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Pittsburgh Steelers Season Preview

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Pittsburgh Steelers

2009 record: 9-7 (Third in AFC North)
Vic Carucci
Ben Roethlisberger's being suspended for at least four games likely puts the Steelers into an early hole. O-line issues also a concern.
Prediction:  7-9, third in AFC North
Steve Wyche
Ben Roethlisberger's suspension will hurt and the O-line play must improve. Defense will regain punch if Troy Polamalu stays healthy.
Prediction:  8-8, third in AFC North
Pat Kirwan
Ben Roethlisberger missing at least four games will hurt. Defense is excellent, but offense needs to do its part without its starting QB.
Prediction:  9-7, third in AFC North
Bucky Brooks
The ferocious defense returns to the ranks of the elite while keying the team's playoff run after missing out on the dance last season.
Prediction:  11-5, first in AFC North
Jason La Canfora
Despite offseason injuries and turmoil, I can see this team galvanizing. Surviving without Ben Roethlisberger early will be tough.
Prediction:  9-7, third in AFC North
Michael Lombardi
Their offensive line worries me, their corners worry me, and these worries make me feel they will be a .500 team.
Prediction:  8-8, third in AFC North
Amount of points the Steelers gave up per game. It was the first time since 2003 they allowed 20-plus. Even more uncharacteristically, they surrendered fourth-quarter leads in five of seven losses.
Byron Leftwich
The eighth-year pro will guide the Steelers' offense in the wake of Ben Roethlisberger's early-season suspension, and how well he fares will have a significant impact on the team's postseason prospects. Although Leftwich performed well as a fill-in during the team's Super Bowl run a few years back, he has only mustered a 24-25 record as a starter.
Mike Wallace
Wallace slides into the No. 2 receiver role opposite Hines Ward. As the team's third receiver last season, Wallace routinely provided explosive plays by using his speed and burst to run past defenders on vertical routes. He averaged 19.4 yards a catch and finished the season with six touchdowns. Given more opportunities to run short and intermediate crossing routes, Wallace should provide the Steelers' offense with even more big plays in the passing game.
Big Ben still No. 1
Believe it or not, but Ben Roethlisberger might actually turn out to be a nice draft value. Because of his suspension, Big Ben was no more than a low middle-round pick. Upon his return, he'll immediately be seen as a viable No. 1 fantasy quarterback in most leagues.
Three pivotal games
Oct. 17 vs. Cleveland
One of the AFC's oldest rivalries is renewed as the Steelers play host to the Browns. Ben Roethlisberger may or may not be available (if his six-game suspension is lowered to four, he could return for this matchup), but regardless of whether he plays, Pittsburgh will still be expected to beat Cleveland at home for the seventh straight time.
Oct. 31 at New Orleans
It figures to be crazy on Halloween night in the Superdome. This will be the first of three consecutive games the Steelers will play vs. division winners from last season, and pits the last two Super Bowl champions against one another. A victory could give Pittsburgh the momentum it needs heading into the second half of the year.
Nov. 21 vs. Oakland
Last year's dramatic Week 13 home loss vs. the Raiders was the fourth in a five-game slide and sent a clear message that the Steelers were not ready to defend their title. The rematch comes at a similar point this year, and Pittsburgh will be coming off a brutal three-game stretch against 2009 division winners. It can't afford another letdown.



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