With the Lombardi trophy safely tucked away alongside the other five in their trophy case, you would think that the Pittsburgh Steelers could now look to a relaxing offseason to rest, recharge, and recover in preparation for another run next year.
Not so fast.
See the guy in the picture helping him up? He's part of the problem.
Yeah, I know Roethlisberger holds the ball too long and gets a lot of sacks. But him holding on to the ball as long as he does was the key ingredient to their final scoring drive in Super Bowl XLIII.
Now, the argument could be that he either has to do that, or he simply chooses to. I think it's a little bit of both.
Many of the sacks Big Ben has taken over the last few years have been the result of a porous offensive line, particularly this year. And besides, if he's going to play that way, why not get him the support up front that he needs to keep doing it?
Pittsburgh will be facing 18 free-agent situations in 2009; four of them are offensive tackles. With the exception of Willie Colon, I say let them go. There are 36 available OTs coming up in the draft, with plenty of talent even near the bottom of the rankings.
With Pittsburgh having the last pick in the first round, it isn't likely that top-rated OTs like Andre Smith, Eugene Monroe, or Michael Oher will still be on the board. Ebben Briton may be the first guy they have a legitimate shot at. At 6'6" and 310 pounds, he'd be a good fit size-wise on the Steelers front five.
They may want to take a good hard look at Alex Boone or Selvish Capers. Boone can play on either the left or right side, and he's another big guy who would occupy space nicely on the end of the line. Capers is on the smallish side at 291 pounds, but he's fast, which would help him to compete with the guys coming around the end on stunts.
The Steelers also may want to address the offensive guard position; Chris Kemoeatu wasn't horrible, but he could have been better. If Herman Johnson is still on the board in round three, I say Pittsburgh needs to snap him up. At 6'7" and 342 pounds, he could open holes just by standing up and turning sideways.
Pittsburgh's wide receivers are still big play guys with plenty of gas left in the tank. I would single out Limas Sweed, but he still has a chance to impress me. I held a similar low opinion of Santonio Holmes last year, and look what he's done with himself.
The Steelers might bring in a wide receiver in the second or third round to push Sweed; a guy like Percy Harvin might still be available after the first go-around, but Ramses Barden is sure to still be in the running at the end of round two. At 6'6", his size could more than make up for his lack of blazing speed.
Again, the Steelers options in free agency could include Devery Henderson of the Saints and Shaun McDonald of the Lions. Henderson would be a solid No. 3 receiver, could improve enough to move to No. 2, and is potential deep threat guy.
McDonald has the misfortune of not only playing for the Lions, but playing behind stellar receiver Calvin Johnson. His 2008 campaign wasn't extremely impressive, but if he rebounds from his injury he could challenge for the No. 2 spot.
On the defensive side of the ball, things are relatively solid. However, the revolving door at cornerback is indicative of a potential problem as defenses adjust to the Steelers' top-ranked pass defense in the 2009 season.
McFadden and Townsend traded the starting spot back and forth this year because neither was able to establish himself as "the" guy. Ike Taylor held his own on the other side of the field, but the rest of the Steelers' cornerbacks are pedestrian at best. Gay, Madison, and Bryant all played well enough, but none of them performed in ways to make their play memorable.
Dominique Johnson could solve that problem. With 4.3 speed and decent size, he would be an asset to the Steelers secondary.
Dunta Robinson may be the only available free agent that Pittsburgh can afford; coming out of Houston, Robinson may be hungry to get on a team that is competitive, so the contract numbers could be very manageable.
On the defensive line, Smith, Roye, and Kirschke all have 10 or more years in the league. They are bound to start slowing down soon enough, and it might be time to bring in the next generation of the Steel Curtain and start developing them.
I would love to see the Steelers pick up Everette Brown since he already plays in a 3-4 scheme, but that's just not gonna happen. However, guys like Connor Barwin, Robert Ayers, and Phillip Hunt may still be around on day three. Hunt is a little on the slow side, but it obviously didn't hinder him too much as he registered 14 sacks on the season.
No way can Pittsburgh afford to spend what would be required to acquire Julius Peppers, but Bertrand Berry might peak their interest. If he can stay healthy, he has the motor to be extremely effective. He could fill in as a solid reserve, which could extend his career a bit.
And there you have it, folks: my totally amateur, completely uninformed, and absolutely random thoughts on what I think the Steelers should do in the offseason. Since I don't get paid to make these picks, I hold no culpability if the Steelers actually come close to following this particular train of thought.
Unless, of course, these picks turn out to be the best in the class. In that case, I will claim full credit for saying it first.
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