Returning to their playoff form is on the minds of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Will their roster shake out enough to make that happen?
Wide Receiver: Markus Wheaton vs. Martavis Bryant
The loss of Emmanuel Sanders was undoubtedly tough for the Pittsburgh Steelers who more than ever need their offense to function as the defense continues rebuilding. That means have a solid stable of receivers for Ben Roethlisberger. Second-year man Markus Wheaton is expected to fill that void. Still, with just six total catches in 2013 there is no reason to think the job should be handed to him. At the same time a lot of eyes are on rookie Martavis Bryant out of Clemson. A 4th round pick, he is considered still very raw but the kid 6’4″ with deep speed and a knack for making the big catches. Depending on his development, Wheaton may not get a chance to start.
Backup QB: Bruce Gradkowski vs. Landry Jones
Last year was a welcome relief to the Steelers in that they didn’t have to go a single game without Ben Roethlisberger under center. Before that the Pro Bowl quarterback had missed nine games across four seasons, a testament to his toughness but also his reckless style of play. At age 32 those hits may start to catch up with him, which makes settling the backup position increasingly important. Currently the job belongs to veteran Bruce Gradkowski, a serviceable but unremarkable journeyman. He must stare down Landry Jones, a second-year player out of Oklahoma who brought intriguing upside but needed polish. After a full season in the system, he should be ready to take the next step, and Gradkowski will be his big test.
Defensive End: Nicholas Williams vs. Stephon Tuitt
The linebackers drive the ship for the Pittsburgh Steelers defense but they are only as good as the defensive line in front of them. Safe to say, while not terrible, it hasn’t been what it used to be. The hope is a series of daring draft moves can turn the corner. Among them is Stephon Tuitt, a big, long and quick athlete out of Notre Dame who fits their scheme perfectly. His pass rush potential is something they’ve been lacking at end and could make life easier on the backers. Only Nicholas Williams, a seventh round pick from a year ago stands in his way.