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Old 06-17-2007, 06:39 AM   #1
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Default Steelers embrace evolution on defense

By Mike Prisuta
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Mercifully, the Steelers finally have broken ranks and have five weeks or so to exhale before reuniting in Latrobe. There's a lot to ponder between now and training camp at St. Vincent College.
The Steelers have become a much different team than the one that beat Cincinnati in overtime in Bill Cowher's final game on New Year's Eve, although not quite in the manner that initially was expected.
The defense, somewhat surprisingly, has remained committed to the 3-4, but radical alterations have nonetheless taken place under Mike Tomlin. It's not a switch to the 4-3 that has turned things upside down, but the adaptation of an apparent anything-goes approach on third down.

And the offense, which seemed in line for a complete makeover upon new coordinator Bruce Arians' declaration that he's a "three-tight end guy," has been simplified rather than revolutionized. The most intriguing development is what's happening on defense.
It seemed innocent enough when Brett Keisel spoke in late April during the first of two minicamps about the Steelers' intention to experiment with him as an Adalius Thomas-type rover.
But by the conclusion of the organized team activities last week, Keisel wasn't the only one jumping around on defense. Rian Wallace was doing it. So was rookie LaMarr Woodley. Even veteran defensive lineman Travis Kirschke was getting into the act, and rookie Lawrence Timmons appears destined to do it if he can ever get healthy enough to practice.
It used to be that the Steelers played either a 4-1-6 or a 4-2-5 defense on third downs, and that Troy Polamalu was the only one who had a little pre-snap fun.
Now, it's difficult to tell what the Steelers are doing and whom they're doing it with, which apparently is the whole idea.
"It really does give the offense hell," Keisel said. "We're playing a 2-3-6, a 3-2-6, a 1-5-5, all kinds of things.
"We've got a lot of things we're running around with right now. It's been really exciting watching them unfold, and watching (defensive coordinator Dick) LeBeau's wizardry come through."
LeBeau apparently has advanced from master strategist to mad scientist, at least in obvious passing situations.
His wizardry includes Keisel covering receivers, such as Nate Washington, on occasion.
Call it the Baltimore factor.
"I think the whole league saw that," Keisel said of the Baltimore Ravens' ability to disguise, deceive and destroy on defense. "It's gonna be cool. I hope we run it a lot."
Those running the Steelers' offense suddenly have much less to digest.
"When you had five coordinators' offenses in the playbook, it can be like Chinese," Arians said. "It was hard for me to learn it when I came here. I'd see something and ask, 'Why would we call that?' Well, that's what we called when so-and-so was the offensive coordinator.
"Bill (Cowher) wasn't going to take some things out of that playbook that he liked. There were things in there we hadn't called in four years, but they were still in there."
They're gone now, the playbook having been thinned in a fashion that might make Kirstie Alley envious.
"Now, a younger player or a 'need' pickup off the waiver wire has a chance to learn your offense and play on Sunday," Arians said.
What'll they think of next?
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Old 06-17-2007, 12:32 PM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers embrace evolution on defense

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"We're not going to turn our backs on him," Ward said. "We're going to treat him like our brother. We're going to accept him back and be very supportive of him and help him get through this. In this locker room, he's still our quarterback."
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Old 06-17-2007, 12:37 PM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers embrace evolution on defense

I'm just shocked that Rian Wallace was mentioned in the article...Since he has been in the NFL the only thing he has done was that INT he ran back for a TD against the Chiefs....Thats what I didn't understand why these young guys didn't get more playing time...Now I'm not saying Rian Wallace is a great player. But how do we know what kind of player he is if he doesn't get any playing time?
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Old 06-17-2007, 12:46 PM   #4
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I'm just shocked that Rian Wallace was mentioned in the article...Since he has been in the NFL the only thing he has done was that INT he ran back for a TD against the Chiefs....Thats what I didn't understand why these young guys didn't get more playing time...Now I'm not saying Rian Wallace is a great player. But how do we know what kind of player he is if he doesn't get any playing time?
I would like to see rian wallace getting some playing time, maybe his INT for a TD was a lucky shot against an already worn down offense, but if he can do more like that he'll be a great backup and possibly something more in the future
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Old 06-17-2007, 12:50 PM   #5
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Default Re: Steelers embrace evolution on defense

