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lamberts-lost-tooth
07-09-2007, 06:13 AM
QB's
Ben slipped last year in a big way but who could blame him. After a brush with death in a near-fatal motorcycle accident, an emergency appendectomy, and a concussion....Bens "preseason" didnt end until about game #6.
He did finish the season strong however and the Steelers finished 8-8. With a good camp, and a desire to calm the naysayers, I look for Ben to be dubbed "Comeback Player of the Year"
Even with losing 8 games last year Ben is still the #2 QB in the NFL in winning percentage. Ariens promises Ben will have the ability to make play changes on the line and to run a no-huddle at times like he did in college. All this should help the ultra-competative QB to get back on track. Charlie Batch is a more than competent backup who filled in admirably last year while Ben was gone
Grade B+

RB's
Parker has made Rooney look like a genious. Picked up as an undrafted free-agent, all Parker has done is win the hearts of the Steeler-faithful with an incredible work ethic and elite speed. He has also shown that he isn't afraid to run between the tackles, racking up over 1600 total yards from scrimmage and 15 TD's. Fast Willie Parker is fast making us forget the heartbreaking retirement of Jerome Bettis.
Behind Willie is crowded backfield of second tier backs trying to win a job. Verron Haynes has been resigned but it remains to be seen how much he has recovered from his injury. Kevin Barlow, Najeh Davenport and John Kuhn are going to have a pre-season battle for the big back slot and a young cadre of RB's including Minnesota standout Gary Russell will be trying to impress to just make the roster.
Fullback will again be manned by Dan Kreider who does nothing but constantly make small holes into big holes for Parker.
Grade A-

WR's
Premier WR Hines Ward returns, just 721 yards short of being the most prolific WR in Steeler history. This is an incredible feat when considering the talent level of the Hall of Fame recievers from Pittsburgh's past.
Former first round pick Santonio Holmes will line up on the opposite side and hopes to build on a very impressive rookie season in which he led AFC rookie WR's in reception yardage.
The third reciever slot is a point of concern with the overpaid and underproductive Cedric Wilson competing against Nate Washington who flashes talent but has questionable hands. Hopes are that Washington can learn from last year and fill in at slot. PR/KR Willie Reid is still an unkown quality after a year of injuries.
Pittsburgh did draft tall, productive college WR Dallas Baker who wont impress anyone with his speed but hopes are that he may become a red-zone threat.
Grade B-

TE
Heath Miller remains a consistant option evertime Ben drops back to pass, with sure hands and an ability to find the crease in defenses. He is also an underrated blocker. With a healthy QB this year and coaches who love to use the TE, Miller could have a Pro-bowl year.
For the second time in three years, the Steelers drafted the recipient of the John Mackey Award, given to the nations best TE. 6'7 Matt Spaeth slid into the third round after not being able to participate in all combine drills due to a bad shoulder. Pittsburgh's coaching staff was giddy over being able to pick up Spaeth, and they promise to run more multible TE sets.
With Tuman still on the roster and the pickup of tall (6'8) undrafted Cody Boyd from Washington, Tomlin seems ready to back up that promise.
Grade A-

O-Line
This is the most questionable spot on the offense. Center Jeff Harting retired leaving a void that will be hard to fill. Sean Mahan was picked up in free-agency and as of now is expected to eventually win that spot over undersized backups Okobi and Phillip.
Pittsburghs right side was a concern last year. RT Max Starks is a waist bender and loses leverage against bull rushers. RG Simmons also struggled evidenced by Parkers 3.2 yard average on that side of the line compared to the 4.6 on the left side.
RT Willie Colon impressed n his first season and could push both players to either play better or lose their starting positions. Chris Kemoeatu also is a possibility at RG. He is a road grader as a run blocker but does have some problems in getting to the second tier, being more comforatable playing with linemen on both sides (in the phonebooth).
The left side is stronger with disgruntled LG and perennial pro-bowler Alan Faneca and LT Marvel Smith who slipped a little last year but is still a better than average starter. Trai Essex backs up Smith and though a wave player he can fill in on a short term basis without a drastic fall in level of competence.
Cameron Stephenson was drafted to add depth to the Guard position but will need time to come around.
With three slots questionable, the O-line will be a place for all of us to keep an eye on in preseason and the first couple of games.
Grade C-

xXTheSteelKingsXx
07-09-2007, 09:38 AM
Nice grades. Hopefully the o-line will play better this season.

