Pittsburgh Steelers: Broken-Hearted but Optimistic About the Future

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Pittsburgh Steelers: Broken-Hearted but Optimistic About the Future
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

For the second time this decade, the Pittsburgh Steelers followed a Super Bowl Championship by not making the playoffs. For all the people that are going to start pointing fingers as to the decline of the Pittsburgh Steelers, remember this, the last time we didn't make the playoffs, we won the Super Bowl two years later.

Though the Steelers did not make the playoffs, I believe that if they had, they would have caused some damage. I can honestly say, this Steelers team would have been contenders had they made the playoffs, but that talk is officially over.

The 2009 season is now in the books, and it is time to look forward for the Steelers.

Offense

Quarterback

What the 2009 season has shown, Big Ben Roethlisberger is one of the top quarterbacks in the league. Anyone try to say he is not elite, obviously did not see him play this year.

The more important question at the position, "Is Dennis Dixon ready to take over the back up position?" Dixon answered that question with a resounding YES!

In the only action Dixon saw this year, Dixon started a Sunday night game, AT Baltimore. Baltimore is the Steelers biggest rivals, and to play on the road, on the national stage, and take the Ravens to OT, showed that Dixon is ready to be the No. 2.

 

Running Back

A 2008 first-round pick, Rashard Mendenhall was given the chance as the starter in week five and never looked back. Mendenhall showed why the Steelers chose him in the first round, and looks to be the feature back of the future for the Steelers.

Mewelde Moore will return as the third-down back, a position that fits him perfectly. He is one of the best in the league at picking up the blitz, and he has great hands out of the backfield.

 

Fullback

Frank Summers is going to have to bounce back if he wants to have a chance to make the team next year.  Carey Davis plays great on special teams, and will be back during the preseason to show he belongs as the starter.

The Steelers may decide to bring in a speed back if they decide not to keep Willie Parker. Parker is not the lightning back he once was, and unless he is willing to play for near league minimum, he is not going to be back in Pittsburgh next year.

 

Wide Receiver

Hines Ward is still going strong and will be back again next year. Santonio Holmes had his first 1,000-yard season, and rookie Mike Wallace showed that when Ward does start to slow down, he is ready to take over.

 

Tight End

Heath Miller resigned last year, which means that he will be back for the foreseeable future. Sean McHugh will be back after spending the year on IR, Matt Speath and David Johnson will battle for the third TE spot, IF the Steelers decide not to make Johnson a full-time fullback, which they should.

 

Offensive Line

Max Starks - Played fantastic the first half of the year, but over time de-evolved in the position as the year went on. The best move may be to bring in an OT in the offseason and move Starks to the right side.

Chris Kemoeatu - Other than the time he missed due to injury, he has progressed as the year went on. Kemoeatu also recently re-signed and should man the position for years to come.

Justin Hartwig had an average season, and his future depends on the growth of AQ Shipley. When Shipley is ready to take over, Hartwig will either become a backup or expendable.

Darnel Stapleton will return from an injury that ended his season before it started. If he can not return to his starters form, last years draft brought two players to the Steelers' depth chart.  Third rounder Kraig Urbik and undrafted free agent Tony Hillis will be battling for the backup role, even if Trai Essex is brought back.

Willie Colon - Could be the odd man out if the Steelers decide to bring in another tackle, unless he is willing to be a backup, which is really all he should be.

 

Defense

Defensive Line

Casey Hampton may come back, but that does nothing to the average age of our line. Last year, at the end of the season, there was talk that every member of our line was too old to continue at the pace they were at. They were right.

Our line WAS addressed in the first round when Ziggy Hood was drafted in the first round. We will also see Sonny Harris getting some playing time next year, and will eventually work his way into the starting line up, like Aaron Smith did.

Speaking of Smith, he should be back again next year, and with Hood playing as well as he did, with the combination of Smith and Hood as the book ends, our line is looking good next year.

What will the Steelers do at the NT position? We will know soon if the Steelers are going to address that early in the draft if they don't bring back Hampton.

 

Linebackers

Still the strong suite of the defense. LaMarr Woodley has taken over the role of dominant OLB this year, and having James Harrison on the other side only makes him THAT much more dangerous.

Lawrence Timmons is coming into his own, and will be even better next year.

The biggest issue is the decline of James Farrior. Farrior has obviously slowed down, and it is becoming clear that releasing Larry Foote was a mistake. Farrior is going to have to be replaced, and that issue is going to have to be addressed this offseason.

 

Corner

Will Gay played worse this year than when he subbed for Bryant McFadden last year. Ike Taylor is still starter material, and if he could learn to catch the ball, he would be dangerous.

The Steelers DID address the corner position last year, drafting Keenen Lewis and Joe Burnett. Neither could earn much playing time this year, but as I have said numerous times, and will say again, the Steelers don't normally throw rookies into the fold unless necessary.

Don't think Lewis and Burnett played very well when they got the chance? Remember Troy Polamalu's rookie season. To say he was not good was an understatement. I am ready to give these kids a chance to show what they have, but they have to do it now.

 

Safety

Troy Polamalu will be back next year, but will Ryan Clark? Clark played great next to Troy and is one of the hardest hitters in the game. In his postgame interview, he stated that he wanted to come back, but is that in the Steelers' plans? Only time will tell.

 

Special Teams

Jeff Reed needs to be brought back, regardless of his off field issues. After his bumbles in the beginning of the season, he was on fire and being able to kick IN Heinz Field is worth what we will have to spend on him.

Daniel Sepulveda remains solid at his position and is an asset to the Steelers. It is good to have someone that can not only kick the ball, but not afraid to hit someone as well.

Stefan Logan will be back next year, he signed a two year contract when he came to the Steelers, and there is no need to look at him any further. No, he did not break one for a score, but as the season went on, he got better, and will again next year.

Why Logan was not included more in the offense, I do not understand.

 

Draft Outlook

Round One - Safety. Ryan Clark more than likely will not be back, and even if he is, he does not have too much left in the tank. The way he torpedoes himself at ball carriers, and when (not if) he gets hurt, Carter will not be around to step in, and Mundy just is not getting it done.

Taylor Mays from USC or Earl Thomas from Texas.

Round Two - DT. Unless the Steelers are going to trade up, they are not going to get one that is ready to step in and start right off the bat. To try and guess who the Steelers would be looking at is pointless, but bet that DT is where the Steelers will go if they don't go in the first.

Round Three - Running Back. One is not a position of need, but with letting Parker walk, which probably will happen, a speed back is going to be needed to compliment Mendenhall.

This is all contingent on the Steelers doing something in Free Agency. Everything COULD change, but probably wont.

Every player taken after the third round is more of a project, especially for the Steelers. The Steelers will find people of value, but not that will improve the team next year.

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