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mesaSteeler
06-30-2009, 09:00 AM
13 things to watch in 2009: Part 1
By Dan Pompei
Published: June 29th, 2009
http://www.athlonsports.com/pro-football/16923/13-things-to-watch-in-2009-part-1

This is Part 1 of a four-part series detailing 13 things to watch during the 2009 NFL season.

1. Can the Steelers stay on top?

If any team knows how to avoid the valleys that most teams trip and roll into, it is the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Yes, the same Steelers who won four Super Bowls in six seasons in the 1970s, and the same Steelers who have won two of the last four Super Bowls.

Over time, Pittsburgh has been the most consistent team in the NFL. Since the turn of the century, the Steelers have been contenders virtually every year despite significant organizational change, making the playoffs six of nine times. Players and even coaches come and go, but the Steelers never, ever quiver.

Coach Mike Tomlin just finished his second season with the team, but he quickly came to understand what is different in Pittsburgh. “Our tradition is inspiring on a day-to-day basis,” Tomlin says. “It’s created a standard we all aspire to. That’s one of the reasons we are who we are. We have tangible examples in our history of how to go about it.”

Tradition explains why the Steelers have a chance again in 2009. That tradition is best attributed to the leadership of the Rooney family — from the late Art, known as “The Chief,” to current chairman Dan, to current president Art II.

Of course, leadership on the field — from players such as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and safety Troy Polamalu — also bodes well for Pittsburgh’s chances this year.

The plan is for the Steelers of 2009 to look a lot like the Steelers of 2008. But to be all they can, the Steelers must improve their running game, which ranked 23rd in the NFL a year ago. Toward that end, they are hoping for a big contribution from running back Rashard Mendenhall, the team’s first-round pick in 2008 who sat out most of the season with a shoulder injury. The Steelers also might want to think about throwing more to Super Bowl MVP and budding star Santonio Holmes.

Tomlin says in preparing to attempt to repeat as Super Bowl champions, he will not study others who have tried and succeeded, or tried and failed. Instead, he will rely on the Steelers’ proven tradition to guide him. And he will stress this philosophy to his team: “It’s always about the journey and not the destination,” Tomlin says. “Once you have been there, it makes it increasingly difficult to appreciate the journey.”

Tomlin is determined to make sure the Steelers don’t forget what they did that got them to the NFL’s mountaintop.

2. The return of Tom Brady

If the Patriots could win 11 games with Tom Brady on the fashion photo-shoot circuit last season, they could be quite formidable in 2009 with Brady pitching footballs instead of fancy watches and trendy colognes.

The Patriots are counting on Brady to come back, and come back strong, so much so they traded his backup, Matt Cassel, to the Chiefs. Brady, who blew out his knee in Week 1 last season, might not be all he was in his record-setting season of 2007. But he should at least be better than Cassel was a year ago — and that was pretty good.

It takes most players a full year to come back completely from the kind of injury Brady had, but at least he doesn’t rely on his legs much. That will make it easier for him to bounce back than it would for almost any other type of player.

The Patriots have helped Brady by reinforcing his offense with newcomers such as running back Fred Taylor, wide receiver Joey Galloway and tight end Chris Baker. But the additions could be offset by the loss of Josh McDaniels, the playcaller and game-planner credited with Cassel’s ascension.

If the Patriots have proven one thing, it’s that the system is bigger than any individual — bigger than McDaniels, and bigger even than Brady. But it’s also safe to assume that Brady is bigger than any other player in the system — if not any player in the league.

What Brady will give the Patriots that they were missing a year ago is the benefit of experience — knowing when to take risks and having the guts to do it, which then paves the way for the Patriots’ wide-open game plans. For all of that, Randy Moss should be very grateful.

With Brady back where he belongs, many expect the Patriots will be back where they belong this season — namely, playing in the Super Bowl.

3. Cutler gets his trade, Chicago gets its QB

On the day the Bears traded for quarterback Jay Cutler last April, former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich was indicted. And hardly anyone noticed.

There was a feel-good buzz in Chicago about Cutler that had not been felt since the team’s 1985 Super Bowl championship season. General manager Jerry Angelo called it a “tsunami type of energy.”

