The best way to describe the 2009 season for the Pittsburgh Steelers is utter disappointment. They started off on a good note, caved, and then made a dramatic late-season comeback, only to fall short of the playoffs.
Not quite the encore Steelers fans were looking for out of what many were thinking could become a dynasty.
As for the 2010 off-season? It didn't get much better.
Pittsburgh lost their star quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger) for four-to-six weeks due to suspension for violation of league and team conduct.
Then they traded away arguably their most explosive offensive weapon; Santonio Holmes.
So, here your 2010 Steelers are, Pittsburgh faithful. Naked, bruised, and suspended (literally and figuratively), as they try to put the pieces back together of what was very recently a very beautiful puzzle.
Read on for NFL Soup's top-five Bold Predictions for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010:
1. Rashard Mendenhall Tops 1,500 Rushing Yards and 10 Touchdowns
Maybe this isn't that big of a reach, especially considering Big Ben is out for so long to start the season.
Mendy is a strong candidate for a major increase in yardage, and with the Steelers down two offensive play-makers from last season, he'll be relied on heavily in the first half of the season.
Besides, the Steelers need to get away from passing the ball as much as they did in 2009, and get back to smashmouth football. Pounding the rock with Mendenhall is a step back in that direction.
2. Santonio Holmes, Who?
There's no doubt that Holmes was a big-time play-maker for the Steelers, and you can't make-up for the chemistry he and Roethlisberger had overnight.
Then again, you don't really have to when Big Ben is out for the first four-to-six weeks, and you're inheriting an impressive 2009 rookie (Mike Wallace) as the guy to take over at the number two spot.
The veteran Antwaan Randel El and rookie Emmanuel Sanders round out a solid receiving corps that will perform a lot better than people may think.
Backed by a strong rush attack and a supporting defense, the passing game will have the time to work out any issues they have when Roethlisberger gets back, and you won't even notice Holmes is gone.
3. The Steelers Will Win the AFC North
It's just crazy enough to work. While everyone and their mother is buying popcorn to watch the Bengals and their T.O. and Ochocinco show, Pittsburgh will be biding its time, running the ball, and playing defense while they wait for their leader (Roethlisberger) to return.
Once he returns, the Steelers will march past the Bengals and battle with the Baltimore Ravens for the top spot, ultimately surpassing both squads for the honors of division champs.
Many are predicting the Steelers will fall behind the pack with Roethlisberger out (and even if he were active), while completely ignoring how much of an impact a healthy Steelers defense has on every game.
4. Dennis Dixon Will Start While "Big Ben" is Out
You don't seriously expect this team to ride into 2010 with Charlie Batch or Byron Leftwich as their starter, do you?
Sure, Dennis Dixon didn't win that game against the Baltimore Ravens last year, but it was the Ravens, and he played well enough to show us all he can hang.
Besides, are the Steelers faithful really ready to back a guy (Leftwich) who couldn't even last as a starter in Tampa Bay?
5. Ben Roethlisberger Will Pick Up Where He Left Off
Last time I checked, Ben Roethlisberger was in a groove. The guy completed over 66 percent of his passes in 2009, had a 500-yard passing game, and threw three touchdowns in a game five times.
Naturally, a suspension to start the season will throw him off a bit, and the loss of Santonio Holmes should drop him down a peg.
But the talent he's displayed and the recent work ethic and attitude change we've seen, combine to convince us that Big Ben might be just fine and dandy when the time rolls around for him to get back under center.
We're not saying he'll throw for 3,000-plus yards or 20-plus touchdowns in under 12 games of action. But we're not saying he won't, either.