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We at Razzball realize that exporting our views across the country has damaging consequences on the blogosphere. To help make amends, we are reaching out to leading team blogs and featuring their locally blogged answers to pressing 2009 fantasy football questions regarding their team. We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2009 Steelers Fantasy Football Preview comes courtesy of Behind The Steel Curtain.

1. Willie Parker scored over half of his touchdowns in the first game of last year and then had another injury plagued season. Who do you see getting the bulk of the carries this season between Parker, Moore and Mendenhall, and will there be a dreaded “goal line back”?

Interesting question(s). There’s lots in play I suppose. First of all, let’s just assume that Willie Parker will be at full strength at the start of the 2009 season after being hampered by nagging injuries last season. If that’s the case, it’s probably safe to say that he’ll improve upon his touchdown totals from the past two seasons (5 in ’08; 2 in ’07). That said, it is a contract year for Parker and if the Steelers have any intention of trying to retain him past the 2009 season, they might be less inclined to let him inflate his market value with a big season statistically. And then of course there’s second year ‘back Rashard Mendenhall, the team’s first round draft pick in 2008. Interestingly enough, Coach Tomlin apparently has an interview on the NFL Network that touches on Mendenhall’s recovery. Look for the former Illinois stud to have a solid year and take away a significant number of Parker’s carries and perhaps even yards. Finally, there is Frank ‘The Tank’ Summers, a bruising RB/FB out of UNLV. Who knows just yet how offensive coordinator Bruce Arians plans to use Summers, if at all, in 2009, but if Arians is inclined to deploy a goal-line back again in 2009 (Gary Russell held that role last year), Summers could hurt fantasy owners by taking away touchdowns from both Parker and Mendenhall.

2. I’ve heard some rumblings from the fantasy pundits of breakout fantasy years for Roethlisberger and Holmes. The Steelers often show us fantasy football players how success in real football doesn’t correlate into success in fake football. Do you see the Steelers continuing their formula of good defense, a strong rushing game and timely passing? Or will we see Ben open it up more this year?

I wrote last offseason that Ben Roethlisberger’s 2007 season would probably end up being his finest as a professional – at least strictly from a statistics/fantasy perspective. Big Ben had 32 touchdowns, 3,154 yards and completed an outstanding 65.3% of his passes that year, compared to just 17 TDs and 59.9% a year ago. Roethlisberger had his low moments last year, but considering the offensive line he played behind in addition to how many late-game comebacks he engineered, I don’t think too many Steelers fans would say last season was anything less than a successful one for him. Fantasy owners can expect his interception total to drop from a year ago (15) and for his touchdown numbers to increase back in to the 20s. But I wouldn’t bet on him matching that 2007 season, or coming anywhere near it really.

As for Holmes, I’d expect his receptions to increase from 55 last year partly because of Nate Washington’s departure to Tennessee via free agency. But because Big Ben seems most comfortable looking Hines Ward’s way in the slot, I just don’t see him putting up a 90-100 reception type of season. I do expect him to continue making strides as a route runner and as a complete football player, but that doesn’t much help fantasy owners with no rooting interest in the Steelers. Holmes’s stats may also be a bit undermined by his lack of heigth. At just 5’11”, it’s just hard to squeeze balls in to him in the red zone. It’s possible – as we saw last year in the Super Bowl’s game-winning play – but it took a perfect throw and catch. Anyway, look for Holmes to be somewhere in the 60-75 catch range and perhaps approach the 1,000 yard plateau.

3. The Steelers schedule was brutal last year, but it seemed to help solidify who they were as a team and test them for the playoffs. This year the schedule doesn’t look quite as daunting; do you think that will help or hurt the Steelers chances to go deep into the playoffs? Do you think it might help pad some of those coveted fantasy stats?

I think there will be plenty of tough games over the course of the year to prepare Pittsburgh for the playoffs if they were to in fact get there. It helps that Coach Mike Tomlin seems to be a master motivator that will keep the team focused on the task at hand and nothing else. As for your other question, games against Detroit, Kansas City, Denver, Oakland, and Cleveland (twice) have to excite Steelers fans looking for their favorite players to rack up fantasy points. It’s too early to say which team(s) might be this year’s Miami or Atlanta – but if the teams on the schedule wind up being similarly weak like they were last year, then it’s quite possible that the Steelers will find themselves running the ball late in games with comfortable leads. That could help those fantasy owners with either Willie Parker or Rashard Mendenhall, but it might conversely diminish the production of guys like Big Ben, Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, etc.

4. It seemed like after the Steelers won Super Bowl XL Bill Cowher knew he was on his way out, but Tomlin is young and just starting. Can his enthusiasm and energy combat the Super Bowl hangover? What is the key for a winning season in 2009?

