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Hawaii 5-0
05-08-2012, 01:48 PM
Post Draft State Of The Steelers Defensive Line

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012 by Dave Bryan

The 2012 NFL draft is now complete and the Pittsburgh Steelers added one defensive lineman in the form of Washington nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu as part of their nine selections. With the draft and free agency now behind us, it is time to take the yearly look at the state of the Steelers defensive line and depth chart moving forward into the offseason workouts. If you missed our look at the Steelers offensive line following the draft, you can read that by following the link.

Nose Tackles

Casey Hampton - Hampton tore the ACL in his left knee in the AFC Wild Card game loss to the Denver Broncos and has since had surgery following the injury. Hampton agreed to have his salary reduced in 2012 and will have a tough battle to be healthy by the time the start of the season rolls around. If available for week 1, Hampton figures to be the starter at nose tackle in base defense situations. It would not be surprising to see his snaps limited in the early part of the season if he does not start the year off on the PUP list instead.

Steve McLendon - McLendon reportedly weighs over 300 pounds despite being listed on the teams' official website at 280 pounds. He saw just under 150 snaps on defense last season and totaled 13 tackles to go along with 1 quarterback sack. He could be relied on heavily early in the season at nose tackle depending on the overall health of Hampton. McLendon has shown he has the ability to play the 3, 4 and 5 technique at defensive end in rotation packages, so his versatility will help in 2012. Defensive line coach John Mitchell warned not to discount the former undrafted free agent in 2012 just because the team drafted Alameda Ta'amu in the 4th round. Look for McLendon to assume the role of the now retired Chris Hoke in 2012 once Hampton is ready for heavy action.

Alameda Ta'amu - The rookie will likely spend a good portion of the 2012 season getting an earful from Mitchell as he learns the nuances of the Dick LeBeau defense. The fourth round pick out of Washington is a huge man that will have to show his ability to take on the double teams and free up the linebackers to make plays prior to getting playing time. Rookies on defense hardly get any playing time early on for Pittsburgh and that figures to be the same for Ta'amu. Hampton did start as a rookie in the second part of his rookie year, so it is not out of the question that Ta'amu could be groomed in that same time frame. It all depends on him.

Kade Weston - Weston was originally drafted by the New England Patriots in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft after playing his college football at Georgia. He was waived injured by the Patriots prior to the start of the 2010 season, and after clearing waivers, he reverted back to the Patriots injured reserve list. After another try in 2011 with the Patriots at training camp, Weston was released prior to the start of the season and he ultimately landed on the practice squad of the Indianapolis Colts in October. Weston was signed by the Steelers this past offseason as a nose tackle and he has no realistic shot at making the Steelers 53 man roster or practice squad.

Mike Blanc - Blanc is an undersized defensive tackle out of Auburn that has no shot at making the Steelers practice squad. He is merely a camp body.

Defensive Ends

Brett Keisel - Keisel suffered a groin injury in the AFC Wild Card game, but by all reports he will be ready by the start of training camp. The veteran is coming off of a great season that saw him record 48 tackles in 14 games to go along with 3 sacks and 6 passes defensed. Keisel will be the starting right defensive end once again, but could see his playing time eaten into by Cameron Heyward in an effort to keep him fresh late in the season. Keisel understands the defense as good as anyone wearing the black and gold and will be looked upon to take an even larger role as a team leader now that James Farrior has been jettisoned. Keisel remains one of the top 3-4 defense ends in the league, but he must be healthy come playoff time.

Ziggy Hood - 2012 needs to be a jump year for the Steelers 2009 first round draft pick. While Hood did show some flashes in 2011, he needs to get better against the run first and foremost. He struggles the most when he is given two-gap responsibilities and he does not push the pocket consistent enough on the left side on passing downs. Hood recorded just 19 solo tackles in 2011 to go along with only 10 pressures of the quarterback. A slow start in 2012 could see him lose playing time at left defensive to Heyward if he is not careful. Hood figures to be one of the biggest challenges Mitchell has heading into this season and he has to start playing like a first round draft pick if he is going to be considered a long term player on the defensive line.

