PDA

View Full Version : What Are the Steelers' X Factors Moving Forward?


Hawaii 5-0
05-02-2012, 07:24 PM
Party Time for Steelers Fans? What Are the X Factors Moving Forward?

by Ivan Cole (RickVa) on May 2, 2012

It looks good. It looks really good for the Steelers after the events of this past weekend. I admit that I am riding as high as anyone over the quality of the draft. The optimism is deserved. One could find fault in one aspect or another of the draft; the character concerns of Adams and Rainey, should we have invested in other players. These are issues that at the end of the day have to be dismissed as quibbles. Generally it is believed that the front office played their hand just about as well as it could be played and much better than expected.

But what does it all mean? Does Pittsburgh retake the division? Do they make it back to the Super Bowl? Or did all that the Steelers earn was that they kept pace with the Ravens and Bengals? None of these questions are really answerable at this point. There are too many unknowns; too many X factors that can turn things in either a positive or negative direction. Here are some things to watch for as the weeks unfold.

Todd Haley and the new Steeler offense

This is a huge unknown, but there are a number of reasons to assume that this will be an improvement, some valid, some not. The best reason in my estimation is that Mike Tomlin's track record with new hires and upgrades has been excellent to this point. It is not unreasonable to hope that like, for example, the addition of Carnell Lake, that Haley marks an improvement for the offensive scheme. Further cause for optimism lies in the fact that Tomlin has said that while Haley as offensive coordinator is responsible for the offense, he (Tomlin) and others on the staff have had input in the development of the new system. For me that is a source of comfort, especially given the fact that Haley's addition was met with mixed sentiments by Steeler Nation.

The less valid reason for believing that the offense will be better is that anything would be an improvement over Bruce Arians. I understand the sentiment, but such a position constitutes a failure of imagination. Things could be worse, much worse than Arians. I'm not saying that's likely, just that it's possible, and therefore, a questionable basis upon which to assume significant improvement. There is also the question of how long will the learning curve be with the new system and will that affect the ability of the offense to compete as everyone gets comfortable with new terminology and related issues.

On balance I believe that the new system will be a positive and a huge advantage given the fact that our rivals will be on a learning curve as well (something Tomlin has also alluded to). And while I am not as passionate as some in terms of my feelings about Arians failings as an OC, there were flaws in his approach that we can hope will be rectified, and hopefully not replaced with bigger flaws. But for now we must caution ourselves that the only people that can speak of this new system intelligently are all at the Southside facility. The rest of us are reduced to speculation until the summer.

New Editions

It is generally believed that the 1974 draft class of the Pittsburgh Steelers is the greatest of all time. Nonetheless, one of the players drafted, a tight end, was a bust. That opened the door for an undersized, UDFA by the name of Randy Grossman to earn four Super Bowl rings. Another UDFA in that class by the name of Donnie Shell went on to be one of the all-time Steeler greats.

A few points here. Even the greatest draft class of all time had some disappointments. And while few people remember who was selected in the rounds after John Stallworth was picked in the 4th, free agents Shell and Grossman have become part of Steelers lore. Neither made large contributions right away, but over time their roles became larger and more important.

As we bask in the possibilities that these new editions represent we must also remain mindful that we, or anyone for that matter, knows who will fulfill their potential, who will exceed the most fanciful expectations and who will fail. It's unlikely that all will succeed. It is also unlikely that success or failure will occur in a manner that coordinates with draft order, though anything is possible. The questions are; in six months who will we be uplifting as the next great Steeler? Who will have already started their life's work? Who will we dismiss as a bum only to eat those words a year or two later? The correct answer is we don't know.

The maturation of Tomlin

Most likely sometime between the end of the mandatory minicamp and the beginning of training camp the Steelers will quietly announce that Mike Tomlin has signed a new contract. Before the last owners meeting Art Rooney II revealed that intention during the course of an interview. We can be forgiven if we forget how young Tomlin is, and with that knowledge recognize that in spite of his precocious nature there is considerable room for growth. Let us remember that when his journey began as the Head Coach five years ago, he inherited his coaching staff and most of his players. This year and in all succeeding years in the foreseeable future his imprint on the personnel and character of the team will increase and evolve. Not surprisingly, Tomlin gets little in the way of recognition for being one of the more competent and accomplished coaches in the NFL. However, those of us in Steeler Nation must not be guilty of that oversight.

