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State of the Steelers - Training Camp Preview
John Tuvey
July 30, 2009
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This series of analysis on the 32 NFL teams takes a look at where teams have been over the last three years for each position - where they have ranked in the most notable categories and the hard statistics produced. This is to give a view of each team heading into training camp and what they most likely need to improve on this season and where their strengths lie that likely won't need any changes. Ending each team review is a brief summation of what to watch in training camp in August to uncover those developing situations that you can take advantage. Combining where teams have come from and what they have done in free agency and the NFL draft gives you the very same thing that NFL coaches are looking at as they attempt to improve their team for 2009.
Team Menu
ARI ATL BAL BUF CAR CHI
CIN CLE DAL DEN DET GBP
HOU IND JAC KCC MIA MIN
NEP NOS NYG NYJ OAK PHI
PIT SDC SEA SFO STL TBB
TEN WAS  

Training Camp Opens: July 31
Head Coach: Mike Tomlin (3rd year)
Stadium: Heinz Field  Surface: Grass
2009 Schedule   2009 Roster   2008 Statistics   2008 Record: 12-4

QB Carries Rush YD Rush TD Pass Comp Comp % Pass YD YPP Pass TD Int Rank YD Rank TD
2006 45 110 2 522 311 60% 4005 12.9 23 23 8 11
2007 47 197 2 440 281 64% 3386 12.0 34 14 21 3
2008 40 105 3 506 303 60% 3607 11.9 19 15 15 18

Quarterback - Assuming the year-old allegations against Ben Roethlisberger don’t become a distraction—and given the way they’re already fading into the background, that’s a fair assumption—the Steelers have to feel pretty good about their starting quarterback situation. However, that doesn’t mean they’re set behind him. The safety net provided by Byron Leftwich last season is gone, and neither Charlie Batch nor Dennis Dixon give the same degree of comfort. And since Big Ben has been sacked 145 times the past three seasons and the line hasn’t been improved, an injury isn’t out of the question.

RB Carries Rush YD YPC Rush TD Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD Rcv TD Rank YD Rank TY Rank TD
2006 415 1816 4.4 14 102 73 72% 587 4 11 13 8
2007 453 1906 4.2 7 77 55 71% 424 2 5 12 23
2008 411 1554 3.8 13 74 51 69% 375 1 20 26 21

Running Backs - It was a very un-Steeler-like performance by the ground game last year, as Pittsburgh ranked in the bottom third of the league in most meaningful running back categories. The offensive line doesn’t provide cause for optimism, but the return of Rashad Mendenhall—knocked out of his rookie season after just four games—gives the Steelers options. Mewelde Moore proved to be a quality short-term fill-in as a feature back and a contributor as a third-down back as well. That begs the question: with Mendenhall back and Moore in the mix, just what is Willie Parker’s role heading into the final year of his contract?

WR Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD
2006 353 198 56% 2973 15 13 3 15
2007 288 174 60% 2385 13.7 21 17 9
2008 329 183 56% 2565 14 15 10 9

Wide Receivers - Veteran Hines Ward and Super Bowl hero Santonio Holmes return; the question mark here is finding a replacement for the departed Nate Washington. The Steelers don’t lack for candidates, with Shaun McDonald, Limas Sweed, and rookie Mike Wallace all in the mix. Sweed was a first-round pick last season but contributed just six catches in 11 games; Wallace was ultra-productive in college but his diminutive stature could limit him to the slot at the NFL level. More importantly, in this offense will a third receiver yield fantasy relevant numbers?

TE Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD
2006 59 41 69% 466 11.4 6 23 14
2007 69 53 77% 609 11.5 11 15 3
2008 95 68 72% 674 9.9 3 18 19

Tight Ends
- Now that Heath Miller is locked up for the next six seasons, the Steelers are relatively set at tight end. Matt Spaeth has produced when called upon, though historically Pittsburgh tight ends haven’t been particularly fantasy-friendly. Miller’s run/block combo platter will keep him on the field, and if the Pittsburgh running game continues to struggle in the red zone he may receive enough goal-line love from Big Ben to warrant fantasy attention.

Training Camp Fantasy Angle - Roethlisberger won’t be answering questions about the civil suit he’s facing, but it will be hanging over camp—and he’s the one guy on offense the Steelers can’t do without. The Super Bowl champs remain the team to beat, but barring a running back resolution between Parker and Mendenhall in which one projects to receive the bulk of the workload there’s no gotta-have fantasy entity here. However, that backfield battle is worth paying attention to.

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Ease of Schedule for Quarterbacks
Ease of Schedule for Running Backs
Ease of Schedule for Receivers
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