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NKySteeler
06-16-2009, 09:33 PM
The Pittsburgh Steelers Secondary: Who Is the Odd Man Out?
by Nick Signorelli (Columnist)
June 15, 2009

http://img198.imageshack.us/img198/8715/91506feature.jpg

When talking about who could be the odd man out in Pittsburgh, there are some people that can be left out of the conversation from the beginning.

Troy Polamalu is one player that has no fear of getting a pink slip anytime soon. He has revolutionized the way the Safety position is played, and will be a fixture in the Steelers secondary for years to come.

Starting corner Ike Taylor is also cemented in at starter on one side of the ball. Taylor always covers the other team's best receiver, and does a great job at doing it.

After replacing Bryant McFadden during his injuries, William Gay is penciled in to start opposite of Ike Taylor.

Gay did a good enough job for the Steelers to allow McFadden to leave for the Arizona Cardinals. Barring a training camp let down, Gay will be starting.

Deshea Townsend Keiwan Ratlif Keenan Lewis Joe Burnett vote to see results This is where the questions start coming into play.

The Steelers used a third and fifth round pick upgrading the position, one free agent was brought in, and Deshea Townsend returns. It looks to be an open competition for these players.

Keenan Lewis, the Steelers third round pick, is expected to compete for the Nickel and Dime corner positions.

Lewis stands at 6 foot, weighs 208lbs, and has a similar skill set as Ike Taylor. Lewis is the most likely to win playing time this year of the rookies.

Joe Burnett comes to the Steelers in the fifth round out of the University of Central Florida. Though smaller than Lewis, at 5'9, 194, Burnett could better be described as BURN-ett due to his blazing speed.

Mike Tomlin is hoping that Burnett can become a kick returner and is hoping that he will eventually be able to win the Nickel position.

Deshea Townsend is a Steeler through and through. He has played his entire career with the Steelers, being drafted in 1997.

He started behind Dewayne Washington and Chad Scott, only taking over when both were released.

Townsend, now nearing the end of his career, will probably be moved to back-up Safety behind Troy and Ryan Clark.

Keiwan Ratliff is the biggest question mark in this equation. He was obviously brought in because of depth, but can he be good enough to take playing time away from one of the above mentioned players?

If the Steelers hold true to form, and that is allowing rookies to sit for a year before being thrown into the fire, you can expect the secondary to look something like this:

RCB - Ike Taylor
FS - Ryan Clark
SS - Troy Polamalu
LCB - William Gay
Nickel Back - Keiwan Ratliff
Dime Back - Keenan Lewis

Deshea Townsend would probably be the back-up at every position at Safety, while also being the next corner used in the dime if anyone is injured.

Either way, the Steelers are looking like a team that is building for the future while not losing the present to do so.

It is looking like the Steelers secondary is going to be one of the strongest for years to come.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1996 ... dd-man-out (http://bleacherreport.com/articles/199688-the-pittsburgh-steelers-secondary-who-is-the-odd-man-out)

RuthlessBurgher
06-17-2009, 12:22 AM
I disagree with his assessment of the most likely nickel and dime backs on gameday (although he obviously picked the most likely starting four):

RCB - Ike Taylor
FS - Ryan Clark
SS - Troy Polamalu
LCB - William Gay
Nickel Back - Keiwan Ratliff
Dime Back - Keenan Lewis

I would go with Deshea Townsend as the nickel back. Deshea spend much of the practice time preparing to be a back-up safety this season in case something happens to one of our starting safeties, but while the starting safeties are healthy, that does not mean that he cannot continue to be the nickel back (he's been doing it for over a decade now...he can mentally handle learning both responsibilities). And for the dime back, I think Burnett is active more often than Lewis because he can contribute as the primary punt returner, an option at kick returner as well (if Mike Wallace is not active on game day as the primary kick returner, you could put Burnett and Mewelde Moore as the two men deep on kickoffs and it will still be a vast improvement over the Najeh Davenport and Gary Russell days), plus Burnett could be a gunner on punt coverage as well. I think Ratliff has a chance to make the team (I think he is a better option than the other veteran CB fighting for a roster spot, Fernando Bryant), but if Ratliff is not able to display his aptitude on special teams as well as on defense, there is a likelihood that he could be inactive some weeks in favor of a rookie DB that is also a potential weapon on special teams.

