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Old 12-24-2012, 04:03 PM   #1
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Default How to Reload - Not Rebuild - This Team

We're treading in unfamiliar waters, here. We're not in the playoffs - we're not competing in the tournament. We're out. It's unacceptable, it's ridiculous and it's just disheartening that we're not going to have the opportunity to play for our 7th title this year. There's been talk around these boards about the possibility of "starting over" and "rebuilding" this team - that's nonsense. We, as Steelers fans, have to realize that we don't rebuild - we reload. We're going to do the same thing this offseason, all we need to do is take the correct steps and we'll have that 7th title next year, but we can't keep going backward. This is how we have to do it.

We Need a New Gameplan

We have all the receiving talent in the world, but we're not using them effectively or in a way that gives us the best chance to win. They're fast, quick and can make a play on the ball - an opportunity they weren't given this year. I understand the need to keep Ben safe and healthy to extend his career, but he's not made of glass - he can take a hit. With the amount of high picks we've spent on this offensive line and their production and improvement, we can afford to have Ben sit in the pocket and find an open receiver somewhere.

Haley's critical error this offseason was making the team - more importantly, the receivers - adjust to his gameplan instead of gameplanning around the talent he already had at his disposal. This team could have easily had three receivers go for over 1000 yards (Manny, Mikey and AB) and Ben could have thrashed and torn up opposing secondaries. Those three, combined with Heath on the underneath and acting as a safety blanket for Roethlisberger, could have been the best receiving core in the NFL. This passing attack could have been top 5 in the league, but instead, we opted to rely heavily on the "Steelers football" mantra and use Dwyer and Redman - often times ineffectively and not efficiently. This was, ultimately, what went wrong with the offense this year. You can pin it on injuries and the lack of a rushing attack - both are valid arguments - but to not use the speed and talent of our receivers was a huge, huge mistake.

We Don't Have a Legitimate Running Back on This Roster - Period.

Here's a riddle: what do Mendenhall, Dwyer and Redman all have in common? No, don't think about it, here's the answer - they're not franchise running backs. The closest one we have has a bad attitude and was benched because of his lack of ball control. Redman and Dwyer are both out of shape and aren't capable or worthy of being a number one back in this league. Ultimately, when it comes right down to it, they're both short-yardage backs that are being used as number one's, which is a mistake. It's time to stop the mantra of "run it up the middle like Bettis!". The amount of frustration and anger that brings me when people say that can't typed into words - we don't need another Jerome Bettis. This isn't 2005, we need a running back like LeSean McCoy or Adrian Peterson. Someone that has the ability to play 'smashmouth' (for lack of a better word) but has the speed, talent and ability to bounce it outside and make a big play when we need it most. Jonathan Dwyer, or Captain 3 yards, isn't capable of bouncing it outside. He's out of shape and inconsistent at best and lacks the ability to make any big plays. Sure, he had a couple of 100 yard games but hadn't done anything before or after these games.

We need to acquire one via trade, free agency or the draft. I'm not talking about trading for a Shonn Greene, either. Someone like Ben Tate from the Texans or Knile Davis through the draft would at least give us someone that can make a play - something we're lacking desperately right now. Ben didn't have a running back all year that he could confidently say 'this guy will make it 2nd-and-6' on first down. How many times early on in the year did Ben have to make magic happen on third down to extend a drive? How many times did Ben have to scramble, pump fake (usually three times) and then scramble again to find someone 15 yards down field on 3rd-and-8 to extend a drive? A legitimate running back wouldn't force Ben to make magic and have to pull a David Copperfield in order to extend a drive three times.

Get Rid of Dead Weight ...

We have guys on this defense that are one of three things: a) underachieving, b) are too old to contribute or c) playing beyond their level and overachieving.

All 11 guys, and most second-stringers too, can be lumped into that category. Guys like Troy, Harrison, Hampton and Keisel can be lumped into multiple categories - neither of them are good. The lack of leadership with those guys on the roster is inexcusable. What are they on the roster for if they aren't providing that voice in the locker room to help the younger guys develop and spark the team? What, exactly, are they doing on this roster? Their play this year didn't earn them a roster spot - their name did. They were outplayed, and often quite obviously, by the younger guys on the roster. Troy didn't get a pick or forced fumble all year long and often times, wasn't affecting the play or forcing the quarterback to look another way just by his presence. They weren't scared of him like they were a few years back and it's showing. Harrison, Hampton and Keisel generated very little pressure all year long and their ages are showing through as well. It's been so disappointing to see Harrison fall so far in just a single year after the decade of solid, ass-kicking play he's had. It's time for these guys to set off for greener pastures.

