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mesaSteeler
04-30-2011, 10:43 AM
Harris: Heyward selection sign of things to come

By John Harris
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ziggy Hood. Now Cameron Heyward. Meet the second defensive end selected by the Steelers in the first round covering their last three drafts, which is more of a trend than a coincidence.

Which means it's time to re-read a passage from my column appearing three years ago, a day after the Steelers selected Rashard Mendenhall in the first round despite Pro Bowl running back Willie Parker's monster season of 1,316 rushing yards:

"The clock on Parker's career with the Steelers is now officially ticking toward its inevitable conclusion.''

Parker totaled 1,180 yards in his final two seasons with the Steelers. When the team opted not to re-sign him following the 2009 season, it became Mendenhall's job to lose.

Now, replace Parker's name with Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel. Preparing for the future at defensive end also means preparing to say good-bye.

Not in 2011. But soon. Maybe sooner than we think.

Smith is 35, Keisel will be 33 at the start of next season.

Hood is 24, Heyward turns 22 on Friday. Do the math.

You don't sit first-round money. And, sooner or later, youth trumps experience.

The Steelers drafted Hood and Heyward to be their bookend defensive ends of the future.

"More than anything, it's just a reflection of our willingness to fortify ourselves in the line of scrimmage. ... and just doing a nice job of acquiring some talented, big men,'' coach Mike Tomlin said.

"I told (defensive line) coach John Mitchell get us a nice tackle for next year, and we will be set for about 10 more years,'' defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. "I think you saw steady progress and good contribution from Ziggy Hood even from his first year and last year for sure. I think they are similar type players.''

Hood spent his first two years learning how to play 3-4 defensive end. Last season, Hood stepped up when Smith was limited to the first six games because of a triceps injury.

Tomlin wasted a roster spot and inexplicably didn't place Smith on injured reserve because he held out hope that Smith, who never fully participated in a practice much less a game, following surgery would reward his faith.

It was a sincere gesture for a respected veteran, albeit a bad football move.

Since '07, Smith has had three different surgeries on his biceps, rotator cuff and triceps. No way his body could be expected to respond to game action so soon following his latest surgery. Otherwise, he would have suited up for Super Bowl XLV.

Nevertheless, the Steelers learned something during Smith's absence: Their run defense didn't collapse with Hood on the field.

No one takes on double-team blocks against the run like Smith. Certainly not Hood, who needs to improve his upper-body strength. But Smith doesn't have Hood's athleticism.

Smith is entering the final year of his contract (valued at $4.5 million). It's likely that Hood will continue to start on the left side, with Smith likely being featured on running downs.

Keisel, who has three years remaining on his deal, will continue to start at right end with Heyward looking over his shoulder.

How long it remains that way depends on how quickly Heyward justifies the Steelers' faith in drafting him.

John Harris can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.


Read more: Harris: Heyward selection sign of things to come - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/print_734766.html#ixzz1L1P2g8UW

tanda10506
05-01-2011, 07:10 PM
I can see Hood replacing Smith soon. Smith is good but Hood played well last year and I'm not confident in Smith making it through another year without injuries. I didn't realize that Keisel is 33 and that we've had him for 8 years. But he only played 5 games in his first 2 years combined. In my opinion he is just now starting to play his best so I would think that he will be with us for roughly 5 more years. Just my thoughts.

55BaileyFan
05-06-2011, 09:45 PM
Smith probably has two years left and Hood will replace him. Keisel started his career late due to his missions he had to take while at BYU and still has a rather fresh body so he could stay productive another four or five years. Hampton I think will play about the same.

The thing with retirement is that injuries or decline of production lead to a players exit sooner. With the exception of Smith none of our older players are struggling with any of these. Farrior led the Steelers in tackles for like the hundredth time in a row and everyone else seems to be rocking and rolling still.

