With the coming of the 2009 NFL season, many teams are left quizzically staring at their playbooks, wondering just why things didn’t work out as planned. Others are quietly revamping and shifting their depth charts around to make room for new additions.
Or, at least every team but the Pittsburgh Steelers is making those changes.
The 2009 edition of the team that epitomizes hard work and even harder hitting retains every single member of its’ coaching staff from last year. Not one has left for another NFL team. What that means is that the Super Bowl champs don’t have much to change at all about their playbook or game-plan.
Sure, they’ll have to make some minor adjustments to the depth chart in order to replace Bryant McFadden, Larry Foote, and Nate Washington, but that’s a very simple task compared to what other teams are doing right now.
Bryan McFadden’s starting cornerback spot opposite of Ike Taylor will more than likely be filled once more by veteran Deshea Townsend. As for Foote’s starting middle linebacker role, that’s easily filled by Lawrence Timmons. Nate Washington and Limas Sweed have the exact same skill set, so that position is already likely filled.
Timmons is faster than Foote ever was, so we may see him blitzing considerably more than Foote did in his time with the Steelers. That speed, combined with his athleticism, will open up a whole new demon in pass coverage as well, allowing James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley to blitz freely without worrying about a coverage zone.
Deshea Townsend is a good, veteran option at corner, though admittedly he’s a tad bit slower than what is ideal for a starting cornerback. We may be faced with the option of reorganizing pass coverage to suit his needs more, either allowing a safety to give him a blanket over the top when the call is man to man, or simply allowing him to guard the flat routes in a zone coverage scheme.
When Nate Washington’s third wide receiver spot is taken over by Limas Sweed, there won’t be too much of a drop off. They both are very fast receivers, a little sloppy on the route running, and completely hit and miss in the hands department.
While I’d love to say that Sweed won’t be relied on too heavily due to the Steelers having one of the best possession receivers in the game in Hines Ward and one of the up and coming stars of the league in Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes, that may not be true. Last year as the backup Washington caught 40 passes for over 500 yards and three touchdowns. So Sweed’s going to get his playing time for us next year.
The Steelers are going to trust Holmes a lot more when going for the long ball, thus making it necessary to give Sweed some intermediate routes to get him fully submerged in the offensive scheme. If we allow him to slowly grow into the system, he could and very well should have a great career as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The defensive gameplan will change from week to week, throwing in new formations, assigning different pass coverages and blitzing schemes. But that’s the mark of a good defense, to never show the same thing twice.
The biggest factor into the change of the Pittsburgh Steelers gameplan next year is going to be the rule changes. Hines Ward will no longer be allowed to legally unleash his bone jarring blocks against defenders that he has seemingly passed onto Limas Sweed, just ask Corey Ivy.
Offensively, we may see the Steelers throwing the ball a bit more, due to Willie Parker not looking like the Parker of old. He seems to have lost some of his straight line speed, though the initial burst is still there. He simply has lost his open field speed. He’s not the same Parker that played in Super Bowl XL.
Look for the Steelers to get the ball to tight end Heath Miller more this year as well. He simply destroys zone coverage schemes by finding the holes, he’s every quarterback’s dream—a safety blanket over the middle.
No major changes will be made on either side of the ball, as the personnel is nearly the same, factor that in with the coaching staff 100 percent intact and there’s no need to change from a formula that won the Super Bowl last year.
The 2009 season will be business as usual for the Steelers.