2006 NFL Preview: The Pittsburgh Steelers

Quarterback- Ben Roethlisberger should be able to play in the 2006 season despite an offseason motorcycle accident, which highlights the carelessness of many athletes in regards to their own health. Roethlisberger is lucky to be alive and should play even more inspired ball than in the 2006 season, when the Steelers won the Super Bowl. Roethlisberger will play more consistently game in and game out and turn into less of a game manager and more of a play maker. Back up Charlie Batch proved to be a good reserve game manager in 2005 and will do fine in mop up duties and emergency play as long as Roethlisberger is not out for too long. Rookie Omar Jacobs from Bowling Green will get some time to develop into an NFL quarterback and he will get extensive preseason playing time to show off his abilities.
2006 NFL Grade: A-

Running back/ Full back- The retirement of team leader Jerome Bettis aside, the Steelers remain consistent in their running game and will have a solid year in support of Roethlisberger and the pass game. Second year back Willie Parker is a great athlete, will have a 1,000+ yard season, and is a good receiver out of the backfield. Backups Duce Staley, Verron Hayes, and fullback Dan Krieder are good support pieces in the running game and Staley can chew up yardage in support of Parker. The running game will be key to how well Roethlisberger does this season and to how many plays the defense will have to make in order to win games.
2006 NFL Grade: B

Wide Receiver/Tight End- The Steelers still have great team player and receiver Hines Ward leading their receiving corps and drafted receiver Santonio Holmes in the 2006 NFL Draft. Holmes is super athletic and will give Roethlisberger a deep threat game in and game out. Quincy Morgan is a solid possession receiver and gives the Steelers another target in the pass game. Parker and Staley are also good options out of the backfield and Bill Cowher should have no concerns about having enough targets in the pass game.
2006 NFL Grade: B

Offensive Line- The key to the Steelers’ offensive efforts in 2006, as in most years, is how well the offensive line stays together as a unit and away from the injured reserve list. Expect the line to do what it needs to do to win games, including opening big lanes for Willie Parker and protecting Roethlisberger. The contributions of Jeff Hartings, Alan Faneca, Kendall Simmons, Marvel Smith, and Max Starks will not go unnoticed this season and will be rewarded with victories and another good shot at a Super Bowl ring.
2006 NFL Grade: B+

Defensive Line- The defensive line for the Steelers is very good in 2006, with Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, and Travis Kirschke providing constant effort and power on the line. The Steelers should have no problem staying near the top of rush defense in the NFL, especially with Hampton and Smith continuing to develop into top flight NFL linemen. As well, the linebackers will have no problem making plays because of the defensive front’s effort.
2006 NFL Grade: A-

Linebacker- The Steelers have a solid linebacker corps heading into 2006, James Farrior, Clark Haggans, and Joey Porter capable of making a big hit or a big pass defense at any time. Porter has stepped up as one of the team leaders and certainly one of the leaders of the Pittsburgh defense and is capable of a Pro Bowl season in 2006. Farrior and Haggans will continue to rack up tackles and will be integral to the defensive success of the Steelers in 2006.
2006 NFL Grade: A-

Defensive Back- Troy Polamalu is an outstanding, play making safety and in 2006 will have another great season. The rest of the defensive backfield, including Ike Taylor and Deshea Townsend, will do well because of their solid pass rush and good rush defense. Look for Polamalu to have another Pro Bowl type season and the Steelers secondary to remain at the top of the league in big plays.
2006 NFL Grade: A-

Kicker/Punter- The Steelers have two good specialists in kicker Jeff Reed and punter Chris Gardocki, with Reed a solid kicker who can come through in the clutch and Gardocki capable of pinning teams deep in opponents’ territory. Look for Reed to help the Steelers stay on top with a couple of clutch kicks and the defense will do better by Gardocki’s punting.
2006 NFL Grade: B

2006 NFL Projection- The Super Bowl champion Steelers are going to push for a second consecutive championship, winning the AFC North with a 12-4 or 13-3 record.

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