Looking back through old photos from the 1980s and 1990s, I'm often struck with the same question: what were we thinking?! Looking back at predictions made before a single, regular-season snap can be just as painful. But, just as hope springs eternal, so, too, do the unfounded estimations of sports prognosticators. Also, just as teams look back at film to figure out what went well and what went wrong, one should also return to his predictions -- even if it's only to watch the spectacular flameout, crash and burn.
Steelers Rookie of the Year: Senquez Golson
I'm pretty sure this might have actually come true had Golson, you know, ever strapped on a helmet. As we all know by now, though, his season ended before it ever began, as an off-season injury derailed his and the Steelers' plans before training camp.
Drafted Player Most Likely to be Cut: Anthony Chickillo
While I was right on this one, he was also signed to the practice squad, re-signed later in the season and saw a few snaps. He figures to be in the team's plans going forward, especially with the unknowns surrounding James Harrison's future, but it remains to be seen how -- and how much -- he will be used. While technically sound, nothing about his game stands out, good or bad. Right now, he's as milquetoast of a player as the league has.
Undrafted Free Agent Most Likely to Make the Final Roster: B.J. Finney
This is another case where an injury probably ruined the prediction. Already short on offensive line depth -- particularly interior, where they lost center Maurkice Pouncey for the year during the pre-season and wound up signing Doug Legursky, who was Pouncey's primary backup for several years before he and the team parted ways -- Finney would have at least been a warm body, and was head-and-shoulders above the other UDFAs on the offensive line. The stars aligned for him, but a significant knee injury on the next-to-last play of the pre-season ended his chances of making the roster out of camp. He was, however, signed to the practice squad once his injury healed and he was cleared to play. He is now signed to a Futures contract.
Sleeper Pick: Gerrod Holliman
The only one sleeping was Holliman -- or sleep walking, at least. His uninspired practices and play led to his being let go during the final round of roster cuts. He's now on the practice squad in Tampa Bay.
Most Playing Time: Doran Grant
Grant was cut along with Chickillo, a day after final roster cuts, to make room for Ross Cockrell. That decision turned out to be a prescient one, as Cockrell wound up playing a significant portion of the defensive snaps as the season wore on. Grant ended up on the practice squad, but was signed back to the active roster when other teams tried to sign him. At the very least, that's a sign that the Steelers think they still have something in Grant, but he wound up seeing just a few snaps this year. Instead, this honor went to Bud Dupree, who played roughly half of the team's snaps in rotation with Arthur Moats.
At least one UDFA will make the team -- on offense.
Tyler Murphy did just that, but was eventually cut. He did play briefly, though, picking up one catch for 16 yards in two games. Despite the Steelers' lack of depth at quarterback after injuries to Ben Roethlisberger, Bruce Gradkowski and Mike Vick, Murphy never threw a pass. He's now on the Miami Dolphins' roster.
Ben Roethlisberger will join the 5,000-yard club.
Oh, so close. Had Roethlisberger not been injured several times this year, it was going to be a real possibility. In the 12 games he played, he averaged 328.2 yards. Extrapolated out to a 16-game season, he would have thrown for just over 5,250 yards.
The defense will record at least 40 sacks -- and Jarvis Jones will get at least eight of those.
Half-right is better than all wrong...right? While the team did rack up 48 sacks -- their most in a long, long time and third-best in the league under new defensive coordinator Keith Butler -- Jones only accounted for two of those. Maybe it's because James Harrison played so well that the team had a hard time justifying taking him off the field. Maybe it's because Jones spent a lot of time dropping into coverage. Whatever the case may be, he did not overwhelm in his ability to take the quarterback down in the backfield. He did, however, show a lot of promise in coverage and in the run game -- particularly late in the season and in the playoffs.
The team will sport a top-ten run defense.
Top-ten? Try top-five. The Steelers' run defense was as stout as it's been in years, particularly in their base defense. Teams averaged just 91.2 yards per game, and it had little to do with the success teams had moving the ball against them through the air. On a per-play basis, they gave up just 3.8 yards per run, good for sixth overall. A lot of this is attributable to growth by Jarvis Jones and to Bud Dupree playing a little less aggressively as the season wore on.
Pittsburgh will beat the New England Patriots in week one, with or without Tom Brady.
While I believe this would have come true had anyone bothered to even look at Rob Gronkowski most of the night, it was still wrong, in the end. Once again, Brady and Gronk got the best of the Steelers. Pittsburgh will get yet another shot at redemption in 2016, though, and this time it's in Pittsburgh.