Fire Arians
05-06-2011, 11:38 PM
I can see Hood replacing Smith soon. Smith is good but Hood played well last year and I'm not confident in Smith making it through another year without injuries. I didn't realize that Keisel is 33 and that we've had him for 8 years. But he only played 5 games in his first 2 years combined. In my opinion he is just now starting to play his best so I would think that he will be with us for roughly 5 more years. Just my thoughts.

hood replacing smith soon? I think he's ready now.

steeltheone
05-07-2011, 11:24 AM
I can see Hood replacing Smith soon. Smith is good but Hood played well last year and I'm not confident in Smith making it through another year without injuries. I didn't realize that Keisel is 33 and that we've had him for 8 years. But he only played 5 games in his first 2 years combined. In my opinion he is just now starting to play his best so I would think that he will be with us for roughly 5 more years. Just my thoughts.

Hood has replaced Smith....I just don't know how we can pay Smith 4.5 mill when we have so many other contracts to settle.

Keisel will not be playing for us 5 years from now...probably not even 3...just to old..

steeltheone
05-07-2011, 11:34 AM
Smith probably has two years left and Hood will replace him. Keisel started his career late due to his missions he had to take while at BYU and still has a rather fresh body so he could stay productive another four or five years. Hampton I think will play about the same.

The thing with retirement is that injuries or decline of production lead to a players exit sooner. With the exception of Smith none of our older players are struggling with any of these. Farrior led the Steelers in tackles for like the hundredth time in a row and everyone else seems to be rocking and rolling still.

Farrior is terribly slow...He DID NOT lead the team in tackles and was not even close...He is basically a 2 down linebacker anymore, because of his coverage skills...

Hampton is over paid...You can't tell any difference when he or Hoke is in the game... we had no choice but to pay him because we had no replacement and Hoke is to old to be an everydown player...As is Hampton...

Bottom line you gotta get these young fast players on the field..Mistakes will be made...but the upside is huge...Heyward should get many game reps this year

Steelerfreak58
05-07-2011, 12:09 PM
All of our veterans have given years of hard work and effort to the team but age catches up to them especially linemen past their 30's. I hate seeing our hard working vets retire or move on but this is a business and you got to do what is best for the team always.

55BaileyFan
05-07-2011, 01:03 PM
Farrior is terribly slow...He DID NOT lead the team in tackles and was not even close...He is basically a 2 down linebacker anymore, because of his coverage skills...

Hampton is over paid...You can't tell any difference when he or Hoke is in the game... we had no choice but to pay him because we had no replacement and Hoke is to old to be an everydown player...As is Hampton...

Bottom line you gotta get these young fast players on the field..Mistakes will be made...but the upside is huge...Heyward should get many game reps this year

Wow, are you kidding me?

First off, my bad Farrior didn't lead the team in 2010 but he was second and he was second in solo tackles, third in sacks...I can see how he isn't productive anymore.

The Hampton comment classic. If Hampton was so replaceable like you basically are saying, then why is it that people like him aren't a dime a dozen? He occupies multiple blockers and allows the linebackers to make the big plays. Every team would have a Hampton if you were correct.

Ziggy played sparingly as a rookie and if it wasn't for the injuries then he wouldn't have played as much this season as he did. Look down the line at our "young" guys and they don't get on the field early, that is not how we do things.

Keisel, Ike, Hines, Rashard and the list goes on. Let them play sparingly for a year or two and then let them go. Has worked for years and I don't think that will change soon.

steeltheone
05-07-2011, 02:35 PM
Wow, are you kidding me?

First off, my bad Farrior didn't lead the team in 2010 but he was second and he was second in solo tackles, third in sacks...I can see how he isn't productive anymore.

The Hampton comment classic. If Hampton was so replaceable like you basically are saying, then why is it that people like him aren't a dime a dozen? He occupies multiple blockers and allows the linebackers to make the big plays. Every team would have a Hampton if you were correct.

Ziggy played sparingly as a rookie and if it wasn't for the injuries then he wouldn't have played as much this season as he did. Look down the line at our "young" guys and they don't get on the field early, that is not how we do things.

