Daily Archives: May 9, 2012

Agree to Disagree – Suggs + Rookies

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Bob and Mike kick around some issues pertaining to Terrell Suggs’ Achilles tendon injury, and then delve into the Steelers’ rookie orientation weekend.

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Steelers’ Ta’amu has kept pounds off

Wed, 09 May 2012 17:23:06

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Talkin’ Running Backs: The Battle Is On Heading Into Training Camp

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Per dollar, it’s easily the Steelers‘ best positional unit.

Pittsburgh has been stockpiling talent at running back, a position that’s become interchangeable in the NFL over the years.

Gone are the days of league MVPs Shaun Alexander and LaDainian Tomlinson. The high volume passing era has led to the stable philosophy, as opposed to the pure prize back.

Because, well, running back is a classic example of the rhetorical question “why have one when you can get two for less than twice the price?”

Injuries become a major factor in a salary cap league. It’s hard to pay, say, Adrian Peterson upwards of $ 9 million guaranteed, only to watch him blow out an ACL. And when he’s one huge part of your offense (read: Chiefs, Kansas City, Charles, Jamaal), you can get into some trouble without having talent in place to keep the ship moving forward in the event (likelihood?) of injury.

Enter Rashard Mendenhall. An excellent all-around back, but the delta between Mendenhall’s highest end and Isaac Redman’s, Pittsburgh’s second running back, is not as high as many other positions.

When Will Mendenhall Return?

In speaking with Middle Tennessee State strength coach Jason Spray earlier this week, he said running back is one of the more difficult positions to predict a timetable for return after an ACL tear. Due to the unpredictable movement necessary for the position (planting and cutting, making tacklers miss, etc.), it’s hard to gauge when he could return. Much of it is going to be about mental strength and resolve as well.

Rehabilitation from an injury like that is painful, arduous and boring. It’s a constant grind. Mendenhall is a phenomenal athlete, but the mental endurance necessary to make a successful return on the earlier end of the 9-12 month rehab process is tough.

I think the Steelers are going to have to plan on Mendenhall not being ready for significant action until at least Week 6 – incidentally, that’s the week after the Steelers bye, and the last week a player can stay on the Physically Unable to Perform list. After that, he must be placed on the IR or released. The Steelers will take as much time as they can to give him a chance to contribute later in the season.

Who will fill his place?

The unofficial BTSC hero, Isaac Redman, of course. But he won’t be a three-down back. The quartet of followers, Jonathan Dwyer, John Clay, Baron Batch and Chris Rainey, going into camp, look to battle it out for two positions behind him. Look for one of them to be cut after training camp and, if he clears waivers, to be placed on the practice squad. Of the remaining three, look for two of them to earn game day roster spots each week.

Each of them comes with a positive and a negative element. Dwyer has the skill, but has struggled with his weight and focus (he’s in the midst of the most important offseason of his career). Clay has 10 career carries (and a touchdown) while spending little time on the active roster, and also had weight concerns, but stepped up last season when his number was called (41 yards and a score in Week 16). Batch is versatile and brings a good combination of speed and strength, but is just finishing an ACL rehab project of his own, and has barely any more experience than a rookie. Rainey is lightning fast and boasts special teams ability, but is the smallest in terms of height and weight, and likely won’t be an option between the tackles.

Any of those evaluations are subject to change, and who stands out among the others depends on the work they put in this offseason.

Is This His Last Year in Pittsburgh?

You never know what a year will bring. As it is, is the most talented running back physically. While neither the scheme nor his overall health in the last few years ever suggested he could lead the league in rushing, Mendenhall has shown he’s capable of being a lead back in the NFL. It always comes down to cost, though, and with Redman set to hit restricted free agency in 2013, as well as the low contract price of the other four, it isn’t likely the Steelers are in a position to give Mendenhall much of a raise.

Most of the decision will be based on his ability to come back from his injury. It doesn’t seem, though, in May of 2012, he’ll be back next season, just based on the price tag he’ll command in free agency.

What happened to Mewelde Moore?

He’s still currently a free agent, and likely was asked by the Steelers to stay in shape in case the need arises. Salary cap issues and the progress of younger (and more inexpensive) players led the Steelers to leave Moore unsigned, but rest assured, the Steelers have him in their minds and will make a move if if doesn’t appear any of them can bring the all-around experience Moore can.