Who rises, who falls

Every year in the crucible of the NFL players rise and fall in the competition. Sometimes you can predict how this falls out, but there are surprises as well. Last season Willie Gay rose, Hines Ward fell, Antonio Brown rose, Bryant McFadden fell, Steve McLendon rose, and Chris Kemoeatu fell. This year will Trai Essex's dramatic weight loss help him to rise? Will Jonathan Dwyer's improving work ethic help him to rise? What will increased competition do to David Johnson and Ramon Foster. Will Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown continue to rise, or will they plateau or decline? Will Charlie Batch finally be too old? What about Larry Foote? Will Stevenson Sylvester rise to compete for the starting job or must we wait for someone else? Some of these questions will be easy to answer, some are impossible to know in advance. All are of great importance in determining the ultimate fate of this team.

Injuries

In professional football they are unavoidable. The more relevant question is are they survivable. Last year they were not. Before this season even begins we know that we will not have Rashard Mendenhall or Casey Hampton for much of the year. There are concerns as to whether after suffering successive injuries can we rely on the durability of Willie Colon, Manny Sanders, Maurkice Pouncey, Troy Polamalu and Byron Leftwich. Ben has not fully recovered from the high ankle sprain he suffered during the season. Did the knee injury to Baron Batch last year amount to just a minor detour to a promising career or a dead end? How often will the team be scheduled to travel to Denver, sidelining Ryan Clark? Who will go down this year? And for how long?

Leadership and other questions

The loss of Ward, James Farrior, Aaron Smith and Chris Hoke left a significant leadership void. Who and how that gap is filled may go a long way toward defining this team for this season and beyond. How will the Mike Wallace situation be resolved? And how about the Weslye Saunders suspension; just a bump in the road? And for those who write him off, how is his situation that much different than that of Mike Adams? Does Kirby Wilson fully recover, and what level of inspiration will that be for the running backs?

You may have strong opinions concerning all of these issues, but definitive answers won't be available until the season unfolds. The draft was great, but in the final analysis just another step in a long, complicated journey with twists and turns that are impossible to predict. But so far I like our chances.

http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2012/5/2/2992587/steelers-2012-season-todd-haley-mike-tomlin-maurkice-pouncey-ben-roethlisberger

LayingTheWoodley56
05-02-2012, 07:49 PM
The proverbial "X-Factors" heading into what has become a promising 2012 campaign:
1) Ben's willingness to adapt his game and be able to flourish under a new offense
2) Who will step up and provide production at tailback with Mendy's injuries and our stable of unproven backs?
3) How will the new look offensive line gel, and how much will we see of DeCastro and Adams (and Heyward, for that matter)?
4) Which of the trio of young cornerbacks (Allen, Lewis, Brown) as well as Ryan Mundy, will step up and become viable and effective players in our system?
5) Sounds silly, but who will punt, and will we bring in a kicker who can bang in a 58-yarder if need be?
6) Will our increasingly aging defensive core of Polamalu, Harrison, Hampton, Clark and Ike be able to weather the affects of age and injury?

If we discover positive answers to all of this questions, look out for this team.

LayingTheWoodley56
05-02-2012, 07:50 PM
As for the Tomlin thing, the guys winning percentage is stellar and he has been nothing but rock solid since he took the reins in 07. I don't understand how any card-carrying Steeler fan can question him as a coach or a leader.

Carol
05-03-2012, 08:47 AM
These guys have the character of winners, they will not be satisfied with the second place, that is why they are so strong.:helmet:

TRH
05-03-2012, 10:12 AM
-there's no question regarding Ben's "willingness to adapt". He'll adapt just fine. The X-factor will be him staying un-injured for the season (whether or not we have a good line). Because if he goes down with a major injury, our backup sitation is poor at very best. Thats the biggest X-factor for me this year.

