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Hawaii 5-0
05-03-2012, 03:37 PM
Steelers' projected starting lineup

May, 3, 2012
By Jamison Hensley | ESPN.com


The AFC North blog is continuing its series on projecting the starting lineup for each team in the division. Next up is the Pittsburgh Steelers:

OFFENSE

QB Ben Roethlisberger: Only fourth quarterback who began his career in the Super Bowl era to reach 80 wins in 113 starts (Tom Brady, Roger Staubach and Ken Stabler were the others).

RB Isaac Redman: Favorite to replace Rashard Mendenhall, who is expected to start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.

FB David Johnson: Let's see how much the fullback gets onto the field in Todd Haley's offense.

WR Mike Wallace: Restricted free agent wants a long-term deal after becoming first Steelers wide receiver to start a Pro Bowl since John Stallworth in 1985.

WR Antonio Brown: Last year's team Most Valuable Player became first player in NFL history with at least 1,000 yards receiving and 1,000 return yards in the same season.

TE Heath Miller: His 12.4 yards per catch were a career high for the seven-year veteran.

LT Mike Adams: If he isn't the starter here as a rookie, the second-round pick should be at this spot by next season.

LG Willie Colon: The Steelers thought about moving Colon from tackle to guard last season. The addition of Adams makes it more viable this year.

C Maurkice Pouncey: Ankle injuries have hurt the Pro Bowl lineman in his first two NFL seasons.

RG David DeCastro: The first-round pick could flip to left guard but he played primarily on the right side at Stanford.

RT Marcus Gilbert: He continued to get better and better every week as a rookie last season.

DEFENSE

LDE Ziggy Hood: Now that Aaron Smith is gone, Hood is ready for a full season of starting.

NT Casey Hampton: Could start on PUP, which would push Hood to nose tackle and Cameron Heyward into the starting lineup.

RDE Brett Keisel: He's more than just a beard. His 37 quarterback pressures led the Steelers last season.

LOLB LaMarr Woodley: Had nine sacks in his first eight games before hamstring injury slowed him down.

LILB Larry Foote: Will compete with Stevenson Sylvester for James Farrior's spot.

RILB Lawrence Timmons: Last season showed he is more comfortable playing inside linebacker than outside.

ROLB James Harrison: Has produced at least 8.5 sacks in five straight seasons.

LCB Ike Taylor: Topped the Steelers with 20 passes defensed, which was seven more than anyone else on the team.

SS Troy Polamalu: Second among safeties in interceptions (19) since 2008.

FS Ryan Clark: Led the Steelers with 100 tackles, nine more than Lawrence Timmons.

RCB Keenan Lewis or Cortez Allen: The starting spot left by William Gay, who signed with Arizona in free agency, is up in the air at this point.

http://espn.go.com/blog/afcnorth/post/_/id/47579/steelers-projected-starting-lineup

Hawaii 5-0
05-03-2012, 03:40 PM
I disagree with this writer on several positions, particularly on the OL where I believe the starting lineup will be: Gilbert-Foster-Pouncey-DeCastro-Colon and at NT where I believe Steve McLendon will start if Big Snack is not ready to go.

Steelersfan87
05-03-2012, 04:17 PM
Yeah, Hensley is clearly not intimately informed about the team. McLendon would almost assuredly be the day one starter if Hampton couldn't go, and if it wasn't him, it would only be because Ta'amu was extremely impressive. Why start a DE at NT when you have two other NTs? It's also rather unlikely that Adams is ready to play LT week one, or even during his first year.

El-Gonzo Jackson
05-03-2012, 06:09 PM
I have less issue with Jamison Hack-ley thinking that Hood may start at NT, when Tomlin has said he could play some there. Doesnt mean he plays the whole game there and McClendon could rotate in.

I have less belief that Mike Adams will start at LT, when Gilbert is likely to get the reps there. Adams hasnt seen NFL competition yet, he was suspended part of the season for selling jerseys for tattoos, he hasnt been to the weight room and hasnt got the pot out of his system yet.

I cant see you trusting Ben's blind side to a guy that hasnt faced NFL pass rushers, only benched 19 reps and still smells like weed. Maybe in 2013.

dyce23
05-03-2012, 06:46 PM
I have less issue with Jamison Hack-ley thinking that Hood may start at NT, when Tomlin has said he could play some there. Doesnt mean he plays the whole game there and McClendon could rotate in.

