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mesaSteeler
04-24-2009, 01:18 AM
Defensive linemen difficult to replace

By Scott Brown
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, April 23, 2009
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_621870.html#

All three starters on the Steelers' defensive line are in their 30s. Yet, Casey Hampton scoffs at the notion that the clock is ticking on a group that has been vital to the team's success.

"We like fine wine, baby, we get better with age," the veteran nose tackle said. "You bring a guy in, and who is he going to beat out? How many years is he going to have to wait to play if you take him early?"

Even with Hampton and defensive ends Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel entrenched as starters, the Steelers still figure to address their defensive line early in the NFL Draft this weekend.

Both Hampton and Keisel are going into the final year of their contracts, and acquiring eventual replacements for them, as well as for Smith, won't be easy since the demand for quality defensive linemen generally exceeds supply.

"I guess they're like seven-footers or left-handed pitchers," said NFL.com analyst and former Dallas Cowboys vice president of personnel Gil Brandt. "There's not as many around as you would like to have, and so consequently, it's a position that's overdrafted."

Finding linemen who fit the Steelers' scheme has become tougher with more teams targeting players with similar builds in the draft.

Due in part to the success the Steelers have had -- last season they almost became the first team since 1991 to lead the league in rushing, passing and total defense -- the 3-4 has become a defense du jour.

The Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos are making the transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Several other teams are incorporating elements of the 3-4 defense into their schemes for this season.

"As more teams play a 3-4 defense," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said, "there will be an increasing demand on that body type, and that is no secret. They're not hard to find, but they are scarce."

Adding to the difficulty of drafting linemen that can make a successful transition to the NFL: the fact that most college teams play a 4-3 defense.

That means ends in a 3-4 defense either played tackle in college or bulked up considerably when they got to the NFL, as Smith did after the Steelers took him in the fourth round of the 1999 draft.

One prospect who falls into the former category is Southern Cal's Fili Moala.

Projected as a late first-round or early second-round pick, the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Moala has the size to play right away as an end in a 3-4 defense. But there will be an adjustment if he gets taken by a team that plays a 3-4 defense since Moala played inside at Southern Cal.

"I think the hardest transition is learning the defense," Moala said. "I don't think the technique is any different. It's basically the same stuff, get off on the ball, use your hands, get separation and locate the ball and just doing it from a wide stance."

If it takes a certain body type to handle constant double teams in a 3-4 defense, linemen also must apply a blue-collar mentality to the position.

"They kind of do the dirty work," Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. "They have to take a lot of satisfaction from the accomplishment of the defense but really that's what team football is anyhow. It's certainly a different role in the 3-4 than it is in the 4-3."

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.

IamTheSteelGod
04-24-2009, 06:27 AM
How long has Smith got left on his contract I would hate to see him go!!!

lamberts-lost-tooth
04-24-2009, 09:39 AM
Three DE's that I am interested in:

Will Johnson from Michigan ...6'5 290lbs. (set a record with 47 reps on the bench press)...Michigans used him as a DT...so he didnt put up huge numbers but I think his ceiling his VERY high...might be a late 4th or 5th rounder.

Zach Potter from Nebraska... he is 6'7 and 285 lbs....In 2008 he had 12 TFL, 5.5 sacks, seven passes broken up and two interceptions. May need a year or two in an NFL weight lifting program but worth a shot in the late rounds.

Pannel Egboh from Stanford... 6'6 277lbs..... Hampered by a knee sprain this last year, he could be a valuable backup and learn behind Smith for a year. 5th-6th rounder.

revefsreleets
04-24-2009, 09:50 AM
That's what I'm hoping...find a guy who's not a marquee name but can ball, and bring him along with mentoring. If we face some injuries, we have depth and get the young guy(s) some experience, but hope that the DL holds up for another year until we can properly groom their replacements.

MDSteel15
04-24-2009, 10:19 AM
Will Johnson from Michigan is my pick!

lamberts-lost-tooth
04-24-2009, 10:25 AM
Will Johnson from Michigan is my pick!

