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Old 09-09-2009, 07:10 PM   #1
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Default Five reasons why the Steelers will be a better team in 2009

Five reasons why the Steelers will be a better team in 2009
September 9, 3:27 AMPittsburgh Steelers ExaminerDan Flickinger

Throughout the course of a season, a NFL team can be ravaged by injuries, brought down by players neglible behavior or simply not live up to itís preseason hype. The 2009 Steelers are not exempt from this rule, but at least for now the defending Super Bowl champions figure to be even better than last year.

Hereís five reasons why.

1. Punter Daniel Sepulvedaís return

With so many games last year where winning the field position battle was so important, itís amazing the Steelers were able to win the super bowl with the great field position that was routinely given to the opposing offense. The consistent array of bad punts put a lot of pressure on the defense, especially because the Steelers offense was unable to move the ball out of its territory in so many instances.

The Steelers ranked ninth in the NFL in net punting average during Daniel Sepulvedaís rookie season in 2007 at 37.9 yards per punt, but they lost him for the year on the second day of training camp in 2008. The team turned to Mitch Berger and Paul Ernster last year and fell to 30th in the league in yards per punt and 25th in net average.

Poor punts happened way too often last season. With Sepulveda back and healthy, it wonít happen nearly as often this year.

2. Punt/Kick returns

Former Canadian League Football player Stefan Logan gives the Steelers a weapon that they havenít had since winning Super Bowl XL in 2005 with Antwaan Randle El returning punts. Despite winning the Super Bowl last year, the Steelers finished next to last in punt return average with 6 yards per return which was well below Buffaloís league-leading 15.5 average. The 5'6" speedster figures to greatly improve that statistic as he's averaged over 20 yards per return this preseason and one touchdown against Carolina.

He and rookie Mike Wallace will help out the kick-return game as well. The Steelers were fourth from the bottom in kickoff returns in 2008 but with Logan and Wallace back deep this year, it will give the Steelers an actual threat to take one to the house and is a huge upgrade over the departed Gary Russell.

This facet of the game will also help out tremendously in the battle of field position.

3. Experience factor

19 of the 22 starters return from last yearís championship team, something that very rarely happens after a team wins the Super Bowl in the modern day NFL. Lost are defensive starters corner back Bryant McFadden and linebacker Larry Foote, but the guys replacing them have potential to be even better in William Gay and Lawrence Timmons. Guard Darnell Stapleton has been lost for the season with a knee injury.

Of the 22 starters, 13 of them have two Super Bowl rings which means the players know how to win and more importantly know how to win together. It may seem like something that can be overlooked but this is why teams like the Steelers do well every year and why the Oakland Raiders and Detroit Lions do not.

Not many have this advantage. The Steelers do.

4. Limas Sweed/receiving corps

Wow, hasnít this guy came a long way? Not many in Steelers Country believed Limas Sweed would develop into anything after not being able to catch a ball to save his life last year, including a drop of a would-be long touchdown reception in last yearís AFC Championship against Baltimore. But the 2nd round draft pick out of Texas had other ideas and improved his catching ability dramatically in the off-season and has deservedly won the number three receiving slot this year.

The jury is still out on whether itíd be an upgrade over the now departed Nate Washington, but considering Sweedís height (6'4"), his reach, and his ability to jump for the ball, he has the potential to be a better option than Washington was last season. He also gives the Steelers another threat in the red zone, somewhere they struggled to get touchdowns last year.

It will be tough for teams to contend with the Steelers receiving corps this year, especially with Sweedís improvement, and the addition of the experienced Shaun McDonald and speedster rookie Mike Wallace. Oh, and the fact that Pittsburgh is the only team in NFL history to start two Super Bowl MVPís at wide receiver at the same time, Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward.

5. Offensive line continuity

Itís not easy to give props to the offensive line around here but they have looked a bit better this preseason, especially in pass protection. Thereís no hiding that the Steelers must improve their 23rd ranked rushing offense from 2008, but with 4 of the 5 starters returning, itís possible. The guys were kind of thrown together last season as a patch-work line but now have spent ample time getting to know how each other plays which should help.

At the very least, this group will be better than last year. No, thatís not saying much but the less quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is thrown around the better it is for the Steelers moving forward.

- The Steelers open up the regular season hosting Tennessee Thursday, and will be without starting linebacker Lawrence Timmons who has an ankle injury.
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Old 09-09-2009, 07:15 PM   #2

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Default Re: Five reasons why the Steelers will be a better team in 2009

I love it all. I think Sep will always be pinning the offenses back like he did his rookie season and now with experience he is only become stronger and more accurate on his punts.

Our return game and overall ST has to be one of the tops in the league. We have a strong ST defense led by Fox and now a threat on the return side both on kick offs and punt returns which will give us great field position!

Sweed well its just his year to finally come out and prove to this Steeler nation he is good for something other than rock hands. He is ourr 3rd WR and will be used alot so we need him to make the important clutch catches and become a tall, deep threat as well.

And for the OL well we can only hope they improve and that experiece with this offense has made them a better group and hope they learn there schemes and come out giving Parker all the running room and letting Ben step up in the pocket and deliever.
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