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fordfixer
03-26-2009, 06:56 PM
http://www.sportingnews.com NFL WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25, 2009 12
Scouts’ views
After their Super Bowl victory in February,
the Steelers made it known their intention
was to “keep the band together,” so to
speak. Their way of doing business has
always involved drafting well, signing their
own free agents rather than chasing someone
else’s and rarely overpaying for veterans.
The trend continued this year.
Best free-agent move
True to their word, the Steelers re-signed
nine free agents. At the same time, they lost
only three players to free agency. Of that
group, only CB Bryant McFadden was a
starter. It’s important to note, however, that
he has just 18 career regular-season starts
in four seasons and has played a full 16-game
slate only once. The Steelers are not going to
pay big money to keep that type of player in
Pittsburgh. They will continue to develop
younger players behind the vets and plug
them in when the time comes.
The Steelers have always understood
that consistency wins in the NFL, and by
re-signing the bulk of free agents from
their championship team, they have put
themselves among the favorites to play for
a title again in 2009.
Worst free-agent move
Among the re-signings were four offensive
linemen: G Chris Kemoeatu, who
nearly signed with the Jets, and OTs Willie
Colon, Trai Essex and Max Starks. Some
have asked why, and it’s a reasonable question.
This group might be among the worst
offensive-line units the Steelers have ever
put on the field.
The Steelers allowed 51 sacks (yes, Ben
Roethlisberger holds the ball too long at
times) and ranked 23rd in the NFL in rushing,
averaging just 3.7 yards per carry. You
can blame injuries to the running backs,
but Detroit’s Kevin Smith averaged 4.1
yards per carry behind an awful O-line.
Steelers’ offseason: Offensive line still needs attention
long and hard at some physical linemen who
have the versatility to play several spots.
Age is an issue along the defensive line, so
Pittsburgh will look to get younger there. If
the Steelers continue to move toward a more
pass-oriented attack, they will need to find
another receiver. At the very least, they will
look to replace the deep threat they lost
when Nate Washington signed with Tennessee.
Don’t forget that Hines Ward is 33
and in the twilight of his career.
Draft priorities
Offensive tackle: The Steelers seem excited
about the prospect of keeping their O-line
together. But this was clearly the weak link
last year, and though they will talk about
drafting for depth, they should look to add a
bona fide left tackle if the opportunity arises
early in the draft. That would allow Colon to
move inside to guard, his natural position,
and would allow Starks to move to the right
side, where his problems against top pass
rushers wouldn’t be exposed as much.
Defensive end: Aaron Smith is 32, Brett Keisel
is 30 and backup Travis Kirschke is 34.
This defense needs to get younger, and it has
to start up front. The Steelers want big, strong
and physical ends for their 3-4 scheme.
Cornerback: The loss of McFadden leaves
Ike Taylor and DeShea Townsend, who has
played 11 seasons and is 33, as the starters.
Fernando Bryant was re-signed as well, but
the Steelers need a young starting corner
with some speed and ball skills.
Wide receiver: Santonio Holmes and Ward
are the only experienced starters on the roster,
and though Limas Sweed will step into
the No. 3 role, the team needs to replace
Washington and the deep threat he posed.
— RealScouts, a team of pro football scouts, analyzes NFL players,
coaches and teams exclusively for Sporting News.
The Steelers and their fans will tell you
that the unit played much better in the postseason,
and it did. But it’s difficult to understand
the decision to put the franchise tag
on Starks.
Better as a right tackle, Starks moved to
the left side when Marvel Smith went down
with an injury and struggled mightily. As a
player with a transition tag after the 2007
season, he didn’t generate any major interest
from teams, so the team’s decision to put
the franchise tag on him and pay him $8.45
million is questionable.
The to-do list
The team’s starting offensive line is short
on talent, and so is the depth. With eight
draft selections, expect the Steelers to look
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was on the run regularly last season behind an offensive line that allowed 51 sacks, and the team did not address the problem in free agency.
TOM MIHALEK / AP

TallyStiller
03-27-2009, 10:47 PM
I, and I think the team, disagree regarding the O Line. I think the San Diego game in the playoffs was more indicative of what we can look for going forward... nobody ran on Baltimore except the Giants last year, and Arizona sold out to stop the run with 8 man fronts for much of the SB. Max will get better at LT with playing time there, and the unit will improve it's cohesiveness with time on the field together, of which this group had relatively little last year, given the Simmons and Marvel injury situations. Not saying we don't need a couple depth picks, but Essex + Hills + 2 picks + a minimum priced vet to push the young guys + Capizzi, Legursky, et al should produce a serviceable unit.

I believe Nose tackle has to be looked at. Hampton is in the last year of his deal, and is too expensive to keep as an increasingly irrelevant 2 down player in a pass happy league... I wouldn't give him what he's likely to ask if he was still playing like a Pro Bowler. As it is, his play the last several years has been ordinary - He doesn't attract double teams anymore, and is living off his reputation a la Crybaby Alan in '07. Somebody's going to overpay him in a big way next offseason - I'm betting in a capless year, Jerry Jones throws a J Peezy like signing bonus his way. Hokie will be fine in his spot short term, but he's on the wrong side of 30, too. Need a young guy in there in the mid rounds somewhere... but not too high - otherwise we end up overpaying at the position again

Also would like to see us develop some safety depth - Clark's aging and coming into a contract year, and we've got little proven depth behind him. The last guy we drafted at the spot is gone and we need another one.