This article is part of our Team Previews series.
State of the Franchise
Heading into last season the pattern was clear, and Pittsburgh fans should have seen it coming. Just as they did in 2003, 2006 and 2009, the Steelers followed up back-to-back playoff seasons with an uninspired performance that kept them out of the 2012 playoffs.
Under new coordinator Todd Haley, the Steelers offense started the season strong. Through the first eight games, QB Ben Roethlisberger had thrown for over 2,200 yards with 16 touchdowns and only four interceptions. The team was 5-3, just one game behind the Ravens, and with five of their remaining games at Heinz Field, where they had won 13 of their last 14 contests, things seemed to be headed in a positive direction for the Steelers.
But Pittsburgh never could get a consistent running game going, and the offense completely sputtered when Roethlisberger was sidelined with rib and shoulder injuries. Big Ben missed a critical three-game stretch, including two tilts against Baltimore, then threw four interceptions in his first three games back. The Steelers finished the season with a disappointing 8-8 record.
Pittsburgh's failures hardly rest solely on Roethlisberger, who finished 2012 with the league's seventh-best QB rating of 97.0. The team's running game ranked 26th in yards per game (96.1) and 28th in yards per carry (3.7). Rashard Mendenhall has since moved on to Arizona, leaving Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman and second-round draft pick Le'Veon Bell to get the ground game back on track in 2013. But they'll have to do