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View Full Version : Have the Steelers painted themselves into a corner?



Chadman
10-29-2009, 06:53 PM
Ok, it's BYE WEEK, so Chadman has plenty of spare time to muse over the state of the Steelers without concentrating on a game this weekend. So, today's topic of concentration revolves around...

CASEY HAMPTON & THE NT JOB IN THE STEELERS 3-4 BEYOND THIS SEASON.

(Yay!!)

Ok, we all know Casey is playing the last season of his current contract, and is 32 years old. Some will say that his play is slipping, most will agree he has earned the ire of the coaching staff for turning up out of shape last season. 32 year old players rarely, if ever, improve- they generally start to decline. That's what we know. We also know that NT is one of the most important, if the the most important, job in a 3-4 defense. And we also know that the Steelers operate a dominant 3-4 defense. And we also will remember the lack of success the Steelers had when they replaced another very good NT in Joel Steed with Kimo Von Oelhoffen, who later proved to be a very effective 3-4 DE, but lacked the necessary qualities to be an effective NT. This was the reason the Steelers drafted Hampton in the 1st round- because they knew they needed a dominant player at NT for the 3-4 to work.

So- this leads us to asking what the future holds for the Steelers NT position, and for Casey Hampton?


Keep in mind that many teams have switched from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 in the last couple of years, putting greater demand on pure NT players in both the draft & FA.

Hampton will most likely be looking for one last good payout- probably for a 3 year deal. There should be no shortage of teams that will be willing to give it to him.

Here are a few points that have been running through Chadman's head-


1. NT's can play until quite an advanced age in the NFL. Sam Adams, Ted Washington, Grady Jackson- that's just 3 off the top of Chadman's head that played until mid 30's or beyond with little drop-off in the level of play. Can we expect the same from Casey? Could there be 3 more years of good play in him?

2. The Steelers pride themselves on a dominant defense. If they lose Casey Hampton, and insert his back-up, the older, smaller & less explosive Chris Hoke, can they still maintain a dominant defense? Or will it slip? Can the Steelers accept a drop-off in the level of play on defense?

3. Is there any decent prospects in this upcoming draft class that can play 3-4 NT from Day 1? Chadman doesn't see any that pop out at this stage.

4. Ziggy Hood was drafted in Round 1. He's a 3-4 DE. Brett Keisel was resigned for a few more years in the off season. He's a 3-4 DE too. Aaron Smith has 2 years to run on his contract, and he's a DE too. So why, knowing that big Casey's contract was up after this season, did the Steelers focus on DE in round 1 & not say, Ron Brace?

5. Can the Steelers sign a top quality replacement in FA to replace Hampton? Remember, the market price for NT has risen with more teams moving to a 3-4, as has the demand on draft day.

6. Is it smart business to FRANCHISE Hampton? Remember though, that Albert Haynesworth's deal has skyrocketted the average price for DT's in the NFL.

7. With all these factors in mind, is it more realistic than ever to believe that a switch to a 4-3 is on the cards? 4-3 DT's are easier to find on draft day, Ziggy could move inside, as could Aaron Smith. Woodley could go to DE (he did bulk up this off season). Chris Hoke's size is less of an issue in a 4-3.

Just putting this out there people.

Discuss at will....

SteelHead
10-29-2009, 07:35 PM
Insightful post Chadman.....

This subject has been thrown around quite since Tomlin took over. Although I have no idea what his intentions are with the defense long term , I do know this.....as long as Lebeau is our DC , we'll be running the 3-4. In my opinion possibly after his departure as well. You have Keith Butler waiting in the wings and could very well take over after Bad Word retires. Tomlin could at that point start tweaking with different schemes to apply some of his tampa 2 philosophies. So maybe we'd be looking at a "hybrid" 3-4/4-3. Who knows really.

You could argue both ways as to what our current personnel projects to best in the future but in the end it's just conjecture. The Steelers have proven that despite the increased popularity of the 3-4 , they still find players to fit that scheme and run it better than any other team in the league.

It might sound silly to say but I'd be disappointed to see our vaunted 3-4 zone blitz scheme go , maybe it's more I'll be sad to see Lebeau go. It's been our staple for quite some time now and I think having that stability of scheme and attitude is crucial to bringing young player in and developing them.

pfelix73
10-29-2009, 07:42 PM
I was one of those few who liked the idea on Ron Brace at #32 last year, but we're beyond that now.

