Steelers wrap up OTAs

Rashard Mendenhall (Keith Srakocic/AP)

Their OTAs now complete, the Pittsburgh Steelers are off now until the start of training camp in Latrobe at the end of July.

What did we learn about this team in the past month of workouts that we didn't know before?

Well, really nothing.

With the addition of running back Rashard Mendenhall and wide receiver Limas Sweed in the first two rounds of the draft, it was assumed the offense would be a little more explosive.

Nothing that happened in training camp has changed any opinions about that.

Mendenhall looks like a stud – a future 1,000-yard rusher who will help immediately in short-yardage situations. Adding him to a backfield that already included Willie Parker should allow the Steelers to be much more effective moving the chains.

And Sweed is not only a big receiver, but he's also shown good deep speed and hands. Putting him on the field will keep opposing defenses from bringing the safety down to help stop the run.

Opponents will have to pick their poison. Do they want to give up the touchdown slowly or quickly.

But – and this is a big but – all of that will depend upon the play of the offensive line.

That's something we knew coming into the OTA sessions and something that is not yet even close to being hashed out.

Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 47 times in 2007. And though a review of the season tapes put roughly half of those sacks on Roethlisberger's shoulders for holding the ball too long, there's no doubt the line play was a weakness in 2007.

The problem is that Roethlisberger's effectiveness when a play breaks down is one of the things that makes him special. He's at his best when scrambling around, keeping a play alive. But that's also when many of the sacks occur.

The coaching staff doesn't want to take that away from him. But the coaches also don't like seeing the franchise quarterback taking unnecessary hits.

Because of that, improved line play is a must. If the combination of Roethlisberger and the line can cut 10 or so sacks off the 2007 total, this offense could be among the best in the NFL.

Maybe that's why the Steelers aren't panicking over the loss of guard Alan Faneca. They believe having a healthy Marvel Smith back at left tackle, an improved running attack with Parker and Mendenhall, and better decision making by Roethlisberger will solve the problem.

We'll find out when training camp starts.

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter

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