Steelers have a few areas of need

Posted Feb. 10, 2011 @ 11:56 a.m.
Posted By Mike Wilkening

We already have begun to start hearing the talk of a Packers dynasty, and why not? The Packers are so young, so talented. Their quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, is all of 27 years old.

Were the Steelers, the Packers' vanquished opponent in Super Bowl XLV, to have captured their third NFL title in six seasons, perhaps we could have spoken of them as a dynasty. Alas, they are left to pick up the pieces after a successful season with an unsatisfying ending. 

The Steelers' last two trips to the Super Bowl were followed by playoff misses in 2006 and '09. As they begin an offseason no doubt dedicated to avoiding such an outcome for a third consecutive time, here's a look at where the Steelers stand:

Offense

In what has become a passing league, the Steelers are in good shape on this side of the ball. They are set at the NFL's most important position; Ben Roethlisberger, who turns 29 in March, surely ranks among the 10 best passers in the game. WR Mike Wallace, 24, racked up 1,257 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in his second NFL season and emerged as Roethlisberger's top target. Roethlisberger isn't lacking for other capable pass catchers, either.

Despite his costly fumble in the Super Bowl, RB Rashard Mendenhall has a bright future.

The offensive line has a star in C Maurkice Pouncey, who meshes well with Roethlisberger, but it would not be a surprise if the Steelers added a starter-caliber tackle or guard in the offseason.

Defense

One of the NFL's stingier defenses was surprisingly permissive in the Super Bowl, but there are still far more positives than negatives with Dick LeBeau's stop unit. Although age is a concern along the defensive line, with three key contributors — DEs Brett Keisel and Aaron Smith and NT Casey Hampton — all in their 30s, the group is stout vs. the run, and second-year DE Ziggy Hood played well in Smith's absence this season. Nonetheless, more youth is needed up front.

The Steelers are loaded at linebacker. Re-signing LOLB LaMarr Woodley, an outstanding pass rusher and run defender, is a must. 

The secondary needs to be bolstered, even with The Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year SS Troy Polamalu the standard-bearer at his position. Re-signing RCB Ike Taylor would be prudent, as would improving the depth at cornerback. The Steelers have had issues stopping potent passing attacks that spread the field.

Special teams

PK Shaun Suisham made 14-of-15 regular-season field-goal attempts after replacing Jeff Reed but hit only 3-of-5 in the playoffs. P Daniel Sepulveda is coming off the third right ACL tear of his career. Antonio Brown is an intriguing return prospect.

Early forecast

The Steelers are in good position to contend again in 2011. The Ravens loom as their toughest competition in the AFC North, with the Bengals and Browns coming off difficult seasons and facing challenges ahead. Their most pressing need, as Super Bowl XLV showed, is crafting solutions to their problems matching up with strong passing games.