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Old 02-17-2013, 07:52 AM   #1
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Default Steelers Sunday Spotlight: The linebackers ... a legacy in jeopardy

By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

No position on the Steelers has earned more fame, produced more big plays, visited more Pro Bowls and graced more highlights films than linebacker.

Linebackers were crucial to their 1970s Super Bowl dynasty when two Hall of Famers, Jack Ham and Jack Lambert, played in their 4-3 defense. An abundance of good linebackers prompted them to add one to the lineup when they switched to the 3-4 defense for the 1982 season and never went back. Linebackers fueled their consistently dominating defenses from the 1990s through now.

So how did the Steelers find themselves in such a spot now where linebacker could be their top draft priority? Those three killer reasons: Age, injuries, underperformance.

First, Lawrence Timmons must be excused from that discussion. Timmons had the best season of his six-year career, was the unofficial MVP of the defense and should have made his first Pro Bowl.

Playing the mack inside linebacker with more roaming duties, Timmons was dominant. He led the Steelers with 134 tackles, 20 more than buck inside linebacker Larry Foote, who was second (according to the coaches count). Timmons tied for the team lead with six sacks, led with three interceptions, had 19 quarterback pressures, forced two fumbles and recovered one.

Timmons was everything the Steelers asked him to be when they drafted him No. 1 in 2007. He's only 26 and he's under contract for the next four years.

Foote also had a good year. He had four sacks, 11 pressures, forced two fumbles and recovered two. He calls the defensive plays, taking over that role from his departed buddy James Farrior. Foote is 32 and a free agent, but the Steelers want him back and there's a good chance he will sign a one-year contract.

The disappointment with the Steelers linebackers did not rest on either of those two inside linebackers, both of whom started all 16 games in 2012. That could not be said for the rest of them.

James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley were a tough combination to beat for several seasons. They combined for 27.5 sacks in 2008, 23.5 in 2009, 20.5 in 2010 and 18 in 2011 when both missed significant time to injuries.

Last season, because of injuries and underperformance, they combined for 10, the same number produced by Foote and Timmons, who are not supposed to be the team sack leaders from their inside positions.

Harrison was held back by knee surgery that was curiously delayed until training camp after the issue kept him from participating in most of the spring drills. He missed the first three games and took at least half the season before he returned to form. He started the rest of the 13 games and tied for the sack lead with six.

Woodley was on fire when he had nine sacks through half of the 2011 season, but since then he has been unrecognizable to the former terror on the left side. His second half of the 2011 season was virtually wiped out by hamstring injuries.

Last summer, he was dogged by a groin injury in camp, and while he opened the season by starting four consecutive games, he never approached the kind of play that prompted the Steelers to lavish him with a six-year, $61.5 million contract during the training camp of '11. He is 28.

A hamstring injury knocked him out of the fifth game of last season, then an ankle injury and then another hamstring injury hit later in the season when he missed two games.

Through it all was a lack of production relative to his status as one of the league's premier pass rushers. He had four sacks, 15 quarterback pressures, an interception and a forced fumble and fumble recovery. Ordinary stats.

The Steelers believe that Woodley needs to approach his offseason workouts with more diligence to avoid the kinds of injuries that have dogged him the past two seasons. He still has great pride in what he does, but must understand that he cannot do it if he's constantly hurt, and all of his injuries have been in his legs and usually involve muscles. He needs to specifically work on his hamstring issues because those can linger -- as they have for him -- if not strengthened.

The coaching staff is counting on Harrison and Woodley for 2013. Harrison's $6.57 million salary could be an issue as the team tries to get under the cap, but the coaches would like him back at right outside linebacker.

The Steelers' top backup, Jason Worilds, had five sacks filling in for Woodley in 2012, but the coaches are still not sure if he would be ready for a full-time job yet. Worilds' past two offseasons were limited because of the lockout in 2011 and wrist surgery last year. Linebackers use their hands more than any position other than quarterback and Worilds was hampered by of his weak wrist.

Worilds is a second-round draft pick entering his fourth season and the Steelers still do not know what they have. He will be an unrestricted free agent next year. It's a big season for him coming up, the way the fourth season was big for Keenan Lewis in 2012.

Chris Carter is another young outside linebacker, drafted fifth in 2011, who got an early chance last season when he started the first three games for the injured Harrison. He started because of Worilds' wrist injury. Carter had little impact in those games; he had six tackles and two quarterback pressures. His season ended after those three games because of a severe abdominal injury that placed him on injured reserve. He has good ability, but he needs to get much stronger.

Stevenson Sylvester is the top backup on the inside but he also has been hurt too much. He was a fifth-round pick in 2010 and was impressive in his rookie preseason and early on special teams. However, he is far from someone regarded as Foote's successor as he enters his fourth year as a restricted free agent.

Sean Spence, a third-round draft pick last year, looked every bit as Foote's heir apparent until a knee injury knocked out his rookie year in the preseason. His injury was severe enough that the coaches will not count on him in 2013.

Another linebacker the coaches believe has potential is Marshall McFadden, who spent most of last season on the practice squad.

Entering the 2013 season, the Steelers' linebackers could look the same as they did in 2012, with, they hope, one big improvement -- that their pair of play-making outside starters stay healthy.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/...#ixzz2LA00uRo2
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Old 02-17-2013, 10:56 AM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers Sunday Spotlight: The linebackers ... a legacy in jeopardy

Good read

An unidentified Steeler calls out Woodley in Ron Cook's column today

"He was awful," one teammate said of Woodley's performance last season.

"He tells us he works out, but we didn't see it. He wasn't in shape. That has to be a reason why he was always hurt."


http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/...otball-675736/

Three possibilities for the source of that quote are 2 vets who may not be with the team in 2013 (Foote or Harrison) and a team leader who is a quote machine for the media (Clark)

I suppose Ben could be the source but he only snipes at Haley

That was one unhappy locker room last season
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Old 02-17-2013, 11:41 AM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers Sunday Spotlight: The linebackers ... a legacy in jeopardy

No. No. No. No. We don't need a broken locker room. We don't need our guys to turn on eachother to the press right now - we're not the fucking Jets. Tomlin and friends need to sit down and tell the guys that this kind of media leak is unacceptable. If there's a problem with someone's play, deal with it in house instead of giving out fodder like that to the media.

As true as what he said might have been, that's ultimately irrelevant. If you have a problem with Woodley's work ethic and/or conditioning, go to Woodley and speak to him.
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Old 02-17-2013, 12:07 PM   #4
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Default Re: Steelers Sunday Spotlight: The linebackers ... a legacy in jeopardy

The draft will be defense and ILB and OLB are pressing needs.

The organization doesnt know if Worilds is ready? well, either put him as the starter and find out or get rid of him to a team converting to a 3-4. If he turns out to be Demarus Ware oh well, he wouldnt have done that here.

Here is what we need to do.

Keep Harrison. Try like heck to restructure or get his salary down any way we can. He looked like the disruptive linebacker he is supposed to be the last 1/4 of the season and is heading into the off season as healthy as ever. Keep in mind he doesnt have the games played others at his age had based on barely playing early in his career.

Track Woodley's off season workouts and if he looks like crap when he comes into camp, he may be the one who gets cut. If I had my choice trade him before the draft before he has NO value if he has a third unproductive year.

Start Worilids over whoever is not back between Harrison and Woodley. See what he has. The thing is if he kills it we will be in the same situation as Keenan Lewis. Finally getting his shot in his FA year and he prices himself off our roster. Why? because we took so long to get him in and he rotted behind our older, declining players

Sylvestor- back up

Foote- Gone

Carter- back Up

Spense- IR all year

Draft in rounds 1 through 3 an ILB who can play alongside Timmons. Find an atheltic, fast ILB who can get to the ball carrier who will make up for his lack of knowledge in Lebeau's complex defense with sheer talent and speed. By 2014 we have a beast next to Timmons.

I would also look at an OLB too. Even if we keep Harrison and Woodley they both wont be back in 2014 and we can have someone wqith a year under their belt to step in. This is the likely 1st or 2nd round pick.

We need to sure up our LB core
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Old 02-17-2013, 12:11 PM   #5
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Default Re: Steelers Sunday Spotlight: The linebackers ... a legacy in jeopardy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steelers5895 View Post
The draft will be defense and ILB and OLB are pressing needs.

The organization doesnt know if Worilds is ready? well, either put him as the starter and find out or get rid of him to a team converting to a 3-4. If he turns out to be Demarus Ware oh well, he wouldnt have done that here.

Here is what we need to do.

Keep Harrison. Try like heck to restructure or get his salary down any way we can. He looked like the disruptive linebacker he is supposed to be the last 1/4 of the season and is heading into the off season as healthy as ever. Keep in mind he doesnt have the games played others at his age had based on barely playing early in his career.

Track Woodley's off season workouts and if he looks like crap when he comes into camp, he may be the one who gets cut. If I had my choice trade him before the draft before he has NO value if he has a third unproductive year.

Start Worilids over whoever is not back between Harrison and Woodley. See what he has. The thing is if he kills it we will be in the same situation as Keenan Lewis. Finally getting his shot in his FA year and he prices himself off our roster. Why? because we took so long to get him in and he rotted behind our older, declining players

Sylvestor- back up

Foote- Gone

Carter- back Up

Spense- IR all year

Draft in rounds 1 through 3 an ILB who can play alongside Timmons. Find an atheltic, fast ILB who can get to the ball carrier who will make up for his lack of knowledge in Lebeau's complex defense with sheer talent and speed. By 2014 we have a beast next to Timmons.

I would also look at an OLB too. Even if we keep Harrison and Woodley they both wont be back in 2014 and we can have someone wqith a year under their belt to step in. This is the likely 1st or 2nd round pick.

We need to sure up our LB core
Sounds like Sean Spence.
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Old 02-25-2013, 11:17 PM   #6
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Default Re: Steelers Sunday Spotlight: The linebackers ... a legacy in jeopardy

Mauti Positive His Knee Will Be Ready

By Jim Wexell
SteelCityInsider.net
Posted Feb 25, 2013



Mike Mauti guarantees he'll overcome yet another ACL rehabilitation in time for training camp. The Steelers are keeping an eye on his progress.

INDIANPOLIS – The killers began to roll through the Combine media room on Saturday: Ziggy Ansah, Tank Carradine, Corey Lemonier, Datone Jones, Alex Okafor.

“Africa pumps out some beasts, man,” said the Nigeria-descended Okafor. And he wasn’t kidding around.

Yep, the Steelers could certainly use one of them. Those are some of the first-rounders.

Another, smaller beast took to the podium a while later. He was more of a mid-round talent, but if he’s anything like the Penn State linebackers who’ve come before him – Jack Ham, Greg Buttle, Shane Conlan, LaVar Arrington, Paul Posluszny, Dan Connor, Cameron Wake, Tamba Hali, Sean Lee, NaVorro Bowman – Mike Mauti will play like a first-rounder.

“Penn State pumps out some beasts, man,” Mauti should have said.

Instead, he breathed slowly and intensely into the microphone as reporters continued their long-winded questions about the three ACL tears that have turned Mauti’s early-round dreams into a career-threatening struggle.

“I’ve done this before,” Mauti told the media. “I know where I’m supposed to be at certain times. I’ve come off these injuries before to play at a high level like I have before. There’s no doubt in my mind I’ll be playing at the same level again.”

The son of former Penn State and NFL wide receiver Rich Mauti, Mike graduated from high school in Louisiana a semester early so he could play in every Penn State game as a true freshman in 2008. But the next summer he tore his right ACL and sat out 2009 with a redshirt.

Mauti came back in 2010, made 67 tackles, and then played four games in 2011 before tearing his left ACL.

He returned last season as the starting weakside outside linebacker and made 95 tackles before again tearing his left ACL in the penultimate game of the season. The team, so distraught at losing its defensive captain, eventual MVP, eventual Big 10 Linebacker of the Year, and eventual first-team All-America, posted his No. 42 prominently across the side of its pristine helmets.

“He’s a natural-born leader,” explained teammate Jordan Hill on Saturday. “If you’re walking down a dark alley, that’s the guy you want to take with you. I’m taking Mike Mauti.”

Mauti’s passion, his leadership, was put on display in the middle of the season against Illinois, a team that had made no secret about recruiting Penn State’s players when the NCAA ruled open season on Nittany Lions.

Mauti took it personally. The stories of him smashing his head into lockers before the game are becoming legend. But he did more than that. He intercepted two passes in the game, one he returned 99 yards as the clock was chugging toward zeroes before halftime. It was a play eerily reminiscent of the greatest play in Super Bowl history by James Harrison.

“Except I didn’t score,” Mauti bit off when the subject was broached at the Combine. “Yeah, I knew I wasn’t getting away from that one today.”

Mauti has been pulled from team to team here, just like any other player with a major medical question mark. But he said he’s also been asked about that play by plenty of coaches, who saw the determination Mauti had in scoring.

Whereas Harrison had a tackler to roll over at the 1-yard line, Mauti was downed at the half-yard line by a defender who dove on the back of Mauti’s lower legs.

