Sunday, February 27, 2011

Despite the impending NFL Lockout, The Pittsburgh Steelers are business as usual
For Steeler fans, the 31-25 defeat in Superbowl XLV at the hands of the Green Bay Packers is still vivid in their minds. The final two-minutes of the game with the Steelers down six and a chance to pull off another incredible comeback, they came up short. This loss will stick with the fans long after the NFL draft and right up to the first regular season game in September, if there's no lockout. While us regular folks will put in the DVD's of the Steelers 2008-09 Superbowl run, the Steelers organization is hard at work. Like Santa's elves preparing for Christmas in July, the GM and coaches are evaluating player performances, watching game film, and preparing for the combine. The Steelers brass have licked their wounds, turned the page, and are preparing as if there will be football played in 2011.The NFL draft is more than just players names being called by the commissioner. It represents a beacon of hope for a struggling franchise, or the missing piece to a team on the verge of greatness. 
 In football, one player can revitalize and re-energize an organization. The most stable franchises in the league are the one's who notoriously draft well every year. These are the teams that find the hidden gems, dust them off and have them ready to make impact plays come fall. The Steelers are no different. They are not a team known for bringing in flashy and high-priced free agents, but rather they build and promote from within. The Steelers blue-collar, hard-hat mentality which represents the city itself is instilled in every player from the moment they arrive at camp. This grind-it-out mentality has translated well for the Steelers and is their identity on the field and off. What the Steelers were able to do in the draft last year with the 18th pick was remarkable. 
Center Maurkice Pouncey might have been a rookie, but he played all year like a seasoned veteran. Pouncey quickly became the anchor of the offensive line, the captain in the trenches. When he wasn't able to suit up for the Superbowl due to injury, his speed and athleticism were greatly missed. Pouncey, in one season with the Steelers has become a premier All-Pro center elected to the Pro Bowl. This is what separates the elite teams from the proletariat, the teams who are in the hunt every year from the teams who are the prey.
Last years draft wasn't the first time the Steelers found a star player. In 2005 they drafted wide receiver Santonio Holmes with the 25th pick. Holmes would go on to make one of the best touchdown catches in Superbowl history and be awarded MVP. For this upcoming draft, the Steelers have two positions that need an upgrade; right guard and corner back. By far their best corner, Ike Taylor is an unrestricted free agent and will be highly valued on the open market. The Steelers need to sign him and also try to draft another corner. The secondary was the weakest link of the team last season and constantly exploited by the Packers in the Superbowl.
The lockout may be looming over the NFL like a dark cloud, but that didn't stop the Steelers from making key moves. This week, they put the franchise tag on big play linebacker, 26-year-old Lamarr Woodley who had 50 tackles to go along with 10 sacks this past season. He recorded a sack in six consecutive postseason games and 11 sacks total in seven postseason contests.
This week at the NFL combine, the Steelers will begin to write the next chapter.

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