I have less belief that Mike Adams will start at LT, when Gilbert is likely to get the reps there. Adams hasnt seen NFL competition yet, he was suspended part of the season for selling jerseys for tattoos, he hasnt been to the weight room and hasnt got the pot out of his system yet.

I cant see you trusting Ben's blind side to a guy that hasnt faced NFL pass rushers, only benched 19 reps and still smells like weed. Maybe in 2013.

I know you're not truly 100% serious, but still, the weed has little impact unless he's a daily user. It won't affect him in OTAs, training camp, preseason, ect. He'll be okay in that department. You're right that he won't start at LT though. I COULD see him at RT, and while I think he will be there by mid-season, I don't think we begin the season with him as a starter anywhere on our line. I'm not pleased about that decision, as I think he'd be an upgrade at RT even as a rookie, but it is what it is. We hardly ever start rookies unless they absolutely blow away the competition. I really am hoping that Adams does, though.

tanda10506
05-03-2012, 07:05 PM
I think he mentions the weed because I am sure they will test him and make him pass before they allow him on the field. Also, as mentioned, the strength concerns need to be figured out. Depending on the way he strength trains he might not be as weak as we think. I can bench over 400lbs but I couldn't do 225lbs 20 times because I don't do high rep workouts, maybe he is the same way. Football is a game of explosion, 10 seconds of explosive speed and/or explosive power followed by 30 seconds or so of rest, so IMO the question is what is his max weight bench? If thats low too then they need to get him lifting ASAP, there is enough time for him to be able to start if he applies himself, and I would love to see it. Also if Hampton isn't ready I could definitely see Ta'Amu starting right away or at least by game 2.

dyce23
05-03-2012, 07:28 PM
I think he mentions the weed because I am sure they will test him and make him pass before they allow him on the field. Also, as mentioned, the strength concerns need to be figured out. Depending on the way he strength trains he might not be as weak as we think. I can bench over 400lbs but I couldn't do 225lbs 20 times because I don't do high rep workouts, maybe he is the same way. Football is a game of explosion, 10 seconds of explosive speed and/or explosive power followed by 30 seconds or so of rest, so IMO the question is what is his max weight bench? If thats low too then they need to get him lifting ASAP, there is enough time for him to be able to start if he applies himself, and I would love to see it. Also if Hampton isn't ready I could definitely see Ta'Amu starting right away or at least by game 2.

Well, obviously he'd have to pass a test. I think he meant that the weed would actually affect him physically, and that very well could be the case if he was/is a regular, habitual user, but I'm not well versed in this subject, so I can't say for sure that it would. However, if he only smoked here and there and doesn't anymore, then there won't be any affects on his physical play.

As for the strength, you have a right to be concerned. As you said, there are two ways to judge "strength" when it comes to weights (one set weight x reps or one max rep), but you also mentioned that football is a game of explosion. If he does indeed have strength of the one max rep type, we still have the task of transitioning that to an explosive type of strength. That means he'll be doing a lot of explosion exercises to focus on his fast-twitch muscle fibers and get his football strength up to par. Therefore, if he is just naturally weak, he has work to do, and conversely, even if he turns out to be "weight-room" strong, we still have to help him translate that into "football" strength. Still, all of this is speculation anyway. Who's to say that he couldn't be a Pro Bowler and only bench 225 19 times? Maybe his legs, positioning, hands, footwork, technique, ect. all make up for it. Regardless, if he doesn't start by mid-season this year, I still see him being our starter next year and for years to come.

55BaileyFan
05-03-2012, 07:42 PM
I think David Johnson is on the chopping block. David Paulson is more of a H-Back/TE and would cost about 375k where DJ would cost 1.2M. If Paulson can impress then he will take DJ spot...cause he is NOT a FB in ANY system.

The Steelers are flirting with the idea of moving Colon to G; so if his knee holds up and Adams can be impressive then we could see Gilbert-Colon-Pouncey-DeCastro-Adams...that is a BIG if though.

