DALLAS TX - FEBRUARY 04: Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers speaks during a press conference at the Super Bowl XLV media center on February 4 2011 in Dallas Texas. The Green Bay Packers will play the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV on February 6 2011 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington Texas. (Photo by Karl Walter/Getty Images)
Week 1 kicks off for the Steelers in approximately 13 hours from the time of publication. There hasn't been this much intrigue around a Steelers opener in quite a while, as there are questions surrounding both the Steelers and their opponent, the Denver Broncos.
Here are five Steelers to watch for Week 1, and reasons why they are important both tonight and in the season to come.
He begins his sixth season at the helm of the Steelers, and its his first season coaching an opener without an undefeated career record in his first game. The Steelers were thrashed by Baltimore in the season-opener last season, Tomlin's first Week 1 loss as a head coach. He's also coaching for the first time without offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who was fired this offseason, and replaced by Todd Haley. His career 55-25 record, though, speaks for itself, but the 2012 season carries with it a feel like this year's squad is more Tomlin's team than in years past.
ILB Lawrence Timmons
The uber-athletic mack linebacker has had great starts to seasons, but for one reason or another, never displayed the same playmaking ability through 16 games. Timmons is just 26 years old, and is already a six-year veteran. This has to be the year where Timmons emerges as a consistently dominant force among the Steelers' linebackers.
RB Isaac Redman
Redman has never had to look in his rearview mirror. Since he arrived in 2009 as an undrafted free agent, he's been chasing incumbent starter Rashard Mendenhall. When the Steelers former first-round draft pick went down with a torn ACL in December of 2011, Redman became the starter by default. An excellent training camp and preseason by Jonathan Dwyer, though, makes Redman the hunted instead of the hunter. It's likely Redman and Dwyer will get a comparable amount of carries tonight. Redman's used to producing a lot on a few carries, though.
WR Mike Wallace
That contract extension wasn't delivered at the 11th hour, and he'll play the 2012 season under his restricted free agency tag. That's the last we'll hear about it, too. The speculation will fade as the season progresses, but the criticism certainly will not if he fails to produce to the level he has in the past. And for Wallace, that's quite a bit of production. It's nothing he can't handle, but the eyes of the league will be on him to see how he responds after having skipped all of training camp and preseason.
OLB Chris Carter
He'll likely start in place of one of the best Steelers linebackers of all time. That man, James Harrison, replaced one of the best Steelers linebackers of all time, Joey Porter, in 2007, and quickly made fans a little slower to remember J-Peezy. It remains to be seen whether Carter is capable of living up to that kind of tradition right now. For this defense to be successful, though, Carter will have to own that edge the way Harrison has in the past.