Steelers links: Mesko's circuitous route

September, 6, 2013
9/06/13
8:07
AM ET
New Steelers punter Zoltan Mesko survived a harrowing journey just to get to this country. His family endured poverty and lived through a revolution in Romania that played out dangerously close to home. The Meskos emigrated to the United States in the mid-1990s and eventually relocated to Cleveland where young Zoltan took a liking to the Steelers. That in itself should endear Mesko to Pittsburgh fans, and his story illustrates what real pressure is.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Dejan Kovacevic likes the Steelers to beat the Titans in the season opener. He also likes what young players like Cortez Allen and Jarvis Jones could do for a defense that has to produce more turnovers this season. Steelers fans are anxious to see what an infusion of youth on a veteran defense will mean in 2013.

The Steelers' defense has a chance to join an exclusive group if it notches a hat trick of sorts and again leads the NFL in total defense. The players take pride in allowing the fewest yards over each of the past two seasons. But they are also the first to say that while the defense has been good the past two seasons, it has not been transcendent. Forcing more turnovers is the key to the unit dominating opposing offenses.

Steve McLendon will make his second career start Sunday, and the former undrafted free agent is now firmly entrenched as the Steelers' nose tackle. McLendon was once one of those players who lived week to week as a practice-squad member, but he is not taking time to reflect on how he arrived at this point. That is because he is too busy preparing for a Titans team that bolstered the interior of its offensive line in the offseason. Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, for one, thinks McLendon will be just fine after taking over for former five-time Pro Bowler Casey Hampton.

A friendly wager? Two of Pittsburgh's most prominent media personalities are putting a little cash behind their predictions for the 2013 season. KDKA TV's Bob Pompeani likes the Steelers to bounce back after an 8-8 season in 2012. Radio talk show host Mark Madden says it is much more likely that the team goes 5-11 than 11-5 in 2013. Indeed, he is betting on it.

Playing in a crowded backfield is nothing new for Felix Jones, who shared times with Darren McFadden and Peyton Hillis at Arkansas. The recently acquired running back will again have to be patient as Isaac Redman gets the first crack as the Steelers' starting running back. Jones has proved to be a quick study in Pittsburgh, and he will get his chance if Redman falters.

Scott Brown

ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter

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