Friday, August 7, 2009
2009 NFL PREVIEW- Pittsburgh Steelers
2008 RECORD: 12-4
(1st in AFC North)
HEAD COACH: Mike Tomlin
Key Additions: CB Keiwan Ratliff (FA/Colts) WR Shaun McDonald (FA/Lions)
Key Losses: CB Bryant McFadden (FA/Cardinals) S Anthony Smith (FA/Packers) QB Byron Leftwich (FA/Buccaneers) WR Nate Washington (FA/Titans) LB Larry Foote (FA/Lions) RB Gary Russell (FA/Raiders)
Offense: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is back again to lead the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers after throwing for 3,301 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2008. Charlie Batch is the backup.
Running backs include Willie Parker (798 yards rushing in '08 with five TDs), Mewelde Moore, who filled in admirably in Parker's absence due to injuries last season. Moore had 588 yards rushing and five TDs as well.
Carey Davis will play fullback and Rashard Mendenhall is ready to step in get his carries after watching Parker and Moore share the duties a year ago.
At Wide Receiver, Hines Ward returns after leading Pittsburgh with 81 catches for 1,043 yards and seven touchdowns in 2008. Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes is the other wideout and he caught 55 passes for 821 yards and five touchdowns.
Heath Miller (48 catches for 514 yards, three TDs) will be the Tight End. The backup receivers are Matt Spaeth, Limas Sweed, Shaun McDonald and Mike Wallace.
The offensive line is intact with center Justin Hartwig, guards Chris Kemoeatu and Darnell Stapleton and tackles Willie Colon and Max Starks manning the trenches.
Defense: This is the definite strength of the team.
Pittsburgh's defense in 2008 was reminiscent of a bygone era...THE STEEL CURTAIN defense of the 1970's.
Pittsburgh's defense sacked opposing quarterbacks 51 times while intercepting 20 passes and it ranked number one overall in yards allowed per game, yards passing allowed per game and points allowed for the season.
They nearly swept the board, only missing because they allowed 80 yards rushing per game, which was second in the NFL.
The front line has Casey Hampton at nose tackle along with ends Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel.
The linebacking unit in the Steelers' 3-4 defense features James Farrior and Lawrence Timmons on the inside along with outside backers LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison, who led the team with 16 sacks in 2008. Woodley contributed 11.5 sacks.
The secondary is the best in football as evidenced by their stellar play last year. These guys held opposing air attacks in check by allowing just 157 yards a game. Wow!
Troy Polamalu is the strong safety and the free safety is Ryan Clark. The cornerbacks will be William Gay and Ike Taylor. Polamalu had seven interceptions last season to rank among the league leaders.
Deshea Townsend, Keiwan Ratliff, Tyrone Carter (three picks in '08) and Ryan Mundy are available to help out in the secondary.
OUTLOOK: The Steelers will have an excellent chance to repeat as Super Bowl champions IF they stay healthy.
The injury bug always seems to bite the defending championship teams in the NFL and the Steelers know they will also have a big target on their collective backs in 2009.
The schedule they played last year was by far the toughest in the league and they went 12-4 and won the Super Bowl.
This time around, the schedule is easier (on paper) than last year but the Steelers know they cannot just show up to the field and expect opponents to lay down. Head Coach Mike Tomlin is an intense competitor who will have his troops ready to go each week.
Believe it or not, the defense can be better than last year as Pittsburgh did have some weeks where they were without defensive starters.
That could be a scary thought for the rest of the league.
The offense has to play better than it did in 2008 when the Steelers ran for just 106 yards per game and allowed 49 sacks.
If Roethlisberger is focused again and Hines Ward (entering his 12th season) can remain his usual relaible self, Pittsburgh's air attack will continue to hum along.
All in all, the Steelers should win the AFC North again, going 12-4 once again. They will go as far as their defense will carry them in the post-season, which could be another Super Bowl title.
Week 1- vs. Tennessee (Sept. 10)
Week 2- at Chicago (Sept. 20)
Week 3- at Cincinnati (Sept. 27)
Week 4- vs. San Diego (Oct. 4)
Week 5- at Detroit (Oct. 11)
Week 6- vs. Cleveland (Oct. 18)
Week 7- vs. Minnesota (Oct. 25)
Week 8- BYE WEEK
Week 9- at Denver (Nov. 9)
Week 10- vs. Cincinnati (Nov. 15)
Week 11- at Kansas City (Nov. 22)
Week 12- at Baltimore (Nov. 29)
Week 13- vs. Oakland (Dec. 6)
Week 14- at Cleveland (Dec. 10)
Week 15- vs. Green Bay (Dec. 20)
Week 16- vs. Baltimore (Dec. 27)
Week 17- at Miami (Jan. 3)