onthebus36
07-09-2007, 10:48 AM
Great post. I particularly enjoyed your analysis of the O-line. Too many people still don't appreciate good O-line play or realize how it is critical to everything else on offense.

bigmaq
07-09-2007, 12:52 PM
It's a cliche, but, true: controlling the middle of play - in the trenches - whether on O or D is always key. The great teams always have this is common. Look at the great "O" lines of the past Dallas teams and the "D" line of the Steelers of the '70s. It is also what makes our present "D" above average.

Bradshaw has repeatedly made this case when talking about his O line, particularly Mike Webster. Sure we've had great linebackers. But, they would be the first to admit that their success was due to their D lines. (Both Ham and Lambert have said the same about Greene and Greenwood and Porter said as much about A Smith 2 yrs ago - and every current ILB knows the value of Casey when he engages 2 and sometimes 3 O linemen.)

That is because it is not just about having the better athletes with better technique and/or speed although this is important. It is more about character, heart, passion and one group of men exerting their collective will over the other. This is particularly true about football and what distinguishes the NFL from Arena football. (Although I'll concede that with rules to protect receivers, KRs and QB's the trend in the NFL is not good.)

Football, and sport in general, is won when one team exerts its collective will over the other. That is done first and foremost in the trenches. This quality is what has enabled the Steelers to have the unheard of W-L record when having a lead going into the 4th Quarter over the past decade.

Bill Parcell's said it best when when asked about the cornerback position; he said that he takes great pride in the fact that you can not remember any of his cornerbacks or for that matter any of his skill players. He said that the average corner can become a shutdown corner with a great D line and an average receiver all-world with a great O Line, but, the reverse is not true - ie a great receiver will not be able to bail out a mediocre O line in the W-L column - if you doubt that take a look at Arizona's record over the last several years.

Why do you think they call it "fantasy" football - that's right its not the real thing.

Preacher
07-09-2007, 01:43 PM
QB's
Gotta agree with most of your post here. However, I think there is a bit bigger question mark on Ben Roethlisberger. We know what he is capable of. The question is, can he put it put it all together on a consistent basis, or did his accident cause permanent damage physically or mentally (will he always be just a tad more jittery about a hit? Will he be just a quartersecond slower?). Personally, I don't think so. However, I need to see him prove it this year. I completely agree with your assessment of our backup, but he is getting older. As a result, I gotta personally move the grade from
Grade B+ to B-

RB's
You are dead right on with Willie. Furthermore, With Barlow, Dookie, and Kuhn and Haynes, we can share the load, keeping Willie fresher. I am looking for Barlow to actually step up and take the second string position. I gotta agree with your assessment
Grade A-

WR's
Ward is great. Holmes is coming along very well. However, after that, it is just a mess. while we have upside, we really have nothing to point to in order to prove that upside. Furthermore, with the spoken desire to spread 3 and 4 wide, we need to have receivers that can catch and run in order for it to be a threat.... I have to move this grade down
From Grade B- to a C

TE
Heath and Tuman alone put us at A-. If ANY of these new TE's step up, we are going to have THE PREMIER TE platoon in the league. So I would leave it as you put it... however, I am ready to quickly put it up to A, and possibly an A plus if we get some good production from both draft picks.
Grade A-

O-Line
Yep, Yep, and Yep.
Grade C-

Overall, Good job LLT. It sure is easier to adjust ones grade of a team then it is to come up with one yourself.

The Duke
07-09-2007, 01:53 PM
Great post LLT

lamberts-lost-tooth
07-09-2007, 02:45 PM
Overall, Good job LLT. It sure is easier to adjust ones grade of a team then it is to come up with one yourself.

