As good as Troy Polamalu played opening week last season (he was all over the field!), I really believe this 2010 Steelers team can be special as long as Troy can avoid the injury bug.
I see upgrades at the following positions:
Coach Kugler is a scary dude ... and his players are learning this about him real fast! These guys are huge and strong players who were playing a girly game (Chad Ochocinco's point is well taken!) under Larry Zierlein.
I can foresee our offensive line becoming one of the dominant lines in the NFL this year. It is the story at camp right now that they are going through a process of retooling their technique to a more physical, more mauling style of blocking aggression. If so ... bank on this! ... Big Ben will carry us to his third Lombardi Trophy!
Ben is in the best shape of his career (I believe it! I saw it at camp!) and will be playing with a redemption chip on his shoulder. Further, he will shed four early season games and the wear and tear that comes with those games.
Back-up QB's Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon are both capable and are both poised QB's. I love what I am hearing about the team's willingness to use some gadget plays, wildcats, and rollouts designed with Dixon in mind. I expect to see Leftwich and Dixon both contribute during the 1st 4 games, to keep defenses off guard and second guessing.
Rashard Mendenhall has a humble soft-spoken disposition about him. But he also has explosion and toughness on the field. This guy is ready to emerge as an elite RB and a future Steelers great ball carrier. It is the other guys I am excited even more about ...
Isaac Redman is taking the next step in a big way. He already had the goods last season ... now he has the experience, the heart and the mindset to become special. You will see it soon people! And to think he and Mendenhall will get to carry it behind an overhauled O-Line that is going to kill some people down there! The other young kids are physical, hard-nosed runners in the style of old-time Chuck Noll Steelers rushing style. I like what I see!
Buh-bye Santonio! What a memorable player you were for the Steelers. Thanks again! ... NEXT! ... Emmanual Sanders will have us all forgetting about Santonio real soon. The kid is polished and smooth and plays for the jugular!
Steelers fans are going to need to pull out their old 88 jerseys and wear them once again with great pride. Our WR unit is deep, experienced (Ward, El, Battle) and scary fast (Wallace and Sanders). Ben will pick apart any defense in the league with these guys! We all know how special Heath Miller is too! This is one of the best groups in the entire league right now.
Aaron Smith's return, Ziggy Hood's emergence, and a nice rotation of young guys to mix in with Hampton, Hoke and Keisel makes this unit very formidable. It is not going to be easy for opposing defenses to run the football ... and as I said last season (but just a bit prematurely because of the need for his development), Ziggy Hood's presence on the D-Line is going to create massive problems for pocket QB's like Palmer and Brady.
It appears that rookie Thaddeus Gibson will give the team some youthful fresh legs to give Woodley and/or Harrison an occasional break during the season. It also will be helpful to have Larry Foote back in the fold. Foote has been one of the smartest players in our defense and he has a penchant for making big stops in the running game. Farrior, Timmons, Woodley and Harrison are as good as any starting four in the NFL right now. Fox, Frasier and rookie Sylvester give some added depth. This is a strong unit!
My only real concerns:
Even though McFadden is back and is showing signs of having resumed his place in this defense, behind he, Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark ... all is a huge mystery right now. We've drafted some young kids the past two drafts and we've added a few free agents back there.
But until these players step up and shine in an actual game, it seems very certain to me that losing Troy Polamalu for any significant length of time again would disrupt our defense enough to give opposing teams a crack of light to slip through towards having a chance to knock us off of a few wins this season. Please stay healthy Troy!
The numbers on our kick coverage unit last year were plain sick! In my opinion it starts and stops with Jeff Reed's short kickoffs. I don't care if they add youth and speed and young LB tackling machines into the mix this year in an attempt to alleviate last year's horrific kick coverage ... if Reed's kicks still fall at the 15 yard line (and I have no reason to believe they won't) then a block here and a wedge there will create some very poor field position for our defense once again this season.
Throw in Reed's current ugly contract disposition and I have a bad feeling the 2010 Pittsburgh Steelers will be losing a few hard fought contests because of our Kicker! Now won't that just plain stink!