Despite personnel changes, steady Steelers are still a challenge

USA TODAY Sports

While some new faces have taken the field over the past two seasons in Pittsburgh, opponents still seem them as the same old Steelers.

The names on the back of the uniforms may change, but opponents know better than to expect anything less from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

ESPN Boston has been running a series on opponents of the New England Patriots, and Field Yates drew the responsibility of breaking down challenges the Steelers may present in their upcoming matchup this season. Yates had plenty of pre-season material to draw from, including Ryan Clark's series of Patriots analyses, the personnel rollover experienced in Pittsburgh over the past few years or their recent less than stellar season-outcomes.

Yates wasn't buying any of it.

He acknowledged the departure of Mike Wallace could affect the offense, but reminded readers of those who remain - Ben Roethlisberger, Emmanuel Sanders and coordinator Todd Haley. Roethlisberger, who Yates refers to as an elite franchise quarterback, is capable of winning any day. The Patriots attempted to sign Sanders, a restricted free-agent, but the Steelers eventually matched declining the compensatory 2013 draft selection (91st overall, used on safety Duron Harmon).

To Yates, Haley represents a wild-card. The Patriots have not faced the Steelers since Haley joined the sidelines. Pittsburgh was progressing into an efficient offense in 2012, before Roethlisberger was lost to injury against Haley's former team, the Kansas City Chiefs. New England surely remembers their last contest in Pittsburgh, where a Bruce Arians designed quick hit offense picked apart the Patriots defense throughout the game, including an impressive first drive highlighted by repeated receptions by Heath Miller, who stands a strong chance of being back in the line-up by this match-up.

Yates recognizes the pre-snap adjustments Haley employs to create defensive confusion, which becomes frustrating when combined with Roethlisberger's ability to extend any play, which only creates more opportunity for defensive breakdown. Wallace may be gone, but the offense is expected to be just as consistently dangerous without him.

On the defensive side of the ball, Yates looked no further than coordinator Dick LeBeau. No mention was made of Pittsburgh's draft pick Jarvis Jones or the exits of James Harrison and Keenan Lewis. No concern was expressed over defensive line questions. No stipulations were implemented over the presence of Clark or fellow safety Troy Polamalu; or the growth of Cortez Allen and the rest of the Pittsburgh's young secondary. As long as LeBeau is at the helm, the Steelers defense is still the Steelers defense.

Fans in Pittsburgh realize they are witnessing the birth of a new era, but those outside are seeing nothing more than the same old, same old.

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