If they can't re sign Casey, then I would think that they could draft a NG in next year's draft and just let Hoke play there next year. Who knows? the draftee could surprise and start.

Just all a guess at this point.

:tt1

Chadman
10-29-2009, 07:46 PM
Chadman has no problem with the Steelers sticking with a 3-4 at all. Whatever scheme works, and works well, is fine by Chadman.

But if the Steelers are, indeed, sticking with a 3-4, who plays NT if Casey leaves? Or do the Steelers sign him on what would, one would assume, be a hefty pay day? Franchise him? Or can a rookie step up & become the starter? Or is Chris Hoke the biggest surprise packet we've encountered? Older, smaller- sure, can he at least match Hampton's play? Or do the Steelers take a hit as far as dominance goes & spend money elsewhere?

Chadman
10-29-2009, 07:50 PM
I was one of those few who liked the idea on Ron Brace at #32 last year, but we're beyond that now.

If they can't re sign Casey, then I would think that they could draft a NG in next year's draft and just let Hoke play there next year. Who knows? the draftee could surprise and start.

Just all a guess at this point.

:tt1

Don't know how deep your knowledge is of the college league felix, but is there a rookie Chadman is missing that stands out as a 3-4 NT? Right now, there isn't one that Chadman would assume is a sure fire early round pick- therefore all the more unlikely that as a rookie, that he could start.

Would you be willing to suffer short term pain for long term gain at NT? Put it this way- with the star shining brightly over Pittsburgh for the next couple of years, should the Steelers go all out to maintain it's level of dominance on defense? Or do we build for the next 5 years? Win now? Or later?

RuthlessBurgher
10-29-2009, 08:06 PM
The upcoming draft will be split over 3 days (Round 1 on Thursday, Rounds 2-3 on Friday, and Rounds 4-7 on Saturday).

In terms of potentional NT prospects who may be interesting:

Day One: Terrence Cody, Alabama

Day Two: Boo Robinson, Wake Forest

Day Three: D'Anthony Smith, Louisiana Tech or Dan Williams, Tennessee

fezziwig
10-29-2009, 08:20 PM
they will take a nose tackle ealry if not the first pick.

the obvious positions are filled like Ben, the O-line but, not to say they would pass on a good prospect at o-line.

We are set at corner, safety less Ryan Clark and they will retain him.

Keisel will remain along with Ziggy, Smith and our backups.

We are heavy at wide receiver and with Miller. They're also stacked at runningback.

Logic tells me that, nose tackle is the one they want. Again, if they see a nice linebacker or o-lineman, they'll grab them too. They have to adress Hamptons spot.

SteelCrazy
10-29-2009, 08:22 PM
Terrance Cody would be a great pick......

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrence_Cody

NKySteeler
10-29-2009, 08:28 PM
"Have the Steelers painted themselves into a corner?" .... At this particular point, I would say "no", but you did bring-up some very valid/interesting questions... Thing is, we really don't know what is in store for our defensive unit... In that respect, what I mean is, who knows how much longer LeBeau will be there.... He is getting older, and has to be getting close to hanging it up IMHO even though he's doing great once again. But he's 70+ and can't do this forever... Wouldn't the next DC in the future hold a huge amount of this questionable situation in his plans at that point?..... Smith will be back next season. Hood will only progress. Kirschke will be there as well for a bit longer. Hampton is obviously the biggest question mark in my opinion...

pfelix73
10-29-2009, 09:31 PM
There is no way they will be looking at OL in the 1st round unless a blue chipper would fall down to them and even then, I would doubt it. That just seems like a wasted pick to me. We have the entire OL signed except for Colon and this OL is young. Essex could always slide right and insert Stapleton again or even Legursky.

Way too early to be discussing next year's draft, but I know it's the bye week, so we have to talk about something.

We're thin at S too. I'll go out on a limb and say we'll be picking any where from 20-32. We all hope 32 again.....

I'm still wondering if the coaching staff has any thoughts of putting Ziggy in at NG.... It's a slim possibility, I suppose.

