Once again, the Pittsburgh Steelers found themselves in the postseason. In 2016, they overcame a 4-5 start, ran the table and won a pair of playoff games on the way to a meeting with Bill Belichick’s team up in Foxborough. But the team’s first Super Bowl appearance wasn’t meant to be as Mike Tomlin’s club found itself on the very short end of a 36-17 loss. Now quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and company, as well as a revamped defensive unit, looks to be in the NFL championship hunt once again. The Steelers will open Training Camp in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, on July 27.

Major additions this offseason

Traditionally, the Pittsburgh Steelers are usually one of the least active teams during free agency in terms of signing veterans. But general manager Kevin Colbert was somewhat busier than usual, adding depth to the defense. Cornerback Coty Sensabaugh (New York Giants), strong safety Daimion Stafford (Tennessee Titans) and defensive end Tyson Alualu (Jacksonville Jaguars) should serve the young talent already on coordinator Keith Butler’s unit quite well. Stafford played under one-time Steelers’ defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, while Alualu can line up anywhere on Pittsburgh’s three-man front.

On offense, the team added another wide receiver Justin Hunter (Buffalo Bills) and depth at running back with the signing of Knile Davis (Kansas City Chiefs).

The latter should also contribute heavily on kickoffs returns. Finally, the Steelers’ top four draft choices in April – outside linebacker T.J. Watt (1-Wisconsin), wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster (2-USC), cornerback Cameron Sutton (3-Tennessee) and running back James Conner (3b-Pittsburgh) – should all make contributions this season.

What to look for

Under head coach Mike Tomlin, the Pittsburgh Steelers have reached the playoffs three straight years and seven of the 10 seasons under his command. But after reaching the Super Bowl twice in his first four seasons, the club has struggled to get back to the Big Game. Defense is Tomlin’s forte and yet it’s been the thing to let the Black and Gold down in the postseason.

The organization has worked hard these last few years restocking the talent on that side of the football. The team’s biggest obstacle continues to be the New England Patriots as quarterback Tom Brady has made it look easy, regardless of who’s calling the defensive shots. Getting that defense playing to a higher level is priority No. 1 for the defending AFC North champions.

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