By the time the Patriots head for Heinz Field in mid-November, that suspension will be over, but it will likely hang over everything the Steelers do in 2010, even after Big Ben returns. So for that story, and Part 8 of our pre-camp look at New England’s opponents, we turn to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette veteran NFL man Ed Bouchette (check out his Steeler coverage here and here). Now, for his take on the club …
Where they’re good: Defense, defense, defense. They’re no spring chickens but with the return to health of safety Troy Polamalu and end Aaron Smith (each missed 11 games in ’09), the Steelers should be among the best defenses in the league again after “slipping” to No. 5 last season).
The big camp questions: How will they handle the Ben Roethlisberger suspension, both during camp when he can practice and when he returns after his 4-6 game suspension? And who will replace the production that receiver Santonio Holmes took with him to the New York Jets? And how will an already questionable offensive line overcome the loss of starting tackle Willie Colon, whose June Achilles injury knocked him out for the season?
This needs to happen to win big: The defense has to return to their form of 2008 when they led the league in most categories, Byron Leftwich needs to hold the fort until Roethlisberger returns, and a once-renowned running game must reappear after going missing the past two seasons.
Where they stack up: At 8-8 or 9-7, on the outside looking in for the second straight season in the AFC North.
SCOUTING THE SCHEDULE SERIES