The Pittsburgh Steelers did not qualify for the playoffs in 2006 and were not able to defend their Super Bowl championship from 2005. Bet you didnâ€™t know that if they had defeated the Ravens on 12/24/06 at Heinz Field that they would have made the AFC playoffs as the 6th seed instead of Kansas City. As bad as the Steelers were in 2006 at 8-8, Bill Cowher didnâ€™t leave an empty pantry behind in Mike Tomlinâ€™s new kitchen.
The Steelers have quietly gone about their business in the off season and they hope that they have tweaked the roster sufficiently to return to the playoffs in 2007. Many, ITH included sensed that the Steelers needed to maintain some semblance of a power rushing attack, even though Willie Parker had a terrific season in 2006 earning a Pro Bowl berth. The acquisition of Kevan Barlow (Jets) may just provide some of that power rushing that has been missing since the retirement of Jerome Bettis. While the entire team seemed out of synch at times in 2006, the instability of the O-line was probably the biggest disappointment in 2006. C Jeff Hartings retired and the team brought in C/G Sean Mahan (Buccaneers) to compete for a starting spot. One wonders if the line will be improved in 2006 as Russ Grimm (O-line coach) has moved on and perennial Pro Bowl G Alan Faneca is reportedly unhappy with his contract situation. Outside of WR Sean Morey (Cardinals), the team has re-signed its key players at the skill positions and is hoping for a more productive offense that protects the football much better in 2007.
On defense, the big story was the departure of LB Joey Porter who has moved his tack to Miami. In addition to the inconsistent productivity of its secondary and its inability to cause turnovers, the pass rush seemed to disappear in Pittsburgh in 2006. To augment the rush, the Steelers invested their top 2 draft picks in LB Lawrence Timmons (FSU) and DE LaMarr Woodley (Michigan). The team also picked up free agent DE Nick Eason (Browns).
Next up…The Baltimore Ravens
Photo by Sabina Moran