While spending a considerable amount of my recent time on Baltimore Beatdown I was challenged by Malor, who else, to explain how the Steelers have gotten better this off season. If you look at the power rankings, not that they mean much but they do give an idea of how the team is viewed by the media, you'll see that no one expects much of Pittsburgh this year. We've lost our #1 WR, our QB is suspended, and the Ravens and Bengals both have gotten better in the off season. We've picked up a bunch of old players that shows a sign of desperation.
Perception may be reality to some but reality is rarely perception. So I thought about it, how will we replaced Holmes of 2009. I was worried myself because of the uncertainty of how Mike Wallace will produce in a more visible role of the offense. The answer is that we really don't need to replace Holmes of 2009. We won the 2008 Super Bowl based on defense and clutch plays by our QB. There weren't a lot of offensive production that year. I think people are looking at 2009 as a benchmark of how the Steelers play. That would be a mistake. The 2009 season was an aberration, not just wins and losses but how the team played. The team's identity was blurred in the sand at high tide. Last year's team consisted of a defense that gave up 4th quarter leads, a special teams unit that gave up TDs, and a offense that broke records. Is this the Steelers we know and love? No. So it is faulty logic to say that the Steelers of 2010 are the same Steelers of 2009 without their QB for four games (since we saw that they lost without him last year that means they will go 0-4) and their #1 receiver. Which would lead to less offensive production and a team that will struggle to reach 8-8.
What Malor and ESPN
douchebags analyst don't understand is that the 2010 Steelers will not be based off the 2009 Steelers. We don't need Wallace to put up 1200 yards receiving like Holmes did last year. We didn't win the Super Bowl that way anyways. So what did Holmes do the year we went to the Super Bowl? 821 yards and 5 TDs. That is only 65 more yards and one less TD than Wallace had this year. That is doable. The ultimate goal is to win the Super Bowl not break passing records. As already stated in the Optimism and 2009 Season Highlights post, Wallace has proven that he is clutch. Antwaan Randle-El will have to pick up the production that Wallace leaves at the 3rd receiver position which I can't imagine him not being able to get at least 500 yards this season or more, he isn't that old. Ward just need to be his old self. And Miller will see increased production and we have better options of RBs catching the ball out of the backfield. When you look at it, no our WR corps wouldn't be as good as it would have been with Holmes. But they will be good enough without him. Also we'll be a more cohesive team, no team needs WR's butting heads with the coach and addicted to weed so bad that he can't stop doing it even when it cost him money and is so rebellious that he has to tweet about it.
The return of the running game. Another stark difference that will be apparent in the Steelers of 2010 from the Steelers of 2009 is the improved running game. This starts with an improved line. Right now Pouncey, Foster and Essex are battling it out for the RG position. I'm confident that whoever wins that position, most likely Pouncey or Foster, will be improved over Essex last year. There isn't much hope for Hartwig to improve. Once pouncey learns how to read defenses and knows the blocking scheme he will move to the C position and Essex, Urbik, and Foster will battle for the RG position. Throw in the fact that we'll have a better line coach this year who should be able to maximize the talent that we do have. Mendenhall will build on his first 1,000 yard rushing year as he learns to be a better back. This will take the stress of the passing game and the defense. A better running game allows you to run the clock of more effectively. Which will lead to less late game come backs.
The return of Troy P. and Aaron Smith. We're spoiled. We really are. It is a blessing to be able to watch Troy P. play football 16 games at year. The guy is so dominant it makes you wonder how can anyone think another Safety in this league is even in his category. The addition to these guys plus the maturation of Ziggy Hood will breathe life into our defense. For those worrying about the corner back situation, fret not. Bryant McFadden hasn't been giving the #2 CB job, he has to fight it from Keenen Lewis. Thats right. The forgotten draft pick of 2009. If Keenen Lewis is good enough to earn the #2 CB that would mean we are in great shape against other teams WRs. Our CBs will be Taylor, Lewis, McFadden, Gay, Burnett, in that order. It is safe to say we have adequate talent to line up against the AFC North's receiving cores. We'll basically have a #1 CB, 2 #2 CBs, and 2 #3 CBs.
With plenty of depth at the LB position now, we will win in 2010 on our defense and a steady offense. An offense that can pass or run at the same level of effectiveness. Throw in an increased focus on special teams, the 2010 Steelers goals are still the same, win the division, win the super bowl. This isn't being a homer, this is understanding the team and their strengths and weaknesses. In 2008 we were the #2 run defense and the #1 pass defense. That is what we will return to. We don't have to be a top 5 offense to win the Super Bowl but we will be a top 3 defense.