Last year's disappointing season and the loss of several key players have NFL fans and pundits skeptical about what kind of Steelers team will come out of Latrobe this year.
And while the offseason losses were great —including former Super Bowl hero James Harrison —there is a lot of star-studded power on Pittsburgh's roster. In fact, not many teams have the pro-bowl caliber players that the Steelers will still field. All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey will be snapping to Hall-of-Fame worthy Ben Roethlisberger on every offensive play. His weapons include former pro-bowl wideout Antonio Brown.
But the critics insist that inexperience has leached into the depths of this team. The starting offensive line will be the youngest that Pittsburgh has fielded in decades. But the team will be better because of the youth. For several seasons the line has been labeled as aging. The team let go of Max Starks and Willie Colon. Promising talent like David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert should be an improvement for years to come.
That youth remains balanced by veterans on the defensive side. Pittsburgh has the two best starting safeties in the league in Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark. Both should be hungry after an injury-laden and disappointing showing last year.
There are obvious weaknesses on the roster, perhaps most notably at running back. Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman have been unable to seize the starting job. A field stretching receiver to replace Mike Wallace, who left for Miami in free agency, is also a need.
Draft picks including running back Le'Veon Bell and wideout Markus Wheaton could see action early and often if they live up to their scouting reports. But Pittsburgh's season does not hinge on the rookies' success —because they still have Roethlisberger, Pouncey, Brown, Polamalu, Clark, LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons, among others. Every one of those players are among the best at their positions. There is little in that to be skeptical about.
(City Editor Rick Kazmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog, "The Kazmer Report," at dailyamerican.com. Smartphone users can access the blog by scanning the QR code at left.)