Stephen King taught us in “The Shawshank Redemption” that “hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things” and it better be if Steelers fans hope to be watching playoff football involving their team come January. That’s because just about every way you can conceive Pittsburgh being good this year involves hoping that someone a) doesn’t get injured b) returns to form after injury c) returns to form after a poor season or d) emerges as a rookie difference maker.
If you’ve read this blog long enough, you know we don’t go in much for the “hope” thing in terms of professional sports. Our tried-and-true mantra is “past performance is the best indicator of future behavior.” Applying that maxim, we have been down – very down – on the Steelers chances this year. They look like a 5-11 team to us. But since it’s the preseason and hope springs eternal, we decided to put both these theories into play with a round of half full/half empty:
Half full: Major young talent blossoms into feared unit.
Half empty: Injury prone, severe lack of depth, no true left tackle (Mike Adams too weak, Marcus Gilbert too stiff), exploited by premier pass rushers.
Half full: Markus Wheaton emerges as one of the steals of the 2013 draft, Antonio Brown returns to MVP form, Emmanuel Sanders excels in contract year.
Half empty: With no proven deep threat and Steelers dink-and-dunk penchant, talent is smothered around the line of scrimmage.
Half full: David Paulson emerges as second receiving threat until Heath Miller returns, then they’re double trouble for defenses.
Half empty: Paulson not ready for prime time and Miller not quite the same after injury.
Half full: Maturing Roethlisberger bonds with Haley and shows MVP form in fast-moving, quick-strike offense as young line, RBs take some pressure off.
Half empty: Hit early and often, hobbled Roethlisberger hamstrung by injuries and lack of deep threat.
Half full: Le’veon Bell proves to be a perfect fit for Haley’s offense and Redman, Dwyer excel as change-of-pace backs.
Half empty: Untested rookie struggles with NFL speed and without a field stretcher teams can play eight men in the box against the run.
Half full: Shaun Suisham continues to forget that he was once Shaun Suisham.
Half empty: Shaun Suisham remembers he was once Shaun Suisham, starts to kick like him again.
Half full: Brett Kiesel returns to form, Steve McLendon makes the most of his opportunity and Ironhead’s kid steps up.
Half empty: Kiesel slides at the back end of his career and McLendon is beaten out by Al Woods. Heyward and Ziggy Hood continue to pushed around.
Half full: LaMarr Woodley returns to 10-sack form, Lawrence Timmons becomes more consistent, Larry Foote remains a tackling machine and Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones push each other to 15 combined sacks.
Half empty: Woodley’s magic is gone, Timmons gets more mercurial, Foote begins to falter, Worilds blows his chance and Jones is still not physical enough to deal with NFL tackles.
Half full: Ike Taylor is nails again and Cortez Allen shows why Pittsburgh allowed Keenan Lewis to walk. Bill Gay excels as the nickel (as he always has).
Half empty: Allen is injured or ineffective and Gay must play corner, where he struggles (as he always has). With no stopper on the other side, Taylor is victimized too often.
Half full: Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu report in tip-top condition and play up to their All Pro potential.
Half empty: The NFL grind eventually gets to Clark and Polamalu and Pittsburgh’s frighteningly thin depth at the position becomes a major liability.
Half full: Drew Butler bounces back from a dreadful rookie campaign and shows the potential Pittsburgh saw in bringing him in.
Half empty: Veteran Brian Moorman is unable beat Butler out, even though Butler struggles again.