While the Ravens continue to the take roster hits, the Pittsburgh Steelers remain the hardest team to figure out going into the 2013 NFL season. On paper they look good enough to compete for the playoffs but their constant injury issues and advancing age makes them an enigma at best. Have they been able to find some young gems to help pick up the slack?
Offense – David DeCastro
Getting hurt in the preseason and missing the first 12 games of his career makes it easy for fans to forget that David DeCastro was the top rated guard in the 2012 NFL draft. The Pittsburgh Steelers took him out of expectation that he could help protect Ben Roethlisberger from the constant beatings he seems to take every year. After finishing last year starting three-straight games, the second-year man is anxious to show why draft experts were high on him in the first place. His technique is already in place and he gets out of his stance and into his block fast. All he needs is experience. Provided he stays healthy the life of Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey will get much, much easier moving forward and the entire offense should benefit.
Defense – Alameda Ta’amu
The staple of a 3-4 nose tackle is to clog running lanes and take on double teams so the pass rushers can have easier routes to the quarterback. That is precisely why the Steelers scooped him up in the fourth round of the draft. His impact on the Washington Huskies defense was obvious as opposing offensive lines had trouble running on him and had to devote two men to block him during pass rushes because of his size. As a result teammates like cornerback Desmond Trufant benefited. Pittsburgh needs somebody to replace the departed Casey Hampton. As it stands Steve McLendon is at the top of the depth chart, but if Ta’amu plays like he did in college then it won’t take long for Dick LeBeau and the defensive coaches to get him on the field.
Special Teams – Markus Wheaton
When it comes to the return game, and indeed all of football, there is no substitute for speed. Markus Wheaton resembles teammate Antonio Brown in his ability to get open both deep and short and break off big runs with the speed he developed in track. While his future is obviously on offense, the Pittsburgh Steelers will need him on the return team early on as Brown and Emmanuel Sanders work to fill the void left by Mike Wallace. Wheaton is not only fast but quick and compact at 5’11″. He is made to return kicks and punts and if the team can get him going it will make life ten times easier for a team consider on the wrong side of 30 in too many areas.