- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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As I pointed out in the Pittsburgh Steelers' Camp Confidential file, this franchise has a history of bouncing back. In fact, the past two times the Steelers failed to have a winning record, they won the division the following season.
That trend likely will end this season, according to ESPN's Jeffri Chadiha. He contends this Steelers team will be less competitive than the one that finished 8-8 a year ago.
The offense has quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and a ton of questions. The defense is old and missing key performers from a unit that led the league in total yards allowed in 2012. Head coach Mike Tomlin remains among the best in the business, but even he doesn't have the ability to create miracles.
In order for the Steelers to accomplish a turnaround, they have to keep quarterback Ben Roethlisberger healthy and force more turnovers on defense. The Steelers were 6-3 before Roethlisberger's rib injury last season, 2-5 after it. In analyzing the scoring, Pittsburgh averaged 23 points in the nine games before Roethlisberger was hurt and 18.4 points in the final seven games.
On defense, the Steelers have led the NFL in fewest yards allowed the past two seasons but they haven't made enough game-changing plays. When the Steelers last won the division in 2010, they ranked second in the AFC in takeaways with 35 (21 interceptions and 14 fumbles). Over the past two seasons, Pittsburgh has come up with 35 turnovers combined. The Steelers ranked last in the AFC in forced turnovers in 2011 with 15 and finished 11th in 2012 with 20.
But, in Chadiha's estimation, the safe bet right now is the Steelers will finish third in the AFC North.