PDA

View Full Version : Tomlin's Steelers driven to repeat in AFC North



fordfixer
06-02-2009, 12:21 AM
06/01/09 01:08 AM
Tomlin's Steelers driven to repeat in AFC North
By Allen Wilson
News Sports Reporter

http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/story/688741.html

This is the second of an eight-part series on the offseason moves in the NFL. Today's installment covers the AFC North.

The last time the Pittsburgh Steelers went into a season as reigning Super Bowl champions it began with their quarterback almost getting killed in a motorcycle accident and ended with an 8-8 record, no playoff appearance and head coach Bill Cowher's resignation.

There won't be a Super Bowl hangover this time, not if third-year coach Mike Tomlin has anything to do with it. He wants the team to stay hungry, but he knows it will take more than that to defend its championship.

"It's not hunger that drives me, it's not hunger that needs to drive our football team," Tomlin said at the NFL owners meetings. "Hunger and thirst are things that can be quenched. We have to be a driven group, we have to seek greatness. I think driven is a more appropriate word, it's a word I tend to use with them as we prepare for '09."

The Steelers may not repeat as Super Bowl champs, but they are still the team to beat in the NFC North. The Ravens figure to be the primary competition again, provided they overcome some significant personnel and coaching losses.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati and Cleveland will battle to stay out of the division cellar.

If the Bengals' draft picks and free agent acquisitions pan out they could double last year's four-win output. New Browns coach Eric Mangini will have to work some magic to avoid another losing season.

Here's a review of the offseason moves in the AFC North:

Pittsburgh Steelers

Key gains: DT Evander Hood (Missouri), G Kraig Urbik (Wisconsin), WR Mike Wallace (Mississippi), WR Shaun McDonald (Lions), CB Keiwan Ratliff (Colts).

Key losses: ILB Larry Foote (Lions), QB Byron Leftwich (Buccaneers), WR Nate Washington (Titans), OT Marvel Smith (49ers), CB Bryant McFadden (Cardinals), S Anthony Smith (Packers).

Breakdown: Releasing Foote clears the way for 2007 first-round draft pick Lawrence Timmons to start. Hood and Urbik add depth on both lines. McDonald and Wallace give the Steelers more speed at receiver. Ratliff offsets McFadden's departure. Johnson is insurance for Daniel Sepulveda, who is returning from a major knee injury.

Key questions: Can Tomlin keep team focused on another title run? Will the offensive line, which yielded 49 sacks in 2008, protect QB Ben Roethlisberger better? Is Timmons ready to replace Foote, who started every game the past five years?

Baltimore Ravens

Key gains: C Matt Birk (Vikings), CB Domonique Foxworth (Falcons), OT Michael Oher (Mississippi), TE L.J. Smith (Eagles), DE/OLB Paul Kruger (Utah), CB Lardarius Webb (Nicholls State), ILB Jason Phillips (TCU).

Key losses: C Jason Brown (Rams), ILB Bart Scott (Jets), CB Chris McAllister (released), S Jim Leonhard (Jets).

Breakdown: The Ravens re-signed MLB Ray Lewis and franchised OLB Terrell Suggs, but couldn't afford to keep Scott. The draft and free agency brought pass-rushing depth and filled needs at cornerback, linebacker and tight end. Birk, a perennial Pro Bowler, and Oher were important O-line additions.

Key questions: What will QB Joe Flacco do for an encore? How much longer can Lewis play at an All-Pro level? Will the defense miss Scott and coordinator Rex Ryan, the Jets' new head coach?

Cincinnati Bengals

Key gains: WR Laveranues Coles (Jets), S Roy Williams (Cowboys), OT Andre Smith (Alabama), MLB Rey Maualuga (USC), DE Michael Johnson (Georgia Tech), TE Chase Coffman (Missouri), DT Tank Johnson (Cowboys), C Jonathan Luigs (Arkansas).

Key losses: WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh (Seahawks), OT Stacy Andrews (Eagles), OT Levi Jones (released), QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (Bills), C Eric Ghiaciuc (Chiefs).

