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Introduction to the Pittsburgh Steelers

Strong Safety Troy Polamalu can makes plays all over the field

When it comes down to it, the NFL is just like any sport. It's all about winning, and more importantly, winning championships. When you talk about winners in the NFL, you have to talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers. This storied franchise has a record number of Super Bowl appearances at 8 and a record number of championships at 6, the last of which was in 2008. The Steelers are successful, no doubt about it, and they operate from the top down as one of the best run franchises in not only the NFL but professional sports. Founded, owned and run by the Rooney Family since 1933 the Rooney's have a reputation for not only success but patience and consistency. This is evident by the fact that since 1969 the Steelers have only had three head coaches, the fewest of any team in that time frame. Incumbent coach is Mike Tomlin who joined the franchise in 2007. Tomlin was immediately successful, winning the Steelers sixth Super Bowl. Tomlin also led the team to another Super Bowl in 2010 but came up short against a high powered Green Bay Packers team. The Steelers have always been built from a defensive base, and this look set to continue under Tomlin, who himself is a defensive minded coach.  This defensive ideology has become the Steelers hallmark which has fed into the concept of "Steeler football" which has been underlying throughout each coach but has evolved with each new player. Formerly a power running team, Tomlin has adapted his side to a more pass based offense with a great deal of success. No matter the perceived strength or weakness of the team, there are always high expectations in Pennsylvania and despite a rough 0-3 start to the 2013 season the Steelers will be looking to bounce back and make a difficult run to a playoff spot. Fortunately for the Steelers, the backbone of their Super Bowl winning team remains and though the roster holds some new faces, it will be this experienced core that will help salvage the Steelers season.

The New Steel Curtain?

The Steelers, as ever, are built on their defense and their roster is littered with stars. Leading one of the most dangerous secondary's in the league is five time All Pro strong safety Troy Polamalu, who is considered by many to be the best strong safety in the league today. A cerebral player and student of the game, Polamalu has a knack for knowing what the offense is doing and uses this to make spectacular plays in crunch time. Derailed by injury last year, 2010's defensive player of the year will be looking to bounce back with another defining campaign and help his team reach the playoffs once again. Aiding him will be fellow defensive standout, outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley. A versatile player who can rush the passer and drop into coverage, it will be up to Woodley to step up and fill the void created after the departure of former fellow linebacker James Harrison this offseason. Woodley has the potential and tools to do so, being both a physically gifted and intelligent player. Injuries have a tendency to hold Woodley back so this year, more than ever, it will be vital that Woodley remains game fit. If he can recapture his All Pro form, look for the Steelers defense to once again be considered one of the best in the league. These two players, as talented as they are can't do it alone and it will be up to players like cornerback Ike Taylor and linebacker Lawrence Timmons to take their games to the next level. Taylor, though an excellent tackler and great cover corner, has had problems making interceptions, having only made 14 in his career. If Taylor can improve this facet of his game it will cause opposing offenses even more problems.  Lawrence Timmons is a player ready to have a breakout year having always been in the shadow of fellow defensive colleagues. Despite this Timmons has quietly led the Steelers in tackles over the last three years. Look for this young talent to make more noise in an increased role this season.

Running And Gunning

Dictating the offensive side of the team is quarterback "Big" Ben Roethlisberger who has led the black and gold to their last two Super Bowl rings. A somewhat underrated quarterback, he is a proven winner and is certified clutch having led the Steelers to a number of fourth quarter victories. The true benefit to a quarterback like Roethlisberger is his ability to keep plays alive by scrambling. Standing at 6'5", 240lbs Big Ben has the power and balance to withstand a hit and either scramble for yardage or deliver a strike to his receivers down the field. Though sometimes criticised for holding onto the ball too long, he has proven he can be trusted to do what it takes to put his team into a position to win. His gun slinging style has taken its toll on Roethlisberger as health issues continue to be a factor in his career. Having only ever completed a full season once, the key for the Steelers is keeping Big Ben healthy and on the field for as many games as possible, when he plays the Steelers are a much better ball club. One of Roethlisberger's favourite targets is tight end Heath Miller. One of the best blocking tight ends in the league, Miller is also a proficient receiver and ranks third in all time receptions for the Steelers franchise. After his best professional season last year, look for him to come back strong after an injury delayed the start to his season.

A Mountain To Climb

Despite this talent roster, the outlook in Pittsburgh this season remains rather bleak. Injuries have plagued the Steelers over the last few years and continue to do so this season. One or two more injuries to key players and this capable team might be in really bad shape. Conversely if everyone stays healthy the Steelers have the talent to rescue an otherwise miserable season and perhaps snatch a playoff wildcard berth. Healthy players or not, it is never a simple task. Playing in the AFC North, one of the most competitive divisions in the league, means there is no easy games. Though historically always superior to heated rivals the Baltimore Ravens, the balance of power shifted last year as the Ravens won the division and went on to win the Super Bowl. This turn of events will have jarred many of the Steelers faithful and look for their match ups this year to be hotly contested, in what has become one of the NFL's most exciting and hard hitting rivalries. The Cincinnati Bengals have a skilled line-up, and after signing former Steelers dominant defensive icon James Harrison the bad blood has only intensified. The Cleveland Browns, though going through a process of rebuilding, will sense a weakened Steelers side and will be looking for revenge against a team that has abused them in years gone by. Head coach Mike Tomlin has a mountain to climb this season after getting into a three game hole. He will need all his skill and discipline to steer the franchise back to glory, where the Steelers have historically proved they belong. Perhaps the start of this run can start in London, as the Steelers face fellow 0-3 team the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday 29th October.

Head Coach: Mike Tomlin

Super Bowl Appearances:  1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1995, 2005, 2008, 2010

Division: AFC North

Biggest Rivalries: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns

Jersey to buy: #7 QB Ben Roethlisberger, #43 SS Troy Polamalu, #83 TE Heath Miller, #56 OLB LaMarr Woodley, #24 CB Ike Taylor, #94 LB Lawrence Timmons