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Old 07-25-2009, 08:18 PM   #1
A Son of Martha

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Default Initial Observations - 2009 Edition

(Pretty good post from a fan. - mesa)

Initial Observations - 2009 Edition
Tiny by RickVa on Jul 24, 2009 8:34 PM EDT Comment 26 comments

Bumped from the fanposts. Many thanks to RickVa for the fine article that will lead us in to the weekend. Happy Friday all. - Blitz - (Michael B.)


Camp starts in a week. Its time (finally) to begin to fully focus on football and the season in front of us. Last year I thought the team had a shot of going all the way provided certain stringent conditions were met. For example, we had to be lucky with injuries (we weren't), the play of the OLine would have to be better than feared (it wasn't), the schedule would have to be a paper tiger, many opponents not living up to their reputations (it wasn't). The Steelers won anyway.

This year I am even more bullish on the Black and Gold. Barring the unforeseen I believe this team is the class of the League and potentially better than last years crew even though much of the personnel is exactly the same. Unfortunately, the unforeseen has already occurred. But, in what may be the first great Tomlinism of the '09 season, Coach Mike has already declared that the sign of a great team is its ability to perform in spite of the presence of distractions. What follows is one man's observations of random factors that may help shape the season for good or ill before things actually get in motion. Feel free to comment or criticize as you see fit.

They hate us. One thing that is clear in light of the recent allegations against Ben is a lot of folk have come crawling out of the woodwork and the sewers to pile on and wish Ben, the team and the Nation ill. The reason is clear and understandable; They're jealous.

We have what they all want. We (owner, front office, coaches, players, fans) are the best , period. For fans of teams that have elite aspirations (Pats, Cowboys, Titans, Chargers, Eagles, etc.) the Steelers stand as a crippling rebuttal to their claims of world domination.

The League has to pass rules to stop us from dominating play (You pass a rule to keep our wide receivers from bullying other teams' linebackers? Are you kidding me?), individual clubs have to pass rules to keep our fans from dominating their stadiums (The Steeler Nation is coming! One if by land, two if by sea!). Tomlin has yet to lose a game to a division opponent.

And if you run a league and/or its network partners and you believe the concept of parity is the road to profits the last thing you want to see is a small market team beginning to act like they're going to become the Yankees or the Lakers. So, let's be clear; we are in the season of 'Let's break up the Steelers'. In this sense to be hated or ignored is a good thing. In fact, let us all redouble our efforts to make certain that everybody hates us. Get that seventh Lombardi Trophy and watch the top of people's heads blow off.

Tomlin. A fairly substantial minority of folks here at BTSC began singing the praises of Coach Tomlin not long after he was hired. More have jumped enthusiastically on the band wagon as he quickly learned from his first year mistakes, led the team to its sixth championship and has demonstrated a unique, no nonsense leadership style. My observation of how Tomlin has been viewed outside Steeler Nation is very similar to how Big Ben was initially treated.

It seems they view him as someone who has lucked out and found himself in a situation where the elements surrounding him (talent, organizational support) is so strong that all he has to do is "manage" things in such a way that he doesn't mess things up. And just like BB the world will eventually learn that Tomlin is bringing a lot more to the table than 'management skills'.

As a charter member Tomlin fan I am anxious to see how he addresses the challenge of responding to success. As he moves into his third year, how he will craft the team even more into his image. I'm convinced that this team continues to be a work in progress, and that there are going to be surprises in store for the rest of the League and even some of the Steelers most loyal fans if they think things are just going to stand pat. My belief in the team's success this year is grounded in the view that Tomlin is going to challenge them to get better.

Big Snack. One thing Tomlin emphasized to the troops in the spring was the necessity of coming to camp in good physical condition. If Casey Hampton shows at camp in good enough condition to survive the conditioning run I think that's a good indication that the team is drinking the Kool Aid and is set to move beyond the Super Bowl hangover. It might also indicate that Hampton recognizes that this is a contract year and is set to rachet up his play. Regardless, it will be good news from a performance and leadership perspective.

Ben. Not enough has been made IMO of what Ben delivered on the field in the wake of getting that big contract last year. Nonetheless, BB continues to be an afterthought in discussions of top quarterbacks. Its as though the pundits are still trying to justify that they ranked Phillip Rivers and Eli Manning over Ben when they came into the League. And with Tom and Peyton selected as the Anointed Ones, it is considered blasphemy to suggest that anyone might approach these two in talent or achievement.

Well guess what? Ben is going to get better this year. Not a little bit better, much better. He hasn't peaked in a developmental sense as a qb, he is in the third year of the current offense, the O line, though nowhere near great will be better than last year even if the starting personnel remains the same. As for the civil suit? Forget about it. It will be used as fuel by both Ben and the rest of the team. The Steelers will use the emotions of the Haters to consume them.

