Pittsburgh Steelers: Offseason Earns Passing Grade Despite Setbacks

Nick DeWitt@@nickdewitt11Analyst IMay 10, 2010

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 01:  Bryant McFadden #20 of the Pittsburgh Steelers gestures on the field against the Arizona Cardinals during Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

This offseason has been a nightmare for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Getting back on the field had to feel good for Mike Tomlin and company, even if it was without their quarterback.

Now that camps have started and players are focusing on the work ahead, it's time to grade what has been one of the most tumultuous offseason's in recent memory.

Off-Field: F-

Could it have gotten worse? First there was another incident involving Ben Roethlisberger, who has gone from elite superstar to troubled twenty-something in just over a year.

This time, the commissioner and the team stepped in and forced him to not only endure a long suspension (four to six games) but also to undergo testing to determine if there is something wrong inside his head.

In the midst of that disaster, there came news of Santonio Holmes being accused of an incident at a bar in which he assaulted a female patron.

The Steelers spent their offseason focusing on fixing and maintaining their sterling reputation as best they could. Even with some good efforts, things still don't look good.

If you think it's over, check out the Sports Illustrated article on Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers' off-field problems are only getting uglier.

Draft Day: B

It's hard to argue with the Steelers' draft. They historically know what they're doing even when everyone else is left scratching their heads.

First rounder Maurkice Pouncey should be the force the Steelers have consistently lacked on the interior of their offensive line since the departure of Alan Faneca a couple years back. Pouncey also seems to be a high character guy, something the Steelers can't get enough of these days.

Jason Worilds, Thaddeus Gibson, Stevenson Sylvester, and Doug Worthington are all linebackers. All but Sylvester can also play the end spots on the line. The Steelers love versatile players on defense. While it may seem a lot of attention was spent on a position of strength, consider that James Harrison is already in his 30s and James Farrior is almost done. Also, depth never hurts.

Those linebackers should also all be special teams contributors. There's an area that needed addressed in a big way this year.

Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown, and Jonathan Dwyer all have a chance to contribute on offense. The Steelers are looking for a receiver to step up and replace Holmes as well as a reliable fifth option. Brown and Sanders are both immensely talented guys.

Dwyer is a bigger back who could provide some of those tough red zone yards that the Steelers have struggled to pick up since the legendary Jerome Bettis parked the Bus for good.

The Steelers also addressed two need spots with Crezdon Butler, a corner, and Chris Scott, an offensive tackle, in the middle of the draft.

It's hard to argue with any of the picks, but it's also hard to see how anyone contributes immediately except for Pouncey.

Free Agency/Trades: A+

Some analysts are panning the Steelers' retro look. The returns of Larry Foote, Bryant McFadden, and Antwaan Randle El are either loved or hated by the fans.

The reality is that the team needed all of these guys.

Foote provides sure depth in the middle of the defense, particularly if James Farrior's wheels finally come off. He can also step up and deliver some hits on special teams.

Antwaan Randle El won't be asked to be a star receiver or return threat. He'll be asked to play in the slot, where he was excellent in his first turn as a Steeler. He is probably one of the best third or fourth receivers in the NFL. Don't forget, he can also deliver some surprises.

The Steelers thought William Gay would be ready to step up and be a starting corner. Instead, he got burnt by virtually every receiver he covered (or tried to cover) and proved utterly incapable of being a starter.

McFadden is back to put an end to that. He was stellar in his first go around with the team and will now add stability to a secondary that struggled mightily last season.

The additions of Arnaz Battle and Will Allen will help bolster a flagging special teams unit that gave up way too many yards and points last season. Both can also spell starters at their respective positions (receiver and safety).

Jonathan Scott will be one of the new backups along the offensive line and his versatility is excellent. He may not be a starter, but he can fill in adequately if necessary and could surprise with better coaching.

Coaching Changes: B-

You have to give everyone a chance to impress, but the Steelers could have done better.

Al Everest should represent an upgrade over former Special Teams coordinator Bob Ligashesky, but the team should have made a stronger push for Bobby April, one of the best coaches in the league.

They also could have worked for a bigger-impact offensive line coach. Sean Kugler could be good, but his track record doesn't inspire much confidence.

I just get the feeling that the team could have done better here. Instead, they settled for second best (or possibly worse).

Overall Grade: B-

The team gets a passing grade overall, although they have a great deal of work to do when it comes to repairing their image and proving their coaching hires were sound decisions.

The player additions are all upgrades and the draft haul was solid, making this yet another productive offseason for Pittsburgh.

Now it's time to see if they can translate all of that into on-field success in the face of some serious distractions.


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