Question marks abound in Pittsburgh's 2012 training camp.
One of the more unstable offseasons in the history of the perenially-stable franchise leaves the Steelers with a new offensive coordinator, a Pro Bowl holdout, a shuffled offensive line, and without their longtime captain on defense.
Pittsburgh has a very high ceiling once again in 2012, but any combination of bad breaks could leave the Steelers as a mediocre team.
If everything begins to fall into place, there is no reason the Steelers shouldn't compete for the Super Bowl this season.
Mike Wallace signs a long-term deal and comes into training camp. This speeds up the learning process for Ben Roethlisberger and the rest of Pittsburgh's offense under new offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
Roethlisberger becomes comfortable under the new system, and it shows through his play as Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown further cement themselves as one of the top receiving duos in the league and Heath Miller develops as a receiver.
Rookie linemen, Mike Adams and David DeCastro, develop into solid starters early in the season, giving Pittsburgh an effective front line across the board for the first time in years. With Roethlisberger getting sacked and injured less often, the offense is fluid and effective.
During Rashard Mendenhall's recovery from a torn ACL, Isaac Redman starts in his place and carries a potent Pittsburgh running game. Mendenhall returns midseason, and the two backs work in tandem to give the Steelers one of the best running back combinations in the NFL.
On defense, the missing leadership of longtime captain James Farrior matters little, as veterans Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, Ike Taylor, Casey Hampton, and Brett Keisel step into the leadership role.
Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward further develop their 3-4 defensive end play, and make for a potent three-man rotation with Brett Keisel. Pittsburgh sorts out its cornerback situation, as Ike Taylor plays at the high level he showed early in 2011 and young corners, Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown and Keenan Lewis, establish a solid rotation behind Taylor.
Pittsburgh's mix of youth and experience, as well as a healthy lineup that they've been lacking in recent years, mixes to form Pittsburgh's most dominant unit in recent memory.
If most, or all, of Pittsburgh's questionable spots fall in their favor, we should see a dominant team that will win the Super Bowl.
The Steelers have so many uncertainties coming into 2012 that a few breaks in the wrong direction could lead to a mediocre season. I don't see the Steelers finishing 2012 with a losing record. The team is too good and its schedule is too easy.
But if a few things go wrong and begin to stack up against the Steelers (including the potential for stellar play from division rivals Baltimore and Cincinnati) there's a very good chance the Steelers could miss the playoffs or end the season with a .500 record.
Ben Roethlisberger takes a while to grasp Todd Haley's offense, and the results show in Pittsburgh's passing game. Mike Wallace holds out long enough to miss some game time, making him a shell of the player he was for the first half of last season.
Isaac Redman fails to live up to the potential he showed filling in at the end of 2011, and the Pittsburgh running game is sluggish. Rashard Mendenhall takes longer than expected to rehabilitate his ACL injury, and returns to the lineup late in the season without the same explosiveness that made him a 1,000-yard rusher.
Rookie Mike Adams makes his starting debut at left tackle early in the season, and has some issues protecting Ben Roethlisberger's blind side. Roethlisberger spends yet another season running for his life.
Age begins to show through Pittsburgh's defense. James Harrison struggles with a nagging knee injury and finds himself in and out of the starting lineup. Casey Hampton has a tough time keeping up with the pace of the game. Ike Taylor shows some of the weaknesses that were his downfall in the 2011 playoff game against Denver, and Pittsburgh's cornerback play is patchy and suspect.
The defense takes a while to adjust to the absence of James Farrior's leadership. It isn't a long-term issue, but some problems surface because of it early in the season.
These problem spots for the Pittsburgh Steelers, swinging one way or the other, will be the difference between a very mediocre season and a championship season.