“You gotta score. There’s just no excuse,” Mauti said. “You go 99 and a half, you’ve gotta get it in the end zone.”

Mauti said “absolutely” he had seen Harrison’s play. After all, he’s a Pennsylvania kid, merely born in New Orleans because his dad was there playing football.

“He was just kamikaze,” Mauti said of his father. “He was just flying around on special teams, throwing his body into people. That kind of mindset was what I learned from. You play the game like your hair’s on fire.”

So it’s no surprise that Mauti’s antennae went up when the opening behind Larry Foote and the Steelers came up.

But can a 4-3 will backer from Penn State play the 3-4 buck in Pittsburgh?

“We played a little bit of that in what we called the penny package when Tom Bradley was there, so I’ve been playing in that situation,” said the 6-2, 243-pound Mauti. “I mean, whether you’re running a 30 or 40 you’re playing linebacker, you’re reading, you get your key, and you find the ball. So I could handle that. Absolutely.”

Mauti has met here with Steelers linebackers coach Kevin Butler. And his latest knee surgery was performed by Steelers orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jim Bradley. Little wonder rumors swirl that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is enamored with Mauti.

“I’ve heard that before, absolutely,” Mauti said. “I’d love to sit down with him. I’m looking forward to seeing him. It’d be great. I’d love it.”

But those knees will have to pass muster, and much of that will be evaluated here. To that end Mauti has contacted Lee, his friend and former teammate who missed the 2008 college season with a torn ACL.

“He talked about being yourself,” Mauti said. “That’s what got you to this point, so no reason to change it now and try and be somebody else. The medical eval’s going to be what it is. You can’t really change that, so the rest is just selling what you are and being who you are.”

Mauti was asked about the feedback.

“I think people understand that I’ve responded to an injury like this. Last year I was coming off an ACL and I had an All-American season, so I’ve proven I can do that.”

Will he be ready for training camp in August?

“Yes,” Mauti said firmly.

Is he positive about that?

“Positive.”

http://pit.scout.com/2/1269453.html
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Old 02-25-2013, 11:23 PM   #7
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Default Re: Steelers Sunday Spotlight: The linebackers ... a legacy in jeopardy

I have a feeling we're going to draft Mauti because of that letter and not based on his talent. Colbert is a sucker for that kind of stuff.
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Old 02-25-2013, 11:52 PM   #8
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Default Re: Steelers Sunday Spotlight: The linebackers ... a legacy in jeopardy

Mid round would be fine with me him.
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Old 02-26-2013, 12:09 AM   #9
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Default Re: Steelers Sunday Spotlight: The linebackers ... a legacy in jeopardy

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I have a feeling we're going to draft Mauti because of that letter and not based on his talent. Colbert is a sucker for that kind of stuff.
James C Wexell ‏@jimwexell:

He guaranteed he'd be ready to go in August. I pressed and he stressed it again. Allows him to fall into middle round.

Feb 23 James C Wexell ‏@jimwexell

Michael Mauti, very impressive, oozed linebacker intensity from the podium, guaranteed 2 be ready for camp, getting interest from #Steelers.

https://twitter.com/jimwexell
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Old 02-26-2013, 12:25 AM   #10
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Default Re: Steelers Sunday Spotlight: The linebackers ... a legacy in jeopardy

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Originally Posted by Hawaii 5-0 View Post
James C Wexell ‏@jimwexell:

He guaranteed he'd be ready to go in August. I pressed and he stressed it again. Allows him to fall into middle round.

Feb 23 James C Wexell ‏@jimwexell

Michael Mauti, very impressive, oozed linebacker intensity from the podium, guaranteed 2 be ready for camp, getting interest from #Steelers.

https://twitter.com/jimwexell
We have to ask ourselves why he's falling. There's a flaw in his game somewhere that is causing it - it has to go beyond his ACL tear. We have to ask ourselves, what would he play? I'd shift him into ILB and draft an OLB in the first round. We can't afford to have our next OLB already be coming off of a severe knee injury - we already have an OLB that is coming off of a knee injury. If I'm being honest, we can't draft any guy (save for Lattimore as every report is saying he's ahead of schedule and rehabbing just fine) that is coming off of a significant injury as in all likelihood, they're going to have to start. A position as significant as OLB/ILB is for next year as we bring in the youth movement, we can't afford to have a guy coming off of an injury and not be able to produce week 1.

Maybe I'm being pessimistic here, I don't know. I hope he's a good kid because it looks like we're gonna draft him.
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