Big Ben Roethlisberger has gotten his bell rung a lot more often than he would like. He was sacked 139 times over the last 3 years and that has to stop. A lesser man like backup Charlie Batch who is coming back after a broken collarbone last year wouldn’t have lasted as long as Ben. The only obvious weakness in the Steelers this season looks to be the O line.
Roethlisberger has 2 Super Bowl rings but has yet to play well in the big game. He has been the beneficiary of the run first Pittsburgh offense. To get to the Super Bowl, he is going to have to play better this season. The Steelers have an easier schedule on paper but some of the key competitors are better. Every team will be pointing to knock off the Steel men.
The Steelers shuffled their O line a lot in 08. Four starters were new to their positions. The only sure thing on the O line is C Justin Hartwig. LT Matt Starks lost the RT position to Willie Colon but is expected to try to hold down the left side this year. The guards are nothing special.
The running game did not produce as well last year as in the past due mostly to RB Willie Parker being hit in the backfield. Getting hit as he gets the ball slows Fast Willie down. Reserve Rashard Mendenhall missed the last 12 games of the regular season and the playoffs due to injury. If the running game is going to get back to the top of the league, he has to contribute.
There is very little behind WR starters Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes. 3rd WR Nate Washington left via free agency and will be missed. FA pickup and ex-Lion Shaun McDonald could be the slot receiver to replace him. At TE Heath Miller has to stay healthy because there is nothing behind him. Miller is Ben’s security blanket and is one of the best combo block/catch TEs in the league.
The D line is solid and deep. Ends Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel keep the linebackers clean and NT Casey Hampton is a load and three quarters. Chris Hoke and Travis Kirschke have experience and I like rookie DE Ziggy Hood.
As always in Steel town, the linebackers are the heart of the D. LaMarr Woodley, James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons and James Harrison are as good a unit as there is in the league. They are tough against the run and the pass. Add the Blitzburgh scheme and your QB will need Tylenol 34 because Tylenol 2 won’t be strong enough. There is no experienced depth and that could become a problem.
With the exception of SS Troy Polamalu, the D backfield is only slightly above average. They look a lot better with the great pass rush that the system and the front 7 generates. Quality depth is a problem as well. Bryant McFadden is gone and at 33 Deshea Townsend may not make the final roster. The Steelers added vets Roy Lewis and Keiwan Ratliff who should help.
The key to the Steelers 2009 season will be the O line. If they can protect Ben and get some push to help the running game, the team will be in the playoffs and will challenge for a title again.
That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .