Thursday, July 29, 2010

...and we're back!

It's been a long offseason. We know we haven't been posting much lately, but Ian was busy doing more important things.

Like getting married.


It was a great wedding, and we took some awesome pictures.

Like this one. Our wedding party was so baller.

At any rate, enough of me bragging about myself (for now).

The Steelers report to training camp tomorrow. And, after all, we are a Steelers blog, so this is something we should probably talk about.

Camp Tomlin '10 might be the most contentious camp yet. Tomlin's first camp earned him the reputation of being a hardass, trying to differentiate himself from Cowher. After winning Super Bowl XLIII, Tomlin's camp was called "cupcake" by a few "experts."

After a strong conclusion to the season, the Steelers do have some things to look forward to this camp:
1. The Return of Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith

Was anyone's presence on the defense more missed than Polamalu? Probably not, but getting Aaron Smith back won't hurt either.

2. Old Faces Back in the Lineup

Antwaan Randle El, Larry Foote, Byron Leftwich, and Bryant McFadden all return to the Steelers to fill gaps in the lineup.

3. An exciting crop of rookies

From OL Maurkice Pouncey, second round pick OLB Jason Worlids, and RB Jonathan Dwyer, the Steelers have injected youth and talent into the lineup at positions where it was badly needed (OL) and at positions where they had aging players.

Additionally, the Steelers signed former Cowboys OT Flozell Adams today to come in and compete for a starting job on the edge. The Steelers offseason woes have been well-documented from Ben Needs-to-keep-it-in-his-pantslisberger, Santonio "Wake and Bake" Holmes, and Willie Colon and Limas Sweed's season-ending injuries.

But all that is behind us now. Let's take a look at the Steelers situation position-by-position going into camp:

Ben Roethlisberger
Byron Leftwich
Dennis Dixon
Charlie Batch

The QB situation is without a doubt the biggest question mark going into camp. Ben will be able to practice in camp, but how many reps will he get? The coaches will have to give both Lord Byron and Dennis the Menace enough reps with the first team offense to have them comfortable with running the show to start the season.

Running Back
Rashard Mendenhall
Mewelde Moore
Jonathan Dwyer
Stefan Logan
Isaac Redman
Frank Summers
Justin Vincent
Demetrius Taylor

Rashard Mendenhall will be the hands down starter this year. Here's to hoping the coaches don't try to "run him until the wheels come off" like they did with Parker. Because, as we all know, the wheels did in fact come off. Ideally, they'd split carries between the 3 backs. If we ran the show, Mendenhall would get 20-25 carries a game, Moore 7-10 carries, and Dywer another 7-10 carries. And yes, we would run the ball 40 times a game if we ran the offense.

Wide Receiver
Hines Ward
Mike Wallace
Antwaan Randle El
Arnaz Battle
Emmanuel Sanders
Tyler Grisham
Antonio Brown
Brandon London
Isaiah Williams

There is talent here in the receiving corps. We're hoping that Bruce "Air it Out" Arians won't try to run the same offense he did last year with this group. This group is much better suited to only running about 25-30 pass plays a game, rather than the 35-40 of last season. Camp and the preseason will determine the order of the depth chart for the receivers. Our best guess is that Hines will continue as the #1, Wallace #2, Randle El #3 and Emmanuel Sanders will beat out Arnaz Battle for the #4 spot. Antonio Brown can make a name for himself on special teams, giving Stefan Logan a run for his money at the return spot.

Tight End
Heath Miller
Matt Spaeth
Sean McHugh
David Johnson
Eugene Bright

Heath Miller is probably the best tight end in Steelers history, and he will continue his assault on the Steelers record books this season. What this unit is lacking is a solid blocking Tight End, particularly since Arians doesn't believe in using a fullback.

Offensive Line
Max Starks (T)
Flozell Adams (T)
Jonathan Scott (T)
Tony Hills (T)
Ramon Foster (T/G)
Chris Kemoeatu (G)
Trai Essex (G)
Kraig Urbik (G)
Adrian Jones (G)
Justin Hartwig (C)
Doug Legursky (C)
Maurkice Pouncey (C/G)

The offensive line was one of the weak points of the offense last season. However, when Arians calls offensive formations where only 5 people are protecting Ben, and the Defense is bringing 6 or 7 guys on blitzes, we've got a problem. Adding Pouncey in the draft was a great move, and he should start right away. The biggest question right now is the right tackle spot, which could be filled by Flozell Adams, Jonathan Scott, Trai Essex, Kraig Urbik, or Tony Hills. This might be the most important spot on the line this preseason.

