Bob Smizik: Analyzing the Steelers -- briefly

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Steelermania is officially in season and although not quite what it once was, since the Pirates are demanding a large degree of attention from sports fan, the local NFL team remains, by far, the most popular team in Pittsburgh and worthy of our attention, even if the NFL season is more than a month away.

The Steelers are coming off two consecutive 8-8 seasons, and this after going 45-19 and to two Super Bowls in the previous four years. Clearly, things are not altogether well with the franchise that is legendary for its accomplishments.

As is usually the case when teams open a season, optimism abounds. While it’s true there is reason for some optimism, it’s not hard to dig up a solid case of pessimism concerning the Steelers, a team definitely in transition. Whether it is transitioning for the better or for the worse remains to be determined.

Below and briefly -- to be expounded upon at a later date -- are five reasons why the Steelers will go 8-8 or less and five reasons why they will go 9-7 or better.

8-8 Or Worse

1. Their starting outside linebackers are Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones. When have the Steelers had such undistinguished players installed at a position that long has been regarded as the cornerstone of their defense?

2. One starting cornerback took a paycut to keep his job. The possibility exists that Ike Taylor is finished.

3. The other starting cornerback is in his fourth year in the league and without a new contract. Kind of makes you suspicious about what the Steelers really think of Cortez Allen.

4. Two-thirds of the tentative starting defensive line are Cam Thomas and Steve McLendon. Not exactly the second coming of the Steel Curtain.

5. The likely second and third wide receivers are Markus Wheaton and Lance Moore. Neither is the threat required to take some of the pressure of Antonio Brown.

9-7 Or Better

1. Ben Roethlisberger is still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and always gives his team a chance to win.

2. The offensive line, unfairly maligned for years, is going to be good and will get better.

3. Antonio Brown has turned into a spectacular threat -- 110 catches, 1,499 yards in 2013.

4. Le’Veon Bell has a chance to be the best Steelers running back since Jerome Bettis and the near-perfect complement to team’s already-established offense.

5. . . . Has Ben Roethlisberger been mentioned?

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