James Farrior sees the future. Courtesy of balljunkie

12 Steelers to Watch in 2012. Part 1.

The purgatory between Christmas and New Year’s Day is an awkward time.  It’s like standing outside the apartment after that first date; you’re wondering how you did and what your chances are of being invited up for a cocktail.  2012 is looming.  Let’s look at twelve Steelers and see who gets to come up and spend the night and who gets the uncomfortable hug on the sidewalk.  Your first six suitors have arrived.

Rashard Mendenhall.  Mendenhall was to be the rare balance of power and speed when he came out ofIllinois.  He has shown flashes of greatness and the ability to run hard and run fast but not consistently.  The offensive line, the Super Bowl fumble, and his statements about OBL have not helped his campaign. The biggest upside for the Steelers is that he is entering the last year of his contract.   Rashard will be using the 2012 season to impress somebody in the NFL. Date-ability factor:  One more movie and we’re moving on.  No matter how nice his Tweets are.

Hines Ward.  The ultimate long term relationship……and he can dance too!  Fifteen years of highly consistent service is worth something.  Rumor has it that the Steelers’ front office is up for keeping Ward around for the last two years of his contract as long as he’s up for restructuring but that the coaching staff would like to move on.  I say keep him!  This is an all time Steeler here and he has something left to give.  Cotchery only signed a one year deal and will probably be moving on.  Questions abound as to the durability of Emmanuel Sanders.  Wallace and Brown look solid but still rely on Ward’s mentoring.  Play ball with Hines and just watch how well he plays ball for you!  Date-ability factor:  He’s dreamy!

Marcus Gilbert.  This fella got forced into the line up earlier than projected due to injuries along the offensive line and played like he got forced into the line up earlier than projected.  There are very few Maurkice Pouncey’s out there!  Naturally talented and intelligent, Gilbert is long on potential but his second and third seasons really tell the tale for any O lineman.  Date-ability factor:  Interesting….. Let’s see where this leads.

James Harrison.  If you are looking for something nice to say about James I guess it would be that he absolutely loves to contribute to the NFL Charities Foundation.  Fined, fined, fined, injured, suspended is a hard fall for the former defensive player of the year but damn when he’s playing within the rules, he is best outside backer in the business.  Date-ability factor:  He will punch holes in your walls and then bring you flowers.  There is either wedding bells or a restraining order in your future.

James Farrior.  The light toHarrison’s dark side for sure!  Potsie keeps his cool and calls the D.  I have no idea what the Jets didn’t see in this guy; maybe they didn’t want to pay him for fifteen years!  Their loss has been the Steelers gain.  Farrior is solid and smart for sure but not able to cover backs and tight ends like he used to.  He may retire at the end of this season; he’s mentioned it.  If he stays, I could see him contributing in first and second down situations.  Date-ability factor:  Not the sexy smoove guy but he will keep you laughing for years!

Weslye Saunders.  This guy snuck under the radar as a free agent signing this summer.  An imposing physical specimen at 6’5” 270 lbs. Saunders had a couple of scrapes during his college career atNorth Carolina.  He also was contacted by an agent prior to being eligible to do so.  All of that business affected his draft status greatly.  He could be the next Steelers’ bargain bin treasure.  He can learn volumes from Heath Miller who is still playing at a high level.  The next season or two will tell but I’m hoping Saunders is a Steeler for a long time.  Date-ability factor:  He’s got a bit of a bad boy image but he’s a cheap date.  Let’s see where this goes.

Dreamboats or shipwrecks; you decide.  But get some sleep, you have six more dates this week.

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