Position Analysis (Part 1 of 2) - By Nick Signorelli
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|At the conclusion of every NFL season, teams begin their analysis of their (Happy Terpintime?) clubs. Every team needs to address their weaknesses if they are to step up to the next level in 2005. Some need to address GLARING weaknesses, such as the Browns, Dolphins and 49ers. These are the teams that are in the top 10 of the draft. They are very weak at many positions and need either a GREAT off season to improve, or they have to take a couple of years, at least, to get better, such as the Browns, Dolphins and 49ers.
Then there are the Middle of the Road teams. The ones that normally draft in the 11-20 spots. These are normally teams that are decent, but need a few more impact players.
Then you have the Wild Card playoff teams, these are teams that are close to getting where they need to be. A couple of new players, and decent replacements for those that are gone.
Then you have the great teams. There are a lot of Good teams every year, but not normally that many GREAT teams. Out of last years records, I would have to say that the great teams from last year are, of course the Steelers, Patriots, and Eagles. In that order. I am excluding the Colts from that list for one reason. Their defense is a joke. But, come on, with that much of your payroll going to Manning and his Receivers, how can they afford ANYONE for defense. But that's another story for another article. The common for the 3 great teams is, they are equal on BOTH sides of the Ball. None of them rely on one side of the ball to do all the work. The old saying is that offense wins games, and defense wins championships. With no O (Baltimore Ravens), you cant make it. And with no D (Indianapolis Colts) you cant make it either. The only way to be a true championship team, you need to be able to bring it on BOTH sides of the ball. It seems to me that the reason the Steelers, Patriots and Eagles are so successful is that they always seem to have someone step up every time someone leaves or goes down. Last year, Tommy Maddox went down and Big Ben stepped up. Same with Casey Hampton and Chris Hoke, Chad Scott and Willie William's. For all the injuries we had last year, everyone on the team really stepped it up.
With that being said, here is my position breakdown for our beloved Steelers.
Quarterback - Last year when we drafted Big Ben, I said to my son, don't get too excited about him yet. We probably won't be seeing him play in anything other than the pre-season. I thought MAYBE in a game or two, but I really wasn't thinking we were going to get to see Ben until this year. OK, so my ESP was on the fritz then. For the first time in a LONG time I have not been so comfortable with our QB position in a long time. I have read in many papers that Tommy Maddox has said that he would like to be a starter in this league again, but reality is that will only happen in Pittsburgh if Ben gets hurt. And Tommy knows that. I think I see a possible trade this year, maybe sometime into pre-season if someone like Kurt Warner gets hurt. I think Pittsburgh will be willing to part with Tommy because Charlie Batch is a good back up that no one else will want due to his injury last year. Brian St. Pierre is a good 3rd. He showed against Buffalo that he isn't as bad as Kordell Stewart, so I think our QB situation is looking good.
Running Back - I, for one, am VERY glad that Jerome Bettis has decided that there is one more year left in his tires. I think that the 1-2 punch of the Bus and Deuce, that we will have a great running game again this year. Do I think that one of the tires could blow before the end of the season? It's possible, but it is time for Verron Haynes and Willie Parker to step up and show that they will be able to take the reins of the back up if the Bus goes down. There were a lot of rumors that teams were looking at Verron last year, and if Willie Parker can step it up, Verron may be in another jersey before the beginning of the year. As for Fullback, Dan Kreider is the man, end of discussion.
Wide Receiver - If you don't think Hines Ward is going to have his contract extended before the end of the pre-season, you are on something. If Hines Ward were 4 inches taller, there would be no one in the NFL that would compare to him. Everyone talks about Moss and Owens, and they are great. I wouldn't trade Hines for either of them, and a first round pick. Hines is the complete WR. He catches everything thrown his way, he is the BEST blocking WR in the NFL, and every time he touches the ball, he makes something happen. After that, it gets tricky. Antwaan Randle El is entering the last year of his contract. We just signed Cedrick Wilson to a 4 year deal, and just drafted Fred Gibson. Gibson was a play maker at Georgia, he is going to make things happen. He has height, speed and can catch. If Randle El isn't careful, he may be in his last year as a Steeler.
Tight End - Entering the off season, this, to me, was the biggest weakness on the team. No disrespect to the TE's that were on the roster last year, but none of them would have been a starter on any other playoff team last year. Jay Riemersma was good for a long time in Buffalo. But that was a while ago, and in the NFL, what have you done for me lately. I am very glad that we drafted Heath Miller, and I hope he lives up to the big money hype.
Offensive Line - We have the best LG in the league with Alan Fanaca. He has the speed and power to pull, run and pass block. The year before last when he was switched to LT, he said it was easier to play than guard. If he would have stayed at LT, he probably would have been the best in the league there by now. Marvell Smith is a great LT. Made a great switch to the left side, when it is normally hard to go from the right side to the blind side. The anchor of the line, and someone that personifies the Steelers, is Jeff Hartings. He can play guard or center, which if Kendall Simmons can't stay healthy, he might have to do. I for one am not worried about Harting having to move to guard, because Chucki Okobi is waiting for his turn to snap the ball. If Simmons does go down (He has the last 2 years), we will have someone that can play the position better than he can filling in. The only REAL question mark is RT. Max Starx is going to be given the opportunity to start, and hopefully he can turn into the undertaker he already is.
Come back next week to hear my thoughts on the D.