The time spent contributing to three other blogs has kept me away from DCSN for the last few months, but given what's transpired in that span, reluctance has been easy to come by. It's obvious to all concerned that this was the worst Steelers offseason in quite some time, if not ever.
-Roethlisberger furnishing drinks to a minor and putting himself in a position where he could be accused again of sexual assault, with the subsequent suspension and media stoked mob that remains certain of his guilt despite any conclusive evidence. (Insipid comparisons to the O.J. case are especially infuriating, as LAPD had sufficient evidence to convict OJ but most if not all of it was deemed inadmissable, whereas Georgia prosecutors had NOTHING on Ben. Fred Bright admitted he couldn't even prove the two had sex, despite an immediate medical examination of the accuser).
- Santonio's club incident, drug suspension and trade.
- Limas Sweed's season-ending injury (I'm being liberal in my counting this as a negative).
- Willie Colon's season-ending injury. Colon had gone from being a huge liability in 2008 to being arguably the team's best lineman in 2009. As much embarrassment that comes with the team having to sign an aging asswipe like Flozell Adams, after losing Colon the team's already thin depth at tackle had become an instant emergency. The prospect of Trai Essex being the first-team starter on the outside in not something the team wants to face at the beginning of the year.
- Maurkice Pouncey being investigated for taking money right before leaving Florida. Not significant as it pertains to this season, but yet another "Steelers have lost their way" story to bring down the general mood. That said, I'm still high on Pouncey and think he will do well this year.
- Jeff Reed inexplicably getting pissy about not getting a long-term deal. Last year was far from his best. Taken together with the overriding movement to rid the team of clownish buffoons, he might consider himself lucky to have a job at all. All I can say is lucky for him there are so few kickers who have shown they can be consistent at Heinz Field, or he would have been gone long ago.
- LaMarr Woodley 30 Percent Rule contract complications. Earlier today, Wood tweeted that negotiations are done for the offseason and that he's 50/50 on remaining with the team after this season. It could be that the team has plans to retain him if the franchise tag is still an available option come next year. Possibly they could reach a deal anyway, but given the money being thrown around to secure other players long term, I wonder how much leeway they have to get that done. It would take an incredible leap of faith to assume that Jason Worilds could be able to come close to replacing Woodley were he to leave after this season.
The consensus among Steelers fans I've talked to about this season is uncertainty. That's not an across-the-board kind of thing. More like, how bad could it be? That said, bad for Steelers fans hiked expectations means a repeat of last year's empty winning record. The outliers fall to either sky falling panic or unchecked optimism, though the latter has been slightly more rare. I'm seeing things only in extremes as well. Either Polamalu, Aaron Smith and other key components stay healthy. Bryant McFadden's return helps stabilize a shaky secondary that will also benefit from Polamalu's presence. With the defense near its '08 form, capable play from Leftwich and consistency from Mendenhall would be enough to keep the team in contention until Ben gets back, when renewed focus will have him ready to push toward a playoff run.
Or, conversely, everything just comes undone from the start and never has a chance to recover. Obviously something in the middle could also, and probably will, occur. Really, nothing would come as a surprise at this point.
But, hell, anything would beat another spate of off-the-field troubles. Even on-the-field ones.