Keisel, Ike, Hines, Rashard and the list goes on. Let them play sparingly for a year or two and then let them go. Has worked for years and I don't think that will change soon.

Don't get me wrong Farrior has served us well and if every down was a run he probably have a few more years and i mean a few....bottom line 36 year olds lose their legs...

Hampton was once as you said not anymore.....you could tell NO difference when Hoke was playing or Hampton...

You proved my point...If not for injuries Ziggy would not have played much....But once he did, he was on the field for a few games he was fine....

Our Defensive line has been solid....But painfully slow and add Farrior to that mix and it is that much worse....you know the difference Timmons makes because of his youth and speed...Maybe ziggy can't take up two blockers (cough cough) as well as Smith but he is much more athletic.

55BaileyFan
05-07-2011, 04:44 PM
Don't get me wrong Farrior has served us well and if every down was a run he probably have a few more years and i mean a few....bottom line 36 year olds lose their legs...

Hampton was once as you said not anymore.....you could tell NO difference when Hoke was playing or Hampton...

You proved my point...If not for injuries Ziggy would not have played much....But once he did, he was on the field for a few games he was fine....

Our Defensive line has been solid....But painfully slow and add Farrior to that mix and it is that much worse....you know the difference Timmons makes because of his youth and speed...Maybe ziggy can't take up two blockers (cough cough) as well as Smith but he is much more athletic.

Even with the "aliments" we still went to yet another Super Bowl and the guys have enough in them to make another run at it.

steeltheone
05-07-2011, 08:14 PM
Even with the "aliments" we still went to yet another Super Bowl and the guys have enough in them to make another run at it.

I hope so...

55BaileyFan
05-09-2011, 06:20 PM
I hope so...

No worries they will stick it out. We are the Burgh after all.

PhantomJB93
05-09-2011, 06:50 PM
As much as I love Aaron Smith I am 100% in favor of cutting him to help pay Ike's new contract if we have to. His contract is not worth the 5 games a year we get him for, and Hood really emerged at the end of last year and showed he's just about ready to take over.

Fire Arians
05-09-2011, 07:40 PM
As much as I love Aaron Smith I am 100% in favor of cutting him to help pay Ike's new contract if we have to. His contract is not worth the 5 games a year we get him for, and Hood really emerged at the end of last year and showed he's just about ready to take over.

agree. im a huge fan of aaron smith, but it's just the sad reality of football. he's been on IR 2 years in a row

55BaileyFan
05-09-2011, 08:51 PM
As much as I love Aaron Smith I am 100% in favor of cutting him to help pay Ike's new contract if we have to. His contract is not worth the 5 games a year we get him for, and Hood really emerged at the end of last year and showed he's just about ready to take over.

I don't agree at all. I think Ziggy is good but he didn't emerge. He played well but not lights out and was a no factor in the Super Bowl. We need pass rush and I don't think we can just rely on a former first round and a rookie because he was drafted early. Aaron when he plays...is lights out and I think that this extra time off will help his health and let him groom the guys.

Biggest factor is that I think that Aaron will re-work his deal either way. He knows his career is at the end and that he probably has one last go around left, so he will drop some of his dough so that Ike will get enough cash to stay. He will be our Jerome of the 2011-2012 season and drop the cash for a fellow player.

Besides Ike isn't having a huge issue with money. This is a guy that has taken two pay cuts from us to keep other players in the past. He loves the Burgh, the players and the championships. It will all work out.

Farrior_roirraW
05-09-2011, 08:53 PM
As much as I love Aaron Smith I am 100% in favor of cutting him to help pay Ike's new contract if we have to. His contract is not worth the 5 games a year we get him for, and Hood really emerged at the end of last year and showed he's just about ready to take over.

Sadly I agree. But I think they keep him for one more year (not sure when his contract is up, but regardless I don't see him as a Steeler after this year).

steeltheone
05-10-2011, 04:10 AM
I don't agree at all. I think Ziggy is good but he didn't emerge. He played well but not lights out and was a no factor in the Super Bowl. We need pass rush and I don't think we can just rely on a former first round and a rookie because he was drafted early. Aaron when he plays...is lights out and I think that this extra time off will help his health and let him groom the guys.

