In 2007, the Steelers performed fairly well on offense in spite of their offensive line. The transition from former Offensive Line coach Russ Grimm to Larry Zierlein has not been going well. The line allowed 47 sacks, and that number would have been quite a bit higher if they had a less mobile QB. They were a pretty good running team but they had problems in the red zone, only scoring 9 rushing TD's on the season.
LT Marvel Smith missed 4 games with a bad back and played injured much of the year. He had surgery in the offseason and will perform much better if he can stay healthy. LG Alan Faneca left for the Jets and Chris Kemoeatu is penciled in to take his place. Kemoeatu has started 2 games in his career, so the jury is definitely out on whether he'll succeed. At C Justin Hartwig was signed from Carolina but may not be good enough to replaces Sean Mahan who was nothing short of awful last year. At RT, Max Starks failed to win the starting job from Willie Colon in 2007 and spent most of the season on the bench. He was then made the second highest paid Steeler behind Ben Roethlisberger in the offseason. If anyone can explain that to me I'd appreciate it. It is unknown if he will win the job this year.
Anyways, this group has been shuffled, and Mahan and Colon seem to be destined to be backups. As a whole I am not impressed. There are a lot of questionable players in important roles on this line. That will likely affect the running game and possibly Ben Roethlisberger's health going forward.
Roethlisberger dominated in 2007. For all the pub Derek Anderson is receiving, he was outperformed by a wide margin by Ben in 2007. Ben had more TD's and less INT's than Peyton Manning last year. When he's not face-planting into cars he's very good. The primary concern with Ben is him getting killed by his line. Ben is a good QB to have, but I wouldn't overpay for him. In my rankings he's not that far ahead of a handful of other QB's who you can probably get later. I prefer buy-low candidates, and Ben's price is a bit too high for my taste.
Willie Parker was run into the ground last year. When he suffered a fractured fibula in the 15th game of the season he was leading the league in rushing yards, but was also leading the league in carries by a wide margin. Even missing the last 2 games he finished 3rd in the NFL in carries only 4 behind the league leader. The Steelers drafted Rashard Mendenhall to help bear the load in 2008. This is likely to turn into a running back by committee situation. This is probably good for the team, but slaughters the fantasy value of both players. Will Mendenhall be the third down back? The goal line back? Rotate offensive series?
No one knows. And that, my friends is the kiss of death from a fantasy perspective. You cannot take either of these players as a first or second RB. Another complication is the addition of Mewelde Moore who is an excellent receiving back. All of their roles are still to be determined.
So long as Roethlisberger stays healthy, Santonio Holmes is a solid WR2. His numbers from 2007 extrapolated to 16 games are: 64 catches, 1159 yards, 10 TD's which is borderline WR1 territory. Why he is being drafted behind Wes Welker (who will be hard pressed to ever out-produce his 2007 season) or Brandon Marshall (can you say "suspension"?) is a mystery to me.
Hines Ward is a good example of how playing good football doesn't necessarily translate to being a good fantasy football option. His productivity has steadily dropped every year since 2002. Then he was a 112 catch, 1329 yard, 12 TD player. Now he is a 70 catch 700 yard 7 TD players. He played through partial ligament tears in 2007 and is coming off of surgery to repair them. But I wouldn't count on his production increasing, as history is not kind to players with his mileage.
Second Round pick Limas Sweed should get the slot receiver role, and long term may replace Ward. But for this year, he's to be avoided, just like 95% of all rookie WR's.
Pittsburgh never utilized the tight end as much of a receiving option under Bill Cowher. One year under Mike Tomlin has changed that. Heath Miller posted career highs of 47 catches 566 yards and 7 TD's and was a solid TE. I look for a bump in that production as Miller should be more familiar with the offense.
LDE Aaron Smith missed the last 5 games of 2007 with a torn bicep. He should be healthy for 2008.
NT Casey Hampton is a Pro Bowl talent but is overweight, out of shape. It could get ugly between him and coach Tomlin, as he has been placed on the PUP list, and Hampton doesn't care.
At LB, Clark Haggans was let go to make room for LaMarr Woodley who showed a lot of promise in 2007. Larry Foote is being challenged for his job by 2007 First Round pick Lawrence Timmons. This is a very good LB corps.
In the Secondary, Troy Polamalu had an injury plagued down year. His health should allow him to be more effective in 2008. At Safety Ryan Clark is the front runner to start at Safety over Anthony "Foot-in-mouth" Clark.
I really like this group. If only they didn't face a maniacally evil schedule spawned from the depths of Hades, I would like them more. They face: Cleveland twice, Dallas, Philly, the Giants, Jacksonville, San Diego, Indianapolis, and New England. They may have a great defense, but they still may get lit up. They're a good but not great option. Let someone else take them because they likely won't live up to their reputation even with the upgrades.