No, there is not an actual flowchart in this article, but rather three predictions that rely on each other to come to fruition. It’s the off season, and there’s not a ton of news right now, but this idea seemed fun and worthy of interesting discussion. I provide three predictions which I believe will come true, but each can only happen if the other two occur as well.
Prediction No. 1: Javon Hargrave will start week one and he will have an immediate impact on both run and pass defense. Hargrave, known by his coaches at S.C. State as "Gravedigger" had a stellar college career and is the prototypical nose tackle. He has a strong lower body, low center of gravity and a drive to impose his will on opposing offensive lineman. He’s smart enough to learn the Coach Butler’s system and will prove to his doubters that his success at a smaller school will translate to the NFL. His learning curve and transition to NFL starter will be made easier by his two new bookends, Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt.
Prediction No. 2: Jarvis Jones will record 8-10 sacks this year. Last season Jones started to show flashes of the player the Steelers thought they had when they drafted him in the first round in 2013. He’s going to come fully around that proverbial corner this year, thanks in part to the success of the three defensive linemen in front of him. The combination of Heyward, Tuitt and Hargrave will require more help up front from opposing offenses, Bud Dupree will draw some double team or running back help and this will free up Jones to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
Prediction No. 3: The Pittsburgh Steelers will have a top five secondary in 2016. The one common denominator I’ve seen in all the defensive backs drafted from 2015 and 2016 is turnovers and ball skills, along with speed and athleticism. Senquez Golson, Artie Burns and Sean Davis in particular have had a nose for the ball throughout their collegiate careers. Ross Cockrell has a full offseason and training camp to prepare and 'Big Play' William Gay and Mike Mitchell are both still playing at a high level. Couple that with the resurgent pass rush mentioned above and I believe this unit takes big strides. The turnovers were there last year, but the secondary was near the bottom of the league in passing yards allowed. This year those numbers will be vastly improved.
I don’t actually expect the majority of Steelers Nation to agree with me. This is more of a personal wish list. That being said, if the Steelers secondary can perform at a top-five level, the defensive line and linebackers will find an easier route to the quarterback in passing situations, or flip it and if the D-line does as well as predicted the linebackers will thrive. If the linebackers and D-lineman thrive, then the secondary will be a top five unit. If the first prediction doesn’t happen, the success of the players in the second two predictions could be that much harder to obtain. Can any of these bold predictions happen without the others? Sure they could. Also, any or all of these predictions could come crashing back to earth due to any combination of factors, but isn’t it fun to think of the outcome if this wild chain reaction actually occurs?