James Walker the AFC North Blogger at ESPN did a piece about some of the sleepers this year in the division, and the Steelers have three on the list:
10. Daniel Sepulveda, P, Steelers
Why: Most casual fans outside of Pittsburgh are not aware of how poor the Steelers’ punting was last season. On a bad week, it was horrendous. On a good week, it was average. Pittsburgh’s No. 1 defense last year overshadowed this issue. But help is on the way in Sepulveda, who averaged 42.4 yards a punt in 2007 (38.4-yard net). He missed all of 2008 with major knee surgery and has become a free-agent pickup of sorts for the Steelers.
Walker’s projected 2009 numbers: 16 games, 43.4-yard average, 21 inside the 20-yard line.
5. Limas Sweed, WR, Steelers
Why: There is not as much pressure on Sweed as some may think. He is expected to fill a role as Pittsburgh’s No. 3 receiver, so that doesn’t require him to start. But the Steelers and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians love to use the trips package, which helped Nate Washington earn a big contract with the Tennessee Titans this offseason. It is much more difficult to get open in the NFL than it is to catch the football. So Sweed already has the difficult part figured out.
Walker’s projected 2009 numbers: 39 receptions, 528 yards, four touchdowns.
3. Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers
Why: Can a former first-round pick be a sleeper? Yes, when you are a backup tailback coming off a major injury with the defending Super Bowl champions. Mendenhall is actually in a good spot. The pressure is on him to contribute, not to take over games. He didn’t show much in his first season. But combined with Willie Parker and Mewelde Moore, Mendenhall should help Pittsburgh restart its ground attack.
Walker’s projected 2009 numbers: 107 carries, 440 yards, four touchdowns.
Click HERE to see the whole list
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