PDA

View Full Version : ESPN Insider: AFC North Holes


ebsteelers
02-13-2013, 08:45 AM
Pittsburgh Steelers: Linebacker


It is rare to see the Steelers fall out of Football Outsiders' top 10 for defensive efficiency. In fact, it hadn't happened since 2003, when Pittsburgh held the league's 15th-best defense. In the years between, the team posted five top-five defensive seasons, and any fan can tell you this consistent excellence was sustained by Dick LeBeau's exceptional linebacker corps. James Harrison, Larry Foote, LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons are still a fearsome foursome, but there are major cracks showing through.



Foote is 32, declining and coming off an atrocious season by Pittsburgh linebacker standards. His biggest struggles were in coverage, as Foote allowed 7.1 yards per pass according to the FO game-charting project. The 34-year-old Harrison is also clearly on the downside of his great career. Harrison has indicated he is willing to restructure his contract to stay in Pittsburgh, but the Steelers are strapped for cash and might not be able to squeeze the cap hit small enough to make the numbers work. Like Foote, Harrison struggled in coverage. He appeared more tentative, perhaps in response to concerns about fines. Poor performances by Pittsburgh's veterans were indicative of a unit-wide problem defending the pass. On pass coverage against running backs, generally the linebackers' responsibility, Pittsburgh ranked 20th in DVOA; against tight ends, the Steelers finished 31st in DVOA.



The looming question is how ready 2012 third-round draft pick Sean Spence will be in 2013 after suffering a horrific, season-ending knee injury in the preseason. If all goes well, the team can ease Spence into Foote's role, but in the end that leaves the team with Cincinnati washout Brandon Johnson, long-time project Stevenson Sylvester and undrafted free agents Adrian Robinson and Marshall McFadden backing up an increasingly injury-prone list of starters.



The clock is ticking, and the Steelers must look to restock their cupboard of 'backers in the draft. Some early mocks have Jarvis Jones falling to the 17th spot, but the Steelers would be more than happy with Sam Montgomery or Manti Te'o.

ebsteelers
02-13-2013, 08:50 AM
I dont see anyway possible Jarvis Jones falls to us at 17. I have not seen one draft that he fell that far.

If he falls to double digits then maybe i could see a trade up, but falling to 17, no way.

Why would a team like the Jets let him get pass pick 9 any way?


Teo at ILB, and Spence at olb?

Dont see us taking Teo either at 17.

Montgomery could be an option but would need to convert to de,


We need a guy at 17 who is going to come in and play right away.

Teo wouldnt with Timmons and Foote Still here.

Whats the deal with Spence and Sylester, Robinson?
I remember Robinson looked real good in pre-season.


I think I prefer Varraco for us at 17. as we arent getting any younger on the back end

I am just hoping for a healthy year all around and it will be a major step towards playoffs

Steel Peon
02-13-2013, 09:29 AM
Hey great! Talk up our weaknesses all you ESPN guys want! It'll only play into our favor when we have a good season......one of which I think is coming up.

StainlessStill
02-13-2013, 09:47 AM
I was talking with my dad the other day about our thin linebacking core. I'm worried about them too. We'll see if we can get some productivity out of guys like Worlids, Sylvester and Robinson. Spence is the XFACTOR.

Steel_Bus_24
02-13-2013, 12:40 PM
Im a little worried about spence's size and durability in run defense

In the games he played in before he got hurt.....he was like Larry Foote Jr

Tried to dance around too many blockers instead of holding his ground and making the opposing RBs hesitate on when to hit the holes

On the plus side he showed great speed and athleticism in his pass defense ability .....He was in on a few pass defenses that were a good bit out of normal LBs range of coverage....very much like Timmons sometimes

Steelers>NFL
02-13-2013, 12:47 PM
Im a little worried about spence's size and durability in run defense

In the games he played in before he got hurt.....he was like Larry Foote Jr

Tried to dance around too many blockers instead of holding his ground and making the opposing RBs hesitate on when to hit the holes

On the plus side he showed great speed and athleticism in his pass defense ability .....He was in on a few pass defenses that were a good bit out of normal LBs range of coverage....very much like Timmons sometimes

I don't think it is/was him or his size. I think it is the "complicated LeBeau system"
that wastes our young talents!

El-Gonzo Jackson
02-13-2013, 01:31 PM
Im a little worried about spence's size and durability in run defense

In the games he played in before he got hurt.....he was like Larry Foote Jr

Tried to dance around too many blockers instead of holding his ground and making the opposing RBs hesitate on when to hit the holes

On the plus side he showed great speed and athleticism in his pass defense ability .....He was in on a few pass defenses that were a good bit out of normal LBs range of coverage....very much like Timmons sometimes

It was only preseason, but I saw Spence moving to the ballcarrier and attacking the LOS. It was only 2's vs 2's, so I dont know how anybody can write the kid off yet. If he stayed healthy, IMO he would have replaced Foote in Week 9 last year.

teegre
02-13-2013, 01:50 PM
It was only preseason, but I saw Spence moving to the ballcarrier and attacking the LOS. It was only 2's vs 2's, so I dont know how anybody can write the kid off yet. If he stayed healthy, IMO he would have replaced Foote in Week 9 last year.

I agree: the kid is a tackling machine... with some of the greatest instincts that I've seen.

SteelersCanada
02-13-2013, 01:53 PM
I agree: the kid is a tackling machine... with some of the greatest instincts that I've seen.

Let me ask you this, though. Do you think his size is a disadvantage? Picture him trying to go against bigger backs - someone like Trent Richardson, for example. He can defend the pass very, very well and uses his exceptional speed to break up and pick off passes but his tackling against bigger backs comes into question. Our scheme calls for our Inside Linebackers to have the ability to shed blocks and get into the backfield and this is something that Spence lacks dearly.

I'm not as high on him as most people are and I honestly think he's a situational player in the NFL.

Steel_Bus_24
02-13-2013, 02:00 PM
It was only preseason, but I saw Spence moving to the ballcarrier and attacking the LOS. It was only 2's vs 2's, so I dont know how anybody can write the kid off yet. If he stayed healthy, IMO he would have replaced Foote in Week 9 last year.

Im not writing him off, Im just not sold on him being the 1st and 2nd down run stuffer just yet.....


I could definitely see him getting the snaps over Foote when we have the other team in obvious passing situations

teegre
02-13-2013, 02:11 PM
Let me ask you this, though. Do you think his size is a disadvantage? Picture him trying to go against bigger backs - someone like Trent Richardson, for example. He can defend the pass very, very well and uses his exceptional speed to break up and pick off passes but his tackling against bigger backs comes into question. Our scheme calls for our Inside Linebackers to have the ability to shed blocks and get into the backfield and this is something that Spence lacks dearly.

I'm not as high on him as most people are and I honestly think he's a situational player in the NFL.

Good question.

In college, he was able to get to the RB... a lot. That is something Foote (and many other ILBs) lack the ability to do: get there. Spence gets there. Make sense?

Worst case: even if Spence does not stop the RB completely on his own, he WILL get there... slowing the RB down enough for the other defenders to pile on. There will be NO long runs against him.. although, you are correct, there could be an occasional bulldoze or two (although, I never saw him get steamrolled in college).

PROS:
His instincts are supurb. He rarely takes a wrong step. He is the first player to move... like Troy does: he moves before the play unfolds, and is in the "right" spot to make the play.

As you said, he is the new breed of LB: he can cover the Gronks and Hernandezes of the world. And, this is becomming more & more of a passing league. Ergo, his assets outweigh his deficits.

SteelersCanada
02-13-2013, 02:19 PM
PROS:
His instincts are supurb. He rarely takes a wrong step. He is the first player to move... like Troy does: he moves before the play unfolds, and is in the "right" spot to make the play.

As you said, he is the new breed of LB: he can cover the Gronks and Hernandezes of the world. And, this is becomming more & more of a passing league. Ergo, his assets outweigh his deficits.

You're spot on - he could cover guys like Gronk and Hernandez with no problem. He'd be effective in covering guys like Pitta and Rice out of the backfield, too, which is a huge plus. It'd be nice having Spence shadowing Rice twice a year, preventing a 4th-and-29 play to happen (I still can't believe that happened).