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Now I'm not saying Rian Wallace is a great player. But how do we know what kind of player he is if he doesn't get any playing time?
i think alot of people have written him off. i just look at him following the same path that chris hope, townsend, harrison, keisel, and larry foote did.

we havent seen him make repeated mistakes in games, and for all we know we could have the next mike vrabel under our noses. its good to see the slates wiped clean and players like this having a chance to prove themselves.

if a coach like arians found the playbook hard to learn it makes sense why rookies (and even players like davenport) have been taking several years to catch on. ben should feel alot more comfortable along with players such as washington and holmes.
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Old 06-17-2007, 12:55 PM   #6
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Default Re: Steelers embrace evolution on defense

When you got players like Farrior and Foote sitting in his way, its kinda hard for him to get a starting job. Foote keeps improving and I doubt anyone takes Farriors spot until he retires. Rian has been grooming nicely and I also would like to see him get some more time.
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Old 06-17-2007, 12:59 PM   #7
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Default Re: Steelers embrace evolution on defense

The strenght of this team will definitely be on the defensive side of the ball. Top 5 finish is what I expect. No hundred yard rushers all season i can see that happening too. I'm also thinking a breakout year from one of our starting corners (B-Mac w/7int's, Ike w/5int). The talent is there and once they get coached up properly i can see this actually occurring. But what i really see is the D in the top 5 in sacks that will be the key.
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Old 06-17-2007, 01:06 PM   #8
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Default Re: Steelers embrace evolution on defense

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When you got players like Farrior and Foote sitting in his way, its kinda hard for him to get a starting job. Foote keeps improving and I doubt anyone takes Farriors spot until he retires. Rian has been grooming nicely and I also would like to see him get some more time.
I understand that and I agree....But just like the OLBs Cowher played his starters for the most part the whole game...Why not put the youngs guys in at times and keep the starters fresh? Plus last year after the 2-6 start then it would have been perfect to let the young guys get some time....Not saying bench Foote or Farrior...But the best way to find out if players can play in the NFL is letting them get reps during games.....Especailly since James Farrior is around 33 now he might need rest on the bench to keep him fresher late in games or the season...
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Old 06-17-2007, 01:10 PM   #9
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Default Re: Steelers embrace evolution on defense

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i think alot of people have written him off. i just look at him following the same path that chris hope, townsend, harrison, keisel, and larry foote did.

we havent seen him make repeated mistakes in games, and for all we know we could have the next mike vrabel under our noses. its good to see the slates wiped clean and players like this having a chance to prove themselves.

if a coach like arians found the playbook hard to learn it makes sense why rookies (and even players like davenport) have been taking several years to catch on. ben should feel alot more comfortable along with players such as washington and holmes.
Great point about Arians and the playbook.....Yea I agree that Ben,Nate and Santonio should be alot more comfortable with the playbook trimmed down....Hopefully Ben and the WRs put in the extra time to get their rythem with each other....

I'm not the biggest Peyton Manning fan at all....But the extra work Peyton puts in with his WRs is one of the reasons why those guys are so good.....I would like to see Ben and the Steelers WRs take a page out of the Colts book....
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Old 06-17-2007, 01:40 PM   #10
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Default Re: Steelers embrace evolution on defense

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I understand that and I agree....But just like the OLBs Cowher played his starters for the most part the whole game...Why not put the youngs guys in at times and keep the starters fresh? Plus last year after the 2-6 start then it would have been perfect to let the young guys get some time....Not saying bench Foote or Farrior...But the best way to find out if players can play in the NFL is letting them get reps during games.....Especailly since James Farrior is around 33 now he might need rest on the bench to keep him fresher late in games or the season...
Totally agree. With the new coach we might see that. And it would also give him a good look at the depth in real live action during the season and not waiting for a injury are something occur to actually see the guys in action. And it would keep us more energetic coming near the back end of the season and not so beaten and battered and more healthy and ready for the playoffs. And it would also keep the starters away from maybe a injury are two. But we will have to wait and see how Coach Tomlin runs his games.
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