Thanks...I take those slight adjustments as compliments!!!!!:thumbsup:

Elvis
07-09-2007, 02:52 PM
:coffee: Good talent reading and fun to read... I think that our WR's other than Hines still have some things to prove. Cedric Wilson in my opinion must go. If Holmes cant beat out Wilson then he is going nowhere fast. Nate must prove that he has the talent to be on the field more by Not dropping passes... Our O LIne is our biggest question in my opinion on offense..

Livinginthe past
07-09-2007, 03:46 PM
A nice read, LLT - as always. :cheers:

steelersfanmx
07-09-2007, 03:51 PM
Good reading!... :thumbsup:
I learn everyday from you guys!

Preacher
07-09-2007, 06:02 PM
Thanks...I take those slight adjustments as compliments!!!!!:thumbsup:

Take them how you want!

:sofunny::sofunny:


(Just kidding... you actually did a great job!)

Galax Steeler
07-10-2007, 03:51 AM
I hope the line can move up a few spots.

mental.apparition
07-11-2007, 03:06 PM
Great work, LLT! Thanks for the write up. If I may...

QB's - Grade B+
No doubt the World Champion hoopla, the face plant and the appendectomy took their toll on Big Ben physically and mentally. Beyond all that though we have to be honest in our assessments and admit Ben choked on the expanded play book last year.

Arians is going to expand Ben's responsibilities even further this year and that has to be a concern. If Ben can learn to protect the ball and live for another down he should be fine. If that happens there isn't a better 1-2 QB combo in the league.

RB's - Grade A-
Willie Everette Parker - A+. Rest of the gang just average. Running back is a young man's game and the oft-injured, underachieving vets Davenport and Barlow don't inspire confidence in this fan and probably no fear in NFL defenses. I disagree with a need for a 'big back'. As you state FWP was fine between the tackles last year and if he improves his grip on the ball he'll be spectacular.

I'd rather see more explosiveness from the second back that doesn't give defenses a break when FWP gets a blow. Kreider's days are numbered. Can't give an A to this group.

WR's - Grade B-
Hines Ward is the man but it's time to seek a replacement. I fully expect Holmes to push Ward to #2 in '08. Until then I hope Ward shuts his mouth and plays ball. What I wouldn't give for Arians to put Ward in position to earhole J.Peezy to start the 11/26 game!

Holmes needs to be the field stretcher. If he and Ben can back those safeties away from the LOS, the Steelers offense might be great this year.

I like Nate. In what was essentially the un-drafted free agent's rookie year on the active roster, Washington was a most productive #3. And the Steelers didn't loose a step or a game when he started with Ward's injury. Sure he had some bad drops but he also made some great grabs.

Reid can stretch the field as well if he can find it on Sundays. If Baker shows any and I mean any potential at all, Cedric the Entertainer should be cut. I'd rather see Heath Miller in the slot on 4-wides than Wilson. Be gone.

I agree with your grade.

TE- Grade A-
Miller is due for his breakout year and with some coaching emphasis on using the TE more, Ben should be able to utilize Heath more effectively. Tuman is somewhat pedestrian and I would have preferred to keep a player like Euhus to complement the young Mackey Award winners.

I think your preseason A- for this group is a stretch. But I also think the post season grade for this group could be higher.

O-Line - Grade C-
I think you may be a little tough on this group, but completely understand the outstanding questions and doubts.

Replacing Hartings is tough but the '06 Hartings wasn't as good as his reputation so it may be a little easier in a 'what have you done for me lately' perspective. Chukky deserves a chance at the spot and filled in nicely when called upon. Who knows anything about Phillip?

Starks could be a dominant RT. He is a bear of a man who run blocks very well. I think Starks struggles more with the speed rushers on the edge than the bull rushers. See what he did against Burgess and Peppers last year as examples. If Coach Z is the tackle specialist his resume says he is and with Starks playing for his money, look for a very solid year from Starks and an extension.