Moore has been relied on for similar roles in the past, and is said to be a favorite of Steelers coach MIke Tomlin. It’s not a stretch to envision a scenario in which none of the younger backs are separating themselves from the pack, so one of them is released and Moore is signed. It’s a scenario for which the Steelers must be prepared.

How Will Todd Haley’s Offense Utilize the Running Back?

If Haley’s teams have been anything, they’ve been fairly different from one to the next. He’s shown the ability to maximize the skill on his roster and use it to the best of their strengths.

In Kansas City, it was the multi-purpose threat of Charles both rushing and receiving. In Arizona, it was the veteran savvy of Kurt Warner combining with the skill of WRs Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Recently, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger said Haley is “all about the no-huddle and using our wide-receiver weapons and throwing the ball and stuff like that.” Seems appropriate for the coach to speak about the passing game to the quarterback, and obviously, the wide receivers will get their share of targets. Look for Haley to incorporate the running back, whomever that may be, to catch high-percentage throws in an effort to both gain something on every passing play possible, and to reduce the number of hits Roethlisberger takes.

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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Steelers Also Chatting with LB Matt Roth

While Brandon Johnson and Dave Rayner are talking to the Steelers, there’s another player in talking to the team today – former Jaguars, Dolphns and Browns linebacker Matt Roth.

In 8 seasons, Roth has 295 tackles and 23.5 sacks. He’s also been a force on special teams over the years as well.

Source: Steelers Gab

Talkin’ Inside Linebackers: A Curious Approach to the Mack and the Buck

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As Jim Wexell pointed out on Twitter Wednesday morning, the report of a trade between the Steelers and the Jets nearly being consummated during April’s draft says, among other things, the Steelers did not have Alabama LB Dont’a Hightower at the top of their board in terms of expected picks.

Had Bruce Irvin not been drafted by Seattle, the Steelers would have moved up to No. 16 in the draft, and selected OG David DeCastro. The Jets backed out of the deal, opting to take the second of two targeted players – DE Quinton Coples – at 16 instead of risking losing both he and Irvin by trading down to 24.

Hightower was eventually taken by New England, and the rest will be history later on down the line.

As it is, the Steelers did not draft a buck linebacker of the future, indicating they’re comfortable with veteran Larry Foote while continuing to groom Stevenson Sylvester for the future.

What Are Some Traits Of a Mack and a Buck Linebacker?

Defensive terminology varies largely depending on the coach’s scheme. In a traditional 4-3 defense, linebackers are commonly identified as Sam, Mike and Will – match the first letters of where they would line up in relation to the offensive formation – strong, middle and weak.

The buck linebacker in the Steelers’ defense is more like the mike – or middle – linebacker. That position holds responsibility for defensive play calls, alignment and communication on the field. As far as between the whistle, the buck is commonly the player filling gaps against the run, along with short middle zone pass coverage.

The mack linebacker is more of a scrape-and pursue defender (partially resembling the role of a will linebacker in a 4-3 defense). He’s responsible for the outside edge, and takes a wider angle to get outside the box and contain the run. A mack doesn’t need to have that same downhill attacking style of the buck, and is commonly more athletic.

What Role Will Sean Spence Play?

Lawrence Timmons is the Steelers’ starting mack linebacker, and LBs coach Keith Butler made no bones about stating third-round draft pick Sean Spence would be a mack linebacker.

What’s interesting about Spence is how much smaller he is than Timmons. Of course, that’s a major reason why Spence was a Day 2 draft pick and Timmons was taken 15th overall. But with Spence, the Steelers add an interesting dynamic to their defense.

While Spence will not be labeled as a safety, I think his future direction is, essentially, one of a roving safety.

Looking back at the Steelers’ win over New England in Week 8 of 2011, we saw the Steelers playing in nickel and dime packages for most of the game. Sylvester left the field, along with NT Casey Hampton, but oftentimes, we saw SS Troy Polamalu down in the box with Ss Ryan Clark and Ryan Mundy playing a Cover 2 shell.

Polamalu was essentially playing the mack linebacker position.

Obviously, Polamalu is going to be effective just about anywhere on the field, but bringing in a coverage-heavy linebacker who can provide at least some run support while getting the most out of the position in terms of coverage seems like a pretty effective strategy.

