It seems like nothing good is coming from the NFL these days.
The negotiations for a new collective-bargaining-agreement have come to a stop and the players have chosen to decertify. We, the fans, aren’t guaranteed one game of football in 2011, and even worse, the relationship between employees and management will be hurt forever in the NFL now.
The NFL Players Association has even gone as far to ask the new incoming rookie class to skip the NFL Draft. As if it wasn’t enough to take away the games, now we won’t even be able to see the green-room drama on draft day.
The NFL has even made more rule changes that will forever affect the way we have been accustomed to a football game being played.
The biggest change being that kickoffs will now move to the 35-yard line and thus there will be more touchbacks. You have to feel bad for that guy making the league minimum who only made the team for his special-teams prowess; his offseason just got a little bleaker.
It did get me thinking, however, how the rule changes and lockout will affect the outcome of the 2011 season, if there happens to be one.
TheSportsCannon.com has been following football news for a long time as we strive to give the best fantasy football advice every year. In doing so we have become very familiar the teams and players taking their respective fields every Sunday.
As well, working within Pittsburgh Sports Media has given me an in-depth look into the Pittsburgh Steelers' organization, and because of that I feel the Steelers are 2011’s front runners.
Where we left off
Unless the rock you are living under can’t pick up a TV signal, you are unaware that the Pittsburgh Steelers lost this past season’s Super Bowl to the Green Bay Packers.
Many in Steeler Nation are worried that the Steelers’ run of championship football also ended when that final second ticked off of the clock in Super Bowl XLV. The Steelers, simply put, are old.
The Steelers also have the most held together team in the NFL. Most of the veterans have spent a lot of time together, even sharing a Super Bowl championship or two.
The lockout will keep players and coaches from interacting during the offseason, which will adversely affect the progression of younger players and teams with new coaching systems.
The Steelers have been the model for consistency for over a decade and will be the most prepared come the start of the 2011 season. The veterans on both sides of the field won’t allow the team to slip as they are probably even hungrier for a championship after losing the Super Bowl.
Where we are now
The Steelers are currently being linked to Mike Pouncey, brother of Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, in this year’s NFL Draft. It has never really been the Steelers style to trade on draft day, especially if it means moving up the board, but 2011 is different. They could move up just enough in the draft to select Mike.
This will all depend on the trade situations of the day, but you can check my draft projections with trades to see what I mean.
The offensive line has been under scrutiny in the Steel City for too long, and the injury- plagued 2010 season will force the Steelers to add depth to their offensive line. If the Steelers are able to move up and select Pouncey, they will add depth and skill.
It also doesn’t hurt that the new rookie will be paired along with his brother on the offensive line. Mike Pouncey may not be able to talk to his coaches, but I’m sure he will be spending time looking at the playbook with his brother, Maurkice.
The Steelers have only one area where a rookie has a great chance of starting from Week 1—cornerback.
The Steelers have had the same defensive system for years, but lost defensive back coach Ray Horton. Horton is now the defensive coordinator in Arizona, but the Steelers feel they kept their most important assistant in Keith Butler who is the team’s linebackers coach. Drafting a rookie defensive back and asking him to make enough strides in an offseason sans OTAs to break the lineup will be tough.
If the Steelers can’t find a way to procure Mike Pouncey, I would still predict them to draft an offensive lineman in the first round.
At the spot the Steelers select, they would be reaching on any cornerback besides Jimmy Smith, but Smith’s off-field issues coupled with the Steelers’ own player history isn’t a match. By their next pick the Steelers will be lucky to have a chance at either Aaron Williams or Ras-I Dowling, both of which will take longer to develop.
Where we will be
The Steelers have the most favorable schedule in the AFC North, playing their road games against their easier opponents. The Steelers will need their tight nucleus of players to stay that way throughout the offseason if they want to get back to the Super Bowl.
The veteran leadership on the team and the player-coach relationships will be integral to another Steeler Super Bowl run. The Steelers should be one of the most poised teams going in to the new season because they will need less involvement from their new rookie class and already have a team mentality unrivaled in the NFL.
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