Here's the thing, though. There's Linebackers in this draft that play like him, but are better at it. Arthur Brown, Alec Ogletree and Kevin Riddick all play a similar game to his and are, most importantly, stronger than Spence is by a considerable margin. They have the ability to get into the backfield and shed blocks which Spence struggled with. Going against an offensive linemen, Spence is going to lose that battle 100% of the time. This would make him ineffective and ultimately useless in blitzing situations.

I do think we need someone like Spence to play inside with Timmons that would ultimately free him up to blow shit up at the offensive line. I wouldn't be upset if we had Spence in, but I think that we have better options right now than him that will be available to us in this draft.

Really, at this point, it's a win/win. I'm not high on Spence, but I understand he fills a need and frees up Timmons to be the second best ILB in the league.

sloppyjoe
02-13-2013, 03:31 PM
depressing article and it didnt even touch on how lame woodley was this year

steelfury02
02-13-2013, 04:44 PM
depressing article and it didnt even touch on how lame woodley was this year

who is Woodley? :chuckle:

LVSteelersfan
02-13-2013, 05:03 PM
Woodley will be back. I think pride will make him work hard in the offseason and get back to a reasonable playing weight. That will turn him back into the monster we are used to. If he doesn't do it, he may find himself sitting on the bench.

teegre
02-13-2013, 05:33 PM
You're spot on - he could cover guys like Gronk and Hernandez with no problem. He'd be effective in covering guys like Pitta and Rice out of the backfield, too, which is a huge plus. It'd be nice having Spence shadowing Rice twice a year, preventing a 4th-and-29 play to happen (I still can't believe that happened).

Here's the thing, though. There's Linebackers in this draft that play like him, but are better at it. Arthur Brown, Alec Ogletree and Kevin Riddick all play a similar game to his and are, most importantly, stronger than Spence is by a considerable margin. They have the ability to get into the backfield and shed blocks which Spence struggled with. Going against an offensive linemen, Spence is going to lose that battle 100% of the time. This would make him ineffective and ultimately useless in blitzing situations.

I do think we need someone like Spence to play inside with Timmons that would ultimately free him up to blow shit up at the offensive line. I wouldn't be upset if we had Spence in, but I think that we have better options right now than him that will be available to us in this draft.

Really, at this point, it's a win/win. I'm not high on Spence, but I understand he fills a need and frees up Timmons to be the second best ILB in the league.

Plus, I see Timmons rushing the passer from the inside, not Spence. Spence would eb out in space. And, because eh can cover so much ground and has such great instincts, Timmons would be free to rush the passer at will.

But, if Spence is indeed sent, like a safety (i.e. Tory), he would simply find the hole or better yet, elude the linemen. If one is not touched by a linemen, then one does not get stale-mated.

I hear your concerns, but the kid was great in college... and his size did not affect him then. Of course, NFL players are much bigger & stronger, but I have faith in Spence (to elude those pesky linemen).

El-Gonzo Jackson
02-13-2013, 06:06 PM
Im not writing him off, Im just not sold on him being the 1st and 2nd down run stuffer just yet.....


I could definitely see him getting the snaps over Foote when we have the other team in obvious passing situations

NFL isnt about 1st and 2nd down run all the time. Foote is declining fast and a poor run defender. Sean Spence will not be the strongside ILB if he makes the starting lineup, which will likely see Timmons move to that position.

This is all contingent on his recovery from injury anyways. I thought the Steelers should have drafted James Michael Johnson from Nevada last year, but they liked Spence for his on field production, which was outstanding. If he is back, I think we have another position covered, but if the injury was too bad, then we need to look in the draft or free agency.

VaDave
02-14-2013, 07:47 AM
In our defense, as the DL goes, so does our LBs. When the DL is doing it's job our LBs look a whole lot better. I'm not exaclty convinced our DL was that great last year, especially against zone blocking systems.

As for Spence, he's 6'1" and runs a 4.6. Tall TEs like Gronk and Pita will not only have a speed advantage, but also a major height advantage. I'll agree Foote was lacking is pass coverage, as that's never been his strong suit, and he hasn't improved with age for sure.

Spence is looking more like a David Little/ Sam Mills ILB clone

MeanGee2047
02-14-2013, 07:59 AM
More worried about injuries this coming season...they have to look at upgrading conditioning....

teegre
02-14-2013, 08:08 AM
In our defense, as the DL goes, so does our LBs. When the DL is doing it's job our LBs look a whole lot better. I'm not exaclty convinced our DL was that great last year, especially against zone blocking systems.

As for Spence, he's 6'1" and runs a 4.6. Tall TEs like Gronk and Pita will not only have a speed advantage, but also a major height advantage. I'll agree Foote was lacking is pass coverage, as that's never been his strong suit, and he hasn't improved with age for sure.

Spence is looking more like a David Little/ Sam Mills ILB clone

Jerry Rice ran a 4.7.

I watched quite a few games of Spence in college, and what can't be undervalued is that he does not take a wrong step AND he's the first player to move (like how Troy just seems to "know" where the play is going to go).

I've seen fast LBs take an initial wrong step, and then they HAVE to use their speed to make up for running the wrong way. Likewise, a lot of LBs have to watch a full second of a play before they can react. Spence takes the correct first step (.5 seconds in his favor) and, as already mentioned, he reacts at the snap (1 second advantage)... totally nearly a second & a half of him running towards the play.

Height: I'd rather have a guy in the right position (right next to the TE) than a tall guy who is five feet away.

VaDave
02-14-2013, 08:30 AM
I hear ya and could be wrong. Sure hope so because we are going to need this kid to play big.

El-Gonzo Jackson
02-14-2013, 08:10 PM
In our defense, as the DL goes, so does our LBs. When the DL is doing it's job our LBs look a whole lot better. I'm not exaclty convinced our DL was that great last year, especially against zone blocking systems.

As for Spence, he's 6'1" and runs a 4.6. Tall TEs like Gronk and Pita will not only have a speed advantage, but also a major height advantage. I'll agree Foote was lacking is pass coverage, as that's never been his strong suit, and he hasn't improved with age for sure.

Spence is looking more like a David Little/ Sam Mills ILB clone

The Jonathan Vilma comparison is the natural. The projection by some that we should draft Arthur Brown from Kansas St is one that I find funny. Basically, the same height, size and tools as Spence. Why draft Brown this year if Spence is already on the roster??

VaDave
02-17-2013, 09:39 PM
Well for one, he's got this problem with having 90% his knee rebuilt and may not be ready to go when the season starts.... other than that..

I'd forgotton about Vilma, but remember Little and Mills quit well......neither of those two were much of a liability

Steelers5895
02-18-2013, 08:25 AM
anyone still want to beat their chest and claim we had the #1 defense?

harrison'samonster
02-18-2013, 08:27 AM
anyone still want to beat their chest and claim we had the #1 defense?

we did have high rankings on the defensive side of the ball this season. not sure what your point is

steelfury02
02-18-2013, 08:31 AM
again - the rankings are great - and, I got pretty sick to hear Ike Taylor on NFL Access highlighting that fact (as did Ryan Clark) - and, while that's great you don't give up a lot of yards on the ground or through the air - you also didn't get to the QB or steal the ball. That has to change.

How any of them could look at 8-8 and say "but, looky at this" is beyond me. Notice how we haven't heard a peep out of anyone on the O side of the ball.

Hmmm, wonder why?

harrison'samonster
02-18-2013, 08:46 AM
again - the rankings are great - and, I got pretty sick to hear Ike Taylor on NFL Access highlighting that fact (as did Ryan Clark) - and, while that's great you don't give up a lot of yards on the ground or through the air - you also didn't get to the QB or steal the ball. That has to change.

How any of them could look at 8-8 and say "but, looky at this" is beyond me. Notice how we haven't heard a peep out of anyone on the O side of the ball.

Hmmm, wonder why?

well, after all is said and done the defense gets paid to keep the other team from scoring. We're not going to be able to keep all teams at 0, but if the D ends up 6th in the league in scoring then they've been pretty successful. Does that make an 8-8 season ok? no. But do the players need something to be proud of? yes they are human.

