NFL PREVIEWS: Pittsburgh Steelers

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David Moore

David Moore has been the senior football writer for FOX Sports since Aug. 2005. He appears weekly on the FSN Baseball Report and MLB on FOX. One more line lorem ipsum dolor sit amet e pluribus unum.


Champs or chumps: This team went two games deep into the playoffs last season and advanced to the AFC championship game one year earlier. The are once again in the mix of teams that can advance to the Super Bowl. But they are not at the head of the AFC pack. This team has too many questions on defense — who would have thought that ever would be a problem with this franchise? — to be the favorite. What is remarkable is that Pittsburgh has completely changed its offensive identity in the last 12 months and didn't get bogged down in the transition. That is something few teams can accomplish. The fact the did puts them ahead of the curve. Reasons for hope: The offense has gone from efficient to explosive. Once took over for last season, the scored 28 or more points in 10 of their final 15 games. Maddox has a quick release and reads defenses well. His ability to hit receivers in stride maximizes the talents of and , the most dangerous and prolific pair of receivers in the league. This shift in offensive philosophy has also opened the door for to take over for at running back. Pittsburgh's offense these days is all about getting the skill players one-on-one against a defender in open space. Zereoue's speed and slashing ability allows him to do that. But Bettis will still serve a valuable function in grinding out tough yards in close games.

Meet the 2003
Projected offensive lineup

Projected defensive lineup
RE Kimo von Oelhoffen

Projected special teams lineup
PR Randle El

Scout's take on the Steelers
"The problems remain at cornerback. Chad Scott can play at a high level when he stays focused. But Dewayne Washington is shaky on the other side."
— Scouting insider Brian DeLucia

More on the
  • Steelers' team page
  • Roster | Depth chart
  • Schedule | NFL on FOX schedule
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  • Don't get too excited: Pittsburgh's secondary gives up yards at an alarming rate. The defense gave up 77 points in two playoff games not because they couldn't stop the run — the ranked first in the league in this category — or get to the quarterback — their 50 sacks was the third-best total in the NFL. Pittsburgh's secondary was too slow to compete. When defensive coordinator Tim Lewis kept an extra defender back in coverage to help his corners and safeties, opponents picked Pittsburgh apart underneath. and passed for a combined 767 yards in two playoff games. That's a staggering total. Teams will continue to attack the in this way until they prove they can do something about it. Hello, my name is: . This hard-hitting, fast strong safety from USC excited a lot of teams in the days leading up to the draft, and Pittsburgh snatched him with the 16th pick in the first round. Pittsburgh was willing to let starter Lee FLowers go in free agency because he became a liability in coverage. Polamalu has the 4.4 speed in the 40 to keep up with receivers, but he has yet to show he has the instincts or technique to cover at this level. The don't have the luxury of bringing him along slowly. Revolving door: Flowers is gone. So is Stewart, who has been replaced by Maddox and will now see if he can find acceptance in Chicago. The departure of at left tackle has forced the team to move over from right tackle and insert , a guard, at Smith's spot. Free agent can also help here. The only other free agent signing expected to have much of an impact is . He is the best receiving tight end on the roster and will give Pittsburgh a threat in traffic over the middle to open up the offense. Ones to watch: Tennessee knocked the out of the playoffs last season on a controversial field goal in overtime. Pittsburgh gets a chance at revenge when it faces the on Sept. 28. Two weeks later, on Oct. 12, Maddox gets to go against the team that had no use for him earlier in his career when Pittsburgh plays Denver. The forecast: Pittsburgh swept the AFC North with a 6-0 record last season. It will do the same in 2003 unless Cleveland is somehow able to break through for a victory. It's not a stretch to say the own this division. With one of the easiest schedules in the league (tied for 26th), Pittsburgh should win the division and secure another playoff spot. Still, New England, Miami, Tennessee, Indianapolis and whatever team comes out of the AFC West rate the edge over the entering the season. Veteran NFL correspondent David Moore is a regular contributor to
    Tagged: Bears, Titans, Saints, Steelers, Todd Fordham, James Farrior, Aaron Smith, Amos Zereoue, Joey Porter, Mike Schneck, Marvel Smith, Plaxico Burress, Dan Kreider, Casey Hampton, Hines Ward, Alan Faneca, Oliver Ross, Jerome Bettis, Dewayne Washington, Brent Alexander, Kordell Stewart, Kendall Simmons, Tommy Maddox, Antwaan Randle El, Jeff Reed, Troy Polamalu

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