Welcome to Scrawn Football's (completely biased) series of previews for the 2010 NFL season, one team at a time. Today's profile is on the Pittsburgh Steelers, which I like to call, "Big Ben's Besmirching".
WHY THEY'RE GOOD
-Troy Polamalu is back and aiming to be in fine form by Week One. The safety kinda flops back and forth between being hurt and not, and the pattern has him staying healthy for this season. That's good, because without him the Steelers' secondary is pretty blase. Polamalu has a set of playmaking skills that few in the NFL can match. Assuming he doesn't have another joint explode, then they're totally matchable.
-Casey Hampton remains the team's rock at nosetackle. He's a human cannonball of sorts, being fired into opponent's O-Lines with lethal force.
-Rashard Mendenhall racked up his first 1,000 yard season and is projected to become the team's everydown back. Willie Parker has been dismissed, putting the onus on Mendenhall to take possession of an offense that will have to run a lot more with 4-6 weeks of Byron Leftwich/Dennis Dixon.
-The receiving corps is still pretty good, due to the fact that the Steelers have become a pass heavy team (or at least heavier than one would expect from Pittsburgh) in recent years. Hines Ward leads the group, and Mike Wallace's 19.4 yards per catch is promising at the X. Antwaan Randle-El is back in the fold, and the team will probably work in some trickery with him. Heath Miller is also an excellent tight end, whose 78% catch rate was tops among his peers.
WHY THEY'RE BAD
-Dennis Dixon and Byron Leftwich, either one, will be the Opening Day quarterback. But hey, if they fail spectacularly the team always has Charlie Batch to fall back on.
Those first six games could be just enough to stop Pittsburgh from mounting a playoff run later in the season.
-Roethlisberger's impact on the team is at an impasse. If he returns and wins games, HURRAY BEN. If he loses, the fans and team will have to contemplate the fact that their quarterback may be scum. Nobody likes thinking.
-The offensive line is terrible. Only Green Bay allowed more sacks than the Steelers did, 51 to 50. If ever there was a reason to justify Big Ben's Big Mistakes, it would be the fact that he makes a living being hunted and stalked by angry, musclebound types in thick helmets.
-Everyone in their division is better. The Ravens added Boldin. The Browns have a competent supervisor in Mike Holmgren. Even the Bengals managed to bring in Terrell Owens. Er, he might be good. Last season the Steelers didn't make the playoffs, and I think the same happens again.
INCORRECT PREDICTION: 7-9, THIRD IN AFC NORTH, POSSIBLY HEADED FOR AN ICEBERG