Biggest factor is that I think that Aaron will re-work his deal either way. He knows his career is at the end and that he probably has one last go around left, so he will drop some of his dough so that Ike will get enough cash to stay. He will be our Jerome of the 2011-2012 season and drop the cash for a fellow player.

Besides Ike isn't having a huge issue with money. This is a guy that has taken two pay cuts from us to keep other players in the past. He loves the Burgh, the players and the championships. It will all work out.

The defense did not miss a beat after Smith went down.....Smith has little or no pass rush...

55BaileyFan
05-10-2011, 01:36 PM
The defense did not miss a beat after Smith went down.....Smith has little or no pass rush...

The Steelers won't write him off. They will ask him to take a pay cut and he will. That money will go to Ike and Aaron will still be the starter....all about the wait and see game now.

MDSteel15
05-10-2011, 05:34 PM
The defense did not miss a beat after Smith went down.....Smith has little or no pass rush...

Hello! It's not his job to pass rush!!! :banging:

finesward
05-10-2011, 06:01 PM
The defense did not miss a beat after Smith went down.....Smith has little or no pass rush...

Here we go again.

Little to no pass rush?

Remember the 2008 AFC Championship game against the Ravens?

Care to take a guess who led the team in QB pressures?

Most recent stats I could find were 2009, where he had 14 QB pressures in the 5 games he played.

When healthy, the guy contributes. If he takes the bettis'esque paycut, keep him in the rotation and work in Heyward by the end of the season. Can never have too many good DL, especially a gem like Smith.

55BaileyFan
05-10-2011, 06:08 PM
Here we go again.

Little to no pass rush?

Remember the 2008 AFC Championship game against the Ravens?

Care to take a guess who led the team in QB pressures?

Most recent stats I could find were 2009, where he had 14 QB pressures in the 5 games he played.

When healthy, the guy contributes. If he takes the bettis'esque paycut, keep him in the rotation and work in Heyward by the end of the season. Can never have too many good DL, especially a gem like Smith.

THANK YOU. Finally someone who is not going to bash him. He will take that paycut and this is a perfect example. In only 5 games he still led the team in pressures.

steeltheone
05-11-2011, 11:01 AM
08-09 This is 2011...Guys there is no magic to keep players in their prime.....in 2008 Alan Faneca was a pro bowler.... time moves on ...35 is beyond the norm....we need youth and speed

finesward
05-11-2011, 11:24 AM
08-09 This is 2011...Guys there is no magic to keep players in their prime.....in 2008 Alan Faneca was a pro bowler.... time moves on ...35 is beyond the norm....we need youth and speed

Youth and speed at the DE position in a 3-4? Maybe you don't grasp the role a DE plays in our system. Brute strength and smarts, not to mention experience trumps youth and speed. They aren't pursuit type players. Stuff the run, collapse pocket, take on multiple blocks to free up LB'ers, and pressure the QB.

Maybe you didn't pick up on the Jerome Bettis comparison? He according to you "should be cut" to bring in youth and speed...yet the old man came in and was pivotal in winning a lot of games that year.

Pro bowls mean jack squat IMO, nothing more than a popularity contest I'm afraid.

You think he should be cut, we disagree. Lets move on...

steeltheone
05-11-2011, 07:07 PM
What i was getting at is in 2008 Fanaca was a pro bowler...Today he is retired, diminished skill, the years took their toll. Our guys are not super human, they age too...... I'm well aware of a 3-4 end responsibilities....I am also well aware that a 25 year old with better athletic skills means more needed pressure in whats now a pass happy league.

finesward
05-11-2011, 08:17 PM
What i was getting at is in 2008 Fanaca was a pro bowler...Today he is retired, diminished skill, the years took their toll. Our guys are not super human, they age too...... I'm well aware of a 3-4 end responsibilities....I am also well aware that a 25 year old with better athletic skills means more needed pressure in whats now a pass happy league.

