By Michael K. Reynolds
There are obvious questions to be decided in the upcoming months, chief among them being—“Will the Pittsburgh Steelers return to top tier status?”
But here are three other key answers that the 2014-15 season will provide:
Is Ben Roethlisberger a Hall of Fame Quarterback?
This question posed in Pittsburgh will be answered much differently than elsewhere around the country. Although you would think three Super Bowl trips and two Lombardi Trophies would merit serious consideration for Canton, Ben Roethlisberger has a hard time merely being considered a current top five quarterback by outsiders. If he’s going to win over voters outside of the Burgh he’ll need a phenomenal season. This is the first year he’ll be able to boast a quality pass-protecting offensive line and he’s surrounded by powerful receiving and running weapons. His doubters won’t be able to dismiss his success this season by pointing to a dominant defense so it’s his opportunity to carry the team on his shoulders. Whether it’s fair or not, Big Ben has never done well in the court of popular opinion. So this year he needs to make a major statement to make a late-career push to keep his HallPass dreams alive.
Will Todd Haley’s Last Season With the Steelers Be a Success?
Although many believe it would take a huge collapse of the Steelers season for Coach Mike Tomlin’s job to be at stake with the historically patient Rooney family, the same can’t be said about Todd Haley. This town has never been kind to offensive coordinators and he will be the most likely scapegoat if the offense doesn’t ascend to greatness this season. All of the pieces are in place for this to happen. And if Haley CAN make this team an elite offense, he’ll likely find a job as head coach elsewhere. Either way this will probably be his last season with the Black and Gold.
Is the 3-4 Still Relevant?
No team has waved the banner of the 3-4 defense as majestically as the Steelers and they’ll be called this year to rescue its fading reputation. With pass-happy teams urged on by the ratings-pursuing NFL powers-that-be, the prototypical nose tackle has been under assault and on the path of the dinosaur. Will Coach Dick LeBeau return the Steelers 3-4 defense to its former glory as part of his Swan Song or is it destined to be stored somewhere alongside the leather helmet?