What a difference a year makes.
It was only one year ago that many of us members of Steeler Nation were proclaiming that the Steelers were a dynasty in the making. We talked about how great the team was, and even though there were areas that needed to be addressed, we were still the best team ever.
Now that we have gone from Super Bowl champions to not making the playoffs, everyone is quick to point out all of the problems the Steelers are having.
So what really happened?
Ben Roethlisberger will return for his seventh season, and regardless of us believing in his innocence or guilt—as we perceive it—Ben is innocent until proved guilty. Ben will be under center for years to come.
At running back, Steeler Nation should be even more confident than it was at this time last year. There is no more talk about whether or not Willie Parker has anything left in the tank—and no one is wondering whether Rashard Mendenhall has earned the top of the depth chart.
There is a question as to who is going to be Mendenhall's backup—but it is a lot nicer to be worrying about who the backup is as opposed to who the starter is.
The Steelers are still set at receiver—again, there is less concern here, because instead of worrying about Limas Sweed, we know Mike Wallace has the speed and field- stretching ability.
Not only that, Antwaan Randle El's return brings experience in case of injury to Hines Ward.
Heath Miller has been re-signed. Sean McHugh will be back from injury. Matt Spaeth was tendered, so he will be back, and David Johnson enters his second season.
As for the offensive line, at least I can say that the unit will return intact from the unit that started last year.
Sure, it is not an All-Pro unit, but the linemen are young and hungry—and more than likely, they will have another addition through an early draft pick.
As for the defense, that ancient line has an infusion with the first-round addition of Ziggy Hood. The Steelers have also added Sonny Harris—who, even though he is not ready to step in and contribute immediately, is tomorrow's Aaron Smith.
The biggest issue with last year was that many people believed that the Steelers made a mistake by releasing Larry Foote and keeping James Farrior. From the rumor on profootballtalk.com, Foote has left Arizona without a contract, and he will be in Pittsburgh on Monday to rejoin the team.
LaMarr Woodley has become a force on one side comparable to James Harrison on the other, and Lawrence Timmons has taken strides to make sure that whoever is the other ILB will be the No. 2.
Yes, I have to admit that there are still concerns with the Steelers corners, but as the Steelers go, they normally know what they were doing.
Last year, they drafted Keenan Lewis and Joe Burnett in the third and fifth round, respectively. No, neither one of them contributed very much last year. However, that is par for the course for the Steelers drafting players and giving them a year to watch from the sidelines before throwing them into the fire.
Last year at this time, we were all afraid that Ryan Clark would be done in Pittsburgh. Not only did the Steelers re-sign him, but they also brought in depth with Will Allen.
As for special teams, Jeff Reed is back under the franchise tag, and Daniel Sepulveda will return under his tender. The Steelers also found Stefan Logan, who is a danger any time he gets his hands on the ball.
The biggest downside, in my opinion, is the return of Bruce Arians, but as Art Rooney has stated, the Steelers will be committed to running the ball better—which probably means that they will be running the ball more.
Anyway you choose to look at this, it is your opinion. You can say that this Steelers team is only one year removed from winning its NFL record sixth Super Bowl championship, or you can say that they lost to easy teams last year when they should have won.
Those of you who want to look at the negative, feel free. But there is one thing I am certain of: The sky is not falling in Pittsburgh.
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