NFL Preseason 2010: Pittsburgh Steelers Top Storylines
The Pittsburgh Steelers offseason was full of controversy and changes. It began with the six-game suspension Commissioner Roger Goodell issued to Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers also lost starting right tackle Willie Colon for the season, when he tore his Achilles tendon.
They released receiver Santonio Holmes because of his off-field problems and he was later signed by the Jets.
The defensive side of the ball does look strong. Aaron Smith and Troy Polamalu are both healthy after coming off season-ending injuries.Bryant McFadden also rejoined the black and gold
But, with only two preseason games left before the start of the 2010 season, there are still important issues left unanswered.
5. Who Will Complement Rashard Mendenhall?
With the departure of Willie Parker, who signed with the Redskins, Rashard Mendenhall is now the featured back in Pittsburgh.
Mendenhall rushed for 1,108 yards last season and had seven touchdowns and will carry most of the load in the running game this season.
The Steelers look to go back to that "smash mouth" football and run the ball with a solid ground game and a great defense.
While Mendenhall will undoubtedly produce, it is important to have another back to complement him.
They signed Jonathan Dwyer in the sixth round out of Georgia Tech to be that strong back the Steelers were looking for. But, Dwyer is in danger of not making the team's roster.
He did not play against the Giants, due to a shoulder injury, and missed time earlier in camp with a hamstring strain.
Isaac Redman looks to be the player to help out Mendenhall in the backfield. In two preseason games, he has 94 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. He looks very impressive.
4. Can Anyone Block?
The Steelers have big questions upfront. After losing starting right tackle Willie Colon this offseason after he tore his Achilles tendon, Pittsburgh will have trouble protecting whoever they decide to put at quarterback.
They signed long-time NFL and Dallas Cowboys veteran Flozell Adams to replace Colon at right tackle. He has made numerous penalties already this preseason and has given up a sack.
Head coach Mike Tomlin said the right tackle position is wide open right now. He is placing Jonathan Scott at the position for the Steelers third preseason game Sunday at Denver.
First-round draft pick Maurkice Pouncey is playing well. He will more than likely start the season at center.
The Steelers' offensive line has not received much credit during Tomlin's tenure. But Roethlisberger holds onto the ball in an attempt to make a play, and his sack numbers go up.
With Roethlisberger serving his six-game suspension, the Steelers need to revert to the running game, and their offensive line has to improve.
3. Who Will Step Up and Become the Third Receiver?
The Steelers released deep threat Santonio Holmes in the offseason and are looking for someone to replace him.
Mike Wallace emerged as that deep threat last season. He led the NFL in yards per catch during his rookie season. Wallace also had 756 yards receiving and six touchdowns.
But, the Steelers still do not know who will be the third receiver. Sixth-round draft pick out of Central Michigan, Antonio Brown, looks to be the man.
In his first NFL game, he led the receivers with three catches for 84 yards. He also scored on a 68-yard pass from Dennis Dixon.
Brown will prove he was a steal in last year's draft. It looks like he will compete with Antwan Randle El for that third spot, who currently holds the starting spot.
2. Familiar Defense: Will They Improve?
The Steelers defense fell apart last season, with the injury to All-Pro and arguably the greatest safety in the league, Troy Polamalu.
They also acquired some former players that will have immediate impacts this season. They picked up Bryant McFadden during the draft in a trade with the Arizona Cardinals.
McFadden will look to return to the form that enabled the Steelers to win two Super Bowls, while he played alongside Ike Taylor at corner.
Larry Foote also returned from Detroit and will be a key reserve at inside linebacker.
It helps that the defense also returns Polamalu and Aaron Smith, who both suffered season-ending injuries last season.
The Steelers will be one of the top five defenses again this season and will improve on their pass defense.
1. Quarterback Controversy: Start Dennis Dixon
After two preseason games, the answer is simple: start Dennis Dixon. Ben Roethlisberger is serving a six-game suspension for violating the personal conduct policy.
Byron Leftwich is currently sitting at the top of the depth chart and the Steelers management is comfortable with his style of play.
Leftwich has completed 9 of 16 pass attempts for 138 yards. But, his style of play does not go well with the Steelers offensive line.
Dixon, on the other hand, has completed 13 of 15 pass attempts for over 206 yards. He has also ran for 58 yards.
He is a fast, mobile quarterback and has the ability to make plays with his arm, as well as his feet.
The Steelers should give Dixon a shot with the first-team offense. Many critics do not give Dixon the benefit of the doubt because he plays against opposing teams' second-team defenses.
Give Dixon a shot.....