View Full Version : Are the Steelers Super again?

11-04-2009, 02:03 AM
Are the Steelers Super again? Not yet, but much is going right
By F. Dale Lolley, Staff writer, dlolley@observer-reporter.com
http://www.observer-reporter.com/or/loc ... ason-break (http://www.observer-reporter.com/or/localsports/11-2-Steelers-midseason-break)

The bye week could not have come at a better time for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Seven games into the defense of their record sixth Super Bowl championship, the Steelers got an opportunity to take a week off, rest and analyze what they've been doing well, and not so well, in the first half of the NFL season.

With the Steelers off to a 5-2 start, there's been plenty that has gone right. But there's also several things the team must do better if it hopes for another long run through the postseason.

What's gone right

Passing game - Until being held to a season-low 175 passing yards in a 27-17 win over Minnesota last week, Roethlisberger was the hottest quarterback in the league not named Peyton Manning. Roethlisberger is on pace to shatter team records for passing yards, completions, attempts and completion percentage.

Ken Anderson, the Steelers' quarterbacks coach, holds the NFL season record with a 70.55 completion percentage in 1982. Roethlisberger is completing 70.4 percent of his passes.

Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes are both on pace to surpass 1,000 receiving yards, something that's happened just one other time in team history. Ward and Plaxico Burress both surpassed 1,000 yards in 2002.

Tight end Heath Miller is on pace to catch more than 90 passes, while speedster Mike Wallace led all rookie receivers heading into Sunday with 368 yards on 21 catches.

Linebacker James Harrison - The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Harrison has continued to rampage through offenses and is on pace to break his own team sack record set last season when he had 16. Harrison had seven sacks in October and was the AFC's Defensive Player of the Month.

Offensive line - Considered to be the weak link after Roethlisberger was sacked nearly 100 times in the previous two seasons, the offensive line has played much better, particularly in pass protection. Trai Essex has been an upgrade at right guard over Darnell Stapleton.

Though the Steelers have allowed 19 sacks, they have come on 233 pass attempts, an average of one sack every 12.3 attempts. That's much better than the 49 the Steelers allowed last year on 506 attempts.

Many of the sacks have been because of Roethlisberger holding the ball to long. There have been fewer cases of offensive linemen not allowing Roethlisberger an opportunity to make a throw.

Rashard Mendenhall - After his rookie season ended after three games, Mendenhall was a question mark coming into 2009. Critics wondered if the former No. 1 draft pick was capable of being an every-down runner in the NFL.

Though Mendenhall fumbled in each of the last two games, those are his only two of the season. And he's averaging 5.4 yards per carry with four rushing touchdowns, showing speed and power. He's making it easy for the team to part ways with Willie Parker, who will be a free agent at the end of the season.

Daniel Sepulveda - If the offensive line was the main trouble spot for the Steelers last year, the punting game was a close second after averaging just 39.8 yards per kick. That was with Mitch Berger and Paul Ernster punting after Sepulveda was lost to a knee injury in training camp.

Sepulveda's average of 44.8 yards isn't great, but his net of 40.2 yards is a huge improvement over last season.

What's gone wrong

Injuries - Strong safety Troy Polamalu missed four games. Defensive end Aaron Smith is out for the season with a torn rotator cuff. Linebacker Lawrence Timmons has been slowed by an ankle injury. Parker missed two games with a sprained toe.

The injuries, particularly on defense, have been tough to overcome. The Steelers were 2-2 without Polamalu. And while they've won their first two games without Smith, he's their best run defender.

Jeff Reed - Though he's made nine of 12 field-goal attempts, two of the misses were costly, coming in the second half of a 17-14 loss at Chicago. He also missed a field goal in a 23-20 loss at Cincinnati.

And then there was the distraction of Reed being charged with a number of midemeanors, including resisting arrest, outside a Pittsburgh bar. Kickers will occasionally miss a field goal, but when they're missing field goals and causing off-field distractions, that's not a good combination.

Limas Sweed - This was supposed to be a big year for Sweed, a second-round draft pick last year. He was expected to replace Nate Washington as the No. 3 receiver. Instead, Sweed has spent much of the season riding the bench or inactive after dropping a number of passes, including one while wide open in the end zone at Cincinnati.

Sweed's drops opened the door for Wallace to get more opportunities.

Kickoff-return coverage - After being solid covering kicks early in the season, the Steelers allowed touchdowns on kickoff returns in each of their last two games. That has bumped the Steelers' average return against up to 24.5 yards, their highest since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.

11-04-2009, 02:00 PM
They are on the right track for peaking at the correct time of the season in IMHO.

11-04-2009, 02:01 PM
Ken Anderson, the Steelers' quarterbacks coach, holds the NFL season record with a 70.55 completion percentage in 1982.

And yet is not in the HOF. Damn you Peter King...

11-04-2009, 02:11 PM
We could easily be 7-0 and the talk of the league but we're not. I like going unnoticed.

The real question to determine power rankings should be come playoff time, which team do you least want to have to play? It's a toss up between Brady and Ben. The Steelers get the edge in my book because of Troy.

Plus every defensive player in football fears Hines Ward.

11-05-2009, 09:41 PM
The Steelers could be super again.

This game against Denver will say alot.

But the cynical side of me says that if Denver wins, they are now the next automatically crowned champs and the new media darling.

If the STEELERS win, then I am sure the pundits (and some Steelers fans) will say the Broncos are "overrated". :roll: