10 Questions Needing Answers Come Opening Sunday Night Against The Broncos

By Jeremy Hritz

It’s crazy to think that only a few short months ago, Steelers fans everywhere were licking the wounds inflicted by the dubious Bronco Tim Tebow. In less than three months, the Steelers will have an opportunity to get revenge against the now Peyton Manning-led Broncos on a Sunday Night. Within that time span, several of the questions that are facing the team will be answered, and some certainty will be attained regarding the 2012 season.

So what are the most intriguing questions that will be answered? Below is a list of ten questions, in no specific order, that have many anticipating their resolution.

10. Who will be the starting five offensive linemen?
The optimism is roaring in Pittsburgh surrounding the offensive line, and when considering the quality of the unit over the past few years, it is easy to understand why. With four positions set with Maurkice Pouncey at center, Willie Colon at left guard, Marcus Gilbert at right tackle, and David DeCastro at right guard, the biggest question mark is at the left tackle position. While rookie Mike Adams will be given every opportunity to show that he can start at left tackle, there is much uncertainty whether or not that will happen. If Adams does not pan out, Max Starks, if healthy, could be re-signed and inserted at the position.

9. What role will Sean Spence play on the Steelers defense?
I wrote about Spence last week and the impression that he has made on his coaches, drawing very high praise that is uncharacteristic of such reputable figures such as Dick LeBeau and Keith Butler. While starting Sunday Night against the Broncos is quite the long shot, Spence will undoubtedly fill some role, most likely on third downs, in the middle of the defense. Spence will add some dynamics to the Steelers defense which will hopefully result in increased turnovers in 2012.

8. Will Cortez Allen or Curtis Brown be able to prove that they are the better choice at left cornerback?
Most of the media covering the Steelers have anointed Keenan Lewis as the starting corner opposite Ike Taylor next season. Lewis himself has outwardly expressed confidence and has stated that he has set the goal of making the Pro Bowl this year. However, Steelers coaches are high on Allen and Brown, and if they have a solid camp, one of them could possibly bump Lewis. Both Allen and Brown will have to show that they have taken a step and progressed, and that they have put their injuries from last year behind them.

7. Will the Steelers offense master the Rosetta Stone?
Learning anything new is challenging. The success of the Steelers offense will hinge on having a firm understanding of the new playbook. With the work done in OTAs and in Mini Camp, and with time before training camp to study and prepare, there is no reason offensive players should not be ready to hit the ground running. These are professionals that have learned countless playbooks over their careers, and to excuse mistakes as a result of being unfamiliar with the playbook is unacceptable. While it is unlikely they will have a 100% grasp, they should as close as they can possibly be as a result of their efforts between now and camp. Their competency will be on display for the entire league to see against Denver.

6. Will Chris Rainey live up to the OTA/Mini-Camp hype?
No rookie has received more attention this offseason (Spence excluded) than Florida running back Chris Rainey. Rainey’s agility, burst, and speed are a rare combination that could provide a unique dimension to the Steelers offense. Additionally, Rainey could make significant contributions on special teams as a return man.

5. Which rookie free agent, if any, will surprise everybody and make the team?
Defensive end Ikponmwosa Igbinosun, wide receiver Marquis Maze, and cornerback Terry Carter have been a few names that have been thrown around as surprises during OTAs/Mini Camp. Will they show enough in Latrobe to earn a roster spot?

4. Which draft pick(s) will get the axe?
While there is always optimism following the NFL Draft, it is inevitable that some players from this year’s draft class will get the axe. DeCastro, Adams, Spence, Rainey, and Alameda Ta’amu all appear to be roster locks. And while wide receiver Toney Clemons had coaches excited after the draft, noise surrounding his performance in OTAs/Mini-Camp was minimal. While it does not mean anything until the pads are on, the lack of buzz could be telling.

3. Can Ben Roethlisberger and Todd Haley co-exist constructively?
Both are grown men, and both have a job to do. Unfortunately, both doggedly believe in the way that they do things. Will they be able to agree to disagree and have a productive working relationship, or will they let their egos get in the way and hinder the success of the offense? The best way to prevent a volatile relationship between Roethlisberger and Haley? Win.

2. Can the Steelers make it to week 1 without a significant injury?
This needs no explanation, and it is the greatest fear of every team each and every year. The Steelers need to ensure that their players are healthy, especially Roethlisberger and safety Troy Polamalu. The effects of their absences are well documented.

