I just got back from a week in the Adirondacks. It’s an annual family vacation, one that’s planned well in advance. Because we’re all giddy at the thought of actual football, I won’t blame the timing of the new CBA all on Roger Goodell, but I’m not exaggerating when I say the lockout ended at precisely the time we made our trek north for the week. Make of that what you will.
Either way, the 2011 NFL season is on, Steelers Lounge is slowly getting back into the swing of things, and that means regular posting and the return of the podcast. We thank you for your patience.
Since we were last together back in early May, Big Ben was still unmarried, Deebo had yet to publicly call Rog the Devil, and Hines Ward was just a happy dude who liked to dance. Now, some three months later, Ben’s been made into an honest man, and Harrison and Ward have had to apologize for embarrassing the organization and/or breaking the law. This truly has been a Bizarro Offseason.
But the off-field stuff is behind us now. The team is in Latrobe preparing for actual tackle football. Imagine that. But just as we left things in the spring (and as always seems to be the case, no matter the month or year), the offensive line is a HUGE issue. I’ve mentioned this countless times before, but I’m not sweating it. I lived through Jonathan Scott, left tackle, last season, and more importantly, so did Ben. That’s not a justification for cutting Max, just the reality that Sean Kugler was so unimpressed with Starks that he felt comfortable going into the season with Scott, the same dude who got pulled from the Panthers game after one play for missing a block. Think about that for a second.
Flozell’s also gone because he wasn’t interested in taking a pay cut. I don’t blame him, but I also don’t blame the Steelers for cutting him since they’re in no position to be giving into the salary demands of a 36-year-old when they’ve got to get under the $120 million salary cap. It’s also proof that, for the most part, the media are like us; when there’s absolutely nothing to report, they take to speculating. Because it wasn’t long ago that it sounded like Willie Colon had absolutely no chance of ever playing in Pittsburgh again. Now he’s back at right tackle. (I suppose it’s only a matter of time before he moves inside to guard.)
So as it stands, the o-line looks like this: Scott, Kemoeatu, Pouncey, Foster, Colon. The Steelers won 12 games with four of these guys starting most of the season, and you can make the argument that Colon is a slight improvement (and no worse than) Flozell.
As for a young guy — whether it’s Marcus Gilbert or Keith Williams or Chris Scott — coming out of nowhere to earn a job … well, don’t count on it. History’s against it. Plus, if we’re using up that lifeline, I’d rather it be on the other side of the ball, specifically at cornerback.
It wasn’t huge news when Matt Spaeth signed with the Bears, but I can’t help but remember JJ writing about how well Spaeth blocked last season. I don’t think he’ll be a huge loss, especially if new tight end John Gilmore is anything like Sean McHugh. Which is to say: he can block a little and catch a little.
Pretty much everybody on defense (save Nick Eason, I think) returns, and that includes Ike Taylor. But it would really be helpful if one of the young cornerbacks showed enough to actually get on the field and, hell, unseat McFadden. I’m a B-Mac supporter, but I’m also not blind to the fact that a) he can’t stay healthy and b) teams love to target him when he steps on the field. It’s easy to say “Hey, just throw Keenan or Crezdon out there and see what happens!” but it’s something else entirely to actually do it. Remember: Lewis got the start against the Broncos during preseason 2010 and couldn’t have played worse. And as long as I’m wishing for stuff: how about Curtis Brown be the rookie Steelers CB to actually earn some playing time. And I’m not talking about Joe Burnett (I’m still mad at him for dropping that pick against the Raiders in ’09). I’m talking actual contributions, sorta like B-Mac in ’05.
Two more things: I’m happy Mewelde is back, but I also hope Baron Batch does enough to make the team. And while I have a sentimental spot for Plax, I’d rather see Limas get one more chance. He’s younger and faster, even if his hands are somehow more suspect than Burress’. But, hey, training camp springs eternal and all that.