McClendon could be the starter without Hampton but I think that Ta'amu is a better player and could drop McClendon down the depth chart a bit. Either way we will be playing like usual with a DL by committee.

tanda10506
05-03-2012, 07:52 PM
As for the strength, you have a right to be concerned. As you said, there are two ways to judge "strength" when it comes to weights (one set weight x reps or one max rep), but you also mentioned that football is a game of explosion. If he does indeed have strength of the one max rep type, we still have the task of transitioning that to an explosive type of strength. That means he'll be doing a lot of explosion exercises to focus on his fast-twitch muscle fibers and get his football strength up to par. Therefore, if he is just naturally weak, he has work to do, and conversely, even if he turns out to be "weight-room" strong, we still have to help him translate that into "football" strength. Still, all of this is speculation anyway. Who's to say that he couldn't be a Pro Bowler and only bench 225 19 times? Maybe his legs, positioning, hands, footwork, technique, ect. all make up for it. Regardless, if he doesn't start by mid-season this year, I still see him being our starter next year and for years to come.

Agreed, he could make up for it in technique, you never know till you see it. I agree that football conditioning is a little different. I played in high school and college and my coaches always encouraged fewer reps and tons of weight. IMO, and evidently my previous coaches too, max rep power is most important, it's the best preparation for blocking, pass rushing, etc. Ultimately the way I look at it is: he was a starter in college, he was a 2nd round pick, and the STEELERS liked what they saw evidently, so he must be a pretty good blocker as he is right now.


I think he meant that the weed would actually affect him physically, and that very well could be the case if he was/is a regular, habitual user, but I'm not well versed in this subject, so I can't say for sure that it would. However, if he only smoked here and there and doesn't anymore, then there won't be any affects on his physical play.

If he's clean enough to pass a test then it won't affect his play. We touched on medical marijuana (I'm in California where that is legal) in my nutrition class and it's affects are extremely small while not actually under the influence of it (not currently smoking it).

tanda10506
05-03-2012, 07:58 PM
I think David Johnson is on the chopping block.

:tt04::tt02: let's hope

The Steelers are flirting with the idea of moving Colon to G; so if his knee holds up and Adams can be impressive then we could see Gilbert-Colon-Pouncey-DeCastro-Adams...that is a BIG if though.

As you said IF Adams is starting quality, IF Gilbert steps up a bit, and IF they move Colon to Guard because of this, then we will have an excellent line! If Adams is ready to play at NFL level and Gilbert looks good, then IMO moving Colon to guard would be a no brainer, the line would be top notch.

dyce23
05-03-2012, 08:05 PM
Agreed, he could make up for it in technique, you never know till you see it. I agree that football conditioning is a little different. I played in high school and college and my coaches always encouraged fewer reps and tons of weight. IMO, and evidently my previous coaches too, max rep power is most important, it's the best preparation for blocking, pass rushing, etc. Ultimately the way I look at it is: he was a starter in college, he was a 2nd round pick, and the STEELERS liked what they saw evidently, so he must be a pretty good blocker as he is right now.




If he's clean enough to pass a test then it won't affect his play. We touched on medical marijuana (I'm in California where that is legal) in my nutrition class and it's affects are extremely small while not actually under the influence of it (not currently smoking it).

Thanks for clearing up the marijuana stuff. I wasn't 100% sure, but I didn't think it would really affect him. You and your coaches were right with the lifting too. More weight/less reps is the best way to build muscle and strength. That's why you always see power lifters doing that versus the bodybuilders lifting less weight with more reps (builds strength as well, but deals more with definition). However, if Adams is having problems with his explosion, they'll want to work on his fast-twitch fibers which would involve more reps with less weight and partial reps with 80% to 120% of his Max. I doubt they'll EVER take him off of a power lifting schedule fully, but if he's having explosion problems, they'll definitely tailor his schedule to compensate. Muscle confusion is real to an extent (not the extent advertised on tv), and that could also be at play here with Adams' strength, so a simple change could benefit him dramatically.

dyce23
05-03-2012, 08:07 PM
:tt04::tt02: let's hope



As you said IF Adams is starting quality, IF Gilbert steps up a bit, and IF they move Colon to Guard because of this, then we will have an excellent line! If Adams is ready to play at NFL level and Gilbert looks good, then IMO moving Colon to guard would be a no brainer, the line would be top notch.

THIS is what I want! I don't see us actually doing it, but we can hope right? :tt02:

Steelersfan87
05-03-2012, 08:54 PM
Colon never injured his knee...he's almost 2 years removed from an Achilles injury, and almost 8 months removed from a triceps injury. Willie is an above the line player, so plugging in Adams there isn't exactly an upgrade at RT.

