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Pittsburgh Steelers Predictions: Five absurdly premature predictions for 2015

With the draft and the first round of free agency in the rear-view mirror, we now have a good idea of who will have a shot at making the final roster for 2015. It's way too early to start making predictions about the 2015 season -- but when has that ever stopped a sports writer before?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Leading up to the draft, we have a million predictions each day about who will end up where. Now that we know those answers, all we can do is...


We have to wait for Organized Team Activities (OTAs). We have to wait for minicamp. We have to wait for Training Camp.

Patience is a virtue -- one I don't have. And, so, I present five predictions for the 2015 Steelers' season that are premature, and probably ill-advised.

Time, of course, will tell how correct they are.

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

The Steelers have signed quite a few guys since the draft ended, including eight offensive players at positions where depth is a concern. Leading that list are offensive linemen Miles Diefenbach, Reese Dismukes and B.J. Finney. Dismukes and Finney are award-winning linemen who many expected to be drafted, and one could snag a spot on the final 53.

There are also a few running backs who have a chance to sneak onto the squad behind Le'Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams. One possibility is Ross Scheuerman, who is more of a finesse runner than a bruiser. The one I am more curious about, though, is the newly signed, 235-pound Cameron Stingily. He averaged nearly 5.3 yards per carry in two years as a running back for Northern Illinois. He's a former linebacker who has no fear of contact.

2. 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, despite some statistically ho-hum outings. Even though he exceeded 250 yards 11 times in 2014, there were still a lot of drops and missed throws. With even more weapons at his disposal -- and with receivers Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton starting 2015 with more experience -- 2015 could be an absolutely monstrous year for Roethlisberger. The suspension of Le'Veon Bell will also make passing a priority for the first three games.

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

What Jones showed in a four-game stretch -- from the final game of 2013 until he broke his wrist in week four of the 2014 season -- was a good indicator of what we can expect from him as he gains experience. He showed improvement in diagnosing plays early and picked up three sacks in that four-game stretch.  I expect 2015 to be a big season for him, as he is not just the assumed starter at right outside linebacker -- he also has more time in the team's system than any other outside linebacker except for James Harrison.

Arthur Moats will have a chance to improve on his 2014 numbers -- four sacks in limited playing time -- as the team's assumed 2015 starter at strong-side OLB. Additionally, James Harrison will play fewer snaps, leaving him more refreshed, and 2015 top draft pick Bud Dupree will see time in pure passing situations. Further development for defensive end Stephon Tuitt will also contribute.

4. The team will sport a top-ten run defense.

It's sad to think that it could be a case of addition by subtraction with long-time Steeler stars Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor, but that's what stats seemed to indicate as 2014 wore to a close. 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 Tuitt and Daniel McCullers began to play more and more snaps, but also as Taylor and Polamalu spent considerable time in street clothes. More experience and healthy seasons for Ryan Shazier, Jarvis Jones and Mike Mitchell would go a long way toward improving these numbers further.

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

The Patriots are notoriously slow starters. The Steelers have one of the most potent offenses the league has seen in years. And the Steelers' defense has a new coordinator. While Keith Butler may be a Dick LeBeau disciple, he will definitely change things up, and there is zero film of him as a defensive coordinator in the NFL. He is the wild card in this game -- not the now-confirmed absence of Tom Brady. And let's not forget: even without Bell, the Steelers still have Williams, who has had a pretty good career, himself.