This time of the year unless your team experience a major injury, and in some cases if your team experience a major injury, every fan around the NFL is filled with hope of what the next season could bring. If you are a Ravens fan then Flacco is going to finally win a Super Bowl, if you are a Browns fan then this is the year you won't be last in the division, if you are the Jets then this is the year Tebow takes you to the - church (I couldn't resist).
But as every season brings there are still holes in every team. We can't see them now but they will arise. The following are potential issues that I could see with the Steelers this upcoming season, they are things that I worry about, keep me up at night. They are listed in order from the most worried to the least worried about. You can comment on my list and give your own below!
1. The trap boys on the corner
The potential with the corners are immense. But at the same time when you have young players you have mistakes that can be made and some players don't turn out the way you thought they would. Remember William Gay, he started his career with great promise, filling in for Bryant McFadden and having two interceptions. The following year McFadden left for Steelers West and Gay assumed his role and it turned out to be one of the worst season from a corner I've seen. Then he moved back to the nickel and turned things around and had pretty decent years. Just goes to say you never know what can happen with young guys especially corners. Remember Joe Burnett? I don't even know where he plays right now but its not for the steelers, the same with Crezdon Butler. We all hope Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown and Keenen Lewis can get the job done but these guys are not proven yet. Lewis moreso than the others but I'm just not comfortable with him yet. In a passing league you need four good corners on the roster, we have 1 good corner and 3 unproven ones. Hopefully by year's end we'll have 4 good ones. We also need to prepare for the time when Ike won't be on the roster anymore.
2. The nose of the defense
Casey Hampton is getting old and most likely won't be playing until Week 7 this year. Reports out of OTA are that mendenhall looked good recovering from his injury and there was no comment of hampton which probably means that he is on schedule. So we have McLendon who is now up to 325 from his 285 playing weight of last year and draft pick Alameada Ta'amu. I think there is a lot of talent here and we have our two nose tackles of the future but I just haven't seen them full time yet. Also if the coaching staff knew that McLendon was starting material why go out and draft what many thought was the best NT in the draft before Poe blew up. Poe has a lot of potential but Ta'amu tape is much better than Poe's tape. But until Ta'amu is ready we will depend on McLendon who I thought played ok but I just don't know how he'd for for an entire game. We need the NT to take up two guys, its where this defense starts and everyone can do their job from there. If the NT is getting pushed back it puts more strain on the DEs and the LBs and we don't need that.
3. Replacing a (F) Warrior
At this point in his career I don't think Foote is any better at coverage than Farrior was last year. So I think he will give us the same issue in the passing game that Farrior did. Thankfully that was worked around as having Troy act as the 2nd inside linebacker on passing downs. This is why I believe spence was taken. But I doubt he'll be ready this season for the job. If we can keep troy ball hawking and not playing ILB we may be able to extend his career a bit. So that leaves us Sylvester Stevenson or Stevenson Sylvester, it really sucks when there are two first names. He played so tentative against the patriots last year that he was pulled and was never heard from again. Many of us liked his potential before that game, if the coaches can build his confidence and he can be ready to fill in this year he may do well for us but I also have flash backs of that patriot game where it looked like he was scared to hit anyone. If that happens again, he won't be on the roster very long.
4. Left Behind
There are few positions more important than the left tackle position. We all saw what can happen if the wrong guy is placed there - Jon Scott almost single handedly placed his name along side of Neil as a name that will be live in infamy with steelers fans, he was that bad. We will have a new left tackle this year either in Mike Adams a rookie or Marcus Gilbert a second year player. I'm not too worried as I feel that both of these guys can man the position better than last year's opening day starter and I'm really hoping its Mike Adams who can do it. But something always goes wrong with our offensive line and until things stop going wrong I'm going to expect something to go wrong here.
5. Worlids apart
We are going to need to replace James Harrison, sooner rather than later. I would like to think his replacement is already on the roster so we can spend draft picks elsewhere. But can Jason Worlids hold the point and defend the run game adequate enough to make the coaches feel good about keeping him. He was a second round pick so he has been given some rope here but this year its time to see some flashes of potential from him. We all know he is a great speed rusher but in order to be a serious threat in the NFL you need to be extremely excellent in skinning a cat or have more than one ways to skin a cat. That means I want to see Worlids improve his bull rush, his run defense, and his pass coverage. If he shows those things then I feel find with him replacing Harrison in a year or two, whenever harrison starts to slow down. If not then we'll be spending a high round pick next year on OLB most likely.
I think the schedule lines up nicely for us. There are tough games as they are most years but I think the Steelers will be up for the challenge. What do you think?