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sd steel
06-06-2009, 01:05 PM
http://steelersmix.com/2009/06/thursday ... y-for.html (http://steelersmix.com/2009/06/thursdays-take-harrison-leads-way-for.html)



Though the Steelers may be forever associated with a defensive tackle (Joe Greene), the heart and soul of the team is the linebacking corps. The Pittsburgh Steelers will head into the 2009 football season with the best group of linebackers in the league, and the best in Steeler history.

Of course, any discussion about Pittsburgh LBs begins and ends with Jack Lambert, a hall-of-famer out of Kent St., drafted in that best-ever 1974 draft class. The list of awards is endless: nine straight Pro Bowls, eight All-Pros, four Super Bowls, two different All-Decade teams (70's and 80's), one spot on the 75th Anniversary All-Time team, one Defensive Rookie of the Year award, and one Defensive Player of the Year award. That Defensive Player of the Year award came in 1976, as he quarterbacked what many consider to be the best Steeler defense ever, even though Pittsburgh failed to make the Super Bowl that year. Though the Steelers do not officially retire numbers, Lambert's #58 has almost never been issued since his retirement. Though "Mean" Joe Greene bears the title, Jack Lambert was always the meanest man on the field.

Andy Russell and hall-of-famer Jack Ham combined with Lambert to form the group that set the bar so high for a linebacker in the Steel City.

Ever since the glory years of the 70's, the Steelers have become a linebacker factory. David Little emerged as a great starter for Pittsburgh in the 1980's A.D. (after dynasty) and B.C.(before Cowher). Same for pass-rushing specialist Mike Merriweather. Hardy Nickerson began his first few seasons at the end of Chuck Noll's career before Tony Dungy turned him into a star in Tampa Bay.

The Steelers defense experienced a resurgence in the mid-90's. Not surprisingly, it was the linebackers leading the Pittsburgh renaissance. Greg Lloyd was able to translate from the Noll era to the Cowher era and teach the new guard what playing LB in Pittsburgh is all about. Joining him were free agent Kevin Greene and draftees Levon Kirkland (1992) and Chad Brown (1993). The unit peaked in 1995 with the arrival of defensive mastermind Dick LeBeau, who turned Pittsburgh into Blitzburgh.

LB Jason Gildon was just a special-teamer and backup when the 1995 unit lost in the Super Bowl, but began to shine after the men in front of him departed or retired. It is Gildon that currently holds the all-time Steeler sack record with 77, a hell of an accomplishment considering the wealth of defensive talent coming in and out of Pittsburgh throughout the years.

The turn of the millennium brought another solid batch of linebackers to Pittsburgh. Mike Vrabel began his career with the Steelers before winning three Super Bowls with the Patriots. Joey Porter arrived in 1999 and became one of the emotional leaders that led the team to its fifth Super Bowl ring in 2005. Kendrell Bell gave the team another Rookie of the Year in 2001. Clark Haggans and Larry Foote both contributed for the Steelers in the new millennium.

The list goes on and on.

When discussing the linebackers in groups though, the 1970's Ham-Lambert-Russel combo is number one, with the 1995 Super Bowl unit not too far behind.

No longer. Barring injury, the Pittsburgh Steelers will field what is easily the best group of linebackers in the league this season. Each player brings a unique skill-set to the table that, when combined with the other three, will wreak havoc on opposing offenses.

The obvious starting point when looking at the unit is James Harrison, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year who was also an NFL MVP candidate last year. As fierce as fellow Kent State-alum Lambert, he is the number one focus of every offensive coordinator and quarterback that plays against him. Harrison also has a bit of Joe Greene in him, as it is impossible to block the man without holding him (something which happened a lot last season). He currently holds the team record for single-season sacks (16.0) and the Super Bowl record for longest play: his 100-yard monster of an interception that propelled the Steelers to championship number six. He's a demon of a pass rusher and doesn't get enough credit for his coverage ability. His role on the team is to absorb offensive attention, allowing his teammates to roam a little more freely. Even with all the attention placed on him, he's still a threat to make a sack every single down. Not bad for an undrafted kid who never started before 2007.

On the other side of the field stands third-year OLB Lamarr Woodley. It is Woodley who benefits most from the double teams thrown Harrison's way. Like his counterpart, Woodley is a pass-rusher first and foremost, earning 11.5 sacks last year. He's shown he can handle big-time pressure as well, as some of the best games of his short career have come in big-time playoff games. The Super Bowl was his fourth multi-sack playoff game in a row, which is a postseason record. It was his forced fumble that ultimately sealed the win for the Steelers against Arizona. Together with Harrison, Woodley forms the best pass-rushing duo in team history and gives the unit instant credibility in the discussion of best linebacking corps.

The semi-new face in this group is third-year middle linebacker Lawrence Timmons, who was a nickel specialist last season and who steps into a starting spot with the departure of Larry Foote. Timmons brings raw speed and athletic ability to the unit. His role in this all-star unit will be to handle coverage and perhaps mix in a little pass-rush whenever Dick LeBeau dials it up. His speed allows him to keep up with running backs running routes out of the backfield. His coverage abilities in the nickel package helped the Steelers to the top pass defense last year according to Football Outsiders (including #1 against running backs). He should pull down a handful of interceptions this season due to the level of pressure Harrison and Woodley can apply to the quarterback.

The center of this unit is one of the rare free-agent acquisitions for the Pittsburgh Steelers, middle linebacker James Farrior. Farrior is the quarterback of the unit, and he is the man (along with defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau) who puts the other three pieces of this group in place to dominate opposing offenses. His veteran presence provides the backbone for a group that, outside of Farrior himself, only has three years of starting experience. He's also the best run-stopping linebacker in the group, which is a big reason why the Steelers were second only to the Baltimore Ravens in run defense last year.

As individuals, only Harrison garners major attention outside of Pittsburgh. As a unit, once all the parts and skills are put together, this linebacking corps is more dangerous than Lambert's group of the 70's and Lloyd's group of the 90's. Harrison's pass-rushing helps LaMarr Woodley. Both men provide pressure that helps Timmons in coverage. Farrior's experience helps out the whole unit. Though this fearsome foursome has never actually started a game together before this season, they should already be considered the best collection of linebackers in Steeler History.

Quick Hits
- One of the big stories coming out of Pittsburgh was the injury to star QB Ben Roethlisberger. He was back at practice today, so this was most likely another gross overreaction. This sort of thing happens whenever a player starts accumulating Super Bowl rings.

- Over at Pittsburgh West, the Cardinals have re-signed Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson. Outside of Reed and Polamalu, Wilson is the best safety in the league and is still one of the most underrated players in the NFL. Hopefully Arizona's trip to the Super Bowl gives the man some well-deserved recognition.

- Say goodbye to Brian Westbrook. He's thirty-years old (which is 80 in running back years), and he's hurt himself once again before the season even started. The addition of LeSean McCoy should keep the man around for a few more productive years, but he will never again be the fantasy football demon everyone has come to know and love (or hate, depending on how your team finished).

- Madden fans finally get their first selection of the Madden 2010 player ratings. As expected, cover-duo Larry Fitzgerald and Troy Polamalu both garnered 99s.

- Rodney Harrison announced his retirement on Tuesday after fifteen seasons with the Chargers and Patriots. He had some solid stats in his career, but was never really a dominant force at safety. He could garner some attention from the NFL Hall of Fame, but his reputation as a dirty player might hurt his chances a bit.

Ken Torgent

BURGH86STEEL
06-06-2009, 01:22 PM
Very difficult to say what Steeler's LB group was the best ever. There have been so many. It is just that they can continue to draft and develop LB's the way that they do.

dirt
06-06-2009, 03:07 PM
i'm as excited about this group of linebackers as anybody, but let's let them play a game before we crown them the best ever.

and um... we were second only to minnesota last year, not baltimore.

which is a big reason why the Steelers were second only to the Baltimore Ravens in run defense last year.

fezziwig
06-06-2009, 05:12 PM
I've never considered Gildon that good of a linebacker. In my opinion he got his sacks by scheme of the defense and having better players around him.
If they didn't fall into his grasp he didn't make a sack or tackle. He always reminded me of someone in a full body cast.
When do you ever remember that you were glad Gildon was on your team ? When do you remember Gildon blowing up a play or block to get to the quarterback ? I can't remember Gildon ever getting us a sack when most needed or crushing a pocket.
I remember the first time his contract came up and no team even talked to him let alone make him an offer. The Steelers at the end made him an offer and too much money at that for not gathering any interest from no other teams.

If there ever was a player on our Steelers that had stats that doesn't reflect the true story, it was Gildon.

frankthetank1
06-06-2009, 05:46 PM
I've never considered Gildon that good of a linebacker. In my opinion he got his sacks by scheme of the defense and having better players around him.
If they didn't fall into his grasp he didn't make a sack or tackle. He always reminded me of someone in a full body cast.
When do you ever remember that you were glad Gildon was on your team ? When do you remember Gildon blowing up a play or block to get to the quarterback ? I can't remember Gildon ever getting us a sack when most needed or crushing a pocket.
I remember the first time his contract came up and no team even talked to him let alone make him an offer. The Steelers at the end made him an offer and too much money at that for not gathering any interest from no other teams.

