I'm OK with lower expectations about the Steelers 2013 season

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Many experts and pundits are predicting a down year for the Steelers in 2013. This is the kind of thing that would normally irritate me, but judging by the current talent-level on the roster, I've already accepted that a playoff berth would be more of a surprise, this season, than the expectation that it normally is.

After witnessing the recent Super Bowl success, I often wondered how I'd be able to handle lower expectations when it came to a Steelers season or era, and if I'd be in denial about a time of rebu.....I mean, transition.

Near the end of the fourth preseason game, Edmund Nelson, a former Steelers player who does color analysis for Pittsburgh's preseason TV broadcasts, said he didn't see how the team would get to 10 wins. Instead of spitting out my diet cola, or screaming at Edmund through my  television set, I basically shrugged my shoulders and said to myself, "Yeah, that's what I'm thinking."

Last week, when Steve Tasker, a former Bills' special teams standout and current CBS analyst, was on a local radio station to discuss the fall-out of Pittsburgh's Week 1 debacle against the Titans, he made a statement that he thought the team would struggle to win eight games in 2013. I was half asleep when I heard Tasker's prediction, and not only didn't I think I was dreaming, once again, I kind of agreed with the analysis.

Nelson and Tasker are far superior football minds than Yours truly, but this is my 34th season of watching the NFL, and while I don't have the keen eye for knowing how and where a lineman is supposed to set up in pass blocking, or if a receiver is getting proper depth on his pass patterns, I think I know a good or bad football team when I see one.

I don't necessarily know how talented the Steelers are, overall, but I am impressed with the talent-level in San Francisco. When I see the likes of Colin Kaepernick, Vernon Davis, Frank Gore and Anquan Boldin do their thing on offense, the first impression I have is "Explosive and hard to stop."

When I  see Packers' linebacker Clay Matthews take over a football game in stretches, I can't help but think back to when James Harrison used to do the same thing in Pittsburgh.

When I watch Bengals' receiver A.J. Green, I know he's a player Dick Lebeau probably had to spend a good amount of time game-planing for throughout the week in preparation for the Week 2 match-up on Monday Night Football.

Remember when Troy Polamalu was that guy at safety?

I'm sure offensive coordinators still account for No. 43 and respect his ability to be a disruptive force, but are they preparing for the Polamalu of 2013, or the guy in the highlight videos from a few years ago?

When I look at the current Steelers roster, I don't see many difference-makers, and I don't see a whole lot of reasons why they can win football games, this season. I was trying to come up with a reason why Pittsburgh can go on the road and upset the Bengals, Monday night, and other than the team historically having success at Paul Brown Stadium (12-2, all time), I basically came up with nothing.

And did you catch that word in the previous paragraph? "Upset." When was the last time the Steelers were seven point underdogs in Cincinnati?

My how times have changes.

But I'm OK with having lower expectations about the Steelers. The further they get from their last Super Bowl appearance, and the further they get from their last playoff victory, the easier it is to relax my stance. I no longer have a "Super Bowl or bust" mentality, because I believe, for the time-being, anyway, that window has been slammed shut.

I also believe Ben Roethlisberger can pry that window open again before he calls it a career, but I don't feel as if he has the proper help to do so at the moment.

In a way, it's kind of refreshing to not expect things from the Steelers. Last week, I was more annoyed by the Pirates getting their butts handed to them in St. Louis than I was about the fact that the only thing separating the Steelers pathetic offensive performance against Tennessee from that of the Jaguars Week 1 showing against Kansas City was a garbage touchdown by Jerricho Cotchery in the final moments of the game.

Speaking of the Pirates, maybe it's good timing that they're doing so well, because it's helped ease the pain of the local football team's transitional phase, just a bit. Now, ironically enough, I am placing all my expectations on a pennant race and not "Seventh Heaven."

In fact, much like I used to be with the Pirates and players like Andrew McCutchen, I'm more excited about seeing the Steelers young "prospects" make names for themselves than I am about the team as a whole.

I'm super intrigued about first round pick Jarvis Jones, and his Week 2 start in Cincinnati--maybe he can soon be that Polamalu-like disruptive force that offensive coordinators around the NFL will have to prepare for.

Along those same lines, I anticipate fellow rookies Le'Veon Bell and Markus Wheaton each getting an opportunity to make a splash or two on offense at different points this season, and I'm excited about that--actually, I'm excited about the thought of anyone helping out the pedestrian offense.

In years past, the only thing on my mind, with regards to a Steelers/Bengals AFC North battle, would be how it would help or hurt Pittsburgh's chances of making the playoffs and ultimately reaching the Super Bowl.

But with my expectations lowered, and the Pirates around to do the emotional heavy lifting for me (they're currently tied for first place in the NL Central with just two weeks left to go), I'll simply be watching Monday night's clash with the hopes of a good showing and a surprise in the form of an upset over the Bengals (still can't believe I'm saying "upset" and "Bengals" in the same sentence).

These lower expectations aren't so bad when you learn to deal with them.

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