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Old 04-24-2009, 02:18 AM   #1
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Default Defensive linemen difficult to replace

Defensive linemen difficult to replace

By Scott Brown
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, April 23, 2009
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt...s_621870.html#

All three starters on the Steelers' defensive line are in their 30s. Yet, Casey Hampton scoffs at the notion that the clock is ticking on a group that has been vital to the team's success.

"We like fine wine, baby, we get better with age," the veteran nose tackle said. "You bring a guy in, and who is he going to beat out? How many years is he going to have to wait to play if you take him early?"

Even with Hampton and defensive ends Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel entrenched as starters, the Steelers still figure to address their defensive line early in the NFL Draft this weekend.

Both Hampton and Keisel are going into the final year of their contracts, and acquiring eventual replacements for them, as well as for Smith, won't be easy since the demand for quality defensive linemen generally exceeds supply.

"I guess they're like seven-footers or left-handed pitchers," said NFL.com analyst and former Dallas Cowboys vice president of personnel Gil Brandt. "There's not as many around as you would like to have, and so consequently, it's a position that's overdrafted."

Finding linemen who fit the Steelers' scheme has become tougher with more teams targeting players with similar builds in the draft.

Due in part to the success the Steelers have had -- last season they almost became the first team since 1991 to lead the league in rushing, passing and total defense -- the 3-4 has become a defense du jour.

The Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos are making the transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Several other teams are incorporating elements of the 3-4 defense into their schemes for this season.

"As more teams play a 3-4 defense," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said, "there will be an increasing demand on that body type, and that is no secret. They're not hard to find, but they are scarce."

Adding to the difficulty of drafting linemen that can make a successful transition to the NFL: the fact that most college teams play a 4-3 defense.

That means ends in a 3-4 defense either played tackle in college or bulked up considerably when they got to the NFL, as Smith did after the Steelers took him in the fourth round of the 1999 draft.

One prospect who falls into the former category is Southern Cal's Fili Moala.

Projected as a late first-round or early second-round pick, the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Moala has the size to play right away as an end in a 3-4 defense. But there will be an adjustment if he gets taken by a team that plays a 3-4 defense since Moala played inside at Southern Cal.

"I think the hardest transition is learning the defense," Moala said. "I don't think the technique is any different. It's basically the same stuff, get off on the ball, use your hands, get separation and locate the ball and just doing it from a wide stance."

If it takes a certain body type to handle constant double teams in a 3-4 defense, linemen also must apply a blue-collar mentality to the position.

"They kind of do the dirty work," Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. "They have to take a lot of satisfaction from the accomplishment of the defense but really that's what team football is anyhow. It's certainly a different role in the 3-4 than it is in the 4-3."

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.
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Old 04-24-2009, 07:27 AM   #2
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Default Re: Defensive linemen difficult to replace

How long has Smith got left on his contract I would hate to see him go!!!
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Old 04-24-2009, 10:39 AM   #3
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Default Re: Defensive linemen difficult to replace

Three DE's that I am interested in:

Will Johnson from Michigan ...6'5 290lbs. (set a record with 47 reps on the bench press)...Michigans used him as a DT...so he didnt put up huge numbers but I think his ceiling his VERY high...might be a late 4th or 5th rounder.

Zach Potter from Nebraska... he is 6'7 and 285 lbs....In 2008 he had 12 TFL, 5.5 sacks, seven passes broken up and two interceptions. May need a year or two in an NFL weight lifting program but worth a shot in the late rounds.

Pannel Egboh from Stanford... 6'6 277lbs..... Hampered by a knee sprain this last year, he could be a valuable backup and learn behind Smith for a year. 5th-6th rounder.
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Old 04-24-2009, 10:50 AM   #4
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Default Re: Defensive linemen difficult to replace

That's what I'm hoping...find a guy who's not a marquee name but can ball, and bring him along with mentoring. If we face some injuries, we have depth and get the young guy(s) some experience, but hope that the DL holds up for another year until we can properly groom their replacements.
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Old 04-24-2009, 11:19 AM   #5
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Default Re: Defensive linemen difficult to replace

Will Johnson from Michigan is my pick!
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Old 04-24-2009, 11:25 AM   #6
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Default Re: Defensive linemen difficult to replace

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Will Johnson from Michigan is my pick!
I have this guy in my draft...would love to see him in black & gold!
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Old 04-24-2009, 11:30 AM   #7
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Default Re: Defensive linemen difficult to replace

I remember stating that for those in the Steeler Nation , that are all for letting " BIG SNACK " leave , you may want to rethink. It seems he may be gearing up for the "BIG CHECK " ,If we can find a way to keep him ,oooooooooohhh buddy.
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Old 04-24-2009, 11:44 AM   #8
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Default Re: Defensive linemen difficult to replace

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I remember stating that for those in the Steeler Nation , that are all for letting " BIG SNACK " leave , you may want to rethink. It seems he may be gearing up for the "BIG CHECK " ,If we can find a way to keep him ,oooooooooohhh buddy.
If he's getting ready to ask for 4 years and $42 million ... well, that's why God invented the franchise tag.
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Old 04-24-2009, 12:21 PM   #9
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Default Re: Defensive linemen difficult to replace

I believe he is at the least worth an effort to secure at least 2 years. He is not a weight ,he is an anchor.

Last edited by billybob; 04-24-2009 at 12:24 PM. Reason: if you think our defense would be the same without him , you may be mistaken.
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Old 04-24-2009, 12:29 PM   #10
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Default Re: Defensive linemen difficult to replace

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If he's getting ready to ask for 4 years and $42 million ... well, that's why God invented the franchise tag.
And next season we can use the Frachise tag and transition tag.

I'd love to see Tony Hills progress to where he can play LT in 2010, let Starks go and instead tag Hampton, while we draft a DE to replace the probably departing Keisel.
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