And what I'm getting at is that the pro bowl is a popularity contest and not necessarily based on what a person did that year. Remember polamalu got in the year he was hurt all the time recording 0 interceptions and playing in only 11 games.

Listen I know what your saying is true, I'm not arguing that. I'm saying that injuries can and will happen, and since we value our D-Line so much having a savy vet in the mix can never be bad for the team. It's not like we are exceptionally deep at the position. We won't be cutting any young prospects because of him. (although it can be argued last year we did exactly that by letting gibson walk) I don't think that scenario will play out this year. If you had to pick between nick eason or smith as a backup @ the same pricetag who would you take? I think even if he's lost a step or some strength he still has more intangibles than eason.

55BaileyFan
05-11-2011, 08:33 PM
My point is along the same line as finesward. We are not going to cut him, ZIggy isn't going to start over him and Heyward isn't taking his spot. Aaron will be the starter we will just see more of a mix of the two young guys with him. Aaron will take a pay cut and as the season goes on he might...MIGHT get put as the backup. There is a reason Tomlin talked so high on him and wouldn't put him on IR because he felt he could have him at some point. If he is just expendable like you are saying, Tomlin would have put him on IR and moved towards the younger guys but he didn't. He expects Smith back and wants him back because he knows his importance.

steeltheone
05-14-2011, 07:02 AM
If Ziggy is not a starter in his 3rd year....the other ends must have pics to blackmail Tomlin with....If not, he was a wasted number 1 pick.

55BaileyFan
05-14-2011, 09:25 AM
If Ziggy is not a starter in his 3rd year....the other ends must have pics to blackmail Tomlin with....If not, he was a wasted number 1 pick.

Just because he waits to start doesn't mean it is a wasted 1st rounder. He is still learning and getting to that caliber like past Steelers. Whether you are a first rounder or a seventh rounder you need to sit and learn before taking over the reigns.

davidtrout
05-14-2011, 10:20 AM
If Ziggy is not a starter in his 3rd year....the other ends must have pics to blackmail Tomlin with....If not, he was a wasted number 1 pick.

Ziggy will be a solid player for us for a long time. Hardly a wasted pick. The fact remains, he's not as good as Aaron and may never be, still not a wasted pick. Not every 1st rounder has to turn into an all time great. He should be spending this offseason building his upper body strength and watching tape of Aaron. The sky is the limit for him but he has a long way to go still. As for Smith, Richard Seymour is the only 3/4 DE I've ever seen that I would say was better and if he's healthy no one could take his spot, no matter what round they were drafted in.

steeltheone
05-14-2011, 02:21 PM
I respectfully disagree....If a number one pick is not starting by his third year there is a problem...I don't expect that out of a 5 pick.....

The defense was better last year as any year with Smith playing.

davidtrout
05-14-2011, 02:40 PM
I respectfully disagree....If a number one pick is not starting by his third year there is a problem...I don't expect that out of a 5 pick.....

The defense was better last year as any year with Smith playing.

I understand what you're saying and I don't think we are really disagreeing. At least not about Ziggy. He can and did start, played very well and we will be fine with him as the starter. It's not his fault that he's replacing a monster. I don't know if Aaron will ever be the same, Im just saying that if he comes into the season at 100%, he is still the best option unless Ziggy proves different. One player/position isn't going to make or break this defense, so we're fine either way.

