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Old 02-21-2014, 05:02 AM   #1
Galax Steeler
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Default Steelers run defense needs help but a nose tackle might not be the answer

By Ray Fittipaldo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS — The Steelers once were the NFL’s best run defense, impenetrable to the point that many teams simply chose not to try the ground game. Perennially ranked among the top 10 teams against the run, the Steelers were first in the league in rush defense four times from 2001-12 and finished among the top five teams 10 times in that 12-year span.

The constant for the Steelers during that time was nose tackle Casey Hampton. In the first season without Hampton, the Steelers in 2013 became vulnerable to the run and plummeted to 21st in the league.

That has to led to speculation that the Steelers could be in the market for a nose tackle with the No. 15 overall pick in the May draft — specifically, Louis Nix III of Notre Dame, projected as the top nose tackle prospect.

The Steelers last chose a nose tackle with their first pick in 2001 when they selected Hampton with the 19th overall pick. But in the past 13 years much has changed in the NFL that makes selecting a nose tackle in the first round risky.

“It has changed,” said Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, who is evaluating college prospects at the NFL combine this week in Indianapolis. “It has become more passing, more sub-package defense. Our numbers were close to 60 percent sub-package defense this year. It has increased because of the change offensively, but it doesn’t change the way we evaluate.

“In the 34 defense you’re still going to start with the nose tackle because you still have to get to third down. You have to get to second-and-long. If you’re not going to get that player to help you get to those extended downs then you’re going to have problems, so nose tackle will always be important to our defense.”

But Steelers nose tackles have played much less in recent years. Over the final five years of his career, Hampton averaged 474 snaps per season, or roughly half that of most defensive starters. Steve McLendon, who started at nose tackle for the Steelers last season, played even less, 355 snaps.

If the Steelers take a nose tackle with the No. 15 pick they would project him as playing much more than that. A few nose tackles, but not many, stay on the field for the majority of their team’s snaps. Kansas City nose tackle Dontari Poe, the No. 11 overall selection in 2012, played 1,063 snaps this season, about 90 percent of the defensive snaps for the Chiefs. New England’s Vince Wilfork played about 80 percent of the snaps in his last full season in 2012.

“If you live in the 3-4 the nose tackle is really important,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “I think they like McLendon. The only [nose tackle] they could take at No. 15 is Louis Nix, and you would have to get a certain number of snaps out of him.”

NFL offenses are dictating to defenses and making general managers and coaching staffs adjust. In 2001, Tom Brady burst onto the scene for New England after Drew Bledsoe was injured and led the Patriots to their first Super Bowl title. But in 2001, Brady and the Patriots were not a pass-happy team just yet. They averaged only 30 pass attempts per game.

Over the years, the Patriots have swung the pendulum to the pass more than the run. In 2013, Brady attempted 39 passes per game. He attempted more than 40 per game in 2012.

Brady and the Patriots are not the only team to morph into a high-powered passing attack in the past decade. The Denver Broncos, with Peyton Manning at quarterback, averaged more than 42 pass attempts per game last season. Matthew Stafford of the Lions set the NFL record in 2012 with 727 pass attempts in a single season, or more than 45 passes per game.

This has marginalized the nose tackle to some degree and increased the importance of other positions, most notably edge rushers and defensive backs.

McLendon was a solid player in his first year as a starter, but he plays the position in a different manner than Hampton. At 6 feet 4, McLendon is three inches taller than Hampton and was listed at 285 pounds, or 45 pounds lighter than Hampton, whose nickname Big Snack aptly described his appetite and body type.

Not all of the run defense problems can be blamed on McLendon, of course. There was the matter of rookie sixth-round pick Vince Williams having to start at inside linebacker because Larry Foote had a season-ending injury in the opener. And there were plenty of missed assignments and poor tackling by all 11 starters.

McLendon signed a three-year contract before last season, but he has the skill set to slide out to defensive end should the Steelers feel a rotund run-stopper in the middle is the cure for what ails their rush defense.

And if the Steelers choose to address other needs with their first pick there are a few 3-4 nose tackles projected as second-day selections, including DaQuan Jones of Penn State, Ryan Carrethers of Arkansas State and Daniel McCullers of Tennessee.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/sports/s...#ixzz2twvQ9dlR
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Old 02-21-2014, 05:26 AM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers run defense needs help but a nose tackle might not be the answer

A dominant NT not only helps the run defense. It also helps to free OLB and the DL up. That means more pressure to the QB and an improved pass defense.
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Old 02-21-2014, 06:02 AM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers run defense needs help but a nose tackle might not be the answer

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A dominant NT not only helps the run defense. It also helps to free OLB and the DL up. That means more pressure to the QB and an improved pass defense.
whats the excuse of not freeing up the LBs when the NT is off the field?

