My early prediction for storyline of the season
will be the Steelers ability or inability to deal with multiple WR sets.
It's nothing new around here but the continued lack of concern from the front office is alarming. The ONLY way to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers is to throw on them. The only time they every lose (it seems to me) is when their secondary gets torched or runs into a QB/WR/passing gameplan they can't handle. Why the CB spot hasn't been addressed in ages is unfathomable to me.
Let's get one thing straight before we get too crazy: The Steelers are capable of winning a Super Bowl with McFadden and Gay as their #2 and #3 cornerbacks. Having said that, the only way they can accomplish that goal is with a tremendous amount of luck and good fortune. Elite passing teams like New England, New Orleans, Green Bay, etc…must be avoided at all costs. In all honesty, if the Jets don't beat the Patriots last year in the playoffs, the Steelers probably don't get to Dallas last year. Our team has to play near perfect football to have a chance against teams with top notch QB/WR combos and a coach willing to implement a pass-first gameplan against us. Other high profile teams like the Jets, Baltimore, Philly, Atlanta, etc…don't worry us as much as these pass-first teams do. If you want to waste downs by running the ball and trying to impose your will, thank you very much for doing us a favor. Each run play is a wasted down against our defense. I know that, you know that, and the rest of the league is starting to pick up on it like never before. Luckily for us, not everyone has the talent to pick us apart the way Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady can.
We will get more into this as the season rolls along but lets take a look at the matchup Gay and McFadden will have to deal with this season. (I'm assuming Ike Taylor remove the other team's top WR from the game so I'm not including any #1 WRs). Teams have exploited Gay/McFadden with their Tight Ends as well so we'll include them in this list.
Baltimore: McFadden and Gay…..vs…..Lee Evans, David Reed, Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta, Tandon Doss
Seattle: McFadden and Gay…..vs…..Mike Williams, Golden Tate, Ben Obamanu, Zach Miller
Indianapolis: McFadden and Gay…..vs…..Anthony Gonzalez, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie, Dallas Clark
Houston: McFadden and Gay…..vs…..Jacoby Jones, Dorin Dickerson, Kevin Walter, Owen Daniels
Tennessee: McFadden and Gay…..vs…..Nate Washington, Justin Gage, Craig Stevens
Jacksonville: McFadden and Gay…..vs…..Mercedes Lewis, Joshua Hill
Arizona: McFadden and Gay…..v
s…..Early Doucet, Chansi Stuckey, Todd Heap
New England: McFadden and Gay…..vs…..Wes Welker, Chad OchoCinco, Ben Tate, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez
Cincinnati: McFadden and Gay…..vs…..Andre Caldwell, Jordan Shipley, Jermaine Gresham, Bo Scaife
Kansas City: McFadden and Gay…..vs…..Steve Breaston, Dexter McCluster, Jerheme Urban, Leonard Pope
Cleveland: McFadden and Gay…..vs…..Greg Little, Ben Watson, Brian Robiskie
San Francisco: McFadden and Gay…..vs…..Ted Ginn, Vernon Davis
St. Louis: McFadden and Gay…..vs…..Brandon Gibson, Danny Amendola, Mike Sims-Walker, Billy Bajema
So those are your guaranteed games. Let's take it one final step further and say you end up playing for another Super Bowl:
You might see the New York Jets in the playoffs…..McFadden and Gay…..vs…..Derrick Mason, Plaxico Burress, Dustin Keller.
Maybe in the Super Bowl you get the New Orleans Saints. Colston gets shut down by Ike Taylor and McFadden/Gay face Devery Henderson, Joey Graham, Robert Meachem.
Perhaps you get the Philadelphia Eagles? Desean Jackson and Ike Taylor are locked up and McFadden/Gay take on Steve Smith, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, and Brett Celek.
How about a rematch with the Green Bay Packers again where McFadden/Gay have to cover Donald Driver, James Jones, Jermichael Finely, and Jordy Nelson.
So guys, how do you like these matchups? Against a lot of these teams that matchups on paper don't look all that rough. However, once you start playing good teams and find yourself going up against opponents that are willing and able to throw the ball 40+ times per game, you might regret not upgrading this position. Imagine if Ike Taylor were to go down with some sort of injury and miss any length of time, all of a sudden Gay or McFadden would be covering the other team's #1 WR. Yikes.
To end the article on a positive note…the Steelers have really been built in a terrific fashion. “Regular” NFL Teams don't beat them. Teams with good defenses or running games don't beat them. Being built this way has provided a foundation that almost guarantees you make the playoffs each year. You beat good teams, you win the games you are supposed to win and you get to the AFC Championship game with regularity because there are not many teams out there with the pieces required to beat you. Unfortunately the league is becoming a passing league and very soon having a top end QB, having 3 or 4 quality WRs, and having an offensive gameplan focused on beating teams with the passing attack won't be as rare or unusual as it once was. At some point you need to come to the realization that having 3 CBs capable of starting is an absolute must and act accordingly. This organization is not capable of drafting or developing CBs (outside of Ike Taylor) so the solution must come from the outside.