55BaileyFan
05-14-2011, 03:15 PM
I can understand the issue of him not starting if there is no one really good in front of him, but Ziggy doesn't start because the guys in front of him...are still better than him. I understand Aaron has been hurt and Ziggy played well...but don't kid anyone by saying that Hood is better than Smith. Aaron played only 5 games and still led the team in hurries. When Hood is completely better than Smith then he will take over.

pete74
05-15-2011, 05:38 AM
Just because he waits to start doesn't mean it is a wasted 1st rounder. He is still learning and getting to that caliber like past Steelers. Whether you are a first rounder or a seventh rounder you need to sit and learn before taking over the reigns.

true but it dosnt take 3-4 years to learn. hell, you can learn brain surgery quicker. Hood was a huge part of us having the best run defense and deserves the start. unfortunatly Hood needs to be on the right side and Hewyard on the left. i see Hewyard being a big part of our rotation alot earlier then most think. i personally dont care who starts as long as they all play. we will have the best defensive line in the nfl

steeltheone
05-15-2011, 06:53 AM
true but it dosnt take 3-4 years to learn. hell, you can learn brain surgery quicker. Hood was a huge part of us having the best run defense and deserves the start. unfortunatly Hood needs to be on the right side and Hewyard on the left. i see Hewyard being a big part of our rotation alot earlier then most think. i personally dont care who starts as long as they all play. we will have the best defensive line in the nfl

I really hope Heyward does play alot...It would be a huge plus to get him reps..

55BaileyFan
05-15-2011, 07:15 AM
I really hope Heyward does play alot...It would be a huge plus to get him reps..

I think he will get time, but I don't expect a lot of snaps unless someone gets hurt.

pete74
05-15-2011, 09:22 AM
he will play. he is a 3-4 end not a DT like most ends we draft. he wont start unless someone gets hurt but i expect us to work him in faster then we did Hood. Heyward is way more athletic then Smith and Kiesel and will give us a new look when teamed up with Hood

steeltheone
05-18-2011, 09:40 AM
he will play. he is a 3-4 end not a DT like most ends we draft. he wont start unless someone gets hurt but i expect us to work him in faster then we did Hood. Heyward is way more athletic then Smith and Kiesel and will give us a new look when teamed up with Hood

That's what I'm getting at Pete....with teams throwing so much faster ends mean alot....you can only block so many good rushers...

DanRooney
05-18-2011, 07:27 PM
I respectfully disagree....If a number one pick is not starting by his third year there is a problem...I don't expect that out of a 5 pick.....

The defense was better last year as any year with Smith playing.

I think the defense in the first 5 games was slightly better than the one with Ziggy starting in the last 11. You could attribute that with the unit as a whole being more fresh but I don't think it was a coincidence that Timmons slowed down significantly after Smith got hurt. He led the league in tackles by a longshot and could have made a run at DPOY.

Fire Arians
05-19-2011, 12:28 PM
we should use him as a fullback ;)


AAAARRRRRRNNNNNHEAAADD!!

steeltheone
05-21-2011, 10:31 AM
I think the defense in the first 5 games was slightly better than the one with Ziggy starting in the last 11. You could attribute that with the unit as a whole being more fresh but I don't think it was a coincidence that Timmons slowed down significantly after Smith got hurt. He led the league in tackles by a longshot and could have made a run at DPOY.

Wow ..Smith is amazing...C'mon

DanRooney
05-21-2011, 03:21 PM
Wow ..Smith is amazing...C'mon

I still remember on NFL network when Harbaugh praised him for being unblockable. Definitely one of the all-time great Steelers. He's everything you want in a 3-4 end.

55BaileyFan
05-21-2011, 04:56 PM
Name another defensive player that led their team in QB hurries and only played 5 games...and to do it on the BEST D in the NFL, that is an accomplishment. Wait till this year, Smith will quiet everyone who says he should be gone.

Wallabeast17
05-22-2011, 09:13 AM
Name another defensive player that led their team in QB hurries and only played 5 games...and to do it on the BEST D in the NFL, that is an accomplishment. Wait till this year, Smith will quiet everyone who says he should be gone.

I hopeyour right. I hate to see smith on the sidelines

steeltheone
05-22-2011, 11:53 AM
I still remember on NFL network when Harbaugh praised him for being unblockable. Definitely one of the all-time great Steelers. He's everything you want in a 3-4 end.

Maybe 3 years ago....Not anymore...years of beatings and age take their toll...Even on Steelers...