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lamberts-lost-tooth
05-07-2008, 03:28 AM
LBs from '07 draft being counted on in a rush
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A month before the draft, an either-or question was put to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin over breakfast in Palm Beach, Fla.

Great pass rusher or great secondary?

"Great pass rusher," Tomlin quickly answered, "because the ball never comes out."

Last season, the Steelers got neither, at least statistically. Although Kevin Colbert, their director of football operations, said before the season began that the team needed a better pass rush in 2007, its sacks dropped by three, from 39 to 36. That was nothing compared to the drop in interceptions -- the Steelers had 11 interceptions last season, down from 20 in 2006 and tied for fewest in the NFL.

Clearly, a good pass rush and good coverage go hand in hand, and sometimes it's a chicken-and-egg question of which comes first. Tomlin comes down heavily on the side of the pass rush.

"I have a passion for those rushers, man," he said. "Those guys are unique animals, man. When you have them, you have a chance to play great defense, and when you have a chance to play great defense, you have a chance to win. When you look at some of the great teams in the history of our game or the great defenses in the history of our game, they have dominant men up front."

The Steelers have done nothing to change the look of their aging defensive line since last season. Their top six players in their three-man line remain the same and will range in age from 30 to 34 by September. However, when Tomlin speaks about his front, it includes seven and not three because generally in a 3-4 defense, linebackers deliver most of the sacks.

And that's where the Steelers will have a change next season, perhaps by as much as half.

LaMarr Woodley, the team's most productive pass rusher per play as a rookie last season, will get a chance to become the starting left outside linebacker. Lawrence Timmons, the team's first-round draft pick in 2007, will compete with starting inside linebacker Larry Foote for that job.

Woodley played in just 80 snaps last season, a little more than one full game. Yet he had four sacks -- the same as starter Clark Haggans -- and five quarterback hurries/pressures. He chipped in another two sacks against Jacksonville in the Steelers' lone playoff game. Compare that with starting right outside linebacker James Harrison, who played every game and rarely missed a snap. He led the Steelers with 8.5 sacks and added another 1.5 in the playoffs as he earned his first Pro Bowl honor and was voted Steelers' MVP by his teammates.

The presence of a younger, better pass rusher on the left in Woodley could help Harrison's production. And the extremely quick Timmons could complement them from the inside, if he plays as his coaches believe he can.

The Steelers' first two draft choices last year are ready to pay off.

"We're looking for what we look for from all second-year players, which is to take a giant step," Tomlin said after last weekend's minicamp. "It's been proven over time that guys show the ability to take a giant step from year one to year two. Familiarity is an issue, an understanding of what's required, an understanding of what lies ahead are all factors in them doing that.

"They've shown thus far that they're capable of doing that. We like where they are. The athleticism and talent that attracted us to them originally are showing through. They have to continue to move forward, and I'm pleased with what those guys have been doing in the offseason program. Their faces are in the building, they're working at it. They're learning how to become professionals."

There's also rookie Bruce Davis, the team's third-round draft choice from UCLA. Typically, the Steelers drafted players such as Davis, an undersized 4-3 defensive end in college, and converted them to outside linebackers. Joey Porter, Jason Gildon and Haggans are but several who followed that path. It usually takes them a year or so to make the transformation. In the meantime, the Steelers plan to use Davis, 6-3, 252 pounds, in some pass-rush situations, perhaps how they used Woodley last season. Davis had 24.5 sacks the past two seasons at UCLA.

"He is a highly productive guy, as productive as any college rush-man the last two years," Tomlin said.

The Steelers have a long history of leaving their outside linebackers in the game the whole way for the whole season. In some cases, particularly that of Haggans, they wore down and were less effective.

Davis might help keep the starters fresh and become part of an energized pass rush that softened the past two seasons.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08128/879654-66.stm

Galax Steeler
05-07-2008, 03:54 AM
Sounds like tomlin is ready to unleash Timmons and Woodley this year I really hope we can get more pressure on the quarterback and have more sacks this year.

Aussie_steeler
05-07-2008, 03:55 AM
Woodley played in just 80 snaps last season, a little more than one full game. Yet he had four sacks -- the same as starter Clark Haggans -- and five quarterback hurries/pressures. He chipped in another two sacks against Jacksonville in the Steelers' lone playoff game. Compare that with starting right outside linebacker James Harrison, who played every game and rarely missed a snap. He led the Steelers with 8.5 sacks and added another 1.5 in the playoffs as he earned his first Pro Bowl honor and was voted Steelers' MVP by his teammates.


Using these stats you could project Harrison at around 0.6 sacks per game whilst Woodley would be at around 3 sacks a game.

48 sacks a season sounds a bit extreme to me. But I would take it in a heartbeat

Willem Gerber
05-07-2008, 08:58 AM
I really hope that Timmons and Woodley can get the Giant leap done with flying colours.I am expecting a good season from woodley,moreso tham Timmons

moedap
05-07-2008, 09:28 AM
I just went through the sack totals for the regular season for seasons 94-07 and looking at the individual sacks it was apparent that Joey Porter success in his early career was due to the force on the other side, Gildon. The DL hasnt been a threat to QB's since Ray Seals.

Timmons in the middle on the same side as B. Kiezzy offers a lot of stunting options since B. Kiezzy can drop back in pass coverage. I also see our DB blitzes working better this year b/c of the threat Harrison, Timmons, Woodley, and Davis now pose to the opponents.

Steelerfreak58
05-07-2008, 09:33 AM
Younger stronger faster = more sacks.

Edman
05-07-2008, 09:46 AM
Pass Rush out of the DL in a 3-4 scheme is a bonus, not a necessity. 3-4 Linemen are space eaters that occupy blocks, not pass rushers. I think some people are missing the original point of a 3-4 D-Lineman. Ray Seals was a special one of a kind player that we may not see again for a while.

Foote is a nice player, but he has been considered the weakest link in our LB core for years now. Haggans and Porter after 2005 were pedestrian at best. Farrior as well as Harrison are well into the 30's. We needed youth at Linebacker. Thats why Timmons and Woodley were drafted in '07 and that's why we drafted Davis this year. In limited playing time, Woodley outplayed Haggans including having a big game in the playoffs against Jacksonville.

DACEB
05-07-2008, 06:08 PM
One thing we all can take from the Giants in the superbowl is you can never have enough pass rushers.

The progression from DE to OLB takes time, but one thing they can all do is rush the passer. I think Tomlin realizes you don't have to wait on a guy 2-3 years, for him to contribute. Toss them out there in situations where they can do what they do best, and let the starters stay fresher.

Rhee Rhee
05-07-2008, 06:16 PM
i am so excited to see woodley as a starer... in my mind he's the next demarcus ware, shawne merrimen and soon to be the jason gildon/joey porter...

Black@Gold Forever32
05-07-2008, 08:46 PM
Joey Porter had 2 sacks in his rookie year then 10.5 in his second....So I expect Woodley to do the same....It took Gildon until his 5th season to reach double digit sacks in one season...In 1998 he had 11 which was his 5th season....

I expect Timmons to start and he should help the pass rush at times also...I don't see him netting double digit sacks since he will play at ILB...But I think 6-7 sacks along with 3-4 INTs sounds good....Plus he will force some fumbles also hopefully....

So yes these LBs should help the pass rush......

Galax Steeler
05-08-2008, 03:31 AM
i am so excited to see woodley as a starer... in my mind he's the next demarcus ware, shawne merrimen and soon to be the jason gildon/joey porter...

I hope so.:sofunny:

stillers4me
05-08-2008, 05:32 AM
We have alot to be excited about this year!!!!!!