I have this guy in my draft...would love to see him in black & gold!

billybob
04-24-2009, 10:30 AM
I remember stating that for those in the Steeler Nation , that are all for letting " BIG SNACK " leave , you may want to rethink. It seems he may be gearing up for the "BIG CHECK " ,If we can find a way to keep him ,oooooooooohhh buddy.

steelreserve
04-24-2009, 10:44 AM
I remember stating that for those in the Steeler Nation , that are all for letting " BIG SNACK " leave , you may want to rethink. It seems he may be gearing up for the "BIG CHECK " ,If we can find a way to keep him ,oooooooooohhh buddy.

If he's getting ready to ask for 4 years and $42 million ... well, that's why God invented the franchise tag.

billybob
04-24-2009, 11:21 AM
I believe he is at the least worth an effort to secure at least 2 years. He is not a weight ,he is an anchor.

El-Gonzo Jackson
04-24-2009, 11:29 AM
If he's getting ready to ask for 4 years and $42 million ... well, that's why God invented the franchise tag.

And next season we can use the Frachise tag and transition tag. :thumbsup:

I'd love to see Tony Hills progress to where he can play LT in 2010, let Starks go and instead tag Hampton, while we draft a DE to replace the probably departing Keisel.

Dino 6 Rings
04-24-2009, 11:35 AM
If he's getting ready to ask for 4 years and $42 million ... well, that's why God invented the franchise tag.

Damnn Right it is!

billybob
04-24-2009, 01:07 PM
with a lot of the teams now switching to the 34 ,i am not convinced Tomlin is willing to look at ........what if dick retires......can i change this structure that has been in place before i was born .......The Steelers may have not invented the 34 , but they sure as hell utilized in with Mr. Lebeau . Tomlin , and the front office will make the right choice for our team. They have in the past , and i have no reason to believe they will react any differently in the future. Allways room to improve , but you can not detract from your strengths either. If they have someone in mind to replace "THE BIG SNACK " then there is nothing that anyone can do about it. I would love to see "SNACK MAN " go out as a Steeler. We drafted him , we played his " BIG SNACK ASS ", and he performed to our standards. So you reward him with.........see ya later buddy , have a good life. He has a say , whether he moves on or not , not his agent , not us fans ,the ball is in his court. His own teammates could even be a deciding factor. I don't want the " BIG SNACK " to leave .

Steelman16
04-24-2009, 02:13 PM
And next season we can use the Frachise tag and transition tag. :thumbsup:

I'd love to see Tony Hills progress to where he can play LT in 2010, let Starks go and instead tag Hampton, while we draft a DE to replace the probably departing Keisel.

That would be ideal! :thumbsup:

steelreserve
04-24-2009, 03:29 PM
And next season we can use the Frachise tag and transition tag. :thumbsup:

I'd love to see Tony Hills progress to where he can play LT in 2010, let Starks go and instead tag Hampton, while we draft a DE to replace the probably departing Keisel.

I think we'd ALL love to see Hills ready to play one of the tackle positions; I don't really care which. Either way it'd create a huge potential for improvement. Although waving goodbye to Starks and his bloated salary would be double bonus day for us.

I think you're right -- I don't see how we'll be able to keep Keisel. I had no idea he was making as much money as he is, and he'll probably want a raise on top of that, which some other team will be all too willing to give him. Sad truth is, we can't pay all of our D-linemen $8 million a year, and out of the three starters, he's the most expendable.

billybob
04-24-2009, 03:39 PM
Are we talkin o-line or d-line here /

steelreserve
04-24-2009, 05:01 PM
Are we talkin o-line or d-line here /

whatever, we can just switch them back and forth between offense and defense as needed. then we run some wildcat shit and we're winnin' guaranteed.

billybob
04-24-2009, 08:44 PM
your right , i did pretty much forget about Smith. Don't know how , but i did. I am going to go out on the limb with the Steelers first draft choice , not by name , but they will choose a defensive player in the first round , The way they signed the , forgive me ."MACH 5 " , all signs are pointing to a defensive player being picked in the first round, and knowing Tomlin , maybe even the 2nd round too. We can do so many things with this draft to shore up both of our lines , it ain't even funny. Considering age , and not depth, you have to go with a defensive pick. After 37 years of following these guy's , there is no clear cut formula to go by, they always seem to throw in a curve ball on us fans. I can feel it in my bones , the first pick will be on defense. The reason is really quite simple , they have more age in that department , and they just got through signing the , forgive me , "MACH 5 " .