Defensive End
Aaron Smith
Brett Keisel
Nick Eason
Ziggy Hood
Ra'Shon Harris
Doug Worthington

Aaron Smith's injury definitely hurt the defense last year, but Ziggy Hood showed some great improvement in the latter part of the season and we look for him to take an even bigger role in the D-line rotation this year. He should move into the position of #1 backup at DE.

Nose Tackle
Casey Hampton
Chris Hoke
Scott Paxson
Steve McLendon

Kevin Colbert proved once again why he is one of the best GMs in the league, signing Casey Hampton to a reasonable contract. New England got stuck in letting Vince Wilfork push free agency and signed him to a monster contract. Chris Hoke provides solid depth in the middle, but age is quickly catching up with this group. Both Hampton and Hoke are over 30, but have enough good football left in them to anchor the middle of the line for the next few years.

Outside Linebacker
James Harrison
LaMarr Woodley
Jason Worlids
Andre Frazier
Patrick Bailey
Thaddeus Gibson
Lindsey Witten

James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley have had two of the best seasons by a set of Steelers linebackers since Greg Lloyd and Kevin Greene were tearing it up in the mid-90s. However, Harrison is over 30 and Woodley is entering the final year of his contract. Woodley is one of our favorite players in the league, and we firmly believe he has a legitimate shot to win Defensive Player of the Year in the next few years. We highly doubt that the Steelers won't do everything in their power to sign Woodley to a new contract. However, beyond Harrison and Woodley they lacked depth at the position, which made drafting Jason Worlids and Thaddeus Gibson good decisions.

Inside Linebacker
James Farrior
Larry Foote
Lawrence Timmons
Keyaron Fox
Steven Sylvester
Johnny Williams
Renauld Williams

If one thing was blatantly obvious last year at inside linebacker, it was that James Farrior has definitely lost a step. He got out-run in the open field by running backs on multiple occasions. Bringing back Larry Foote gives the Steelers a long-term replacement for Farrior when he decides to retire. Timmons is still improving and should be even better in run defense this year. We really like what Keyaron Fox brings to the table, but for some reason the coaches didn't use him as much in the rotation last year. We'd like to see him get more playing time in the ILB rotation this year, giving guys like Farrior a bit of a breather so they can stay fresh at the end of games.

Ike Taylor
Bryant McFadden
William Gay
Joe Burnett
Keenan Lewis
Crezdon Butler
Anthony Madison
Tuff Harris
David Pitman

The Steelers corners were brutalized last season, prompting the team to bring back Bryant McFadden (who had a lackluster year himself) from Arizona. This isn't the best CB unit in the league, but they're much better than how they played last year. A big factor in the Steelers DB play is the scheme, which often leaves corners in single-coverage with no safety help over the top. This causes the CBs to play with a bigger cushion, making them vulnerable to come-back routes. The Steelers were torched on this last season. With Polamalu's return to the secondary, hopefully the unit can get back to it's 2008 form.

Troy Polamalu
Ryan Clark
Will Allen
Ryan Mundy
Justin Thornton

The Steelers safeties were exposed last year, and the organization reflected their desire to improve the unit by going out and adding Will Allen during the offseason. Allen isn't a season-long starter, but he should be a serviceable backup that can come in and start a game or two if needed due to injury. We're looking for a huge year out of Polamalu. He's got to bounce back from the Madden curse.

Jeff Reed (K)
Daniel Sepulveda (P)
Greg Warren (LS)
Matt Stewart (LS)

The Steelers specialists had a decent year last year, but we're looking for an even better season out of them this year. With no competition at either Kicker or Punter in camp this year, Reed and Sepulveda should get a relatively steady workload to prepare for the season.

So there you have it. We're back to blogging, the Steelers are back in camp, and football fever is starting to creep its way back into Western Pennsylvania. We're pumped for the upcoming season and we've got some big things planned. We're going to be doing some blog maintenance over the next few days, including updating the schedule on the sidebar and stuff.

If anyone goes to Training Camp and takes any pictures or anything, send them our way and we'll be sure to post them. You can always hit us up on Twitter as well.

Go Steelers