Defending the Steelers

Although it was just a partial prediction, maybe I should've kept my thoughts to myself.

Since the conditional six-game suspension of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, I've made it clear that I'm not picking the Pittsburgh Steelers to win the AFC North this year. It seems logical to me. But Steeler Nation has been very vocal since I claimed I was leaning toward the Cincinnati Bengals or Baltimore Ravens to win the division in 2010.

So for the sake of balance, here is a sample defending the Steelers from our AFC North inbox:

Mike from Matyland Heights, Mo., writes: Big Steeler fan here. Your articles always seem to count the Steelers out. You guys make judgments on everything that isn't football. Pittsburgh has been successful throughout the years because of being able to play TEAM first football. One man doesn't make the Steelers. There is no evidence that the Steelers will be that bad without Ben Roethlisberger or Santonio Holmes. They lost five in a row last year due to a lax defense. A healthy Aaron Smith and Troy Polamalu will make up for that. Don’t forget we win one more game last year we are 10-6 and in playoffs. Ben is not the savior of the Steelers. It is the defense and it will always be. When Antwaan Randle El left after the Super Bowl all writers said the same thing -- the Steelers will miss him. NOT! We plug people in and GO unlike any other team in the NFL. I will e-mail you back when we finish 11-5 or 12-4 and make playoffs. Keep banking on the anemic Ravens and the haphazard Bengals, and you will continue to set yourself up for failure.

J. Singh from Newark writes: How do you think the Steelers will fair in '10? You guys are putting us down, man. But we're going to be No. 1 again. So we're going one deep run into playoffs [this season], then next year SUPER BOWL. SEVENTH HEAVEN.

Ben from Groton, Conn., writes: It seems like you are convinced the Steelers will struggle mightily without Big Ben. Why? This is the same defense the Steelers had in 2008 and it's not like the offense was lighting anyone up that year. Byron Leftwich has said he feels very comfortable in this system and with his cannon he has to love Mike Wallace's speed. Call me a homer but I would be far from shocked if the Steelers made it out of the first six games with a 4-2 record (losing in Tennessee and Miami).