Not so very long after Pittsburgh won Super Bowl 40, everyone suddenly decided they wanted some of their players.
Antwaan Randel El was lured to Washington with promises of a huge contract and a big role in a somewhat pass-oriented offense. Chris Hope and Kimo Von Oelhoffen were also taken by other teams.
Jerome Bettis retired, as well, leaving another gap to be filled.
Already some were saying that the Steelers were in trouble. Then Roethlisberger got in the accident. Then Santanio Holmes was arrested. Twice. Things were not looking so good. The popular position now is to say that the Steelers are, in fact, toast before the season even starts.
After all, they didn’t do much more than beat the AFC’s top three teams and the NFC’s top 2 teams, mostly dominating all of those games, on the way to the Super Bowl and in the Super Bowl.
The loss of Chris Hope supposedly destroys their secondary. The loss of Bettis ruins their grinding ground attack. Santantio Holmes being arrested makes him a bust. Roethlisberger making a mistake makes him useless for the rest of the year. The loss of Kimo makes the defensive line useless.
Maybe not. The Steelers are a team with extraordinary depth, and none of the losses mentioned above will kill them. Chris Hope was indeed a great player, but guys like Deshea Townsend, Ike Taylor, and Troy Polamalu are all good enough to carry on without him.
Jerome Bettis had some great moments in 2005, but he was really only used in short yardage situations. That will be a small loss, but with Parker, Haynes, and Staley all on the roster, they’ll be ok.
With Antwaan Randel El gone, you might think the reciving corps would be in trouble, but that’s not really the case. Hines Ward is back, and he’s one of the top recievers in the league. Cedric Wilson started playing really well towards the end of the year, and he’ll probably slide into the number two role, which he should fill in well enough. Santantio Holmes is fast and a good overall player. He should make a solid player even as a rookie. Heath Miller had an incredible rookie season (six touchdown catches) and he should be even better this year.
The loss of Randel El on special teams stings a little, but the coaches have liked what they’ve seen from third round pick Willie Reid, and he should be able to fill in the role of returner without much of a loss.
And Roethlisberger? He’s expected to start game 1 against the Dolphins, so the only thing that the accedent did was make him a wiser man.
All in all, things aren’t really looking all that bad for Pittsburgh.