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2014 Steelers season scenarios: Steelers finish .500 for 3rd straight season

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been the picture of mediocrity the past two seasons, finishing both 8-8. Although roster improvements were made, it wasn't enough to change that trend.

Ezra Shaw

Scenario: Pittsburgh Steelers finish the season 8-8 for the third straight year.

Why it will happen: The Steelers have had a lot of roster turnover from last year to this year, and although the turnover has infused speed and athleticism into the lineup, it doesn't do anything to replace the experience that was lost.

The biggest reason for another season of mediocrity will be on the defensive side of the football. Relying on a rookie to anchor the inside linebacker position is not an equation for success. On top of that, Mike Mitchell will take time to mesh with Troy Polamalu in the back end of the secondary, and there are bound to be miscommunication and mistakes made.

The defensive line will miss the experience that Brett Keisel brought to the team, and will ultimately struggle to stop the run for the second straight season, even with the additions of Stephon Tuitt and Cam Thomas. The secondary will struggle as aging cornerback, Ike Taylor, becomes a liability in the passing game.

Offensively, the injury bug could continue to ravish the offensive line, and this unit, and their lack of depth, can't afford any set backs at that position. The injuries and lack of depth will ultimately lead to a lack of running game and Ben Roethlisberger being hit entirely too often.

Why it won't happen: Yes, the team lost experience when players like LaMarr Woodley, Ryan Clark and Brett Keisel all departed the team, but their replacements should show to be plenty capable of making plays. Outside of the unknown factors like injuries, you have to ask whether this team has improved their roster from an 8-8 record, and they very well could have.

If the coordinators, both offensive and defensive, can take this young stable of talent and put them in the position to succeed, the team will follow suit. If the coaching staff struggles to put their play makers in a position to make plays, then their inexperience will ultimately show and the team will again follow suit.

The Steelers have more play makers on both side of the football than they did in 2013, and that is a great start in improving their record from back to back 8-8 seasons.

Keys: Other than health, this scenario comes down to a few things, the first being the new players, both rookies and free agents, being able to acclimate themselves with the returning players and the systems within the Steelers' organization. If that inexperience ultimately wins out over the acclimation process, the team could be in for a long year.

The other major key is the start to the season. When the Steelers started 0-4 in 2013, it was a hole they were never able to crawl out of. The team has to remain focused from Week 1 to Week 17 and take advantage of every opportunity presented to them to break the vicious cycle of 8-8 seasons. However, if the team is able to get off to a better start and get these new players ready for the season, there very well could be a Steelers sighting in the post season.