View Full Version : Father Time Steelers' biggest hurdle to return to Super Bowl

02-12-2011, 12:08 PM

From NFL.com

Steeler fans, I feel your pain. After closing the gap to 21-17 in Super Bowl XLV, it looked as though the game was playing into Pittsburgh's hands. Even on the final drive, it was almost as if it was a foregone conclusion that Ben Roethlisberger would make plays out of the pocket, hit some of those annoying dinks and dunks that drive guys like Dom Capers crazy, and ultimately lead the Steelers to the winning touchdown.

Didn't happen. And thus begins the 2011 offseason for Steel City. As we continue our series of exit interviews, we take a look at some issues confronting the defending AFC champs.

1. Age becoming a concern?One issue that could become huge is age. Having a veteran team is good, but much of the core is either rapidly approaching 30, or well past it. Pittsburgh has 23 guys on its roster that will either turn 30 in 2011, or are already past it. The majority of them are on defense.

Coach Mike Tomlin and his staff must find ways to take some of the toll off players in minicamps, training camp and preseason to save some legs, while also getting younger players first team reps as much as possible. One draft will not completely fix this concern.

2.Tread left on tires?When a defense runs a 3-4 scheme, it must have a big-time player at nose tackle to be truly successful. Look at the 3-4 teams that won the Super Bowl recently: Green Bay (B.J. Raji), Pittsburgh (Casey Hampton), New England (Vince Wilfork.) These are all damn good football players.

Problem is, Hampton will be entering his 11 season and is due $4 million. His backup, Chris Hoke, will be 35. Wear and tear is a concern across the line. Defensive end Brett Keisel, who, like Hampton, is a very good player, will be in his 10th season. Fellow defensive end Aaron Smith is going into his 13th year, is coming off an injury and has $4.5 million coming to him. While Ziggy Hood played well in Smith's place, depth at defensive line is key in the NFL. These guys chase, occupy blockers, and chase some more. The Steelers need to think of the future and get some fresh legs on their front line.

3. Time to go to corner market?The toughest thing to obtain in the NFL is a shutdown corner, be it through the draft, free agency or trade. Think about it: How many franchise quarterbacks can you think of off the top of your head? Eight? Ten? Now, how many corners come to mind? Three?

If Pittsburgh doesn't need a shutdown guy, it could definitely use an upgrade at the position. Ike Taylor, Bryant McFadden and William Gay were the weak links of the defense. The three corners totaled four interceptions all season, and it wasn't because quarterbacks were avoiding them. Are they bad? No. Yet, the Packers' wide receivers exposed their lack of make-up speed in the Super Bowl.

McFadden got picked on all season. Taylor, who will be an unrestricted free agent, has always been a blue-collar player. However, neither corner is of the same ilk as the Steelers' safeties, linebackers or front line.

4. Where's the continuity up front?Offensive line is only really an issue because too many guys ended up in the training room. The two tackles, Max Starks and Willie Colon, have taken some criticism but are decent players. Problem is, both were lost early in the season. Colon is coming off an Achilles' tendon injury and is a free agent. Starks dealt with a neck injury. Starks' backup, Jonathan Scott, is a free agent. Thirteen-year veteran Flozell Adams stepped in and did a better job than most expected, but he could retire.

Another injury problem was stud center Maurkice Pouncey, who missed the Super Bowl. While Doug Legursky filled in admirably, it was just another obstacle for a depleted line that hasn't gotten much continuity. The same holds true at guard, where Ramon Foster became a starter after Trai Essex's play became about as popular as Creed's last album. The other guard, Chris Kemoeatu, was one of the most penalized guards in the league, despite being a steady player.

This unit could become a strong point next season, but for now, the health and free-agent questions need to be answered.

5. What does draft hold?Pittsburgh hasn't drafted a corner in either of the first two rounds since 2005 -- that could change in April. Offensive line is a possibility. How about wide receiver? Hines Ward is on his last legs, despite the fact he miraculously gets open. But what you saw against the Packers was the Steelers trying to use speedster Mike Wallace as a possession guy.

It wouldn't hurt Pittsburgh to consider drafting a big wide receiver similar to what San Diego has in spades. The Steelers' primary options at wideout are all under 6 feet, and tight end Heath Miller wasn't a factor most of the Super Bowl or in the AFC title game.

With a team this good, taking the best player on the board is always a possibility. But as stated earlier, defensive line could be a need with the age of the group.

Fire Arians
02-12-2011, 12:36 PM
i think our biggest needs right now is guard and corner.

probably go after a corner in round 1. all the top picks at corner will probably go in the early-mid rounds. if mike pouncey is available at 31, grab him. the pouncey brothers should be a solid foundation for a good decade.

for a tall target, we could probably get a good value out of greg salas out of hawaii. he's about 6'3-6'4 and fast for a wr his size. excellent route runner. think davone bess but bigger and faster. Since he plays in the WAC expect him to drop to 4th-5th round. A lot of wr's out of hawaii do well in the NFL, and he's probably the most talented wr i've seen come out of that school.

02-12-2011, 06:13 PM
I've already state this in other threads, but I will see if it gains any more traction here. Critiques are welcome, as I do not watch college ball that much, so I have no idea what prospects are available. I based these needs on an ideal situation, where all the types of players we need are available.

