Naysayers a year ago had the Steelers down for the count after a quick glance at their upcoming schedule. Who could blame them after the NFL handed down the toughest schedule in the league with the likes of the Colts, Cowboys and Patriots among the opponents.
But in typical Steelers fashion, under the watchful discipline of Mike Tomlin, they rose to the challenge and collected their sixth Lombardi trophy.
So what’s in store for the Steelers this year? Some would say the Steelers have a good chance at a repeat, me included. Then there are others who will say, no way their schedule is easier, they’re not going to try.
What has to happen?
· Where’s Troy? Polamalu hasn’t been on his A-game since he signed his contract extension in 2007. Sure he’s been plagued by a few injuries, but we need the Tasmanian Devil back at 100%.
· Get back to true Steelers football. Big Ben is a great quarterback, talented and dependable under pressure. But the passing game isn’t what defines Steelers’ football, it’s the running game. Willie Parker carried the weak running game last season with 791 yards after Mendenhall went down with a fractured shoulder. Parker can’t be preoccupied with this being the last year of his contract. The focus has to be on the task at hand – strengthening the running game. With the return of Mendenhall, the running game should be able to rebound from a mediocre showing last season.
· The return of Charlie Batch. I’m probably going to get some eye rolls with this one, but that’s the way it is. Byron Leftwich did a great job in the three games he was needed but Charlie Batch is the man. He has been with the Steelers since 2002 and he’s done a fine job when called to duty.
· The offensive line has to step up. Not much was done over the off-season to correct the problems plaguing the offensive line, but it needs to be addressed and in a hurry. Another season with our quarterbacks being sacked nearly 50 times is unacceptable. It can’t all be blamed on the quarterback, although he can take SOME of the blame.
What could prevent #7?
No trip to the Super Bowl this year won’t be blamed on the Steelers’ schedule. After last year’s grueling line-up, this year is going to seem like a walk in the park. With the schedule out of the way, however, there’s still plenty that can see the Steelers watching the post-season instead of dominating.
· The notorious Super Bowl Hangover. The Steelers aren’t going to be able to live it down if they try to use this excuse the same way they did after winning in 2005. More is expected of them. They have to stay strong – in mind and body – if they hope to avoid the same curse that has stricken seven of the last thirteen teams who have failed to make the post season the season after winning the Super Bowl.
· Injuries have to be kept to a minimum. One key player out with an injury is bad enough, but the entire team being plagued is a problem. With the amount of talent this team has, when the Steelers are healthy on both sides of the ball, they are unstoppable.
When it's all said and done, a repeat is definitely within their grasp.