Simmons is also playing for his money and I think will hold off Kemoeatu and Colon for the starting spot. But I'm not as down on Simmons as most. Kemo can't tie his shoes without a diagram and the days of Steeler guards needing only to grade roads are over. Offensive lineman have to be smart and flexible, which are not in Kemoeatu's bag of tricks.

As well as the '06 Hartings not playing up to his reputation, the '06 Faneca showed holes in his game as well. If he shuts his mouth and plays ball the Steelers will benefit. If he continues his best TO impersonation I wouldn't mind seeing him gone and believe it or not, the Steelers would survive his departure.

Faneca is asking to be paid for what he's done in the past and not what he'll deliver in the future. The expanded Steelers playbook forces Faneca away from his strength (run blocking) and directly into his weakness (pass blocking). His temper tantrums are due the fact he knows he will be exposed more and more in this offense which means less money for him not only from the Steelers but the rest of the league. His All Pro selection last year was an embarrassment. The Steelers will set themselves back several years if they give in to a past-his-prime Faneca's extortion demands.

Marvel Smith needs to lay off the pot during the season because he tends to mellow out too much. He needs to be more wrecking ball and less marshmellow. Still, a solid LT.

As much as the Steelers keep the LB factory going and find replacements when stars depart, they do so as well with the OL. Essex and Colon show promise. I don't know enough of Mahan to give an honest assessment but he is a 'Tomlin' guy and it will be very interesting to see how he fits in.

A C anything is probably right for this group.

lamberts-lost-tooth
07-11-2007, 04:59 PM
Thanks M.A.

Ilike what you said about the TE's....and think there is a chance that we may see Tuman let go and Cody Boyd signed

Crushzilla
07-11-2007, 05:55 PM
I have to agree with Preacher...

Receiving core with Nate Washington C

WITHOUT Nate Washington B-

:chuckle:

xXTheSteelKingsXx
07-11-2007, 08:18 PM
I have to agree with Preacher...

Receiving core with Nate Washington C

WITHOUT Nate Washington B-

:chuckle:

You really believe that we're that much better without him???I think that he's better than both Reid and Wilson, and he's a pretty big target for Ben.

Preacher
07-11-2007, 08:22 PM
You really believe that we're that much better without him???I think that he's better than both Reid and Wilson, and he's a pretty big target for Ben.

Good question.

Your question is actually the reason I posted what I did....

WR's
Ward is great. Holmes is coming along very well. However, after that, it is just a mess. while we have upside, we really have nothing to point to in order to prove that upside. Furthermore, with the spoken desire to spread 3 and 4 wide, we need to have receivers that can catch and run in order for it to be a threat.... I have to move this grade down
From Grade B- to a C

The fact that we have to ask that question... or don't have anything more then just an opinion on who is the best 3rd string... is why I moved it down...

I know this post wasn't directed to me... but just wanted to add in my two sheckels.

Aussie_steeler
07-11-2007, 08:27 PM
Thanks LLT for the original post. Enjoyed the read.

xXTheSteelKingsXx
07-11-2007, 08:32 PM
Preach man thanks for your explanation. I see your point that without a ligitament no. 3 WR our team suffers but it seems to me that Crush is saying Nate makes our recieving corp worse.

Crushzilla
07-11-2007, 08:48 PM
Actually I was purposely misquoting you to bring you into my Nate Washington rants against your will, Preacher. I never at any point felt you believed that. I was just joshing around.

I have my own beef with Nate Washington.

The Duke
07-11-2007, 10:10 PM
Actually I was purposely misquoting you to bring you into my Nate Washington rants against your will, Preacher. I never at any point felt you believed that. I was just joshing around.

I have my own beef with Nate Washington.

I still don't understand what you got against Nate, you have even said you want him to be cut :jawdrop:

Preacher
07-12-2007, 12:36 AM
Actually I was purposely misquoting you to bring you into my Nate Washington rants against your will, Preacher. I never at any point felt you believed that. I was just joshing around.

I have my own beef with Nate Washington. :sofunny:


I want to see him be more consistent.