2006 season: 8-8
Head Coach: Bill Cowher(retired)
Offensive Coordinator: Ken Whisenhunt(joined another team)
Defensive Coordinator: Dick LeBeau
Pro-Bowl: Alan Faneca(OG), Willie Parker(RB), Casey Hampton(DT) and Troy Polamalu(S)
Everybody knows what Ben Roethlisberger went through last off-season, with nearly losing his life in a motorcycle accident, then his emergency appendectomy. He was just wasn't the same this year and he struggled. Big Ben threw for 3,513 yards, 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. Another big question coming into last season was the running game. The Steelers had relied on Jerome Bettis for short yardage and goal line attempts but with the "Bus" retiring before the start of the season, a lot of people had their doubts whether or not Willie Parker would be able to be an every down type of player. Well, Parker proved that he could, rushing for 1,494 yards and 13 touchdowns. Pittsburgh didn't necessarily have great depth at wide receiver and it showed, with Hines Ward, their leading receiver, had just 74 receptions for 975 yards and 6 touchdowns. Santonio Holmes did have a pretty good season, grabbing 49 receptions for 824 yards and 2 touchdowns. Overall their offense was very good, ranking in the top 10 in every major statical category but the amount of turnovers they had really hurt this team.
The Steeler's defense was in the top 10 once again this year. They were great against the run, but just average against the pass. James Farrior led them in tackles with 126. He also had 4 sacks and 1 interception. Troy Polamalu had a Pro-Bowl season with 76 tackles, led the team with 3 interceptions and 7 passes defended. Joey Porter didn't have a lot of tackles with just 55, but he led the team with 7 sacks and added 2 interceptions. If there is a weakness on the Steelers defense it would have to be the secondary. If you look at the stats, you'll notice that majority of their cornerbacks have tallied a lot of tackles, that is because they aren't great coverage corners therefore a lot of receptions are made on them. Ike Taylor led all corners with 69 tackles and also had a career high 2 interceptions, Bryant McFadden had 54 tackles and 3 interceptions, Tyrone Carter had 42 tackles and Deshea Townsend rounded it out with 41 tackles and 2 interceptions. They have talented corners, but they don't always play up to their potential and besides Taylor, their isn't really another playmaker.
Jeff Reed didn't have that good of a season hitting just 74.1% of his field goal attempts. He finished the season ranking 30th and i'm sure looks to improve that next season. Much like his counterpart, Chris Gardocki also ranked 30th in punting average with 41.3. I should mention that although he is at the bottom of the league, he is consistent with his averages, he has had an average of less than 42 in four of the last five years. Santonio Holmes did a great job this year retuning punts, with an average of 10.2 and 1 touchdown return, that was good enough to rank 10th. On the other hand, Najeh Davenport didn't do to well in his 21 kick returns, averaging just 21.5 ranking 32nd. I would just let Holmes do kick returns too or let Willie Reid do it, just my opinion of course.
As good as their defense is, they could definitely use some upgrades at some positions. Defensive End seems to be the position they would most like to use their 15th overall pick on. Other places they could look to upgrade defensively are Cornerback, Linebacker and maybe a safety to play opposite to Troy Polamalu. On the offensive side of the ball they could really use an upgrade on their offensive line. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 46 times last season, obviously that must change if the Steelers hope to return to the playoffs next season. They could look to get a short yardage guy like they had with Bettis and someone that can help rejuvenate their "gadget plays" which they were so good with when they had Antwan Randel El.
Positions that they must address during this year's draft.
1. Defensive End
2. Offensive Line
5. Running Back
The Steelers would love to upgrade the defensive end position in their great 3-4 defense. Aaron Smith and and Brett Keisel are fine but someone like Adam Carriker out of Nebraska would be a great improvement. The only other person I can see them taking instead of Carriker in the first round is Jarvis Moss out of Florida. But I personally might prefer Carriker just because of his his great size and he is extremely strong but Moss is faster and can play both the end and outside linebacker.
Their offensive line needs improvement, mostly the center position because of Justin Hartwig announcing he is retiring, they also could use some help at the right guard and right tackle spot. The Steeler's would love to get someone like Ryan Kalil(USC) in the second round. He is a center and is quickly rising up many draft boards because of how well he did at last week's combine. Some tackles that they could steal in the later rounds are Gabe Hall(TEX TH), Ken Shackleford(UGA) and Stephon Heyer out of Maryland.
Like I mentioned earlier, they have a good group of guys, but they are horribly inconsistent and besides Ike Taylor they really lack a ball hawk, someone that can force turnovers. They could go many different routes with cornerback, they could look to get someone in the second round if Kalil is gone(which he most likely will) or they can wait till the 3rd or 4th round to address this need. Someone I think has the potential to be one of the best, if not the best cornerback in this whole draft is Tarrell Brown(TEX). Guys like Fred Bennett(SCAR), David Irons(UGA) and Ryan Smith(FLA) could all help and could be had in the 2nd to 4th round.
They don't really have a glaring need here, because the guys that they have are still good, but they are all getting older and it could be a smart move for the Steelers to start building their future at Linebacker soon. Tim Shaw of Penn State is a rising prospect he was the fastest of all the outside linebackers and he has a chance to be very special. Quincy Black(UNM) is another guy who could be very good. H.B. Blades(PITT), Anthony Waters(CLEM) and Justin Warren(TEX A&M) are guys that could all flourish in Pitt's 3-4 as inside linebackers.
If they do decide to add depth at runningback they should go for a power guy that can punch it in from a yard out and someone who can pick up short first downs. Some guys that fit that mold are Tony Hunt out of Penn State, Nate Ilaoa from Hawaii and DeShawn Wynn out of Florida.
If it wasn't for Ben Roethlisberger's turnovers and the inability of the offensive line to protect him, the Steelers would have been in the Playoffs defending their title. But instead they were sitting at home. With minor adjustments in the draft I don't see why Pittsburgh won't be in the Playoffs once again.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
2006 season: 8-8