Thursday, August 18, 2011

NFL 32 in 32: Pittsburgh Steelers

Just as there is a Madden Curse and an SI Jinx, there is a Super Bowl loser hangover. Teams usually do not do well after they lose the super bowl the season after. The Steelers haven't lost a Super Bowl since 1995, but now they must deal with the prospect of a super bowl hangover. But this is a tough team, and they will fight. Will they beat back the hangover, and defend their AFC title?

What's New: As with the Jets, there is not much new at all. The only additions of note are wideout Jerricho Cotchery from the Jets and Kevin Dockery from St. Louis. The other addition worth mentioning came in the draft with Cameron Heyward from Ohio State. Good teams do not need an amazing amount of change, but it would be good for this team considering the way that the Super Bowl went for them. The losses have mounted, mostly on the offensive line. They lost both Flozell Adams and Trai Essex to free agency, and their offensive line did not need the losses of two major cogs in that unit.

Biggest Strength: The offense is still going to be very good with Big Ben still throwing and taking more hits than almost any QB in the NFL, and Rashard Mendenhall is still running, and running well, along with Mewelde Moore. The receiving corps is still very good with Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, and the newcomer in Jerricho Cotchery, and don't forget about TE Heath Miller, who is still one of the better tight ends in football that very few people talk about. On defense, they still have a great front 3 with guys like NT Casey Hampton, DE's Brent Keisel and Ziggy Hood, plus the new guy in Heyward. And, they still have a very balanced linebacking group and secondary as well. They are the Steel Curtain after all.

Biggest Weakness: The offensive line had a ton of trouble in their first preseason game against Washington, and if that continues, then the Steelers offense will surely sputter. Ben Roethlisberger can take hits like very few QB's can, but if he is constantly under pressure and running around he can't get to making the throws that he wants to, and the offense will never get off to a good start in games. And, even though he is tough, he still may have trouble taking a constant barrage of hits. If this problem is not fixed, the Ravens may have their number early in the season, and the Steelers of course do not want to get behind the 8-ball early.

Outlook: Using the same principle as was used for the Jets, because the Steelers didn't change very much, they still will be one of the best teams in the AFC. The offensive line issues could become major problems if not tended to soon, but they still have the defense to beat anyone in the league, and an offense to keep up with as well. The Ravens will be a major challenge in the division, but the Steelers will still be around, despite the issues they may have. They will be good again, and still one of the AFC's best.

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