The Pittsburgh Steelers missed out on the playoffs in 2012, but they’ll be right back in it in 2013. The Steelers have a pretty loaded roster, and they struggled with a ton of injuries and mainly last season, they lost their identity completely.
What identity, you ask? The Steelers lost the ability to consistently run the football. Rashard Mendenhall was injured and will be let go this offseason. Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman simply were not able to consistently get the Steelers where they wanted to be in terms of running the ball, and as a result, they ranked 26th in the league in rushing.
The Steelers are still well-coached and they have tons of talent, so they will be back. Here are some of their biggest needs this offseason, in no particular order:
1. Running Back
As I stated, Rashard Mendenhall will not be back, and the Steelers had to let go of Chris Rainey after an incident late last year. Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer are solid backup options, but neither is capable of being a featured back for a full season. The Steelers could legitimately use a first round pick on a back because that area of the team is such an important part of who they are.
2. Wide Receiver
Mike Wallace is as good as gone, and Plaxico Burress is not going to solve this team’s woes. The Steelers still have Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, but they need a #1 to step up like Wallace did two years ago to be as effective as they can be. This position could be addressed in the first three rounds for the Steelers, potentially in two of the first three. It’s a big area of need this offseason.
3. Rush Linebacker
Pittsburgh may have to cut James Harrison this offseason, which would be hard to do but probably necessary. Harrison’s contract is too big, and he’s getting old. There are some really good rush linebackers available in this year’s draft, making him somewhat expendable. The Steelers did not have a player with double digit sacks last season.
The Steelers are not getting turnovers like they used to. Ike Taylor is still a good player, but he’s not getting any younger. Keenan Lewis is an unrestricted free agent, and the Steelers have a couple of young guys behind him who could step up. Still, they at least need to look into adding some depth at this position this offseason.
5. Backup Quarterback
Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch are both free agents. With Ben Roethlisberger’s health as of late, the Steelers’ backup QBs have been very active. They need to make sure they have someone back there they can trust if Big Ben goes down again.
Backups Ryan Mundy and Will Allen are both free agents this offseason. Troy Polamalu has had some injury problems as well, and had a down year in 2012 it seemed. He has played one full season in the last four years.