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Old 12-02-2013, 04:03 AM   #1
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Default Stretch run for Steelers will help shape future

By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Injuries have taken a toll on a second consecutive season for the Steelers. They also have prompted some individual subplots that could have far-reaching effects.

The most significant is the emergence of linebacker Jason Worilds after a calf injury to LaMarr Woodley, but it does not end there. The loss of center Fernando Velasco to an Achilles injury, the continued foot problem that keeps out defensive end Brett Keisel and even an early minor injury to cornerback Cortez Allen could affect jobs and shape the roster for 2014.

Start with Worilds:

He had the best game of his career in Thursday night's 22-20 loss at Baltimore. He had 2 sacks, 10 tackles, 3 quarterback hurries and 1 forced fumble. He has five sacks in the past five games and leads the team with six, one more than Woodley.

Worilds has done some of his best work from the left side filling in for Woodley, who has missed the past three games with a calf injury. With rookie Jarvis Jones drafted in the first round to play the right side, Worilds is making his case for the Steelers to re-sign him or for him to go elsewhere to be a starter when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in March.

If the Steelers do go hard after Worilds, they almost surely would have to move Woodley one way or another. He will be 30 next year and is set to make $8 million in salary and count for $13.5 million against the salary cap.

Velasco's injury is devastating for him now and for landing a fat free-agent contract. It will hurt the Steelers' cause now but could help them next season. He was a godsend for them after three-time Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey was lost for the season with a knee injury on the opening series of the season against Tennessee.

Velasco also has a one-year contract with the Steelers and was working on finding his fortune as a free agent in March after playing so well. But now he is damaged goods and it's unlikely another team will throw good money at him, hoping he would recover quickly enough and return to form for 2014.

Velasco's best course of action could be to sign another one-year contract with the Steelers and serve as their top backup at center and guard for 2014, then try his luck as a free agent in 2015. He would be a luxury the Steelers did not have this season, a strong backup to the three inside line positions.

Keisel left Thursday's game because of his planter fasciitis foot injury that kept him out of the two previous games. Keisel turns 36 near the start of next season and his contract is up in March. This probably was going to be his final season anyway, but the foot injury may confirm that for the Steelers, who made no attempt to extend his contract this year.

If Keisel goes, who takes his place? Cameron Heyward would start, but would the Steelers try to re-sign Ziggy Hood, who also can become an unrestricted free agent in March? Would they go with Al Woods at defensive end or rookie Nick Williams, a seventh-round draft choice on injured reserve? Rookie Brian Arnfelt also has been on their practice squad all season.

Like Hood and Worilds, cornerback Keenan Lewis received no offer for an extension from the Steelers nor one before he became an unrestricted free agent in March, so he signed with New Orleans. The Steelers did not try to keep him because they thought Allen was more than an adequate replacement as their starting left cornerback.

Allen started the opener, missed the next two games with an injury, returned to start two more games and then lost his starting job to William Gay, who was re-signed to play in their substitution pass defenses.

They have deemed Gay the better cornerback and he is signed for the next two years. Allen has one more year to go on his rookie contract, a time when they often extend contracts for good, young players. But Allen finds himself in the same category as Lewis in 2011, playing in sub-packages. Coincidentally, Lewis that season also played behind Gay and moved up in 2012 to start after Gay signed with Arizona as a free agent (after receiving no offer from the Steelers).

So while the Steelers' playoff hopes have dimmed considerably, there remains intrigue in the final quarter of the season and beyond.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/sports/s...#ixzz2mJJ4Cjea
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Old 12-02-2013, 04:19 AM   #2
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Default Re: Stretch run for Steelers will help shape future

Why on earth would Velasco have to be a backup? He's proven to be one of the best starters on our offensive line since coming here. It would be stupid to sit him behind someone on the bench. They should make him the new center and move Pouncey to left guard. We'd then have the makings of a solid o-line with Adams/Beachum/rookie draftee at LT, Pouncey at LG, Velasco at C, DeCastro at RG, and Gilbert at RT. Not a bad way to go IMO.

As far as the d-line goes, we have options. We could start Al Woods at NT or draft someone, slide McLendon to DE with Heyward on the other side and let Hood and Keisel walk. If Ziggy comes cheap, I'd keep him as a backup. If we find a way to keep Worilds and Woodley both and Jarvis Jones pans out, we could even switch Woodley back to a DE as he played that position in college I believe and we wouldn't have to be quite as concerned about his weight issues. He could pack a few more pounds on as a DE, but I can't see a scenario where we keep both Woodley and Worilds right now.

The secondary is a mess. We will be losing Clark and Troy and Ike have lost a step. Allen has yet to fully prove he's the replacement for Lewis and I can't see us relying on Gay long-term although he's played admirably. Shamarko Thomas can hopefully fill a void at safety and WIll Allen has looked decent in his return here.

There are definitely some holes to fill in the draft, but maybe not as many as it appears with some creative adjustments.
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Old 12-02-2013, 05:28 AM   #3
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Default Re: Stretch run for Steelers will help shape future

I agree that Velasco deserves a starting job. Without question we need to keep him given Pouncey's injury history.

