- A 15-1 start and dreams of a Super Bowl championship dissolved on a cold night at Heinz Field, as the Steelers saw their 2004 season end with a 41-27 loss to eventual champs New England in the AFC Championship Game. It was a bittersweet season for Pittsburgh, and the mission in 2005 is clear: Super Bowl or bust.
- The Steelers will be attacking that goal by staying the course, as essentially the same team will be returning in 2005. The most notable addition is wide receiver Cedrick Wilson, who replaces the most notable departure, Plaxico Burress. That lack of roster turnover can't hurt team chemistry, and the Steelers should be able to get off to a quick start with everyone on the same page.
- Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger performed beyond all expectations as a rookie starter in the regular season, but he really seemed to show his inexperience in the team's two playoff contests. He should continue to grow into the job as the Steelers bludgeon teams with the running game. And the defense will likely be at the top of the league rankings again, as the only departure from that unit is linebacker Kendrell Bell. Expect more of the same from the Steelers this season.
- "Big Ben" had a marvelous regular season, and an equally horrendous postseason. Which version of the quarterback will show up this year? So far, word out of offseason workouts has been positive, and the coaching staff is even talking about throwing the ball a little more. The truth is he likely isn't as bad as he looked late last year, but he may still have some growing pains ahead.
- Will "the Bus" continue to run?
Running back Jerome Bettis really saved the Steelers last year when fellow running back Duce Staley began to miss time with a sore hamstring. Bettis plowed his way for 941 yards and 13 touchdowns in relief and helped propel the Steelers to a 15-1 mark. The question is how effective he can be in 2005. For one, he'll have to contend with Staley for playing time. For another, his age could begin to play more of a factor. A dominant "Bus" would provide Pittsburgh with the type of running game it is accustomed to.
- Will the Steelers suffer an AFC championship hangover?
Pittsburgh should be a Super Bowl contender, but in the wacky world of the NFL, nothing is a given. One of the only things that could derail this team is its temperament. An inability to get over last year's disappointment could create an even bigger setback in 2005. The schedule is manageable, and virtually the same roster is coming back. So a slow start would be disappointing and could throw off the whole season.