It has been a tumultuous season to be a Steelers fan.
Recently I woke up to a text from my cousin saying that Ben Roethlisberger has requested the Steeler’s management shop him after the season is over. I immediately jumped out of my bed in a panic, looking for my laptop for more information. I look at nfl.com and it’s the breaking news headline. I look on ESPN NFL Countdown and Chris Berman is discussing the report. I’m sick to my stomach thinking of life as a Steelers fan without our franchise QB.
Ultimately, the story doesn’t seem to have much of a leg to stand on but the thought of it made me angry. Remind me how long it took to land a Superbowl winning QB between Terry Bradshaw and Big Ben? I’m not a spoiled Steelers fan. I realize that Superbowl winning, franchise, Hall of Fame caliber quarterbacks don’t grow on trees. As a Steelers fan, consider yourself lucky every time “seven” laces up the cleats this season and hopefully a couple more seasons in Pittsburgh.
Now that I got that off of my chest, let’s discuss the third Steelers win this season coming at home at the expense of EJ Manuel and the Buffalo Bills. Here are some things I saw that the Steelers need to build on for the rest of this season.
1) Cameron Heyward is turning into the first round defensive end the Steelers hoped he would be in 2011. For the second straight game he was creating havoc from the end position. He registered five solo tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss, and one quarterback hit. The light for him has finally come on and he is beginning to look very solid. An increased amount of playing time this season shows the trust coach Dick LeBeau and coach John Mitchell have in him. He is a young player the Steelers can build with and will be spared through the wholesale changes I expect after the season is over.
2) Mike Adams needs to be back starting on the offensive line, just not at left tackle. He was once again a monster in the running game. I would start Adams at right tackle and move Marcus Gilbert to left tackle. Kelvin Beachum is a valuable back up – he is another Trai Essex. – but he isn’t starting left tackle material. The Steelers should find a way to get Mike Adams back on the field starting, as he is by far the best run blocking tackle on the team. The holes a healthy David DeCastro and Mike Adams can make with LeVeon Bell in the backfield should make any Steeler fan salivate. It is nice that Steelers coaches find a way to get him on the field as an extra tight end but at the end of the day, he is one of the five best offensive linemen on this team. He deserves a starting job.
3) Markus Wheaton needs more plays in the offense. Heath Miller didn’t look right in this game. I don’t know if his knee was bothering him or if it was another issue but Todd Haley could have preserved the legs of a seasoned veteran by letting the third round pick get more playing time. He was only targeted once the whole game. If Emmanuel Sanders ends up signing with another team after this season, I want to see if the kid has what it makes to be a receiver in the pros.
Throughout the second half of this season, the Steelers need to find out who they can build a winning team with in 2014 and beyond. Players like Cameron Heyward, Antonio Brown, and LeVeon Bell will be a few of the faces that will be with the Steelers for several years. Other players need to prove their worth. Will Jarvis Jones build upon his first sack game? Can Ziggy Hood make a case for Steelers management to re-sign him after this season? These next seven games will hopefully shed some light on these questions. The future of this team needs to be manufactured now and I am optimistic that at least part of the young core to a winning team is already in place.
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