Back before the season began I went over the top ten questions facing the Pittsburgh Steelers going into the 2008 season. After eight games, and a 6-2 record, it's time to take a peak at how things have gone to date. And for a quick review before going on, click the links to read parts one (questions 10-6) and two (questions 5-1).
10.) Will Ben continue to improve?
Ben. Oh Ben. Where to start? Don't get me wrong, it's not entirely his fault. His O-line is something we will discuss tomorrow, but his short comings aren't helping. He holds on to the ball far too long. He fails to look at any check down. He doesn't notice the running back coming from the back field. He's gun shy now, afraid to stay in the pocket because of all the hits he's been delivered. Being sacked 26 times in a season is bad, but through eight games is worse. It's no wonder he has a bad shoulder, a sore thumb, and is a slight head case. All this adds up to his one interception per game average. He's at a career low 57.6% completion rate. Despite that, he's still just under a 3000 yard season.
9.) How much gas does Hines Ward have left in the tank?
Through eight games Hines has been more than respectable. 445 yards, over 50 per game, and already five touchdowns. His drops have been more frequent than in past years, but the continued emergence of Holmes and the blossoming of Nate Washington in big play situations has continued his role of one of the best first/second receivers in the league. Not to mention his jaw breaking hit on Keith Rivers being something to go on his career highlight reel.
8.) Heinz Field: benefit or burden?
So far the Steelers have only played three home games for a record of 2-1, but like both of their losses only their offense let them down. Two or three plays determined what happened. If not for an overturned touchdown call and an errant safety, the Steelers could be 3-0 at home and even undefeated on the road. However, the offensive problems will be explored more in depth tomorrow.
7.) Will Troy Polamalu stay healthy?
So far so good for The Hair. Only a small concussion scare has given any pause for concern for Troy and the defense, which ranks number one overall in the NFL. Fewest points, only one touchdown per game allowed through these eight games. Already through 8 games he's at 36 tackles (25 total), and three interceptions. That's two away from a career high in a season, back in 2004.
6.) Are the Browns really a threat?
After the sterling year the Browns had last year, they've proven once again that all that shimmers is not silver. Their aluminum covering has crumbled and fallen off. An anemic offense and below average defense has lead them to exactly one win, and the addition of Brady Quinn as the signal caller. Things cant get much worse for the Browns. The only current threat in the division: the upstart Ravens, behind Joe "Don't Make a Mistake" Flacco.