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mesaSteeler
01-22-2012, 10:17 AM
On the Steelers: Expect a defensive upheaval Farrior, Hampton candidates to go
Sunday, January 22, 2012
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Peter Diana/Post-Gazette
At $4.89 million, Casey Hampton would count the most against the salary cap in 2012.

Warren Sapp's infamous shot across the Steelers' defensive bow -- old, slow and it's over -- might have been a bit premature when he said it after their opening 35-7 loss in Baltimore.

Now the Steelers' hierarchy will deliver that message. Look for them to drop the hammer before March 13 on as many as four players who opened the season as starters in that game against the Ravens, and maybe not stop there.

The defense that yielded the fewest total yards, total points and total yards passing will take the biggest hits all over the next few months. Injury, age and the salary cap are the culprits.

The Steelers are $25 million over the roughly $124 million salary cap that will go into effect March 13. That, Steelers president Art Rooney said Tuesday, will call for some tough decisions. What makes some particularly difficult are the long and distinguished careers that either will end or reach their Pittsburgh end soon.

Candidates on defense to be released and their scheduled 2012 salaries that would vanish if they are: Aaron Smith ($2.1 million), Bryant McFadden ($2.5 million), James Farrior ($2.82 million), Casey Hampton ($4.89 million), and Larry Foote ($3 million).

Releasing those five would whittle $15.31 million from their salary cap. In addition, William Gay and Chris Hoke will be unrestricted free agents.

That comes to four starters, whether you count McFadden on opening day or Gay, who replaced him; a virtual starter in Foote; and a longtime starter-capable backup in Hoke.

Poof, $15 million erased from the cap!

But can the Steelers afford to lose so much on defense, not only in physical talent but in the intangibles that many of those players bring, all at once?

Maybe not. They might, for example, want to keep either Farrior or Foote, perhaps see which one might play for much less in 2012. Gay also has become a valuable cornerback for them. If they believe Keenan Lewis or one of the two rookies, Curtis Brown or Cortez Allen, are not yet ready to start, they may try to re-sign Gay.

Farrior has been their heart and soul for years, and losing him would punch a leadership hole into one of the longstanding best defenses in the NFL. He is 37 and not the same linebacker he was only a few years ago, but he still ranked fourth in tackles and had two sacks. Farrior could be brought back for one more season of transition for the defense; or Foote, another recognized leader and 51/2 years younger, might be the one. Bringing both back may be asking too much of this cap-strapped team.

Smith and Hoke had neck surgeries in the fall that, combined with their age, likely will prompt either of them or the Steelers to call it quits. Hampton, on the other hand, escaped without needing surgery on his ACL knee injury from the playoff game in Denver. However, his salary and his role as a part-timer who plays only in the 3-4 base defense could prompt a parting of the ways. They could ask him to take a drastically reduced salary but Hampton has never come across as one willing to do that. He is Big Snack, after all, not Little Snack.

Untouchables on defense and their 2012 salaries are Troy Polamalu ($7.5 million), LaMarr Woodley ($9 million), James Harrison ($6.57 million), Ike Taylor ($6 million), Brett Keisel ($2.82 million), safety Ryan Clark ($3 million) and Lawrence Timmons ($5.37 million). However, it does not mean they cannot try to restructure any of those contracts to save salary cap charges in 2012.

When the smoke clears, what kind of defense might they have? Perhaps not one much different than what they had in 2011.

Hampton's possible loss would prompt the biggest facelift. He has been a fixture at nose tackle since 2001. His possible replacements range from current backup Steve McLendon to end Ziggy Hood to a draft choice. Moving Hood would affect two positions, but they also drafted Cameron Heyward to play defensive end and that would open the job for him. Depth might be a problem, although they have shown some interest in young backups at end, Al Woods and Corbin Bryant.

Timmons would be paired at inside linebacker with either Foote/Farrior or Stevenson Sylvester. The corners would be Taylor and Gay or one of three others. Their safeties would remain the same.

It may not look to be as formidable a lineup as what opened the 2011 season, but it has its possibilities, maybe to be even more effective. They would take huge steps toward improvement if their two former Pro Bowl outside linebackers can stay healthier in 2011. Woodley had nine sacks in the first half of the season, then hardly played in the second half. Harrison had nine sacks and missed five games.

Having those two play more often also might help their turnovers, which were their major shortcoming in 2011, second only to them allowing the 92-yard drive by Baltimore to pull that game out at Heinz Field with six seconds left. The AFC championship game might have been held at Heinz this afternoon had they somehow prevented that Ravens' touchdown.

The Steelers managed only 15 takeaways last season, their historical low and more than half what they had in 2011, when they forced 35. Art Rooney on Tuesday noted that as one of the negatives for the 2011 season.

The lack of turnovers were likely an anomaly since they were so good at it just one year earlier. That, then, is bound to improve in 2012.

