Hopefully the transition into the draft and OTA’s signifies a change for the Steelers. With the springtime upon us and sunny days ahead it gives the players and coaches the opportunity to put behind them the problems that have beset them thus far this off-season and a chance to look ahead to brighter things.
The obvious implications of Ben and Santonio aside, three things the Steelers fans can look to for a brighter 2010 season are clanging in my gourd.
Number one is the return of the run game. Sheez-Louise, just the thought of some good old fashioned ground’n pound turf wars of days gone by give me a jolt of juice like the time I downed a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts while doing a radio show with the Turkish one. I was practically speaking Spanish by the time we went off the air.
Art Rooney said it, and the reverberations have been felt throughout the Steelers Southside complex. We gott’a run the ball. Fourth quarter for the hogs is like the barn door for a plow horse. “Hit it and git it” and make that clock run. Put the onus on the big shaggies and let’r rip. It can be done. It takes a mind-set and commitment to do so, but just like some years ago when Bill Cowher decided after the “Tommy Gun” experiment that a return to the roots of what made this franchise great offensively was the commitment to the run. The rest is history.
Rashard Mendenhall is perched on the edge of greatness. It is within his capabilities to display the big play sprint to the sidelines and turn the corner of Willie Parker and bring an inside bang that Willie couldn’t because of his size. But Rashard also brings a little more to the table with a developing jump cut and spin-a-rooski added to his ever increasing pass catching prowess. Rashard showed me a toughness I didn’t see at training camp when he started to light guys up on blitz pick-ups too. I think he’s just beginning to scratch the surface of what he’s capable of doing.
Number two on my list is the return of the fearsomeness of the front 7. Yep, Aaron Smith is back and he’ll be as consistently disruptive as a bout of acne at prom time. Because of his ability to hold the point or come down the line on the backside and keep his backers clean, Aaron’s availability in the line-up always coincides with the rise and fall of the opponents rushing totals.
Add to the mix a youngster by the name of Ziggy Hood and I think we’ve got a glimpse of those rare times anymore where we get an aging super-vet (Aaron) able to school a rising star (Ziggy) and hand off the proverbial torch some time in the future. At least, as of now, that’s how the table’s set. Ziggy showed great improvement down the stretch of last season, especially in his hand-fighting capacity, which is something young guys always struggle with early on.
Number three on my hit list of why I look to a brighter 2010, and connected to point number two is a bust outt’a the gate start for his “own self” Lamar Woodley. Lamar has had back-to-back excellent years that included brilliant second half surges of quarterback terrorism. When Lamar connects the dots to completeness in the form of overall consistency throughout a campaign, which I am anticipating this year, look out Loretta!
Woodley is at the point where his experience and noggin-a-bility are equal to his great athletic talent. Gut instincts and game brains are things you can’t measure, but they are there and an important tool in every players toolbox just the same. Lamar is an ascending force that can crest the wall of his considerable upside. “A rising tide floats all boats” and a havoc-wreaking front 7 will go a long ways towards solving the secondary problems.
Go ahead and smile Steelers fans, you’ve got at least three reasons to do so! And after the NFL draft, which kicks off tonight, you should have a few more.
April 24, 2010
Podcast: (8 Minutes)
In-Studio: Host Craig Wolfley w/ Frank Murgia & Andrew ‘Hershel’ Venezie
– Run Rashard Run
– The Magnificent Front 7
– LaMarr on the Loose