Where did we go wrong? That will be the question the Steelers will ask themselves for the next few months. Then they must correct the problems if they are to challenge for that seventh Super Bowl trophy next season.
The Steelers held on once again in the fourth quarter to defeat the Miami Dolphins 30-24 to finish the season 9-7, and then they prayed for other teams to lose to get them into the playoffs. Well, not enough teams lost so they will be watching the playoffs and the Super Bowl on television.
Despite the disappointing season, most teams in the league would love to have the Steelers’ problems, because they can easily be fixed.
Number 1: First priority must be a big, defensive back. They must get a tall coverage cornerback to compliment Ike Taylor. William Gay is not the answer, nor is Deshea Townsend.
Number 2: They must totally overhaul the special teams. The only pluses are the kickers along with Stefan Logan, who set a Steeler record in punt and kickoff return yardage. But the coverage was terrible, worst in the league. You can’t run down speedy returners if you don’t have speed. What about using Mike Wallace on the coverage team?
Number 3: The defensive line. Will Aaron Smith be back healthy? And will they re-sign Casey Hampton? Most feel Hampton, because of his age, and the offers he will get from other teams, will not be back. So that leaves Chris Hoke who has been solid as a backup but can he do it game in and game out? And what if he gets hurt? The line is the anchor of the defense. When it falters all other weaknesses are exposed, such as slow cornerbacks.
Number 4: More creativity in the offense. Much of the blame is being put on the defense, but a lot of the blame falls on the offense. They were great in the first half, but completely died in the second half, especially the fourth quarter. They are loaded with talent, thus breaking just about every Steelers record in sight. Ben Roethlisberger led the way by becoming the first quarterback in Steelers history to pass for over 4,000 yards, finishing the season with 4,328. As a result of these huge numbers his receivers had their best season. Hines Ward with 1,167 and Santonio Holmes with 1,248, marking the first time in Steeler history two receivers have had 1,000 yards or more. Heath Miller set a record for receptions by a tight end with 76. Rashard Mendenhall gained 1,108 yards despite not starting until the fourth game of the season, and even then not getting the ball as often as he should because of the passing game.
With all this talent why weren’t the Steelers more productive in the second half? This will be a question coach Mike Tomlin will put to his offensive coordinator and if an answer is not found, we may see a move made there.
The Steelers did some things this season they haven’t in the past, which should make them more productive. They passed to the tight end at a record pace, and with Miller returning next season look for that spot to be even more productive. Joining what will probably be a three-wide receiver set, Mike Wallace, with a year under his belt, should be one of the most explosive receivers in the game next season. With Ward, Holmes and Miller on the field, teams can’t double team him, and like Randy Moss, no one can cover him one-on-one.
Another new addition to the offense this season was passing the ball to the running backs, partly because Mendenhall is the best receiving back the Steelers have had since Preston Pearson, way back in the ’70s. This versatility should lead to far more scoring opportunities next season, making it much tougher for defenses to figure out what the Steelers are going to do.
Another question mark is the future of Willie Parker. He still has several good years left, but not with the Steelers. In the past when the primary game was the run, we needed two solid backs, but now he would be limited to less than 10 carries per game which he’s not going to accept. There will be several teams offering him a nice buck for his services; in turn he will carry the ball more.
However, the Steelers do need a second back in case Mendenhall gets hurt, plus most teams today have two backs. Mewelde Moore has looked good as a third down back so he could be used more. But if Mendenhall gets hurt, the Steelers will be hurting.
So, don’t be surprised if the Steelers are once again in the Super Bowl hunt next season, with just a few minor changes. This is where Mike Tomlin will prove if he’s a great coach or not.
(AP)—The Steelers will play division champions New England, New Orleans and Cincinnati in 2010, based on the NFL’s scheduling formula. The Steelers play home and away against AFC North rivals Cincinnati (11-5), Baltimore (9-7) and Cleveland (5-11). They will also play the four AFC East teams: New England (10-6), New York Jets (9-7), Miami (7-9) and Buffalo (6-10).
Under the NFL’s interconference rotation, they will meet New Orleans (13-3), Atlanta (9-7), Carolina (8-8) and Tampa Bay (3-13) of the NFC South. The Steelers will meet third-place teams from the other two AFC divisions, Oakland (5-11) and Tennessee (8-8). Six opponents will be holdovers, including Miami, Oakland and Tennessee.