PITTSBURGH STEELERS (9-6-1)
OPEN CAMP: July 25, Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
LAST YEAR: Pittsburgh let 2 1/2-game lead in AFC North vanish over final month of season to miss playoffs for first time since 2013. There were bright spots. Ben Roethlisberger led NFL in passing. JuJu Smith-Schuster developed into bona fide star after hauling in 111 receptions. Young running back duo of James Conner and Jaylen Samuels kept chains moving even with Le'Veon Bell opting to sit out year. Kicker Chris Boswell took massive step backward, and despite leading NFL in sacks for second straight season, defense produced just 15 takeaways, 29th in league. Five of Pittsburgh's six losses were by seven points or less, most of them aided by self-inflicted mistakes like late turnovers or penalties.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: CBs Justin Layne and Steven Nelson, LBs Devin Bush and Mark Barron, WRs Donte Moncrief and Diontae Johnson.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: WRs Antonio Brown and Darrius Heyward-Bey, RB Le'Veon Bell, S Morgan Burnett, LBs Jon Bostic and L.J. Fort, offensive line coach Mike Munchak.
CAMP NEEDS: Welcome to NFL, Devin Bush. Steelers traded up in first round for first time since 2003 to acquire speedy inside linebacker from Michigan, necessary step with Ryan Shazier's career in jeopardy as he recovers from spinal surgery in December, 2017. Bush won raves during organized team activities and minicamp, but as coach Mike Tomlin likes to point out, that's just "football in shorts." Right tackle needs to be sorted out, with Matt Feiler, Chukwuma Okorafor and Jerald Hawkins in mix to replace Marcus Gilbert, who was traded to Arizona.
EXPECTATIONS: Browns have swagger, Ravens have young quarterback of their own and some momentum after rallying to take division title, but "the standard is the standard" in Pittsburgh. Offense will have different look after Brown pouted his way into trade to Oakland. Bigger question marks are on defense, which faltered at key times last season. Roethlisberger signed contract extension that will carry him until 40th birthday, but whether Super Bowl window remains open during remainder of his tenure will rely heavily on defense recapturing some menace.
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