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Old 08-05-2009, 08:58 PM   #1
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Default Don't dismiss Steelers' chances for another curtain call

Don't dismiss Steelers' chances for another curtain call
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcont...n.343df68.html

08:30 PM CDT on Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Column by RICK GOSSELIN / The Dallas Morning News | rgosselin@dallasnews.com


LATROBE, Pa. The Pittsburgh Steelers caught two tremendous breaks in winning a record sixth Lombardi Trophy last season.

First, NFL MVP Tom Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener, damaging New England's chances of reaching a fifth Super Bowl of the decade. That threw the AFC race wide open and the Steelers capitalized.

Secondly, awaiting Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl were the Arizona Cardinals, a fourth seed with the worst record (9-7) in the NFC playoff bracket. It was Arizona's first-ever Super Bowl appearance and the Steelers capitalized on some first-time jitters by the Cardinals to claim leads of 10-0 and 20-7 on the way to a 27-23 victory.

Now Brady is back, and the Giants and Eagles appear loaded on the NFC side. History also is conspiring against the Steelers in 2009 only eight franchises in the 43-year history of the Super Bowl have repeated.

But don't count Pittsburgh out. As the Steelers spend their first week in training camp, they have several reasons to feel both optimistic and confident about their chances of repeating in 2009.

First off, Pittsburgh returns 20 starters. The Steelers have won two of the last four Super Bowls, and the backbone of the club veteran Pro Bowlers Ben Roethlisberger, Willie Parker, Hines Ward, Casey Hampton, James Farrior, James Harrison and Troy Polamalu knows how to win in January and February.

Secondly, the schedule is easier. The Steelers captured the second seed with a 12-4 record in 2008 despite a schedule that included four games apiece against the NFC East and AFC South. All four losses came against teams from those powerful divisions: Indianapolis, Philadelphia, the New York Giants and Tennessee.

This season, the Steelers draw the AFC West and NFC North. So instead of the Colts and Giants, the Steelers will face the Lions and Chiefs. The AFC West and NFC North posted a combined record of 48-80 last season.

A better record against lesser competition could deliver the Steelers the AFC's top seed in 2009.

Thirdly, and most importantly, the Steelers did not play their "A" game last season in winning that sixth NFL title. This team can play better at least it can on offense.

The Steelers historically have been a team that succeeds by running the ball and playing suffocating defense. Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis fueled top-five rushing attacks in the previous five Super Bowl championship seasons.

As expected, the Steelers played stout defense in 2008, allowing the fewest yards and points in the NFL. But what was totally unexpected was Pittsburgh's struggle to run the football.

The Steelers finished 23rd in the NFL in rushing the second-worst finish by a Pittsburgh ground game in the 43-year Super Bowl era. Parker fell off from a 1,300-yard, Pro Bowl season in 2007 to just 791 yards in 2008.

Parker missed five games with shoulder and knee injuries, and the Steelers lost two of those games. The Steelers had girded themselves for such an emergency, using a first-round draft pick in 2008 on Big Ten MVP Rashard Mendenhall, who set a school record with 1,681 yards rushing in his final season at Illinois.

Mendenhall stepped into the starting lineup in the fifth week against Baltimore when Parker missed his first game but his season lasted all of nine carries. Mendenhall suffered a fractured left shoulder against the Ravens and was done for the season.

So Pittsburgh limped through the season on the ground. Now Mendenhall is healthy and anxious to make his own contribution to a Super Bowl champion. With a 1-2 punch of Parker and Mendenhall, the Steelers have the potential to again be a top-five rushing attack.

"I'm a lot better now than I was a year ago at this time," Mendenhall said. "I'm a lot more comfortable. I'm not hesitating as much. I'm reacting. I feel I'm a dynamic player. As the year goes on, my role will be defined. But I know what I can accomplish."

And the Steelers know what they can accomplish collectively. A seventh Lombardi Trophy could be within their grasp.
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Old 08-05-2009, 09:12 PM   #2
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Default Re: Don't dismiss Steelers' chances for another curtain call

The article makes some pretty good points. I can certainly see the offense being more explosive than it was last season. It would be nice to get a mix of the offense from two years ago to go with the defense of last year. That team would be tough to beat.
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Old 08-05-2009, 09:23 PM   #3
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Default Re: Don't dismiss Steelers' chances for another curtain call

Meanwhile, in a 3rd world country somewhere....kids have some new clothes.

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Old 08-05-2009, 09:57 PM   #4
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Default Re: Don't dismiss Steelers' chances for another curtain call

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Originally Posted by Killer View Post
Meanwhile, in a 3rd world country somewhere....kids have some new clothes.


Haha, I remember reading an article about that. I guess all teams that lose major championships have their "would be champs" shirts sent over to poor countries and such. It's actually a really nice thing to do but funny to think about.
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Old 08-05-2009, 11:46 PM   #5
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Default Re: Don't dismiss Steelers' chances for another curtain call

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Haha, I remember reading an article about that. I guess all teams that lose major championships have their "would be champs" shirts sent over to poor countries and such. It's actually a really nice thing to do but funny to think about.
very true nice thing to do but in some 3rd world country some kids thinks the BILLS won 4 championships
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Old 08-06-2009, 12:29 AM   #6
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Default Re: Don't dismiss Steelers' chances for another curtain call

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very true nice thing to do but in some 3rd world country some kids thinks the BILLS won 4 championships
Yeah, hey, whatever puts a smile on their face. Someone's gotta believe Scott Norwood didn't miss that kick.
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Old 08-06-2009, 12:35 AM   #7
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Default Re: Don't dismiss Steelers' chances for another curtain call

This is still my favorite.

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Old 08-06-2009, 12:30 PM   #8
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Default Re: Don't dismiss Steelers' chances for another curtain call

It really makes me foam at the mouth when people say "The first break the Steelers caught" is the fact that Brady went down....

F the Cheatriots!!

The Steelers won it all with one of the most difficult schedules in NFL history...and last time I checked, Cassel played pretty good. Nobody has any excuses.

God I hate the Patriots and all their delusional fans!!!!!!!
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Old 08-06-2009, 12:40 PM   #9
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Default Re: Don't dismiss Steelers' chances for another curtain call

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Originally Posted by BigBenFn7 View Post
Haha, I remember reading an article about that. I guess all teams that lose major championships have their "would be champs" shirts sent over to poor countries and such. It's actually a really nice thing to do but funny to think about.
Heh heh ...



In all seriousness, though, I don't think we caught a break by Tom Brady getting injured last year. The way we were playing, I really believe we were just straight-up good enough that the Patriots would've gotten their shit ruined anyway.

edit: heh heh heh
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Old 08-06-2009, 12:56 PM   #10
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Default Re: Don't dismiss Steelers' chances for another curtain call

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The way we were playing, I really believe we were just straight-up good enough that the Patriots would've gotten their shit ruined anyway.
Got that right... This year if we put together an offensive offense to help our D. Plus a punter that can add some more space for the D. Plus a KR player that can shorten the yards for the offense. And get a running game solidified.

We will only be looking behind us all year... the colts will be lame, the chargers see their last bolt of hope, the pats will limp along with the QB.... we will only need to watch the Titans and Ravens.

The first two games this year are crucial for us to win...
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