What if he gets hurt? One thing that passed almost completely under the radar last year was the depth we had (and still have) at the quarterback position. A lot of people became enamored with Byron Leftwich. They should have. In a rational world there is no way that a talent like that would be available to the Steelers as a backup. Last I heard he was doing quite well in the competition for the starting job at Tampa Bay. So who's left? Charlie Batch.

Oh yeah, the herd mentality says that Charlie's old and washed up. Well, there's old and then there's old. Batch has spent much of the last five years carrying a clipboard. Not exactly a lot of wear and tear there. He's a solid qb, a respected leader in the locker room (teams representative to Players Association) a favorite son and pillar in the community.

If people can fight over a washed up shell like Brett Farve at 39 well...Dennis Dixon was a legitimate Heisman contender before he got injured in his senior year of college. Probably wasn't 100 percent when he joined the Steelers. Would be a great choice to run the Wildcat if it ever was decided to add that package to our offensive options. Quarterback will be a growth area with this years team.

LeBeau. Believe it or not I think the defense will be better than last year. The major concern is that offensive coordinators might catch up with LeBeau's scheme's though he is unlikely to stand pat. I love Larry Foote but Timmons ought to be an improvement. In fact, it is not unreasonable to expect the sort of break out year that Woodley enjoyed last year from Timmons this year.

I also like BMac but I don't think he'll be missed. Gay or one of the rookies should adequately replace. Herd mentality also says that Deshea Townsend has a foot in the grave. Why? Townsend came into the league at same time as Hines Ward and is every bit as mentally tough. I saw no indication of him slowing down. Particularly in the Dallas and the AFC Championship game. The defense looks to be bigger, faster, younger and deeper than last year and years past.

Special Teams. Speaking of defense, the return of punter Sepulveda should mean that opposing offenses will have a longer field to traverse and the defense will have a bigger cushion. In general, it looks that a great deal of energy will be expended trying to develop a unit that will lengthen the field for the defense and shorten it for the offense, plus collecting enough talent that hopefully one or more players will emerge that will be a scoring threat either on punts or kickoff return. Add this to the reliable work of Jeff Reed and the Steelers become strong in three dimensions. Very tough to deal with.
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Old 07-25-2009, 08:19 PM   #2
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Default Re: Initial Observations - 2009 Edition

The Schedule. Easier schedule than last year? Wrong! We have the Bullseye Schedule. True we won't be facing the best teams like last year, but we will be getting every team's best game. Sixteen Super Bowls. We may be as likely to lose to Detroit as to Tennessee. The approach to each game will have to be at least as disciplined as it was last year or we'll be courting disaster.

New England. Usually identified as the team most likely to dethrone the Steelers because Tom Brady is back (oooooo!) This is insulting. Last year I went out on a limb to predict that the Pats window was closing and that chances were good they wouldn't make the playoffs. Yes, I hear you, "Tom Brady was hurt." (As the late Dwight White would say "Excuses, excuses.")

Well, consider this: Tom will probably not be 100 percent for most of the season. Yes, the Pats nearly had a perfect season two years ago. You can fall fast in the NFL. The '79 Steelers won the SB and then could not make the playoffs in '80. In fact, there are some interesting parallels between that team and the '07 Pats. They both struggled in the SB against an NFC wildcard team that upset the Cowboys early in the playoffs.

Neither team made the playoffs the following year. Fact is that it's been half a decade since the Pats last won a championship even with the great Tom Brady leading them. The Steelers have won two championships in that period. I would be concerned if the Pats can escape their competition in their division. Somehow I don't think Bill Parcels is wetting his pants in anticipation of facing his old assistant coach. Neither is Rex Ryan. IF we (and they) both make it to the playoffs then we'll worry about crossing that bridge at that time.

Dan Rooney. The Steelers have been the most successful, most stable franchise in the NFL over the last forty years. The one element that has been consistently present over those forty years has been Dan Rooney. The Chairman is off to Ireland now and it is not altogether clear what effect if any his absence and the impact of the new ownership group will have on the day to day operation of the club. No worries about the competence and experience of Art Rooney, but whether the more introverted son of Dan will have an impact on team culture will yet to be seen. What do you think?
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Old 07-26-2009, 06:53 AM   #3
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Default Re: Initial Observations - 2009 Edition

Hopefully Ben won't be distracted with all of this BS and we can open up with a win against the Titans. Our special teams should be alot better this year with our punter returning along with some editions on the return game.
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Old 07-26-2009, 09:24 AM   #4
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Default Re: Initial Observations - 2009 Edition

I believe we have a great chance to repeat this year, the only wildcard thing is going to be this stupid civil suit aganst Ben but I believe we have enough of a veteran team with good leadership to ovecome that easily. I also believe that the whole organization top too bottom will rally around Ben in complete support.
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