Cameron Heyward - The Steelers 2011 first round draft pick played nearly 200 snaps last year in a reserve role. Heyward did not get the benefit of a rookie mini-camp or OTA sessions last year thanks to the lockout, but he held his own just the same in limited action. He figures to be hot on the heels of Hood heading into training camp this year and he will likely see considerable more playing time in rotation at both right and left defensive end if he is not the starting left defensive end out of training camp. Heyward recorded 7 pressures of the quarterback and one sack during his rookie season and his second season looks very promising.

Corbin Bryant - Many thought that Bryant had a legitimate shot to make the 53 man roster last year out of training camp based on his play, but that would not be the case. He was promoted to the 53 man roster from the practice squad for the week 7 game against the Arizona Cardinals, but only saw 5 snaps on defense. Bryant seems best suited on the left side, and with another strong offseason and training camp, the undrafted defensive end out of Northwestern might have a shot at a roster spot. Bryant will have a great deal of competition to fight off in the form of a few more undrafted free agents that the Steelers signed this offseason, and at worse, Bryant should have a great shot to make the practice squad out of training camp. He will be a player to watch for sure during the preseason.

Al Woods - Woods was originally drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft, but they gave up on him quickly. The Steelers signed him to their practice squad in 2010, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers snatched him off there almost immediately. Following his release by the Buccaneers, Woods latched on with Seattle Seahawks as a defensive tackle for several weeks. When Woods was waived by the Seahawks the Steelers claimed him off of waivers and he stayed on their 53 man roster the remainder of the season, although he never played a down on defense. The Steelers seem poised to turn him into a 3-4 defensive end ,and depending on how that conversion goes, Woods might battle Bryant for a spot on the 53 man roster should the Steelers choose to keep seven defensive linemen.

Ikponmwosa Igbinosun - Igbinosun was signed by the Steelers as an undrafted free agent following the draft. 6-foot-5, 285-pounder out of Southern Connecticut State was one of the top defensive players in the Northeast-10 Conference last season where he earned all-conference, all-region and all-ECAC honors in 2011. He led SCSU linemen both with 58 tackles and seven sacks last season. Igbinosun will convert to a 3-4 defensive end with the Steelers and could be a player to compete possibly for a practice squad spot.

Jake Stoller - Stoller played defense tackle at Yale and he will convert to 3-4, 5-technuique defensive end with the Steelers. The 6-foot-3, 284-pound undrafted free agent had 4.5 sacks and 15 tackles in 10 games last season for the Bulldogs and he has his work cut out for him just to make the practice squad at this point.

Post Draft Prediction 53 Man Roster Defensive Linemen:

NT Casey Hampton
NT Steve McLendon
NT Alameda Ta'amu
DE Brett Keisel
DE Ziggy Hood
DE Cameron Heyward
DE Corbin Bryant


05-08-2012, 02:12 PM
Hood isnt going to get an extension when his contract expires after 2013 if he dosnt step it up

05-08-2012, 02:21 PM
Hood may come cheap if he doesn't step up and the STeelers, having invested a 1st round pick in him, may have no choice but to resign him. Not everyone will be an All-Pro though so he may just end up being a very serviceable player. Still, need alot more out of the guy this year!

Hawaii 5-0
05-08-2012, 02:55 PM
Talkin' Defensive Line: The Next Generation Begins in 2012

by Neal Coolong on May 8, 2012


We're smack dab in the middle of a transitional period among the Steelers defensive line. The hallowed group that helped bring the Steelers to two Super Bowl championships looks to be on its last breath.

In seeing that coming down the pike, the Steelers have drafted defensive linemen quite a bit (two first round picks in 2009 and 2011, and a fourth round possible future starter in 2012). In one of the more intriguing Steelers positional units, the defensive line has more than just a few questions - many of them can and will be answered.

Questions You'll Hear:

Is Casey Hampton going to play?

To be honest, I wouldn't wager much on Hampton dressing in Week 1. Big Snack will be 35 when the Steelers travel to Denver to open the season, and if not for his injury (he couldn't be released without having a significant portion of his $4.89 million salary hitting the 2012 cap), he may have joined Hines Ward, Aaron Smith, James Farrior and the rest of the victims in the Steelers' veteran slashing of 2012.

