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Old 03-04-2010, 08:28 AM   #1
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Default Offseason Outlook:Pittsburgh Steelers

2009 Review

What worked
Most Steelers fans would say "not much." Overreactions aside, this team won nine games last season and has talent on both sides of the ball. The passing game flourished, with both receivers Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward going over 1,000 receiving yards. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had another Pro Bowl-caliber season, despite holding the ball too long at times. Rashard Mendenhall's dynamic play in spots gave coach Mike Tomlin some confidence in the running game, although the Steelers were no doubt a passing team. Defensively, linebackers Lamar Woodley and James Harrison were still productive, despite inconsistent line play and a secondary that struggled.

What needs work
The special teams allowing four return touchdowns handcuffed the team, as did a defense that too often centered on one player's talents. Losing safety Troy Polamalu for much of the season put defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau's unit in a tight spot. The defensive backs were often not where they were supposed to be, nor was there a "playmaker" in the back four. Throw in Aaron Smith's absence at defensive end, and you saw a once formidable unit falter in situations it previously closed in. Inconsistent O-line play also hurt, resulting in protection breakdowns and a run game that wasn't always effective. The former caused a late-season loss in Cleveland that ultimately cost Pittsburgh a playoff shot.

Three Burning Issues

Troy Polamalu's health
Five-time Pro Bowl safety Polamalu missed 11 games last season with two different knee injuries and the Steelers shut him down at the end of the season but never placed him on injured reserve. It may have been a blessing that they didn't make the playoffs, or else the star safety would've tried to play. This team doesn't go far without a healthy Polamalu. Since 2006, Pittsburgh is 28-17 with him and 8-11 without him.

How much longer can this team rely on Ward for key plays?
While the 12-year veteran Ward doesn't have much separation ability anymore, he still made several clutch catches last season for the suddenly pass-happy Steelers. He finished the season with 95 receptions for 1,167 yards and six touchdowns. Holmes is entrenched at the other receiver spot, and at some point Tomlin must see what he has in second-year pro Mike Wallace. Tight end Heath Miller is more than capable of having the offense run through him. Miller caught 76 of the 97 passes thrown his way, the highest percentage (78) of receptions to targets among all tight ends in the NFL with at least 40 catches.

Does the secondary need an overhaul?
There were moments last season when the cornerbacks struggled to stop anyone. The pass defense dropped precipitously from first in 2008 to 16th last season, allowing 215.4 yards per game through the air. In fact, the defense managed only 12 interceptions in 2009 after picking off 20 passes the year before. Even worse, Lebeau's unit was 30th in the NFL in allowing opposing teams to convert third-and-long situations (six yards or more).

Key Free Agents
Unrestricted: QB Charlie Batch, RB Willie Parker, CB Deshea Townsend, DE Travis Kirschke, NT Casey Hampton, S Tyrone Carter, S Ryan Clark, K Jeff Reed

Restricted: T Willie Colon, CB William Gay, P Daniel Sepulveda

The Steelers have already addressed two of their key free agents, franchising Reed and reaching a three-year deal with Hampton. Clark still remains a high priority. Hampton was particularly important in that Lebeau can't run his 3-4 without a quality nose tackle. These guys are hard to find, whether it's in the draft or free agency, so retaining Hampton was a necessity. Director of football operations Kevin Colbert has already gone on the record as saying, "we haven't ruled anyone out" in free agency. But the Steelers have never been a team to make a huge splash in the market, always being mindful of the budget and building through the draft.

Draft Outlook
Pittsburgh picks at No. 18. Much like the rest of the AFC North, it would be easy to see the Steelers grabbing a defensive back. Strengthening the offensive line is also a strong possibility. But with Willie Parker being an afterthought, Pittsburgh could draft a running back to team with Rashard Mendenhall and bring back old-school Steelers football.

Big Number
28
DEFENSIVE RANKING ON THIRD DOWN
The Steelers ranked first in 2008. Dropping 27 places in this all-important category makes drafting secondary help a necessity.

2010 Opponents
Home: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, New England, N.Y. Jets, Atlanta, Carolina, Oakland.

Away: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Buffalo, Miami, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Tennessee.


Quotable
"I think Mike (Tomlin) and I certainly agreed coming off the season that we need to run the ball more consistently to get to where we want to get to."
-- Steelers team president Art Rooney II

http://www.nfl.com/offseason/story?i...s&confirm=true
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Old 03-04-2010, 09:59 AM   #2
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Default Re: Offseason Outlook:Pittsburgh Steelers

Nice read Supa. On the draft outlook section I really hope we don't draft RB in the 1st. The draft is deep at that position and I think we can get a good one later on like Tate(Auburn) or Hardesty(Tenn.). I also think we have other needs for our 1st pick.
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Old 03-04-2010, 10:37 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by mulldog24 View Post
Nice read Supa. On the draft outlook section I really hope we don't draft RB in the 1st. The draft is deep at that position and I think we can get a good one later on like Tate(Auburn) or Hardesty(Tenn.). I also think we have other needs for our 1st pick.
Thanks.

I think Safety is our biggest need right now since Ryan Clark isn't resigned yet and no talks have been made an indication sadly like Willie Parker that they will be gone.

If we don't get a safety in the first round i would welcome Morgan Burnett in...

Im still shocked that we ranked 28th in third down conversions not suprised though but shocked i thought we would be around 16.
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Old 03-04-2010, 10:44 AM   #4
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Default Re: Offseason Outlook:Pittsburgh Steelers

I just finished reading that on nfl.com. I'm not surprised at the 28th ranking on 3rd down. We couldn't stop anyone. That's why we've got to use either a 1st or 2nd round pick on a SS. I wouldn't mind seeing both a SS and a CB in the first 2 rounds. I liked the pick of Lewis in the 3rd last year but I really don't know what we've got since he didn't play much.
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Old 03-04-2010, 11:33 AM   #5
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Default Re: Offseason Outlook:Pittsburgh Steelers

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Originally Posted by mulldog24 View Post
Nice read Supa. On the draft outlook section I really hope we don't draft RB in the 1st. The draft is deep at that position and I think we can get a good one later on like Tate(Auburn) or Hardesty(Tenn.). I also think we have other needs for our 1st pick.
I beg the differ on that one...
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Old 03-04-2010, 12:28 PM   #6
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Default Re: Offseason Outlook:Pittsburgh Steelers

yea i would hate to draft a rb in the 1st. we need a defensive player or someone to block for our rb so we can actually run the ball
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Old 03-04-2010, 01:02 PM   #7
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yea i would hate to draft a rb in the 1st. we need a defensive player or someone to block for our rb so we can actually run the ball
Maybe Mendenhall can run behind a fullback for the first time
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Old 03-04-2010, 01:03 PM   #8
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Default Re: Offseason Outlook:Pittsburgh Steelers

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I beg the differ on that one...
The draft is deep for running backs... for power backs no but the draft is deep with good running backs
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