Pittsburgh Steelers' End of Regular Season Review: Part One
Your memory may be different, but in the end, we'll all remember it as another AFC North Championship and a 12-4 season against the toughest schedule in the league.
At the start of the year, I went down the 10 biggest issues facing the Steelers heading into the 2008 season in two (one, two) parts. I then reviewed them at the midseason mark in the same two part format (one, two).
It seemed only logical that I do the same for the end of the season. Part two will come tomorrow. And now for part one, questions 10 through six.
10.) Will Ben continue to improve?
Ben was, to say the least, disappointing. He still passed for well over 3,000 yards (a career second best 3,301) and threw 17 TDs (though a massive drop from last years 32), he threw 15 INTs (up from last years 11) and fumbled the ball 4 times, losing two. The latter stat being a career high.
He looked lost and confused at the line on any given down unless they ran a no huddle. In the no huddle, Ben looked masterful. Ben lead the Steelers on six game winning drives in the entire season.
Late in the fourth, Ben was clutch. So which Ben is the real Ben? Will the concussion he sustained in Week 17 affect him in the playoffs?
9.) How much gas does Hines Ward have left in the tank?
Seems the answer was plenty. By season's end Hines had been on the receiving end of 1,043 passing yards while mixing in seven touchdowns. The 1,043 yards was his most since 2003.
While his hands may not have been what they once were (he could be counted on for at least one dropped ball per game), he became Ben's go-to guy catching 81 of Ben's 281 passes.
That's 36 more than Santonio Holmes, who came in second. He also accounted for 55 first downs, more than any other Steeler. As for a random stat to leave you with: Hines is 220 yards away from 10,000 receiving yards for his career. Also much farther away, 28 TDs until 100 for his career.
8.) Heinz Field: Benefit or burden?
In the end, the Steelers went 6-2 both home and road. The "12th man" at Heinz field is definitely a beast to be dealt with and the muck of that poor sod helps other defends and offenses used to a fast track have trouble and get thrown off their game.
Probably the best example was the problems that the Cowboys had all game. There was no Monday Night Football debacle like last year against Miami, but the Rooneys would and should look into some other plan of attack for that turf.
7.) Will Troy Polamalu stay healthy?
Not only did Troy stay healthy, but he helped contribute to the Steelers monster defense which was No. 1 in points allowed (13.9 points per game), yards per game (237.2), pass yards per game (156.9) and No. 2 in rush yards per game (80.2). He set a personal record with seven ints, including one of the most amazing picks I'd ever seen.
6.) Are the Browns really a threat?
Romeo Crennel is fired. The Browns ended the season without an offensive touchdown in six games. They ended the season 4-12. The answer is simply no. I won't even bother wasting any more time on it.
Part two continued tomorrow.
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