OK, we all will make our predictions about who will be an impact player or someone who will just be a camp body this season. Well, for those of you who have the divine powers of fortune telling, make sure you give me the winning powerball numbers before you make predictions on who will become an impact player or not. Now, I'm not going to say that my predictions here are going to come true, but I look forward to hopefully a few of them to come true (mostly on the breakout guys , not the busts)and the results of these predictions to lead the Steelers back where they belong-in the Super Bowl!!!(winning #7 of course)
Probably , this first guy is on everyone's list for having a breakout season for the Steelers. Who is the guy I'm talking about? Cortez Allen, who while starting in place of Ike Taylor in the win versus the hated Shitbirds(Ravens, for those of you who didn't know) , broke up three passes to help seal the win . Following that up with a 2 interception , 3 pass breakups and a forced fumble in the loss versus the Bengals, Allen ended the season as though he was playing to make the team, showing the hunger of a rookie in camp by forcing 2 fumbles and tying a career high with 8 combined tackles. Should Allen progress even more this upcoming season, the Steelers decision of letting Keenan Lewis go will be a smart one. Lewis throughout his 4 year career with the Steelers, had only 1 interception . Allen , meanwhile eclipsed that total in the game versus the Bengals by having 2 interceptions off of Andy Dalton. The Steelers defense in the past two years , has had 35 turnovers total and can benefit greatly by Allen's great nose and hands for the ball.
The next two guys can really make an impact if they can have a breakout season . Cam Heyward and Steve McLendon can both make the defensive front formidable and also can help out the rest of the defense (linebackers, mostly ) . Heyward has been playing behind Brett Kiesel , but if he continues to develop, could see time replacing Ziggy Hood on the other side of the defensive line. Heyward has improved since 2011(the year he was drafted #1) and has augmented his combined tackles from 11 in 2011 to 20 last season. He also had 1/2 a sack last season. McLendon, on the other hand was behind Casey "Big Snack" Hampton . Hampton is gone now and McLendon has the opportunity to make the NT position all his own. Playing in about 1/4 of the snaps of Hampton, McLendon's stats are as follows: 2 sacks, 6 QB pressures, 2 tackles for loss. Hampton's stats were 0 sacks , 9 QB pressures and 5 tackles for loss in nearly 3/4 's of the time playing more than McLendon. McLendon might not be the rock that Hampton was in the middle, but he has shown the ability to make splash plays for the Steelers.
Well, ok, here are a few guys that might get their walking papers if they don't produce. Some might not even make it to the season. Stevenson Sylvester could be one of those players on the outside looking in. During the offseason, the Steelers showed Sylvester no love as they didn't offer him a RFA but signed him later to a 1 year contract for $600,000. Sylvester also has had problems picking up the defensive game plan and could face some stiff competition from 6th round pick Vince Williams whose "football IQ" has been praised by many who saw him at the rookie mini camp. Williams development , and the pace at which he develops could spell the end for Sylvester. His only saving grace would be the Sean Spence injury recovery. Ziggy Hood is another guy who could be playing his last season in Pittsburgh. Drafted as their #1 pick in 2009, Hood has started 39 games for the Steelers , collecting 9 sacks and 101 tackles. While his play wouldn't be considered bad, what is considered bad is the fact that Hood doesn't dominate the line of scrimmage like his predecessor Aaron Smith did, making fans lament the loss of Smith and the fact that Hood hasn't performed as a first round pick should. Curtis Brown, drafted ahead of Cortez Allen in 2011, has taken a very different path than Allen. While Allen has developed into a starting cornerback for the Steelers, Brown hasn't shown the Steelers fans "What Brown can do for you". If Brown doesn't develop into a solid option at the nickel back position he could disappear into the air and out of the 'Burgh as a distant memory.
One guy who could be on either the Breakout or Bust side is wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Sanders , as we know , signed an RFA tender offer from the Patriots, which the Steelers ultimately matched. Now we wonder if Sanders will repay and give us "Cash Back" on our investment in him or will it be money foolishly spent? Lately , he has said (on ESPN)that he wants to remain a Steeler. This was done after his agent stated that his client (Sanders) would look to move elsewhere in 2013. Where could he go? If he doesn't produce as the #2 receiver for the Steelers, he won't get many offers. If he does produce (didn't he say on ESPN's First Take , he sees himself with 70 catches and 1,100 yards receiving?) then he will have his choice . If he does produce also, it will help the Steelers to reach the post season and hopefully raise that Lombardi for a seventh time
Like I said , I'm not a soothsayer or a palm reader but I do hope some of these predictions do come true . I mostly do keep a positive outlook on the Steelers and trust the front office and coaching staff know what they're doing when it comes to picking their roster and developing their players in a system which has been to 8 Super Bowls winning 6 of them.