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fordfixer
06-18-2008, 12:10 AM
By John Harris
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Monday, June 16, 2008
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 72938.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_572938.html)


Steelers veteran defensive end Aaron Smith really means it when he says he and his linemates aren't too old. If anything, Smith feels like the Steelers' defensive line is too much.
Too much for opponents to handle.

"They have faith in the guys that we have -- the older guys," Smith said. "(We're) very capable."

That faith comes from the fact that the Steelers had the NFL's top-rated defense last season. Obviously, somebody was doing something right.

First, the good news:
The starting D-line remains intact and should be good to go for the 2008 opener against Houston at Heinz Field.

Now, for the rest of the story.

Those three starters -- Smith, nose tackle Casey Hampton and end Brett Keisel -- will all be 30 or older at the start of the season.

Smith is the oldest starter at 32. The primary backups -- end Travis Kirschke and nose tackle Chris Hoke -- are 33 and 32, respectively.

"Absolutely, we're comfortable with who we are," said Smith, who missed more games last season (six) than in his previous seven seasons as a starter. "We've got guys who can start at a lot of other places (yet are) backing up guys here."

Smith said he understands why the Steelers didn't select a defensive lineman in this year's draft.

"Even if you draft a young guy in this defense, it takes a couple years for him to play anyway," Smith said.

Entering his 10th season, Smith has 38 1/2 career sacks and plans to play as long as his body holds up.

"How old was (former defensive lineman) Kimo (von Oelhoffen) when he left here?" Smith asked. "Older than 32."

Von Oelhoffen, who just re-signed with the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday, was 35 when the Steelers opted not to re-sign him after winning Super Bowl XL.

"I think it's just a matter of keeping yourself in shape, keeping your mind useful and enjoying the game," Smith said.

Unfortunately, Smith couldn't overcome injuries in 2007. He missed two games with a knee injury early and was lost for good after suffering a biceps tear in the first quarter of a game against the Patriots Dec.9. He underwent surgery a few days later.

"I played the rest of the game with it, but it hurt," he said. "It was like getting shot every time I used it."

Smith sat out this year's minicamp and voluntary workouts. Instead, he hit the sled, performed defensive-line drills and worked out on his own as his teammates practiced. He said he probably could have practiced, but the team decided it was not worth the risk.

"It's been frustrating," said Smith, who was cheered up following the birth of daughter Emilia on June 6. "Sometimes I feel like I'm a china doll, and they're afraid. I want to play.

"I think if they wanted me to I could go now, but I think it's been more of a precaution. I should be able to go when we hit camp (July 28). I'm sure they'll ease me into it, but I don't see a reason for any setbacks."

NKySteeler
06-18-2008, 11:27 AM
I definitely view the age issue as a concern. Especially when you combine it with the possibility of injury and lack of depth at the position... The tail end of the season last year illustrated this point perfectly, IMO. ... Basically, from the Jets game onward, I didn't think we had that rough, tough, bruising defense that we all are accustomed to. ... There were drives late in the game that weren't stopped that cost us points and/or the game. ... Yes, they racked up awesome stats early on throughout the season, but faltered in the end... Was it age? Injury? Lack of depth? .... I think it was a combination of all of the above, and a little bad luck as well.

IMHO, we have to be able to finish the season strongly and weather whatever issues arise. Otherwise, having the top-rated defense in any category doesn't mean squat.

AngryAsian
06-18-2008, 08:05 PM
I definitely view the age issue as a concern. Especially when you combine it with the possibility of injury and lack of depth at the position... The tail end of the season last year illustrated this point perfectly, IMO. ... Basically, from the Jets game onward, I didn't think we had that rough, tough, bruising defense that we all are accustomed to. ... There were drives late in the game that weren't stopped that cost us points and/or the game. ... Yes, they racked up awesome stats early on throughout the season, but faltered in the end... Was it age? Injury? Lack of depth? .... I think it was a combination of all of the above, and a little bad luck as well.

IMHO, we have to be able to finish the season strongly and weather whatever issues arise. Otherwise, having the top-rated defense in any category doesn't mean squat.


Last year we were 3-4 primarily with integrated 4-3 alignments periodically. What if our aging DL does start to degrade by the end of the season and we integrate more 4-3 alignments inserting more LBs to help with the depth issues? Hypothetically speaking.

NKySteeler
06-18-2008, 08:13 PM
Last year we were 3-4 primarily with integrated 4-3 alignments periodically. What if our aging DL does start to degrade by the end of the season and we integrate more 4-3 alignments inserting more LBs to help with the depth issues? Hypothetically speaking.

...My question would be the quality of personnel that would work the "4" portion of the 4-3... I really don't know brother.

AngryAsian
06-18-2008, 08:27 PM
Camp just needs to start so that we have more material for our speculative discussions. :D

NKySteeler
06-18-2008, 08:35 PM
Camp just needs to start so that we have more material for our speculative discussions. :D

...39 days and counting till camp....

Ozey74
06-18-2008, 08:50 PM
Camp just needs to start so that we have more material for our speculative discussions. :D

...39 days and counting till camp....

http://static.nfl.com/static/content/catch_all/nfl_image/willie-parker-250x250.jpg

Mr Smartmonies
06-18-2008, 10:15 PM
the key words should be

"Steelers D-Line Aging"

We could have drafted a Defensive lineman last year but apparently we needed a replacement for Larry Foote.

RuthlessBurgher
06-18-2008, 11:19 PM
the key words should be

"Steelers D-Line Aging"

We could have drafted a Defensive lineman last year but apparently we needed a replacement for Larry Foote.

