There were two main culprits for Pittsburgh's less-than-steller 2006 season: turnovers and a shoddy secondary. Many Steeler fans, myself included, believe a substantial percentage of those turnovers will be eliminated in 2007. Yes, Big Ben needs to play much better this coming year, but he also just needs to be healthy and have slightly better luck.
I'm more concerned about what we plan to do with our secondary, especially our cornerbacks. Rookie safety Anthony Smith showed lots of promise late in the season, and I hope Dick LeBeau utilizes him even more this year. Tyrone Carter is a free agent this year. I don't think Carter is great, but I do think we could resign him for cheap. He's not young anymore, and isn't going to command too much money on the open market. I'd prefer to see us cut or trade Ryan Clark, and resign Carter (assuming we could get him very cheap). We would have to swallow the $400,000+ dollars we owe Clark in prorated signing bonus money for 2007, and almost twice that amount in 2008, but he's also scheduled to earn $1.5 million in salary (more than Polamalu). I'd rather roll the dice with Anthony Smith and use that extra $1 million or so to get some reinforcements on the offensive line.
As for the cornerbacks. Ike Taylor, who was benched in the middle of the year by Coach Cowher, is excited to work with new head coach Mike Tomlin :
He better, because he's far too expensive to be underperforming, as Taylor will cost the Steelers nearly $5 million in cap space in 2007.
I do have reservations about Ike, but I'm more concerned about his running mate on the other side of the field, either Deshea Townsend, Bryant McFadden, or Ricardo Colcloguh. Most of us have tried to erase the name Colclough from our collective memories, but he's healthy again and expected to play in 2007. Colclough's not much of a man-to-man cover guy, but he actually earns his bread in zone coverage. An improved and healthy Colclough will be welcomed in nickel and dime packages next year.
Townsend and McFadden scare me in single coverage though. Bigtime. Both got burned on numerous occasions last year, and both also struggled in the short-to-medium range passing game as well. In my opinion, they're just not that good. McFadden is dirt cheap though, counting only $704,750 against the cap this year. Townsend on the other hand, is older and more expensive. He'll count nearly $2 million against the cap in 2007. Most of that $2 million is salary, not guaranteed prorated signing bonus money, so there's a possibility (albeit small) we cut Deshea.
What do you think we should do with the secondary this offseason and during the draft, if anything at all?