2014 Headaches and Concerns

This is the article no one wants to write: what if the worst were to happen? Below are a few scenarios every fan should cross their fingers and count their lucky stars, that the team does not have to endure.

Slow Start

A slow start would hurt the Steelers more this year than last. Pittsburgh opens their first two games against division opponents Cleveland and Baltimore. Going 0-2 in the division, to start the season, would put them at an extreme disadvantage.

More cause for concern is the quick turnaround time and prime time schedule to start the year. In 2013, the Steelers started with a weak Titans team at home, then played divisional opponent Cincinnati in a Monday Night game on the road, with a Sunday Night game at home against Chicago and a trip over to London to face the Vikings.

In 2014, the Steelers face Cleveland at home, then turnaround with a short week to travel to Baltimore for a Thursday Night game. The following week they travel to Charlotte to play against the Panthers on Sunday Night Football. Following a few weeks, Pittsburgh enjoys 3 straight home games, however, none are 1pm kickoffs. The team apparently found their groove later last season after their biological clocks were reset with 3 straight 1pm kickoffs.

Hopefully they are better prepared for different game times and travel this season, as opposed to last: The Steelers only face 1 opponent, that had a winning record in 2013, in their first 7 games.

Healthy Ben

Ben Roethlisberger played all 16 games in 2013, only the 2nd time he has done so in his career. It’s obvious the Steelers go the way Ben goes. Here’s hoping the team keeps the QB upright, and Todd Haley’s quick release offense, combined with a no huddle approach, help Ben stray from harm.

Healthy Everyone

Injuries are a necessary evil in the NFL. Every team faces them, but the Steelers were ravaged in their very first game last season, and had to rely on unproven players to fill prominent roles. Two such roles were All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey, who was replaced by a street free agent, and Larry Foote, the defensive captain who was replaced by an un-drafted and perennial practice squad LB. RB was also a major weak spot in the opening games of the 2013 campaign, with a previously released player and another acquired a week earlier via trade, handling the starting duties.

Through free agency and the draft, it appears the Steelers have acquired depth at several key positions, preparing themselves for the worst case scenario. However, it’s that scenario everyone hopes to avoid.

Bell & Blount

Or “Dumb and Dumber” as I’d like to call them now. (Sorry guys, I’ll forgive you, but not without some tough love!) When will the commissioner decide to discipline these two players? And how will he discipline them? Fines? Suspensions? And for how long?

Considering how long the Browns’ Josh Gordon situation dragged out, I have concern the commissioner will show no mercy to the Steelers (a team he has penalized a lot in the past) and suspend the top two RBs atop the depth chart during an important divisional game.

I know it’s crying over spilled milk, but on the other hand, the Ravens lose Ray Rice for a total of 10 days, due to a short week with a Thursday Night game. The worst could come at a bye week, since the players are not allowed to practice with the team during the time a suspension is announced until the games are served. This could keep Bell & Blount away from the team for nearly 2 weeks, but also prepares the Steelers with an extra week of reps for their replacement(s).

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