It’s been about three days since the Pittsburgh Steelers lost the SuperBowl, and I said lost instead of ‘was beat’ for a reason, and I got to admit, it still stings a bit. In fact, it probably will still sting throughout this questionable offseason. To be honest, I can’t really complain about how this season played out considering the amount of turnover and turmoil it began with.
The Steelers were without their franchise quarterback for the first four games and without their number one receiver for the season after he was traded for a box of crackers to the New York Jets. They lost two of their starting lineman, one of the cornerstones of their defense and decided to start a rookie at one of the key positions on the offense, at center. Things didn’t look promising for the black and gold.
But out of adversity the Steelers rose to the occasion to put up an amazing 12-4 record, a record just good enough to get them the AFC North crown and a coveted first round bye. Two playoff wins later and a un-Steeler like sloppy SuperBowl loss later and that’s a wrap, as they say.
The future, however, still looks bright for the defending AFC Champs, as I will detail five points that should have Steelers fans looking forward to next season.
As Compared to this season, the offensive line should be looking ten times better next season.
Let’s be honest, it was amazing what the Steelers did behind such a poor offensive line this season. The only spots of consistency came from a rookie center and an aged vet brought in to replace an injured player. The fact that the Steelers were able to win behind this line this season is a testament to the quality of coaches Pit has as well as the quality of players at the skill positions. With a healthy line and possibly an upgrade or two out of the draft, this unit will see a huge upgrade next season.
The Steelers receiving corps will be more experienced…and deadly.
The biggest realization to come out of the second half of the season and the playoffs is that the two wideouts the Steelers drafted last draft, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown, are pretty darn good. Sanders looks to have the same skillset and mindset as Hines Ward, only he’s way faster while Brown is another burner who has already shown he can catch the ball in clutch situations. Throw in the wily vet of this group, Mike Wallace (who emerged as one of the most dangerous receivers in the game this season), and the group labeled ‘Young Money’ have all the earmarks of being one of the best receiving corps in the game. Oh, and it looks like Hines will be coming back again for another season and let’s not forget Heath Miller as well.
Rashard Mendenhall will be a beast.
Despite his costly SuperBowl fumble, which was his second in over 300 touches I believe, Mendenhall proved he is the back the Steelers hoped he would be. He got better as the season went on and when the playoffs hit, he excelled and was the main reason they advanced as far as they did. The fact that he posted a 1200 yard season behind a patch-worked line shows just how good he is. With an improved line next season as well as a capable backup in Isaac Redman who will keep Mendenhalls touches from being too taxing, Rashard could easily top 1400 yards next season.
Ben Roethlisberger SHOULD play the entire season (we still have the offseason to get through).
Barring any offseason incidents, which would be monumentally stupid of Ben and would almost certainty get him kicked to the curb by the Rooney’s, Roethlisberger should be raring to go at the start of the season next year. With a year removed from last offseasons incident, Roethlisberger should be able to put all his focus on the field because he wants to and not because he has to in order to maintain some sort of sanity. The difference will be vast.
Dick LeBeau will be back.
Early indications coming out of Pittsburgh is that their beloved defensive coordinater, Dick LeBeau, will be returning for another season with the Steelers. This is vital to Pittsburgh’s success on that side of the ball because he can get the most out of his players as they revere him like no other and would play through anything for that man.
In conclusion, the AFC better watch out next season because the Black and Gold will be back in the hunt next season and if you thought this years team was good, you ain’t seen nothing yet.