Originally Published: September 2, 2010
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images JOHN CLAYTON QB RANKING (4): With Ben Roethlisberger serving a four-game suspension and Byron Leftwich injured, Dennis Dixon or Charlie Batch will start the Steelers' opener.

Expert Picks (Consensus: 3rd)

Intelligence Report

Five things you need to know about the Steelers:

1. The Steelers' D is back: Pittsburgh statistically was good on defense last season, finishing as the No. 5 unit in the NFL and ranking second in sacks with 47. But the Steelers' inability to hold leads in the fourth quarter was uncharacteristic. Troy Polamalu's healthy return from a left knee injury has helped Pittsburgh get back to form. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is allowed to completely open his playbook again. So look for Pittsburgh to be able to bring more zone-blitz packages and better disguise them to help create more turnovers.

2. Opponents will test QBs: The Steelers are known to do a lot of blitzing, but expect opposing defenses to do the same to their quarterbacks early in the season. Starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. Therefore, Dennis Dixon or Charlie Batch must prove they can move the offense through the air. Look for a lot of eight-man fronts against Pittsburgh to stop the running game. Dixon or Batch obviously don't strike the same fear in opponents as Roethlisberger.

3. Offense wants to set physical tone: Despite Rashard Mendenhall rushing for 1,108 yards last season, Pittsburgh often used the pass to set up the run. The Steelers are trying to get back to being a more physically dominant team offensively, especially in the red zone. Pittsburgh hired new offensive line coach Sean Kugler to bring a more physical style in the trenches. Backup tailback Isaac Redman also could help the Steelers in short-yardage situations with his ability to break though tackles and low center of gravity.

4. Maurkice Pouncey is a stud: The Steelers look like they have a keeper in Pouncey. The offensive lineman looked great in training camp and the preseason, where he eventually won the starting center job from veteran Justin Hartwig, who was cut. Pouncey moves well, has a mean streak and finishes his blocks to the end of the whistle. There has been debate over where Pouncey should start the season, but I believe it was wise to put the rookie in his natural position, which is center. That's where Pouncey is at his best. Pittsburgh drafted him to play long term. The Steelers will be strong in the middle with Pouncey and can build the rest of the offensive line around the talented rookie.

5. Mike Wallace is ready for a breakout season: More opportunities should equal more production for Wallace in his second season. He recorded 756 yards as the team's No. 3 receiver and takes over a starting role for the departed Santonio Holmes. Wallace has plenty of speed and a good work ethic. He has diligently worked on his route-running ability to become a more complete receiver. With Roethlisberger's suspension, it might take a while for Wallace to put up big numbers. But he should be a dangerous threat in the second half of the season.

-- James Walker, ESPN.com

Scouts Inc.'s Fabulous Five


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