Steelers needs: In doubt until Roethlisberger's issues resolved
April 3, 2010
By Pete Prisco
CBSSports.com Senior Writer
This has not been a good offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers so far, but there's a chance it could get even worse.
If quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is formally charged with some kind of sexual assault in the Georgia incident he was involved in last month, the Steelers might be playing 2010 without their starting quarterback.
Roethlisberger, for the second time, has his name being smeared because he's linked to an alleged sexual assault. There is no charge now -- we have to remember that -- but there still could be.
The Steelers have asked Roethlisberger to stay away from their facility until the Georgia situation is cleared up. Whether he's guilty of the crime or not, he is definitely guilty of putting himself in some dumb situations.
In addition, receiver Santonio Holmes is facing legal troubles in another club incident. Steelers ownership is said to be livid about the happenings.
If Roethlisberger isn't on the field, the Steelers would have big problems next season -- no matter who they draft.
It's tough times in Pittsburgh for sure. The biggest decision for the Steelers' future won't come on draft day, but rather from a prosecutor's office in Georgia.
QB: This is a position of strength if Roethlisberger is cleared. If not, it's a major problem. Roethlisberger is one of the NFL's best, but he can't make throws from the courtroom or, worse, prison. He has to be on the field. The Steelers don't have much behind him. Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch are the backups. Dixon is a raw player who has ability. Batch is a veteran who shouldn't be asked to start at this point in his career.
RB: Rashard Mendenhall proved to be a big-time runner last season. After a slow start to his season, including being inactive for a game, he showed the Steelers they have a tough inside runner. That is why they let Willie Parker go. Mewelde Moore is the backup and third-down back. Frank Summers, Isaac Redman and Justin Vincent are the backups. They could use a young runner here.
WR: The big question for the Steelers is when Hines Ward starts to show his age. He continues to play at a high level, but he is starting to slow down. Holmes is the star of the unit now, a deep speed player who can stretch a defense. Mike Wallace had a sensational rookie season and should be even more of factor in the offense this season. They brought back Antwan Randle-El and signed Arnaz Battle for depth. It will be interesting to see how Limas Sweed does, he has been a disappointment after being a second-round pick in 2008.
TE: Heath Miller might be the best combo tight end in the league. He can catch the ball, but he's also a crunching blocker in the run game. He is a security blanket of sorts for Roethlisberger in the passing game, especially inside the 20. Sean McHugh, David Johnson and Matt Spaeth are the primary backups and they are good enough. Spaeth has some pass-receiving skills.
OL: This unit had some struggles last season. Some scouts thought right tackle Willie Colon played at a Pro Bowl level, but others didn't agree. He is a capable player. Left tackle Max Starks had a good game against Jared Allen, which shows his ability, but struggled against some lesser players. Left guard Chris Kemoeatu is the best player on the line. Center Justin Hartwig is solid, but not great. Right guard is a problem area with Trai Essex being average at best. The top backups are Tony Hills at tackle and Ramon Foster and Kraig Urbik at guard. They also added veteran tackle Jon Scott.
DL: This has always been a strong area in the Steelers' 3-4 defense. They did re-sign nose tackle Casey Hampton, which is a plus. He is a big part of their run defense. Chris Hoke is his backup. End Aaron Smith, the line's best player, had his season cut short by a torn rotator cuff and it showed in the results. He is expected back full strength for camp. They need him. Brett Keisel, the other end, is an effort player who plays hard all the time to make up for his limited athletic ability. Look for 2009 first-round pick Ziggy Hood to push Keisel for the starting job. Sunny Harris is another young backup to watch.
LB: The four linebackers are what makes the defense go. The outside rushers are top notch in LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison. Woodley started slow last season, but really came on in the second half. Harrison started fast and faded. His age might be an issue. Inside linebackers James Farrior and Lawrence Timmons are both good players with Timmons having a chance to be a really good one. He has great athletic ability. The backups are Larry Foote, Andre Frazier and Keyaron Fox.
DB: This is a concern area. The corners were a major disappointment last season. They are in dire need of an upgrade. William Gay opened as the starter but was benched for veteran Deshea Townsend. Ike Taylor starts on the other side, and his play tailed off from the Super Bowl season. Joe Burnett, Keenan Lewis, David Pittman and Trae Williams are the backups. One of those will have to push Gay. With Troy Polamalu missing so much time, the back two struggled. Ryan Clark wasn't as good as the year before either. The Steelers need a healthy Polamalu and need Clark to regain his form of 2008. Ryan Mundy returns and Will Allen was signed as a free agent as a backup.
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