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2014 Steelers season scenarios: Steelers win AFC North crown

After back to back 8-8 seasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers new found athleticism and speed is enough to not only have a winning season, but to win the AFC North.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

The day has finally arrived. The final scenario of the 32 that leads us up to the training camp starting Friday with the traditional conditioning test. The 'dog days' of summer are coming to an end...

Scenario: Pittsburgh Steelers claim first AFC North crown since 2010

Why it will happen: The Pittsburgh Steelers are somewhat of a favorite among experts to win the AFC North, but their track record isn't the best. Finishing the past two seasons at 8-8 doesn't really scream favorite to win the division, but it is the way the Steelers finished the 2013 season and their offseason moves that has given the fan base hope of a Steelers division title.

Take away how the team finished last season. Sure it created momentum, but that momentum was garnered with players that aren't in the organization anymore and new additions that will be added to the mix.

It is the offseason moves, acquisitions and draft picks that have been made that can make this scenario happen. As much as you might hate to admit it, Warren Sapp was right in terms of the Steelers defense. He was about two years premature, but he was correct nonetheless. Old and slow.

This offseason the Steelers addressed that in a myriad of different ways. Letting players like Larry Foote, Ziggy Hood, Al Woods, LaMarr Woodley and Ryan Clark walk is never easy, but it was necessary. The additions made by way of Mike Mitchell, Ryan Shazier and Stephon Tuitt add a dimension to the defense that wasn't there in 2013, or 2012.

Offensively, this team seems built to score points. The running back stable has been bolstered with the addition of LeGarrette Blount and the versatile Dri Archer. Combine that with some promising young talent at the wide receiverposition and a healthy Heath Miller and you have yourself a unit that could be lethal.

This team has the look of a team that is "on the come" as Mike Tomlin would say. If they are able to assimilate the new players into the mix early in the season, Steeler Nation could be looking at an AFC North division title in 2014.

Why it won't happen: With the departure of those veteran players mentioned above, comes inexperience and youth. Fans are sold on Mike Mitchell, but his ability to adjust to Troy Polamalu's style might take more than just a few weeks in camp to completely mesh.

On top of the free agent acquisitions, this team is relying heavily on rookie contributors, which is never a safe bet in the NFL. Ryan Shazier has the looks of a stud inside linebacker, but can he play week one without putting the entire defense in jeopardy? That is a question that can only be answered on the field. Stephon Tuitt is going to be asked to try and fill a gaping hole on the defensive line left by Brett Keisel, and there is no guarantee that happens.

Offensively, players like Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant and Dri Archer are all unknown commodities. Sure, they look good on paper, but where are Jerricho Cotchery's 10 touchdowns going to come from in 2014?

This team might have limitless potential, but potential is only good when you fill that potential.

Keys: The keys to this scenario are the health of the team, mainly Ben Roethlisberger. You can talk defense, running backs and wide receivers until you are blue in the face and it all means little without the franchise quarterback under center. Outside of Roethlisberger's health, it is the team being able to take the new parts to the vehicle and making it run as smooth as ever. That comes down to the coaching staff putting the players in a position to succeed, and the players being able to make the plays when they present themselves. Ultimately, this team could be an AFC North division champion this year, but there are a lot of things that need to fall into place for that to occur, and all of those factors are within the Steelers locker room, not any other AFC North team.