Steelers: Looking at Next Season's Offense

Vicki FarriesCorrespondent IJuly 10, 2009

After the Steelers won Super Bowl XL in 2006, Ben Roethlisberger suffered a head injury from a motorcycle accident, and in the same year had an emergency appendectomy.

Bill Cowher was a lame-duck coach poised to leave for North Carolina after the end of the season.

The Steelers slipped to 8-8 and missed the playoffs a year after winning the Super Bowl.

Hines Ward was quoted to say, "They did let the Super Bowl go to their head"

It was as if the monkey was taken off their backs for competing with the Steelers of the 70s and suffering two AFC Championship losses to the Patriots in 2001 and 2004.

Could that same mentality that took the Steelers 8-8 in 2006 carry through into the 2009-2010 season after winning Super Bowl XLIII?

Coach Tomlin believes words such as "repeat" and "defending" will not be a part of his vocabulary.

Winning back-to-back world championships and a third one in five years will require the Steelers to overcome the distractions and malaise that can set in after winning the Super Bowl.

The Steelers went to great lengths to maintain continuity, retaining as many of the players as possible offensively and, yet, there are some issues that need addressing.

The Steelers worked tirelessly and spent money to keep the offensive line intact.

With a full year under their belt and a championship, expectations are high to see marked improvement with the line this coming season.  

It’s a young line with the exception of C Justin Hartwig, who is questionable for training camp.

Unconfirmed reports indicate that Hartwig may have a fractured toe and has been seen walking with a boot.

It’s undetermined what that will mean going into training camp in a couple of weeks, but  Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette believes the Steelers could put Darnell Stapleton at center, and A.Q. Shipley as back-up.

Trai Essex could move to RG with Urbik as back-up.

The Steelers did a nice job with this year’s draft, picking up what could be some quality linemen who could make an impact this season.

With expected improvement of the offensive line, there is hope for the running game.

Will Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall be healthy this season?

Parker showed signs of getting back into running form late in the season, but Mendenhall lost an entire season with a dislocated shoulder injury incurred early last season.

Mendenhall has not had many reps to show what he can do and will be expected to prove himself at training camp.

At wide receiver, the Steelers lost Nate Washington to the Tennessee Titans.  

The receiving corps now lacks depth.

Ward has suffered from knee injuries and after 12 seasons, can we expect him to be injury-free?

Recovering from his recent shoulder surgery and nagging knee problems, Ward did not participate in OTAs or minicamp this spring. 

Depth at receiver now becomes an issue, as Santonio Holmes is the most experienced and healthiest of the two receivers.

The pressure is on for Limas Sweed to show his mettle replacing Washington as third receiver. 

Sweed has not had many opportunities at receiver and blew a TD opportunity in the playoffs. Yet, he did redeem himself later with the great block, a third down catch, and broke up a pass that could have been intercepted.

The Steelers did pick up free agent WR Shaun McDonald from Detroit.

McDonald was the St. Louis Rams' 106th pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.

At the end of the 2006 season, McDonald finished his career with the Rams with 106 catches for 1,215 yards and four touchdowns.

In 2007, McDonald joined former Rams offensive coordinator Mike Martz and the Detroit Lions. 

He led the Lions in catches with 79 catches for 943 yards, and six touchdowns.

The seven-year pro will be in competition with Sweed and rookie Mike Wallace for the third receiver spot.

Finally, a battle is brewing between QBs Charlie Batch and second-year man Dennis Dixon for the No. 2 job.

Batch missed most of 2008 with a broken collarbone, while Dixon impressed the coaches while working with the scout team.

Batch is still considered the No. 2 guy. However, if the Steelers incorporate the Wildcat offense into the offensive schemes, Dixon could be slated at No. 2.


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