The 2010 Steelers season, filled with many highlights, ended in disappointment to the Green Bay Packers at Cowboys Stadium.
Most Valuable Player Aaron Rodgers was sharp and used his playbook wisely as he was able to find favorable matchups throughout the big game. Will the Steelers be able to fix the secondary problems? Was this just one bad game or is the secondary a major concern?
The Rooney family bolstered the Blitzburgh defense by inking linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons to major deals. These two, along with James Harrison and James Farrior, form the best linebacking unit in the NFL, bar none.
Not only are these guys known for their pass rushing skills, they led the NFL with 48 sacks in 2010, and their speed and force allow each to chase down ballcarriers and cover the pass.
The defensive line should be bolstered by the return of veteran Aaron Smith, who was out last season with a torn tricep tendon.
Former Pro Bowlers Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel round out the front three, making the Steelers again a top candidate to lead the league against the run. Ziggy Hood and this year's first round pick, Cameron Heyward, while not yet ready for the majority of snaps, will provide steady play off the bench.
The secondary is a major concern for the Steelers. Yes, the signing of Ike Taylor was a must this past offseason. Yes, reigning Defensive Player of the Year Troy Polamalu is back at full strength after an Achilles tendon injury hampered him in the postseason.
But who is behind these two? Bryant McFadden will return to the lineup today, but does he still have it? William Gay has proven to be less than adequate at the nickel position. Is Keenan Lewis ready to step up? Let's hope so.
The 2011 Steelers' offense looks to be in excellent shape after a sharp preseason.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looks to be his Big Ben self. Ben has proven year in and year out to be a top five QB in the league.
Rashard Mendenhall had another fine season last year, barring his fumble in the Super Bowl.
The wide receiver corps can compete with any in the league. Speedster Mike Wallace is looking to become a Pro Bowler. Hines Ward is ending his career looking towards Canton.
Sophomores Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders are studs in the making. Tight end Heath Miller is consistent in both the running and passing games.
Again, everyone is pointing at the offensive line as a potential down fall. The 2010 unit was more than adequate after first round pick Maurkice Pouncey shined right out of the gate. Gone are Max Starks and Flozell Adams. They will be replaced by Willie Colon, who is back after being out all 2010 with a knee injury, and Jonathon Scott.
Chris Kemoeatu will again man left guard while Doug Legursky begins his first season as starting right guard.
Trai Essex, cut earlier this preseason, was brought back as a top replacement along with Ramon Foster. This writer has a hunch the offensive line will continue to improve and be formidable in 2011.
Special teams will again be positive for the Steelers this season. Punter Daniel Sepulveda won a close training camp battle with Jeremy Kapinos. Kicker Shaun Suisham was impressive after his mid-year acquisition with a field goal accuracy rate of 93.
The 2011 Steelers will again feel tremendous heat in the AFC North from the archrival Baltimore Ravens. The Cleveland Browns have improved but are not ready to challenge the upper echelon. The Cincinnati Bengals will be simply terrible.
The Steelers invade Ravens stadium today. Could there be any better opener this NFL season? I think not.
Predictions: 11-5 season (AFC North champions) and a 16-13 victory today.
Craig Andros is a frequent contributor to Voice of the Fan.