I think people are underselling the Steelers a bit.
I'm not saying we'll win the division, but I think that we're the underdog and the last time that happened we went as a #6 seed and won the superbowl.
I'll give you a run down per position so maybe you guys will get some better perspective.
Ben had a poor season and I'm not making excuses, he sucked. However, we are using a more Indy-Style oriented offense, which is going to help excel our passing and running game. He streamlined the playbook and it's supposed to keep everyone on the same page.
We have arguably the best depth at QB in the AFC.. and possibly the NFL. I Can't think of 1 guy that is a better backup QB other than Charlie Batch. Ben has been putting tons of input in with Arians, has been studying non-stop and has been working with WR's in the offseason.. which is something he's never done. When he's in the zone, he's a top 3 QB in QB Rating. He was Top 5 his rookie season and top 3 his Soph season. Last year he was horrendous. However now, he's also calling his own protections.. What is going to motivate him more to save his own ass then calling his own protections?
Willie Parker was the #3 RB in the NFL last year.. the top 3 were in the AFC. I don't like the amount of Carries he had, and I don't like how early we abandoned the run early on the road. The new offense will spread the defense out a lot more and allow Willies elusiveness to really shine. As for depth? We have Najeh Davenport who is an Excellent ST return man, a solid 3rd down back and pass blocker. However he's injury prone. We have 2 UDFA's which I have high hopes for. In Russells short time at Minnesota he outplayed Laurence Maroney. If he returns to form, that'll be our second UDFA Steal at RB. As for Mosley, from Baylor. He's a 6'2 240lb Short Yardage Specialist and I thought he'd be our Short Yardage guy. However, on Wednesday we signed Kevan Barlow.
Now I know there's going to be crap about "Barlow Sucks" and He's never had a great season since his 1,000 yard season.. but he's coming to a perfect situation.. He's coming to a former Power running team, that still has the power running line. He may have had a 2.8 ypc average last year, but he was a short yardage specialist.. I'm excited, Barlow and Davenport give us 2 solid "bigger" guys that are solid blockers and receivers at RB.
Dan Kreider is one of the most underrated FB in the league. We also have John Kuhn and Aaron Robbins (We lost Gijon Robinson, who would've been a great weapon at FB).
With us using more 3-4 WR sets.. we're pretty set at WR. Hines Ward is either the #1 or #2 WR in the AFCN, Santonio Holmes was a beast last year and actually won us the game to knock the Bengals out of the playoffs last year. I think this year with a better grasp of the offense he'll be a better deep threat.
Cedrick Wilson, Nate Washington, Willie Reid, Dallas Baker, Eric Fowler, Eric Deslauriers will vye for the 3, 4 and 5 spots. Personally I think UDFA Fowler could really surprise some people.. He was the Dwayne Jarrett of D2. Unstoppable. Wilson likely will start at 3, Washington/Reid will fight for 4.
Now speaking of Reid, I can't wait to throw out the 1 thing this thread is completely lacking.. Talk of Special Teams.
I Think Heap is the best TE in the AFCN now, but I think Pittsburgh has the best duo. With Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth, we can let Miller split out and create more mismatches. Spaeth is a huge red-zone target and monster blocker. I think this is going to throw some teams off.
Marvel Smith is a lock at LT and I hope Capizzi can challenge him next year.
Max Starks, Jason Capizzi and Willie Colon will battle for RT. Don't forget, Rookie Willie Colon, kept Adalius Thomas AND Trevor Pryce out of the backfield against us the 2nd time.
I hope we re-sign Faneca which, is rumored to be close to done. At RG, I think they removed the weak-link. Kendall Simmons is competing for Center and They're going to throw Kemoeatu in there. Either Kemo or Colon will give us a more powerful, bigger bodied Guard that can compete with the bigger NT's that gave us issues.
Some see Hartings retirement as a blow.. I don't, we knew it was coming. We probably have the most depth at G/C in the league. I have a feeling Mahan or Okobi run away with the C job, which IMO Okobi outplayed Hartings last year. Outside Chance for Marvin Phillip.. who shut down Haloti Ngata all through College.
LeBeau's loyalty in Pittsburgh has been rewarded with 2 Young and talented Linebackers, a High-motor DE, and a Solid Corner.. I have no idea what the hell he's going to do with them, but he is supposedly created 35 new plays, just for Timmons, Woodley, and Keisel.
