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Old 08-03-2008, 09:59 PM   #1
tony hipchest
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Default Kirwan- "...If all goes well, this team can win 12 games and the division."

gotta love pat kirwan. totally unbiassed, and sees thing for how they really are -

http://www.nfl.com/news/story;jsessi...o&confirm=true

Quote:
LATROBE, PA. -- It's always a pleasure to make a camp tour stop at the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers. There were close to 4,000 loyal fans from all over the country at the full-contact practice I recently attended. As one fan said, "I can't afford tickets to the games so I take my two-week vacation in the summer and get to as many practices as I possibly can, and my kids get a chance to grow up Steeler fans."

A number of teams have tremendous loyalty from their fans but there is something different about the Pittsburgh fans. It's the knowledge of the game, the passion, the history, and in some ways the sense of responsibility to be there for the team. In turn, the entire Steelers organization really cares about the fans.
The question is: Will 2008 satisfy the fans?

[B][The offense is clearly in transition/B] from an "old school" power-run system that attacks with the play-action pass into a spread pass offense with a zone running scheme. The defense, meanwhile, returns all of its starters and most of its backups.

Here are the six storylines that rang loud and clear to me after a day of interviewing the Steelers' players, coaches, scouts and front office executives.

1. Has Casey Hampton's poor physical conditioning hurt this defense?
The key to the 3-4 defense is the nose tackle. The guy over the center must command a double team, which in turn frees up an inside linebacker to pursue the run and blitz the quarterback. Hampton couldn't finish the fitness test and has let his weight get to a dangerous level where he's at risk of injury and a loss of effectiveness. Most of the players think he'll be back and remain a force. Even if he isn't, a few guys referred to backup nose tackle Chris Hoke as a guy who can step in without missing a beat.

Hoke told me he is confident he can do the job, but realizes he will return to the bench when Hampton shapes up. Keep in mind, the Steelers are 12-0 when Hoke plays nose tackle.

Hampton's lack of conditioning is a disappointment to the front office and as one player said, "A slap in the face to Mike Tomlin."

2. Is the new offensive scheme the right direction to take considering the personnel?
As tight end Heath Miller said, "Ben (Roethlisberger) is our best player and the spread offense features our best player." It is clear Big Ben had a big influence on the evolving offense. Two years ago he told me he wanted to do the things Carson Palmer does with the Bengals offense and last year Roethlisberger got to do more of those things. He responded by throwing 32 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions. He looks even better in camp this year.

The addition of rookie WR Limas Sweed has been handled with a quiet optimism, but it is clear that everyone thinks Sweed will be a big factor in the three-wide receiver package this year.

The zone-running scheme gets scrutinized a bit more than the passing game. As one offensive lineman said, "Our linemen were all brought here because we were a power run team and this new scheme doesn't fit all the linemen."

The skepticism could be a result of the loss of All Pro guard Alan Faneca in free agency. He was famous for his pulling ability in the strong-side run game. The void he left has created questions not only about the run-blocking but also about the pass protection.

3. How will the Steelers use running backs Willie Parker, Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore?
Parker was leading the NFL in rushing last year before he was hurt in Week 16 and now he teams up with rookie Rashard Mendenhall. The best description of how the two backs will coexist came from a lineman who told me Parker will own the outside runs, while Mendenhall will dominate inside the tackles.

Linebackers Larry Foote and Lawrence Timmons both told me that Mendenhall is a load on the inside and has good hands as a receiver.

Moore, meanwhile, is adept with the third-down blocking schemes and is also a capable receiver. The run game could resemble a blend of that of the Jaguars and Giants, with each back filling a distinct role.

The only remaining question will be if the Steelers run the ball enough to satisfy both players and leave Moore in the third-down package.

4. Can the club fix its special teams problems?
While I was at camp, general manager Kevin Colbert signed Eddie Drummond to bolster the return game. Last year the Steelers were 21st in kick returns and 23rd in punt returns. Even if it is for the short term, the Steelers are counting on Drummond to help.

The coverage units are also an issue. A 3-4 defense like Pittsburgh's should have enough backup linebackers to expect better coverage. One young backer who is drawing some early attention is rookie Mike Humpal from Iowa. Third-round pick Bruce Davis needs to be a factor as well.

5. What should the Steelers do with their offensive line?
During the first week of camp, Willie Colon was the starting right tackle and Max Starks was working with the second offense. This despite the fact that Starks was told he was competing for the starting spot. I asked Starks how many reps he has taken with the starters and his answer was zero. He thought that would soon change. Keep in mind, the Steelers put a transition tag on Starks, giving him a salary equaled to the top 10 offensive linemen in the NFL.

The left guard spot is still a question mark since Faneca's departure. Chris Kemoeatu was supposed to get the first shot at it, but with him being hurt, backup center Sean Mahan is getting the work. After watching the line at practice, I could make a case that the best candidate to replace Faneca is Colon. As one former Steeler lineman revealed at practice, "Willie is as mean or meaner than Faneca and plays a tough brand of football." Colon indicated to me that he would have no problem shifting inside.
Expect Pittsburgh to shuffle people around in the next ten days, looking for the right combination.

6. Who will start at the inside linebacker spots?
The most heated battle on defense is at inside linebacker as Larry Foote tries to hold off second-year player Lawrence Timmons. Don't be too quick to pencil Timmons into the starting lineup -- after talking to Foote it's clear he is not going to quietly surrender his spot in the lineup.

As Foote said, "We are moving quickly with our installation of defenses and I know all of the calls from being out there and I'm playing fast."

Timmons has an edge to him and is focused on overtaking Foote, but it's not going to be easy. As I left camp I got the feeling Foote would be the opening-day starter.

