NFL Game Changers: AFC North

Join us as TTR Game Changers takes a tour through all 32 teams, identifying one player from every squad that I believe has a great chance of being a game changer in 2012.  To see the full series click here.

Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens are poised for another late season run, but injuries are threatening their season before it even begins.  If the Ravens defense is able to overcome the loss of Terrell Suggs it will be surprising to me.  So that is why I think the offense will really need to step up in a big way in 2012.  I believe that second year receiver Torrey Smith will make big strides again this year as he leads the team in receiving, but I think the team will be pleasantly surprised with the play of Ed Dickson.  The third year receiver has yet to have the impact that they envisioned from the young tight end, but I think he makes a splash in 2012.  Dickson caught 54 receptions for 528 yards and 5 touchdowns last season.  This year I think he could be in the 65-75 ball range with around 8 touchdowns.  His emergence this year will add a new element to Baltimore’s passing game that it has lacked since the early part of Todd Heap’s career.
Pittsburgh Steelers –  Pittsburgh is going to have a rough season this year, and I actually think that the Bengals could surpass them now.  The offensive line is in shambles.  Mendenhall is still injured.  Roethlisberger is already injured and the season is just starting.  James Harrison isn’t healthy yet.  They are running a brand new offense under Todd Haley and their best offensive weapon, Mike Wallace, just ended his lengthy holdout.      I have always said that I don’t trust players coming off a holdout, there are too many examples of players that only end up hurting themselves and their teams by holding out.  I love Wallace’s game breaking ability, but I just can’t trust him this season.  With that being said, I expect Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders to get even more work this year.  And I expect both to play well, but the Steelers reigning team MVP will lead this team once again in 2012.  Read more…

Todd Haley bringing the running game back in Pittsburgh


Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Todd Haley grew up working as a water boy at the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp, looking up to stars such as Joe Greene.

But as different as they are, they share a philosophy on how to improve the Steelers offense, according to Ed Bouchette of thePittsburgh Post-Gazette.

This offseason, the legendary defensive lineman revealed the unhappiness with the way former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians treated the run game.

“You have to practice it, that’s the thing,” Greene said. “There is always a weakness in a defense for the run, but you have to be able to look for it. You don’t just call the run because you get tired of throwing it or because someone wants you to.”

So when Haley came in to put his stamp on the offense, it’s no accident someone who grew up on the Steelers of the 70s (his father was a personnel man who helped build those teams) had a similar blueprint.  Read More…