Looking at the enemy: Pittsburgh Steelers

Looking at the enemy: Pittsburgh Steelers
May 14, 2013, 9:45 am
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Now that the schedule is set and the draft is over, CSNBaltimore.com is taking a chronological look at each of the Ravens 2013 opponents.

Weeks 7, 13: Pittsburgh Steelers

Dates: Sunday, Oct. 20, 4:25 p.m., Heinz Field

Thursday, Nov. 28, 8:30 p.m., M&T Bank Stadium

2012 Record: 8-8

Key offseason losses: G-T Willie Colon (to New York Jets); OLB James Harrison (to Cincinnati); CB Keenan Lewis (to New Orleans); RB Rashard Mendenhall (to Arizona); S Ryan Mundy (to New York Giants); T Max Starks (unsigned); WR Mike Wallace (to Miami) 

Key additions: CB William Gay (from Arizona); QB Bruce Gradkowski (from Cincinnati); TE Matt Spaeth (from Chicago); T Guy Whimper (from Jacksonville)

Top 5 draft picks: OLB Jarvis Jones (1st round, Georgia); RB La'Veon Bell (2nd round, Michigan State); WR Markus Wheaton (3rd round, Oregon State); S Shamarko Thomas (4th round, Syracuse); QB Landry Jones (4th round, Oklahoma)

Overview: The Steelers don't like playing second fiddle to the Ravens in the AFC North, so you can bet they really, really don't like playing third fiddle. But that's what they did last season, finishing behind the Ravens and the Bengals. It was the Steelers' first third-place finish in the division since 2003, the year before Ben Roethlisberger arrived in Pittsburgh.

Roethlisberger, 31, is back after missing three games last season -- including both games against the Ravens -- and hobbling along through several others.

With or without Roethlisberger, the offense had other issues last season. Former first-round draft pick Rashard Mendenhall was suspended by the team for one game after he basically took his ball and went home after being demoted to third string. (Told he wasn't going to be active for the Chargers game, he didn't bother showing up.) Injuries sidelined promising rookie linemen David DeCastro and Mike Adams at times. Receivers dropped far too many passes.

The Steelers defense had its own injury issues -- Troy Polamalu missed half the season -- but soldiered on and still ranked No. 1 overall, No. 2 against the rush and No. 1 against the pass.

It's clear that the Steelers are eager to move on from 2012. They parted ways with Pro Bowl and oft-fined linebacker James Harrison, 34, who Ravens fans will still see twice a year with the Bengals. They also let Mendenhall walk, and he landed in Arizona.

To replace Harrison, the Steelers used their first-round draft pick on Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones, who should be a factor right away. Second-round pick La'Veon Bell could wrestle the starting running back job away from Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer, and the offensive line should improve if DeCastro and Adams can progress and stay healthy.

The Steelers lost Mike Wallace to free agency, but wouldn't let Emmanuel Sanders go, matching an offer sheet the Patriots had made to the restricted free agent. Antonio Brown is back as well, and with a healthy Roethlisberger, the Steelers offense should still have plenty of weapons in 2013.

Yes, the Steelers are going through some turnover, much as the Ravens are, but love it or hate it (and it's clear where Ravens fans fall), the organization has done things right for a long time. The demise of the Steelers might be greatly exaggerated.

Everyone in the Ravens locker room will tell you there's nothing quite like Steeler Week. This year, the teams meet in Week 7, just before the Ravens bye, and then square off at M&T Bank Stadium in a Thanksgiving night showdown.

As always, those games will likely have a lot to do with the AFC playoff race.