OK, so baseball season pretty much is over for me now. Yeah, I'll watch the playoffs, but it's not gonna be the same without seeing the Yankees lose to a team with a lot smaller of a payroll and I won't be able to blame A-Rod and their horrible pitching for their collapse, so let's just move onto to football.
The Pittsburgh Steelers may have a rough season ahead of themselves. I say this for a few reasons.
1) They can't block! A terrible offensive line will make what could be an explosive offense sputter throughout the season and especially in big spots when people know they can just bring pressure and disrupt everything.
This unit might not be able to make big holes for Fast Willie Parker or Mendenhall consistently and everything really falls on this unit. When they went 15-1 in 2004 their offensive line was hands down the best in the league. (I think they'll miss Faneca more than they'll let on this year too, he was overrated big time, but he still could run block.)
And other than the Steelers adding Justin Hartwig did the Steelers do anything to strenghten that line? Nope, not unless you count their 4th round draft choice, but it could be next year, or the year after that, until he's ready for the NFL. (Meanwhile Ben Roethlisberger may be in a coma at that point.)
2) The Steelers just flat out aren't the most physical team in the AFC anymore. They've lost their identity and they haven't drafted enough guys to make them physical year after year. I'll say this, Bill Cowher did have teams that would punch you in the mouth, that's the only nice thing I'll say about Cowher, and Tomlin didn't create that mentality a lot last year. His team was manhandled by the Jaguars, Ravens (the 2nd game), Cardinals, Jets and Patriots.
They already look like they're having trouble tackling (I know it's the preseason) but remember David Garrard ran for a 32 yard gain in a big spot and shook Ty Carter out his jockstrap! (That cost the Steelers another playoff game, they would have been killed by New England so I wasn't that mad really.)
3) The secondary stinks! Polamalu's health is always a concern now. This secondary is weak enough even when he's in there. When Ike Taylor is on, he can be mostly shutdown. DeShea Townsend is a joke who should have been cut after the '04 AFC Championship game loss to the Patriots. Anthony Smith still looks like a fool because of the what the Patriots, Randy Moss and Tom Brady did to him. Tyrone Carter was the starter after Anthony Smith. So that should tell you what they honestly think of his talent level.
McFadden, Polamalu and Taylor are going to have to step it up big time to help out that old, rickety defensive line. Which brings me to my next point.
4) No depth at defensive line could be a huge stumbling block for the Steelers. Everyone saw how vulnerable this team was last year after Aaron Smith went down. Hampton is still dominant, but they didn't do much to add to the depth of the defensive line with the draft. It's the same thing as the offensive line: if this unit gets dominated consistently then it's going to be lights out real quickly for the Steelers this season.
5) Nobody has a harder schedule than the Steelers this year. I know the NFL stands for Not For Long with the way a team can be great one year and be horrible the next, or vice-versa. But the Steelers have to play the Giants, Patriots, Colts, Chargers and Cowboys along with the Browns twice. (who I think aren't as good as everyone says they are.)
It may be a tough year for the Steelers, you always need to throw in the fact that teams can get hot and beat teams they're not supposed to. Any team can suffer a catastrophic injury on any play and derail their chances. (Imagine how great it would be to see Tom Brady tear his ACL and imagine how lost the Patriots would be without him.)
With everything added up, the Steelers still could win 10 games this year. And if they do, with everything that just got mentioned that would be a very successful season. But, the problem is if all of these issues to the forefront they could win 5 or 6 maybe. And if that were to happen, Tomlin would be on the hot seat already. It wouldn't be fair, it would just be the way it is. Especially with the ownership looking like it's in transition, Tomlin could be blamed for a lot of this.
As many times as Bill Cowher made me angry and disgusted with his record in the playoffs before the Super Bowl, I will give him credit for always being able to rebuild the team within a short period of time to have them competing for a division title again. It still remains to be seen if Tomlin can take what is mostly Cowher's team and do the same thing and put his identity on this team. (Hopefully, if he does, he won't make any more horrible decisions to go for a 2 point conversion after a 10 yard penalty.)