During the 3-1 pre-season, the Pittsburgh Steelers have played splendid, making numerous big plays with their talented and improved wide receiver group. During the pre-season they have had over 12 passing plays of in excess of 20 yards, broken down into and average of over 3 big passing plays a game, which undoubtedly can be a game changing passing attack.
With big play speedster Mike Wallace on one end, young wide out, Antonio Brown looking like he may have a bigger role in the offense as well this season, the Steelers have themselves a pair of speedy receivers on the outside. Grabbing Jerricho Cotchery (career 18 TDs, 4514 yards all with the Jets) now has a more fearsome QB throwing the ball to him, should bring his game up as well. Then of course, along with the steady veteran Hines Ward still getting his touches as well to move the chains, the passing game of the Steelers looks like it may be a surprising upgrade this season.
As history has indicated by the proud organization of the Steelers, who have always had a run-first mentality, Ben Roethlisberger had said several years ago, that the team was no longer your grandfather’s Steelers, and he is truthful. Gone are the days of jamming it down your opponent’s throats 40 out of 65 plays in a game. They obviously still have tank-like Rashard Mendenhall, who is a powerful pounding runner (a perfect Steeler, in my opinion) and he will get his as well.
The defense will be more than rock solid still, even with James Harrison now at 33 years old; he can still govern the field. Troy Polamalu is at a standstill in the top 2 safety roost in the league, along with Ravens star, Ed Reed and up and coming underrated youngster, Earl Thomas of the Seattle Seahawks. The Pittsburgh Steelers have been a top ended defense over the last 5 seasons (giving up an average of 17.02 ppg). Only once allowing a season average to opponents of better than 20 points in a game, and it was 20.2 in 2009, which is absolutely incredible.
Ben missed 4 early crucial games last season, with his suspension, and still threw for 3200 yards and 17 TDs. If he played a full season, he would have most likely ended up with over 4000 yards and around 22-23 TDs, which, by the way, would have quietly been his 2nd successive 4000+ passing season.
They have outscored their opponents 107 to 54 in the pre season, I expect a big offensive year from the black and yellow this year. Over the last 5 years, their offense has averaged 22.9/game, their best scoring season, putting up 24.6 a game in 2007, the season Roethlisberger hung up 32 TD passes on the rest of the league. I imagine more in the 26-27 points/game neighborhood for them this year.
I think 2011 is going to be very interesting and exciting season for Steelers fans, especially with their couple of games against Cincinnati and Cleveland, where they can really look to open it up.