Our needs (in order of priority):

1a) CB - If Crezdon Butler does not turn out to be the next best thing at CB, we NEED another shutdown corner opposite Ike, at a MINIMUM. Truth be told, I don't even trust Gay or McFadden to play the Nickel or Dime positions-- Gay lost his jockstrap to NE's Gronkowski-- a ROOKIE TIGHT END for crying out loud!! McFadden was every QB's favorite target this season. Keenen Lewis is dumb as a stump and a liability on the field. Where did Burnett go? That fact he disappeared when we needed another option at CB all year, tells us all we need to know about him.

1b) Dline - Arguably more important than picking up a shutdown corner, we REALLY need to start injecting youth into our defensive line rotation, NOW. Kepp in mind, it takes about two seasons for a new draftee to pick up Lebeau's system-- do you think Aaron Smith, Brett Kiesel, and Hampton can last for two more seasons? And while they do not compile stats, the defensive line is our team's BREAD and BUTTER. Our team's defense revolves around stopping the run first and foremost, and that starts with the big uglies on the line. If we let that fall into ruin, we can almost guarantee a "rebuilding period" for the Steelers. Our 1st round pick should be spent on the biggest, most badass, nosetackle out there to replace Big Snack, for starters.

2) K - Suisham is NOT the answer, he was only a band-aid.

3) OG - We need a RG, and Michael Pouncey sounds like a good answer, although, I doubt he will be available when our late picks come up. I think we are fine at OT-- between Starks (who was actualy ready to play again before the season was over, but could not due to the IR designation), Colon (who was our best tackle, but remains to be seen what the post-achilles Colon is like), and the Hotel, we have three very serviceable offensive tackles to compete for the two starting positions. We are SET at Center. I am assuming Kemo beats himself up this offseason for the terrible year he had and comes back in game form next season, so we should be set at LG.

4) Punter - Sepulveda is not the answer; he would be, if he did not end up on IR every season somehow. How in the heck does a punter get injured in the first place?

5) FS/SS - Yes, we have Polamalu and Clark (I personally think the Polamalu - Chris Hope combo was better), but who do we have behind them? Will Allen? Gay? Ryan Mundy (he has shown us nothing)?

6) FB - First get rid of Arians, or just demote him from the offensive coordinator position. THEN, bring in a true fullback so we can get back to running the ball with authority. Enough of this "my offense does not have a fullback" nonsense.... We need to find us a big boy like Cleveland's Peyton Hillis....

Fire Arians
02-12-2011, 06:38 PM
^^ agree

cornerback is definitely our biggest need. defensive line, we will need replacements for both keisel and hampton within the next few years.

guard is a need but less than the 2 above. however, if mike pouncey is available I say take him. if we have a chance to give our line a rock-solid foundation for the next decade, you do it. especially when the guy the line needs to protect is a 100 million dollar qb.

the fs/ss issue concerns me as well. troy is great but can't ever be counted on to play a full season without sitting out 4-6 games due to injury. clark in my opinion is a good complement to troy but isn't that great. mundy played well in troy's absence but the jury is still out on him. look who he was up against. dirty sanchez, carolina, and the browns. ty carter woulda been adequate against terrible teams & qb's like that.

I wish we'd get any offensive coordinator to use the fullback. however sources are saying that arians will stay, unless some other team wants to hire him as a HC and gives him more money than we're willing to pay an OC. however, I don't see that happening.

02-12-2011, 06:57 PM
Hampton produces no more than Hoke. We get no inside pressure what so ever.

02-12-2011, 07:45 PM
Hampton produces no more than Hoke. We get no inside pressure what so ever.

Hampton is a pro-bowl nose tackle. Make no mistake about it, he is one of the main reasons our run defense is #1 year after year. His job isn't to get sacks.

02-13-2011, 01:40 AM
I know, i know our line does not have to get sacks. Did you see the difference Hood made. He was the only lineman not only to pressure but to sack at the end of the year.

On the Hampton point. You could tell no difference when Hoke or Hampton was in.

02-13-2011, 08:12 AM
age is definitely becoming a concern from front to back...no question

Atlanta Dan
02-13-2011, 08:44 AM
In his P-G article today to which mesa has linked in another thread (Team's Way Done With Patience) Ed. B. of the P-G thinks the age concern is overstated

The issue of age on defense, however, has been overplayed. Yes, linebacker James Farrior turned 36 last month and the defensive line is well into its 30s except for Ziggy Hood. But neither Casey Hampton nor Brett Keisel showed signs of slowing down, so the Steelers still have time to find another lineman or two over the next year or two. And if Aaron Smith stays healthy, that gives them five strong linemen, including unrestricted free agent-to-be Chris Hoke.


I disagree to the extent I anticipate teams will try and spread the Steelers out more next year (I have my doubts whether it will work for teams without a Brees/Rodgers/Brady level QB) but after Green Bay's win teams will try) which will put more coverage responsibilities on Farrior who was beaten pretty badly on the Packers TD pass to go up 21-3 - I have my doubts the Steelers will get another great season out of Farrior and see that as a coverage concern in addition to the obvious problem at right CB