- Pittsburgh will be the only AFC north team above .500 – The Steelers are almost certainly going to be above .500 barring injuries. The gap between them and the rest of the division is wider then ever. The Bengals are the next closest team, but losses in free agency like receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu will greatly affect their offense. Cincinnati will finish no better then 8-8. Baltimore is going through somewhat of a rebuild, and the Browns may be the worst team in football.
- Bud Dupree will have double digit sacks in 2016 – Bud Dupree will have a breakout season, finishing with at least 10 sacks. Playing defense as a rookie for Pittsburgh is no easy task. Dupree struggled at times last season, and seemed to hit the wall towards the end of the campaign. A year later, Dupree is poised to become the first real pass rushing threat at linebacker Pittsburgh has had in some time.
- Ladarius Green will lead the Steelers in touchdowns – Todd Haley has been having trouble wiping the smirk off his face while he devises ways to use his newly acquired tight end. Green will torment opposing defenses while they worry about covering superstars Antonio Brown and Le’veon Bell. This will be especially true in the red zone where Green will draw some great matchups.
- Ryan Shazier will be in the running for defensive player of the year – We all saw glimpses of a superstar in Ryan Shazier last season. The 49ers game really stands out. Shazier had 15 tackles and a sack, while completely dominating the game. Look for more performances like that as Shazier transitions into one of the games best linebackers.
- Pittsburgh will have a top 10 defense in 2016 – Yes that’s correct, I said top 10 defense! As mentioned above, Dupree and Shazier are due for big upgrades in play this season. The additions of Artie Burns, Sean Davis, and Javon Hargrave from the draft give the Steelers much needed quality depth. Having a year to get used to defensive coordinator Keith Butler also is a key to what will make the defense greatly improved for 2016.
- Unfortunately Landry Jones will get 3 starts – Entering his 13th season in the league, Ben Roethlisberger is beginning to show signs of breaking down. Big Ben has taken a beating over the years. Some of it due to his style of play, and some because of less then stellar offensive lines in his career. Roethlisberger is still one of the top quarterbacks in the league when healthy. With that said, a few missed games seems inevitable at this stage of his career.
- Shamarko Thomas will be a starting safety – I know, I know, you’ve heard this one before. There may be no more frustrating player for Pittsburgh in the Kevin Colbert era. Thomas has all the tools to be an outstanding safety in the NFL, but has never been able to win a starting job……..until now. Players about to enter free agency tend to miraculously have there best seasons. Thomas is in the last year of his rookie deal, and stands to make a great deal of money if he can put together a good year. This may be just the motivation the talented safety needs to finally live up to the hype.
- Markus Wheaton becomes a Pro-Bowler – It’s been steady improvement every year for Markus Wheaton, and this season will be no different. He will be looked to carry even more of the load now that Martavis Bryant has been suspended for 2016. Steelers fans may not realize that Wheaton led the team in yards per catch in 2015. He has the talent, and now the opportunity to become a Pro-Bowl caliber receiver.
- Anthony Chickillo takes Jarvis Jones starting spot by seasons end – Chickillo is probably 5th on the depth chart at outside linebacker as training camp is about to start. The players in front of him don’t exactly scare anyone. Arthur Moats is a backup at best, James Harrison is 38 and way past his prime, and Jarvis Jones rivals Shamarko Thomas as the most disappointing player on the defense. Chickillo has the talent to surpass all of them and start along side Bud Dupree for the Steelers.
- Deangelo Williams will lead the Steelers in rushing – It’s as much about Le’veon Bell’s troubles as it is about Williams’ talent. Bell is already slated to miss the first 4 games from his drug suspension. Add to that the fact that nobody knows how Bell will respond to offseason knee surgery. What we do know is that Deangelo Williams is a very talented back, and it’s a good thing Pittsburgh has him because he will be greatly needed in 2016.