The halfway point of the NFL preseason has come and gone. For every expected occurrence this preseason there have been just as many surprises.
Michael Vick found his way back into the NFL, and with the Philadelphia Eagles of all places. Donte Stallworth spends less than a month in jail for hitting a man with his car, and finds himself suspended for the entire season without pay. Oh and how could I forget Plaxico Burress shooting himself in the leg in a New York nightclub. Landing him in Jail for the next two years and all but certainly ending his NFL career at the age of 32.
Surprise, surprise, surprise…
So think it not strange that the defending Super Bowl champs have had a few surprises of their own this preseason. Some for the better, some for the worse, but no matter how you look at it the surprises have made this one of the more memorable preseasons in recent memory.
With so many stories of player misconduct coming out of this year’s preseason nothing should have come as a surprise, but then the hammer fell in Pittsburgh.
It seems that self-damaging incidents are a post Super Bowl ritual for Ben Roethlisberger, who had to have his face reconstructed after a motorcycle accident shortly after the team’s 2006 Super Bowl victory. This time it looks like Big Ben is going to come out on the winning side of the incident and on the field as the Steelers look to repeat.
Roethlisberger was accused of everything but signing an autograph on the way out of a Lake Tahoe hotel room by Andrea McNulty this July. It was expected to be a major distraction for the team that failed to make the playoffs the season following their last Super Bowl title.
With a solid legal team surrounding him, Roethlisberger has taken the legal challenge head on without losing focus on the upcoming regular season.
To the amazement of everyone outside Steeler nation, the situation has not affected the team up to this point.
Perhaps there was no bigger surprise than the fact that the Steelers front office refused to address the state of lack on the Offensive Line.
With an O-Line that dealt with as many injuries as they did defenses last season, everyone expected the Steelers to upgrade if not solidify their line.
What happened instead was the exodus of Marvel Smith and Kendall Simmons and very little value was placed on shoring up the Line.
Since the off-season the Steelers have found themselves with injuries up and down the O-Line. When Center Justin Hartwig came into camp with a broken toe, and Darnell Stapleton ended up on the rack as well the Steelers were forced to bring in Alex Stepanovich.
The surprise here is that somehow the Offensive Line has hung in there. While they have not been impressive by any stretch, they have been exactly what they were last year up to this point, adequate.
This could be the position that has the greatest impact on the Steelers success this season. While they have been able to get through the preseason, they cannot afford to have any further injuries.
Hartwig and Stapleton are expected to be fully recovered, but for the Steelers to get back on track running the ball this season the injury report is going to have to stay void of names that man the trenches for the black and gold.
Surprisingly this season’s rookie class has been mature beyond their years. Overall the rookies have made a positive impact on this year’s team both in adding much needed depth and by showing that they will be able to make positive contributions to the team on a number of levels as first year players.
While there is always excitement about the new rookies in camp, this has been the summer of the rookie.
Ziggy Hood has been a pleasure to watch at camp, as he has show strong work ethic and determination.
Everyone knew Mike Wallace was fast, but just how fast has been a pleasant surprise. Wallace has been running past defenders and farther than the Quarterbacks can throw to him all preseason. After not knowing what to expect coming into training camp, Wallace has delivered and raised some eyebrows in the process.
The biggest surprise however, has been Isaac Redman.
While he has cooled off a bit since blazing onto the scene with a two-touchdown performance against the Arizona Cardinals, Redman has continued to impress coaches and fans alike during practice.
If he continues to improve Redman could become the next undrafted Back to have a major role in the Pittsburgh Steelers offense.
With the Steelers goal line offense struggling last season, Redman could be the one player to have the largest impact on the team this season if he is able to continue improving as the season goes on.
While there have been many pleasant surprises this preseason, perhaps the greatest surprise has been the fact that there has been no major surprises.
No Tom Brady like injuries, no fistfights at practice and none of the craziness that tear teams apart this time of year.
Or maybe it should come as no surprise. One of the greatest and yet often taken for granted benefits Steeler Nation enjoys is that the Steelers always find a way to get better. No matter what adversity presents itself on the field or off, the organization as a whole always seems to rise to meet that challenge.
This preseason has been no different.
Other than Roethlisberger’s legal issues the water has been remarkably calm, and unsurprisingly the Steelers have gone about their business without much to talk about.
By all standards that usually makes for great talk during the regular season, and unsurprisingly the Steelers should be the talk of the league once again as they seek to defend the bling in the burgh.