-the other is our defense and their ability to stop the passing game. They're already saying Brady and Brees will likely throw more in games (if thats possible) and that Matthew Stafford could possibly have 700+ pass attempts this year. Look for a QB such as that to throw every single down in a game. It's coming, fella's.
No doubt in next year's draft we'll be looking at the best available shut-down CB available and LB-ing.

DG94
05-03-2012, 11:38 AM
-there's no question regarding Ben's "willingness to adapt". He'll adapt just fine. The X-factor will be him staying un-injured for the season (whether or not we have a good line). Because if he goes down with a major injury, our backup sitation is poor at very best. Thats the biggest X-factor for me this year.

-the other is our defense and their ability to stop the passing game. They're already saying Brady and Brees will likely throw more in games (if thats possible) and that Matthew Stafford could possibly have 700+ pass attempts this year. Look for a QB such as that to throw every single down in a game. It's coming, fella's.
No doubt in next year's draft we'll be looking at the best available shut-down CB available and LB-ing.

And possibly a pass rusher? The top of next years class, assuming they declare, is deep with them!

Fire Arians
05-03-2012, 12:19 PM
1. i have a feeling heath miller will have a great season. todd haley has a hard on for him
2. we won't run the ball more, but we will have more success doing it. decastro addition is huge. if your O-line can grade the road, it doesn't really matter who you have at RB
3. Emmanuel sanders. if he can stay healthy this year, watch out. I still think he's the best overall WR when healthy

MACH1
05-03-2012, 12:24 PM
The double bootleg bubble screen. :chuckle:

ricardisimo
05-03-2012, 12:28 PM
What's an X-factor? Am I old enough to get one? :huh:

TRH
05-03-2012, 02:00 PM
1. i have a feeling heath miller will have a great season. todd haley has a hard on for him
2. we won't run the ball more, but we will have more success doing it. decastro addition is huge. if your O-line can grade the road, it doesn't really matter who you have at RB
3. Emmanuel sanders. if he can stay healthy this year, watch out. I still think he's the best overall WR when healthy


I agree with you. I don't think we'll run more either.......and i also would like to see Sanders healthy the entire year...and see what kind of difference it makes.

Hawaii 5-0
05-03-2012, 02:11 PM
The double bootleg bubble screen. :chuckle:

that's Bruce Arians' biggest sexual fantasy...

Steelerfreak58
05-03-2012, 02:50 PM
1. Coaches use the clock much more efficiently.
2. Ben absorbs and commands the new offense.
3. Stevenson Sylvester takes the Mack position by sheer dominance.
4. One of the two CBs step up and take a starters roll.


Biggest hurdle moving from 24th in redzone efficiency down to at least the top 12. If we do that one thing this team wins SBs.

NSMaster56
05-03-2012, 07:32 PM
1. i have a feeling heath miller will have a great season. todd haley has a hard on for him
2. we won't run the ball more, but we will have more success doing it. decastro addition is huge. if your O-line can grade the road, it doesn't really matter who you have at RB

Like this take.

Considering how TE's are beginning to dominate in the Madden-offense NFL, I am sort of shocked that Miller has only been 'consistent' the last 2-3 years. I would not doubt a break out, either.

The OL youth injection will almost certainly pay instant, large return dividends.