Both sides agreed to a reduced but guaranteed contract for Hampton in 2012, which is basically saying we'll take what we can get from him. NT Steve McLendon has been a big riser for the defense, playing a gutty and inspiring game in the playoffs this past season. Keep in mind, with Hampton out and several other injuries already in place, the Steelers had no defensive line back-ups. Brett Keisel and Hampton were out, leaving just Ziggy Hood, Cam Heyward and McLendon to play against a good running team and a mobile quarterback in high elevation.

Is Alameda "Lunch Plate" Ta'amu going to play?

Rookie defensive linemen don't typically get many snaps, although Heyward did last season, mostly due to injury. The defensive line isn't the deepest in the NFL, but his playing time will depend on how quickly he can learn the defense and how to play his position in the NFL.

Adjusting to the speed of the game is the answer most rookies seem to provide when asked about the hardest part of that first year. But with Hampton's injury situation and no experienced nose tackles behind McLendon, he could see the field in sub packages.

Is Ziggy Hood's seat getting a bit hotter?

Hood did not have a great 2011, and it was the season for him to shine. With Aaron Smith's injury, he had an opportunity to establish himself as the next man up on the famed Steelers defensive line. Simply put, he failed to do that, and there's no more reason to feel secure at his position than there was at this time last year.

It's a big season for him. With his contract expiring at the end of the 2013 season, and many other similar-aged Steelers also looking for extensions around the same time, he's going to have to take a step or two forward this year.

There has been speculation regarding Hood moving inside to help alleviate the potential lack of nose tackles on the squad, but I don't see him being effective in that role. He doesn't have the kind of anchor strength that position requires, but I wouldn't rule it out.

Will Cam Heyward break out?

Heyward showed flashes of being the most athletic and potentially dominant lineman last year. There's plenty of film showing him out of position and slow to react, but there are others where you could see a high level of football instinct leading to disruption among the opposing offense.

With a year under his belt now, he's only going to improve, and this could be a great season for the former first round pick.

How much does Brett Keisel still have in the tank?

Keisel injured his groin in the playoff loss to Denver, and would not have played had the Steelers won. With an advancing age, it's fair to wonder how much time Keisel has remaining. It's unfortunate, because Keisel played the best football of his career in 2010, and was still at a high level in 2011 despite a few injuries throughout the year.

Keisel, more than any other Steeler in the last two years, did his legacy proud. He's been a consummate pro and played some outstanding football, being named to his first Pro Bowl at the end of the 2010 season. Hopefully he has another year of that high level still in him as the defensive line transforms into something younger over the next year or two.

Point to remember in 2012

With the rise of the passing sub package era in the NFL, the Steelers, like nearly everyone else, played with at least one extra defensive back more often than they played out of their base defense. That typically means removing a defensive lineman. Depth among the defensive line may not be as important has it traditionally has been for the Steelers defense, so long as teams just don't run the ball as much as they used to.

One also should look at the third round selection of cover-skill-laden LB Sean Spence as an indication of where the Steelers defense is going. Linebackers coach Kevin Butler has said he sees Spence as a mack linebacker, and he'll back up Lawrence Timmons. He doesn't have great size, but his coverage skills and athleticism are supposed to be outstanding. Seems more like a future plan for the nickel defense would be to include Spence in passing situations, along with removing a lineman, maximizing the amount of players with coverage skills in the package.


Hawaii 5-0
05-16-2012, 02:19 AM
Top 10 Position Battles to Watch in Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp

By Nick DeWitt (Featured Columnist) on May 15, 2012


Defensive Tackle Depth Chart and Rotation Combatants

Casey Hampton, Steve McLendon, Alameda Ta'amu, Mike Blanc, Kade Weston


Drop the last two. They don't have the experience or skills to unseat the top three and there's precious little room on this roster for projects. Either could be kept around on the practice squad, however.