For that energy to continue, Cutler — who was obtained along with a fifth-round draft pick in exchange for a pair of first-round picks, a third-rounder and Kyle Orton — will have to get the Bears another championship. Living up to the expectations won’t be easy for Cutler. It wouldn’t have been easy for Otto Graham or Joe Montana, either.

And so far in his brief career, Cutler has not been Graham or Montana. He failed to take the Broncos to the playoffs in three seasons, where his record as a starter was 17–20 and his passer rating was 87.1. And he didn’t exactly create warm, fuzzy feelings in Denver when his reaction to learning that new coach Josh McDaniels had expressed interest in obtaining Matt Cassel from New England was to demand a trade.

But there is no disputing that Cutler is one of the most gifted quarterbacks in the NFL. “He’s one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the league,” says CBS analyst Rich Gannon. “Is he a top five guy? Probably not. Would I hitch my horse to him and say, ‘Let’s go ride’? Hell, yeah.”

Cutler couldn’t do it by himself in Denver, and he won’t be able to in Chicago. In order for him to be the best he can be, Cutler will need better receiver play than the Bears gave Orton, better pass protection than they gave Orton and even a better running game than they gave Orton.

He had all of the above in Denver. Brandon Marshall had almost twice as many yards as the Bears’ leading receiver. The Broncos allowed 17 fewer sacks than the Bears did. And the Broncos averaged 4.8 yards per carry compared with 3.9 for the Bears.

Some of these discrepancies should be rectified through Cutler’s play and improved personnel around him. And having a defense and special teams unit that are significantly better than the ones he played with in Denver will help.

But really, what the Bears and everyone in Chicago are counting on is that Cutler continues to mature as a player and as a person — and takes his game to another level. Given that he is only 26, that is not an unreasonable expectation.

This feature appears in the 2009 Athlon Sports Pro Football magazine. Click here to purchase your copy.

Galax Steeler
06-30-2009, 09:11 AM
Why couldn't the Steelers stay on top. I mean we have the players to do it. If Holmes and Ward can come out and make playes like they did last year that will keep the deffenses honest. Not to mention that our run game should improve alot more this year. On the other side of the ball we have a great deffense that should be just as strong as last year. So why should we not be on top again this year.

HometownGal
06-30-2009, 09:30 AM
If the Steelers can stay healthy at key positions and play with that never say die mentality they exhibited during the stretch and into the playoffs last season - there is absolutely no reason why they can't repeat. Under Tomlin and his coaching staff's leadership, it should be considered a high probability. :tt02:

STEELtownHAVOX
06-30-2009, 09:34 AM
We just have to come out level headed and thriving for a ring like they've never had one. All the articles I've read, so far this is the mentality we have. Let's repeat!

steel9guy
06-30-2009, 09:51 AM
The scary thing is other than the O-line the Steelers didn't have a ton of injuries last year. Usually you can't do that for 2 years in a row but I think they'll be fine.

fansince'76
06-30-2009, 09:54 AM
The scary thing is other than the O-line the Steelers didn't have a ton of injuries last year. Usually you can't do that for 2 years in a row but I think they'll be fine.

We were practically a MASH unit during the first half of the season (we were down to our 3rd string RB for 4 games, for one example). We were fortunate that we were healthy for the playoffs is all (as opposed to limping into the playoffs all banged up like the year before).

TackleMeBen
06-30-2009, 10:12 AM
If the Steelers can stay healthy at key positions and play with that never say die mentality they exhibited during the stretch and into the playoffs last season - there is absolutely no reason why they can't repeat. Under Tomlin and his coaching staff's leadership, it should be considered a high probability. :tt02:
:iagree: unfortunely you never know about who could get injuried during the season. hopefully our depth chart is good, so if we do get an injury we can just plug someone in there and keep the train rolling.

i think marianne is right about tomlin, with the leadership on that coaching staff, i dont see them letting the players get to comfortable. i think it would be nice to see tomlin win another superbowl in this third season. that would have be a record, a new coach win 2 superbowls in his first three seasons.

wootawnee
06-30-2009, 10:27 AM
This article is so boring......It is like reading 4 month old news.......

scsteeler
06-30-2009, 10:36 AM
I will add to the bore. The Steelers are in a position to make a repeat run for the Super Bowl. Tomlin has did a great job of removing the jinx's that have hurt this team in the past and this year one more will be eliminated and that is Brady and the Patriots which have been the team that has done a good job of stopping the Steelers from maybe having at least 2 more Super Bowls. Of course you could argue that cheating helped those wins.


