Evening BTSCers. Finally sweet baby jesus has graced us with summer and therefore we passed the Football Solstice and are getting close to the NFL Pre-season (I'll take it). Training camp is about to start.
It's a really critical time for the Pittsburgh Steelers. We have to evaluate talent. That's an important issue at the RB position this year. Perhaps Mendenhall makes a quick recovery, but I'm not holding my breath for anything before week 6. We have a lot of guys waiting for a shot at a starting job, but for now we have our starter penned in. Of course, the running game has been diminished somewhat, making this area less important than in the past. I think Redman in his infinite wisdom will probably do fine.
The O line is radically different. But chock full of high level draft picks that should have a Hall of Famer or two. They'll need to be tested and Legursky's seat is definitely on a chopping block. Colon hasn't done anything meaningful since I lost my virginity. Still I have a feeling he'll be ok this year and Leg's play will be improved by his superior surrounding talent. Leg's seems like a guy that can play well if he's not under too much pressure.
The Wide outs have lost their icon for the last decade and then some. Wallace isn't under contract yet. Brown looks good but hasn't had to handle a full workload yet. Sanders seems somewhat injury prone. And again I have a really positive outlook here. These doubts seem relatively insignificant to me, Wallace won't sit out all year, he'd be a fool to do so. Brown I think will be good and have no problem, I couldn't be higher on him than if I stuffed him into my bong. And Sanders played really well 2 years ago but last year he couldn't stay healthy. Behind the Gay Versace Trio or whatever they call themselves these days there's a vet with a fully developed brain in Cotchery, who I think fills in that leadership role that Ward left behind quite well though it won't be quite as good.
The TE position is stacked and I expect Pope Leonard I to be pretty good in reserve.
That leaves us with one man, and that's the person I think could make or break this season in a big way.
Ben Roethlisberger holds this season in the palm of his hand. He has all the tools necessary to have a good offense now. There are playmakers all over the field, a good enough run game, and finally for the first time in 6 years a good O-line.
This season will depend on how well our players adapt to the new Haley offense. If we continue to sputter, I don't think our defense will be quite as tight as it has been in years past. The defense has been exposed by certain schemes, and the age of our players was becoming a liability. There's little depth behind the starters and a couple injuries will cause it to decline. Our D has always been at its best when the offense controls the clock. We scored way too quickly last year, or we didn't score at all. And our D was gassed most of the time and worn out. We need our offense to control the game and set the tempo. If we do that we can mask deficiencies with rested play. Our D will develop and play well. The O needs to take the lead for a year.
I'm confident Haley will put our guys to good use, his track record is very solid on O. May not be a great HC but he's got a keen eye for offense and managed to scramble the KC Chiefs into a decent squad.
So it all comes down to that in my opinion. Can our offense step up this year? If it's going to, the players have to really focus on the playbook this offseason. We need to be on the same page as soon as possible.
I feel like age is an important area to consider here. I feel like younger players learn new systems easier, I base that mostly on the fact that they didn't have a strongly rooted program. Nothing had been fully installed to the hard drive yet.
Surprise surprise, our quarterback is the oldest guy on offense now. Folks like Adams (even in his one year), Faneca, Bettis, and of course Ward were all mature leaders of the offense and folks that others wanted to play for. Well now that Ben is the old guy, he has to be that one that other guys want to play for. Everyone wanted Bettis to get a ring. Everybody wanted Flozell to get a ring, everybody loved Ward like a brother, and Faneca's loss was felt all over. And of course even the offensive players wanted to play their hearts out for Aaron Smith and Farrior.
Can Ben be that new father figure leader that others can trust and care about? You notice in that list of names I mentioend, a lot of those guys overlapped. The love was spread out all over, so even if a couple of people didn't get along quite right sometimes (Ben and Ward comes to mind) the team still worked. It explains the success of the strange Bradshaw. Having numerous kind noble leaders around can sometimes overcome the lack of one under center.
Well there's something sobering to think about. Ben is now the only long term veteran on the offense, and really one of the last on the team. And there aren't many other people that can step up into these leadership roles so easily. Let's just have a look at the starters on offense:
Ben's 30 years old
Mike Wallace and Manny Sanders are 25.
Willie Colon is 29.
Antonio Brown will be 24 in a few weeks.
Mendenhall will be 25 in 2 weeks.
Redman is eternal, but has spent 27 years on earth in his current form.
Heath Miller and Cotchery are 29.
Decastro, Pouncey, and Adams are 22 (Adams was born in 90!), Gilbert is 24, and Legs is 25.
Let that soak in for a second, 8 of 11 starters (counting Mendenhall for now) are 25 or under. That just leaves TE Miller, Colon, and Ben. But look at Colon and remember he hasn't done anything in 2 years, so take his place with a grain of salt.
Can Miller become more of a leader this year? He's always seemed to be a somber quiet man that keeps to himself more than others. At least that's the impression I've always gotten. I'd like to see him step up a bit this year and let people know he's there. Hopefully without Arians ruining him that'll happen.
Ben's the oldest guy on offense, and basically it's not even close, there aren't any bonafide leaders ready to show up. Out of the young guys, it's hard to get one of these leaders because of their general lack of maturity and overenthusiasm. You need a level head and a low ego to be a good leader. Ben has got to step up big this year. He needs to be a straight A student with Haley this year. Sometimes I've questioned Ben's ability to adapt and learn new things. I mean he's only just recently discovered that throwing the ball away is a legally sanctioned way to avoid sacks and disembowelment. He seems to thrive when there is NO system. Ben's no huddle's always worked pretty well when he's running the show. Scrambling has always been Ben's best weapon, breaking down the offense and the defense with it. Most of all our highlight plays these last few years have been crazy plays that nobody else could make happen. But then again, maybe other guys just don't have to.
Ben could very well have some trouble digesting a new offense. He's already said to the press it's 90% different, and called it a Rosetta Stone a few times. Maybe that's his attempt at humor, but still I wonder if he's not telling us a little bit of truth there. If he was getting it fast he'd tell us it was easy and quick to figure out. We all know Ben's one to milk a situation a little bit, so one should put a few grains of salt on those statements, but I'm a little bit worried about how well Ben will get the grasp of the new game. Hopefully the young guys will adapt quickly, and together, making it easier for The Ben.
The young guys will develop in this system really well because the core of the team is set for another 6 years at least barring an exit in FA. However their development is directly related to the QB's performance. But they need more than a good QB to play well. He needs to be the father to these children, the player that they want to please and don't want to disappoint. They need that trust and confidence.
If Ben processes the new offense well and leads our players to a great season, I don't think anybody could stop us for a minute. He needs to be the glue to hold the rest of the parts together. If he plays well the other's won't have to overthink and overcompensate. They can grow up naturally in a new system and focus on just executing.
The question is: Can he do that, and will he?