By: Joseph Pucciarella
If this were a heavyweight bout then we’re in the very early rounds and the former powerhouse Steelers just got knocked down…again. The crowd awaits to see if the former champ can get up and reclaim its glory.
No matter how you’re feeling here’s the truth. Coming into this season the team didn’t have very much depth at the O-Line, especially after watching Flozell Adams and Max Starks walk off into the Free Agency sunset. Add on the injuries and then watch Ben Roethlisberger get pummeled weekly behind a suspect line. The offense has struggled getting into the rhythm because of these issues up front and therefore the running game has also never got going.
However, most analysts are calling the defensive problems “fixable,” and who’s to say that the legendary Dick LeBeau can’t fire up this defense and make it scary good again, even with James Harrison out.
With status of Rashard Mendenhall uncertain going into Sunday, I’ll echo the same opinion I’ve mentioned before: Isaac Redman is capable, and not just spot duty capable. This guy is hungry and starting quality capable. I believe he picks up pass blocks better than Mendenhall, and runs harder than him as well. Is he overall a better back? Probably not yet, but if he stays at this pace the sky is the limit as to what he does in this league.
This team is banged up; offensive line, defensive line, starting quarterback, starting running back, linebacker core, etc. You get the point. On the flip side there are a few things to be optimistic about.
First, Starks re-signed this week at the league minimum for his experience and position. That’s huge. Don’t overlook it. Max has started over 60 games for this franchise, and when healthy can be a force to be reckoned with. Sure he’s not the best lineman in the league. But he just might now be the second best lineman in this week’s starting lineup.
Secondly, Doug Legursky returns this week. Again not in the top percentile for guards in the NFL, but is a player with upside and will be nice to see him back in the lineup along with Starks and Maurkice Pouncey. Hopefully moving forward, with the return of Chris Kemoeatu in the coming weeks, the Steelers can find some continuity in the offensive line in the latter part of the season.
What to expect? The Steelers will win against Tennessee. It won’t be an easy win, and they won’t hold Chris Johnson to under 35 yards like the previous matchup. Matt Hasselbeck has been effective, and hasn’t made a ton of mistakes. I expect a close game in which the Steelers will win by 7 or less. The long-term outlook of this team is yet to be determined, but the fundamentals must be improved upon and it must start this week. The offense must step-up, and it starts up front. Welcome back Max.
The heavyweight slugger is down, the crowd is on its feet waiting to see if he gets up. I expect he gets up. The question is does the slugger fight with the heart of a champion, or does he get knocked down for the count in the latter rounds.
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