The Pittsburgh Steelers made it to the Super Bowl last year, despite having their star quarterback miss the first four games of the season. The Steelers were one drive away from being seven-time Super Bowl champions. It didn't happen. It was still a great season, always is when you reach the Super Bowl.
Looking ahead to this year, the 2011 season, the Steelers are still a championship-caliber team. They still have Ben Roethlisberger, who is an elite quarterback in his prime. They still have all of the key members of a top-five defense, led by Troy Polamalu, LaMar Woodley and James Harrison. There's no doubt in my mind that the Steelers will be competing come January.
That being said every team has a flaw. The Steelers have a few. Their offensive coordinator is not good. I have no idea how or why Bruce Arians is still in charge of the offense. My only guess is Ben Roethlisberger continues to make him look a lot better than he really is.
The offensive line is still below average. Maurkice Pouncey is a stud, and Willie Colon is good, but besides them it lacks talent and depth. Again they'll get by because of Roethlisberger's ability to create plays by improvising and breaking tackles.
The real flaw of this team is the pass defense. I wrote about it all last year. In all four of the regular season losses, the pass defense failed this team. Tom Brady of the New England Patriots and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints spread them out and completed short, quick passes that tore the Steeler's defense apart.
William Gay, who for some reason received a new contract, was picked on early and often by opposing quarterbacks. In one-on-one coverage he's a huge liability and often gets beat for big plays. Bryant McFadden really showed his age last year as he was also targeted by opposing quarterbacks.
If Troy Polamalu isn't 100 percent healthy this team can't cover a bed with a blanket. Ryan Clark is a decent free safety but he mostly goes for big hits and often gets flagged for them. Clark, a veteran, can also look lost on big pass plays.
The Steelers should be thanking God everyday they were able to re-sign Ike Taylor. Taylor is as close to a Pro Bowl cornerback the Steelers have had since Rod Woodson left. I trust Taylor covering any receiver in the league one-on-one. Often that's the case, which is why we see footballs being thrown towards McFadden and Gay.
The Steeler's lack of talent in the secondary was on full display in Super Bowl XLV. The Green Bay Packers had little intention of running the ball, throwing it 39 times compared to just 11 runs. The Packers didn't need to run the ball to beat the Steelers. Everyone knows if you have a good quarterback that you should just come out, spread the Steelers defense out and throw the ball all night. That's exactly what the Packers did, and it worked.
Don't you think this will be every team's approach this year? Have the Steelers truly upgraded their secondary? They might be able to if Keenan Lewis and/or Crezdon Butler can show some promise in the preseason. From what I've seen, both are better players than William Gay. Lewis has the speed and instincts to be a No. 2 corner in the NFL. He just needs to go out there and earn it.
I'm just hoping that Dick LeBeau and Mike Tomlin give them a chance. Besides Ike Taylor, all of the other cornerback spots two through five should be up for grabs. What has Gay earned? Yeah I know "he knows the system." What system is that, let the other guy catch the ball?
Fact is the pass defense is built around the pass rush, I understand this. Anyone would know that by just seeing the lack of conerbacks taken in the first two rounds of the NFL draft over the years by the Steelers. They feel as though when you have a decent pass rush, you don't need good corners.
However, a pass rush is useless when a team picks up a blitz and/or spreads your team out by using four and five receiver sets. What happens then? Well, I'll tell you, William Gay gets beat for a touchdown. I don't want to see this happen. I sure hope Arian's offense can score some more points this year. Whammy