? For some reason the article changed color. Maybe the 2nd half will not.
Roethlisberger will be 31 next season, still in his prime, and he promised to concentrate on returning to health this offseason. The Steelers, though, need to find him targets. They began the season with only four wide receivers while keeping six backs, including a fullback. Now they may lose Wallace and have a question mark in Miller.
The Steelers defense finished No. 1 for the second season in a row, and for the second consecutive season, it was a somewhat misleading ranking. They have a good defense, but not the kind that savaged opponents and quarterbacks before 2011. They intercepted 10 passes, tying the second fewest in their 80-year history, the fewest in any season of 12 or 14 games. Their cornerbacks provided only three of those.
Those cornerbacks, though, were the strongest area of the defense in 2012. One of them, Keenan Lewis, may not return. They will return Ike Taylor and nickel back Cortez Allen, who will start for Lewis if he leaves.
Safety Troy Polamalu turns 32 and missed nine games with a calf injury. He looked good at the end, but they need him in the beginning and the middle, too. Ryan Clark put together yet another good season at free safety and has bypassed Polamalu as a playmaker at a fraction of the cost.
Their 3-4 defense always has counted on two outside linebackers to pressure the quarterback, and it would seem they no longer can count on James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley even though both likely will return to start. Harrison had knee surgery in August that wiped out his first three games and it took much longer for him to feel comfortable. His back curtailed him in 2011. He looked like the old Harrison near the end of the season, but he turns 35 in May. Woodley, who missed half of 2011 with injuries, was not effective up to his previous standards this past season. Some say he needs to lose weight and get in better shape; whatever it is, they desperately need his playmaking to return.
Before 2011, Harrison and Woodley, two of the best-paid players on the team, each had double-figure sacks in three consecutive seasons. Neither has reached that total in the past two. The Steelers also have not identified a logical successor to them. It's possible Lawrence Timmons could be that player; he has played for Harrison and could move there again. Timmons could have been their defensive MVP, leading them in tackles, with three interceptions and tied for the lead with six sacks, the first inside linebacker in their history to do so.
If Timmons moved outside, it would leave them thin on the inside, particularly if they do not bring back Larry Foote, who had a good 2012 season. Rookie Sean Spence is still a long way from coming back from a serious preseason knee injury, and Stevenson Sylvester remains a good special teams player who has not played much on the inside.
The defensive line will continue to undergo a transition if Casey Hampton leaves and Steve McLendon replaces him. Brett Keisel had another strong season at right end, but neither Ziggy Hood nor Cameron Heyward have lived up to the expectations that come with No. 1 draft picks. While Keisel isn't getting any younger -- he will be 35 in September -- he remains the best end on the team.
As for special teams, their Pro Bowl return man in 2011, Brown, averaged only 6.8 yards on 27 punt returns. Chris Rainey did some good things on kickoff returns. Shaun Suisham had a Pro Bowl-caliber season, missing only three kicks -- one from 53 and one from 54. Rookie punter Drew Butler was inconsistent.
Toss out just some of the 78 starts lost by injuries, and the Steelers would have made the playoffs in 2012. But even without those injuries, 2013 presents them with many more questions than they can answer. And until they do, improvement will be difficult.
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