ETL
05-03-2012, 09:43 PM
That OL basically has the best OL athletes on the field. I would love to see that line. Except in the long run, I see DeCastro on the left side - maybe as early as this year

TheVet
05-04-2012, 01:41 AM
If Adams truly does have round 1 talent, then LT should be a possibility. Who has greater upside, Adams or Gilbert? If the Steelers' analysis is correct, it could very well be Adams. Gilbert has been fine, but he hasn't been a complete blockbuster - yet. Both of these young tackles are developing. I'm eager to see what happens.

As for Wilie Colon - While he may be an "above the line" player, I'd like to see our linemen be well above the line. And it's about time that we set that line a bit higher, anyway!

Steelersfan87
05-04-2012, 02:11 AM
Very, very few rookies come in and play left tackle right away. Even guys like Tyron Smith last year had to cut his teeth last year for right tackle for the Cowboys.

As for Colon, he was the best in the entire league in his last healthy season in terms of giving up pressures in the passing game, and he's generally viewed by fans as a "road grader".

tanda10506
05-04-2012, 02:23 AM
If Adams truly does have round 1 talent, then LT should be a possibility. Who has greater upside, Adams or Gilbert? If the Steelers' analysis is correct, it could very well be Adams. Gilbert has been fine, but he hasn't been a complete blockbuster - yet. Both of these young tackles are developing. I'm eager to see what happens.

As for Wilie Colon - While he may be an "above the line" player, I'd like to see our linemen be well above the line. And it's about time that we set that line a bit higher, anyway!

I agree about being well above the line, but realistically we can't have top notch guys at every position. Colon is a solid O lineman and with DeCastro and Pouncey, a "solid" tackle is as good as you can ask for. Provided Adams is everything he is said to be, he should be starting either at RT or LT and Gilbert at the other. Colon will be a better guard then Legursky or Foster (maybe not on pass blocking with Foster) and there is no reason not to move him over if Adams is ready. If he is not then we start Gilbert at LT, Colon at RT and Foster at guard.

It's been years since we have been able to discuss the O line depth chart and be happy! :drink:

Steelersfan87
05-04-2012, 02:29 AM
Please refer to this topic about Colon: http://forums.steelersfever.com/showthread.php?t=88483

I don't understand why there are so many misconceptions about him.

Millers the sh!t
05-04-2012, 02:46 AM
I see the O line completely opposite as you.

D Johnson can hurry up and go to hell. Don't want him on the team this year.

PhantomJB93
05-04-2012, 03:15 AM
I think right now, they'd go with Foster at LG, Colon at RT, and Adams backup LT. But I also think Adams will force is way into the starting LT position over the duration of training camp, much like Pouncey did with the center position 2 years back.

As for Colon at RG, I think that maximizes our offensive line production, but is also too risky for a coaching staff as conservative as ours to enact immediately. They'll try him there in camp some and probably end up leaving him at RT when the season starts. At least until he gets hurt, or Foster/Legursky suck so bad that they have to try it.

i expect to see either Leonard Pope or Paulson as the FB. Maybe even Dwyer, I mean he does have the size and he played it in college (I will admit I know nothing of his ability to block, though. Seems like they would have tried this already if they could). I think there are too many other options now for Johnson to roll out there as the starter again.

Steelersfan87
05-04-2012, 03:43 AM
Foster has been pretty good, so I doubt that would be the case. He was the Steelers' most consistent lineman last year, I think. Dave Bryan of Steelers Depot logs and grades every single play and he has consistently praised his workmanlike performances.

http://www.steelersdepot.com/2012/04/post-draft-state-of-the-steelers-offensive-line/
http://www.steelersdepot.com/2012/04/right-or-left-for-david-decastro-does-it-really-matter/
http://www.steelersdepot.com/2012/01/pittsburgh-steelers-2012-free-agents-analysis-g-ramon-foster/

Hawaii 5-0
05-04-2012, 04:49 PM
Steelers: One big question

MAY 4
By Jamison Hensley | ESPN.com


Do the Pittsburgh Steelers still have the best defense in the NFL?

That depends on three factors: the health of nose tackle Casey Hampton, the ability to replace inside linebacker James Farrior, and the emergence of a No. 2 cornerback. The most pressing issue is Hampton, who had ACL surgery in January. It's unknown whether the 35-year-old veteran will be lining up against Denver in the season opener, or starting the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. His absence could force Ziggy Hood to shift from defensive end, or push rookie fourth-round pick Alameda Ta'amu into the starting lineup.

