mendenhall was injured too often to be effective so Bell should instantly be more effective. The assumption for Wheaton is that he was selected to replace Wallace, but that may not be true. He is quicker than he is fast, so his place could be more of a slot guy. A lot of Steelers fans shrugged off the loss of Wallace as he is a “one trick pony”, but they aren’t in a position with receivers to shrug off a deep threat in Wallace. The $60 million Miami gave him was a little too rich for Kevin Colbert and who would blame him? Thomas, Jones, Hawthorne, and Williams are all guys I believe could contribute in a few years. Yet again the Steelers had a very solid draft, but it brings up a question or two in my mind. Do “solid” drafts make only a solid team without key free agent acquisitions? Can the Steelers return to the promise land with a solid roster? We will see in a pivotal 2013 season.
In my eyes the Steelers are trending downward. This has a few factors for me. First, the AFC North is a tough division that houses the Super Bowl Champion Ravens and a playoff contender in the Cincinnati Bengals. Next the Steelers had an injury plagued season and it is hard to win games in the NFL if your squad is consistently banged up. With being the aging squad the Steelers are this becomes a problem year to year. My final problem with the Steelers is that they have been just “solid” the past year or two and that won’t get the job done in the AFC North anymore. I really do believe the Steelers have drafted some real quality players in the last two drafts, but I don’t believe the Steelers are in win now mode anymore.
The Steelers aren’t in win now mode because of an aging squad. Could they make a run? Sure, but will they? Probably not. The Steelers are doing a good job in the draft selecting players who can help now, but also those that will be ready to go in a few years. In three to five years the Steelers should be back to their prime because they are just that franchise. I don’t know if Ben has the weapons to make a difference on offense this year and who knows if the defensive veterans can stay healthy. The Steelers will still have a great defense, but I don’t believe they will score enough to survive the AFC.