These guys have been excellent for a decade, but their play has fallen off enough for younger guys to get their shot. It's been fun, guys. You'll always be respected around Steeler Nation, but it's time to watch the younger guys play from the comfort of your own home.

... and Let the Younger Guys Play

It's time for the younger guys to play. Heyward, McLendon and Allen have played like their ready for primetime this year. Every time McLendon was on the field he was disrupting the offensive line. He was driving them back and forcing double coverage on almost every play. He has two sacks on the year despite playing 1/10th of the snaps that Hampton did which is telling. He needs to be the starting defensive tackle on the line this year.

Cameron Heyward has been steadily improving as well. He hasn't lived up to his billing as a first round pick, but he hasn't been given the opportunity to do so. He's generated decent pressure on the field, more-so than Keisel did on a consistent basis. He needs to be plugged into the defensive line next year to have our line look something like ..

Heyward - McLendon - Hood

... which can generate pressure, command double-teams and free up guys like LaMarr Woodley on the outside. If this is indeed our defensive line, it'll be solid for many years to come.

We Need to Have the Best Draft in a Decade

This one is perhaps the most important. Not only can we not miss a single pick in the first five rounds, we need those guys to start. Immediately. OLB, FS, SS, ILB and RB - in that order. The defensive talent in this class is un-freaking-believable and it's time to take advantage of that. If we draft correctly and let our younger guys play, we can reload this defense in a single draft. We won't have to worry about positions such as CB until the 2014 draft and could ultimately ease us into the idea that Taylor isn't going to be around forever. However, if we draft younger guys and let them develop this year, we could be looking at a defense that mirrored the 1970's dynasty. Dion Jordan, TJ McDonald, Robert Lester and Nico Johnson would instantly improve this defense and allow the guys we already have (Woodley and Timmons, I'm looking right at you) to play up to their potential. These guys are being used ineffectively in a scheme that doesn't work anymore for this team. Nico Johnson allows Timmons to blitz on almost every down while McDonald and Lester are fast and agile enough to take on TE's and WRs. Dion Jordan would command double-teams in his rookie year, which frees up Woodley to be in a one-on-one situation. I'll take LaMarr in a one-on-one every game, please.

I'm not asking too much, here. I'm asking for us to throw out the book on our "best player available" mantra and decisively pick positions to fix. The infusion of youth on this team will bring us back to a championship. That, I have no doubt.

Change the Defensive Scheme

No more playing 10 yards off the receiver and giving up 8 yard throws on every play. No more Cover 2 on every single down. Let our CBs play press and 'backers get to the quarterback - something they're best at. Implement an aggressive and attacking defense that uses Lawrence Timmons effectively. That has to be the biggest part and change of this defense - let's use our best linebacker effectively. Timmons this year showed why we took him in the first round and played like he did at Florida State. Using him to cover receivers instead of blowing up the offensive line and disrupting the play is a mistake. I can't pin this on LeBeau, though - Foote is just too old and slow to cover anyone in the middle. Drafting Nico Johnson or using Spence fixes this problem.

This is how we have to let our defense play. Stop masking the problems of our defense and settling for the players we have, let's go out and get the correct player and have an attacking defense - one the league is afraid to play against again. It'd be nice to have a defense that knows how to generate turnovers and get sacks.

Be Aggressive With Our Own Signings

We have to resign some of our own free agents. The ones that jump to my mind immediately are Keenan Lewis, Emmanuel Sanders and Mike Wallace. Before the hissy fits start, Mike Wallace is our best wide receiver right now. While he had a down year, he was trying to fit into a system that wasn't correct for him. It was a square peg, round hole type of situation and that was the problem. Mike Wallace is capable of being a great wide receiver who, because of a few drops, is getting demonized and crucified on these boards. If we offer him a 5 year / 52.5 million dollar deal, he should accept it. He might get more elsewhere, but I don't think the total contract money was the problem - it was the guaranteed money which they'll negotiate and eventually come to an agreement on. Mike Wallace should come back to Pittsburgh.

That's all I could think of for the moment. I know it's long and I know it's quite the read, but I hope you guys read it and we can have a logical discussion about it - whether you agree or not. Let's hope the Steelers address these issues and build a dynasty again for us to cheer on next year.

Merry Christmas Eve, Guys.
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