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Old 09-07-2008, 03:04 AM   #1
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Default The dream begins anew today for the Steelers

The dream begins anew today for the Steelers
The season opener: Steelers vs. Texans
Sunday, September 07, 2008
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Like the other 31 teams, the Steelers begin their journey today with thoughts of Tampa and Super Bowl XLIII on their minds.Opening day represents hope in the NFL, where teams start with the same record and many share the same goal, to win a Super Bowl.

"I set my goals so high," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "The Super Bowl is what we are going for."

A goal may be one thing, realism another. The Steelers begin their quest today for an unprecedented sixth Lombardi Trophy when they kick off at 1 p.m. against the Houston Texans at Heinz Field.

But is their Super Bowl goal reasonable? Do they have the talent, the wherewithal and the means -- they face the NFL's most difficult schedule -- to go all the way this season?

"I think we do,'' Roethlisberger said. "We are young enough and experienced enough. I think we know deep down how good we can be and are just making sure we stay focused on what we have to do."

The Steelers will have 19 of the 22 starters back in place of those who opened last season for them, a season in which they limped home 1-3 to finish 10-6 and lose their playoff game to Jacksonville at home. That ending has stuck in their craw, an ending marked by the loss of such key players as tackle Marvel Smith, defensive end Aaron Smith, safeties Ryan Clark and, to an extent, Troy Polamalu and halfback Willie Parker.

All are healthy and back in today's lineup against the Texans, one of the AFC's more underrated teams at 8-8 last season.

"I'm pretty sure expectations are running real high on the team," said wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who missed three games yet nearly had 1,000 yards receiving in his second season. "We're really looking forward to coming out explosive, finishing the way we did last season."

The Steelers are just two years removed from entering the season as reigning Super Bowl champs, and that experience is fresh enough in their memory to believe they have a shot to win it again. New England (7-2 odds) is the prohibitive favorite to win the Super Bowl, according to Bodoglife.com. Among AFC teams, Indianapolis is next at 15-2, Jacksonville 13-1 and the Steelers 18-1.

"I feel this team is good enough to get to the playoffs," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "No question. We have to stay healthy, we need to be playing our best ball in the latter part of the year, but absolutely I feel like we have the potential to win a Super Bowl."

The New York Giants last season matched what the Steelers did for the first time in history in 2005 when they won three playoff games on the road and then won the Super Bowl. The Giants, who upset the undefeated Patriots to win the championship, are 20-1 to repeat this season.

"The year we won the Super Bowl, no one thought we were legit. I thought we had the potential, but you never know," said Hines Ward, who has been around since 1998.

"The team that won the last Super Bowl, the New York Giants, nobody picked them to win. That probably wasn't their best team. That's what's so fun about it. ... We have a nucleus of guys starting to get better and coming into their own, but you never know."

Ward did not think 2005 was the best team he has played for. He thought the Steelers were better in 2004, when they lost to the Patriots at home in the AFC title game.

"I thought that was the best [team] I've ever been on. We were 15-1, we had weapons: Plaxico [Burress], myself, a great running game, great defense. We were 15-1 but we didn't win it. New England went 16-0 last year and didn't win it. So that doesn't always mean you'll win the Super Bowl.

"You start out thinking it's going to be your year but you never know, due to injuries and how people step up and play, it's hard to say."

The Steelers generally believe, though, they have a better team this season than they did in 2007.

"We have some young guys in the offensive line who have experience now, and Ben's playing better,'' Aaron Smith said. "Santonio's growing up, you have an offense that's really maturing and a defense where we have quality up front in our backups that we didn't have in the past. And we have youth in the 'backers."

The biggest loss is seven-time Pro Bowl left guard Alan Faneca, replaced by fourth-year pro Chris Kemoeatu, who played well in the preseason. Center Justin Hartwig should be an upgrade over Sean Mahan as the second new starter, as should LaMarr Woodley at left outside linebacker over Clark Haggans. Younger players who should improve over last season include two second-year starters, Holmes and right tackle Willie Colon.

"I think it's stronger,'' Ward said. "We added a couple of new faces.''

Not every Steelers player would commit to this being a better team, though. For Parker, the proof will come starting today -- when they play.

"I hope we are, but right now it's too early for all that. We still have to build our chemistry. It's too early. We still have to get some games under our belt before I answer a question like that."


http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08251/910191-66.stm
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Old 09-07-2008, 06:32 AM   #2
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Default Re: The dream begins anew today for the Steelers

I hope Ben is correct and we bring home another lombardi trophy it all starts today playing the texans hopefully we will get win no.1.
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Old 09-07-2008, 11:32 AM   #3
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Default Re: The dream begins anew today for the Steelers

Every year, as a Steelers fan, we can go into the season with the Dream Alive...every year.
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