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). Yesterday, I went through the final countdown of the bottom five questions (10-6) in part one. Those questions were:
10.) Will Ben continue to improve?
9.) How much gas does Hines Ward have left in the tank?
8.) Heinz Field: benefit or burden?
7.) Will Troy Polamalu stay healthy?
6.) Are the Browns really a threat?
Now, on to the midseasons answers for questions 5-1:
5.) Has Willie Parker fully recovered?
In the end, the answer was no. Only playing 11 games, out five due to various injuries, Willie ended the year with a respectable 791 yards. That includes five games where he rushed for under 50 yards. Only four games with more than 100 yards rushing. He never had the same break away speed he had in the past. He never was 100 percent healthy.
4.) What impact will Rashard Mendenhall have on offense?
I'll go ahead and copy what I wrote last time:
"This answer is simple.
His total season stats for the rest of the year will remain:
Games played: 4 Carries: 19 Yards: 58 Yards Per Carry: 3.1 TDs: 0 Fumbles: 0
After an encounter with Ray Lewis in week 4, he broken his collar bone and is out for the season. Here's to hoping he learns from the side lines and can pick things up next year."
Even rookie receiver Limas Sweed didn't have the impact hoped. Six receptions, 64 yards, one fumble (he recovered it) and unsteady hands. Hopefully a year under the belts of both of these high potential picks will pan out.
3.) Will Steely McBeam be back?
He is back. Still a useless mascot for a team that really didn't need one. Alas.
2.) Will the Rooney's sell away ownership?
As of Dec. 8, a deal was in the works and was to go through where Dan Rooney and his son, Art II, would retain full ownership. The brothers who were bought out cashed in at $750 million between them.
Have no fear Pixberger's. The Rooney's remain.
1.) How will the O-line look this year?
The O-line. The biggest problem the Steelers faced this season. They played like swiss cheese. Many a touchdown or big play was called back after an ill-timed holding call on one of the linemen.
Ben was sacked a league second worst 46 times. Only Matt Cassell had more at 47 sacks. A long list of Ben's injuries can be attributed to the poor line, and Ben's newfound desire to hold on to the ball far too long in order to make something happen is yet another symptom of the bad O-line.
How far the Steelers go in the playoffs is dependant on how the offensive line plays.
On Jan. 10, we'll know exactly how well the Steelers step up to the big time. If they play to their true abilities and the O-line steps it up, the Steelers have three more victories left in them.
We know the fantastic defense will come with all they have, it's up to the offense to bring their A game. If they don't, we'll soon be starting the count down until Latrobe.