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Football Outsiders speaks with BTSC about Maurkice Pouncey, Markus Wheaton and Mike Munchak

Would Football Outsiders assistant editor Scott Kacsmar have given Pouncey an extension? What's the most underrated coaching move of this offseason? The Pittsburgh native provides a thorough look at the Steelers in 2014.

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BTSC and SB Nation reached out to Football Outsiders for a look at the Steelers in 2014. FO assistant editor and Pittsburgh native Scott Kacsmar was kind enough to answer five questions for us. Follow him on Twitter @FO_ScottKacsmar

1. The play of Maurkice Pouncey to this point can be fairly argued did not justify his extension. However, the fact he's only played three full seasons and he just turned 25, along with a high level of athleticism, suggests he has a lot of room to grow. Do you feel examples of past centers show an inclination to improve after age 24 or after three years in the NFL, or did the Steelers simply make a bad decision?

The big problem is our historical review of offensive linemen boils down to asking how many games did he start, and how many Pro Bowls and All-Pros did he have? Draft status plays a big part in determining both. Only in the last few years can we look at something like Approximate Value (AV) at Pro-Football-Reference, but even that's based heavily on how good the offense was as a whole. The leading center in AV after age 24 is Jeff Saturday, but that's another way of saying he got to play with Peyton Manning for a long time. Pouncey is well ahead of the pace Mike Webster and Dermontti Dawson had for individual recognition, but I think that's only happened because of those guys and because Pouncey was a first-round pick. "The Steelers have a great history of centers, and this guy's a first-round pick, he must be great!"

Once a lineman starts getting to the Pro Bowl, he tends to keep going regardless of any peaks and valleys in his play. Yet I don't know how anyone could look at the performance of the offensive line in 2010-12 with Pouncey and think he made an All-Pro impact. It's been a real struggle to run the football and keep Roethlisberger protected. In fact, some of the best blocking we've seen in years came in those final seven games last season with Pouncey long gone with a torn ACL in Week 1.

I would never have given Pouncey the extension the Steelers did. He hasn't been dominant and he's been injured in every season. There are also some off-field concerns, though his twin brother Mike may be more of the Macaulay Culkin to Maurkice's Elijah Wood if you catch my drift. The Steelers better hope that's the case. Mike has been the better player too. On that battered Miami line, we charted Mike with 224.8 snaps per blown block in 2013. In 2012, Maurkice averaged a blown block every 54.6 snaps. Last year, Fernando Velasco averaged a blown block every 62.3 snaps. With Mike Munchak in Tennessee in 2012, Velasco was at 124.6 snaps per blown block. That's really the key to watch this year. How much does Pouncey improve with Munchak coaching the line? If there's not a noticeable leap, we've probably seen him at his best already.

2. Will the Steelers miss Emmanuel Sanders in 2014?

I don't think so. Markus Wheaton is really the perfect replacement right down to nearly the same height and weight as Sanders. He just lacks experience, but wide receiver has been one of the Steelers' best-developed positions. A big part of that is the quarterback, and Ben Roethlisberger is used to building up new receivers. He's thrown at least 60 passes to 10 different wide receivers in his career. Sanders was not statistically one of his best targets. There's nothing from his skillset that isn't on the 2014 roster.

Every couple of years Roethlisberger loses one of his top guys, but I didn't think Mike Wallace's loss would be a problem, so I certainly don't expect Sanders to be. Antonio Brown proved he could be the No. 1 receiver, so it's just a matter of distributing passes to Heath Miller, Wheaton, Martavis Bryant and Lance Moore. Sanders had his chance to impress last year, but 740 yards and six scores should be easily replaced through the players I just mentioned.

3. A combination backfield of Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount suggests the Steelers are looking to make efforts to run the ball much more often in 2014. While they can't do much worse than 2013, do you feel Bell for 16 games as well as the addition of Blount will move them into a unit averaging 110 yards a game or better?

A lot of this has to do with game situations. In the past the Steelers often played with the lead and ran a slow-tempo offense to grind out the clock. With the defense slipping, the offense took the field last year with an average deficit of 1.55 points, forcing more passing. If the defense gets back to a higher level and the offense has fewer early mistakes, then the Steelers will be able to control games with the run much better than they have under Todd Haley the last two years.

This offense isn't going to reach San Francisco/Seattle levels of running the ball (performance and ratio), but a better offensive line and the best backfield combo the Steelers have had in years should entice more productive running. I'm almost more excited to see Blount in this offense than Bell's sophomore season. Blount looked finished at one point in Tampa Bay, but he rebounded well with the Patriots last year.

4. How do you evaluate Steelers LB Lawrence Timmons in comparison to his peers? Is he among the inside/middle linebackers, or is he fairly average?

You almost have to be selfless playing inside linebacker in the 3-4 defense, because most of the praise is going to go to the outside linebackers providing the pass rush. Even rookie Ryan Shazier might steal some of Timmons' thunder as the new piece to the defense. I think Timmons is very good at what he does, but it just hasn't resulted in recognition such as a Pro Bowl in his career. We credited him with 86 Stops last season, which ranked sixth among inside linebackers. Stops are plays which prevent a "success" by the offense (45 percent of needed yards on first down, 60 percent on second down, 100 percent on third or fourth down).

Timmons can rush the passer (26 career sacks). He ranked top 10 at his position in stuffing the run last season. His coverage metrics aren't bad (nine career interceptions), and he's athletic enough to cover tight ends. Last season he had to spend a lot of time in coverage. His quarterback hurries dropped from 19.5 (2012) to six. I think we'll see more traditional 3-4 fronts from the defense this year.

Timmons is only 28 years old. With a youth movement in effect on the defense, he should be looked at as one of the leaders still in his prime. He's not Na'Vorro Bowman or Patrick Willis, but he's deservingly on the next tier of 3-4 inside linebackers.

5. I agree with your thoughts regarding the AFC North. I think nine wins can take it, and due to coaching changes among three of the four teams, the most stable one, Pittsburgh, will win it. Do you feel coaching turnover (head and coordinators) is a significant factor on a team's success or failure?

It's a case-by-case thing, but I feel like the arrival of a new coach can help a team more than the loss of a coach or top coordinator hurts a team (at least one with a good foundation). The Browns are still trying to find their way, so it's really a three-team battle for the division this year. The Steelers are definitely leading the AFC North in coaching continuity, but you don't want to see complacency set in. Dick LeBeau's going into his 11th consecutive season at defensive coordinator and this is already year eight for Mike Tomlin. I don't think either should feel good about the job they've done since the Super Bowl XLV loss. There are a lot of expectations that have not been met the last few years.

I think the Ravens adding Gary Kubiak at offensive coordinator will provide an instant kick start to their running game. The Bengals losing both coordinators could cost them a couple of games, but I have personally never been a believer in Marvin Lewis as a head coach. Perhaps the overlooked move is the addition of Munchak to the Steelers. Some guys are better off coaching a position instead of a whole team, and I think Munchak fits that for the offensive line. If he can get good play out of the line, which no one has done since 2006, then that could be the push the Steelers need to get back on top of the division.

You can pick up a copy of Football Outsiders' 2014 Almanac through their site or through Amazon - a critical purchase for any stats-intrigued fan. It's not just numbers, either. Sharp writing, great analysis and a big-picture feel of every team in the NFL.