4.21.2008

A Use For Newfound Free Time

Haven't had a chance to address the Steelers imposing schedule or any of the off-season moves, including the unbelievable torrent of free agent signings. Okay, we knew there weren't going to be many of those, and the ones they have made addressed clear deficiencies by finding at least adequate replacements for Allen Rossum and Sean Mahan.

The one-year deal just announced to Max Starks creates an interesting situation for the upcoming draft. The best tackles in the draft will probably be gone by pick 23. A lot of mock drafts have the Steelers, obviously in need of line help, grabbing Gosder Cherilus at that slot. He's a considerable drop-off from Clady, Williams and Otah and might still be available in the early- to mid-second round if they're willing to move up.

Otherwise, it seems the team is high on Quentin Groves. The way the pass rush fizzled out in the second half of the season, it's hard to argue with that selection. I think Woodley playing a full season in Clark Haggans place is already going to have a positive impact. Those in favor of taking Groves like the idea of lining him and Woodley on the ends in a 4-down formation, but I wonder who would line up at tackle with Hampton in the middle. In a 3-4, where could Groves find a place to crack the line-up? In place of Keisel. Granted, depth alone is a concern after the Steelers got reamed with Travis Kirschke in place of Aaron Smith late in the year.

Getting a lineman in the first would give the Steelers a crack at one of the taller receivers they have been looking at for the second. Cedrick Wilson's tragic departure (more so for how it happened than the fact that it did) can be a sure blessing if they can find a reliable slot receiver through the draft, or maybe one who just doesn't take cell phone pics of his dong.

Looking ahead at the schedule, it strikes me as an amplified version of last year's, with a somewhat easier stretch at the front, an annoyingly early Week 6 bye with a gauntlet like run to close things out. Weeks 10 through 14 offer up the top three seeds in the AFC last year, the top seed in the NFC, with the Bengals in the middle. And even when that's over, there's tough back-to-back road games in Baltimore and Tennessee.

If in fact Tomlin did tire the team out in the second half of the season last year, as some have speculated, that can't be repeated this time around. Probably not the host of injuries either.