The post-Super Bowl season following XL was one of huge disappointment for Steelers fans, and one that we haven’t forgotten.Â Media reports constantly bring up the challenges faced by the team including Ben’s motorcycle accident and emergency appendectomy.Â In fact, popular consensus is the Steelers can’t win a title back to back.
Here we are following one of the toughest schedules in the NFL, reigning Super Bowl champions once again and on the hunt for #7.Â What’s different between the post XL season and the post XLIII season?
One, this team is fundamentally the same as it was last season.Â The biggest losses to free agency were Nate Washington (#3 WR) and Bryant McFadden (CB), and a salary cap casualty in ILB Larry Foote.Â The backups to these spots were already part of the team and had been learning from those who are now gone.
Two, they are healthy.Â Recently Ben said he was coming off the high of winning his first Super Bowl and was not thinking (in regards to the motorcycle accident).Â This time he’s more focused and getting ready to play. Even Fast Willie Parker has taken a lot of time to recover from injuries that kept him from being, well, fast last season. He’s been doing pilates to increase his flexibility and I expect to see an even faster and better Willie on the field.
And third, and what I think is one of the most important differences, Coach Tomlin is no joke. While he is close in age to many of his players, he knows when to be mentor and when to be friend.Â His attitude is a humble one – last season was last season. His approach is work hard and you will reap results.Â Those who say he won the Super Bowl with Bill Cowher’s team are wrong. This is not to say that Bill Cowher was not a great coach, he most certainly was.Â I just happen to believe that Mike Tomlin is his own man and brings his own style to the game.Â He’s intense, he’s passionate and he works hard.Â His style is a lot like his mentor, and the only other African American NFL Coach to win a Super Bowl, Tony Dungy.Â
Dungy, too had a long history with the Pittsburgh Steelers where heÂ signed as a free agent defensive back in 1976.Â Dungy played a key role on the team’s original “Steel Curtain” and in 1978 helped lead the Steelers to a Super Bowl Championship.Â After retiring from playing, Dungy began his coaching career with Chuck Noll in 1981 and was Pittsburgh’s defensive coordinator from 1984-1988.Â His path crossed Tomlin’s when he was head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1996-2001) and Tomlin had been hired to coach the defensive backs in 2001.Â It’s destiny, in many ways, that Tomlin ended up with the Steelers. Tomlin’s cool persona seems to fit well with the Rooney’s ownership style as well. Â
This upcoming season lends itself to an easier regular season schedule, but I don’t expect Tomlin to let the team take it lightly. I don’t expect games like in 2007 when the Jets, with probably the worst record in the NFL at the time, beat the Steelers. Coach Tomlin will not allow those types of losses to happen. And the team seems much more cohesive than it did following Super Bowl XL. Â
Coach Tomlin – passionate, a real competitor and a great coach.
My overall prediction for regular season is 13-3. And the losses we have will be close, hard fought games.Â
What do you think? What will be the Steelers strengths and weaknesses approaching this season?