The Steelers also made a drastic changeover on defense that some saw as a negative but, in this era of increased passing, may be a move in the right direction, whether conscious or not in its development. They not only ranked No. 1 in stopping the run in 2010, they were the third-best team at doing so since the 16-game schedule started in 1978. They allowed just 62.8 yards rushing per game. In 2011, that ballooned to 99.8, still a respectable ninth in the NFL but not nearly as dominant.

However, the tradeoff may have come in their defense vs. the pass. They were No. 1 in 2011, allowing 171.9 yards per game, compared to 214.1 per game the previous season.

In the NFL of the 21st century, stopping the pass has become more important than stopping the run. However, swiping some of those passes must become part of their equation in 2012.

As Rooney noted, the Steelers must make tough decisions, and many will come on defense. But that does not mean those decisions need to weaken their defense.

"We have a good mix of younger players and veterans on this team," Rooney said. "We need the younger players to keep coming on and I think this offseason is particularly important for a group of those guys."

Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/12022/1204978-66-0.stm#ixzz1kCUksxj6

6RingsAndCounting
01-22-2012, 10:31 AM
They have to do something, I'm no genius on the salary cap nor do I pretend to be. It seems to me that they will have to do a lot more than that, especially if they plan to sign Wallace?

mesaSteeler
01-22-2012, 10:45 AM
This will be a transitional, or reloading, or rebuilding year. We've been due for one for awhile. There have to be some major changes as we go from being Cowher's team to Tomlin's team. Unhappily I don't have a lot of faith in Tomlin to pull it off.

BKAnthem
01-22-2012, 11:20 AM
Good thing about the Steelers is that backups get to play alot, so the transition shouldn't be that hard

GMU Steeler
01-22-2012, 11:27 AM
Good thing about the Steelers is that backups get to play alot, so the transition shouldn't be that hard

Hayward is gonna be something special at DE.

mesaSteeler
01-22-2012, 11:47 AM
Hayward is gonna be something special at DE.

Hope you are correct but if we cut our starters because of age and salary cap we will be needing a lot of backups.

Atlanta Dan
01-22-2012, 11:51 AM
Good thing about the Steelers is that backups get to play alot, so the transition shouldn't be that hard

Lots of changes coming - i am not as confident it will not be bumpy

Farrior had a comeback year in 2010 after a bad 2009, but this past season confirmed his great career is over - I assume Foote will be retained since Sylvester has not indicated he is ready to start at ILB

Gay probably will get a better deal somewhere else for more than the Steelers want to pay for a back-up, unless other teams decide Gay will be exposed in another system

Huge overhaul of the DL coming - I agree with the P-G that Hampton (who slipped in 2011) does not appear to be the type of player who will take a big salary cut for the love of the game - Hoke and Smith are clearly gone

The days of often winning games scoring 17 points or less probably are gone

Nothing lasts forever

mesaSteeler
01-22-2012, 12:16 PM
Lots of changes coming - i am not as confident it will not be bumpy

Farrior had a comeback year in 2010 after a bad 2009, but this past season confirmed his great career is over - I assume Foote will be retained since Sylvester has not indicated he is ready to start at ILB

Gay probably will get a better deal somewhere else for more than the Steelers want to pay for a back-up, unless other teams decide Gay will be exposed in another system

Huge overhaul of the DL coming - I agree with the P-G that Hampton (who slipped in 2011) does not appear to be the type of player who will take a big salary cut for the love of the game - Hoke and Smith are clearly gone

The days of often winning games scoring 17 points or less probably are gone

Nothing lasts forever

I agree. It's going to be bumpy. Very well phrased by the way.

tony hipchest
01-22-2012, 12:24 PM
with our supreme talent and offensive firepower, the rooneys and us fans should easilly be able to expect to start winning games 28-24, 31-20 etc....

theoretically we should have a slight buffer during this period of defensive re-tooling (assuming we dont have an OC with an 8 year plan to turn us into an offensive powerhouse). then we're screwed.

the rooneys planned for this looming salary cap issue. the coaches failed (mainly arians) to have the players and their respective units prepared to "take over".

steelfury02
01-22-2012, 01:08 PM
Timmons at 5 + million? Can't see him continuing to make that if he continues status quo

I do realize he's been asked to do a lot more because of injuries but to me - he doesn't have a big enough impact to be paid that much.

I think the Steelers have a lot more leverage now that Wallace vanished in the second half - if he would have continued like he did in the first half - it might not have been doable.

jtbsteeler
01-22-2012, 01:08 PM
All of those players can be replaced. Ironically, Gay is the only one I see hurting us if he leaves. It's time for new blood. I'm excited!

DanRooney
01-22-2012, 01:12 PM
I'm surprised that a few posters in here aren't having a tantrum about why we shouldn't cut Farrior. I for one think that he'll stay for one more year and should just because we don't have a successor in our lineup. Sylvester didn't get any snaps at ILB this year from what I remember. If we end up drafting Burfict or Hightower, they'll have to rot on the bench for at least half the season learning LeBeau's D. So I think we'll see Farrior again. Probably not Foote.

