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Catching up with … the Steelers

06.09.12 at 2:55 pm ET
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Part of a continuing series that takes a look at what some of the Patriots’€™ biggest competition in the AFC is doing this offseason. We’€™ve already looked at the Jets and Ravens. Today, it’€™s the Steelers:

The last time we saw the Steelers, they were evaporating in overtime in the thin air of Denver, the last victim of Tim Tebow‘€™s amazing run with the Broncos. It was Pittsburgh finished the 2011 regular season at 12-4 — which included a 25-17 win over New England at Heinz Field — but lost out to the Ravens for the AFC North title.

Who they added: The Steelers offensive line has struggled the last couple of years when it came to protecting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and so they went after help up front with their first two picks, landing guard David DeCastro (believed by many to be the best interior offensive lineman in the draft) in the first round and Mike Adams (a premiere left tackle, but one who comes with some character questions). And while they didn’€™t necessarily add him, Pittsburgh beat the odds and managed to hold on to wide receiver Mike Wallace. They placed a first-round tender on the speedy wideout, which means the Steelers will keep the standout wide receiver for 2012 at a $2.7 million salary.

Who’€™s gone: The Steelers lost a few veteran bodies of note in the offseason. Pittsburgh cut linebacker James Farrior, defensive end Aaron Smith and cornerback Bryant McFadden — all 2011 opening-day starters — while longtime wide receiver Hines Ward and backup nose tackle Chris Hoke retired and cornerback William Gay signed with Arizona.

How they feel about the Patriots: ‘€œThe Patriots sat back and did nothing on defense in that game.’€ Troy Polamalu on New England’€™s defensive game plan against the Broncos in the playoffs

Analysis: The very definition of a steady-as-she-goes franchise underwent a relatively eventful offseason, and it will be interesting to see how they react to the changes. Longtime pillars Ward and Farrior are gone, and Todd Haley is the new offensive coordinator. Haley is reportedly a big believer in running the ball, and in that context, the running back spot will also be worth watching, as starter Rashard Mendenhall suffered an ACL tear in Week 17. There’€™s some question as to whether or not he’€™ll be able to go at the start of the season — if not, it looks like Isaac Redman will get the call. Ultimately, there’€™s little reason to think that the Steelers won’€™t be a playoff team, but the offseason moves certainly bear watching, especially when it comes to overall continuity.

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