Last year was an absolute dream for Steeler fans. It was like 1992 all over again. The Pittsburgh Steelers rise from apparent oblivion and have the best record in football, but are ousted from the playoffs by a team from the AFC East. The team from 2000 needed a few players to step up and become top-notch talents. Plaxico Burress, Aaron Smith, and Kendrell Bell fit that bill; while others like Amos Zereoue added new dimensions to this evolving offense and defense. However, Special Teams play haunted this franchise like the plague throughout the regular season with a bend-but-don't-break mentality. We all know the story from there, so I won't go into it…
#2 Pittsburgh Steelers (13 - 3) First in the AFC Central
With the recent additions to the passing game (Terrance Mathis and ARE) and the issue of depth at quarterback resolved (Charlie Batch), I had a hard time placing St. Louis higher in the power rankings. The one and only area where I could not conceivably place the Steelers ahead was at Special Teams. Because of the uncertainty of what that unit will bring, the Rams were placed higher.
The Good: Kordell can be officially called one of the best quarterbacks in the league. His season, aside from the AFC Championship game, was marvelous. Jerome Bettis has probably 2 good years left in him, but the great years will be history. The depth on this team is incredible and should come in very handy. James Farrior was added into the mix at linebacker and will add more speed to the front 7. Plaxico Burress will be All-Pro this year, and Hines Ward will be fined a few times for his bone-crushing hits. I could write more, but we all know the score here. Todd Petersen figured out that at the open end of the stadium, the ball tends to tail to the right. Um…if Kris Brown had watched game tape of any of his missed field goals from that side, he would've noticed that same damn thing.
The Bad: Aside from Special Teams, another uncertainty is whether Bettis lasts a full season. I think he'll be fine, but in a 1997, not 2001, sense. I don't see him winning the rushing title and I do see him missing a game or two. The defense will be hard-pressed to duplicate its remarkable performance last season. I may be the only one who thinks that the defense will probably be bailed out by the offense on more than one occasion. Todd Petersen better learn quickly that all it will take is one bad kick and memories of Kris Brown will be back.
The Ugly: The replay of those two special teams mishaps against the Patriots. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly. And what is the deal with the Cabana hat Cowher's been styling? Somewhere Chuck Noll has got to be crying "unclean…unclean" .
Synopsis: Super Bowl or Bust. Super Bowl or Bust.