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GBMelBlount
09-01-2008, 06:16 AM
Steelers keep 7 defensive linemen, but the solid group is aging


Brett Keisel is the most recent defensive lineman the Steelers have taken in the draft, and that was in 2002. The team's only defensive lineman under age 30 by the end of the month will be backup Nick Eason.

When coach Mike Tomlin said before the draft the Steelers needed to get bigger on their lines, this is not quite what he meant: They have more bodies, not especially larger ones.

The Steelers kept seven defensive linemen on their final roster -- provided today's roster is final -- rather than the normal six, and the reason for that might reflect the age of the group. Only one will be younger than 30 when September ends, and that's backup end Nick Eason, 28.

Not only did the Steelers fail to draft a defensive lineman this year, they failed again to keep a young player drafted at the position previously when they waived Ryan McBean, a fourth-round draft choice in 2007. Brett Keisel, drafted in the seventh round in 2002, is the most recent drafted defensive lineman still with the team.

That should end the ongoing debate that they will switch to a 4-3 defense under Tomlin any time soon.

The lack of youth may not hurt them this season, though, because their front line of ends Aaron Smith and Keisel and nose tackle Casey Hampton is distinguished. Smith and Hampton are Pro Bowlers and Keisel led the team with 31 pressures on quarterbacks last season.

Even though he's 35, Orpheus Roye should be able to help the Steelers in spots.

"We have such a veteran group, guys can all play," Smith, 32, said.

Another important factor is all of them open the season in good health.

"Overall, I'm pleased," said Keisel, who turns 30 this month. "We've got a few nicks and things like that, but, for the most part, we're relatively healthy."

Tomlin was able to keep an extra lineman because he did not use a roster spot on a pure return man, as he did last season with Allen Rossum. Cutting veteran return man Eddie Drummond allowed them the luxury of keeping seven defensive linemen.

They kept the normal contingent of 10 offensive linemen but the fact they tried and failed to trade center/guard Sean Mahan or tackles Trai Essex or Max Starks -- Did they really think someone would pay Starks' guaranteed $7 million? -- meant that fourth-year guard Jeremy Parquet, who spent the past three seasons with the Chiefs or Rams, was released. Parquet was signed to the practice squad yesterday.

Roye, for one, will find that some opponents block the Steelers differently than they did when he last played on their defensive line in 1999. It has caused the linemen -- and the linebackers -- to adjust how they play the run.

Instead of blockers shooting out at the snap of the ball to get after their assignment, many offenses use a zone blocking scheme against the Steelers with their linemen waiting for the defense to make its move first.

"As defensive linemen, they're trying to get us to go one way," veteran backup nose tackle Chris Hoke said. "You watch their runs, they're all cutbacks. That's what they did to us last year."

The Steelers must have adjusted well enough because their defense ranked No. 1 overall and No. 3 against the run last season in yards allowed.

The solution?

"We have to stay in our gaps," Hoke said. "They used to keep the ball front side on us and we'd stuff the run. But now they come front side and cut back side because they know we have to stay in our gaps and they're going to the back side of the run. We just have to be more disciplined on defense. We have to work as 11 men and make sure everyone's doing their job. The thing about the 3-4 defense, if one guy doesn't do his job, we're gashed."

Instead of offenses being aggressive in their run-blocking, they try to take advantage of the Steelers' complicated, aggressive, blitzing defense. It may be a reason for their plans to align Keisel at different positions in the defense more than last season.

"Teams really aren't trying to push us back, like drive us back," Keisel said. "Teams are trying more to do what we call zone block, which is kind of let them come into you and let them run that way."

Here is how Keisel said it's done:

"If I'm the offense, and you go into the 'A' gap, rather than coming at you and missing you, I just come back, let me go there and just push."

He said it's similar to punt protection and works best against 3-4 defenses because "you can bring so many guys and you have so many different looks that you have to account for. Rather than say we're going to charge this as an offense, let them come to us and when they come we'll take it as it goes."

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08245/908552-66.stm

Monday, September 01, 2008
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Peter Diana/Post-Gazette

Steeldude
09-01-2008, 07:09 AM
it's going to get worse before it gets better.

the problem should have been addressed 2 to 3 years ago.

HometownGal
09-01-2008, 08:43 AM
Gee Bouchette - tell us something we didn't already know. :doh:

We'll be OK this season and probably next, but the Steelers definitely do need to address this situation sooner rather than later.

Texasteel
09-01-2008, 10:17 AM
I can't see us doing anything as far as FAs are conserned, but I see several kids that will be in this years draft that should be able to help next year, and make a big difference the year after.

Havik
09-01-2008, 10:37 AM
What worries me is if just one of the starters goes down, we're in big trouble. Everyone saw what happened when Aaron Smith got injured. I hope this problem gets addressed in next years draft, because most defensive linemen take at least 2 years to develop. Next years draft is loaded with talented defensive linemen, so there's no reason for the Steelers to not get some new d-line talent in 2009.

El-Gonzo Jackson
09-01-2008, 11:00 AM
I think the addition of Roye is a big step towards having somebody that can play if there were an injury.

Thats the stop-gap move until somebody can be aquired next season.

