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A New Era for the Kuopio Steelers in 2024

The 2024 Maple League season is a few days away, and the Kuopio Steelers are ready to begin a new era. After five consecutive Maple Bowl appearances, the 3-time Maple Bowl Champions missed the playoffs last season. The Kuopio Steelers have made a lot of changes to usher in a new era and get back to their winning tradition.

Unfamiliar Territory

The Kuopio Steelers were promoted to the Maple League in 2018, and have been a Maple Bowl contender ever since. The Steelers appeared in their first Maple Bowl in 2018, where they suffered a humbling defeat at the hands of the Helsinki Roosters, and then again in 2019. But in 2020, the Steelers began a 3 year streak (2020-2022) of Maple Bowl wins, in what could be called the "Covid Dynasty" by anyone on the Finland football scene.

More recently, the Kuopio Steelers had a very difficult 2023 season. An experimental quarterback situation, combined with player injuries, player suspensions, and just plain bad luck contributed to the Steelers first Maple League season outside of the playoff race. 

The team has cleaned house within management and the coaching staff, leaving only a few remnants of the old club personnel around in 2024. It will be a very interesting season to watch how this new era unfolds for the Kuopio Steelers.

You Don't Know Nesi

Niclas Carpelan, more commonly known as "Nesi", is a long-time contributor to football in Finland, as both a player and coach. Carpelan has experience guiding teams to championships in the lower divisions of football in Finland, but this will be his first try as a Head Coach in the Maple League. 

Nesi's "inexperience" at the Maple League level is a moot point, as the coach is well connected in Finland and more than capable of adjusting to the few differences in the Maple League. Nesi is a talented recruiter, and has always been able to find talented players to execute his vision. His move to Kuopio has been no different, as he has recruited some of the best players in Finland, as well as very talented international imports, to play for him this season.

Niclas Carpelan is the driving force behind the 2024 Kuopio Steelers, and his influence will be noticeable on the team. Nesi's teams are known to be high-powered scoring machines, and the Kuopio Steelers will be no different.

More Points, More Life

The Kuopio Steelers offense is expected to put up a lot of points each week. That expectation is based on the aggressive offensive philosophy of head coach Nesi, as well as the talented cast he has recruited to execute his playbook.

The offense will be run through quarterback Josh Taylor (Mount St. Joseph University). Taylor is a well decorated college player, having been selected as 3-time Offensive Player of the year in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. In 2023, Taylor was also a finalist for the Gagliardi Trophy, which is the equivalent of the Heisman trophy in NCAA Division 3. Beyond the accolades, Josh Taylor is a big play quarterback who has the ability to make all the difficult throws. Also considered a leader of men, Taylor is expected to have a significant impact on the Kuopio Steelers overall success this season.

Taylor will have a familiar target in receiver Austin Brock, who was his teammate at Mount st Joseph. Brock is a dynamic receiver who has the ability to play wideout and slot to create mismatches against defenses. Brock has his sights set on being the best receiver in the Maple League, and that expectation is within reason. Other receiving targets for Josh Taylor include receiver Noah Choate and Tight End Ville Lindsten.

Isaak Marshall will handle the running back duties for the Kuopio Steelers. Marshall did exceptionally well last season in a substitution role, when the Steelers had personnel issues at the position. It shows that the team has extreme confidence to allow Marshall to have the starting position instead of bringing in an American import. 

The Steelers offensive line will be a strength for the team. Import Robert Mihaly (Trinity College) is the standout in the group, but his European colleagues are also very talented. Basil Weber (Tirol Raiders) returns as one of the best offensive linemen in  Europe, and will undoubtedly give the Steelers skill players plenty of protection. Also new to the group is center Otto Mäkinen (Seinäjoki Crocodiles) who has quickly become a top center in Finland in only a few seasons playing the position. Mäkinen is a smart player who can direct the offensive line, but also has a nasty streak to him that makes him a guy you want on your side in a fight. We all know playing in the trenches is just a fight with rules. Combined with the rest of the offensive linemen, this group will be able to create running lanes and protect their quarterback well against any opponents they face.

Defense Wins Championships?

The Kuopio Steelers defensive unit does not have the amount of high profile players as the offense. This means that most of their key contributors will make names for themselves throughout the season.

Jamarcus Henderson (Vienna Vikings) headlines the defensive line. After a season in the ELF, Henderson returns to Finland and is capable of having a major impact for the Steelers. He has great speed and pass rush moves that make him a tough player to block, combined with a ball hawk mentality that allows him to be helpful against the run as well.

Roy Kämppi will be a familiar face for the linebackers group. The long time Kotka Eagle will bring a veteran presence to the position, and is a sure tackler.

The Kuopio Steelers secondary will be composed of returning players, with safety Lars Steffen being the leader of the group. The ball hawk safety will likely be moved around to be in the best position to help the secondary match up with their opponents each week. Steffen has a knack for making big plays in coverage and coming downhill very often to help in the run game. Joining him will be cornerbacks Kosti Hotti and Onni Kärki. Both young players saw playing time last season, and are expected to be key contributors for this season's team.

Perfect Pervis Analysis

The Kuopio Steelers will score a LOT of points this season. They will also give up a ton of points on defense. I'm not sure if their defense will be good enough each week to make them a legitimate playoff contender. Of course my assessment is based on their defense not being very experienced at the Maple league level. If the Kuopio Steelers defensive players are as good as their offensive counterparts, this team is easily a playoff team, and might even break a few records in the process.


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