The Steelers already know they must replace Farrior, who was cut March 2. Some would dismiss this as a challenge, because Farrior was a part-time player last season and contributed a career-low 78 tackles. Still, he was a 10-year starter and the top leader on defense. Many expected the Steelers to draft Dont'a Hightower as his replacement, but they chose guard David DeCastro in the first round instead. Now, Pittsburgh will fill that spot with either Larry Foote, who was previously released so Lawrence Timmons could start, or Stevenson Sylvester, who has 21 career tackles.

The other question is at cornerback, where Pittsburgh must fill William Gay's starting spot. It's up in the air right now, and should come down to a three-player race between Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown. Lewis and Allen played on the team's nickel defense last season, but the dark horse to win this battle is Brown, a tenacious defender who led the Steelers in special teams tackles last season. The Steelers' defense ended last season ranked first in fewest yards and points allowed after being criticized early for being too old. So, it's hard to predict much of a falloff as Pittsburgh goes through some transition at a couple of positions.

http://espn.go.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/58287/steelers-one-big-question

Hawaii 5-0
05-14-2012, 01:26 AM
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Projected Starting Lineups

May 13,2012

Offense

Quarterback – Ben Roethlisberger: Out of all the people that liked what the Steelers did in the draft, no one liked it as much as Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers need Big Ben to stay healthy down the stretch this season or else they’ll likely face another early exit in the playoffs.

http://www.turbodaddy.net/badschotz/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/103387847_display_image.jpg

Running Back – Isaac Redman: With Rashard Mendenhall likely out for at least the majority of the 2012 season, Isaac Redman will have to carry the load. Redman is a bruising power back with a tendency to get north and south with more urgency than Mendenhall. While he may lack the speed and lateral quickness of Mendenhall, Redman’s production last season speaks for itself. Redman rushed for 479 yards and 3 touchdowns, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. Mendenhall only averaged 4.1 yards per carry, so it remains to be seen just how much the Steelers are losing next year without him.

Left Tackle – Marcus Gilbert: The Steelers announced that Marcus Gilbert will be making the transition to left tackle back in mid-February. Although Mike Adams also projects as more of a left tackle than a right tackle, it seems unlikely that Gilbert would stay at right tackle after such an announcement has been made. Even if Mike Adams is the left tackle of the future, he needs to get much stronger in the upper-body before he can assume the role of a starting NFL left tackle. Following a successful rookie year, it appears as though Gilbert has a bright future on the Steelers offensive line.

Left Guard – Ramon Foster: Foster had a pretty good season at right guard last season. Though some have speculated that Willie Colon will move inside and thereby bump Foster out of the starting lineup, I don’t expect such a move to take place. Fans have been calling for Colon to be moved to guard for years now and it simply hasn’t happened. Foster has some holes in his game, but he performed relatively well last season overall.

Center – Maurkice Pouncey: If there is any such thing as a sure thing on the perpetually shifting and banged-up Steelers offensive line, then it’s that Maurkice Pouncey will be breaking the huddle in 2012. About to enter his third season, Pouncey is already a two-time Pro Bowler. Pouncey is very good with line calls and should have no problem adjusting to the new blocking schemes Todd Haley will incorporate. Expect another Pro Bowl year out of the Steelers leader on the offensive line.

Right Guard – David DeCastro: When you look at the current guards on the Steelers roster, it is very hard to imagine that DeCastro will not be a starter next season. The selection of DeCastro in the first round was an extremely popular pick and for obvious reasons. With DeCastro, who was the best guard in the draft, the Steelers instantly upgraded a former weakness of their roster, turning it into a possible strength. DeCastro played right guard in college and I would expect the Steelers to leave him there, at least initially. He could be the next Alan Faneca.

Right Tackle – Willie Colon: Colon has missed the majority of the past two seasons to injury. Reports are that he is now 100% recovered from the triceps injury he sustained in week 1 last season against the Ravens. Unless Mike Adams is ready to start, Colon will undoubtedly be the starting right tackle to start the year. Before being plagued by injuries Colon excelled at right tackle, especially in pass protection.