The D-line is fine this season.

19ward86
09-01-2008, 11:00 AM
If we can draft a NT in the first round next year and get a late round suprise at DE i think that will catch us up, mostly if we can have multiple picks on the D-line next year.

Steelman16
09-01-2008, 11:05 AM
If we can draft a NT in the first round next year and get a late round suprise at DE i think that will catch us up, mostly if we can have multiple picks on the D-line next year.

I'd be surprised if we drafted an NT in the first round. If a quality center is available, there is no way we'd pass on that.

Next year's draft is definitely going to have linemen as top priority.

DACEB
09-01-2008, 11:29 AM
I hope we take advantage of all these guys and rotate them in and out, early and often.

I'm glad the team kept seven, I'm confident Eason will have a much stronger showing. It would be nice to keep all the guys fresher and the backups on point. If Keisel and Smith could get a blow on occasion or one of the other guys could provide some help with the pass rush with fresh legs, that would be a huge boost.

I'm disappointed that we didn't keep another DL on the PS. I thought from what I saw in preseason, Reffert looked ok. It's easy to say that a draft prospect will come in and help out, but if you look around at the cuts there are alot of the guys we liked for our squad not on a team. Hayden, Dykes are a couple that didn't make a squad, go figure.

lamberts-lost-tooth
09-01-2008, 11:38 AM
LIke TexasSteel and I were talking about in another thread....there is at least the potential of picking up players that were cut yesterday...Two of the ones that we had discussed are Dre Moore & Nick Hayden. Both were tried out as DT's ..but may actually work out better as DE's at the pro level.

Do I think we will bring them in....No. But it is interesting to think that their are some options out there to still bring in youth. I personally think Hayden would be a perfect 3-4 DE and has the size/strength to learn the position. I would drop Eason and give Hayden a shot.

tyler289
09-01-2008, 11:39 AM
Hopefully Smith/Hampton/Keisel don't go down, because I'm not sure I feel comfortable with Roye or Eason or Hoke starting. Decent enough backups, but certainly not starters.

I think Woodley and Timmons are going to help our line out more this year because they can both rush better than Haggans or Foote.

El-Gonzo Jackson
09-01-2008, 12:00 PM
Roye does what a 3-4 DE should....he occupies sometimes 2 blockers so that the LB's can make tackles.

I'm comfortable with Roye, but Eason and Kirschke are big downgrades from there.

Black@Gold Forever32
09-01-2008, 12:19 PM
I'm so glad we have these reporters to tell us the Steelers DL is aging...lol....Thanks Captain Obvious........lol

The Steelers should be fine this year if Aaron Smith can stay healthy......But I do think Nick Eason has shown some improvement.....Trust me I'm not saying I would be thrilled to see him start if Smith went down....lol

Chris Hoke is a fine backup at NT...Plus he could even play DE also....Roye should be fine to play 10-15 snaps a game....

Heading into next off-season....I think DE is a far bigger need then NT.....But a young NT is a need also....

tyler289
09-01-2008, 01:24 PM
Heading into next off-season....I think DE is a far bigger need then NT.....But a young NT is a need also....


Definitely. I'm not sure who the top prospects at LT/RT, DT, or DE are, but a stud defensive end is much more of a need than NT right now. Smith is getting up there in age and Keisel is 30.

Ideally, we go DE or LT/RT in round 1, DT in Round 2, and DE or LT/RT in round 3, depending on who we take in round 1. I was hoping McBean would show us something but unfortunately he didn't.

I assume we're picking in the last 1/3 of the 1st round this year so hopefully there are prospects at all the positions of need. I swear, if we draft a LB, RB, WR, or safety this year...I'm gonna flip. (Unless the LB is a potential DE)

tony hipchest
09-01-2008, 01:30 PM
nice to get some actual x's and o's and gap penetration talk from ed b. and the local 'wrap.

good insight from brett.

im less concerned with our aging defense getting hurt than i am of the pain they will inflict on the opposing offense.

i certainly hope they dont kill anybody. :tt02:

lilyoder6
09-01-2008, 03:15 PM
we have good neough depth to where they can spell the starters..

The Duke
09-01-2008, 03:24 PM
LIke TexasSteel and I were talking about in another thread....there is at least the potential of picking up players that were cut yesterday...Two of the ones that we had discussed are Dre Moore & Nick Hayden. Both were tried out as DT's ..but may actually work out better as DE's at the pro level.



I think moore was signed to the bucs PS. I don't have a link but I think I saw it somewhere....

sucks that none of the young linemen worked. draft next year has to get us at least one

MJ5150
09-03-2008, 12:29 PM
I'm sure we'll be fine in a couple years. It seems to me the best place to get hungry DL is in the draft, and not FA. We'll probably grab up a couple young and hungry guys in the next couple years and groom them to step in like we do with our LB's.

-Mike

SteelMember
09-03-2008, 01:27 PM
Gee Bouchette - tell us something we didn't already know. :doh:

We'll be OK this season and probably next, but the Steelers definitely do need to address this situation sooner rather than later.:toofunny:
NEWSFLASH
"Everyone will die....What will we do in the meantime?"

Play football of course.:tt03: