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Old 04-30-2011, 10:43 AM   #1
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Default Harris: Heyward selection sign of things to come

Harris: Heyward selection sign of things to come

By John Harris
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ziggy Hood. Now Cameron Heyward. Meet the second defensive end selected by the Steelers in the first round covering their last three drafts, which is more of a trend than a coincidence.

Which means it's time to re-read a passage from my column appearing three years ago, a day after the Steelers selected Rashard Mendenhall in the first round despite Pro Bowl running back Willie Parker's monster season of 1,316 rushing yards:

"The clock on Parker's career with the Steelers is now officially ticking toward its inevitable conclusion.''

Parker totaled 1,180 yards in his final two seasons with the Steelers. When the team opted not to re-sign him following the 2009 season, it became Mendenhall's job to lose.

Now, replace Parker's name with Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel. Preparing for the future at defensive end also means preparing to say good-bye.

Not in 2011. But soon. Maybe sooner than we think.

Smith is 35, Keisel will be 33 at the start of next season.

Hood is 24, Heyward turns 22 on Friday. Do the math.

You don't sit first-round money. And, sooner or later, youth trumps experience.

The Steelers drafted Hood and Heyward to be their bookend defensive ends of the future.

"More than anything, it's just a reflection of our willingness to fortify ourselves in the line of scrimmage. ... and just doing a nice job of acquiring some talented, big men,'' coach Mike Tomlin said.

"I told (defensive line) coach John Mitchell get us a nice tackle for next year, and we will be set for about 10 more years,'' defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. "I think you saw steady progress and good contribution from Ziggy Hood even from his first year and last year for sure. I think they are similar type players.''

Hood spent his first two years learning how to play 3-4 defensive end. Last season, Hood stepped up when Smith was limited to the first six games because of a triceps injury.

Tomlin wasted a roster spot and inexplicably didn't place Smith on injured reserve because he held out hope that Smith, who never fully participated in a practice much less a game, following surgery would reward his faith.

It was a sincere gesture for a respected veteran, albeit a bad football move.


Since '07, Smith has had three different surgeries on his biceps, rotator cuff and triceps. No way his body could be expected to respond to game action so soon following his latest surgery. Otherwise, he would have suited up for Super Bowl XLV.

Nevertheless, the Steelers learned something during Smith's absence: Their run defense didn't collapse with Hood on the field.

No one takes on double-team blocks against the run like Smith. Certainly not Hood, who needs to improve his upper-body strength. But Smith doesn't have Hood's athleticism.

Smith is entering the final year of his contract (valued at $4.5 million). It's likely that Hood will continue to start on the left side, with Smith likely being featured on running downs.

Keisel, who has three years remaining on his deal, will continue to start at right end with Heyward looking over his shoulder.

How long it remains that way depends on how quickly Heyward justifies the Steelers' faith in drafting him.

John Harris can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.


Read more: Harris: Heyward selection sign of things to come - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt...#ixzz1L1P2g8UW
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Old 05-01-2011, 07:10 PM   #2
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Default Re: Harris: Heyward selection sign of things to come

I can see Hood replacing Smith soon. Smith is good but Hood played well last year and I'm not confident in Smith making it through another year without injuries. I didn't realize that Keisel is 33 and that we've had him for 8 years. But he only played 5 games in his first 2 years combined. In my opinion he is just now starting to play his best so I would think that he will be with us for roughly 5 more years. Just my thoughts.
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Old 05-06-2011, 09:45 PM   #3
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Default Re: Harris: Heyward selection sign of things to come

Smith probably has two years left and Hood will replace him. Keisel started his career late due to his missions he had to take while at BYU and still has a rather fresh body so he could stay productive another four or five years. Hampton I think will play about the same.

The thing with retirement is that injuries or decline of production lead to a players exit sooner. With the exception of Smith none of our older players are struggling with any of these. Farrior led the Steelers in tackles for like the hundredth time in a row and everyone else seems to be rocking and rolling still.
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Old 05-06-2011, 11:38 PM   #4
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Default Re: Harris: Heyward selection sign of things to come

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I can see Hood replacing Smith soon. Smith is good but Hood played well last year and I'm not confident in Smith making it through another year without injuries. I didn't realize that Keisel is 33 and that we've had him for 8 years. But he only played 5 games in his first 2 years combined. In my opinion he is just now starting to play his best so I would think that he will be with us for roughly 5 more years. Just my thoughts.
hood replacing smith soon? I think he's ready now.
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Old 05-07-2011, 11:24 AM   #5
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Default Re: Harris: Heyward selection sign of things to come

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I can see Hood replacing Smith soon. Smith is good but Hood played well last year and I'm not confident in Smith making it through another year without injuries. I didn't realize that Keisel is 33 and that we've had him for 8 years. But he only played 5 games in his first 2 years combined. In my opinion he is just now starting to play his best so I would think that he will be with us for roughly 5 more years. Just my thoughts.
Hood has replaced Smith....I just don't know how we can pay Smith 4.5 mill when we have so many other contracts to settle.

Keisel will not be playing for us 5 years from now...probably not even 3...just to old..
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Old 05-07-2011, 11:34 AM   #6
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Default Re: Harris: Heyward selection sign of things to come

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Smith probably has two years left and Hood will replace him. Keisel started his career late due to his missions he had to take while at BYU and still has a rather fresh body so he could stay productive another four or five years. Hampton I think will play about the same.

The thing with retirement is that injuries or decline of production lead to a players exit sooner. With the exception of Smith none of our older players are struggling with any of these. Farrior led the Steelers in tackles for like the hundredth time in a row and everyone else seems to be rocking and rolling still.
Farrior is terribly slow...He DID NOT lead the team in tackles and was not even close...He is basically a 2 down linebacker anymore, because of his coverage skills...

Hampton is over paid...You can't tell any difference when he or Hoke is in the game... we had no choice but to pay him because we had no replacement and Hoke is to old to be an everydown player...As is Hampton...

Bottom line you gotta get these young fast players on the field..Mistakes will be made...but the upside is huge...Heyward should get many game reps this year
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Old 05-07-2011, 12:09 PM   #7
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Default Re: Harris: Heyward selection sign of things to come

All of our veterans have given years of hard work and effort to the team but age catches up to them especially linemen past their 30's. I hate seeing our hard working vets retire or move on but this is a business and you got to do what is best for the team always.
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Old 05-07-2011, 01:03 PM   #8
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Default Re: Harris: Heyward selection sign of things to come

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Farrior is terribly slow...He DID NOT lead the team in tackles and was not even close...He is basically a 2 down linebacker anymore, because of his coverage skills...

Hampton is over paid...You can't tell any difference when he or Hoke is in the game... we had no choice but to pay him because we had no replacement and Hoke is to old to be an everydown player...As is Hampton...

Bottom line you gotta get these young fast players on the field..Mistakes will be made...but the upside is huge...Heyward should get many game reps this year
Wow, are you kidding me?

First off, my bad Farrior didn't lead the team in 2010 but he was second and he was second in solo tackles, third in sacks...I can see how he isn't productive anymore.

The Hampton comment classic. If Hampton was so replaceable like you basically are saying, then why is it that people like him aren't a dime a dozen? He occupies multiple blockers and allows the linebackers to make the big plays. Every team would have a Hampton if you were correct.

Ziggy played sparingly as a rookie and if it wasn't for the injuries then he wouldn't have played as much this season as he did. Look down the line at our "young" guys and they don't get on the field early, that is not how we do things.

Keisel, Ike, Hines, Rashard and the list goes on. Let them play sparingly for a year or two and then let them go. Has worked for years and I don't think that will change soon.
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Old 05-07-2011, 02:35 PM   #9
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Default Re: Harris: Heyward selection sign of things to come

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Wow, are you kidding me?

First off, my bad Farrior didn't lead the team in 2010 but he was second and he was second in solo tackles, third in sacks...I can see how he isn't productive anymore.

The Hampton comment classic. If Hampton was so replaceable like you basically are saying, then why is it that people like him aren't a dime a dozen? He occupies multiple blockers and allows the linebackers to make the big plays. Every team would have a Hampton if you were correct.

Ziggy played sparingly as a rookie and if it wasn't for the injuries then he wouldn't have played as much this season as he did. Look down the line at our "young" guys and they don't get on the field early, that is not how we do things.

Keisel, Ike, Hines, Rashard and the list goes on. Let them play sparingly for a year or two and then let them go. Has worked for years and I don't think that will change soon.
Don't get me wrong Farrior has served us well and if every down was a run he probably have a few more years and i mean a few....bottom line 36 year olds lose their legs...

Hampton was once as you said not anymore.....you could tell NO difference when Hoke was playing or Hampton...

You proved my point...If not for injuries Ziggy would not have played much....But once he did, he was on the field for a few games he was fine....

Our Defensive line has been solid....But painfully slow and add Farrior to that mix and it is that much worse....you know the difference Timmons makes because of his youth and speed...Maybe ziggy can't take up two blockers (cough cough) as well as Smith but he is much more athletic.
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Old 05-07-2011, 04:44 PM   #10
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Default Re: Harris: Heyward selection sign of things to come

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Don't get me wrong Farrior has served us well and if every down was a run he probably have a few more years and i mean a few....bottom line 36 year olds lose their legs...

Hampton was once as you said not anymore.....you could tell NO difference when Hoke was playing or Hampton...

You proved my point...If not for injuries Ziggy would not have played much....But once he did, he was on the field for a few games he was fine....

Our Defensive line has been solid....But painfully slow and add Farrior to that mix and it is that much worse....you know the difference Timmons makes because of his youth and speed...Maybe ziggy can't take up two blockers (cough cough) as well as Smith but he is much more athletic.
Even with the "aliments" we still went to yet another Super Bowl and the guys have enough in them to make another run at it.
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