I was on the Carriker bandwagon last year (would have traded up to get him or Okoye), but alas, it did not come to pass. Which D-lineman available at #15 would you have taken? Harrell? Branch?

steeler_fan_in_t.o.
06-19-2008, 09:49 AM
I definitely view the age issue as a concern. Especially when you combine it with the possibility of injury and lack of depth at the position... The tail end of the season last year illustrated this point perfectly, IMO. ... Basically, from the Jets game onward, I didn't think we had that rough, tough, bruising defense that we all are accustomed to. ... There were drives late in the game that weren't stopped that cost us points and/or the game. ... Yes, they racked up awesome stats early on throughout the season, but faltered in the end... Was it age? Injury? Lack of depth? .... I think it was a combination of all of the above, and a little bad luck as well.

IMHO, we have to be able to finish the season strongly and weather whatever issues arise. Otherwise, having the top-rated defense in any category doesn't mean squat.

The biggest factor in our defensive decline was injuries, not the team wearing down due to age.

Unfortunately, we were hit at positions where we had the least amount of depth on D. Aaron Smith has proven tough and reliable over his career. I don't expect him to become injury prone now. I started a thread a few weeks before his season ending injury last year naming him our Ds most important player - the position with the biggest drop off between starter and backup (if not the best player as well). His return makes our D much stronger.

Ryan Clark also proved how valuable he is by going down in a freak occurence. He is a big question mark going into this year, but if he is recovered then our D is much better and tougher than the one we fielded against the Jags.

Troy has been injured and relatively ineffective the past few years - since his dominating '05 season. He has returned to his training roots, and if he can stay healthy again then that seriously upgrades our D once again.

That is three positions that are greatly improved with just having the players return to health. This has nothing to do with factors such as upgrading our starters (Woodley), players hopefully improved year over year (McFadden, Timmons) or young kids stepping up and contributing (Davis).

This D should be better than the D that led the league last year, but couldn't deliver in the end.

Oviedo
06-19-2008, 10:38 AM
I definitely view the age issue as a concern. Especially when you combine it with the possibility of injury and lack of depth at the position... The tail end of the season last year illustrated this point perfectly, IMO. ... Basically, from the Jets game onward, I didn't think we had that rough, tough, bruising defense that we all are accustomed to. ... There were drives late in the game that weren't stopped that cost us points and/or the game. ... Yes, they racked up awesome stats early on throughout the season, but faltered in the end... Was it age? Injury? Lack of depth? .... I think it was a combination of all of the above, and a little bad luck as well.

IMHO, we have to be able to finish the season strongly and weather whatever issues arise. Otherwise, having the top-rated defense in any category doesn't mean squat.

The biggest factor in our defensive decline was injuries, not the team wearing down due to age.

Unfortunately, we were hit at positions where we had the least amount of depth on D. Aaron Smith has proven tough and reliable over his career. I don't expect him to become injury prone now. I started a thread a few weeks before his season ending injury last year naming him our Ds most important player - the position with the biggest drop off between starter and backup (if not the best player as well). His return makes our D much stronger.

Ryan Clark also proved how valuable he is by going down in a freak occurence. He is a big question mark going into this year, but if he is recovered then our D is much better and tougher than the one we fielded against the Jags.

Troy has been injured and relatively ineffective the past few years - since his dominating '05 season. He has returned to his training roots, and if he can stay healthy again then that seriously upgrades our D once again.

That is three positions that are greatly improved with just having the players return to health. This has nothing to do with factors such as upgrading our starters (Woodley), players hopefully improved year over year (McFadden, Timmons) or young kids stepping up and contributing (Davis).

This D should be better than the D that led the league last year, but couldn't deliver in the end.

If Clark returns to full health, it will be icing on the cake for this defense. If not, I hope B Mac steps up and Townsend can mover to FS. Anthiny Smith is not the answer.

Troy will stay healthy if LeBeau quits using hime as a defensive tackle rushing into the center of the offensive line and wrestling with 300lb linemen. :HeadBanger Keep Troy back in coverage and he will get more than 5 INTs which is more sacks than he could ever hope to get.

Timmons and Woodley will take the first step returning our LBs to dominance. Woodley will have 10+ sacks and Timmons will add 5 sacks and 3-4 INTs.

NKySteeler
06-19-2008, 01:30 PM
O, and SFTO... Your points and observations are right on the mark, IMO... But with the exception of the Smith comments, they didn't address the original issue and article that it is the LINE that is aging... Not the LBs or secondary.

Yea. Of course the injury and lack of depth effected the performance. But the LINE is getting older. Personally, I do wonder if it played a factor as well.

Shawn
06-19-2008, 03:15 PM
If the Steelers draft anything outside of OL/and DL this offseason (first 4 rounds) I think I will scream.

Oviedo
06-19-2008, 04:12 PM
If the Steelers draft anything outside of OL/and DL this offseason (first 4 rounds) I think I will scream.

You should start to practice now because I think they will definitely add a DB with one of those picks.

AngryAsian
06-20-2008, 04:29 AM
If the Steelers draft anything outside of OL/and DL this offseason (first 4 rounds) I think I will scream.

You should start to practice now because I think they will definitely add a DB with one of those picks.


These are the only areas of need: OL, DL, and DB.... I agree with yours and SMG's assessments. I can't see any other holes on this team.

RuthlessBurgher
06-20-2008, 10:04 AM
If the Steelers draft anything outside of OL/and DL this offseason (first 4 rounds) I think I will scream.

Will it be okay if they use our regular picks in the first 4 rounds to upgrade in the trenches, and use the comp pick we should get for Faneca on a DB?