The defending AFC champions continue to be one of the finest franchises in the league, even though they missed the playoffs in the season sandwiched between a pair of Super Bowl berths.
To avoid sliding out of the postseason in 2011, the Steelers need to address some of the holes on the roster. There aren’t many, but they are there.
OL: The Steelers succeed despite having a patchwork, injury-prone wall of blockers. If they could squeeze a higher lever of performance on a consistent basis out of the tackles, the Steelers could become a dynasty once again. Maurkice Pouncey seems poised to become the next in a long-line of centers who hold the job for many, many years. Chris Kemoeatu is above average at left guard. But the Steelers need to upgrade the other guard position — ideally with Pouncey’s twin brother. Unfortunately, Mike Pouncey likely will be long gone by the time the Steelers use the 31st overall pick.
DL: The starters continue to be on the wrong side of 30, and getting closer to the wrong side of 40. This key aspect of the 3-4 scheme can’t be taken for granted. Ziggy Hood, a first-rounder in 2009, has gotten plenty of injury reps, but it’s too early to tell whether he’ll ultimately be ready to replace Brett Keisel or Aaron Smith.
CB: With a strong front seven and a Hall of Fame safety, the Steel Curtain has gotten by despite the presence of some ragged tin foil at the cornerback position. They haven’t had a truly great cover man since Rod Woodson, and they need one.
RB: Coach Mike Tomlin has said he doesn’t plan to decrease Rashard Mendenhall’s workload. Which possibly means Tomlin doesn’t want other teams to think he’ll be looking to draft a complement to Mendenhall, who can’t carry the ball 385 times per year every year.
S: Troy Polamalu plays with the kind of reckless abandon that sets him up for injury. And when he’s injured, the production plummets from his position. Maybe that’s inevitable, given that Polamalu is so good. But the Steelers need to realize that what makes Polamalu such a great player makes him vulnerable. They need a better backup option.
Overview: The Steelers continue to have one of the best coaching staffs and organizations in all of sports. They resisted the strong temptation last year to dump their franchise quarterback, and they’ll continue to be competitive indefinitely into the future. To continue to move closer toward 10 Super Bowl trophies, however, they finally have to address some consistent weaknesses, instead of just assuming that they’ll find a way to overcome them.