(7/29) It's time for the annual two-part look at the most criticial questions facing the Steelers. It's been a tough offseason. In the span of 18 months, the Steelers went from kings of the world, to suffering thru a miserable 4th quarter-blowing season, to being the new Cincinnati Bengals of troublemakers. But all of that is (hopefully) behind us now, and The Nation is ready for a new season to dawn. Here is part one:
Will the Ben Roethlisberger situation be a total circus?
The answer unfortunately is yes. Just when you were starting to get used to not hearing about Ben’s off the field issues for hours on end, get ready for it to start up all over again with endless news reports and detailed analysis of every last word that Ben says on camera. Here is the good news: it won’t last all summer. Expect people to get bored with the circus rather quickly and for the media and fans to move on to more “important” issues, like why some obscure 6 th round draft pick should supplant James Harrison as a starting linebacker.
How will the Steelers address the Willie Colon injury?
They should address it by going out and signing a veteran tackle (Flozell Adams anyone?). However, it looks as if they are content to move guys around. This seems like a risky approach to me. Had Colon gotten hurt in the middle of the season, I can see not wanting to bring in someone off the street to start. But when you have all summer to prepare, why not replace Colon with a free agent?
Nevermind! The Steelers just signed Adams tonight! The five-time Pro Bowl left tackle should be a great fit, even at this late stage of his career.
Is Mike Wallace ready to start?
You will no doubt see the headline “Is Sophomore Slump in Store for Wallace?” somewhere along the way this summer. Wallace had a brilliant rookie year but he was not asked to play every down. He also had two Super Bowl MVP’s on the field with him to draw coverage away. No one knows how Wallace will respond to the challenge of having to fill Santonio’s shoes. I think he will do well, but it’s really anyone’s guess.
Which second-stint Steeler will have the greatest impact?
This offseason was rife with guys coming back to Pittsburgh after having played elsewhere. Larry Foote will add much needed depth to the linebacker core. Antwaan Randle El will pick up right where he left off as the slot receiver, although don’t expect as many of the old gadget plays that we saw when Ken Whisenhunt was here. Byron Leftwich will have no choice but to make an impact since he will likely start the first four games of the season. But I think the guy who will contribute the most is Bryant McFadden. The secondary was a mess last season. The William Gay experiment went south rather quickly, and while some of the younger guys are showing promise, none of them could be counted on to hold the fort. McFadden returns after a short absence to a system in which he had great success. His return coupled with a healthy Troy Polamalu should equal a resurgence for the secondary.
What will become of Deshea Townsend?
The Steelers decided not to invite Townsend back for a 13 th season with the team. That’s a little hard to believe given that Townsend is a smart veteran who is still more than capable of playing in a backup role. Maybe salary had a lot to do with it? Whatever the case, it’s unlikely that Townsend will be picked up by another team until a need arises. For the Steelers, I could see him easily being signed midway thru the year if another cornerback goes down. If not, then it would be nice to at least see him get some kind of proper send off. Only 15 players in the history of the franchise have out in more service than Townsend, and that list contains iconic names like Webster, Stallworth, Bradshaw, and Greene.
Should Ike Taylor just stop talking?
Yes. In case you missed it earlier, Ike basically dared the NFL to fine the entire secondary. Not a good thing to do when your franchise is trying to rebuild its classy image. I’ve always like Ike as a player, but he should stay away from the microphones.
How much pressure is on Rashard Mendenhall?
Mendenhall will be asked to carry a big load this season. Art Rooney wants the team to run more and brought in a new o-line coach, so it’s pretty much a guarantee that the Steelers will run more. And that all happened BEFORE our franchise QB got suspended. Mendenhall had a breakout season last year. This time around he is going to have to up that performance and he is going to have to deal with expectations – both from Steelers fans and fantasy football owners – that weren’t even on his radar screen last year.
How important was the recent contract extension for Kevin Colbert?
It was absolutely huge. Colbert took over in 2000. Take a look at the Steelers drafts since then. Take a look at the free agent moves. There is a reason that the team has had only one losing season since he has been the GM. There is a reason that we have won two championships during that time. Colbert rarely gets the credit he deserves. I for one am thrilled that he will be here for years to come.
Are there any more Steelers who will get into trouble this season?
Let's hope not!