Final analysis
The Steelers know the Cleveland Browns are getting better, but they remain confident they will defend their division title.

Every team has a lack of depth at certain positions and the Steelers are no exception. Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel have to stay healthy on the defensive line, safety Troy Polamalu must avoid the injuries that plagued him last year and the offensive line has to protect Roethlisberger better than it did last season.

If all goes well, this team can win 12 games and the division, but the Browns may be closer than the Steelers realize.
lots of great talking points after a week of camp.

i believe it was max starks who had the bolded quote in section 2. kinda explains why hes bought in, and came to camp much slimmer (as opposed to faneca practically tornadoing the whole unit last season).

hoke could be one of our best back-ups on the roster.

kirwan has known colon since HS and had beatten the drum for him to be fanecas replacement for a while so there may be a bit of bias there.
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Old 08-03-2008, 10:17 PM   #2
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Default Re: Kirwan- "...If all goes well, this team can win 12 games and the division."

Just read it. It was really refreshing & informative 2 the likes of me who R not around.
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Old 08-04-2008, 03:42 AM   #3
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Default Re: Kirwan- "...If all goes well, this team can win 12 games and the division."

nice read.
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Old 08-04-2008, 06:02 AM   #4
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Default Re: Kirwan- "...If all goes well, this team can win 12 games and the division."

Quote:
4. Can the club fix its special teams problems?
While I was at camp, general manager Kevin Colbert signed Eddie Drummond to bolster the return game. Last year the Steelers were 21st in kick returns and 23rd in punt returns. Even if it is for the short term, the Steelers are counting on Drummond to help.

The coverage units are also an issue. A 3-4 defense like Pittsburgh's should have enough backup linebackers to expect better coverage. One young backer who is drawing some early attention is rookie Mike Humpal from Iowa. Third-round pick Bruce Davis needs to be a factor as well.
Hopefully special teams will improve this year.......

Also nice to know Hoke can likely step up if Hampton "flounders" as is evidenced by our 12-0 record when Hoke has played.
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Old 08-04-2008, 08:50 AM   #5
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Default Re: Kirwan- "...If all goes well, this team can win 12 games and the division."

That's one of the most optimistic assessments I've read anywhere about this team this year...certainly more optimistic than 90% of the posters on this board.

I'm a proud "10 percenter"...
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Old 08-04-2008, 09:40 AM   #6
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Default Re: Kirwan- "...If all goes well, this team can win 12 games and the division."

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Originally Posted by revefsreleets View Post
That's one of the most optimistic assessments I've read anywhere about this team this year...certainly more optimistic than 90% of the posters on this board.

I'm a proud "10 percenter"...
im with you.

kirwan is less sensasionalistic and not quite as "the sky is falling" as the pgh media. when they say there is a gaping hole or serious problem with the team, i usually take it worth a grain of salt. now if kirwan (who isnt trying to sell papers) says it, my ears will perk up.

ive been thinking about colon to LG (im almost sure it was tunch ilkin who gave the quote that colon was meaner than faneca) and it does make some sense.

thoretically we want our 5 best linemen protecting ben. while "best" is subjective, theres no arguing who our most experienced linemen are.

smith, simmons, and hartwig are the 3 best and most experinced at their position. lock em in. thinking about the heat simmons has taken, he had two 1st time starters on both sides of him, while learning a new system. and they say cohesion is underrated.

starks may not be that good but he does have the most starts at RT making him the most experienced at that position. that leaves colon out, but too good to ride the pine as he is arguably one of our best 5 linemen.

that leaves him, mahan, and kemo. kemo has always been a back-up with just 2 career starts i believe. mahan has as many starts as colon but they were considered poor, and at center.

if colon is to be our future (it definitely isnt mahan) this is the year to find out. kemo backs up another year, and can be extended next season on the cheap.
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Old 08-04-2008, 09:52 AM   #7
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Default Re: Kirwan- "...If all goes well, this team can win 12 games and the division."

Awww, the video on the link was only a minute long.

I want a 5 minute video of camp like the other teams got :O
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Old 08-04-2008, 10:10 AM   #8
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Default Re: Kirwan- "...If all goes well, this team can win 12 games and the division."

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Originally Posted by tony hipchest View Post
im with you.
I can't wait for a game.

I get tired of all the technical analysis to some degree. I've been out watching a game and there always seems to be that individual who notices something. "hey, so and so missed his block or assignment... someone ran the wrong route"

WTF...Dude....We just scored.
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Old 08-04-2008, 11:23 AM   #9
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Default Re: Kirwan- "...If all goes well, this team can win 12 games and the division."

Great article. Thanks. As long as our O Line can do its job and Ben can stay healthy and play a full season, I think we can do well. :)
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Old 08-04-2008, 12:10 PM   #10
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Default Re: Kirwan- "...If all goes well, this team can win 12 games and the division."

It is so refreshing to read something positive from a media source about the team we all love. Straight-up and unbiased with no sky is falling mentality.

Quote:
4. Can the club fix its special teams problems?
While I was at camp, general manager Kevin Colbert signed Eddie Drummond to bolster the return game. Last year the Steelers were 21st in kick returns and 23rd in punt returns. Even if it is for the short term, the Steelers are counting on Drummond to help.

The coverage units are also an issue. A 3-4 defense like Pittsburgh's should have enough backup linebackers to expect better coverage. One young backer who is drawing some early attention is rookie Mike Humpal from Iowa. Third-round pick Bruce Davis needs to be a factor as well.
This is my greatest concern heading into the season. We were burned so much last season with our ST's from allowing several returns TD's to missing tackles and giving our opponents good field position. I am hoping - praying - that the Steelers can find the (almost) perfect mix and fix an ongoing problem that has plagued the team for several seasons.
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