Pittsburgh Steelers Offseason Preview
Head Coach: Mike Tomlin
- He’s already got one Super Bowl championship, don’t sweat this one. No worries here.
Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger
- Big Ben is still on track for the Hall of Fame as long as he keeps out of trouble. There are no issues with his play. Dennis Dixon is a restricted free agent and both Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich want to return.
Skill: The Steelers are loaded with high quality pass catchers and the only question is whether Hines Ward will come back. Mike Wallace is a budding star and Emmanuel Sanders showed promise during his first season. Antwaan Randle El is steady and Antonio Brown was a nice find in the sixth round. TE Heath Miller is signed for four more years, but backup Matt Spaeth will be a free agent. RB Rashard Mendenhall started all 16 games and was solid, but probably needs the offensive line to be healthier. Mewelde Moore is a serviceable backup, but is a free agent and the Steelers might look for a younger alternative in the middle rounds of the draft.
Line: The O-line was average, but that was due to injuries. They lost both tackles with Willie Colon missing the entire season and Max Starks being done after 7 games due to injuries. Colon will be a free agent, but expect the Steelers to bring him back. Maurkice Pouncey is just the continuation of what Mike Webster and Dermontti Dawson provided at Center and Chris Kemoeatu is good at LG. Ramon Brown played solid after replacing Trai Essex at RG. Flozell Adams was decent at RT and Jonathan Scott stepped in when Starks was hurt and was as good as you could expect out of a backup left tackle. They should be better next season if completely healthy with added depth.
Front Seven: D-Line: The Steelers D-line is very good, but aging. In fact the oldest member of the line, Aaron Smith, was injured during their week 7 win in Miami and missed the rest of the season with a triceps injury. Second year DE Ziggy Hood was solid, but not spectacular replacing Smith. The historically great run defense starts with NT Casey Hampton and he was as good as ever, but will be 33 when next season begins. His backup, Chris Hoke, will be 35 and a free agent. The Steelers will probably look for some depth at NT. RE Brett Keisel’s beard might be gone next season, but he’s under contract for three more seasons and will be back. If Smith doesn’t return, Hood will probably start again and they will look for a young, potential replacement for Keisel in the draft. The Steelers just reload and do it better than anyone.
LBs: There isn’t a better linebacker corps in the league than the Steelers. ILB James Farrior will be 36, but he still looks great. Lawrence Timmons has fully established himself as one of the better inside backers as well. James Harrison might be the most feared player in the league and LaMarr Woodley is becoming a star on the outside, but is a free agent. If the Steelers are willing to spend big money, they could place the “Franchise Tag” on Woodley. If they let him go, second round pick Jason Worilds could replace Woodley. If the Steelers let Woodley walk, they could draft another OLB/DE type to compete with Worilds.
DBs: The secondary is the Achilles heel of this great defense. Without the great Troy Polamalu, this secondary is average, at best. Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden provide adequate coverage at the corners, but the Steelers might look to upgrade with some youth here. Taylor is going to be 31 and is a free agent. McFadden will turn 30 during next season. Corner is like running back in that players usually don’t age well in these positions. Nickel corner William Gay is also a free agent. Ryan Clark teams with Polamalu at safety and is solid as well, but not great. He’s under contract for a few more years. This could be an area that the Steelers target heavily in the draft, especially if Taylor and Gay leave.
K: Shaun Suisham was solid after replacing Jeff Reed at midseason, but the Steelers might choose to draft somebody or go after a free agent like Adam Vinatieri.
Outlook: The Steelers are perennial contenders for a good reason. Nobody identifies players who fit into their system better than the Steelers. There’s no reason to not expect the Steelers to be contending for another Super Bowl appearance next season despite the heavy AFC competition. The Steelers are fairly young or have players in their primes at key positions. Only cornerback appears to be an immediate need for them in the offseason, if they keep their key free agents. Look for them to use their first rounder on a corner. They could also look for another DE high in the draft if Smith doesn’t return. Otherwise, their ready for another run.
- Brian W.