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Old 04-15-2012, 12:22 AM   #1
mesaSteeler
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Default Is Stevenson Sylvester ready to take Farrior's spot?

Is Stevenson Sylvester ready to take Farrior's spot?

By Scott Brown
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, April 15, 2012

Larry Foote appears to be the short-term solution for the huge hole the Steelers have at left inside linebacker. The upcoming draft looks like the most logical place to find the long-term successor to James Farrior.

But Stevenson Sylvester, who has played primarily on special teams in his first two NFL seasons, is conceding nothing when it comes to 2012 or the 2012 draft.

"I feel like I'm the linebacker of the future," Sylvester said. "I've still got a lot of work to do, but I'm confident I can do this job. I really feel good about this upcoming year."

The player known as "Sly" meets at least one prerequisite demanded of whoever replaces Farrior: that he is undaunted at trying to measure up to one of the more important players during the Steelers' most successful run since the 1970s.

Sylvester's confidence is rooted in the 15-plus pounds he shed during the offseason, as well as the film study that he is convinced also will help him play faster in 2012.

Now, all he has to do is convince the coaches he can play "buck" linebacker at a high level, as well as lead the defense. Doing so will require nothing less than a quantum leap considering the standard Farrior established at the position and that Stevenson has four times as many special-teams tackles (21) as he does tackles (five) in 31 career games.

Foote will get the first crack at replacing Farrior, and coach Mike Tomlin said he expects "Larry to play and play well." But the fifth-year coach is looking for Sylvester to push Foote, who turns 32 in June and is going into the final year of his contract.

"The arrow needs to continue to move up with him," Tomlin said of Sylvester. "He and I have had very direct discussions in that regard. I am excited about seeing his readiness for that."

The Steelers begin workouts Monday at their South Side headquarters, but they won't hold their first offseason practice until after the draft has been completed.

That means they have to decide how much of an investment to make at inside linebacker before seeing Sylvester play a single down, albeit one in shorts. They also have to decide whether they can find a starting- caliber inside linebacker in this year's draft if they don't take one early.

Of the many things the 2012 draft has, depth at inside linebacker apparently is not one of them.

"They're few and far between," said Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com.

The Steelers hosted two inside linebackers last week California's Mychal Kendricks and Alabama's Dont'a Hightower and Hightower's profile suggests he may be the right player at the right time for Dick LeBeau's defense.

Hightower helped the Crimson Tide win the national championship last season, and the 6-foot-2, 265-pounder managed to stand out on a defense that could produce four first-round picks a week from Thursday.

Hightower, who led Alabama with 85 tackles in 2011, is a classic run-stuffer who specializes in shedding blocks and shredding opposing ball-carriers. A consensus All-American in 2011, Hightower has experience in a 3-4 defense. He also has pass-rushing skills, making him a threat on blitzes, and the kind of versatility that the Steelers covet.

"Hightower, I think, could be a star in any 3-4 defense," Rang said.

Hightower overcame a serious knee injury that sabotaged his sophomore season at Alabama. He ran a 4.67 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, answering any questions about his speed.

"If he never got hurt, I think we'd be talking about a top-15 pick," said former NFL scout Dan Shonka, general manager of Ourlads' NFL Scouting Services.

Hightower may be available when the Steelers pick at No. 24 because inside linebackers generally aren't valued as much as players at other positions.

The Steelers also could try to get a linebacker like Kendricks in the second or third round. However things shake out, Sylvester, a fifth-round pick out of Utah in 2010, said he welcomes the competition.

He spent almost two months in Reading, working with trainer John Schaeffer on strength, endurance and speed. The 6-3 Sylvester, after playing at 255 pounds last season, is under 240, and he is in arguably the best shape of his life.

Sylvester is also more comfortable in LeBeau's defense, and that is no small consideration since the "buck" linebacker has to get everyone into position after a defense is called.

If the mental and physical dovetail during his second offseason the NFL lockout wiped out all offseason practices last year Sylvester could alternately answer questions and ease concerns about inside linebacker in the post-Farrior era.

"When I'm comfortable and in shape," Sylvester said, "the game just flows for me."



Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.



Read more: Is Stevenson Sylvester ready to take Farrior's spot? - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt...#ixzz1s5FCQ0Vv
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Old 04-15-2012, 08:28 AM   #2
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Default Re: Is Stevenson Sylvester ready to take Farrior's spot?

I paid close attention to last preseason to see how Sylvester would do at the ILB spot. And against guys who were going to be cut and getting on with their life's work he had no splash plays whatsoever. He did nothing for that matter.

Remember Joey Porter once comparing himself to Jeremy Stevens of Seattle in the Super Bowl by holding his hand way up high and saying "Joey" then holding his hand way down low and saying "Jeremy"? Well that is the difference between comparing Hightower to Sylvester at this point in their careers.

So at this point in time Sly hasn't shown any signs he is ready.
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Old 04-15-2012, 09:37 AM   #3
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Default Re: Is Stevenson Sylvester ready to take Farrior's spot?

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Originally Posted by Kingmagyar View Post
I paid close attention to last preseason to see how Sylvester would do at the ILB spot. And against guys who were going to be cut and getting on with their life's work he had no splash plays whatsoever. He did nothing for that matter.

Remember Joey Porter once comparing himself to Jeremy Stevens of Seattle in the Super Bowl by holding his hand way up high and saying "Joey" then holding his hand way down low and saying "Jeremy"? Well that is the difference between comparing Hightower to Sylvester at this point in their careers.

So at this point in time Sly hasn't shown any signs he is ready.
Though you said you've witnessed Sly not making any "splash" plays" against bums, then 2 years of pro NFL experience (and making plenty of splash plays his rookie season from what I've seen) is lower than a man coming out of college that has played 0 pre-season games, let alone not having one pro OTA yet at this point in their careers? Interesting.
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Old 04-15-2012, 09:42 AM   #4
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Default Re: Is Stevenson Sylvester ready to take Farrior's spot?

He isnt ready at all. We would be better off drafting hightower in the first if he is there or waiting for the second and grabbing burflict. They have way more upside than Sylvester. He needs to stay on the ST and make his splash there.
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Old 04-15-2012, 10:28 AM   #5
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Default Re: Is Stevenson Sylvester ready to take Farrior's spot?

i think we'd be in better shape with Hightower playing ILB, he's a beast and if it hadn't being for the injury he had a few years ago he'd be a top 15 pick for sure imo
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Old 04-15-2012, 12:17 PM   #6
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Default Re: Is Stevenson Sylvester ready to take Farrior's spot?

I like Sylvester's confidence but really, what do you expect him to say? that no, I'm not ready and I'm content to just be a backup?

I'm cheering for Sly, either him, Larry Foote or a rookie is going to need to step up this season and we all know it's hard for a rookie to start in Dick LeBeau's complex defensive scheme.
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Old 04-15-2012, 01:38 PM   #7
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Default Re: Is Stevenson Sylvester ready to take Farrior's spot?

If Hightower is there when the Steelers pick, he seems like the obvious choice; especially since I've seen so many mock drafts with just that happening.

However, don't the Steelers have a (recent) history of not starting rookies on defense?

Unless they broke that trend, it would appear Foote/Sly will split most of the ILB time with Hightower only spelling them (and Timmons).
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Old 04-15-2012, 01:52 PM   #8
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Default Re: Is Stevenson Sylvester ready to take Farrior's spot?

I just want Sly to get a fair shake. As I do our other young players. Especially our young DB's. By fair shake, I mean starting multiple games so they can take their lumps and grow. There's no experience that can compare to the real thing. Then maybe we will know for sure. Sly has been a beast on ST and I have been rooting for him to get playing time since he came in. He surely looks the part.
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Old 04-15-2012, 02:06 PM   #9
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Default Re: Is Stevenson Sylvester ready to take Farrior's spot?

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Originally Posted by Corey_J View Post
He isnt ready at all. We would be better off drafting hightower in the first if he is there or waiting for the second and grabbing burflict. They have way more upside than Sylvester. He needs to stay on the ST and make his splash there.
we would be able to pick up Vontaze Burfict in the 6th lol
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Old 04-15-2012, 04:54 PM   #10
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Default Re: Is Stevenson Sylvester ready to take Farrior's spot?

If Hightower is BPA available at #24 and Steelers go BPA at #24 it's a solid pick.
But Sly has to be given the chance to see if he's the real deal long term.
Enough grooming, the time to produce and show it is now. Didn't Tomlin hand pick him?
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