This battle has a lot of moving parts and what ifs. Hampton's health is a concern. Ta'amu was considered a steal, but now it's time to live up to that billing for real. McLendon is the stalwart backup.

This is less a question of who makes the roster than how they are worked into the defensive scheme.

Hampton was not an every down player in 2011, and he might not be a two-down player for all of 2012. That means the backups will be important. I think Ta'amu will get some time. We saw Dick LeBeau willing to work in rookie Cameron Heyward at times last year. This is a similar situation.

McLendon isn't going to start, but he may see some time, especially on third downs when the other team is going to be passing. I like him better in a role where he's doing more rushing than blocking. The key will be how Ta'amu looks in this role.


Let's say Hampton is ready. He'll start and play on some if not most of the running downs. Ta'amu will probably relieve him late in games and on some shorter distances. McLendon will get some time on third down and in obvious passing situations.


Hawaii 5-0
05-18-2012, 01:05 AM
Pittsburgh Steelers News Bulletin: The Rise of Cameron Heyward

by Neal Coolong on May 17, 2012


7 months ago: PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 9: Cameron Heyward #97 of the Pittsburgh Steelers causes a fumble against Matt Hasselbeck #8 of the Tennessee Titans during the game on October 9, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers defeated the Titans 38-17. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

I'm really interested to see the fruits of DE Cameron Heyward's labor this off-season. Watching him again, there were times he looked like an animal. Granted, more times he looked lost, but when he looked decisive, he really got off the ball and after the ball carrier.

I haven't been shy to express my opinion about DE Ziggy Hood, and I'll be the first to declare the nuances of the defensive lineman in this defense need to be fully understood. But an athlete is an athlete and a baller is a baller. I expect Heyward to push Hood hard for his starting spot, probably lose out, but absolutely gain on his total snaps per game.

One would expect Hood, who's going to want some push before entering into extension talks next year, to ratchet up his game, as well. Hood easily looks the technically superior of the two, but Heyward's get-off and explosion are above Hood's already, even if he doesn't appear to know what he's doing (rookie year).

Getting that extra foot or two of penetration into the backfield from a 3-4 defensive end is critical, and it creates significant problems for the offense, both on the ground and in pass protection. It closes off escape routes for the quarterback, disrupts running back's routes and draws extra attention from the line. Even better, it forces teams to use another tight end to protect the end.

The question floating around the league now is how do you stop the big, receiving tight end. My (glib and ignorant) response is "make him stay in and block."

Can Heyward develop into that kind of a defensive end? Time will tell, but it will be fun to watch.


05-18-2012, 04:30 AM
Cam Heyward is the real deal. I think he had an incredible rookie season considering the fact that he had no cummunication with the team until pre-season was about to begin. I expect that he will become the starter by the time we play The Eagles (week 5 after our bye). We will need his athleticism and style of attack to get at Vick and disrupt his play.

Galax Steeler
05-18-2012, 04:59 AM
Cam Heyward is the real deal. I think he had an incredible rookie season considering the fact that he had no cummunication with the team until pre-season was about to begin. I expect that he will become the starter by the time we play The Eagles (week 5 after our bye). We will need his athleticism and style of attack to get at Vick and disrupt his play.

I agree I really like Heyward's play and it will only get better this year. I am real excited about our defensive front this year.

Hawaii 5-0
05-18-2012, 01:08 PM
Brett Keisel Ready To Get Back On The Field After Overcoming Groin Injury

Friday, May 18th, 2012 by Dave Bryan

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel suffered a groin injury against the Denver Broncos in the AFC Wild Card game and it appears that he is now fully recovered. The injury was termed "severe" after it happened, but by many accounts the 33-year old Keisel was able to avoid offseason surgery and it appears he is ready for his 11th year in the league.

Keisel told Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider in an interview that he credits Steelers strength and conditioning coach Garrett Giemont for helping him get his body back and that he feels ready to go now and ready to get back out on the field again. Keisel told Wexell that his age is not a factor at all with him and that he feels like he has gotten better as he has gotten older. He also added that he is not concerned about his ability to still go out and perform at a high level at all.

