Steelers Must Avoid Another Hangover

The last two times the Pittsburgh Steelers made the Super Bowl, they did not get to the playoffs the next year. This is what they must do on offense, defense and special teams to avoid another hangover.


Steelers offensive tackle Flozell Adams will be 36 years old in May and simply doesn't appear to have anything left in his enormous tank at this point. (Joe Robbins/Getty)

Offense: Tackle position has to be upgraded

Originally a second-round choice by the Cowboys in the 1998 NFL Draft out of Michigan State, Flozell Adams started out slowly in Dallas but eventually made five Pro Bowls in the span of six seasons from 2003-08.

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However, the 6-7, 335-pounder was jettisoned following the 2009 campaign and ended up in Pittsburgh, moving from left tackle to right tackle to accommodate his diminishing skills. While he's still a mountain of a man and remains effective in the running game, he can be beaten too easily off the edge in pass protection and was one of the reasons why Ben Roethlisberger -- along with him holding on to the ball forever -- always seemed to be under heavy pressure in the pocket. The 2011 draft is again loaded with talent at offensive tackle, so even though the Steelers won't be on the clock until No. 31 overall in the first round, prospects like Derek Sherrod of Mississippi State and Tyron Smith of USC can probably step in and start right away for the AFC champs.

It also wouldn't be a bad idea to add another capable weapon in the passing game, as Hines Ward can't do it forever and 2008 second rounder Limas Sweed is a bust.

Defense: Corner needed for woeful secondary

Not to take anything away from Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, as he was great in Super Bowl XLV and deserved MVP honors, but his performance highlighted the fact that the Steelers don't have a consistent cover man on the roster.

Rodgers threw 39 passes and completed 25 of them, and the latter number would have been noticeably higher had Jordy Nelson and Co. brought their thumbs with them to Arlington, yet Pittsburgh was credited with but one pass defensed -- courtesy of nickel back William Gay -- all game long. Cornerbacks Bryant McFadden and Ike Taylor appear to be adequate because coordinator Dick LeBeau's zone-blitz scheme usually gives the enemy passer so little time to throw, but they're totally overmatched when forced to go one on one with an elite pass catcher like Greg Jennings. The two premier corners in this draft, LSU's Patrick Peterson and Nebraska's Prince Amukamara, are both locks for the top 10, so Pittsburgh must give consideration to second-tier types like Aaron Williams of Texas and Jimmy Smith of Colorado.

Finding a nose tackle for the 3-4 is no easy task, and with Casey Hampton turning 34 before next season begins, the Steelers need to get a better option behind the five-time Pro Bowler than the soon-to-be 36 Chris Hoke.

Special teams: Bring in a more reliable kicker

A lot of experts had a problem with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin attempting a 52-yard field goal with Shaun Suisham, even with weather a non-factor at Cowboys Stadium, if for no other reason than a miss would give Rodgers excellent field position at the Green Bay 42.

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Suisham, signed to replace the mercurial Jeff Reed during the year, did miss the 52-yarder, which should not have been much of a surprise considering he's only come through on three of nine 50-plus attempts in his career. Pittsburgh simply must have a money kicker because the surface at Heinz Field is so difficult on that phase of the game, and even if Suisham managed to split the uprights 14 of 15 times in seven regular-season games, he missed a 43-yarder against the Ravens in the divisional round, too -- at home, of course. While it would be foolish to spend a high draft pick on a kicker, the most clutch three-point artist in the history of the league, Adam Vinatieri, is a free agent.

Additionally, the Steelers could use a dash of explosiveness in the return game, as their 6.1-yard average on punt returns tied for dead last in the NFL.


John Crist is an NFL Analyst for Scout.com, a voter for the Heisman Trophy and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America.


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