During a late night Pittsburgh Steelers news run, I came across a neat little article from USA Today‘s The Huddle, asking five questions about our beloved Steelers, and subsequently answering them. What the point is of asking questions you can answer yourself is, I’m still not quite sure, but at any rate, it was well written and I’d like to try my hand at answering them.
1. Are the Steelers better equipped than most teams to handle the lockout and get up to speed whenever it ends?
This is sort of a loaded question, because there isn’t a real legitimate answer to it. The Steelers ARE better prepared than say the Carolina Panthers, or most teams picking in the top of the first round, simply because they aren’t depending on bringing in rookies to make an impact.
Couple that with the fact that they have a very stable coaching staff and front office, with the only new hire being defensive backs coach Carnell Lake, who already knows the system well, having played in it for years upon years, so they’re definitely better prepared than teams wanting to implement new systems with new coaches.
On the flip side, they’re in the same boat as the back half of the first round, not being able to pursue free agents, or sign their own departing players is going to hurt them just as much as most teams, if not more, especially with Ike Taylor not under contract.
2. Can Pittsburgh’s aging line continue to anchor the team’s 3-4 defense?
I believe so, this is a line that’s built pretty perfectly from the ground up. It’s true that all three starters are closer to the ends of their careers than the starts, but at the same time, the Steelers are a team that seems to always get the most out of it’s veterans and older players.
Even with the age ‘concerns’ along the line, one has to remember that the Steelers defensive line is also built on a rotational basis, as any good 3-4 defensive line should be. The starters will get their breathers like they need, while allowing the younger players to get a feel for the game and hone their skills for when it’s time to take over for good.
3. What’s the biggest question mark on defense?
Anyone that’s not telling you that it’s Ike Taylor and the secondary in general is simply put: insane. Taylor is a pivotal part of this Steelers defense, and without him, it declines fast. While Taylor doesn’t get the recognition that he deserves because of his inability to create turnovers, he’s the closest thing Pittsburgh has to a shut down corner.
Add to his talent level and personality the fact that the Steelers have no clear cut starter other than him. Bryant McFadden and William Gay both saw their share of abuse at the hands of opposing quarterbacks last season, and the corners sitting behind them either have no no experience or are primarily special teams players.
4. What about Roethlisberger’s supporting cast?
This more than likely won’t be a concern. Not only did the Steelers get a great boost from two rookie wide receivers, they also saw what will hopefully be the first of many 1,000 yard receiving seasons for speedster Mike Wallace and watched Rashard Mendenhall take some time off from Twitter to rush for over 1,000 yards for the second consecutive year.
As far as the offensive line is concerned, Roethlisberger has proven that he can make mountains out of mole hills up front, being effective behind even a porous offensive line. But, that being said, with the return of Max Starks, Willie Colon, and Flozell Adams, plus the drafting of Marcus Gilbert the Steelers should be able to improve along the offensive line for the second straight year.
5. With Roethlisberger in his prime, do the Steelers say committed to running the ball?
Here is a topic that has Steeler Nation divided at it’s very core. The Steelers have always been known as a power running team that wants to run, run, and run some more. But, the NFL has evolved by rule changes and athletic ability to the point where the running game isn’t as effective as the passing game for the most part.
While I’m a proponent of a balanced offensive attack, Roethlisberger has shown that he can excel when he has total control of the offense, and certainly can put up the big numbers – numbers that can be compared to both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, he proved that by throwing for over 500 yards against the Green Bay Packers, and to put an emphatic exclamation point at the end, finished the game by throwing a perfect pass to Wallace that had fans remembering a certain Super Bowl XLIII catch.
To answer the question outright though, I see the Steelers maintaining the same approach they’ve had over the past years, which ultimately depends on who’s hot and who’s not at that point in the game.