Despite missing two early games in 2011 with a sprained knee suffered against the Seattle Seahawks, Keisel ended up having a great season as recorded 48 tackles, of which 33 were deemed solo, to go along with 3 quarterback sacks and 6 defensed passes. He also chipped in an unofficial 23 quarterback pressures in his 14 regular season games that he played in as well.

With defensive captain James Farrior now gone, Keisel will be a player on defense that will have an even greater leadership role in 2012 and he told Wexell, "Iím excited about it. Being the leader of a great franchise like the Pittsburgh Steelers is something thatís a great opportunity."

Judging by a few other comments Keisel made in the interview, it appears that the beard will once again be back in 2012 as well, because that is what the people want.


Hawaii 5-0
05-25-2012, 02:18 PM
Breaking down the defensive line for the 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers roster

Submitted by Syndicated sources on May 25, 2012
Brought to you by: Sports Media 101

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in somewhat a rebuilding stage along their defensive line. Gone to retirement are long-time veterans defensive end Aaron Smith and nose tackle Chris Hoke and even nose tackle Casey Hampton, who is recovering from an ACL injury, had to take a large pay cut to remain on the roster. The team has been preparing for this transition for some time now, spending three draft choices, including two first round picks on defensive linemen over the last three installments of the NFL Draft.

At nose tackle, Hampton is the wildcard as the team prepares for opening day. After suffering an ACL injury in the playoff loss to the Denver Broncos, no one is sure whether he will be ready opening day or not. If Hampton cannot go early and starts the season on the PUP list, veteran nose tackle Steve McClendon and rookie fourth round pick Alameda Ta'amu from the University of Washington will battle for the starting position. Even if he is ready to go, both McClendon and Taíamu should see plenty of action as this looks to be Hamptonís last season in the Black and Gold.

At defensive end, starters Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood, and top back up, last years number one pick Cameron Heyward, are in place. The only true question is what player will step up and seize the last roster spot available for a rotational defensive end. At this point, it looks like that battle will come down to two players, Al Woods or Corbin Bryant.

Last season, the Steelers claimed Woods in November after he was released by the Seattle Seahawks. A 2010 fourth round selection of the New Orleans Saints out of LSU, he is a journeyman run stuffer, who has also seen time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While he was on the active roster, he did not see action and is a unknown commodity at this point. Bryant had a solid training camp for the Steelers last season and looked like a player that could pay dividends down the road. The 6-4, 300 pound defensive end was originally signed by the Steelers as an undrafted rookie free agent out f Northwestern in July 2011 and spent time between their active roster and practice squad during the 2011 season, at one-point taking the spot of Aaron Smith when he was placed on injured reserve.

In the end, Bryant should win the position as the final defensive end out of training camp. He is a player who is stout at the point of attack and flashed some up-field ability in preseason last year, and would probably have been drafted in the 2011 NFL Draft had he not been recovering from a knee injury. In fact, he was one of the teams 30 pre-draft visitors leading up to the draft.

Bryant, Corbin DE

Hampton, Casey NT

Heyward, Cameron DE

Hood, Ziggy DE

Keisel, Brett DE

McLendon, Steve NT

Ta'amu, Alameda NT

http://network.yardbarker.com/nfl/article_external/breaking_down_the_defensive_line_for_the_2012_pitt sburgh_steelers_roster/10870529

05-25-2012, 03:55 PM
Heyward and especially Hood need to show their value and worth as high picks this year.
Maybe McClendon can raise the bar for himself and prove to be more than a spot contributor.
I don't see Casey doing what he's done in the past, I fear the clock is winding down quickly for him this year.
Hopefully Ta'amu is the real deal and can provide quality depth.

Hawaii 5-0
06-02-2012, 11:58 PM
Steelers linemen Heyward, Hood hold up their end

June 3, 2012
Keith Srakocic/Associated Press


Ziggy Hood, right, works against fellow defensive end Al Woods in an OTA last month.

By Dan Gigler / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Trivia question: What does John Goodman have to do with Ziggy Hood and Cam Heyward?