I would guess it could look something like this:

RCB - Ike Taylor
FS - Ryan Clark
SS - Troy Polamalu
LCB - William Gay
Nickel Back - Deshea Townsend
Dime Back - Joe Burnett

There is also a possibility of using 3 safeties and 3 CB's in some dime packages instead of 4 CB's and 2 safeties. In which case, I would hope Ryan Mundy and/or Roy Lewis show enough in camp to be ahead of Tyrone Carter in the pecking order.

Oviedo
06-17-2009, 08:16 AM
Anthony Madison IMO is the odd man out of the DBs. He is a luxury particularly if they want both Lewis and Burnett active on gameday. He is probably not as good a DB as either Lewis or Burnett. I think Ratliff makes the team because of experience. Bryant is gone. I think the final 9 DBs who are most likely are:

Troy P.
Clark
Taylor
Gay
Townsend
Mundy
K. Lewis
Burnett
Ratliff

The wildcard for the 10th position is in my mind is who is the back up at Strong Safety? I think that gets down to what they can do with Roy Lewis versus Tyrone Carter. They really have no SS who is even in Troy's league and Troy getting hurt would cause major schematic adjustments to be made.

On gameday I agree with Ruthless that Burnett is a more likely to dress because they will need him for returns. He is also a much better DB than people realize as you can see from watching the following:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ypp0NO6UMV0

phillyesq
06-17-2009, 09:47 AM
This is really a good problem to have. Lots of depth in the secondary, lots of competition for both roster spots and playing time.

I agree with Oviedo, and fear that Madison is likely to end up as the odd man out. I wish there was a way to find space for him on the roster, because he is a great special teams player, but it will be hard to justify keeping him, especially when considering the potential of the other defensive backs.

MaxAMillion
06-17-2009, 10:14 AM
I expect Lewis to play all season long. I believe he is a major talent and he will eventually develop into a better player than Gay. I think he remains active over Burnett even though he can't return punts.

steelblood
06-17-2009, 10:36 AM
Deshea backs up both safeties?

deshea may be able to handle FS. But, I'd say he'd be an undersized FS. I don't think he'd be effective at SS at all. Troy is an undersized SS, but gets away with it because he is a superior athlete and hits like a ton of bricks. Deshea is smaller than troy without the athletic gifts and big hitting. I'm not sure how this writer thinks he'd be a good fit at SS.

RuthlessBurgher
06-17-2009, 10:46 AM
Deshea backs up both safeties?

deshea may be able to handle FS. But, I'd say he'd be an undersized FS. I don't think he'd be effective at SS at all. Troy is an undersized SS, but gets away with it because he is a superior athlete and hits like a ton of bricks. Deshea is smaller than troy without the athletic gifts and big hitting. I'm not sure how this writer thinks he'd be a good fit at SS.

Deshea will provide depth at both corner as well as safety, but I highly doubt that he would be the primary back-up option at both safety positions. They will still have Ryan Mundy, Roy Lewis, and Tyrone Carter competing for the primary back-up roles at safety. Deshea may only turn out to be an emergency option at safety (continuing in the nickel corner role that he had for much of his career).

steeler_fan_in_t.o.
06-17-2009, 12:55 PM
Unfortunately, I think that the odd men out are Roy Lewis (who I liked last pre season), and Madison.

SS - Troy, Carter (can Mundy backup at SS?)
FS - Clark, Mundy
CB1 - Ike
CB2 - Gay
Nickel/Dime - Deshea, Lewis, Burnett, Ratliff