I don’t think there’s any question that Tomlin will have his team ready to play in 2009. Not one day after the Super Bowl, Tomlin was already talking about how there will be no title defense – just another opportunity to go about winning football games with a new 53 man roster. As for the keys to the season, I’ll name three. Obviously the offensive line is still a concern. Big Ben has been sacked more in the past two seasons than any other quarterback in the league. Secondly, keeping Troy Polamalu healthy will be important. The Steelers defense was just so much better with him 100% healthy and on the field for 16 games last year. Finally, William Gay will have to fill in for Bryant McFadden at the cornerback position opposite Ike Taylor. Pittsburgh let McFadden walk during free agency believing that Gay was more than ready to be an every down guy. We’ll see, but it doesn’t take much for a very strong secondary to become one that is only average. Gay must carry his weight alongside a slew of proven veterans.

5. Will Mike Wallace make an impact this year? I’ve seen him on 60 Minutes and he really doesn’t look that fast.

[Laughing]. Nice one. We’ll see. Judging from this video, the kid is not lacking in the confidence department. There may be an opportunity for him to make a few big plays down the field at the wide receiver position. With Nate Washington no longer on the team, Big Ben will now look for a new favorite deep threat. It could be Wallace, whose 4.3 40-yard dash at the Combine was the fastest at his position. Wallace likely will get more opportunities to make an impact on special teams. He appears to be the odds-on favorite to win the kick returning duties to start the year.

  1. AL KOHOLIC says:
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    id take big ben but i dont trust thier running back situation and as good as holmes could be,he disapeers some games,hines (smiley) ward still gets the critical situation passes,mendenhaul could(if healthy)be a big part this year

  2. AL KOHOLIC says:
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    doc,did you see my glossary suggestion,on buy /sell 2nd to last post i think

  3. nmdunkel says:
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    I like Wallace as a kick returner, can’t see him as anything more than a 5th WR in a spread with Hines, Holmes, Shaun Mac, and Sweed in front. Sweed HAS to play, Ben wanted a big target and Pitt took care of him. Maybe Arians will use him like a Devin Hester-type piece.

    Heath Miller should be healthy as well. I think Pitt’s gonna have to open it up with all the receiving weapons they have, if only to protect Willie’s health a bit more and ease Mendenhall in.

    But yeah, buncha cupcakes on that schedule, gonna be running a lot late.

  4. Doc

    Doc says:
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    @AL KOHOLIC: I thought you already suggested “corngoaled” (which I like!) earlier in that post? Did I miss a suggestion?

  5. Doc

    Doc says:
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    @nmdunkel: Yeah, there are some leagues that count return yards, but I like to find #3 receivers that also return kicks. Wallace probably won’t be in unless there is a 4 receiver set on 3rd and long.

    Not sure how that RB situation will really shake out. If Mendenhall could really show some power to go with is speed he could conceivably take over the #1 spot, but I just don’t see that happening yet. I see Willie getting worked hard early and Mendenhall getting more carries as the year goes on and possibly a lot more if Willie gets hurt.

  6. AL KOHOLIC says:
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    @Doc: i was drinking ,so im not sure,no that was it

  7. AL KOHOLIC says:
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    @Doc: whats your thoughts on pierre thomas

  8. Doc

    Doc says:
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    @AL KOHOLIC: I think Thomas will be the main ball carrier for NO. Bush will be the change of pace back and will be in on passing downs. In a ppr league Bush will probably garner more points, but a non ppr I look for Thomas to have more TD’s as their short yardage back (unless they acquire someone for short yardage), and get more yards on the ground.

  9. AL KOHOLIC says:
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    @Doc: yeah he really helped me down the streatch last year,bush will never be a full time runner but is dangerous as a reciever

  10. AL KOHOLIC says:
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    @Doc: what about the denver running backs,hillis,torain,buckhalter or moreno,is selvin young even on the team?torain was supposed to be a stud but was hurt,hillis did great when played,they traded for buck and drafted moreno,looks like a mess

  11. Doc

    Doc says:
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    @AL KOHOLIC: Here’s the answer from Predominately Orange — “The team will see how Moreno does in camp and then make the call. Should he perform well, I think he and Buckhalter will initially get most of the carries. Don’t forget about the versatility of Peyton Hillis and the strength and quickness of Ryan Torain. I think the battle for the backfield is actually more interesting than at any other position.”

    I agree and think that Moreno’s learning curve will be the biggest factor. If he can learn the offense and pick up his blocks he will end up with a pretty good year. If he doesn’t it could just be a free for all. Moreno is going around pick 44. He is a risky pick right now, but we should know more as preseason gets under way.

  12. danimal35 says:
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    I don’t know who the writers are for razzball football and I don’t know if where they get their info but i follow the Bucs religiously and would be more than willing to provide some input to who(m?)ever is writing the Bucs preview if they would even want it or were not as familiar with the team as they would like to be…and I am not a homer that sees everything through rose-colored glasses

    just an offer to share information

  13. Doc

    Doc says:
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    @danimal35: Thanks for the offer! We actually have already reached out to a Bucs blog, but we’d love to see your take on their answers.