If you're thinking of the stout actor of "Big Lebowski" fame, try again. Because in 1982, a second-year player from Oklahoma with the same name, along with veteran Tom Beasley, were the first starting ends in a new 3-4 scheme that would become the die-cast for Steelers defenses up to the modern zone variation they employ today.

The reloading-not-rebuilding tenet of the near-mythological "Steeler Way" has been a dominant theme of the current OTAs, and one can look to the history of the defensive ends as a case study in consistency, where the lines of succession might be the envy of the British monarchy.

In the 30 years the Steelers have employed the 3-4, there have been 20 primary starters at end, and 16 did it for multiple seasons -- Goodman, Beasley, Keith Gary, Keith Willis, Edmund Nelson, Donald Evans and Kevin Henry to name a few. With rare exceptions, it has been an orderly procession of veterans breaking in, teaching and ultimately passing the torch to younger players.

Recently retired Aaron Smith made his first career start in 2000, just down the line from five-year starter Henry. In '03, rookie Brett Keisel studied under veterans Smith and Kimo von Oelhoffen. Keisel made his first start in '06, and, with Smith, began the tutelage of first-round picks Ziggy Hood in '09 and Cam Heyward last year.

Now, Keisel finds himself in the role of the bearded sage while Hood and Heyward vie to replace Smith and the crater-sized vacuum of leadership and skill he leaves behind. Hood has the inside track, having seen significant starting time in the past two seasons in place of the oft-injured Smith. Keisel believes Hood is ready.

"Ziggy's been fortunate because, since the day he got here, he's been basically forced into playing," Keisel said. "When Aaron went down his rookie year, he had to come in and play right away so he has those mental reps, those physical reps, those game reps that you can't get any other way.

"You can go out here and practice all you want, but, until you take it out and do it at game speed -- it's a whole other level. Luckily for him, he's been doing that now for three years, so stepping into this role as the starter from the get-go I don't think will be a big transition at all for him."

An affable West Texan with an 'aw-shucks' Amarillo twang, Hood embraces the challenge.

"Every guy wants the opportunity to start," he said. "What better chance than to get my opportunity right now. I've been working hard all offseason. I had a great offseason. I stayed around here. No need to go home. Pretty much just family and football for me.

"Now, all you can focus on is the small things -- taking the right step, hand placement, getting your hips by -- all the little things that make you a better player.

"I feel ready. I've never been a vocal leader, but I try to do my best to lead by example," he said, a point not lost on Heyward, who called Hood an "animal" in the weight room.

"All we do is just attack it hard," Hood said.

"If we're going to get up early and spend our time in the weight room, we might as well enjoy it and get big. There's no point in coming early and not doing anything, so you might as well just enjoy it and have fun with it."

On the field, Hood has been solid, if unspectacular, in 23 starts, notching 4.5 sacks. He was a standout in the '10 postseason. And yet, he hasn't made it an completely closed case, leaving open the opportunity for Heyward to put the heat on Hood -- and perhaps Keisel -- when training camp begins in July.

Heyward downplayed that idea or even a discussion of an increased role in the defense.

"I haven't even worried about that, I'm just trying to get better out here. I'll let my play show it off and continue to improve," he said, adding that he was simply glad to be taking advantage of his first OTAs (the ones last year were canceled because of the NFL's labor strife).

"I think it's vital for me to take in the playbook a lot more and learn from my mistakes and take time to shine up and oil up and learn my technique and get better at it ... I'm not a senior guy at all.

"I have a lot to learn from Keisel and [Casey Hampton]. They'll bring me along, and Zig, if he's put in charge, he'll take care of us."

Keisel is bullish on Heyward's ability and knows that sooner or later, he'll be succeeded by him.

"I believe in him, I do. I feel like he's the type of guy that has the type of character that's going to come in and keep the ship rolling in the right direction," Keisel said. "I have all the confidence in the world in Cam, and, when the day comes when I hang up the old No. 99, he'll do a great job."

Which -- for 30 years -- has been the Steelers plan.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/sports/steelers/steeleres-linemen-heyward-hood-hold-up-their-end-638713/#ixzz1wh90MMRL

06-03-2012, 02:37 AM
Opps duplicated an article.