I think we have one of the most underrated DE duo's in the league. Aaron Smith is a beast and holds the point as good as anyone. He's not much of a pass rusher, but we did add Ryan McBean behind him. Keisel was probably our best defensive player last year. He put up stats similar to Luis Castillo/Richard Seymour. He's going to be doing some key stuff this year as LeBeau is cooking up tons of new material. As much as Timmons and Woodley are being pumped up for LeBeaus Schemes, LeBeau is creating some interesting stuff for Keisel. I was worried about depth.. but we added 3 this offseason.. 2 rooks and Nick Eason.
Casey Hampton, IMO is top 2 in the league, the only guy I may rank higher is Jamal Williams and thats only because of Williams Sheer size/power. Hampton is a beast and his backup Chris Hoke isn't a slacker either. He was our Starting NT in our 15-1 Season.
Losing Porter was a blow, but I don't know how this will work.. It's my question mark right now... I'll know more after I head to Latrobe for TC.
James Harrison is labeled the Starter as of right now. Grayback, is the guy that both body slammed the Browns Fan, and Chad Johnson last season.. There was a few games he started for Porter.. and in those games, he led the Steelers in almost every defensive category... Tackles and Sacks, he would make some forget Porter.
Timmons was to replace Porter... but he gives us flexibility. He's supposedly going to be used like Polamalu.. He'll just be walking around and you don't know if he's coming or not.
Woodley, even if he's horrible in coverage, which is supposedly his con about being a Linebacker.. he can't be worse than Clark Haggans.. he's faster, more powerful, and was more accomplished coming out of college. Plus he gives us the ability to seamlessly switch to a 4-3. Perhaps a poor mans Freeney, he can play standup or with his hand down.
Farrior is a probowler at Buck and Though he's old, I think he'll be fine one more season, until we add Jasper Brinkley (I hope).. Foote was probably our most consistant Linebacker last year.. 90 Tackles, 4 sacks 1 INT and 1 Fumble is a pretty good season for Him.
Rumor has it that after this season or sometime this season.. Foote will be moving to Buck and Timmons at Mack. That would be interesting..
The fact remains Lebeau has an infusion of Young talent and no one has a clue how he's going to use them.
Ike had a bad season (who in Pitt didn't), but a lot of our secondary issues were from a lack of Pass rush. Which is why most steelers fans never understood the CB pick. Don't forget who the coach is.. Mike Tomlin, who is supposed to be one of the best defensive backs coach in the league. His tutelage to Ike, Bryant, Rico, An Smith, Troy, Willie *** and Anthony Madison could mean big things.
Ike shut down everyone our superbowl year. Of course his hands come pre-equipped with grease as he can't catch anything (Ironically he intercepted a pass in the superbowl). Bryant McFadden is a solid #2. Ricardo Colclough was looking as if he was coming around before his neck injury. DeShea is a solid vet and even though his physical stature and speed isn't anything to brag about, he's very intelligent. Apparently thats what they see in ***. They see him as a very strong and intelligent player who can contribute in Nickel/Dime Packages his rookie season.
We have a solid Safety Duo. Anthony Smith had 2 INT's in 3 games Started. He also earned the #5 Top hit of the season per NFLN on the hit on TJ Howsmoozilly. He also was a punisher to Reuben Droughns, Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards. He's perfect in both the zone blitz scheme and Tampa2 scheme. He's a great midfielder that brings the pain everytime he's in on a play.
Troy Polamalu needs no introduction.
Ryan Clark was solid for us, not great, but he did his job breaking in Anthony Smith. He'll provide Nickel Coverage and Gives us great depth if an injury occurs.
Tyrone Carter is a solid backup.. Undersized, but when Troy was out last season, he single-handedly won us a game with a Forced fumble and recovery.. and he was playing exactly like Troy did, not as great, but solid.
Here's the part that everyone is overlooking
We were absolutely HORRENDOUS last year. Tomlin has made it his personal agenda to fix ST. Timmons, Woodley, McBean and *** can contribute right away.. Don't forget We added Daniel Sepulveda.. the best Punter in the draft.
I don't think people realize how awful Gardocki was. He was hands down the worst punter in the league last year and if not, he was in the worst 2. Adding Sepulveda gives us the "Hidden Yardage" advantage.. no more 22 Yard Punts.
Sepulveda also allows us to have 11 coverage guys on the field, not 10 and a punter.. See:
Also, Willie Reid our 3rd round pick last year, who we drafted as a return specialist, is back. I can count on 2 hands how many games Special teams lost us.
Even as bad as we were playing last year, we were still in ALL the games (except Baltimore), until it came to ST's.. Our coverage sucked, our Punter Sucked, Our returners (Holmes/Coke) fumbled almost EVERY return.
So since we improved our ST.. I think a 10-13 win season is very much in the reach for the Steelers this year.