So we, admittedly, underestimated the commitment required for us both to preview all 32 NFL teams together in a little more than a month. It's tedious, thankless work. So from now on we're splitting the rest of the teams among the two of us to get done twice as quick (and with half the work). It is with that that we're proud to bring to you the 26th of our 32 team previews for the upcoming NFL season, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
KYLE'S TAKE: Usually, if you're a Superbowl winner, barring any big trades or retirements, you are automatically a playoff contender for the next year. This may not always come to fruition (SEE: TAMPA BAY, PHILADELPHIA), but the expectations are always there. This isn't baseball, where certain teams like to dismantle their squads after winning it all. The Steelers look to be in place for another run in the playoffs this year.
Obviously, the Steelers had a big scare when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger went Knievel down the Pittsburgh streets. However, God must love Big Ben and hate former NBA player Jay Williams because Ben is already back and showing no signs of wear from the accident -- it's years later and Jay Williams is only starting to get back to the NBA. Even better, Big Ben used this time to get a nicer face while under surgery. You know, I don't think he learned his lesson at all. He got into a bad accident, has no effects, and he's better looking. Is it just me, or does that piss you off too?
"Fast" Willie Parker is hoping to build off his 1,200 yard season, and with Bettis gone, he'll be getting the goal-line touches as well -- fantasy wise, I couldn't be happier. Parker should have another good year. Maybe if he does, he'll change that nickname. "Fast" Willie Parker? How lame is that? Someone's not too creative. Although Duce Staley is technically second behind Parker, I'd expect to see Verron Hayes take that number two spot soon enough. Staley has proved inconsistent and injury prone for years now and Hayes had a good year backing up Parker and Bettis last season.
The loss of Antwaan Randle El won't be huge, but I wouldn't expect new second receiver Cedrick Wilson to throw those long touchdown gimmick passes like Randle El did. Quincy Moran is their third man, he has experience being a second and third receiver. First round rookie Santonio Holmes should get some time too, as long as no big trouble comes from his domestic abuse trial -- nice guy, that Santonio. After Hines Ward, I'd expect tight end Heath Miller to be Roethlisberger's favorite target.
Defensively, the Steelers shouldn't have trouble. They have a nice core at linebacker with Larry Foote and James Farrior, and Clark Haggans and Joey Porter on the inside -- as long as he doesn't get shot in the ass again. They lost Kim von Olenhoffen on the defensive line, a move I'm sure Carson Palmer is happy about, but their defensive line put up good numbers last year.
Cornerback Ike Taylor and safety Troy Polamalu are awesome defenders. Free safety Ryan Clark had a good year with Washington last year. Their secondary, a secondary which shut down Chad Johnson in the first game of the playoffs -- although you have to remember Palmer didn't play that game -- should be a tough one for any quarterback to face.
The Steelers are in a tough division and have a pretty tough schedule. Nonetheless, they should be able to take enough games from Baltimore and Cleveland to make the playoffs. If Carson Palmer is in full form, they may go to the playoffs as a wild card. If not, the division may be theirs. Either way, they will be in the playoffs with a chance to defend their title. I'm sure a prettier Ben Roethlisberger would love another piece of jewelry to accentuate his less-ugly face.