On the defensive side I can definitely see Kiesel retiring. He played well this year but at that age it seems pointless to keep him. I am okay with Hood going as well. He never really performed up to the level we are looking for. As Buddha said we could keep him as a backup if he comes cheap.

I wouldn't mind seeing Woodley go either. Worilds seems for real on the left side and Jarvis Jones is still a rookie with a lot of time to improve. Woodley just has too many injury problems and it reaching that ugly football age of 30 and up.

And since it hasn't really been mentioned I think it would be good to start looking for Bens replacement. If not this draft than next. He isn't young and he has a lot of wear on his body. Definitely not a good combination and QB is that last thing you want to have to worry about at the last minute. We need to get someone in and get them groomed.
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Old 12-02-2013, 07:56 AM   #4
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Default Re: Stretch run for Steelers will help shape future

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And since it hasn't really been mentioned I think it would be good to start looking for Bens replacement. If not this draft than next. He isn't young and he has a lot of wear on his body. Definitely not a good combination and QB is that last thing you want to have to worry about at the last minute. We need to get someone in and get them groomed.
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I've been saying we need to pull an Aaron Rodgers-esque move. Except Ben won't pull a Farve and go to the Jets
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Old 12-02-2013, 12:57 PM   #5
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Default Re: Stretch run for Steelers will help shape future

I think our top concerns are CB, S and TE honestly. I think we can let Keisel and Hood walk without a big production loss. I think Allen can fill in fine for Clark (the only thing missing is the chemistry between Clark and Troy). So Shamarko can learn more while Allen replaces Clark, then the Shark can replace Troy. We need to draft a CB with our top pick IMHO, we need a replacement for Ike ASAP, although if we had 2 real safeties playing the safety position instead of psuedo LB Troy then Ike would have the help he needs to not get beat deep. Anyway, 1st should be a CB, 2nd should be a S. 3rd pick should be a TE I think. We need to start grooming a replacement for Heath. Our OL will be fine if Velasco can recover and we resign him. Our DL should be fine. I think JJ and Worilds will be find for the forseeable future. Our ILB corps will hopefully be bolstered with Spence's return (I hope he can return!) and Williams 2nd year, so maybe a 4th pick on ILB. Our WRs are fine, even if we lose Sanders (which I think will happen).
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Old 12-02-2013, 01:18 PM   #6
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Default Re: Stretch run for Steelers will help shape future

If hood comes on the cheap , I say why not resign. Knows the system and hasn't gotten injured where he's had to miss a game yet.

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Old 12-02-2013, 01:53 PM   #7
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Default Re: Stretch run for Steelers will help shape future

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Why on earth would Velasco have to be a backup? He's proven to be one of the best starters on our offensive line since coming here. It would be stupid to sit him behind someone on the bench. They should make him the new center and move Pouncey to left guard.
there's no guarantee that Velasco will sufficiently recover fast enough from his Achilles injury in order to be ready for next season...
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Old 12-02-2013, 02:14 PM   #8
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Default Re: Stretch run for Steelers will help shape future

Yeah, since young guys in key positions seem to be stepping their games up in the second half of the year, my draft priorities look a little different. I say it's secondary all the way now, hell I wouldn't be mad if we took corners with picks 1 and 2.. but I would like a physical WR as well
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Old 12-02-2013, 03:41 PM   #9
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there's no guarantee that Velasco will sufficiently recover fast enough from his Achilles injury in order to be ready for next season...
I hear you, but that wasn't the statement I was responding to. The article states he should sign a 1-year contract to be the top backup assuming he's healthy. Why would he want to be a backup for us when he could potentially be a starter elsewhere? I understand the whole "damaged goods" theory and that teams may shy away from him due to that, but he's a proven solid starter in this league with 2 different teams now and was fairly impressive with us.

Some team somewhere with a porous o-line would chomp at the bit to take a chance on him. The Ravens are a perfect example. They are less than happy with their center Gino Gradkowski and have no other option there at this time. They'd love nothing more than to take a chance on a guy for the cheap and offer him a starting position as they would have nothing to lose. It would also be another chance to stick it to the Steelers and land a guy who could possibly give them information on our offense.
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Old 12-02-2013, 05:37 PM   #10
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Default Re: Stretch run for Steelers will help shape future

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Originally Posted by Buddha Bus View Post
Why on earth would Velasco have to be a backup? He's proven to be one of the best starters on our offensive line since coming here. It would be stupid to sit him behind someone on the bench. They should make him the new center and move Pouncey to left guard. We'd then have the makings of a solid o-line with Adams/Beachum/rookie draftee at LT, Pouncey at RG, Velasco at C, DeCastro at RG, and Gilbert at RT. Not a bad way to go IMO..
I wish we'd take a tackle early since they're so deep in this draft: We move Gilbert to LG, keep Pouncey at C, DeCastro at RG and let Beachum, Adams, and the early draft selection battle it out for the tackle positions (remember Adams was stabbed on June 1st and not able to participate in OTAs or minicamp).
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