At least that’s what the Bengals and Ravens fans want you to believe.
They have a point – Cedric Benson is a great back and Ray Rice really came into his own last year.Â But I think we haven’t even seen what Mendenhall has to offer yet.Â I agree that he’s not as versatile, from what we’ve seen, as Rice – but I think the tweaks being made to the running game- including adding a fullback option- will make a difference for the Steelers.Â Rashard had more than 1,000 yards rushing and didn’t even play every game.Â In addition, I think everyone in Steeler Nation will agree that since Jerome retired, our running game hasn’t been as productive as it had been in the past.
Some of that non-productivity was missing Faneca and last year it was definitely driven by injuries.Â In contrast to what some have termed an “aging defense,” the O-line and the offense in general is fairly young. I predict that Kemo will have the type of year that will have us forget Faneca. The key is staying healthy and playing big, covering the holes.Â Protecting the QB will be important no matter who it is, but during those first 6 (4) games, the running game will be of equal importance and giving the backs room to run.Â But don’t sleep on the offense. I will better be able to judge after I see what’s going on at camp, but I’m hoping Tomlin and Arians heard us loud and clear when we said stop being so predictable.
Speaking of Tomlin, the Cincy fan said, “To me he seems more of a rah-rah coach than a hardcore tactician, and I feel his adjustments during games are weak.” That’s a pretty bold statement, but if there’s any truth to it, we will see that this season.Â This is the make or break season.Â Tomlin enjoyed a grace period and believe me, I am a huge fan, but truth is if there are questionable playcalls on offense, Arains won’t be the one we question this season.Â Or, allow me to correct myself,Â he won’t be the ONLY one we question.Â My biggest problem with the offense last year, and I have stated this before, is that it was completely predictable. Like I said, if I know where the ball is going to go by how you line up on the field, damn sure the guys spending hours watching tape know.
There’s been a lot of talk about the WR corps and lack of depth.Â I think that still remains to be seen.Â To me, the WRs are in decent position for success.Â You have Hines as the veteran leader and Randel El back as his counterpart and fellow mentor for the young guys.Â Based on the work ethic and success we saw out of Mike Wallace last year, I don’t have any question about him stepping up into the Holmes role.Â Then you have promising young rookies Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown ready and willing to compete.Â Do we have an all-star pro-bowl receiving corps across the board, no. But I hate to remind everyone that the Steelers weren’t predicted to do anything in 2008.Â They faced a super tough schedule and yet prevailed.Â Even more importantly, it was likely on the backs of the defense.
Last year, our defense fell apart late in the game, every game…special teams was, well, special…and offense moved the ball, but often couldn’t get into the endzone.Â This year is different.Â The attitude is different.Â The off-season challenges have made things difficult, but have made people work harder.Â Competition across the board in many positions will make the starters work harder to keep their jobs.
I like the underdog position, as does Troy, and I think it will bode well in 2010.Â The Ravens and Bengals are right to claim their ability to do well, but just don’t sleep on the Steelers, otherwise, you might see yourselves on the L side of the column.