2010 NFL Predictions: 10 Things Pittsburgh Steelers Fans Can Expect
Every season, every team starts out with the same 0-0 record. The Steelers are no different.
However, expectations in Pittsburgh are not like most other teams.
Where 2009 brought a record of 9-7, which would be good for most clubs, the Steelers expect to finish the 2010 season better than that.
Entering the 2010 season, what can Steeler fans expect from the black and gold?
Here is my list of 2010 NFL Predictions: 10 Things Pittsburgh Steelers Fans Can Expect.
Recommitment to the Running Game
When you are a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and someone named Rooney tells you (Mike Tomlin, Bruce Arians) that the team needs to be recommitted to running the ball, you'd better listen.
Add to that the suspension of Ben Roethlisberger, and the Steelers' commitment to the run is going to have to work.
Those who want to say that the injury to Willie Colon is going to hamper this process have never spent much time around offensive linemen.
When an offensive line has to pass, they are playing backwards. When they are asked to run block, they get to be on the attack.
The Steelers offensive line has always wanted to run block and now will get their chance.
You can expect that the Steelers' commitment to the run will result in a strong running game that will lead the Steelers to three to four wins to open the season.
Mike Wallace Filling Santonio Holmes's Shoes
Many people believe that the Steelers trading Santonio Holmes to the New York Jets is going to be a mistake that is going to hamper the passing game.
The reality is, Holmes was going to be suspended for the first four games of the regular season anyway, so odds are he was not going to finish the season near 1,000 yards receiving.
Mike Wallace possesses a very similar skill set to Santonio Holmes. If the defense does not double-team Wallace deep, they are going to pay the price.
Opposing defenses know that if they double Wallace deep, it is going to leave Rashard Mendenhall and Heath Miller with one-on-one coverage with a linebacker. Odds are they are going to keep a safety to help the linebackers.
The Steelers can expect Mike Wallace to finish the 2010 season with over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns.
Ben Roethlisberger Will Be Ready to Play in Week Six
The first question most people ask is, will Roger Goodell reduce Ben Roethlisberger's suspension to four games? Yes. He will have no choice since Roethlisberger will have complied with all of the rules laid out to him.
After the fourth game of the suspension, Roethlisberger will have the Steelers' bye week to get ready for the Cleveland Browns.
Eric Mangini of the Browns has stated that there is a chance that the Browns will have three rookies starting, and if they do, expect Roethlisberger to have a fantastic day.
The Steelers can expect that Ben Roethlisberger will return to elite status shortly after his return to action.
Heath Miller Will Make the Pro Bowl
Heath Miller is one of the most underrated players in the NFL. He does not get fantastic stats, but that does not lessen his worth to the Steelers.
As the season starts, teams will be focusing on Miller, not worrying about Mike Wallace in the deep game. As Wallace comes into his own and starts beating teams deep, they will be forced to keep the safeties playing deep.
That will leave Miller being guarded by linebackers, and there are very few linebackers that can guard him one-on-one.
Steelers fans can expect Heath Miller to get good enough stats this year to earn a Pro Bowl trip.
Ziggy Hood Will Be a Starter by Midseason, and Not Due to Injury
When the Steelers draft a player in the first round of the NFL Draft, you normally don't expect a lot out of him his rookie season.
His second season, however, he is expected to be a contributor.
Ziggy Hood is entering his second year with the Steelers and showed a lot towards the end of his rookie season to prove he is understanding the game.
With an entire offseason under his belt now, Hood will be ready to come in and make a difference for the defense.
The Pittsburgh Steelers can expect Ziggy Hood to earn a spot in the starting lineup, if not by the beginning of the season, then by the middle of it—and NOT because of injury.
Steelers Linebackers Will Again Be the Best Unit in the NFL
One of the most dominant units in the NFL is the linebacking corps of the Pittsburgh Steelers. They have been dominant for years and will continue to be so.
With James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley on the outside, the team boasts one of the most dominant sets of pass rushers in the NFL.
With Lawrence Timmons finally coming into his own on the inside, James Farrior and Larry Foote will round out a fantastic unit.
Steelers fans can expect AT LEAST two members of the Steelers' linebacking corps to make the Pro Bowl.
Troy Polamalu Will Be, Well, Troy Polamalu
After missing most of the 2009 season, Troy Polamalu will enter 2010 with something to prove.
The Steelers defense suffered horribly with Polamalu out of the lineup last year. Having him back will bring that dimension to the Steelers that kept them from the playoffs.
Polamalu will once again be considered the best in the NFL, not only at safety, but as the best defensive player in the league.
The Steelers can expect Troy Polamalu to win the Defensive Player of the Year.
Bryant McFadden Will Make a Difference in the Steelers Secondary
Many people were quick to point to the Steelers secondary as one of the main reasons why the Steelers did not make the playoffs in 2009, and they would be right.
After being the best unit in the NFL against the pass in 2008, the Steelers allowed Bryant McFadden to leave and join the Arizona Cardinals.
McFadden did not fit in with the Cardinals, and Will Gay could not fill his shoes in the Steelers' starting lineup.
With the return to the Steelers, McFadden will make a difference in the Steelers secondary, and you can expect that the Steelers will finish in the top five of the NFL against the pass.
Steelers Special Teams Will Improve
Everyone that does not blame the offensive line or the secondary for the Steelers' demise in 2009 will say that special teams was the reason for failure.
The Steelers' special teams were anything but special in 2009, and they have taken strides toward improving the worst unit on the team.
Al Everest was brought in to coach the unit, while Arnaz Battle, Will Allen, and Antwaan Randle El were signed as free agents.
The Steelers also drafted numerous players that will be able to come in and contribute on special teams.
Steelers fans can expect that the special teams units will all be improved over last year, even though that would not take very much.
The Pittsburgh Steelers WILL Make the Playoffs
Though I am not going to say that the Pittsburgh Steelers are a lock to win the Super Bowl, at least not yet, I am ready to say that you can expect them to return to the playoffs in 2010.
People are quick to point out that the negatives.
Ben Roethlisberger is suspended for four games.
Santonio Holmes is no longer with the team.
Willie Colon is out with injury for the year.
All of those points are true. But by those points being true, they are not looking at the people that the Steelers do have.
The Steelers will have the best defense in the NFL, they have improved some of the biggest areas of weakness, and they have players that can fill in for those that will be missing. They also have a great head coach and the best defensive coordinator in the NFL.
Steelers fans can expect the Steelers to be, well, the Steelers and play Steelers football. THAT is the recipe for success in Pittsburgh.