In the midst of NFL free agency, it seems like the Steelers are content on keeping the same offensive line as last year. Max Starks franchised over Marvel Smith, Chris Kemoeatu signed to a pretty big deal, Willie Colon retained, and Kendall Simmons released. This is what I think is going to happen. I'm glad the Steelers didn't sign Jeff Saturday. No need to pay big bucks for an over-the-hill lineman. And who wants scraps from a playoff choker franchise like the Colts? Not me. I believe that the Steelers will either draft the best available guard or tackle in the first round. If it's guard, he can compete with Stapleton for the starting spot. If it's a tackle, Colon can be moved to guard and compete with Stapleton or stay at tackle and compete with the rookie. If the rookie doesn't start next year, he can take over for Max Starks in two years since Starks was only signed for one year. All-in-all last year's o-line with some improvements in the draft might not be that bad. It's better to go young than the sign stopgaps like Jeff Saturday.
Another area that may need to be addressed in the draft is wide receiver. Nate Washington is gone, although who cares, not that great in my opinion and the Steelers were certainly not going to pay him close to 30 million bucks. As it stands now you have Hines Ward, (How many more years does he have left?), Santonio Holmes, (When's the next drug bust?), and Limas Sweed (When's the next drop?). Expect significant improvement from Sweed, he was an excellent college player and can get open. I think he will be just fine with another year of experience. That reminds me, the PSU trio, Derrick Williams, Deon Butler, and Jordan Norwood are all in the draft this April. Just saying.
The third area they may need revamped is defensive line. I thought Hampton, Smith, and Keisel were old coming into last year. They are only a year older. There are really no backups ready to step-in and be solid starters. Chris Hoke and Travis Kirschke are decent, but they are good backups at best. So there are 3 units the Steelers need to address in April. Offensive Line, Defensive Line, and Wide Receiver
Linebacker might be two years away. What will the Steelers do with James Harrison? I've never seen an outside linebacker be totally unblockable, but he won't get a deal like Hayneswoth got. Harrison is 30 and the Steelers don't give long-term deals to older players. If Harrison goes in two years, can Timmons take his place? Maybe, but then what happens to the inside linebacker position. Larry Foote is regressing and James Farrior doesn't have many more years left. The heart of the Steelers organization since the 1970s, linebacker, may be the center of attention next offseason.
Is anyone else as excited as me about Rashard Mendenhall next year? If the offensive line improves and running backs stay healthy, you have an upright Ben and Willie Parker, Mendenhall, and Melwelde Moore in the backfield. Back to smash-mouth football? Hope so.
Look at the rest of the division. The Ravens lost Bart Scott and re-signed 60 year old Ray Lewis. The Browns lost Kellen Winslow and the Bengals lost Osama bin Laden, even though they just signed Laverneous Coles. If winning a division seems real easy, it usually isn't, but it does seem real easy.
Some Quick Thoughts on the World of Sports
Great week for the Dallas Cowboys, Team Obliterater released and Emmitt Smith let go from ESPN. Some ESPN talking heads are dumb, Mark "Stink" Schlereth, Steve Young, and Keyshawn Johnson come to mind, but was anyone dumber than Emmitt Smith?
It seems like Chris Kunitz has given the Pens a spark. We'll see what happens with Bill Guerin. The Pens will be in the playoffs if they continue to play well. How about Pittsburgh versus Washington in the first round? I'd love it. If the Penguins get in, I think they have as good a chance as anyone to return to the Stanely Cup Finals, not saying they will, but we know they can beat anyone from their division and does anyone see Boston or Washington as Stanley Cup caliber teams? Not me.
I agree that they could have gotten more for Ryan Whitney, but when does "future potential" finally run out. He has sucked for the past two years.
If the Penguins make the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin is not the MVP, it won't be right.
Most hated person for Pittsburgh sports fans? Tom Brady? Bill Belichick? Go ahead and include Alexander Ovechkin on that list.
The Penn State basketball team is clearly on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
If Pitt doesn't make it past the Sweet 16 and beyond, it will be a major disappointment. This is clearly their best team in the past twenty years.