NT is not the problem

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Old 02-21-2014, 09:38 AM   #4
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Default Re: Steelers run defense needs help but a nose tackle might not be the answer

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whats the excuse of not freeing up the LBs when the NT is off the field?

NT is not the problem
NT itself is not the problem. It doesn't mean that it can't solve the problem by adding a dominant one.
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Old 02-21-2014, 10:37 AM   #5
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Default Re: Steelers run defense needs help but a nose tackle might not be the answer

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NT itself is not the problem. It doesn't mean that it can't solve the problem by adding a dominant one.
A dominate NT is useless if offenses forces us to take that position off the field(But I agree if its a dominate NT it wouldn't hurt, but that goes for any position) But we wouldn't even be talking about the NT position if our LBs could tackle earlier in the season. fix the LB corp and better DE play beside Heyward the defense will be fine.

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Old 02-21-2014, 10:47 AM   #6
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Default Re: Steelers run defense needs help but a nose tackle might not be the answer

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NT itself is not the problem. It doesn't mean that it can't solve the problem by adding a dominant one.
You didn't answer his question.
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Old 02-21-2014, 10:55 AM   #7
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Default Re: Steelers run defense needs help but a nose tackle might not be the answer

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A dominate NT is useless if offenses forces us to take that position off the field(But I agree if its a dominate NT it wouldn't hurt) But we wouldn't even be talking about the NT position if our LBs could tackle earlier in the season. fix the LB corp and better DE play beside Heyward the defense will be fine.
But this is about fixing a run defense that plummeted from top-5 to mid twenties. That starts with the big guy in the middle.

The 3-4 is predicated on making opposing offenses one-dimensional.

We let a QB run 94 yards for a TD this last season for crying out loud. Teams were able to move the ball against us on the ground this year, and it opened up more possibilities for them in the passing game.

I see what you and the article are saying though-- the emphasis on DT/NT has declined in recent years. But even if he's only going to be on the field for 50% of the snaps-- we saw this season how ugly it can be if those snaps are not effective.

Teams weren't running the ball against us in sub-packages this year. They were gashing us right up the middle on early downs.
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Old 02-21-2014, 11:01 AM   #8
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Default Re: Steelers run defense needs help but a nose tackle might not be the answer

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Originally Posted by BLACK_AND_YELLOW View Post
A dominate NT is useless if offenses forces us to take that position off the field(But I agree if its a dominate NT it wouldn't hurt) But we wouldn't even be talking about the NT position if our LBs could tackle earlier in the season. fix the LB corp and better DE play beside Heyward the defense will be fine.
I think that any one of McLendon, Woods, Hood to play the other DE would be fine beside Heyward. Still a true NT up the middle that takes up 2 gaps is truly needed.

If teams want to go 4 and 5 wide to take a NT off the field that is fine. Anybody on the front 7 loves when they know its a pass and they can pin back and rush the QB. When there is the threat of a run, they have to play it honest.

I really don't understand why fans bitch about having to take a NT off the field, or if a guy only plays 50% of the time. A.J. Green had 98 receptions last season....he makes 6 PLAYS PER GAME . Nobody complains that a WR only makes a significant impact on 6-10 plays per game, yet they whine about a D Lineman only playing 15-20 snaps.

The NFL is all about situational football and if you don't have the right players for those situations, you get exposed and abused in that situation. Last year the Steelers got abused at the rate of 4.3 YPC by opponents and run defense starts up front.
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Old 02-21-2014, 11:02 AM   #9
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Default Re: Steelers run defense needs help but a nose tackle might not be the answer

Couldn't have said it any better myself.
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Old 02-21-2014, 11:04 AM   #10
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Default Re: Steelers run defense needs help but a nose tackle might not be the answer

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The NFL is all about situational football and if you don't have the right players for those situations, you get exposed and abused in that situation. Last year the Steelers got abused at the rate of 4.3 YPC by opponents and run defense starts up front.
Right, but only 2.0 YPC up the middle, or at McLendon. What was the YPC at the right side of the line, or at Ziggy Hood and rookie Jarvis Jones? It'd be interesting to see what it was against the left and right side, or Heyward and Hood respectively.

I realize that it's not just on Heyward and Hood, but with two defensive ends almost night and day talent wise controlling and sealing gaps, it's worth taking a look. Maybe the issue isn't a legitimate NT, it's another End to play opposite Heyward, and giving Jarvis time to develop.
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