Next up in our look at the Steelers this offseason heading towards the draft, is the QB’s and RB’s. These 2 positions are pretty set overall as far as starters go but there could be some changes with the depth here.
Ben Roethlisberger: The unquestioned starter returned after his 4 game suspension to help lead the Steelers to a Super Bowl XLV appearance. Ben fell out of grace with some fans after his off the field problems leading into the 2010 season but has since regained the support of the Steeler Nation. Roethlisberger finished the regular season with 3,200 yds. passing, 17 TD’s, and 5 INT’s (he also rushed for 2 TD’s). In his 7th year Ben proved more than ever what he means to this team. Coming from behind late in the 4th quarter or sealing a win with a key 3rd down completion to save the day, he is what you want in a Steelers quarterback. In the prime of his career, Ben’s future is bright, and the Steelers will go every year as far as he can take them. The defense is still the heartbeat of the Steelers and always will be, but clearly without Ben, the offense is not the same. His ability to throw for 350 yds in a shootout, or just have a workmanlike 150 yd. day gives the Steelers a chance against any opponent. He made some mistakes in the Super Bowl this year, the whole team did, but you have to think he’ll return in 2011 with more than enough motivation to help lead the Steelers back into the post season. His career stats; 22,502 passing yds. 144 TD’s and 86 Interceptions are a testament to what he is able to do in an offense traditionally designed to grind it out on the ground. The offense has evolved in the last few seasons and Ben with it. Although that 86 interception stat might seem a bit high, he only tossed 5 picks this year, his lowest since 2005. Ben will always be a quarterback that takes chances, but his improvement in reading defenses has cut the turnovers and negative plays way down. All in all, Ben had a very good year for only playing in 12 regular season games.
The Backups: Dennis Dixon started out 2010 as Ben’s replacement and threw for 254 yds. and 1 Int. in less than 2 games worth of work. After getting injured and subsequently going on IR, he gave way to Charlie Batch for the final 2 games leading up to Ben’s return. Dixon is a free agent this year but the Steelers figure to bring him back. He showed some upside in limited action in his young career and is clearly the best choice as the future 2nd string QB. The Steelers also have Byron Leftwich who was the primary backup to Ben for the majority of the year. Leftwich most likely won’t want to return as the 3rd string QB so unless something changes with Charlie Batch, next years QB’s should be Roethlisberger, Dixon, and Batch. Charlie can pretty much hang around on the roster for as long as he wants. The Steelers like his veteran leadership and he knows the offense well. He will be a cap friendly choice for 2011. We shouldn’t look for the Steelers to bring in any more QB’s in the draft unless a late round prospect becomes available but it would be tough to make the roster.
Rashard Mendenhall: The running back position is one that is different than what it used to be for the Steelers. Gone are the days of “The Bus” and the “3 yds. and a cloud of dust” mentality. Today’s Steeler runningback must be able to not only drag players for the first down but also be quick and elusive enough to break through the hole or bounce the play outside. Mendenhall fits that mold perfectly and then some. Rashard carried the ball 323 times for 1,274 yds. and 13 TD’s. He can be the workhorse you need for 30 carries a game, or even with just a handful of plays he is capable of busting any run for a big gain. The Steelers don’t use a traditional Fullback in their offense so it’s up to him to be able to thrive and he’s done just that. Mendenhall was instrumental in many Steeler wins this year and in the post season he racked up 230 yds. and 4 TD’s. His fumble cost the Steelers dearly in the Super Bowl, but clearly he was as much a part of the success all year as anyone else. The Steelers hit a home run when they drafted him in the first round in 2008 and it will be fun to watch him in the years ahead.
The Backups: The Steelers lost Frank Summers recently so we have to think they will address this position in the draft most likely in the later rounds. Mewelde Moore is a free agent and the Steelers will have to decide if they want him back. Moore may not be a spring chicken but he clearly still has some tread left on the tires and is a solid 3rd down back. His blitz pickup is as good as anyone in the league and if called upon he is capable of carrying the load on a temporary basis. Issac Redman, the short yardage specialist is a star in the making if you ask me. I would like to see him get the chance to take on a more active role in the offense. His knack for picking up the tough 1st down yardage is evident but with some more work, possibly taking over the role of spelling Mendenhall could very well in yet another potent weapon in Bruce Arian’s offense. If the Steelers don’t bring back Memo then Redman would almost certainly see an increased workload.
Overall, these 2 positions will return with the starters intact and little change depth wise as far as new players go.