The last time we saw the Black and Gold on the gridiron, Tim Tebow was stunning the Blitzburgh Nation with a 300-plus yard passing performance and a one-play overtime playoff win.
Tebow has taken his Superman costume to the Big Apple while many veteran Steelers have retired. Gone are future Hall of Famer Hines Ward, as well as defensive rocks James Farrior and Aaron Smith. The youth movement is on in Pittsburgh.
This can play out two ways: It will be good if the inexperienced players hit the ground running. It will be bad if they have early-season jitters as the 2012 first-half schedule is daunting.
Let's take a look at both sides of the ball.
Big Ben Roethlisberger is hands-down the captain of the offense. He's entering his ninth season as well as the prime of his career. Much has been made of the relationship he will have with new offensive coordinator Todd Haley. If both can keep focus on the big picture, this marriage can work.
Ben has a plethora of excellent receivers.
Mike Wallace ended his holdout last week and will be in uniform tonight. While it may take him a game or two to get back into gear, his speed cannot be matched. Playing in a contact year should elevate his game. Third-year man Antonio Brown is coming off a Pro Bowl and the signing of a five-year $42.5 million extension. He provides the steadiness and reliability to Wallace's flare. He may be the best of the bunch. Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery will round out the top four.
Rashard Mendenhall looks to be well ahead of schedule with his knee rehab and may be dressed tonight. I do not feel he should be rushed. But the Steelers do need him to have better success in the run game. Isaac Redman is a dependable and good backup who could get the bulk of the load at the beginning of the season. He has been banged up throughout the preseason. With Haley's belief in using the run game more, Jonathan Dwyer could also be used in short-yardage situations. Rookie Chris Rainey looks to be an awesome third-down back and return man.
Once again, the offensive line will be the key. Rookie Guard David DeCastro looked to be moving into the starting lineup smoothly. Then disaster struck in Buffalo. The Steelers kept him available for the end of the season, which is a positive sign.
Veteran Max Starks and Marcus Gilbert will man the tackle spots. Ramon Foster and Willie Colon will handle the guard positions while the best of the bunch is center Maurkice Pouncey. Let's hope this unit can rise to the occasion and open holes while keeping Ben upright.
It will be strange not to see No. 51 manning the middle of the Blitzburgh defense. Farrior rode off into the sunset. In his place is a rising star in Lawrence Timmons. Veteran Larry Foote will provide balance beside Timmons.
A big question mark is the health of OLB James Harrison. He is recovering from preseason knee surgery. His relentlessness and obsession with getting to the quarterback is much needed in defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's scheme. LaMarr Woodley is a beast opposite Harrison. These two together can cause damage to opposing offenses.
The front three has much youth with Ziggy Hood, Cameron Haywood and Steve McLendon. These three will be the unit of the future. Casey Hampton, now 35, will start tonight at nose tackle while proven veteran Brett Keisel gets the call at right end.
The biggest question mark this season will be the secondary.
Yes, Troy Polamalu is back and will surely be all over the field. Corner Ike Taylor will again be covering the opponent's best receiver. But are Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen ready to step to the forefront? Can Ryan Mundy play a good centerfield in Ryan Clark's absence. This unit needs to pick up the turnovers compared to 2011.
Tonight Pittsburgh heads back to the scene of the crime - Invesco Sports Authority Field in Denver. Awaiting them will be none other than Peyton Manning. The Steelers have had past success against him and will look to get after him early and often tonight.
I think Ben outduels Manning, and the defense gets two key turnovers.
Tonight: Pittsburgh 27, Denver 20.
Season prediction: 11-5 and AFC North Division champions.
Craig Andros is an occasional contributor to Voice of the Fan. He resides in Altoona.