Why the Pittsburgh Steelers Will Repeat: The Quest for Seven!

Daniel LockeContributor IMarch 11, 2009

The Steelers are a top-tier team in the NFL.  They are experienced, skilled, and have a franchise with a strong identity.  Unfortunately, they just won the Super Bowl.

And that is where the problems start.  We haven't had a repeat champion since the Patriots.  It is tough to repeat with all the additional challenges: every up-and-coming team wants to take a shot at them, they will get more attention from opposing game-planners as the new "team to beat," and will themselves be getting more relaxed and cocky.

However, this team already went through that after Super Bowl XL.  They started that season 2-7 and finished 8-8.  They didn't play well, and Bill Cowher may have already been thinking about retirement.  Now they have a very young coach in Mike Tomlin (lots of energy) surrounded by wise and experienced coordinators (Dick LeBeau, Bruce Arians, and John Mitchell).  

It is unlikely that a Super-sized hangover will occur from the top down (coaches are solid, not thinking about retiring) or the bottom up (already happened to the team leaders once, won't happen again).  

For proof, look at the Patriots.  They won an unlikely Super Bowl (2001-2002 season), did poorly the following season, but returned to repeat later.  It is a rare gift in the NFL to win two Super Bowls with the same core of players, and the odds of a repeat go up when you do (49ers from the late '80s, Patriots early '00s).

But let's get to the specifics.  

They signed guard Chris Kemoeatu to a five-year, $20 million contract.  It is valuable to re-sign a young, skilled offensive lineman.  But Steelers fans everywhere have to love this: he signed for less than what he was offered by the Jets.  Much less.  The rich keep getting richer as the Steelers' franchise success, dedicated fanbase, and strong coaching staff actually get a player to re-sign for less money than he was offered by the Jets.  

That is a major advantage over other teams.  Think of a signing like that, where a player signs for less because he wants to be a Steeler, as actually extending the salary cap on the Steelers.  It is as if everyone gets $100 for the candy store, but the Steelers get to spend $120 dollars.  Just because they are the Steelers.  

They also just signed their restricted free agent tackle Willie Colon to a one-year agreement. The short contract (one year, $2.189 million) means he will be motivated to perform well this season because he is essentially in another contract year.  

This means their entire offensive line will be returning.  Offensive line strength and cohesiveness is the most important factor for success in the NFL. 

The Steelers might have nine draft picks in this year's draft.  That is counting one compensatory pick for the Alan Faneca signing (projected third or fourth round, if given) and the sixth round pick received in the Sean Mahan trade.  

The Steelers have a good track record on draft day, using many of their draft picks on offense and on defense.  Ben Roethlisberger, Heath Miller, and Troy Polamalu, just to name a few.  Last year, under Head Coach Mike Tomlin, they showed they come to the draft aware of their needs but try to draft the best players available.  Notably, they drafted Rashard Mendenhall and Limas Sweed despite expectations of getting linemen.  

Rookie wide receiver Limas Sweed should play much better.  Players make their biggest jump from first year to second year.  He was a good player at UT and has a lot to make up for, including a dropped pass in the AFC Championship game against the Ravens.  

Rashard Mendenhall had his shoulder blade broken but will hopefully be back and ready for the new season.

So on draft day, don't expect the Steelers to draft to fill needs, but instead draft for quality and value.  A good player can always be traded to fill a need; a bad draft pick can only be cut from the team.  

Defensively, they lost CB McFadden to the Cardinals.  However, with the staff returning and the aforementioned draft picks they will find a replacement.  In general, no news is good right now.  No players writing books, no motorcycle accidents, no players shooting themselves in the leg.  

They aren't too old at any of the primary positions on defense, so they will draft for youth and the chance to develop players.  

History shows the Steelers have a good chance at repeating.  If they can emerge on the other side of the regular season with few injuries and no major distractions, they will have a great chance at repeating.  But they won't have too many more seasons before the wear and tear from age and experience slows them down.  Now is the time!


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