Dec 19, 2011; San Francisco, CA, USA; Detailed view of a Pittsburgh Steelers helmet on the field before the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park. San Francisco defeated Pittsburgh 20-3. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 Team Preview

The Pittsburgh Steelers enjoyed an impressive 2011 campaign but fell short in the playoffs after Tim Tebow worked his magic one final time to lift the Denver Broncos over Pittsburgh in the Wild Card round. Pittsburgh now has every chance to make up for the loss as they take on the Broncos in the 2012 season opener. This time, however, Peyton Manning will be under center for the Broncos.

Will the Steelers be able to avenge the loss and how will they look throughout the rest of the 2012-13 season? Your team preview starts now.

2011 Record: 12-4

Key Additions: Leonard Pope

Key Losses: Hines Ward — James Farrior — Chris Hoke — Aaron Smith — Jonathan Scott — Jamon Meredith — Mewelde Moore

Offense: Pittsburgh’s offense is loaded. With new offensive coordinator Todd Haley running the show, expect to see a much heavier emphasis on the passing game than ever before with the Steelers. When you have wide receivers like Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders it is kind of hard not to air the ball out. There may not be another trio of wide receivers in the league with as much speed and ability to make the play downfield. Pittsburgh’s vertical threat will be unmatched.

In the running game, thins get questionable. Rashard Mendenhall will be out for the first few weeks of the season and backup Isaac Redman suffered an injury in the preseason. This will open the door for someone to step up and lead the team in rushing. Luckily for the Steelers, they have rookie Chris Rainey to add some speed and excitement to the rushing and return game.

Defense: The Steelers have always been known for their defense. Because of that, this unit is aging and not exactly what it was in the past. Troy Polamalu is aging, James Harrison isn’t healthy, Casey Hampton is just getting back on his feet and one of the most underrated players in NFL history Aaron Smith is no longer with the team. This opens up some holes for younger players to step out into the spotlight and make their impact felt.

The Steelers defense is still talented. It just isn’t what it once was.

Breakout Player: Jonathan Dwyer. Dwyer will have every opportunity to stand out with Pittsbugh thanks to running back injuries to Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall continuing to recover from last year’s torn ACL. Dwyer is a hard-nosed back that finished every run falling forward. He can be an every down back and is exactly what the Steelers will need to keep a little balance in their offense. There is no doubt that Pittsburgh will be slinging the ball around all season but Dwyer is exactly the kind of back that they need in the backfield to make it work and you can expect him to shine.

2012 Prediction: The Steelers have an experienced group of players but the lack of depth and injuries early in the season will get them off to a slow start. The Steelers bye week comes early in the season so they will be able to regroup and push forward after the bye with a new head of steam.

Record Prediction: 11-5

Overview: Pittsburgh is aging and their window is beginning to close. Make no question about it, these veterans are trying to win and make a few more final runs at another Lombardi Trophy. The team is set up to get better as the season goes on and to peak when it matters the most at the end of the season. If Pittsburgh can get hot at the right time, they have the talent to make a deep playoff run. The new and improved offense from the Steelers will make them a force for anyone to handle and you can never downplay the importance of the Steel Curtain. Pittsbugh is a team you will not want to run into at the end of the year. They are one of the few legit Super Bowl contenders.

Tags: Nfl Team Preview Pittsburgh Steelers

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