Holmes is gone. Whether we like it or not that is a major impact to our offense. Holmes was the defenses #1 concern, who gets that now? Wallace looked good, but can he step in and be a dynamic play-maker like his predecessor? I like Wallace a lot, think he's going to be great, but Holmes was his better, and at least equal for the next few years I'll wager at making big plays.
Wallace Ward and Randle-El are a 3-WR set. Ward gets the slot, that is his. That leaves Randle-El and Wallace. Randle-El might be able to replace Wallace's production, but he can't replace the threat to a defense that either Wallace or Holmes presented. If Wallace steps up his game to the level Holmes played at last year, we still have a drop-off. I don't think Wallace and El- can replace what we've lost, and that means our passing game is substantially weaker. Also consider Mr. Steeler (he can pass Shell for the most games played as a Steeler this season) has another year of age and wear on him. He was on and off last year, teams could shut him down if they geared the defense to do so, but with Holmes and Wallace they couldn't afford to. It hurts to say it, but I think this is the year Ward finally starts to show his age, but the lack of competition will probably mean he gets another consecutive year of the most catches by a Steeler (tied for it in 1999, and has led the team for the last ten seasons). Heath might beat him, but but only if there is a colossal drop off in our passing game.
That leads us to four possibilities.
1. Ward defies age, Wallace makes a colossal jump in production and Randle-El thrives back in Pittsburgh and our offense is as good as it was last year.
2. Our offense sucks.
3. We return to smash-mouth, win the game with our running game type of football.
Let's do this backwards.
4. Let's say Sweed comes of age, sorts out his demons and his hands stop fighting his talent. Where does he fit? Third behind Wallace? He would help in the three set, because he's a natural outside receiver with size and ability to get open. In fact if this happened we probably could be as good as last year. The question is whether it will happen. I'm a believer in Sweed, I think he needs to be thrown into the fire till it clicks or he melts down entirely. Sink or swim and be done with it. However, I'll give him a 38% chance to succeed, and I'm a Sweed brand Kool-aid supporter. What do you think his chances are?
3. I've been arguing we ran the ball well last year for a long time now, but we at no point based our strategy for winning around running the ball. We did with Bettis and the O-Line of doom. If we are to try to get back to that, we need a back and an O-Line and a mentality that fits that style of football. I'd say we might have one of those. Our O-Line is just not as elite as it was, and I don't think there is even a slim chance it will be this year, even if Tim Tebow switched to Center and dominated everyone our line wouldn't be as good, if everyone on the line played a career best season we wouldn't match our old line. Not going to happen, we had incredible run blocking lines for a good while, we don't now. The mentality isn't there either. Tomlin is going to be considered a great coach, but there are plenty of highly successful great coaches who don't instill the "just maul people" mentality Cowher did. A balanced approach is Tomlin's style, and his team is more about responsibility and working together than physically pounding the person in front of you. I know, I'm missing Cowher right now as I type this, violence is fun. However we have more trophies won with balanced or strong passing offenses than with running dominated offenses. (The vikings in '75 we dominated on the ground, that was the only SB we won with a consistently successful run game) To sum up, we aren't going back. If we are going to run more it'll be a balanced run and pass, and we will need the passing game to keep teams from stacking the box, we can't counter that with this line.
2. If Arians run a similar offense to last year, Randle-El does about what he should, Wallace develops but not hugely, Sweed doesn't figure it out and Teams are able to focus on Hines and limit his production expect even more sacks and picks this year. This offense could implode if Ben isn't playing well. We saw that last year. Let's hope this option doesn't happen.
1. Seriously, career type years for all our receivers is probably not going to happen. Ben is a much better QB than he was when El was last here, I could see His production going up. I can see Wallace improving to the 60 catch range, maybe 70 if he steps up big time. Heath and Hines will both suffer, I think Holmes and Wallace opened up a lot of room for them to work, and with Holmes gone only Sweed stepping up could offset that.
My prediction, a long disappointing year for the Steelers offense. The defense could bail us out though. Last years offense was much better than 08, if it drops back to that level but our defense returns to 08 levels, well that would be fine by me.
I'd rather not see an offensive player in the first round, the consistent themes of our SB teams is a sick defense, a clutch QB and a play making WR. I don't see us getting the third in this draft, let's make sure we keep our defense on the right path for the future.