:tt1

Mel Blount's G
10-29-2009, 09:34 PM
I'm no expert but I do remember draft rats saying at draft time last year that the next draft (upcoming 2010) was going to be well stocked with decent nose tackles. I have no idea if this is credible info. but it was being thrown around by those with more knowledge of such things.

As far as playing from day 1, it's rare that any defensive player, be it an NT or another positional player, will play/contribute from day 1. The Steelers seem to be different from nearly every other NFL team in this regard: Other teams have no problem starting rookies. The Steelers do not seem to do it, especially on defense. I don't know if it's because Bad Word's schemes are that difficult to master or that we emphasize the ol' adage about earning the right to play. When was the last time a Steeler rookie stared from day 1 on defense? Do not hold your breath for that Chadman. Even a 1st round guy would sit behind Hoke (assuming Casey moves on).

It doesn't seem to be as rare on offense though.

As far as re-signing Casey or signing another vet, do not hope for a Marcus Stroud type if we don't resign Casey. It would have to be a 2nd tier or old guy who would sign for less than that demanded by Casey and top tier NT's.


I liked the idea someone here had after our draft last year of making Short-arms Shipley (SAAQ) into a nose tackle :tt1

pfelix73
10-29-2009, 09:54 PM
Hoke could play there next year with a rookie learning and backing him up. Again, I'm just wondering if the coaches think Ziggy could play that position too. :Steel

steelblood
10-29-2009, 10:09 PM
This all needs to play out more to be certain, but I'm going to guess that Cody will be picked in the top 15 and we won't get a shot at him.

2010 DRAFT NT PROSPECTS

Top Senior Prospects...

Terrance Cody - Alabama - 6'5 365
Kade Weston - Georgia - 6'5 325 (a little light for his height)
Al Woods - LSU - 6'4 324 (underperformer)
Travis Ivey - Maryland - 6'4 325
Dan Williams - Tennessee - 6'3 320
Jay Ross - ECU - 6'2 314 (skinny legs for NT)
Boo Robinson - Wake Forest - 6'2 300 (small, but powerful)

Other Seniors

Ekom Udofia - Stanford - 6'2 315
Camaron Thomas - North Carolina - 6'4 325
Torrell Troup - Central Florida - 6'3 314
Trey Bryant - Baylor - 6'2 315
Jaron Baston - Missouri- 6'1 305
Kellen Heard - Texas A&M - 6'6 345 (don't know a thing about this dude, but he's huge)

Top Underclassmen

Jerrell Powe - Mississippi - 6'3 340 (great athlete)
Kenrick Ellis - Hampton - 6'5 340
Marvin Austin - N Carolina - 6'3 305 (probably more of a DE in our system)
Phil Taylor - Baylor - 6'3 330 (kicked off PSU, not a Steeler-type)

Other Underclassmen

Josh Brent - Illinois - 6'2 315
Terron Sanders - Florida - 6'2 309
Jarvis Jenkins - Clemson - 6'4 310
Hebron "Loni" Fangupo - USC - 6'2 330

I'm working on a excel file for Steeler draft prospects. I started now so I could take notes as I watch college football. If anyone wants to help with this project, please PM me.

Steelblood

pfelix73
10-29-2009, 10:36 PM
Thanks for the names. As a fellow Pirate, I'll keep an eye on Ross, but I don;t really think he's 3-4 NG material. More of a 4-3 DT.

:tt1

steelerkeylargo
10-29-2009, 10:58 PM
One name I really like is Arthur Jones from Syracuse. At 305 he is a little light but I think he has the frame to put on another 25 lbs. Pretty Solid ball player who probably projects to late first round early 2nd material.

Steel Life
10-29-2009, 11:05 PM
Going the FA route, we might look at these two guys...

Anthony Montgomery, Washington Redskins (25)
Huge (6'6", 330) with 21 starts, has been replaced by Haynesworth & plays more like a NT - but can he play the 3-4?

Barry Cofield, New York Giants (25)
It's not often that you get a second chance at player you should've taken in the draft, but Cofield is worth it. Coming from the same draft in which we took Reid & Smith in the 3rd & Orien Harris in the 4th (passing on Jason Hatcher & Domata Peko), Cofield has the size & strength to play the 3-4 plus has the experience of playing on very good Giants defenses.