Breakdown: QB Carson Palmer returns from elbow surgery, but one of his best receivers have either left via free agency (Houshmandzadeh) and another wants to leave (Chad Ochocinco). The hope is Coles will make up for Houshmandzadeh's absence. Smith and Maualuga headline a draft class full of boom-or-bust prospects. Williams adds physicality to the secondary.

Key questions: Will Palmer's repaired elbow hold up? Will Johnson's unhappiness affect his production? What will Coles contribute? How many rookies will have an immediate impact? Can Smith start at left tackle as a rookie?

Cleveland Browns

Key gains: C Alex Mack (California), WR Brian Robiske (Ohio State), WR Mohamed Massaquoi (Georgia), DE Kenyon Coleman (Jets), ILB Eric Barton (Jets), CB Hank Poteat (Jets), OT John St. Clair (Bears), TE Robert Royal (Bills).

Key losses: TE Kellen Winslow II (Buccaneers), S Sean Jones (Eagles), ILB Andra Davis (Broncos), OT Kevin Shaffer (Bears).

Breakdown: The Browns traded away a big weapon in Winslow. They were expected to move WR Braylon Edwards as well, but held on to him after drafting two wideouts. Millions were saved by trading down in the first round from No.?5 to No.?21 and getting Mack, the draft's top center. New coach Eric Mangini brought in several veteran Jets defenders who are familiar with his system.

Key questions: Will Brady Quinn, Derek Anderson or former Jet Jay Ratliff start at quarterback? Are Edwards trade rumors dead? Did the Browns do enough to help the NFL's 26th-ranked defense?

Oracle
06-02-2009, 03:59 AM
the more i watch the nfl the more i realize it's not so much about your marquis names it's about your weaknesses. these offensive and defensive coordinators watch so much film they can discover any teams weakness and set up game plans to exploit it. look at the ravens, for example... a very solid D, but their cornerbacks can be exposed both on quick slants and deep slants, esp if you occupy ed reed. the ravens have a solid run game but they still don't have elite receivers and probably never will. combine that with the fact that flacco is susceptible to being confused/flustered at times and it doesn't matter what linemen you bring in, they're not going to score enough points to win the super bowl.

sure you hate to see our rivals get big name/impact players but also remember they have glaring weaknesses. the steelers on the other hand only have one... OL.

BradshawsHairdresser
06-02-2009, 12:07 PM
sure you hate to see our rivals get big name/impact players but also remember they have glaring weaknesses. the steelers on the other hand only have one... OL.

Yes, but that one glaring weakness can quickly lead to a second weakness that would be extremely difficult to overcome...What happens to this team if our OL's failure to protect the QB leads to (God forbid) #7 going down for the season?

stlrz d
06-02-2009, 01:01 PM
Tomlin says: It's my turn to drive (http://www.contactmusic.com/videos.nsf/stream/rush-driven)!

SteelCzar76
06-02-2009, 03:52 PM
the more i watch the nfl the more i realize it's not so much about your marquis names it's about your weaknesses. these offensive and defensive coordinators watch so much film they can discover any teams weakness and set up game plans to exploit it. look at the ravens, for example... a very solid D, but their cornerbacks can be exposed both on quick slants and deep slants, esp if you occupy ed reed. the ravens have a solid run game but they still don't have elite receivers and probably never will. combine that with the fact that flacco is susceptible to being confused/flustered at times and it doesn't matter what linemen you bring in, they're not going to score enough points to win the super bowl.

sure you hate to see our rivals get big name/impact players but also remember they have glaring weaknesses. the steelers on the other hand only have one... OL.


Very good observations Oracle. However i would beg to differ in terms of us only having a single "weakness". What i mean is,..while our O-line is certainly not the finest in the league, part of the reason they often look so inept is a product of particular weakness's on Ben's part,...ie: him not being able to read and process defenses quickly enough and henceforth the need on his part to play "back yard football" by hanging on to the ball waiting for plays to break down. Though he's dynamic at times,..no other QB in the league does this with as much regularity.

I would also say that outside of Troy,..our secondary, though physical,..can be had with relative ease by the better passing offenses of the league provided that they can somehow find a way to block our front seven or at least nullify a great deal of their disruption. This is a tall task,..as in my opinion the defensive front seven is our true strength,....but if the opposition can slow them down, passing against us is not a problem at all.

We also lack quality depth at ILB,...as well as the overall inconsistency of the offense as a whole in terms of scoring. But perhaps much of that had to do with the lack of a running game, injuries and or inexperience. But we'll certainly know exactly if that's the case this season in light of all of the bold and glorious predictions for many of the young cats.

stlrz d
06-02-2009, 04:46 PM
the more i watch the nfl the more i realize it's not so much about your marquis names it's about your weaknesses. these offensive and defensive coordinators watch so much film they can discover any teams weakness and set up game plans to exploit it. look at the ravens, for example... a very solid D, but their cornerbacks can be exposed both on quick slants and deep slants, esp if you occupy ed reed. the ravens have a solid run game but they still don't have elite receivers and probably never will. combine that with the fact that flacco is susceptible to being confused/flustered at times and it doesn't matter what linemen you bring in, they're not going to score enough points to win the super bowl.

sure you hate to see our rivals get big name/impact players but also remember they have glaring weaknesses. the steelers on the other hand only have one... OL.


Very good observations Oracle. However i would beg to differ in terms of us only having a single "weakness". What i mean is,..while our O-line is certainly not the finest in the league, part of the reason they often look so inept is a product of particular weakness's on Ben's part,...ie: him not being able to read and process defenses quickly enough and henceforth the need on his part to play "back yard football" by hanging on to the ball waiting for plays to break down. Though he's dynamic at times,..no other QB in the league does this with as much regularity.

I couldn't disagree with that more. Looking for the big play isn't an inability to read defenses. And like I posted a few months ago, the people who believe that myth need to go back and watch some games. One of the benefits I enjoyed during my unemployment was the luxury to put the TV on NFLN and leave it on. They show a lot of Steelers games and anyone who watches will see plenty of Ben checking down, hitting the hot reads, etc. They'll also see plenty of pass rushers in his face before he even hits his back foot...which causes him to have to move, throwing off the whole rhythm of the offense. Those people then incorrectly interpret that as Ben improvising from the outset.


I would also say that outside of Troy,..our secondary, though physical,..can be had with relative ease by the better passing offenses of the league provided that they can somehow find a way to block our front seven or at least nullify a great deal of their disruption. This is a tall task,..as in my opinion the defensive front seven is our true strength,....but if the opposition can slow them down, passing against us is not a problem at all.

I disagree with that as well. Our secondary plays to "bend but not break" because of our front seven. With the style of D LeBeau calls it's the smart way to play. Unless we see LeBeau call more press coverage there is no way to judge as to whether or not our secondary can play it that way.

If the pass rush doesn't do it's job it's easier to pass on us by scheme, not necessarily by personnel.


We also lack quality depth at ILB,...as well as the overall inconsistency of the offense as a whole in terms of scoring. But perhaps much of that had to do with the lack of a running game, injuries and or inexperience. But we'll certainly know exactly if that's the case this season in light of all of the bold and glorious predictions for many of the young cats.

This one I'll give you. It would be good to have more depth at ILB, but in today's NFL it's not easy to be deep at every position. And a better running game (especially short yardage and goal line) will improve the offense.

Barring major injuries, there is no reason for those "bold and glorious" predictions not to come true...regardless of the age of the cat making them.

SteelCzar76
06-03-2009, 09:07 AM
I couldn't disagree with that more. Looking for the big play isn't an inability to read defenses. And like I posted a few months ago, the people who believe that myth need to go back and watch some games. One of the benefits I enjoyed during my unemployment was the luxury to put the TV on NFLN and leave it on. They show a lot of Steelers games and anyone who watches will see plenty of Ben checking down, hitting the hot reads, etc. They'll also see plenty of pass rushers in his face before he even hits his back foot...which causes him to have to move, throwing off the whole rhythm of the offense. Those people then incorrectly interpret that as Ben improvising from the outset.

