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Revisiting my 2015 off-season Steelers predictions

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In May, I made some bold (some might say stupid) predictions about how the Steelers would fare in 2015. Five of those predictions applied to the recently drafted (and undrafted) rookies, and five pertained to the team as a whole. Let's see where those predictions stand as we rapidly approach the start of the 2015 season.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If I had a crystal ball, I wouldn't have predicted some things exactly the same way as I did in May when I made my 2015 rookie predictions and team predictions. Hindsight is, as they say, twenty-twenty. Trying to predict anything more than four days out in the NFL, however, is an exercise in futility. But, in May, you write what you can.

Here is where my predictions stand, mere hours from 2015's opening kickoff.

Rookie Predictions

Steelers' Rookie of the Year: Senquez Golson

"[Doran] Grant will be better in run support, but that's not the sort of thing that garners a lot of attention. Interceptions do, and the Steelers figure to spend a good bit of time in nickel formations this year."

If they give this to a guy on Injured Reserve, we know the rest of the rookie class didn't fare very well. More on Grant in a minute, so don't laugh. Yet.

Drafted Player Most Likely to be Cut: Anthony Chickillo

"Chickillo will have to beat out 2014 training-camp darling and freakish athlete Howard Jones, as well as 2014 Canadian Football League sack leader Shawn Lemon, among others.  He may be a little too slow to truly excel at the position, at least this year. Perhaps a year of seasoning on the practice squad will be the difference maker."

I was half right. He did get cut, and wound up on the practice squad. But Jones and Lemon had no impact on the end result.

Undrafted Free Agent Most Likely to Make the Final Roster: B.J. Finney

"On a team that is somewhat lacking in offensive depth, a surprisingly decorated athlete like Finney has a good chance of latching on as the final offensive lineman."

I honestly think Finney was one play away from this coming true. But an injury in the next-to-last play of the pre-season changed everything.

Sleeper Pick: Gerod Holliman

"Teach a player with the ball skills Holliman has how to tackle, and you have a prospect for significant playing time at both safety positions."

Apparently, tackling wasn't the issue. You have to be on the field to miss tackles.

Most Playing Time: Doran Grant

"He won't be as flashy as Golson, but his consistent level of play will get him on the field more often."

He's on the practice squad and, with the secondary situation far from settled, this could still happen. Could. One thing is sure, though: he won't get less playing time that Golson this season.

Team Predictions

At least one undrafted free agent will make the team -- on offense.

"The Steelers have signed quite a few guys since the draft ended ... "

The one who made it was probably the least likely of all: Tyler Murphy, a quarterback who made the roster as a wide receiver.

Ben Roethlisberger will join the 5,000-yard club

"2014 was, statistically, Roethlisberger's best season. He missed the 5,000-yard mark by just 48 yards ... "

With Le'Veon Bell suspended for two games, this could come true. He will miss Martavis Bryant, for sure, but I'm convinced Ben could throw for at least 4,000 yards with Limas Sweed, a baby T-Rex, Brainy Smurf and a Coke bottle cap playing receiver.

The defense will record at least 40 sacks -- and Jarvis Jones will get at least eight of those.

"James Harrison will play fewer snaps, leaving him more refreshed, and 2015 top draft pick Bud Dupree will see time in pure passing situations."

If the pre-season is an indicator, this is iffy. But Keith Butler -- a former linebacker and linebackers coach, himself -- showed almost nothing of blitzes or trickery in the pre-season, not to mention that the starters barely played more snaps than the Dan Rooney. I have a sneaking suspicion the pass rush will look considerably better starting tomorrow.

The team will sport a top-ten run defense.

"There was an improvement in run defense, specifically. The team gave up an average of 114 yards per game on the ground through the first seven games, but only 90 yards per game over the final nine, as players like Stephon Tuitt and Daniel McCullers began to play more and more snaps, but also as [Ike] Taylor and [Troy] Polamalu spent considerable time in street clothes."

If I ask for a mulligan on any of these predictions, this could be the one. It's all going to come down to the defensive line staying healthy, because the depth there is underwhelming.

Pittsburgh will beat the New England Patriots in week one, with or without Tom Brady.

"[L]et's not forget: even without Bell, the Steelers still have [DeAngelo] Williams, who has had a pretty good career, himself."

That's still my story, and I'm stickin' to it. These are two frighteningly similar teams: top-tier passers, good offensive lines and highly questionable defenses. The Steelers have better receivers and runners, though.