View Full Version : Steelers Notebook: Defensive line's depth lacking with Keisel, Hampton on shelf

09-24-2008, 04:22 AM
Steelers Notebook: Defensive line's depth lacking with Keisel, Hampton on shelf
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Two-thirds of the Steelers' starting defensive line will miss the game Monday night against Baltimore at Heinz Field.

Pro Bowl nose tackle Casey Hampton (groin) and defensive end Brett Keisel (calf) will not suit up.

Chris Hoke, who spells Hampton during games and replaced him for more than half the 2004 season, will make his first start since the fifth game last season -- a victory against Seattle when Hampton was injured.

It will be the second game Hoke has started the past four seasons, but he has played in all but one game in that span and started 10 in 2004 when the Steelers went 15-1 and reached the AFC championship game.

There is a problem, however, with depth. The Steelers have no other player on the roster who has played that position. Coach Mike Tomlin said Travis Kirschke, who started against the Philadelphia Eagles at right end in Keisel's absence, also would back up Hoke.

They have nose tackle Scott Paxson on their practice squad. Paxson spent all of last season on their practice squad and part of 2006, although Tomlin said there's no plan to sign another defensive lineman.

"Of course, those things are a possibility as we proceed through the week, but, at this point, it will be Chris backed up by Travis," Tomlin said.

Big Ben update
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's right hand has no damage and he should be good to go this week, Tomlin said.

"At this point, I don't think that he will be limited at all. Of course, we will see when he comes in here tomorrow. He has some bumps and bruises, but we don't think at this point that it will limit him in terms of practice tomorrow."

Roethlisberger left the game with 3:31 remaining after his hand was injured. He had X-rays taken in the locker room, then returned to watch Byron Leftwich finish the game. Tomlin said he did not think Roethlisberger could have gone back in.

"We wanted to run some tests to make sure that he was fine. I think that the process of running those tests would have made it tough for him to go back into the game."

It could have been worse
Roethlisberger should have had a ninth sack, tying his career high. An NFL source acknowledged that Roethlisberger's knee touched the ground in the end zone before he was penalized for intentional grounding and a safety. Either way, it would have been a safety. But had Roethlisberger thrown an interception that was returned for a touchdown, Tomlin could have asked for a review, saying his knee had touched. And, if the pass had been ruled incomplete instead of intentional grounding, Eagles coach Andy Reid could have asked for a review because his knee had touched.

As it was, an intentional-grounding penalty is not reviewable under NFL rules.

Offensive line stays as is
Tomlin gave an emphatic "no" when asked if he planned any changes along his offensive line in light of the nine sacks the Eagles had Sunday.

He also said the coaches partly were to blame for the inability to answer Philadelphia's blitz.

"As coaches, we could have done a better job of adjusting and putting these guys in position to be successful. We could have done a better job of identifying on all levels: wide receivers, running backs, tight ends, offensive linemen, quarterbacks. We could have done a better job of physically blocking them."

Townsend might return
Linebacker Donovan Woods (hamstring) also will not play Monday, but cornerback Deshea Townsend could return after missing two games with a bruised heel.

"He is scheduled to run tomorrow; that does not necessarily mean that he is scheduled to practice," Tomlin said. "He is going to begin the process, and we will be able to evaluate where he is in regards to the game as we proceed through the week."

Tomlin praised Bryant McFadden's play in Townsend's spot on the left side.

"When we talked about injuries early and people having to step up, that is what we are talking about. Bryant has had an opportunity to step up because of injury to Deshea and, quite honestly, he answered the bell. The standard of expectation has been met. He has played great football for us, not that we are surprised by that


09-24-2008, 04:49 AM
But we are just fine at depth along our line...Yeah right, whatever.

Steel Pit
09-24-2008, 04:54 AM
Good news for the most part. I'm especially relieved to hear that Roethlisberger's hand is OK. I'm not really concerned about the defensive line, Hoke should fill in just fine, Nick Eason appears to be quite active in spot duty. DL depth is a big concern, I hope that the guys stay healthy but man, these boys are going to get tired. Willie Parker's absence does concern me a bit. I just hope that Mendenhall can hold on to the damn ball.

09-24-2008, 11:26 AM
There are only so many roster spots you can fill with DL in a 3-4. So depth as far as numbers is not an issue here. Question the talent, perhaps, but no team employing the 3-4 is gonna keep more than 6-7 Dlinemen.