The Penguins continue on by beating the Senators in what was a very evenly-matched, tough series. Pittsburgh was the superior hockey team, but Ottawa was a lot better than people here realized. I felt really good for Pascal Dupuis who had a solid, underrated season after being sort of the last man out in the playoffs last year. On Saturday, he was the best Penguin on the ice in my opinion, flying around, getting numerous scoring chances, and winning the game in overtime.
The Penguins really have to thank the Philadelphia Flyers for dispatching the Devils and allowing the Pens to avoid the Capitals for at least one more round. I don’t know how good the Penguins are, I don’t think they are as good as they were last year or even the year before, but I definitely like a second round match-up presumably with either Buffalo or Boston, and beyond that, it’s tough to bet against a team with Crosby, Malkin, and Fleury.
Yeah, all the Fleury hate after game one was ridiculous. Anybody that cried and complained should be ashamed of themselves and realize that this is one of the better goalies in the NHL and will probably soon pass Tom Barrasso as the greatest net-minder in franchise history. All the criticism was typical low-class low-brow Pittsburgh that is all-too common from a large pool of uneducated sports "fans."
Even with another Pens playoff run, the Steelers and mainly Ben Roethlisberger have dominated the Pittsburgh sports airwaves. Like Fleury, I think the backlash within Pittsburgh surrounding Ben has been way too harsh. He might be stupid and an arrogant asshole, but he’s paid to win football games and he accomplishes that task very well. For all of those idiot fans who say they won’t root for the Steelers if Ben stays, give me a break. For all of those idiots who say they have hated Ben for years, you are all just hypocrites. I wasn’t as high as most were on Roethlisberger when he came into the league and even during the 2005 Super Bowl run, but during the Tomlin-era he has easily been a top-5 NFL quarterback and was solely responsible for a Super Bowl victory in 2008. And you want to trade him? If you have a quarterback of this caliber you keep that player at all costs, period.
The suspension is an absolute joke from a joke of a commissioner. 6 games for zero charges, Dictator Goodell could have easily sent a message with a one or two game suspension. I do think there are some racial politics being played in which the commissioner can put an all-pro white quarterback up against all the black criminals who have been suspended in the past. There are some questions about whether Ben can re-claim the fans within Pittsburgh and around the league. Just look at Ray Lewis and Kobe Bryant, if he wins, he’ll be back.
Draft wise, I liked the Thursday-Saturday format. I have always been a draft fan and putting more focus on the first round and stretching out the entire weekend was enjoyable to me. But, I’m starting to get really sick of Goodell. All the chest bumps, hugs, high fives, and all the former players, coaches, and handicapped kids announcing draft picks was laughable. All of these business marketing devices combined with these over-reaching suspensions for mainly acquittals makes me miss Paul Tagliabue.
Instead of looking at each pick, I want to analyze each position on the Steelers and how the draft came into play moving forward toward the 2010 Regular Season.
QB - Including Ben, the Steelers will enter training camp with four quarterbacks. I assume it will be a competition between Leftwich and Dixon for the first four games. They won’t start the season with 4 quaterbacks, so probably either Batch or Leftwich gets cut. A lot of people are saying an 0-4 or 1-3 start without Roethlisberger, don’t be surprised at all if the Steelers are 3-1 when he comes back.
RB/FB - Drafting Jonathan Dwyer kind of solidifies the position. Mendenhall the starter, Dwyer the short yardage/goal-line back and the backup, and Melwelde Moore is still the solid 3rd-down back.
WR/TE - Even with losing Holmes, there is a lot of depth at this position. Behind Hines Ward and Mike Wallace you have Antwaan Randle-el, Arnaz Battle, Limas Sweed, Joey Galloway and you drafted a solid Emmanuel Sanders in the 3rd round. Can Mike Wallace be a good starter? Is the 3rd receiver’s spot Randle-el’s to loose? Tight end wise, is Matt Spaeth a bust? A third-round pick for 8-10 catches and a touchdown per year, he's probably best known as Jeff Reed’s pee buddy.
OL - The offensive-line should improve. Maurkice Pouncey will battle with Trai Essex for the starting guard spot and is the heir apparent to Justin Hartwig at center. Chris Scott this year and Kraig Urbik last provides further depth to the interior of the offensive line. If Max Starks and Willie Colon have solid years, look for great improvement from this unit.
DL - Health is always a key as Hampton, Keisel, and Aaron Smith are getting older. The Steelers probably reached a little in signing Hampton to a multi-year deal, but they also probably had to do. The development of Ziggy Hood is very important.
LB - A lot of depth was added in the draft bettering the corps. I thought James Farrior was a weak spot last year, and with the addition or re-addition of Larry Foote, plus the improvement of Keyaron Fox, and the influx or young draft picks, Farrior should at least be fresher.
CB/S - I love re-acquiring Bryant McFadden. He can immediately start and William Gay can return to nickel where he was very solid two years ago. McFadden was essentially acquired with the pick sent to the Steelers from the New York Jets for Santonio Holmes. Through this year’s and last year’s draft, there is a lot of young depth at both the cornerback and safety positions. With Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark, it all comes down to health.
ST - Jeff Reed is back and Daniel Sepulveda is ok, even though I think he is a little overrated. By drafting all of these hybrid 3-4 linebackers, most can make their mark on special teams like James Harrison did a few years ago. Smart and solid drafting by the Steelers.
Overview - Expect to the Steelers to come into 2010 a little underrated and undervalued because of last year and the Ben Roethlisberger situation. With a good draft, Pittsburgh should be more balanced on offense with an improved offensive line and running game. The tough breaks injury-wise hopefully won’t occur this year, and the Steelers’ defense can revert more to a 2008 form than last year. By drafting a lot of good defensive athletes, the special teams unit can only get better. Baltimore will most likely be the pre-season AFC North favorite, but the Steelers should be in the divisional race until the end, and I anticipate a return to the playoffs.