Last season, something rare happened that didn't exactly get a lot of press, but it shocked much of the football world. It had nothing to do with Russell Wilson or Robert Griffin III, and the Colts' spectacular turnaround wasn't related in any way. No, it was far more noteworthy than that.
The Steelers missed the playoffs.
Okay, maybe that's blowing things a little out of proportion, but we've become accustomed to seeing the Steelers in the big show at the end of the season. Their absence took away the usual story line of the Steelers getting hot at the right time and running through the playoffs.
Still, don't expect the Steelers to be down and out for long. The AFC North is no more difficult now than it was a season ago, I would actually argue it's easier to navigate from Pittsburgh's perspective, and you can bet the Steelers are ready to go.
Unlike last season, the Steelers won't be dealing with a brand new offense. Todd Haley and Ben Roethlisberger should have their much-hyped feud under control, and the offense has the opportunity to click.
In addition, the Steelers won't have to deal with the distraction that was Mike Wallace as they did a season ago. In short, the Steelers can do what they do best, play football.
Pittsburgh's defense is an aging group of players, but there's no reason they can't continue to perform at a high level. Within their own division, the Ravens are significantly weaker now than they were during their Super Bowl run, and the Steelers tend to play very well against the Bengals.
Expect the AFC North to be one of the most competitive divisions in football. Despite some steps back, their are still three very good teams in that division, for those of you that don't follow football closely, the Browns are the only bad team in the division, and the divisional crown is truly up for grabs. The Steelers don't miss the playoffs very often, and all the signs, right now, tell me that the Steelers might get a leg up in the division, and if not, certainly in the wildcard chase.