1. Will Mike Wallace report to camp on time and with a new contract?
The one annoying questions that will not just go away. The longer this standoff goes on, the more the doubt creeps in. Wallace is needed in order for this offense to reach its explosive potential.

  • gogetter

    If I was Keenan Lewis and if he make the Pro Bowl I would never grant you guys an interview. I’ve never seen a player so disrespected by the local media (wannabe’s). How about one of you line up across from him.


    Todd Haley and Ben co-existing is much more of a short-term issue compared to Todd Haley and Mike Tomlin co-existing. The dynamics of that relationship has been largely ignored but is far more intriguing long-term.

  • John B

    I’m hoping Ikponmwosa Igbinosun is good enough to make this team if just to hear the commentators *cough*jim nantz*cough* spend a half the season trying to get his name right.

    In all seriousness though.a couple questions, although not as pressing, i’d add to this list are:
    1. What will happen with the Saunders situation? Will it get reduced? will they axe him if Pope is better?
    2. Will Brown be the number 2 WR or will a fully healed Sanders challenge or could they both challenge MW for number one (you never know)?
    3. Who will get the axe at RB and in turn how many RBs and WRs do they keep?
    4. Will Mundy be challenged for the starter spot in Denver (rolle, cromartie-smith)
    5. Who will be the BUCK??

  • SteelerDave

    My guesses….

    1. No reduction and Pope is released after game 4 to make room for Saunders.
    2. Sanders plays split end over Wallace. Brown starts at flanker. Wallace plays outside of Brown in 3WR sets.
    3. I see them keeping 4 RBs and 5 WRs.
    4. Rolle has the potential but I do not see anyone unseating Mundy.
    5. Foote this season for around 8 games then in a surprise Spence assumes the role, even though undersized for the traditional BUCK.

  • HoustonJr

    What has Keenan Lewis done to warrant any media attention? I’d say he’s been a disappointment thus far.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I understand Spence has looked good so far without pads…but we need to understand that the best and brightest rookies on our team in the past have never did any significant playing till at least mid way through the season…I do not even see Spence getting any reps till at least 4th or 5th game and then after that minimal.

  • gdeuce

    No way does Spence get that role. Doesn’t the Buck call the plays on D? LeBeau will not leave that responsibility to a rookie.

  • Intropy

    I think it would be more accurate to say that Farrior called the plays on the D. An ILB is in a good possition to call plays because he’s right in the middle of the defense, but I think Timmons could do it, or Woodley from the outside. It doesn’t have to be the buck.

  • SteelSpine

    That’s a joke, right? Funny how guys who are a bust thusfar (penalties outweigh production) dont get rated higher than everyone else until they prove it on field.

  • SteelSpine

    Good questions I too would like to know the answers to some of those. And if Igbinosun makes the team will someone say “Iggy & Ziggy”. Some of those Qs I dont have a question about:
    – No reason anyone would think Sanders will beat out Brown for #1 receiver. If Sanders re-injures his ankles he needs to worry about Crotchery.
    – My fingers crossed that an unknown develops better than Mundy. Got tired of seeing the back of #29 following opposing players into endzones, including after getting juked on special teams for years – that told me instincts are not good. Mundy perfect size for saftety but LeBeau’s system got by just as well as with little Tyrone Carter off the street.
    – It’s a good thing for Foote knows defense well to call defensive adjustments, because his speed isnt enough otherwise to hold off any backup. Timmons I wonder if maybe didnt show enough instincts to call adjustments. If Sylvester isnt starting this year then LeBeau knows something about him we cant see on field.

  • Cols714

    10. Adams, Colon, Pouncey, DeCastro, Gilbert
    9. Not much of one, most ST until later in the year
    8. No. A big fat No. Lewis played well last year and will start this year
    7. Yes. This is easy. Of course they will, it’s not like they are the first team ever to change OCs
    6.Nope. He’ll make a play here or there, but I wouldn’t expect much this year at least
    5. Are you nuts? None of those guys you mentioned will make the team. A WR, really?
    4. I think you hit this one, Clemons is probably gone. Just a numbers thing
    3. Yes. Easy one
    2. Yes (just being hopeful)
    1. Yes. Although I’m unsure of a long term deal