Pittsburgh Steelers

Stadium: Heinz Field | Coach: Mike Tomlin
Team RankingOverallRushingPassing
Offense19th86.4 (26th)251.1 (10th)
Defense13th115.6 (18th)221.6 (10th)

Steelers report: Strategy and personnel

The Sports Xchange
 
Strategy and personnel · Inside slant · Notes, quotes
 

Mike Tomlin is interviewing coaches for the three who departed: QBs Ken Anderson retired, and Tomlin fired special teams coach Bob Ligashesky and offensive line coach Larry Zierlein. It is the first change in Tomlin's staff since he was hired in 2007.

Tomlin interviewed Bobby April for special teams but April chose to join Philadelphia's staff.

The Steelers signed nine players to future contracts, including seven from their practice squad: K Piotr Czech, DT Scott Paxson, TE Eugene Bright, WR Jason Chery, S Tuff Harris, DT Steve McClendon, RB Isaac Redman, RB Justin Vincent and CB Trae Williams. C A.Q. Shipley, their seventh-round pick last year who spent the season on the practice squad, signed this week with the Philadelphia Eagles.

UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

QUARTERBACKS
Starter -- Ben Roethlisberger. Backups -- Dennis Dixon, Charlie Batch.

Roethlisberger had his best statistical season, setting club records for yards passing 4,328 and a 66.6 percent completion rate. He had 26 TDs and 12 interceptions but he was sacked a career-high 50 times and many believe he does not throw the ball away enough. Dixon wound up as the backup after Batch broke his wrist in the 10th game, and he likely will stay No. 2.

RUNNING BACKS
Starter -- RB Rashard Mendenhall. Backups - RB Willie Parker, RB Mewelde Moore, RB Carey Davis. Injured reserve -- RB Frank Summers.

Mendenhall got better as the season progressed and showed he can be a premier back. Parker likely will move on as a UFA. Moore lost his third-down job to Mendenhall, a better receiver. Davis and Summers are RB/FB types but the Steelers claim they do not have one of those; Davis played little and Summers spent most of the season on I.R.

TIGHT ENDS
Starter -- Heath Miller. Backups -- Matt Spaeth, David Johnson. Injured reserve -- Sean McHugh.

Miller set a franchise record for the position with 76 receptions, third on the team and tied for the lead with six TDs. He also is a prime blocker at the position. Spaeth plays often because the Steelers use a lot of two tight end formations, but he's not a good blocker and they threw to him infrequently. Johnson played H-back. McHugh spent the season on IR.

WIDE RECEIVERS
Starters -- Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes. Backups -- Mike Wallace, Tyler Grisham, Joey Galloway, Stefan Logan. Injured reserve -- Limas Sweed.

Ward caught 95 passes and had his sixth 1,000-yard season. Holmes caught 79 and led the Steelers with 1,248 yards, his first 1,000-yard season. Wallace had an outstanding rookie season as the No. 3 receiver and was their primary deep threat, catching 39 passes and leading all NFL receivers with a 19.4-yard average. Sweed may never make it. He ended up on I.R. with emotional problems at the end of the season in which he caught one pass for 5 yards. The others do not figure into the plans, including Galloway, who was signed late to replace Sweed.

OFFENSIVE LINE
Starters -- LT Max Starks, LG Chris Kemoeatu, C Justin Hartwig, RG Trai Essex, RT Willie Colon. Backups -- G Darnell Stapleton, G Ramon Foster, G/C Doug Legursky, G Kraig Urbik, T Tony Hills.

Not a powerful line or one that protects the passer particularly well. The Steelers had trouble running the ball when they wanted to, particularly in short yardage and the red zone because the line could not move anyone off the ball. Their best short-yardage play was the QB sneak. Not much change will occur because four starters received new contracts in 2009 and Colon will be a RFA if there is no CBA extension.

DEFENSIVE LINE
Starters -- LE Aaron Smith, NT Casey Hampton, RE Brett Keisel. Backups -- NT Chris Hoke, DE Travis Kirschke, DE Ziggy Hood, DE Nick Eason, DE Sunny Harris.

Hampton made another Pro Bowl but is a UFA at 33. Smith spent much of the season on IR and turns 34. Keisel was steady but will be 31. Hoke is 32 and Kirschke 35. Hood could be pressed to play NT with Hoke if Hampton leaves. Harris could develop but did not play in '09. The line got less pressure on QB this season and teams ran at will toward the end of the season.

LINEBACKERS
Starters -- LOLB LaMarr Woodley, ILB Lawrence Timmons, ILB James Farrior, ROLB James Harrison. Backups -- ILB Keyaron Fox, OLB Andre Frazier, OLB Patrick Bailey, ILB Rocky Boiman.

Woodley had a slow start and then finished on fire with all but two of his team-high 13.5 sacks over the final eight games. Harrison did the opposite with none of his 10 sacks in the final six games. Farrior, who just turned 35, slowed down although he again led the team in tackles. Timmons showed brilliance on some plays, but also was out of position and missed tackles on others. Fox proved a good backup to Timmons and started three games. None of the backups on the outside is good and they need to find some.

DEFENSIVE BACKS
Starters -- LCB William Gay, RCB Ike Taylor, SS Troy Polamalu, FS Ryan Clark. Backups -- CB Deshea Townsend, S Ryan Mundy, S Tyrone Carter, CB Joe Burnett, CB Keenan Lewis, CB Anthony Madison.

Polamalu missed 11 games, including the final seven, with two separate knee injuries and the secondary fell apart without him. Clark may leave as a UFA. Taylor did not have a good season. Gay was terrible and Townsend replaced him in the final two games. Carter started for Polamalu and was exposed many times. Burnett played some as the nickel and was poor in coverage. The cornerbacks had no interceptions until the final game. Lewis had a back injury that held him back.

SPECIAL TEAMS
PK Jeff Reed, P Daniel Sepulveda, KR/PR Stefan Logan, LS Greg Warren, LS Jared Retkofsky.

This group went south in many areas and special team coach Bob Ligashesky paid for it with his job. They allowed four kickoff returns for touchdowns and a 9.8-yard average against them on punt returns. Sepulveda averaged only 42.7 yards gross and 37.1 net. Jeff Reed again was a bright spot, making 27 of 31 field goal tries, two of the misses beyond 50. Reed, though, does not kick off deep and that hurts the kickoff coverage. Warren tore an ACL for the second straight season and Retkofsky finished up the final two games as long snapper.

Copyright (C) 2010 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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