I don't know Steelers,....Ben has played the same style of Football since he was a rook. At which point i could understand,...because he had yet to grasp pro style offenses, was basically learning on the fly and relied on his considerable athletic ability( for his size) to have success. But at this point,..for him to still play this way,..denotes to me that he's not a dedicated film and or practice guy and still relies heavily on plays breaking down to be effective.

Let's be honest,...Ben's a helluva football player,..but he's very inconsistent as a passer, in terms of decision making and accuracy (ball placement).



I disagree with that as well. Our secondary plays to "bend but not break" because of our front seven. With the style of D LeBeau calls it's the smart way to play. Unless we see LeBeau call more press coverage there is no way to judge as to whether or not our secondary can play it that way.

If the pass rush doesn't do it's job it's easier to pass on us by scheme, not necessarily by personnel.


I feel you in terms of what Coach Lebeau's scheme calls for,...and in fact i would also say it's part of my point. We have been a team for quite a while now that banks on suspect corners, feeling as though their lack of ball skills and awareness can be compensated for by an exceptional pass rush and zone coverage. It's a gamble that works out for us more often than not,..when the front seven are disruptive.

But let's be honest though Dshea at his peak was cagey, physical and intelligent and Ike is/was fast, physical with good size,...if a better passing offense can protect their QB and sticks with going after them,..they almost always give up big plays in terms of completions for 1st downs and scoring plays through the air. The same can be said for Clark in the sense that though he's very fundamentally sound, physical and rarely blows assignments,....he's no 'ball hawk'.

Perhaps Gay is an exception,..but i'd like to see him start for an entire season before i could say so with any confidence.



Barring major injuries, there is no reason for those "bold and glorious" predictions not to come true...regardless of the age of the cat making them.

Hey i applaud your optimism Stlrz,...as your particular brand seems to be rooted in being rational and logic for the most part. And to an extent i agree such optimism,..the only difference being from where i stand,... is that unlike some of the "Nation" i do not feel as though we are a dominant football team aside from the defensive front seven and or are without weakness or fault. "Your never as good, or as bad as you think you are. One must always strive to improve. Complacency is the #1 cause of death for greatness"

feltdizz
06-03-2009, 11:53 AM
I think Ben was responsible for about 30% of the sacks last year.. he had a stretch where he was just gun shy and refused to throw the ball.... then he sat and Lefty marched them straight down the field.

It was obvious Ben wasn't practicing and his timing was off. Wr's were dropping a lot of passes but I think it was more of a timing issue and Ben not getting the ball there like he usually does. The next week he practiced and the rest is history. He was checking down, throwing balls away and playing great football.

The OL gelled in the playoffs whether we want to admit it or not. The OL will be better this year... routes will be shorter and hopefully we have a FB and the RB's aren't banged up.

we also had a hell of a tough schedule.

feltdizz
06-03-2009, 11:58 AM
Hey i applaud your optimism Stlrz,...as your particular brand seems to be rooted in being rational and logic for the most part. And to an extent i agree such optimism,..the only difference being from where i stand,... is that unlike some of the "Nation" i do not feel as though we are a dominant football team aside from the defensive front seven and or are without weakness or fault. "Your never as good, or as bad as you think you are. One must always strive to improve. Complacency is the #1 cause of death for greatness"

optimism vs. pessimism

I don't see how you can come off a SB victory.. return 20 of 22 starters...have an easier schedule(on paper)... draft a few big uglies in the trenches... and see things so pessimistic.

as a coach I can see the outlook.. always wanting to get better..

but as a fan? Unless they all go on a team motorcycle ride in the Hill district I don't see how this team doesn't go deep in the playoffs with Tomlin on their azzzez

stlrz d
06-03-2009, 01:01 PM
I try to base my opinions on logic and reason, so thank you for that.

Which is also why I say folks should go back and watch Ben's games to see how it is he really plays. We get caught up in the emotion of it when watching live...but when you go back and look you can be a bit more relaxed and observe what really takes place.