I know the phrase "every team is a super bowl contender in august" is known for a reason, but this offseason -- despite certain aspects -- has made a great number of Steeler Nation very optimistic about the 2010 season. And don't get me wrong, this isn't the Redman fever, these people have good reason to believe the 2010 Steelers will have a legit shot at their 7th Lombardi. At the same time, there are always reasons to be hesitant and temper expectations, given the nature of the euphoric high that's created by seeing players in shorts. I want to see if it's possible to get a rational look at how the Steelers will actually do in 2010.I'll start with the reasons that the Steelers might end up being a 9-7 or worse team again, because they seem pretty evident. The causes for a disappointment in 2010, as the media has reminded us so willingly, include but are not limited to: Ben being a distraction and missing up to 6 games, shipping of a trouble slash play making wide receiver for a little more than trash, and the rising star of the o line of misfit toys getting injured before the season even starts. These are all extremely valid reasons for dismissing the Steelers in 2010, and I don't think anyone would blame you for doing so. If the Steelers even finish 1-3 while Ben is gone, he is going to have to absolutely set the league on fire for us to compete for any serious play off position. Odds are our best bet is the wild card and even then the AFC competition this year looks to be the best it's ever been. My prediction is the AFC wild cards this year both have 10-6 or better records. You're looking at the Ravens/Bengals fighting for one wildcard/division for sure, and you're also looking at a nasty fight in the East and South. There will be wildcard contenders a plenty this year and a good team will stay home. We need at least a 2-2 or 3-1 record for Ben, or Ben will have to make history, which he has been known to do.
Shipping Santonio was almost as polarizing as Ben's incident. There are very hardcore pro-move and those very hardcore against the trade. He is offensive yardage we will not have this year. And most importantly to most fans I think, he is not grabbing attention of number one corners to let Hines and Wallace really shine. You can argue with this point, but I think it's a completely valid reason why we won't be as good. Losing Colon was just the cherry on top. The o-line appears to have finally found a building block or two with Kemo and Colon, and was building with Pouncey when Colon went down. It essentially sets us back to a O-line with little to no expectations of greatness.
Now... to the counter points and other reasons to be optimistic.
- Troy is back and Aaron is back. This alone will be a huge difference in talent.
- Cornerback in one offseason has gone from lacking true depth to seemingly having it all figured out. We go from an aging deshea, an off year ike, and a not ready yet willie to keenan lewis challenging a resigned mcfadden for number two and william gay back in his star role -- the nickel. add into that a promising rookie with nothing but potential in crezdon butler and you can't help but think we have some serious depth there.
Flozell Adams could be a blessing in disguise. A lot of people didn't like it when he was brought in, but the more I think about it, the more I think it was a genius move. I almost like him at RT as much as Colon, and I'm hoping Pouncey and Foster can really step up for us.
- Timmons might be getting time at a position that would more appropriately use his talents. I think that's nuff said. How can you not like someone that is pure athletic potential at a position that might unleash it on everybody.
- Sanders and Brown are doing their thing at training camp thus far. Add in the impressive performance of Redman in a few drills and we're looking to add some more young depth on the offense. Sanders might be leaving you saying "Santonio who?" and I really like the move of seeing 88 in Pittsburgh again.
- It seems that when Ben is doubted, Ben does his best. He is looking in the best shape of his career in Latrobe this year. I don't know why exactly, but I feel like he comes back on a tear and puts up huge numbers. My prediction for him is he gets 3500 yards in 12 games.
- This point is entirely training camp hysteria, but I like the way Logan and other quick receivers have been getting worked into the passing game. If Redman makes the team, we will also have a very strong presence in the running game in short yardage. No more memo sweeps pleaseeee :(
After thinking about it and weighing the sides, I believe that the Steelers will make the playoffs and contend for their Seventh Title. It seems that the front office has done their job again and has the perfect mix of talented youth and veteran experience. When our team is classified as aging and losing their touch, we are unexpectedly knee deep in young talent. At the moment most of it is untested but I think we're going to hit with most of these players. Between Keenan Lewis, Foster, Burnett, Pouncey, William Gay, Sanders, Brown, Redman, Spindenhall, the Steelers have more young talent than they seem to know what to do with. How our young talent performs and how our coach adjusts to the changing forecast of the season will determine if we seriously contend for a title in 2010. If our coach and young players can mature to their potential in 2010, a title is definitely in reach, despite the adversity faced this past offseason, and the loss of two of our best players on offense as well as the QB for at least 4 games.