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The Pittsburgh Steelers 2010 Forecast

The Dec. 10th loss last year to the Cleveland Browns was one of the all-time low points for me personally as a Steeler fan. I still have nightmares about it (alright, maybe not but I might as well). That game summed up the season from hell that was the 2009 campaign. Will 2010 end up being a repeat of that season or will it end up being more like 2008 when the Steelers won the Super Bowl?

Offensively, this team should be able to move the ball with some regularity. The problems with this unit have been scoring TD’s in the redzone, the inability to gain first downs on the ground in short-yardage situations and O-line woes. Will these problems be fixed this year? Hard to say based on preseason action. With Maurkice Pouncey starting at center, there should be some improvement in the short yardage situations and with the overall O-line woes. The rest of the O-line remains mostly intact from last year, which might not be a good thing. FA signing Flozell Adams should do a decent job in the run game, but looks like he could be a liability in pass protection. The Steelers might have more depth and talent in the backfield now than they have in a long time. Rashard Mendenhall should be a force back there, Isaac Redman looks like the real deal, Mewelde Moore adds real nice depth and good hands in passing situations. And then there is Jonathan Dwyer. The Steelers may have gotten a steal by drafting him in the 6th round this year. Dwyer had a great college career, running against tough SEC defenses and putting up big numbers. The wide receiving corps this year should be productive but may not wow anyone. Wallace is the only legitimate threat downfield, Hines Ward should still be reliable picking up the short yardage, as should Antwaan Randel El. It’ll be interesting to see how much time and how productive the two rookie receivers will be, Antonio Brown and Emmanuelle Sanders. Heath Miller should have another productive season.

Offensive Question Marks –

– Will the O-line see that much improvement with Pouncey at center?

– Will RG Trai Essex and RT Flozell Adams keep their jobs as the season progresses?

– Is Dennis Dixon a legitimate NFL QB? We’ll find out the answer to that pretty soon.

– How improved will the running game really be?

– Will Bruce Arians improve as a playcaller?

– Will Mike Wallace struggle going up against starting CB’s?

Defensively, it’s a safe bet that this unit will finish in the top 10 in total defense yet again. But is that really an accurate picture of how effective this defense will be? Last year the Steelers finished with the 5th ranked defense but routinely gave up leads in the 4th quarter, allowed way too many 3rd and long conversions and made B-level QB’s look like the next coming of Joe Montana. That is obviously a big concern. The defense should be hard to run against once again, but with the NFL turning rapidly into a pass-happy league, the Steelers secondary play will have to improve from last season. The starting D-linemen (Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, Brett Kiesel) all looked good in preseason. Ziggy Hood will be given playing time, he has to make the most of it. When asked to do anything but help in run support, James Farrior has become a liability. James Harrison and Lamar Woodley should both have strong seasons, although Harrison is getting up in age and Woodley has shown a penchant for disappearing for stretches at a time. Lawrence Timmons could have a break out season. Keyaron Fox provides great depth and has made a strong case for himself to be a starter alongside Timmons. Larry Foote was re-signed for depth. Rookie Stevenson Sylvester was extremely impressive in preseason and may get some playing time this year. In the secondary, Ike Taylor should be solid once again. Bryant McFadden returns as the opposite starting CB. William Gay, Keenan Lewis and impressive rookie Crezdon Butler provide nice depth. Troy is Troy and hopefully he stays healthy because he’s obviously the glue that holds the secondary together. FA signing Will Allen showed off some really nice athleticism at the FS spot in preseason that hasn’t been seen at that position in Pittsburgh in a long time.

Defensive Question Marks –

– Will the aging D-line stay relatively healthy this year?

– Can Troy stay healthy?

– Who, if any, of the rookie LB’s contributes this year?

– Is Ziggy Hood a bust?

– Does James Farrior’s play continue to decline?

– Can this defense stop an offense on 3rd and long?

– Will Bryant McFadden be the player that was seen in 2008 or 2009?

The special teams can be summed up like this – Jeff Reed is normally automatic in the FG kicking department. He’s bad with kickoffs. Punter Dan Sepulveda was given kickoff duties in preseason with mixed results. Reed is the kickoff kicker as of right now. The coverage teams have struggled, even with a new special teams coach this year the coverage teams continued to struggle at times but has looked improved, if at least marginally. Return specialist Stefan Logan was released in favor of coverage specialist Anthony Madison in all likelihood. Good move? The Steelers have no one to replace Logan as of right now. Time will tell. The special teams are a mixed bag from the looks of things headed into the 2010 season.

Honestly, the biggest concern this team has is the coaching staff. Some may strongly disagree with that assessment but keep this in mind – when a team routinely makes the same mistakes, miscues and gaffes as the Steelers did last year, that is ultimately a reflection of the coaching staff. The special teams struggled routinely last year and showed some troubling signs in preseason this year. The defense routinely gave up 3rd and long conversions with CB’s playing 10 yards off the line of scrimmage last season. Dick Lebeau is a legendary coach but some of his pass defense schemes seem to be outdated in today’s pass happy NFL. The cornerbacks displayed bad technique and lack of focus routinely last year. Bruce Arians came up with some great gameplans last season but struggled time and again in the playcalling department, especially in the redzone. His predictability with certain formations is second to none in the NFL. Did Mike Tomlin lose control of his team at times last season? It certainly seemed like it. His performance last season as head coach was riddled with bad decisions (or no decisions). Needed personnel moves were made too late or not at all. We can just hope that the coaches improve their performances just like certain players will need to.

Prediction – Everyone is writing off the Steelers chances this year (except for, strangely, Peter King!). This team is still loaded with talent. The coaches can and hopefully will do a better job. Ben’s suspension may be the reason this team doesn’t make the playoffs. I believe by the time Ben gets back from suspension we will have a good idea whether the Steelers make the playoffs or not. I believe they will but it won’t be easy (is it ever with this team?). Get ready for a wild ride, Steeler fans. There should be a number of close games, luck will hopefully be on the Steelers side at least some of the time because it sure wasn’t last year. The Ravens and Bengals games will be HUGE obviously. Both teams will be in the running for division title. In the end….

10-6

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