If there ever was a player on our Steelers that had stats that doesn't reflect the true story, it was Gildon.

i have to disagree i was always happy to have gildon on the steelers except until towards the end of his career but every player declines towards the end of their career. gildon leads the steelers with sacks that is pretty impressive i think. maybe some of those sacks can be attributed to scheme or having good players around him but that is still impressive. he also went to three pro bowls, he was no bum

fezziwig
06-06-2009, 09:20 PM
I appreciate your like for him and not flying off the handle because I don't see him through your perspective.

I thought he only went to one pro bowl as a backup. Despite how many pro bowls he may have made, I still think he was a cherry picker. I used to copy all those games back in those days and I still scream at him while he is being blocked by a receiver or a runningback.
I bet more times Qb's have ran into him or fell down for him to get a sack.
I know they all have their styles like bull rush rather than quickness and I can't describe him as either. We are talking about Jason Gildon number 92 ? :P

sd steel
06-07-2009, 03:07 AM
Gildon was good when he was hungry, but when he got paid he rested on his laurels IMO.

fezziwig
06-07-2009, 09:25 AM
I'm sure I painted a worse picture than I had of Gildon. I was just frustrated last night being at work and listening to the pens game. My apologies for those that had seen the value in Gildon.

Oviedo
06-07-2009, 10:42 AM
This year's group of LBs have the chance to be really special. Woodley-Farrior-Timmons-Harrison have a real chance to contribute a single season sack record for the Steelers because Timmons will be much more of a threat to blitz inside than Foote ever was.

fezziwig
06-07-2009, 11:11 AM
I have to agree Oveido, this group could put their legacy over the top.


Remember when many of us couldn't see the value in retaining or having Foote on the team ? All and all, Foote did a good job for us. Still glad we moved up in his position with Timmons but, he filled in well with what size and talent that Foote had.

frankthetank1
06-08-2009, 12:35 PM
I'm sure I painted a worse picture than I had of Gildon. I was just frustrated last night being at work and listening to the pens game. My apologies for those that had seen the value in Gildon.

no worries. i know where your coming from. towards the end of his career in the burgh he was pretty pedestrian. out of all the great lb's the steelers have had i wouldnt rate him all that high. i was just sayin its not like he was a bum or anything. thats a lot of sacks he had, that says a lot right there. an arguement could be made that harrison playing on a defense like last season it was easier to get sacks than on any defense that gildon played on. dont get me wrong gildon isnt half the talent james harrison is, but last season's defense was the best i have ever seen.

Oviedo
06-08-2009, 12:43 PM
I'm sure I painted a worse picture than I had of Gildon. I was just frustrated last night being at work and listening to the pens game. My apologies for those that had seen the value in Gildon.

no worries. i know where your coming from. towards the end of his career in the burgh he was pretty pedestrian. out of all the great lb's the steelers have had i wouldnt rate him all that high. i was just sayin its not like he was a bum or anything. thats a lot of sacks he had, that says a lot right there. an arguement could be made that harrison playing on a defense like last season it was easier to get sacks than on any defense that gildon played on. dont get me wrong gildon isnt half the talent james harrison is, but last season's defense was the best i have ever seen.

I would disagree on your last comment. Gildon had much more talent than Harrison but he did not have one-tenth the fire and determination.

ikestops85
06-08-2009, 01:05 PM
I definitely think this group has the POTENTIAL to be the greatest linebacker corp in Steeler history but they haven't done anything yet. They have a ways to go to supplant Lambert, Ham and Russell in my mind. Those guys were incredible in how well and how smart they played. Ham and Russell essentially eliminated the sweep from the opponents playbook when they played the Steelers. They were so quick in penetrating across the line and either making the tackle or turning the RB inside where Lambert or the sensational D-Line cleaned up the play. Their coverage skills were also right up there with the best in the league. Their sack totals were low because we didn't blitz much -- we didn't have to with the front four we had. :D

So, in the words of Denny Green ... if you want to crown'em then go ahead and crown their ass. Me, I'll wait and see how well they do.

frankthetank1
06-08-2009, 04:32 PM
I'm sure I painted a worse picture than I had of Gildon. I was just frustrated last night being at work and listening to the pens game. My apologies for those that had seen the value in Gildon.

no worries. i know where your coming from. towards the end of his career in the burgh he was pretty pedestrian. out of all the great lb's the steelers have had i wouldnt rate him all that high. i was just sayin its not like he was a bum or anything. thats a lot of sacks he had, that says a lot right there. an arguement could be made that harrison playing on a defense like last season it was easier to get sacks than on any defense that gildon played on. dont get me wrong gildon isnt half the talent james harrison is, but last season's defense was the best i have ever seen.

I would disagree on your last comment. Gildon had much more talent than Harrison but he did not have one-tenth the fire and determination.

maybe refined talent gildon has him there, harrison is definetly a raw talent. whatever it is that makes harrison great, determination or talent he is definetly a better player than gildon. the last two seasons harrison has put together are about as impressive than any 2 seasons i have seen from a steeler lb or any lb, even LT