I'll always remember Kevin Greene after we lost to Dallas talking about the D holding Emmit to some 20 yards. I'm sure he would have rather won, but he was proud of the way they played. Same thing with Ike and Clark, they had an 8-8 season but they can still take some things away to be proud of.

steelfury02
02-18-2013, 08:51 AM
well, after all is said and done the defense gets paid to keep the other team from scoring. We're not going to be able to keep all teams at 0, but if the D ends up 6th in the league in scoring then they've been pretty successful. Does that make an 8-8 season ok? no. But do the players need something to be proud of? yes they are human.

I'll always remember Kevin Greene after we lost to Dallas talking about the D holding Emmit to some 20 yards. I'm sure he would have rather won, but he was proud of the way they played. Same thing with Ike and Clark, they had an 8-8 season but they can still take some things away to be proud of.

I remember that Kevin Green comment - good points - for me though, I am anxious to see some havoc again to put us over the top

So yea, there's that whole other side of the ball:banging: that I've deemed more responsible :chuckle:

zcoop
02-18-2013, 08:52 AM
well, after all is said and done the defense gets paid to keep the other team from scoring. We're not going to be able to keep all teams at 0, but if the D ends up 6th in the league in scoring then they've been pretty successful. Does that make an 8-8 season ok? no. But do the players need something to be proud of? yes they are human.

I'll always remember Kevin Greene after we lost to Dallas talking about the D holding Emmit to some 20 yards. I'm sure he would have rather won, but he was proud of the way they played. Same thing with Ike and Clark, they had an 8-8 season but they can still take some things away to be proud of.

You're right, the D played pretty well this season, our O sucked. It is their job to score points and not turn the ball over, they failed. Anyone who doesn't acknowled this is not worth arguing with.

steelfury02
02-18-2013, 09:01 AM
You're right, the D played pretty well this season, our O sucked. It is their job to score points and not turn the ball over, they failed. Anyone who doesn't acknowled this is not worth arguing with.

little pissy today aren't we?

I'll assume the comment was directed at me since you've replied to some of my other remarks today

If you read my posts like you say you do - you'll remember I've called out the offense plenty of times, in fact its probably a 10 to 1 type ratio over how many types I've griped about the D.

They were great again - and, especially with all the injuries. My hopes are that they find their turnover magic again because I don't see the O living up to their potential based on what I've witnessed - under achieving season after under achieving season,l regardless of who is at O-coordinator

Steelers5895
02-18-2013, 10:16 AM
You're right, the D played pretty well this season, our O sucked. It is their job to score points and not turn the ball over, they failed. Anyone who doesn't acknowled this is not worth arguing with.

its also the job of the defense to KEEP and HOLD leads the sucky offense as you call it, gave them.

hey we are #1 in yards..woo hoo, who cares we blew 5 leads.

harrison'samonster
02-18-2013, 10:24 AM
its also the job of the defense to KEEP and HOLD leads the sucky offense as you call it, gave them.

hey we are #1 in yards..woo hoo, who cares we blew 5 leads.

Fact is we lost those games as a team. The players care about our rankings on D, and a lot of fans including myself care about it. You don't, very good.

Steelers5895
02-18-2013, 10:41 AM
Fact is we lost those games as a team. The players care about our rankings on D, and a lot of fans including myself care about it. You don't, very good.

Explain how in those last drives where a top defense should hold the leads a team loss? The team was in a position to win. The defense holds half the time we make the playoffs.

harrison'samonster
02-18-2013, 10:42 AM
Explain how in those last drives where a top defense should hold the leads a team loss? The team was in a position to win. The defense holds half the time we make the playoffs.

HAHA, you're defense hating is exhausting. That's all it is. If the offense scores more than thirteen against the Bengals we make the playoffs. So what?

Steelers5895
02-18-2013, 11:08 AM
HAHA, you're defense hating is exhausting. That's all it is. If the offense scores more than thirteen against the Bengals we make the playoffs. So what?

I don't hate the defense I just realize its an overrated outdated defense.

harrison'samonster
02-18-2013, 11:14 AM
I don't hate the defense I just realize its an overrated outdated defense.

ok, I'll take your word for it. But I can understand you saying it's overrated based on the fact that it wasn't dominating this season. But saying that it's not a #1 defense is problematic. The fact is it isn't a #1 D. It was #1 against yards, and # 6 against scoring.

