2009 Pittsburgh Steelers Season Preview
2009 Pittsburgh Steelers preview from MadduxSports.com. With the football season around the corner grab the internets best football picks handicapper Maddux Sports and turn a profit while betting against the nfl point spread each and every week.
2009 Pittsburgh Steelers Predictions
By Adam Barone
The Steelers eked out a tough win in Super Bowl XLIII for their second championship in four years, and have almost exactly the same team back for 2009. They lost starting cornerback Bryant McFadden and linebacker Larry Foote, but should be able to replace both easily. Head coach Mike Tomlin inherited a very talented team, and has done a great job of keeping it together. It should be business as usual as long as coordinators Dick LeBeau and Bruce Arians are still around.
Ben Roethlisberger isn’t flashy, but is clearly among the league’s elite quarterbacks. He’s won two Super Bowls in his short career. Last season he passed for 3,301 yards and 17 touchdowns. Backup Byron Leftwich went to Tampa Bay as a free agent, but was allowed to do so because Charlie Batch (the usual backup) is healthy again after a season on injured reserve.
The Steelers had high hopes last season for then-rookie Rashard Mendenhall, but his shoulder was injured when he tried to plow through Ray Lewis. Needless to say, that was a bad idea. Starting running back Willie Parker started the season well, but also missed time with injuries. Mewelde Moore filled in nicely and showed just how dangerous the Pittsburgh running attack is capable of being. It could be among the league’s best if Parker and Mendenhall can stay on the field.
Deep ball specialist Nate Washington went to Tennessee as a free agent, and will be replaced by Limas Sweed. Sweed caught just six passes last season and has a lot of work to do if he’s going to live up to expectations. Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward are still the main cogs in the passing game. They racked up 821 and 1,043 yards last season respectively. Shaun McDonald was brought in as a free agent to add depth.
All five starting offensive linemen return this season following a questionable 2008. Tackles Max Starks and Willie Colon, guards Chris Kemoeatu and Darnell Stapleton, and center Justin Hartwig are still growing as a group. The team allowed 46 sacks last season, clearly an area where improvement is needed. Third round pick Kraig Urbik, a guard, and tackle Trai Essex add depth.
Versatile defensive lineman Ziggy Hood was drafted in the first round to add depth to an aging front line. Brett Keisel, Casey Hampton, and Aaron Smith are 31, 32, and 33 years old, so it’s necessary to look to the future. Hampton is another of the small group of huge nose tackles that make 3-4 defenses go. He typically takes up at least two blockers allowing the Steelers’ talented linebackers get to the quarterback.
The linebackers in a 3-4 defense can really stand out if they’re talented, and this group is certainly that. James Harrison had 16 sacks last season and was the league’s defensive player of the year. LaMarr Woodley proved that he deserved a starting role, racking up 11.5 sacks. Lawrence Timmons, a first round pick in 2007, will take over at inside linebacker for the departed Larry Foote. He’ll play alongside Pro Bowler James Farrior, who had 133 tackles in 2008.
The safeties, Troy Polamalu (73 tackles, seven interceptions in ’08) and Ryan Clark (87 tackles in ’08) are top-notch too. McFadden’s departure leaves a significant hole at cornerback, which will be filled by William Gay. McFadden didn’t have more than three interceptions in his four-season career. Ike Taylor will continue to start on the other side, usually drawing the opponent’s best receiver.
Jeff Reed has made 82.7 percent of his kicks over his career, and is typically regarded as one of the league’s better kickers. He went 27 for 31 last season. Santonio Holmes has been the punt returner, but is unlikely to continue in that role, as both return jobs should be open in camp.
The Steelers are once again among the league’s elite, and will stay there are long as their core group is intact. The additions of young players like Mendenhall and Woodley suggest that the Steeler machine will be up-and-running for the foreseeable future. It appears that there’s no one they can’t beat with Roethlisberger at the helm.