tomlincamp

Last year: 8-8, third place in AFC North

Acquisitions: Jarvis Jones, Le’Veon Bell, Bruce Gradkowski, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Brian Moorman

Departures: Mike Wallace, James Harrison, Keenan Lewis, Casey Hampton, Rashard Mendenhall, Willie Colon

Vegas win total over/under: 9 wins

Verdict: PUSH

bigbens

Five consequences of the Steelers playing in London this year:

– So goddamn many Big Ben puns.

– Roethlisberger accused of “untoward rumpy-pumpy in a loo”.

– The British poison Dan Rooney’s potato crop

– Maurkice Pouncey wears a FREE GUY FAWKES hat.

– Todd Haley gets the royal baby hooked on dip.

Fan forecast, by your trusty editor Christmas Ape:

It’s strange times in Yinzburgh. The Steelers are the worst of the city’s three pro teams, a status seldom seen in recent history, not because the Steelers don’t have down years but because the Pirates could usually be counted on to be worse. Nowadays, however, the Pirates and the Penguins are good, and the Steelers are merely a middle-of-the-pack team.

During one of the more lifeless stretches of the off-season, linebacker Larry Foote told local media that last year’s 8-8 Steelers team was on par with the 12-4 teams of the previous two years, the only difference being that a few close, winnable games slipped through their grasp in 2012. Worth noting that those close losses were at Tennessee, at Oakland and at Cleveland. These are not squads against whom 12-4 teams consistently struggle to eke out wins. They are goddamn cannon fodder. What’s more, Pittsburgh was still solidly in playoff contention at 7-5 going into Week 14 after winning in Baltimore with Charlie Batch (!!!). What happened? They got their asses handed to them by the sorry-ass Chargers AT HOME, touching off a final quarter of the season in which they lost there of four. So, yeah, shut up, Larry Foote. Last year’s Steelers were every bit as mediocre as their record would indicate.

As charter members of the DOIN’ IT THE RIGHT WAY brigade (along with the Packers and Giants) the Steelers had another of their typical off-seasons, at least typical for one that doesn’t involve a Ben Roethlisberger rape accusation. They jettisoned a few old veterans and expensive free agents. They signed a couple bargain basement players. And they tried to build through the draft. Nary a splash was made. It’s boring and it’s their M.O. I dare say IT’S GOOD OL’ FASHIONED STILLER FOOTBAW.

The most tragic upshot of this is that one of the cheap players they picked up is William Gay, best known nationally as the guy who was torched by Aaron Rodgers in Super Bowl XLV and the flailing body located beneath Adrian Peterson’s foot.

Not only is William Gay awful, but his return to Pittsburgh follows the troubling precedent set by another cornerback: Bryant McFadden. McFadden was a decent corner who spent 2005-08 with the Steelers before getting a respectable deal with the Cardinals. Arizona quickly realized that he wasn’t worth it and cast him off after one season. The Steelers brought him back at a much lower price, which seemed smart at the time, only McFadden was somehow worse than before. The same thing happened with Gay: the Cardinals signed him away and gave up on him after one season. AND NOW THAT ASSHOLE IS BACK. I hated William Gay the first time he was in Pittsburgh and now he’s further contaminated with Cardinals stink. He’s going to haunt my dreams.

Oh, and who is Gay replacing? Keenan Lewis, who was second in the NFL in pass deflections last season (only one behind Richard Sherman). The Steelers made a half-hearted effort to re-sign him, but they didn’t have the cap space and now he’s in New Orleans. No worries, everyone knows Ike Taylor can continue to be occasionally effective well into his 40s. Wait, what’s that? “DURRR IT’S OK THE STILLERS HAD THE NUMBER ONE DEFENSE LAST YEAR.” Yeah, Pittsburgh had the best overall and best pass defense last year if you’re going by the useless metric of “yards allowed”. By that score, it helps that Pittsburgh’s offense was second in the NFL in time of possession. Meanwhile, the Steelers defense was 25th in takeaways and tied for 15th in sacks. Seattle’s defense allowed almost 70 fewer points. But who cares, it’s the #1 ranked D! STEEL CURTAIN!

On the bright side, LaMarr Woodley has actually bothered to get in shape for this season. That’s nice since it’s the first time since the mid-’90s that a stud linebacker left the Steelers and they don’t have another awesome pass rusher waiting in the wings. Sure, SEC and Georgia fans assure me that Jarvis Jones is a beast, but I’m not about to place my trust in college football fans. The Steelers should get four or five solid games out of Troy Polamalu before he dives head-first into a running back’s knee, giving him his 10,000th career concussion and rendering him sidelined for two months then woozy for the rest of 2013.

As for the offense, the interior of the line will be good if David DeCastro doesn’t get destroyed in the preseason for the second straight year. Yinzers turned on Mike Wallace when he held out early last season and it didn’t help that he had a couple bad drops later on. Wallace is still a good receiver and his loss in free agency is a detriment. Reports from training camp are glowing about third-round pick Markus Wheaton though I’m never quite sure how much stock you can put in those. If he doesn’t work out, there’s always luxury sock merchant Plaxico Burress. Rookie running back Le’Veon Bell will be of interest to the fantasy crowd as the likely starter. I have no idea how good he’s gonna be. My college football viewing is limited enough as it is. I don’t exactly save time for Michigan State games. I can tell you, however, that his stocky body type should fit in nicely with the Steelers staple of slow-ass backs. Hey, so long as he doesn’t fumble five times per game, it’s a definite improvement.

Good news for Western PA Camaro detailers: Todd Haley is still around. I look forward to Boss Todd and The Ben once again staging bitchy slapfights through the media this season. Chris Rainey went and got himself arrested for slapping his girlfriend back in January so the Steelers were compelled to find another replaceable, tiny running back for Boss Todd to design ineffective dump passes for. That man is LaRod Stephens-Howling. That’s right, EVEN MORE SHITTY FORMER CARDINALS.

Thanks to a third-place schedule and drawing AFC East/NFC North opponents, the Steelers could get double-digit wins if Roethlisberger doesn’t miss his usual month with [amalgamation of injuries] and Polamalu’s brain doesn’t leak out of his earholes. I’m not holding my breath on either of those. Especially because Mike Tomlin is inexplicably repeating his gulag training camp from 2007, ensuring that the team will start 6-2 then flame out and lose five out of their last eight due to exhaustion.

The Steelers would have swept the Ravens in 2012 if Byron Leftwich hadn’t injured himself tumbling into the end zone at the end of a 30-yard touchdown run (his body clearly rejected moving that far) so destroying Baltimore is a reasonable enough goal for this season.