This article is part of our Team Previews series.
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
The Steelers are coming off of back-to-back 8-8 efforts, missing the playoffs in successive seasons for the first time since the team went three years without a postseason berth between 1998 and 2000. After starting the 2013 campaign by losing their first four games, the Steelers dug their way out of the hole to eventually even their record, winding up a single break away from making the playoffs. A missed field goal by Chiefs' kicker Ryan Succop in Week 17 ushered the Chargers into the postseason instead, but the Steelers' 6-2 run to close out 2013 offers encouragement.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was able to play a full season for the second time in his career, completing better than 64 percent of his passes for 4,261 yards, with 28 touchdown passes. He and offensive coordinator Todd Haley finally seemed on the same page, although Big Ben took far too many hits, en route to being sacked 42 times. Former Titans head coach Mike Munchak is the team's new offensive line coordinator, and center Maurkice Pouncey is set to return from injury, offering hope that Roethlisberger could enjoy improved pass protection in 2014.
Meanwhile, Antonio Brown cemented his status as the team's go-to wideout following the departure of Mike Wallace. Brown's team-leading 1,499 yards on 110 receptions allowed the Steelers to attack downfield. Rookie running back Le'Veon Bell, after bouncing back from an early-season foot injury, helped keep opposing defenses honest. Still, the Steelers haven't had