Here is a six-pack of thoughts and observations to chew on while we sit in the middle of the preseason...
1) Tomlin needs to tighten the dial a bit on defense. His philosophy seems to be avoid the big play at all costs. Keep the play in front of you and make the tackle. This is evident by his benching of players when they do give up the big play plus the Steelers alarmingly low number of interceptions (11) last year and thus far in preseason. Teams caught on to Tomlin's tendencies by mid-season last year and seemed to chip us down the field at will. Same thing with the two preseason games thus far. Chip, chip, chip. There is a fine line. Play too tight and get burnt, play too loose and get bled. Tomlin needs to tighten up a bit and pay a little more home run risk for the gain of being able to stop people before they make yardage all the time.
2) Timmons will be a starter by September. He needs to be on the field as much as possible. Sub packages are great, but I want him there on first down. I'd trade his play on special teams for his play on first downs.
3) Santonio will be among the top five fantasy receivers this year. He's smarter, still on the upside and playing with a quarterback who is on the upside. Plus defenses must stay honest with him since Hines and Heath and Nate and maybe Sweed will make them be honest.
4) Ben will not be sacked more than 32 times, a reduction of one-third from previous years. He'll throw a few more away and check down a few more on blitzes. Plus, the O-line will play better this year (they can't get much worse). Kemo will have a better 2008 than Faneca had in 2007. Colon will be improved and the center position will be improved.
5) Special teams coverage will be much improved (again, can't get much worse). The McKelvin thing can't trump the excellent coverage we've been getting. Most of the people on the McKelvin play won't be on the team it happened so late.
6) The D-Line will not be as good as people hope. Casey Hampton will learn the hard way that a 31-year old body at 350 pounds cannot turn it on and off as he thinks. The backers will have to make up for that. I'm afraid there will be times when I actually want Hoke in the game.