Tight End – Heath Miller: Miller set a career high in 2011 with 12.4 yards per reception. If there’s one player on offense that the Steelers always know what they’re going to get out of, it’s Heath Miller. Due to his blocking ability and willingness to give up his body for the team, Miller is one of the best tight ends in football. It doesn’t matter what the statistics say.

http://www.turbodaddy.net/badschotz/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/mike-wallace-TN.jpg

Wide Receiver – Mike Wallace: Mike Wallace wants a long-term deal, and Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert has made it pretty clear through both his actions and statements this offseason that locking Wallace up for the long-term is the Steelers number one priority of the offseason. The problem appears to be that Wallace is simply asking for too much money. The Steelers have a contract value in mind that they’re not willing to stray too far from, and Wallace is likely asking to become one of the highest paid receivers in football. If Wallace finished last season as strong as he started it, then I would be willing to bet that he would be already signed to a long-term deal; there would be less uncertainty over whether or not Wallace is truly an elite receiver or just an extremely talented vertical threat. Wallace wants to be paid like the player he was in the first half of the season, but the Steelers don’t seem convinced enough to budge. Playing hardball with Wallace could turn out to be a deadly game however if Wallace holds out into the season and grows sour towards the organization. It’s critical that the Steelers lock Wallace up sooner rather than later and get him in camp to learn Todd Haley’s new offense.

Wide Reciever – Antonio Brown: 2011 was a breakout year for Brown; he was named MVP by the team and also became the first player in NFL history with at least 1000 receiving yards and 1000 return yards in the same season. In 2012, defenses will no longer be sleeping on Brown. His production next season will show how good he really is, and also the degree to which his breakout year came about as a result of opposing defenses focusing on slowing Mike Wallace down. My expectation is that Brown has another big season ahead of him. He especially excels in getting yards after the catch, which is always a tough thing for defenses to take away even with added attention.

Wide Reciever – Emmanuel Sanders: It will be interesting to see what types of formations Todd Haley will use most frequently in Pittsburgh. Just based on the makeup of the Steelers roster, it would appear that Haley would try to employ a lot of three-wide receiver sets to get Emmanuel Sanders on the field more often. The Steelers lack a true fullback and are somewhat limited at the backup tight tend spot as well. In the past Haley has used fullbacks, but David Johnson is more of an H-Back type and leaves a lot to be desired whether employed at tight end or fullback. It would be my guess that Emmanuel Sanders will see the field more often next season than Johnson or backup tight end Leonard Pope, so I am listing him as a projected starter.


Defense

Left Defensive End – Ziggy Hood: With Aaron Smith officially retired and gone for good, it’s time for Ziggy Hood to finally step in and assume a starting role at defensive end. Hood was drafted with the 32nd pick in 2009. After originally serving as a rotational backup, Hood filled in for Smith in both 2010 and 2011 after the veteran was placed on injured reserve. Smith only played in 16 games during the last three years of his career, giving Hood the opportunity to learn the scheme and grow as a player. Hood may never turn out be the player Smith was, but he has made enough plays in the first few years of his career to indicate that he could be a solid starter for a long time in Pittsburgh.

Nose Tackle – Casey Hampton: It remains to be seen whether or not Hampton will be able play at the start of the season. Coming off of ACL surgery, Hampton is a candidate to start the season on the PUP list. If he’s not ready, expect either fourth round pick Alamedu Ta’amu or Cameron Heyward to fill in until Hampton is ready to return. Ta’amu is more of a true nose tackle, but Heyward was the Steelers first-round pick in 2011 and gained some valuable experience last season. In all likelihood it would be Ziggy Hood bumping down from end to nose if Hampton cannot go in week 1. Hood would be replaced by Heyward at end.

http://www.turbodaddy.net/badschotz/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/ravensbalt.jpg

Right Defensive End – Brett Keisel: Keisel has really developed during the last few seasons as a leader of the Steelers defense. He followed up his Pro Bowl campaign of 2010 with a solid season in 2011 in which he recorded 48 tackles, 3 sacks, 6 passes defensed, and 2 forced fumbles. He also led the team with 37 quarterback pressures. With Aaron Smith gone and Casey Hampton coming off of a torn ACL, the Steelers will now need “the beard” more than ever.

Left Outside Linebacker – LaMarr Woodley: The Steelers really need Woodley and Harrison to each stay healthy next season. Their pass rush just isn’t the same when either of them is out of the lineup. They only started in 4 games together last season. In 9 starts last year, Woodley still had a very productive year with 9 sacks. Although he tried to return many times, Woodley was never the same after he suffered a hamstring injury against New England in week 9.

