View Full Version : Steelers will be shopping a bit differently this year

02-18-2007, 07:57 AM
Steelers will be shopping a bit differently this year
Sunday, February 18, 2007

By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Three hundred and 26 prospects were invited to this week's NFL Scouting Combine workouts in Indianapolis, and for the first time in more than 20 years, the Steelers won't routinely scratch many of them off their list before they see them.

The Steelers hired more than a new coach when they signed Mike Tomlin; they bought into a new philosophy on defense. No longer will they dismiss a player because he's a "4-3" tackle or end or outside linebacker.

The Steelers have played a 3-4 defense since Chuck Noll switched to it in the early 1980s. They will stick with it next season, but Tomlin has coached 4-3 defenses throughout his NFL career and wants everyone to keep an open mind toward possibly moving to that defense in the future.

That means Steelers scouts will look at those tackles who aren't built to play the nose but are more suited to play inside than at end. They can look at undersized ends and not necessarily see them as outside linebackers two years from now. They can look at smaller outside linebackers who play more like Jack Ham than Kevin Greene.

"It's actually encouraging because it opens up another avenue of players that maybe previously didn't quite fit," said Kevin Colbert, the Steelers' football operations director. "If we're going to get to a 4-3 defense, you can take a smaller defense tackle now and consider him, because there might be a crossover. We don't really know until this thing comes together."

Had Ham come along in the past 20 years, the Steelers probably would have ignored him. Ham thrived as an outside linebacker in the 4-3 Steel Curtain of the 1970s and made the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He would not be an ideal outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense in which he would be asked to rush the quarterback most of the time.

Consequently, the Steelers made a habit of drafting undersized defensive ends, having them serve a year or two as a backup apprentice at outside linebacker, and turning them into Pro Bowlers.

Some of the Steelers' best outside linebackers were undersized college defensive ends: Clark Haggans (fifth round, 2000), Joey Porter (third, 1999), Mike Vrabel (third, 1997), Carlos Emmons (seventh, 1996), Jason Gildon (third, 1994) and Jerroll Williams (fourth, 1989).

Not only will they continue to look for those types of players, they also will keep an open mind on those who better fit a 4-3 as well. It's possible the Steelers could stay a 3-4 defense, move to a 4-3 or play both, which is what the Baltimore Ravens do.

"The elite players defy scheme," Tomlin said. "Troy Polamalu's going to be an excellent safety regardless of what defensive scheme he's in. Casey Hampton's going to be a dominant interior defensive lineman, regardless of what scheme he's in. So the elite players defy scheme.

"We're not going to get enamored with that. What we're going to do is we're going to continue to shape our package to do what our players do and do well. It'll be a constant evolution."

The Steelers have players who could start in either scheme. Brett Keisel is quick enough to play end in either, and end Aaron Smith is big enough to play tackle next to Hampton in a 4-3 and quick enough to play end in either.

"We're a 3-4 team right now, obviously," Colbert said, "I think -- as coach has explained -- with the possibility of maybe some day evolving and doing different things within a 4-3 or a combination. I don't think anybody knows at this point.

It should make for a more intriguing Combine for the Steelers, followed in order by a more interesting free agency period that begins March 2, and then the draft in April.

"When coach talked about his plan for the defense," Colbert said, "it was always, 'I know what you have, we'll go from there and see where our players take us, basically.' I think that's the feeling we all have."


Livinginthe past
02-18-2007, 08:16 AM
Well this theory of 'more schemes more relevant players' would be great if you had an unlimited roster size.

Its nice to have players who can play DT in the 4-3 and DE in the 3-4, but guys who do it well are few and far between.

Now that the 3-4 has been 'en vogue' for a few years we are seeing a bigger market for the 'tweener' LBer that the Steelers have historically targetted - therefore finding a Haggans, Porter or Vrabel in the lower rounds has become considerably more difficult.

These players are getting picked up earlier and earlier.

The article certanly put a positive spin on a scenario that has its fair share of potential pitfalls.


02-18-2007, 11:01 AM
This also sounds, to me, as a nice way to convert over to the 4-3 without alarming too many fans/players.
Present it as though we were "keeping our options open" all the while we are drafting and setting up to be a primarily 4-3 oriented Defense.

Of course, this could be pure paranoia on my part as well................................

02-18-2007, 11:22 AM
If anyone can't see we're going "hybrid" on Defense (meaning .... having the ability to go 4-3 or 3-4) to play "catch-up" to the Ravens .... is kidding themselves.

02-18-2007, 11:25 AM
If anyone can't see we're going "hybrid" on Defense (meaning .... having the ability to go 4-3 or 3-4) to play "catch-up" to the Ravens .... is kidding themselves.

Well, I don't think we should judge just yet, because alot of this is spectulation, meaning we only have an idea of what will happen. At this point all we can do is wait.


steelin games
02-18-2007, 01:03 PM
I would like to see the hybrid(3-4/4-3). It would allow us to keep offenses guessing. We have players like Troy who can be successful in both.

02-18-2007, 01:30 PM
Basically Tomlin will bring in the best players available and mold our D to them whether it is a 4/3 or 3/4.

Sure not every player can fit both schemes but like Tomlin has said, the better players defy schemes.

Having a scheme that flip back n forth, that shows you different looks. Will not limit or drafting. It will actually expand who we can bring in compared to years past.

02-18-2007, 10:14 PM
Tomlin and the rest of the coaching staff will do what they can to have a good draft.

02-20-2007, 07:09 PM
Well, I don't think we should judge just yet, because alot of this is spectulation, meaning we only have an idea of what will happen. At this point all we can do is wait.

:tt02: :tt02: :tt02:
I agree pretty much with ya on this... and to think that the Steelers are playing catch up to the Ravens is Not
what I am thinking... The Steelers had injuries to very important players and it will take time to get
Tomlin's system in place but I think with a Not So Exciting offseason for Big Ben then things will be alot different.
I also dont think that the Steelers can honestly ask
Ben to drop back and pass 30 times a game either. We need
our running game to be punishing and our
Defense to get back to its Mean Self and that is the reason that Tomlin was brought in... youth and enthusiasm to
go with our youth on our team... Just my opinions...

02-21-2007, 01:33 PM
It will make for an interesting FA period/Draft at the very least. The draft should tell us quite a bit about what Timlin is thinking. :computer:

02-21-2007, 06:46 PM
tHE hybrid would not be to catch up to the ravens, it would be to have a valuable element of surpirse. Just because the ratbirds do it doesn't make it a bad idea

02-22-2007, 01:02 PM
I'm not buying this one, by the way. I was surfing around online looking for different mocks and I ran into a blog on the Houston Chronicle website under "Draft Central" that had us picking Reggie Nelson but also had us sticking with the exact same defense.

Supposedly this guy is well connected with NFL scouts and coaches and I'm pretty sure he's tied to our new line coach too. If he is right about our defense, then I will feel much better.

02-22-2007, 01:34 PM
for some reason....talk of changing defensive philosophies sounds an awful lot like starting over....

something i never thought the steelers would do in less than a year and a half after finally getting that one for the thumb...

02-22-2007, 01:35 PM
we have waaaaaaaaaaay too much talent on this football team to take a few steps backwards at this point....just my opinion

02-23-2007, 05:30 PM
My thoughts exactly. Why would anyone want to "start over" when the front is so devestating? Yes the CBs need to improve (or be changed), but not the entire defense.