Hawaii 5-0
05-03-2012, 11:07 PM
Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 Draft Sends Clear Messages: A Fan's Interpretation

By Sean Durity | Yahoo! Contributor Network Mon, Apr 30, 2012

By now you have probably seen all the high grades for the Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 draft class. They are getting lauded almost universally for getting great value and filling needs at the same time. While I would join the pundits and give the Steelers an A for a preliminary draft grade, I think it is more interesting to think about what the Steelers are saying with their draft choices. Here are the messages I think they are sending:

The Offensive Line has to Get Better

Despite a 2010 Super Bowl appearance, fans have been calling for a better offensive line for several seasons. We know Ben Roethlisberger needs to stay healthy and the running game has to improve. The Steelers agreed. For the first time since 1968, the Steelers chose offensive linemen with their first two picks. Somehow, guard David DeCastro, projected to be a top 10 overall pick, fell to the jubilant Steelers at #24. Then, the Steelers chose Mike Adams from Ohio State in round two. Adams has first round talent at the pivotal tackle position, but a positive marijuana test at the combine and subsequent lies hurt his draft standing. Adams personally drove to see the Steelers, his favorite team, and took responsibility for his actions. By agreeing to several stipulations, the Steelers put him back on their board. Combined with C Maurkice Pouncey and last year's second round pick, OT Marcus Gilbert, there are no more excuses. The line has to be a strength and not a weakness.

Big Ben or Bust

The beefed up line reinforces that the Steelers are going to win with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback or go bust. In the offseason they let young Dennis Dixon go. They re-signed Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich (coming off a broken arm). They drafted no quarterbacks. With all due respect to Leftwich, Batch, and Smith the Steelers need Big Ben or they will not contend for a Super Bowl. There is no young, developmental quarterback, just Ben and the two stable, but unexciting, backups. (I think recently signed ex-Raven Troy Smith is just a camp arm.) In Ben they trust.

Young Defenders are Ready to Step Up

The Steelers did choose two defensive players in their top four: Sean Spence - speedy linebacker from Miami and nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu from Washington. However, as normal in Dick Labeau's complicated defense, neither is expected to start right away. They will sit and learn. The Steelers did not address the secondary until the 7th round. That tells me they are satisfied with the development of young corners Cortez Allen, Keenan Lewis, and Curtis Brown. By not taking Dont'a Hightower, the Steelers also showed confidence in Larry Foote and Stevenson Sylvester to fill James Farrior's inside linebacker position. This is typical of the Steelers, though. Players emerge as impact starters after learning the system for a year or more. I'm excited to see who emerges as a new star.

Running Backs Will Rotate

New offensive coordinator Todd Haley used a combination of running backs in Kansas City - pounder Thomas Jones, all-around stud Jamaal Charles, and scatback/receiver Dexter McCluster. With Rashard Mendenhall injured and likely out for the beginning of the season, I think Haley is building a similar approach. Fifth round speedster, Chris Rainey from Florida, is a piece of that rotation. I think he will play the McCluster role, though I hope his impact is more like the New Orleans Saints' Darren Sproles. Rainey should provide the receptions out of the backfield that have been too rare lately. He should contribute in the return game also. In both roles, he will be a real threat to take it the distance.

The Butler Did it

This is more of a prediction than a clear message. I like the addition of undrafted punter Drew Butler from the University of Georgia. I think he will depose Jeremy Kapinos. Butler is a high character player who won the Ray Guy Award as a sophmore in 2009. I have watched him play many times. He has an enthusiasm for the game and comes up with his best punts when field position is most crucial. He was also a holder for the field goal team. He will be a great Steeler.

http://sports.yahoo.com/news/pittsburgh-steelers-2012-draft-sends-clear-messages-fans-200300017--nfl.html;_ylt=AogQceaM2d8BTwErFeq2WeggEe1_;_ylu=X3 oDMTM4NG5mODJ1BG1pdANJbmZpbml0ZSBCcm93c2UgQ2Fyb3Vz ZWwEcGtnAzE5NTc0YTA0LTc2YmItMzlmNC1iNzRkLWI4ZDg2MT c2MjMxNARwb3MDNARzZWMDTWVkaWFJbmZpbml0ZUJyb3dzZQR2 ZXID;_ylg=X3oDMTJtcGlmbHM5BGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11 cwRwc3RhaWQDZWRlYjYzOGItYjBmNy0zZDUyLWI4OGEtZDUxND ljOTJkMmYzBHBzdGNhdANuZmwEcHQDc3RvcnlwYWdl;_ylv=3