Left Inside Linebacker – Larry Foote: Foote is expected to be given the enormous task of attempting to replace the giant void in the middle of the Steelers defense left by James Farrior. Although he’s not James Farrior, Foote is serviceable and experienced. He started on both Steelers Super Bowl teams last decade before being replaced by Lawrence Timmons. Since Foote has been primarily used on special teams since the Steelers resigned him in in 2010, it’s difficult to tell how much of a drop off Foote will be at inside linebacker. Farrior was beginning to show signs of age catching up to him in 2011 as he was a liability at times in coverage. What’s really being left behind by Farrior is a void in leadership. Sylvester Stevenson and rookie Sean Spence will push Foote in training camp, but I’d be surprised if the veteran didn’t emerge with the starting job.

Right Inside Linebacker – Lawrence Timmons: Timmons is one of the more underappreciated players on the Steelers defense. He can do everything Dick Lebaeu asks him to do as a player. Gifted with great speed for an inside linebacker, Timmons has great range in coverage and plays sideline to sideline against the run. For such a gifted athlete, Timmons does leave a little to be desired as a pass rusher. Regardless of this minor deficiency, Timmons has turned out to be everything the Steelers hoped for when they selected him in the first round in 2007. If he can surpass Ryan Clark for the team lead in tackles next season, Timmons will have taken the next step towards becoming an elite linebacker.

http://www.turbodaddy.net/badschotz/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/MG_7134-final1.jpg

Right Outside Linebacker – James Harrison: Though Harrison will turn 34 this May, he has less wear and tear on his body than most players his age due to the fact that his NFL career really didn’t start until 2004. Since then, Harrison has been arguably the best pass rushing outside linebacker in the entire league. Harrison missed 4 games last season with a broken orbital bone, but was still productive with 9 sacks. With Woodley back alongside him next season, I expect Harrison to have a better season next year.

Left Cornerback – Ike Taylor: Though he has never gotten the credit he deserves, Ike Taylor is one of the best corners in football. Exceptionally fast, tall, and a very sure tackler, Taylor has frequently shut down some of the NFL’s best receivers in his career. The main reason that Taylor doesn’t get all the credit he deserves is probably that the corner position has been the Steelers weakness on defense for the past 10 years or so, but this is no indictment on Taylor’s skills in coverage. Another explanation for the lack of appreciation is that Taylor has horrible hands and had never had more than three interceptions in a single season. Nonetheless Taylor led the Steelers with 20 passes defense last season, and deserves a lot of credit for the Steelers number one ranked pass defense.

Right Cornerback – Keenan Lewis: Out of all the spots on defense, the starting corner job opposite Ike Taylor has the most uncertainty surrounding it. The three main candidates for the job are Keenan Lewis, Curtis Brown, and Cortez Allen. Lewis has a leg up on the competition in terms of experience; he was drafted by the Steelers in the third round of the 2009 draft out of Oregon State. He typically replaced former starter William Gay on the outside when Gay moved inside to cover the slot in nickel packages last season. After an up-and-down first few years in the league, Lewis showed improvement in the nickel back role last season. He recorded career highs in tackles, passes defended, and had the first interception of his career. Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen were drafted in the third and fourth rounds of the 2011 draft respectively. Both players played well on special teams in 2011. Allen also chipped in on defensive sub packages last season as the dime back.

Strong Safety – Troy Polamalu: There is not much that can be said about Troy Polamalu that has not already been said. He is without a doubt the best safety of his generation and in my opinion also the best defensive player in football right now. Thus far into his career Polamalu has shown no signs of slipping due to age or injuries. That’s not to say that Polamalu has not suffered from his share of injuries in his career, but his ability to come back from them has been extremely impressive. When you play the game as violently as Polamalu does, injuries are bound to happen frequently. The Steelers can only hope that the best defensive player in football will be able to stay relatively healthy in 2012, as they lack depth at the safety position.

Free Safety – Ryan Clark: Without Ryan Clark, Troy Polamalu would not be able to play the game the way Dick Lebeau wants him to play the game. The reason Polamalu is granted the freedom to fly all over the field is because Clark understands his own role in the defense. Over the years, the two players have really developed into a special tandem. Without Clark, Polamalu would still be a special player. With Clark, Polamalu is the best defensive player in football. Clark has always been great in run support, and the fact that he led the team with 100 tackles last season is a testament to this. Not many other safeties can say they recorded 100 tackles the same season that they were on the number one ranked pass defense in the league. On January 25, 2012, Clark was named to his first career Pro Bowl, replacing the injured Ed Reed.

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