Almost there, I am trying my best to beat the start of the season and it's starting to look like it's either now or never to finish all of these predictions. We get to everyone's presumptive favorites to outlast the Patriots and possibly make the Super Bowl for the AFC. However, I am here to put the kibosh on everything about that. Yes, this offense is electric with Big Ben, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Le'Veon Bell, but to me it seems like every year something dumb happens to this team. Whether it's Ben getting hurt or Bell being suspended or hurt again just something always gets in the way. They get in a fight against the Bengals in the playoffs and end up getting hurt players that way. Part of that in my belief is their coaching with Mike Tomlin who is very player friendly and with that their team tends to play loose and uncontrollable. Even their quarterback Big Ben seems fed up with the nonsense. I doubt that ends with how they let Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell get away with a lot of stuff with contract extensions, suspensions, and boneheaded social media stunts. I also, cannot see this defense being good enough to knock off the Patriots or even the Raiders or Chargers in my opinion.
This offense is without a doubt one of the best in the league, I cannot deny that. Big Ben as long as he is upright and healthy is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. At this point of his career you can even put him down as a borderline Hall of Famer. The one issue with him is his inability to know when to get rid of the ball and avoid big hits. However, he has made a career of playing that way and done it well so I guess you cannot tell him to change that. Then we get to my issue of Le'Veon Bell who is being a bonehead clamoring for a new contract extension after the deadline date where the Steelers literally cannot do it now until next off season. His best move would be signing the deal right away putting in the work and showing the team he wants to be committed. Especially, after never playing a full 16 game season whether it's with injuries or being suspended. If I were the Steelers I would be tempted to pass on him this off season and let some other team over pay for him. Not that finding a running back like him is easy, but finding one via the draft that can be useful enough to play with this high powered offense should not be hard. Heck, maybe James Conner can be that guy with his down hill running style. Their receivers without a doubt is the main strength on this team with Brown and hopefully a clean Bryant playing on the outside. It also seems like Eli Rogers and Big Ben have been more in sync this pre season which bodes well for this offense. Hopefully Brown can handle not being the guy getting the ball a lot cause you know how diva these receivers can be. Their tight ends are a little week, but maybe newly acquired Vance McDonald can stay healthy enough to flash his potential. This offensive line is also one of the better ones in the league with solid blockers Ali Villanueva, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, and Marcus Gilbert. The only weak spot is Pouncey and his spotty health, but the depth is also solid behind them. Overall, if everyone stays healthy this offense may be the best in the league.
Now here comes the weak spot on the team. The Steelers I think over shot themselves by letting Dick LaBeau walk out the door. Since then they have been pretty bad on defense. Just ask Tom Brady who picks apart the zone defense they throw at him every time they face off. I actually really love their down linemen with Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave, and Cam Heyward. However, Tuitt and Heyward have been a bit up and down lately Tuitt with his effort and Heyward with his injuries. Next to them on the edges are a seemingly ancient James Harrison to go along with youngsters Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt. I think this spot is really weak in my opinion and instead of going with the trend today to get faster pass rushers they continue to nab power rushers which are bit out of vogue now a days. To me Dupree is a bit of a plodder like Jarvis Jones was and I cannot see him living up to being a first rounder. The same can be said about Watt who is nothing like his brother and I think his low athletic upside will be apparent early and often. They have one solid inside backer with Ryan Shazier who is electric, but needs to prove he can stay healthy. I kind of hoped they would have drafted another linebacker to pair with him to help him avoid playing near the line where his smaller stature can be a detriment. Their corners should be better now with Joe Haden who may play like he used to with a team actually winning and first round rookie Artie Burns should continue to develop. They obviously feel comfortable at the position if they traded solid veteran Russ Cockrell recently. The safeties on this squad is what worries me the most with Mike Mitchell being really overrated and acquiring J.J. Wilcox recently still does not give me confidence. I was hoping they would fix that issue. Overall, to me this defense is a tad pedestrian and needs to get more aggressive if it wants to compete with the Patriots. If they continue to play a zone going against them they have zero shot to make the Super Bowl.
