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Old 02-13-2013, 08:45 AM   #1
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Default ESPN Insider: AFC North Holes

Pittsburgh Steelers: Linebacker


It is rare to see the Steelers fall out of Football Outsiders' top 10 for defensive efficiency. In fact, it hadn't happened since 2003, when Pittsburgh held the league's 15th-best defense. In the years between, the team posted five top-five defensive seasons, and any fan can tell you this consistent excellence was sustained by Dick LeBeau's exceptional linebacker corps. James Harrison, Larry Foote, LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons are still a fearsome foursome, but there are major cracks showing through.



Foote is 32, declining and coming off an atrocious season by Pittsburgh linebacker standards. His biggest struggles were in coverage, as Foote allowed 7.1 yards per pass according to the FO game-charting project. The 34-year-old Harrison is also clearly on the downside of his great career. Harrison has indicated he is willing to restructure his contract to stay in Pittsburgh, but the Steelers are strapped for cash and might not be able to squeeze the cap hit small enough to make the numbers work. Like Foote, Harrison struggled in coverage. He appeared more tentative, perhaps in response to concerns about fines. Poor performances by Pittsburgh's veterans were indicative of a unit-wide problem defending the pass. On pass coverage against running backs, generally the linebackers' responsibility, Pittsburgh ranked 20th in DVOA; against tight ends, the Steelers finished 31st in DVOA.



The looming question is how ready 2012 third-round draft pick Sean Spence will be in 2013 after suffering a horrific, season-ending knee injury in the preseason. If all goes well, the team can ease Spence into Foote's role, but in the end that leaves the team with Cincinnati washout Brandon Johnson, long-time project Stevenson Sylvester and undrafted free agents Adrian Robinson and Marshall McFadden backing up an increasingly injury-prone list of starters.



The clock is ticking, and the Steelers must look to restock their cupboard of 'backers in the draft. Some early mocks have Jarvis Jones falling to the 17th spot, but the Steelers would be more than happy with Sam Montgomery or Manti Te'o.
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Old 02-13-2013, 08:50 AM   #2
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Default Re: ESPN Insider: AFC North Holes

I dont see anyway possible Jarvis Jones falls to us at 17. I have not seen one draft that he fell that far.

If he falls to double digits then maybe i could see a trade up, but falling to 17, no way.

Why would a team like the Jets let him get pass pick 9 any way?


Teo at ILB, and Spence at olb?

Dont see us taking Teo either at 17.

Montgomery could be an option but would need to convert to de,


We need a guy at 17 who is going to come in and play right away.

Teo wouldnt with Timmons and Foote Still here.

Whats the deal with Spence and Sylester, Robinson?
I remember Robinson looked real good in pre-season.


I think I prefer Varraco for us at 17. as we arent getting any younger on the back end

I am just hoping for a healthy year all around and it will be a major step towards playoffs
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Old 02-13-2013, 09:29 AM   #3
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Default Re: ESPN Insider: AFC North Holes

Hey great! Talk up our weaknesses all you ESPN guys want! It'll only play into our favor when we have a good season......one of which I think is coming up.
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Old 02-13-2013, 09:47 AM   #4
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Default Re: ESPN Insider: AFC North Holes

I was talking with my dad the other day about our thin linebacking core. I'm worried about them too. We'll see if we can get some productivity out of guys like Worlids, Sylvester and Robinson. Spence is the XFACTOR.
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Old 02-13-2013, 12:40 PM   #5
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Default Re: ESPN Insider: AFC North Holes

Im a little worried about spence's size and durability in run defense

In the games he played in before he got hurt.....he was like Larry Foote Jr

Tried to dance around too many blockers instead of holding his ground and making the opposing RBs hesitate on when to hit the holes

On the plus side he showed great speed and athleticism in his pass defense ability .....He was in on a few pass defenses that were a good bit out of normal LBs range of coverage....very much like Timmons sometimes
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Old 02-13-2013, 12:47 PM   #6
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Default Re: ESPN Insider: AFC North Holes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steel_Bus_24 View Post
Im a little worried about spence's size and durability in run defense

In the games he played in before he got hurt.....he was like Larry Foote Jr

Tried to dance around too many blockers instead of holding his ground and making the opposing RBs hesitate on when to hit the holes

On the plus side he showed great speed and athleticism in his pass defense ability .....He was in on a few pass defenses that were a good bit out of normal LBs range of coverage....very much like Timmons sometimes
I don't think it is/was him or his size. I think it is the "complicated LeBeau system"
that wastes our young talents!
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Old 02-13-2013, 01:31 PM   #7
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Default Re: ESPN Insider: AFC North Holes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steel_Bus_24 View Post
Im a little worried about spence's size and durability in run defense

In the games he played in before he got hurt.....he was like Larry Foote Jr

Tried to dance around too many blockers instead of holding his ground and making the opposing RBs hesitate on when to hit the holes

On the plus side he showed great speed and athleticism in his pass defense ability .....He was in on a few pass defenses that were a good bit out of normal LBs range of coverage....very much like Timmons sometimes
It was only preseason, but I saw Spence moving to the ballcarrier and attacking the LOS. It was only 2's vs 2's, so I dont know how anybody can write the kid off yet. If he stayed healthy, IMO he would have replaced Foote in Week 9 last year.
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Old 02-13-2013, 01:50 PM   #8
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Default Re: ESPN Insider: AFC North Holes

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Originally Posted by El-Gonzo Jackson View Post
It was only preseason, but I saw Spence moving to the ballcarrier and attacking the LOS. It was only 2's vs 2's, so I dont know how anybody can write the kid off yet. If he stayed healthy, IMO he would have replaced Foote in Week 9 last year.
I agree: the kid is a tackling machine... with some of the greatest instincts that I've seen.
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Old 02-13-2013, 01:53 PM   #9
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Default Re: ESPN Insider: AFC North Holes

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I agree: the kid is a tackling machine... with some of the greatest instincts that I've seen.
Let me ask you this, though. Do you think his size is a disadvantage? Picture him trying to go against bigger backs - someone like Trent Richardson, for example. He can defend the pass very, very well and uses his exceptional speed to break up and pick off passes but his tackling against bigger backs comes into question. Our scheme calls for our Inside Linebackers to have the ability to shed blocks and get into the backfield and this is something that Spence lacks dearly.

I'm not as high on him as most people are and I honestly think he's a situational player in the NFL.
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Old 02-13-2013, 02:00 PM   #10
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Default Re: ESPN Insider: AFC North Holes

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It was only preseason, but I saw Spence moving to the ballcarrier and attacking the LOS. It was only 2's vs 2's, so I dont know how anybody can write the kid off yet. If he stayed healthy, IMO he would have replaced Foote in Week 9 last year.
Im not writing him off, Im just not sold on him being the 1st and 2nd down run stuffer just yet.....


I could definitely see him getting the snaps over Foote when we have the other team in obvious passing situations
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