  14. Colin says:
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    Doc…I have to keep 4 players…whom would you choose?

    Ryan
    Orton
    Forte
    Mendenhall
    J. Stewart
    Torain
    Hightower
    Lynch
    V. Jackson
    Housh
    Ocho
    Colston
    Bess
    K. Walter
    Olsen
    Keller

    So far I am leaning towards Ryan, Forte, Colston and Ocho. Agree?

  15. Doc

    Doc says:
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    How many RB slots do you have? Even with the suspension I would take Lynch over Ocho. Otherwise I agree.

  16. Colin says:
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    Doc we have 2 RB slots and 1 RB/WR slot as well as an offensive flex position. I like Lynch too but missing 3 games plus Jackson stealing more touches this year is turning me off. What do you think?

    Also who do you believe to be this year’s Matt Forte?

  17. The Peoples Champ

    The Peoples Champ says:
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    As both an avid Steelers fan and FF player, i know better than to draft a Steeler on my team. The only one i would even consider is Tone, but the coaching staff still believes Ward is a #1 receiver so Tone doesn’t get the ball as much as he should. It’s almost a crime how much Heath’s receiving talents are underutilized, but that’s a different storry. Decent article here. All you need to know is that you won’t get any type of week to week consistency from any 2009 Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Also, i just read that “Behind the Steel Curtain” in From Da Bleachers. Very good article in my opinion, at least until the end. The author ends with:

    “The line can gel all you want, but in games against top competition this team lacks the talent on the line to protect Ben adequately. And those are the type of teams the Steelers will see in the playoffs.”

    I don’t understand how the author can write such a thorough article, and then end with such a boneheaded statement that requires very little thought at all. The Steelers just won the Super Bowl. OBVIOUSLY the line can protect Ben ADEQUATELY against TOP COMPETITION.

  18. Doc

    Doc says:
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    @Colin: I still think Lynch will get the bulk of the carries and should be able to benefit from a more wide open offense.

    Moreno seems like the best bet to be this years Forte.

  19. The Peoples Champ

    The Peoples Champ says:
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    I wouldn’t expect too much from Moreno.

    In HC Josh McDaniels 4 years as the play caller in NE (3 as OC, in 05 he was the QB coach and called plays as the team had no OC), no RB has been able to tally 1000 yards of total offense.

    Keep an eye on the Bengals’ Bernard Scott in the preseason. Doesn’t have quite the skill set of Moreno, Beanie, Shady, etc., but I don’t think he should have much trouble unseating Benson atop the depth chart.

  20. Doc

    Doc says:
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    The reason I like Moreno is McDaniels has already had some trouble, big trouble, with Cutler and now Marshall. He needs one of his decisions to show something and his #1 pick needs to produce. I agree about his system but this is a different team. I think they’ll need to get an RB going. It might not be Moreno if he doesn’t develop fast enough, but I think they’ll give him plenty of chances.

    I agree about Scott. We talk about him in the Bengals preview. He could do something this year especially if they can get that passing game going like in the past.

  21. The Peoples Champ

    The Peoples Champ says:
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    This is true. And Orton isn’t exactly Tom Brady, so they won’t be passing as much as those Patriots teams. Moreno’s going to be a very good RB, I just think he’s extremely overrated going into camp. I’ve seen his ADP in the low 40s, higher than Lynch, Run DMC, Larry Johnson, and LenDale White. Beanie is a much better pick (ADP in the mid 60’s) IMO. Moreno has great talent and opportunity, but is it worth the price tag?

  22. Doc

    Doc says:
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    @The Peoples Champ: Agreed. He isn’t going to come out of nowhere and he is probably going too high because of the success of last years rookies.

    I think Beanie missed OTA’s and he may be behind the curve which is always tough for a rookie. He’ll need to pick up a lot of blitzes in that offense. But in that offense he’ll have a lot of open area to run. A lot depends on his learning curve, just like all the rookies.

  23. The Peoples Champ

    The Peoples Champ says:
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    Yeah, and his injury last year at OSU may be a question mark. For the past couple years i thought Beanie projected the best for the NFL. I went to the OSU-MSU game in 07 (visiting buddy at OSU, got a ticket from a friend) and didn’t really know much about him. Seemed like they gave him the ball a decent amount, a few decent runs here and there, nothing too big. Then middle of the 4th quarter I look at the scoreboard and see he has over 200 yards. Just something about the way he runs, i see him being a force in the NFL someday. With his size and athleticism, i think that will be sooner than later, and the Cards backfield is a little less crowded.

    Also, this might be a little Pittsburgh homerism on my part, but if Westbrook misses any significant time, Shady just might be able to put up Forte-like numbers.

    I think this years class of RB’s is very underrated and will be better NFL backs than last year’s class in the long run, but i don’t see the opportunity for the upcoming season that the backs had last year (as you’ve stated before).

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