Ok, ok. I know. The Steelers play this year is making you want to puke. I agree. It's been absolutely pathetic. But wait! You don't have to be mad. Look at the brightside. And yes, I assure you there is a brightside, and it's quite good. "Is SF87 crazy?", you ask. Nope. Trust me, I am more certain than ever we WILL have a second Steelers dynasty, and you're seeing the beginning of it right now. Let me explain.
Ben Roethlisberger has been terrible ever since his accident and appendectomy, right? True, he has been making alot of mistakes, and has thrown a ton of interceptions, but try to look past that. Ben has been consistently throwing 30+ times per game, something he's never had to do over an extended period in either of his first 2 seasons. And look at all the yards he's getting through the air. 1779 yards so far in 7 games. 433 against Denver, 301 last week, 238 against Atlanta when he only played 3 quarters, 238 against the Chiefs on only 19 attempts. He's on pace for 3558 yards for the season, or more, actually, with the way he's been getting better every week. Yeah he's been throwing picks, but he's also been making some great plays. Look at his touchdown pass to Willie Parker in the Denver game. That was 90% Ben, 5% Parker not giving up on the play, and 5% Denver forgetting about Parker. This play was classic Ben. Using his feet to keep the play alive, then having the patience and discipline to find a reciever down field. While his picks have been costly, they look to me like the growing pains of a young quarterback who's trying to make the tough transistion from "game manager" to gunslinger, and he, and the Steelers offense, will be better for it. The only knock on Ben in his first 2 years was that he couldn't throw alot and be successfull. Well, if he gets through the growing pains this season, he will eliminate that weakness, which adds a whole new dimension to our offense. However, Ben's transformation won't be the only key to that new dimension.
Santonio Holmes has been developing much faster than I, the experts, or any logical person could have expected. He has great speed, sure hands (as a WR, not a return man), and he seems to get open alot. He will only get better. I see him taking over the #2 spot next year, and being a great complement to Ward, and a significant deep threat. I think Nate Washington will be the #3 guy, where he has shown an ability to make big plays down the field, and as for Cedrick Wilson, either he steps up and keeps a spot on the team, or he moves out of the way for our young guys, as well as Willie Reid, who should be back and ready to be a big improvement to our punt and kick returns. I always said I wouldn't mind losing Randle El if it meant we'd get a significant improvement at WR, and Holmes could very well be just that next year, with Washington complementing him and Ward and giving us a very nice recieving corps. Add to this Heath Miller, who is a dependable pass catcher and a valuable weapon in the middle that is just begging to be used more often, and the Steelers' passing game could be great next year.
Now how about the running game? We know Willie Parker is fast. He's on pace for 1,200 yards this year and 16 touchdowns. But can he be a dependable every down back? We've seen him get stuffed way too many times this year. Alot of this surely has to do with poor offensive line play, but I would have to agree Parker should not be getting as high a percentage of the carries as he's getting. The Steelers need to give Najeh Davenport significantly more carries to see if the Parker/Davenport combination is something they can depend on for their running game next year. If not, we'll probably have a high draft pick, and there's always good running backs available in the early rounds. Even if we can't get Adrian Peterson, there are still some good options. Penn State's Tony Hunt for example. I did an admittedly brief search for RB prospects in the coming draft, and in addition to Peterson and Hunt, I also noticed a guy from Rutgers, Brian Leonard, who's big and strong and could fit the Steelers' style. Lots of people are projecting him as a fullback, but then, alot of people said Jerome Bettis should be a fullback too. Even if he's not as good as the Bus was in his prime, a big guy like Leonard could be a great compliment to Fast Willie, and could finally be the answer in short yardage situations.
Staying on this theme of draft picks, the Steelers could use the coming draft to reload at linebacker, something I thought they should have done last year. With high picks, they should have a good chance of getting Paul Posluzny or H.B. Blades, who are both rated high in all the rankings I saw. But the draft isn't the only brightside for the Defense. Ryan Clark has impressed me so far with alot of big hits, and it looks like Troy Polamalu is getting comfortable with him. Also, while our cornerbacks have been disapointing this year, with Deshea and Ike looking bad at different times, I haven't lost confidence in Taylor. I guess you can't shut down top recievers all the time. I think Ike will be back to his level of last year that had people describing him as a "shut down" corner, and had Chad "Ocho Cinco" Johnson calling him the best CB in the league. Then there's Bryant McFadden, who, while he looked a bit unready to be a starter earlier in the year when he got a chance to start due to injuries to Townsend, I have no doubt he will turn into a very good CB. Look at Ike, who took a couple years to develop into a legitimate starter. McFadden has shown an ability to make plays, and should be ready to challenge Deshea next year for his job. Plus don't forget Ricardo Colclough, who, special teams errors aside, may still turn out to be a pretty good cornerback.
Finally, lets look at the last time the Steelers missed the playoffs. It was back in 2003 when they went 6-10. What did they do the following year? Just 15-1 and a trip to the AFC Championship game. While I'm not going to bet on 15-1, I have no doubt the Steelers will be back next year with a vengeance. This team always plays better with a chip on it's shoulder, and it could lead them to a second Super Bowl win in three years. Beginning of a dynasty? That's what people were saying back when the Pats won their second ring. So what if the Steelers are suffering from a hangover from One for the Thumb? If it motivates them to start on the next hand next year, I'll take it.