SteelAbility
10-29-2009, 11:06 PM
Very insightful post. It makes me wonder if the Steelers have some kind of "ace up the sleeve" regarding NT. Otherwise the 4-3 looks like it could very well be in the cards.

On another note. Woodley bulked up this offseason? WTH!!!??? Wasn't his playing weight at 270 last year? Why does he need to bulk up? Maybe this helps answer why his performance has kind of dropped off. He looks a bit slow to me. It seems that if he lost about 15 lbs. the small dropoff in strength would be more than compensated for with the increased spead and quickness.

flippy
10-30-2009, 08:13 AM
How about running a 2-5 base defense?

Ziggy and Aaron could be the 2 down linemen.

And use Keisel as a big LB.

JTP53609
10-30-2009, 08:28 AM
we are lucky bc the upcoming draft has a load of quality NT's, well that is according to gel kiper.....

i have painted myself into a corner once before, and let me tell you, it was about as fun as watching paint dry

steelblood
10-30-2009, 10:20 AM
Thanks for the names. As a fellow Pirate, I'll keep an eye on Ross, but I don;t really think he's 3-4 NG material. More of a 4-3 DT.

:tt1


Well, in some 4-3's there is a nose tackle. He is the nose tackle for your pirates. He usually lines up over the center or just off his shoulder depending on the offensive formation. I do agree that he is more of a 4-3 DT, thus the "skinny legs" crack. He does have the bulk and nice quickness for his size though. If he could add some muscle to his lower half (debatable), he has potential. It is all a projection game at this point. He has talent and size, so we have to put him in the mix for now.

steelblood
10-30-2009, 10:23 AM
One name I really like is Arthur Jones from Syracuse. At 305 he is a little light but I think he has the frame to put on another 25 lbs. Pretty Solid ball player who probably projects to late first round early 2nd material.

I put Jones in the 3-4 DE area. But, I agree that he is a great player with some flexibility as far as pro position. Good call.

papillon
10-30-2009, 11:37 AM
When do franchise and transition tags have to be applied?

Could the Steelers go to the draft and see if they get Casey's heir apparent and if they do then they could franchise Casey for a year while the newbie learns.

If they don't get his heir apparent then they may have to consider an extension. I'd personally like to see the extension option be given a chance regardless. I think Hampton has been acquitting himself quite nicely this year.

Pappy

RuthlessBurgher
10-30-2009, 12:33 PM
When do franchise and transition tags have to be applied?

Could the Steelers go to the draft and see if they get Casey's heir apparent and if they do then they could franchise Casey for a year while the newbie learns.

If they don't get his heir apparent then they may have to consider an extension. I'd personally like to see the extension option be given a chance regardless. I think Hampton has been acquitting himself quite nicely this year.

Pappy

You have to tag players in February, two months before the draft occurs.

Mel Blount's G
10-30-2009, 01:23 PM
When do franchise and transition tags have to be applied?

Could the Steelers go to the draft and see if they get Casey's heir apparent and if they do then they could franchise Casey for a year while the newbie learns.

If they don't get his heir apparent then they may have to consider an extension. I'd personally like to see the extension option be given a chance regardless. I think Hampton has been acquitting himself quite nicely this year.

Pappy

You have to tag players in February, two months before the draft occurs.
For you fans that are more knowledgeable on contract-related stuff: Is this a realistic possibility for us retaining Casey (at least temporarily)? Could/would we franchise him to keep him for another year? I do not suppose the transition tag would be an option since he could sign an offer sheet with another team without us receiving compensation and he'd most likely be sought after by a 3-4 team in need or looking to upgrade?

We'd be right back where we started in 2011 I suppose if we franchised Snack but didn't draft and/or sign a FA to replace him?