Kanata-Steeler
01-22-2012, 01:13 PM
yep, that's inevitable, some are showing abit old in the tooth, respectfully, but it's time to pass some torches defensively too.

Kanata-Steeler
01-22-2012, 01:18 PM
I'm surprised that a few posters in here aren't having a tantrum about why we shouldn't cut Farrior.

OK, OK already !!!, I'll bite, sheesh :chuckle:
I was kinda hoping for the "Return Of Farrior" -just one more time. ?
He's been a great emotional leader, in the past, but now that's the problem -the past.
Our "D" will be fine without him -when the time comes.
So, :coffee: , maybe it's time for his replacement to step in those Steelers shoes, and besides, we'll likely need extra money-room to try to keep "torpedoes" like Wallace too, (for the "O") ,...

Fire Arians
01-22-2012, 01:46 PM
i wonder if sylvester will be ready to win the starting job over foote. he hasn't looked good this year, but to his defense he never had a full offseason to work, which I'd imagine would be critical for a 2nd year player

speaking of foote, i wonder if his contract will get restructured, i remember him being pretty expensive for a backup. I don't think we can afford to cut him though, unless we're really having that much faith in sylvester. timmons hasn't shown much leadership at that MLB spot, it was farrior/foote calling most of the defenses

rthorsn
01-22-2012, 02:10 PM
Gay will have to go OR move to safety because Cortez and Lewis are looking like they deserve a shot at the starting job. Plus Curtis Brown needs a shot to play.

With Hampton hurting his ACL he may be a cut even if he had a great year. ACL tears are serious for people who are not 350 lbs. Farrior is getting old and slow and costing us more on 3rd down than he is giving us on 1st and 2nd. I am sad to say I think he has to go.

Foote needs to restructure and be a stop gap for Sly OR maybe the ASU LB/ ALA Hightower.

We only know this for sure. Our defense will be younger and fingers crossed faster and better next year but changes are coming.

steeltheone
01-22-2012, 02:11 PM
Hayward is gonna be something special at DE. I agree, but Tomlins gotta get him on the field!

GMU Steeler
01-22-2012, 02:14 PM
I agree, but Tomlins gotta get him on the field!

I think he will especially if they do this Ziggy to DT rumor I heard about.

steeltheone
01-22-2012, 06:46 PM
I think mclendon will be fine or atleast equal to Hampton the last couple years. Also 4 mill savings!

fujirama24
01-22-2012, 09:00 PM
Were going to guarentee both timmons and woodley roster bonuses in march and we will save about 8.25 mil as we can prorate the bonuses over the course of there contracts. And I see will allen, arez battle and Kemo going bye bye too.

steeltheone
01-22-2012, 11:07 PM
To be honest, Wallace is replaceable. We have other issues that are more pressing.

DanRooney
01-25-2012, 05:53 AM
To be honest, Wallace is replaceable. We have other issues that are more pressing.

Replaceable with who? Hines Ward :chuckle:

btaylor179
01-25-2012, 06:27 AM
out with the old in with the new

jollyrob68
01-25-2012, 06:31 AM
To be honest, Wallace is replaceable. We have other issues that are more pressing.

I'd rather sign Jerricho C and get a 1st rd pick for wallace.

DanRooney
01-25-2012, 05:57 PM
I'd rather sign Jerricho C and get a 1st rd pick for wallace.

I'd be down with that. But we'd have to find another gem in the 3rd round as a WR again. I'm not sold with Brown and Sanders being the #1 and #2 receivers on the team. Sanders seems like more of a speedy possession receiver than anything and with Cotchery we'd have 3 of those.

TRH
01-25-2012, 06:07 PM
the problem with Wallace......although it would be nice for him to be signed......is that its going to take backing 5 Brinks trucks up to the building. He (and his agent, of course...), are going to ask for the moon (and maybe a couple stars to go with too)

Fire Arians
01-25-2012, 06:12 PM
with the amount we're over the cap, wallace not returning is a possibility. at least if tendered at first round it's not a backbreaking blow to the team. if wallace doesn't return, re-signing cotch is almost a must

NCBlackWolf
01-25-2012, 06:35 PM
I'm surprised that a few posters in here aren't having a tantrum about why we shouldn't cut Farrior. I for one think that he'll stay for one more year and should just because we don't have a successor in our lineup. Sylvester didn't get any snaps at ILB this year from what I remember. If we end up drafting Burfict or Hightower, they'll have to rot on the bench for at least half the season learning LeBeau's D. So I think we'll see Farrior again. Probably not Foote.


Damn, Farrior has got to go. He looked terrible most of the year. I respect what he had done for years as a leader on the D but you can't beat Father Time.

Did you see Ray Ray Lewis on Sunday? He is useless now, except as an emotional leader on the team. Can't run no more. You wan't some rah-rah? Put on a skirt and grab some pom-poms.

We need some tacklers who can cover AND run.

I will admit Foote ain't a HOF but he is cheaper and honestly plays a little better than Farrior.

What ever happened to the Steelers FO that had no problem letting guys go in the past?

I am still pissed about Faneca leaving.