In the end, I definitely see this team making the playoffs barring an injury to a key player. They play in a division where the teams play each other very tough, but they should win most of those match ups. Their schedule is favorable overall with match ups against the Vikings, Bears, Jags, Chiefs, Lions, Colts, and Texans. Their toughest match ups are against the Titans, Packers, and Patriots, but they luckily face off with them at home where they should have an advantage. I can see them running away with a 13-3 record, but as mentioned I do not believe their built to win in the playoffs with their defense and a possible pass happy scheme that usually does not fair well in the colder weather.
1 (30) - T.J Watt OLB - If you could not tell I did not buy in on the youngest Watt's hype coming into the draft. To me he was just no athletic enough to warrant a first round selection and would have rather seen the Steelers go in a different direction. Maybe a safety would have been better with many talented players still on the board. If they really wanted to draft a pass rusher they could have gone with Jordan Willis, Ryan Anderson, or even Tarrell Basham would have made me feel better. Overall, I think this was a reach like they did when they drafted Bud Dupree.
2 (30) - JuJu Smith-Schuster WR - I really liked this pick made by the Steelers even though they are seemingly loaded at receiver. I actually mocked them a receiver a lot since behind Brown is a flight risk in Martavis Bryant who needs to stay clean and at the time an under performing Sammie Coates and Eli Rogers. Coates was then cut this past Saturday and now Rogers looks to be in sync with Roethlisberger. Unfortunately, Smith-Schuster is currently on the shelf with a knee injury after just returning from a concussion recently. It may take him a bit to climb up the depth chart, but he has nice potential to be at least a high quality number two or a big slot receiver.
3 (30) - Cameron Sutton CB - I loved this pick also made by the Steelers. He is a versatile defender who can play corner or safety and be a high quality returner. To me he got no love coming off an injury to end his Tennessee career, but he has a lot of talent to be an excellent defender. His best spot would be in the slot where his speed and quickness can really shine. Unfortunately, he may miss a chunk of his rookie year with a hamstring injury.
3 (31) - James Conner RB - I kind of say this pick coming for the Steelers picking the hometown feel good story. Conner is a good running back and should fit their down hill running scheme if Bell ends up missing any games. I would like to see him become a better pass catcher, but I think as a back up he should be above average. If they do let Bell walk after this year though I think they should still look for a better running back to pair with Conner.
4 (29) - Joshua Dobbs QB - I actually had him mocked to the Steelers a few times. I would have liked to see him beat out the terrible Landry Jones as the back up, but he may need a bit coming from a spread scheme. He is without a doubt a smart kid who should learn the playbook and nuances quickly. His size to me is a bit worrisome and his running ability that has him being quick to run from the pocket. If he can learn to throw from the pocket and work through progressions I can see him being an eventual heir apparent to Big Ben.
5 (30) - Brian Allen DB - Another solid versatile defensive back that can help build the depth of their secondary. I doubt he leap frogs past the starters or even other back ups like William Gay and Coty Sensabaugh his rookie year. However, his length and ball skills will have him being a solid starter if injuries take place. He should be a great special teamer to start his career as he continues to work on his technique.
6 (30) - Colin Holba LS - What a waste of a pick here. Not only was he cut this Saturday, but it was essentially a wasted pick on a player who plays just long snapper where there a ton on the streets you can plug and play.
7 (30) - Keion Adams OLB - A solid possible rotational pass rusher who can push the guys ahead of him. Other than that I doubt he ends up making an impact.
2018 Off Season:
This may be an off season of change for the Steelers if Big Ben does go through with his retirement threats and if Le'Veon Bell gets shown the door. For some reason I doubt Big Ben retires barring a really bad injury this season. He is just too good and important for the Steelers to let him leave without a back up plan in mind. Bell on the other hand I think is severely over hyped since the Steelers success has hindered way more on Ben than Bell when either of them are out of a game. To me he has soured his relationship with the team with his pointless hold out and as a running back with an already long injury history I would not hesitate to let him walk. I would rather see them use that money to sign a better safety, pass rusher, or linebacker to help get this defense back to their normal greatness.
My 2018 Mock Selection:
1 (28) - Jordan Whitehead S Pittsburgh