But coming out and saying that we lost 5 of our 8 games because of the D, and we would have been in the playoffs if they were better is a little over the edge...

Blacksburg Zach
02-18-2013, 11:24 AM
Look, both sides of the football had some awful games. The defense against Denver, Oakland, and Tennessee, and the offense in the first game against Cleveland, Baltimore, and the second game against Cincinnati. Ben threw game-losing picks against Denver, Dallas, and Cincinnati. Both sides of the ball were awful in the San Diego debacle. Instead of arguing which side of the ball deserves more blame for missing the playoffs, why don't we acknowledge that both sides of the ball need to improve for 2013? The defense needs to improve its pass rush, its ability to force turnovers, and its ability to hold leads. The offense needs to improve the running game, consistency, offensive line, and stop committing inopportune turnovers. I am confident both sides of the ball will improve in 2013, but that might just be because I am a delusional, overly-optimistic Steelers fan.

SteelersCanada
02-18-2013, 11:38 AM
I don't hate the defense I just realize its an overrated outdated defense.

The 3-4 Zone Blitz isn't outdated or overrated. We lost Polamalu (again) and Harrison during the season and still was number one in total defense and pass defense.

Now, the only thing outdated about Dick's ideology is the 'attack the catch' mentality he's maintained. We have a great defense when it's healthy and gelled. The offense had 8 turnovers against Cleveland and we only lost by 7 points which is telling in and of itself. The defense played lights out the second half of the year and, if we had Ben healthy and ready to go, we would've been a force to be reckoned with.

No one is arguing that they were underachieving the first half of the season - they were. But, to say they're overrated and the scheme itself is outdated is a mistake. You don't finish number one and two against the pass and run, respectively, if your defense is overrated.

harrison'samonster
02-18-2013, 12:15 PM
Explain how in those last drives where a top defense should hold the leads a team loss? The team was in a position to win. The defense holds half the time we make the playoffs.

just curious, but which 5 games are you talking about exactly?

teegre
02-18-2013, 12:40 PM
In both the Oakland and the Tennessee games, the offense had a chance to seal the game up by converting a short third down. In both instances, BB missed an open Heath Miller. If those two catches are made, the defense never sees the field (because, the offense kneels & kills the clock).

It is a perfect example of the offense AND defense both being culpable for a loss.

Bad teams point to the other unit (i.e. offense blames defense), but on this team, both sides took responsibility (which is what good teams do).

TheVet
02-18-2013, 02:24 PM
Both the offense and defense need to improve. But obviously, the offense has quite a bit further to go.

VaDave
02-20-2013, 10:25 AM
The 3-4 Zone Blitz isn't outdated or overrated. We lost Polamalu (again) and Harrison during the season and still was number one in total defense and pass defense.

Now, the only thing outdated about Dick's ideology is the 'attack the catch' mentality he's maintained. We have a great defense when it's healthy and gelled. The offense had 8 turnovers against Cleveland and we only lost by 7 points which is telling in and of itself. The defense played lights out the second half of the year and, if we had Ben healthy and ready to go, we would've been a force to be reckoned with.

No one is arguing that they were underachieving the first half of the season - they were. But, to say they're overrated and the scheme itself is outdated is a mistake. You don't finish number one and two against the pass and run, respectively, if your defense is overrated.

This is good assesment of the 2012 season defesively speaking.

LeBeau's D is a percentage D, not shut down. The law of averages rules the day. It's been that way since he was with Philly in the Jaworski era. It's boring, dull and seems completely inept at times, but at the end of the day, the results are there.

If there is a wrinkle that needs to be fixed, and it isn't the 10 yard cushion on WRs, its how we defend ZBS. Our DL, especially Hood's first step is moving away from the center on the outside shoulder of the guard. This makes them suceptible to combo blocks as they are already moving away from the ball. Woodley gets wiped out in the wash, if the Center can get a block on the Buck LB, they got 4-5 yards on a cutback before safety or the mack backer help arrives.

Jacksonville was the first team I remember chewing us up, and now Baltimore uses it to perfection on us.