Yes I expect this team to repeat, should I expect anything less??????????


:tt::tt::tt:

TackleMeBen
06-30-2009, 10:41 AM
Yes I expect this team to repeat, should I expect anything less?????????:tt::tt::tt:

absolutely not. i expect us to go undefeated and win the superbowl every year, not that it happens, but that is what a fan expects.

and with this team, i definately could see us repeating as superbowl champions this season.

Men of Steel
06-30-2009, 11:36 AM
If the Steelers can stay healthy at key positions and play with that never say die mentality they exhibited during the stretch and into the playoffs last season - there is absolutely no reason why they can't repeat. Under Tomlin and his coaching staff's leadership, it should be considered a high probability. :tt02:

exaactly.. couldnt agree more.

the talent is there...
the chemistry is there.

the two keys to success this year will be..
1.) for the team to remain healthy all year including playoffs (such as last year... when the steelers entered the playoffs with pretty much every starter in the lineup )

2.) to remain driven... (last year tomlin set that mindset in the final game vs the browns.. did the steelers need to play their starters? no, but Coach T wanted to send that message across.. that they were going into the playoffs.. ready to play )

if the steelers stick to these 2 things... they will make another great run. :tt02:

mulldog24
06-30-2009, 03:58 PM
With this schedule,the solid draft that we had,and the leadership of unselfish veterans I really think we have an excelent shot of repeating as world champs!!!

HughC
06-30-2009, 04:20 PM
Why couldn't the Steelers stay on top. I mean we have the players to do it. If Holmes and Ward can come out and make playes like they did last year that will keep the deffenses honest. Not to mention that our run game should improve alot more this year. On the other side of the ball we have a great deffense that should be just as strong as last year. So why should we not be on top again this year.
Pretty much my exact thoughts. As others mentioned, injuries are key. All teams are going to have to deal with injuries at certain points of the season; it's inevitable. Fortunately the Steelers appear to be in as good a position as any team in the NFL in overcoming injuries, with quality depth and a balance of good players throughout the entire roster.

Ishkabibble
07-01-2009, 09:40 PM
It'll come down to the Steelers and the Patriots, IMO. I'd expect Brady's season to go kinda like Peyton's did last year; modest numbers the first half...then look out.
I'm not a fan but I've always felt the Steelers were the greatest organization in NFL history; as much for their consistency throughout the 80's and 90's, when they weren't winning SB's, as for their two recent rings. They've had 3 coaches in 35 years and that's flat-out insane. It's remarkable how consistent they've been; dating back 25 years.
They can repeat because they've proven to be tougher than the rest. The Patriots will be extremely formidable.

Riddle_Of_Steel
07-02-2009, 09:08 PM
The Patriots did not spend one solitary draft pick, free agent signing, or personnel move to shore up what will be their Achilles heel this year-- not their defense (which everyone mistakenly keeps describing as "aging"), but their offensive line and pass protection.

That weakness is what lost SB XLII for them, and they picked up last season right where they left off-- Tom Brady goes down in week 1 from one of the weakest pass rushes in the NFL (Chiefs), and the Pats Oline gives up 48 sacks on the season (only one less than our "terrible" oline)....

MongoSteeler
07-03-2009, 01:41 AM
I think that the Giants defense showed the entire NFL how to beat the Pats and all everyone has to do is follow that lead. The Steelers did it last year and I'm sure most teams took notice. With Brady not being a mobile QB and coming back from an injury to his knee, look for teams to bring lots of early heat on Brady. Let's see how the first half of the season goes for the Pats [NYJ, Baltimore, Tennessee,Buffalo] before handing them a playoff berth. Oh yeah, who's the Back up QB in NE now?