Pittsburgh Steelers 2010: Will They Make It Back to The Playoffs?

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Pittsburgh Steelers 2010:  Will They Make It Back to The Playoffs?
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Last Years Record            9-7

Wins: Titans, Chargers, Lions, Browns, Vikings, Broncos, Packers, Ravens, Dolphins

Losses: Bears, Bengals (x2), Chiefs, Ravens, Raiders, Browns

Biggest Playmaker            Troy Polamalu

SS, Southern Cal, Drafted # 16, 8th Year

Troy Polamalu is simply an exciting player to watch.  The five-time pro bowler is seemingly all over the field, racking up 7 sacks and 20 interceptions in his first seven years.  Polamalu will have to recover from a knee injury that limited him to appearances in only five games in 2009, but he should be good to go and back to his pro bowl form this year.  

Impact Player            Casey Hampton

NT, Texas, Drafted #19, 10th year

Another example of a 3-4 nose tackle having a huge impact on a team.  Hampton is also a five time pro bowler.  In 2009 the Steelers allowed less than 90 yards rushing per game and 305 yards per game, ranking 3rd and 5th in the NFL, respectively.  Much of that should be credited to big Casey Hampton plugging the middle and absorbing double teams.

Biggest Offseason Addition            Flozell Adams

OT, Michigan State, Drafted #38, 13th Year

Flozell “The Hotel” Adams was signed just before training camp and was immediately inserted as the starting right tackle, due to the loss of Willie Colon for the season (torn Achilles).  Adams is yet another five time pro bowler, a proven player who will immediately contribute and bolster the Steelers’ offensive line.

Biggest Offseason Loss            Santonio Holmes

WR, Ohio State, Drafted #25, 5th Year

After Holmes’ and Ben Roethlisberger’s off the field issues the Steelers’ organization wanted to make a statement that off-field issues would not be tolerated.  Naturally, instead of trading their franchise quarterback they quickly dealt Santonio Holmes (yes, Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes) to the Jets for a fifth round pick.  The Steelers definitely got their point across, but traded away a talented receiver (79 catches for 1,248 yards and five TDs in 2009).

Biggest Draft Steal            Jonathan Dwyer

RB, Georgia Tech, Drafted # 188, Rookie

Jonathan Dwyer was at one point considered to be a 1st or 2nd round talent.  Dwyer is a bigger back at 229 pounds, but looks to fit in as the third running back behind Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore.  Dwyer could see some carries early in the year as the Steelers rely on the running game with QB Ben Roethlisberger serving his suspension.  He also hopes to establish himself as a powerful short-yardage and goalline back early in his career.

Biggest Draft Reach            Jason Worilds

OLB, Virginia Tech, Drafted #52, Rookie

I think Jason Worilds is going to be a good player for the Steelers in the coming years.  Immediately, he does not fit into a starting role with OLB’s James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley returning.  Many teams this year are listing their 2nd and even higher round picks as starters during the beginning of their rookie training camp.  Worilds is a DE-OLB transition and the Steelers likely could have picked him up in the 3rd or 4th round.  Steelers Today explains why there was not much competition from other teams for a player like Worilds.

                 

Offseason Grade            B

The two biggest downfalls of the Steelers 2009 offseason were Santonio Holmes and Ben Roethlisberger.  Holmes misbehaved his way to a trade for only a fifth round pick, and the Steelers will be playing the first 4-6 games without Roethlisberger.  This was out of the hands of the Steelers’ management, but it hurt them nonetheless.  The Steelers drafted a steal in Jonathan Dwyer to replace RB Willie Parker and traded for starting CB Bryant McFadden to replace CB Deshea Townsend.    The Steelers also brought back ILB Larry Foote and QB Byron Leftwich to compete for starting jobs. 

X-Factor            Weeks 1-6

With a looming suspension to QB Ben Roethlisberger of six games (may be reduced to four for good behavior), it is key for the Steelers to rally around Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon.  The first four or six games will set the tone for the rest of the season with Roethlisberger back in action.

Name You Should Know            LaMarr Woodley

OLB, Michigan, Drafted #46, 4th Year

LaMarr Woodley had a breakout year for the Steelers in 2009, recording 62 tackles and 13.5 sacks.  The OLB position has always been a focus for the Steelers 3-4 defense, and Woodley has the potential to be the next great one (if he’s not considered so already).  If he is healthy all year, expect another 10+ sacks.

Rising Star            Rashard Mendenhall

RB, Illinois, Drafted # 23, 3rd Year

Rashard Mendenhall had a great 2009 campaign, starting 12 games, rushing for over 1,100 yards and 7 touchdowns.  With Willie Parker gone, Mendenhall will be the starter from day 1 and should get many more carries.  He can also be a factor in the passing game. 

Offensive Outlook            B

The uncertainty at quarterback for the beginning of the season hurts the Steelers, but when Roethlisberger is back expect a pretty consistent, balanced offense.  The Steelers are expecting big things from 2nd year WR Mike Wallace (averaged 19.4 yards per catch in 2009) in replacing WR Santonio Holmes, as am I.  The Steelers offensive line is a bit of a concern with the loss of their best lineman RT Willie Colon, and hopefully for them Flozell Adams can step up his pass blocking.  First round pick Maurkice Pouncey should help bolster the Steelers interior very early. 

Defensive Outlook            B+

Troy Polamalu is healthy again.  This is absolutely HUGE for the Steelers defense as Troy will bolster the run defense with his hard hitting aggressive play and the pass defense with his ball-hawking abilities.  NT Casey Hampton, OLBs LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison are coming off great years.  The Steelers biggest concerns are their age and their cornerbacks.  The Steelers had only 12 interceptions last year and their pass defense ranked 16th in the NFL.  If the Steelers can improve their pass defense from last year they will be very difficult to move the ball on. 

Special Teams Outlook            C+

Kicker Jeff Reed has been consistent on field goals, but the Steelers allowed four kickoff return touchdowns (and lowest average kickoff distance and ranked 25th in yards per return) a year ago.  However, he only missed two field goals (out of 29) inside the 50.  Punter Daniel Sepulveda is a good placement kicker, sticking 29 inside the 20 last year and allowing under six yards per return.  The Steelers will count on the tiny and shifty (5’6 180 pound) Stefan Logan to handle the kick and punt return duties.

Projected 2010 Record            8-8

The Steelers have been a very consistent franchise for quite some time now, and they will be able to overcome the adversity they face with Roethlisberger’s suspension.  The Steelers defense is aging and did not bolster a pretty poor secondary (other than adding Bryant McFadden who had zero interceptions in 2009).  The offense is relying on Mike Wallace to be able to take Santonio Holmes’ spot as the #1 receiver.  The offensive line must protect the passer better, especially with Leftwich back there, as they have allowed 143 sacks in the last three years. 

 

For more NFL News and Analysis check out The 3-4

-Alex Jenny

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