My hope in an extension is very slim because I'm pretty sure Snack will be looking for the BIG FAT PAYOFF that will have him cruising comfortably into the twilight of his career. And we all know the irresponsible teams are out there that will offer him some ludicrous Haynesworthesque contract... We also know the Steelers don't throw big money and contracts around as freely as some of these other teams

RuthlessBurgher
10-30-2009, 02:26 PM
The franchise tag is calculated by averaging the top 5 at each position. Here are the top 5 defensive tackles coming into this season:

A. Haynesworth $7,250,003
C. Griffin $6,166,333
T. Harris $6,030,662
M. Stroud $5,666,666
C. Hampton $5,177,083

The franchise tag for DT's in 2009 was just over $6 million (which I expect to increase in 2010). I can't see giving Big Snack a million dollar raise via the franchise tag (especially since we paid so much this offseason for Harrison, Starks, Ward, Keisel, Hartwig, etc.). I think that we may offer him a short-term contract for a home-team discount, but I think that another team that is converting to the 3-4 will offer him more years and more money and he will walk. I think we will draft a NT in the first 3 rounds (along with a safety and an o-lineman), and let the young kid back up Hoke for a year before taking over as the starter in 2011.

steelblood
10-30-2009, 03:41 PM
The franchise tag is calculated by averaging the top 5 at each position. Here are the top 5 defensive tackles coming into this season:

A. Haynesworth $7,250,003
C. Griffin $6,166,333
T. Harris $6,030,662
M. Stroud $5,666,666
C. Hampton $5,177,083

The franchise tag for DT's in 2009 was just over $6 million (which I expect to increase in 2010). I can't see giving Big Snack a million dollar raise via the franchise tag (especially since we paid so much this offseason for Harrison, Starks, Ward, Keisel, Hartwig, etc.). I think that we may offer him a short-term contract for a home-team discount, but I think that another team that is converting to the 3-4 will offer him more years and more money and he will walk. I think we will draft a NT in the first 3 rounds (along with a safety and an o-lineman), and let the young kid back up Hoke for a year before taking over as the starter in 2011.

If it is an uncapped year, I could definitely see the STeelers tagging him for one year (even at close to 7 mil). We could draft and develop someone and take another whack at a Super Bowl. Also, if we luck out in the draft and got Cody or someone like him, I think you could still trade Hampton to another 3-4 team that would give him a longer contract.

RuthlessBurgher
10-30-2009, 04:12 PM
In an uncapped year, you would have access to one franchise tag and two transition tags. Transition tags allow you to match an offer made by another team, but you do not get any draft pick compensation if you choose not to match like you would with a franchised player.

Giving the franchise tag to a DT like Casey Hampton cost $6,058,000 this season.

Giving the transition tag to a safety like Ryan Clark cost $5,130,000 this season.

Giving the transition tag to a kicker like Jeff Reed cost $2,264,000 this season.

Giving the 1st round restricted free agent tender to an OT like Willie Colon cost $2,198,000 this season (we gave him that same tender this season, so that is what we are paying him now, and we could keep him for another year at the same tender if there is no new CBA and we have an uncapped year...the value may go up slightly next season just like the franchise and transition amounts listed above. If a new CBA is ratified, however, Colon would be an unrestricted free agent like Hampton, Clark, Reed, Parker, Townsend, etc.)

steeler_fan_in_t.o.
10-30-2009, 10:30 PM
Out of those 3-4 NT prospects, how many are actually playing the 3-4 in college and how many project to be 3-4 NTs in the pros? That experience will be a huge factor in whether or not the player could step in from day 1.

Slapstick
10-30-2009, 11:27 PM
I think it really depends on what LeBeau does....

I know that Tomlin values continuity and I believe that his comfort level with Butler would allo Butler to be promoted to DC...that being said, Tomlin allowed Arians to change the offense, so I would imagine that Butler would be afforded the same freedom...

The reason that the Steelers ZB 3-4 works is because of LeBeau...you can't duplicate what he does, so I wouldn't even try...

RuthlessBurgher
10-31-2009, 01:05 PM
Out of those 3-4 NT prospects, how many are actually playing the 3-4 in college and how many project to be 3-4 NTs in the pros? That experience will be a huge factor in whether or not the player could step in from day 1.

The 3-4 in college is quite rare as a base defensive set (I think Al Groh uses it as his base defense at the University of Virginia, but I can't think of another off the top of my head). Still, though, when you run a 4-3, you typically have one DT that plays over the center whose primary job is to occupy blockers and stuff the run, while the other DT is typically more of a penetrator. We're obviously more interested in the former.

Even if we drafted a NT in round one (say, the monster 365 lbs. DT from Alabama Terrence Cody), I still think that the rook would only be a rotational backup to Chris Hoke during his rookie season (assuming that we are not able to bring back Hampton), and will likely start in 2011.