Spence is very fast and has a nose for the ball. He did well in coverage, and if he’s pairing up with Timmons while the nose tackle leaves the field in lieu of another cornerback, the Steelers could have a very strong coverage unit.

I’m probably getting ahead of myself, Spence’s playing time is obviously yet to be determined, but that kind of scenario, in a pass-happy league, could be the role they’ll ask him to play in the future.

Is This Foote’s Last Year?

With his contract expiring after this season, it most likely is. Foote is built in the mold of an old-school gap-filling middle linebacker, something that appears to be falling off in terms of priority in the league. Middle linebackers are coming in with much more coverage ability than they used to, and teams are looking for for three-down freakishly athletic LBs in the mold of Patrick Willis and Luke Kuechley.

Certainly, he may come back in 2013 to provide depth, but as for now, his highest and best use is really to serve as a continuity bridge between the old Steelers defense and the emerging youth among the front seven.

For as important as the buck linebacker has been for the Steelers over the past 10 years, they clearly said they feel the next buck is on the roster already – Sylvester. He’s obviously not in the mold of Willis, but they appear to be surrounding him with outstanding athletes (i.e. Timmons and Spence).

How Good Is This Unit?

Last year is a really difficult sample to use when determining the overall success of the group. Timmons played out of place for much of the season. Farrior missed time as well. One of the most glaring weaknesses was their struggles in coverage in the base package, which is likely the biggest reason for both the release of Farrior and the selection of Spence. It’s really just a different game than it was even three years ago.

Because of that, inside linebacker is one of the more intriguing positions to watch in training camp this year. How will they be utilized? In saying that, it’s hard to gauge how good they are, because I see much of their roles adjusting more to offensive trends than staying strictly with what they’ve been in the past.

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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Steelers sign Valley grad Toney Clemons

Wed, 09 May 2012 17:23:06

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Steelers 7th Round Pick WR Clemons Comes to Terms

The Steelers announced that they have agreed to terms with seventh round wide receiver Toney Clemons.

A 6-foot-2, 210-pound wideout began his college career at Michigan before transferring to the University of Colorado in 2009. Clemons caught 86 passes for 1,162 yards and 11 touchdowns during his 25-game career in Boulder. Clemons had caught 12 passes for 106 yards in limited action in Ann Arbor.

Clemons was not invited to the 2012 Scouting Combine and ran a 4.4-40 with a 36″ vertical leap and 10’08″ broad jump at Colorado’s pro day on March 8.

Clemons is the third Steelers draft choice to agree to terms or sign a contract. Fourth round nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu and fifth round running back Chris Rainey agreed to terms over the weekend.

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Steelers strike deal with Mike Adams

Despite their experiences with a certain former Ohio State player with a propensity to “wake and bake,” the Steelers picked in the second round of the draft former Ohio State tackle Mike Adams, who reportedly failed the drug test at the Scouting Combine. The Steelers have now signed Adams to a contract. Ed Bouchette of…

Source: ProFootballTalk » Pittsburgh Steelers

Second Round Pick Mike Adams signs with Steelers

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Second Round Pick Mike Adams has come to terms with the Steelers.  He signed a 4 year deal yesterday.  The numbers for the contract are not known as of yet.  Adams is the fourth member of the Steelers draft class to sign.  They still have five players left to get inked including first round pick David DeCastro.
Adams has the potential to start this season.  He will need to improve his game.  Get a little stronger and keep his head on straight.  If he does that the Steelers have a prototypical left tackle that they got in the second round.  That would be more then a steal.

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Steelers agree to terms with 2nd round draft pick Mike Adams

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Omar Khan just keeps reeling them in, and Mike Tomlin is the beneficiary of the continued contract agreements being spearheaded by the Steelers lead negotiator.  According to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 2nd round draft pick T Mike Adams, 56th overall, out of OSU agreed to terms on his 4 yr. contract with the team today.
That makes 4 total draft picks out of the 9 taken last month that have either signed or agreed to terms on their deal to date. Adams joins RB Chris Rainey, NT Alameda Ta’amu, and WR Toney Clemons as those that have their deals completed.
It’s a great thing, seeing these NFL players get their contracts out of the way so early. No more waiting around throughout the summer, hoping the team can get all the players into camp on time. The new CBA rookie salary cap and the Steelers previous set allotment of $ 5.13 million in cap space for 2012 help speed things along. Basically it’s likely a take or leave it proposal at this point for most …

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