5 Concerns Heading in to the 2011 Season

There are plenty of things to be worried about as we head in to the 2011 season. The following is my list of the top 5 things Steelers fans should be thinking about as we move forward. The order is somewhat arbitrary, as it’s hard to rate these things, but I did my best to explain my choices in detail.

5. The Lockout

This one is obvious. If the geniuses at the top and the players at the bottom don’t figure this out, we won’t have football. It’s that simple. If we go a season without football, it will greatly effect the NFL’s fanbase and will be years before they fully recover. Not only that, but we won’t get to see any football, and that just pisses me off. I’m sick of hearing about the lockout, as I am sure you are as well, but this is obviously the most important concern heading in to the 2011 season. I listed it as #5 simply because of how annoying it has been to hear about it.

 

 

4. Rule Changes, Player Safety, 18 Game Season…All That

James Harrison has made it clear that he is upset with the rule changes, claiming they make things more confusing for both the players and the referees. There were moments last season where hits would leave me scratching my head, wondering why no call was made and no fine was issued (see the hit on Heath Miller, and Ben’s broken nose) and there were other times when flags were thrown when there was clearly no penalty (see James’ sack on Fitzpatrick. One of the worst flags I’ve ever seen). The players are frustrated because the rules are not clear, and they are now voicing their opinions openly.

The league is then using this whole “player safety” thing to get teams like the Steelers to stop playing smash-mouth football. Defense wins championships, right? Wrong. Not in the new NFL, and that’s what the players are trying to fight right now.

James will be considered a repeat offender by the NFL. The first hit they deem as flagrant (a hilarious term to be used in football, btw) could warrant a suspension for future games. Unless the NFL rule-makers change their ways, or edit their rule book, you can expect to see a lot of Jason Worilds and less of James Harrison. This will hurt our pass attack and make an already vulnerable secondary even more vulnerable.

The NFL’s push for player safety could indeed be seen as a ploy to get an 18 game schedule back on the table. Even though fans and players alike are vehemently against it, it seems that this is still on the agenda for the owners and people who run the NFL. Just shows you how little they care about the cute little fans they have. It’s funny, too because we’re literally the only reason the NFL is so popular and doing so well. They lose us, they lose the money.

3. Another Kind of Super Bowl Hangover

I’ve heard it said that the team that loses in the Super Bowl never does well  the next season. Well, after a little research I came up with a Mythbusters sort of list that says otherwise. My concern going in to this article was that the Steelers would fail to make it to the playoffs next season due to this apparent curse on teams who lose in the Super Bowl, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

When the Steelers beat the Seahawks in SB 40, the Hawks came back the next season and went 9-7, making it all the way to the second round of the playoffs before losing. When the Patriots lost to the Giants in 2008, they came back and went 11-5 in the regular season. If you recall, this was the season Tom Brady was hurt in the first game and Matt Cassel took over. They became the first 11 win team in history to not make the playoffs. When the Cardinals lost to the Steelers in SB 43, the Cardinals came back and went 10-6, making the playoffs. After losing to the Saints in SB 44, the Colts bounced back and went 10-6 making the playoffs. The only real deviation in the last 5 years were the Bears. After losing to the Colts in SB 41, the Bears went 7-9 the next season missing the playoffs. But you know, they’re the Bears, so….

So you see, the so-called “curse” of the team who loses the SB doesn’t hold much weight. It’s not common for the losing team to return and then win the Super Bowl, but it does seem doable to make the playoffs. And we all know what happens when the Steelers make the playoffs. They win games. As you’re thinking about this upcoming season, don’t think that the Steelers can’t win the SB just because they lost last year. It can be done, and I guarantee it’s all they will be thinking about.

2. Run Game/Offensive Line

These two things go hand in hand. Without a solid offensive line, it’s tough to have a productive running back, no matter how great he is. The Steelers made some moves in the draft to improve the O-line this year. We’ll see how those moves pan out as we move forward. What happened with Pouncey is not typical, so don’t be surprised if we didn’t get another O-lineman in the draft that starts at the beginning of the season. This group of men is also paramount in the protection of our QB, the man with the plan, Ben “I’m not here for your entertainment” Roethlisberger. Keeping Ben off the ground and out of trouble will make the Steelers offense more efficient and more dangerous.

We’re all wondering what will happen with Rashard once the season starts. As predicted by me, he’s not the talk of the town anymore. Most of you probably don’t even care anymore, as long as he runs great. That being said, if the Steelers were to make some kind of move at RB and get rid of Rashard because of his Twitter antics, the Steelers run game will be in shambles. They’ll likely have to go grab a FA somewhere, and throw younger players in to tougher situations before they’re ready. Rashard is just getting in to his prime as a runner. I disagreed when the Steelers got rid of Santonio, and I would fervently disagree if they got rid of Rashard.

1. Secondary

This is the part of the team where I am most concerned. As more and more teams go to a spread offense, the weakness in the Steelers secondary keeps getting exposed. We saw it in SB 45, and we’ll see it again moving forward. Even the Ravens spread us out and threw at will in last year’s playoffs. Luckily their receivers are a bunch of choke artists, otherwise we’d have lost that game too. The key will be to develop the younger players that have been around a couple of years, and hopefully start to work some of them in. It will be fun to see how Lake does working with a poor secondary.

Also, fire Willy Gay.

In my opinion, we made poor choices in the draft and should have gone after a corner sooner, who could start to contribute in the nickel or dime this season. By not going after corners early, they showed that they have confidence in the young guys who are there, and in Dick’s ability to make up for it. I’m not so sure I’m a believer.

That’s it. Those are my top 5 concerns going in to the 2011 season. There are plenty of other things to worry about, but stick to these and you’ll be in the know as the season gets closer.

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