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hawaiiansteel
06-21-2011, 08:37 PM
Steelers outlook: Super Bowl loss might fuel another run

by Gerry Dulac 6/21
Sporting News

In a season when he had to wade through a minefield of suspensions, fines, injuries and controversial trades, it’s incomprehensible that Mike Tomlin didn’t receive a single vote for NFL Coach of the Year.

After all the problems and injuries he endured, including a four-game suspension of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, Tomlin should have been the hands-down winner.

http://dy.snimg.com/story-image/0/77/189518/37139-650-366.jpg

James Harrison threatened retirement after receiving extra attention from the NFL for his violent hits. (AP photo)

The Steelers lost only four games in 2010, won their 20th division title since 1970 and made it to their third Super Bowl in six years. Now Tomlin gets to see if he can do it again.

“We have a veteran-laden group with really good leadership,” Tomlin says. “A little extra is required when you’re trying to find a winning edge, a winning formula—and that is something our guys embrace.”

The previous two times the Steelers made it the Super Bowl—after the 2005 and ’08 seasons—they missed the playoffs the following year. But in each of those Super Bowls, the Steelers were victorious. The loss to the Packers in Super Bowl 45 might be enough to inspire another run through the playoffs.

What's new

Offense: There was some question whether Bruce Arians would be back as offensive coordinator, but after the run to the Super Bowl, why not? The Steelers leaned more on the run in 2010 with Arians, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger says it was because they were told to do so.

Arians silenced a lot of critics with his ability to mix the run with the pass, something he will continue to do with Roethlisberger and running back Rashard Mendenhall. But look for the offense to open up again in 2011.

Considering the offensive line lost both starting tackles to season-ending injuries and started three different players at right guard, it should be commended, not criticized, for what it was able to do with so many different combinations. The team drafted Florida tackle Marcus Gilbert in the second round and will fit him in at guard. Gilbert has good size (6-6, 330) and athleticism.

Defense: Defensive end Aaron Smith’s season-ending triceps injury had a silver lining because it allowed for the rapid development of end Ziggy Hood and showcased some of his talent—something the Steelers can’t ignore in 2011. They will attempt to do more of that with rookie end Cameron Heyward, their first-round draft pick this year. He will be brought along in the same manner as Hood.

The defensive warts were exposed in the Super Bowl when the Packers used four- and five-receiver sets to spread the field and force the cornerbacks into single coverage. That’s not a problem for Ike Taylor, a top corner the team hopes to re-sign. But Bryant McFadden and nickel back William Gay become liabilities in those situations and are often picked on by opposing offenses.

The team is hoping Keenan Lewis, a third-round pick in 2009, and Crezdon Butler, a fifth-rounder in 2010, are ready to challenge McFadden for a starting spot. If not, the same problems will exist in 2011. The team added corner depth with third-round pick Curtis Brown and fourth-rounder Cortez Allen.

Opponent's view

(An anonymous opponent breaks down the Steelers)

“The Packers discovered the way to beat the Steelers—spread that defense out and force those corners to cover, something they just don’t do very well. If you go back a number of years, the Patriots started doing that to the Steelers with Tom Brady, and they still do it. What happens when you spread the field, No. 1, it gets Casey Hampton off the field in their nickel defense. No. 2, when you use four and even five wide receivers, it gets some of the linebackers in mismatches with the running backs and teams look for that. You’ve seen other teams challenge (inside linebacker) James Farrior in those situations.

“But the whole purpose is to get the Steelers’ corners in one-on-one situations, and they’re just not very good in those situations. Now, Ike Taylor is, but he doesn’t make a lot of plays on the ball. The problem is on the other side, where Bryant McFadden needs help over the top because he has a hard time in single coverage. Whenever the Packers saw McFadden in single coverage, they almost always went at him.”

Bottom line

Pittsburgh has the talent and depth to make another run at the Super Bowl, especially since it returns a number of players who missed significant portions of last season with injuries. A big concern is that age has settled in on the defense, where five of the front seven starters will be 32 or older.

But that was also a source of concern last season, and there was no drop off in production on defense. If the defense defies age again and Roethlisberger continues his late-game heroics, Pittsburgh should again be in contention for the division title and postseason run.

Breakout candidate

Ziggy Hood, DE. Hood started the final 13 games (including the postseason) when Aaron Smith was injured, and his performance got better each week. Even though he might not begin the season as the starter, Hood has earned plenty of playing time and could become a dominant force.

"Ziggy's done a great job, and I expect him to keep on doing the same. He's gotten better. He's a first-round pick, so you expect him to improve and get better.” — NT Casey Hampton

Depth chart

Offense

QB Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich

FB David Johnson, Isaac Redman

RB Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman

LT Max Starks, Jonathan Scott

LG Chris Kemoeatu, Trai Essex

C Maurkice Pouncey, Doug Legursky

RG Ramon Foster, Marcus Gilbert

RT Willie Colon, Flozell Adams

TE Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth

WR Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders

WR Hines Ward, Antonio Brown

Defense

DE Aaron Smith, Ziggy Hood

NT Casey Hampton, Chris Hoke

DE Brett Keisel, Cameron Heyward

OLB James Harrison, Chris Carter

ILB James Farrior, Larry Foote

ILB Lawrence Timmons, Stevenson Sylvester

OLB LaMarr Woodley, Jason Worilds

LCB Ike Taylor, Crezdon Butler

SS Troy Polamalu, Ryan Mundy

FS Ryan Clark, Will Allen

RCB Bryant McFadden, William Gay

Specialists

K Shaun Suisham

P Daniel Sepulveda

KR Antonio Brown

PR Antonio Brown

LS Greg Warren

Read more: http://aol.sportingnews.com/nfl/feed/20 ... z1Px8SvIja (http://aol.sportingnews.com/nfl/feed/2011-06/nfl-outlook/story/super-bowl-loss-may-fuel-another-steelers-run#ixzz1Px8SvIja)

TallyStiller
06-22-2011, 10:07 AM
“The Packers discovered the way to beat the Steelers—spread that defense out and force those corners to cover, something they just don’t do very well. If you go back a number of years, the Patriots started doing that to the Steelers with Tom Brady, and they still do it. What happens when you spread the field, No. 1, it gets Casey Hampton off the field in their nickel defense. No. 2, when you use four and even five wide receivers, it gets some of the linebackers in mismatches with the running backs and teams look for that. You’ve seen other teams challenge (inside linebacker) James Farrior in those situations.

“But the whole purpose is to get the Steelers’ corners in one-on-one situations, and they’re just not very good in those situations. Now, Ike Taylor is, but he doesn’t make a lot of plays on the ball. The problem is on the other side, where Bryant McFadden needs help over the top because he has a hard time in single coverage. Whenever the Packers saw McFadden in single coverage, they almost always went at him.”

This just in... this has always been the way to beat the Steelers, as evidenced by the Pats' gaudy record against us over the last decade. The Steelers' defensive philosophy has been stable for a long time, and has always involved bringing in big, physical corners who sacrifice fluidity and man cover ability for ability to support in the run game. Adequate is enough in coverage... before Ike and B Mac, it was DeWayne Washington and Chad Scott.

Furthermore, the road map to beating this defense was designed by... D!ck LeBeau. It is, like a case of herpes, the gift that keeps on giving from his time as the Bungles head coach. Late December of the resurgent 13 - 3 2001 season, we went to Cincy to play a game meaningless in the standings - we had sewn up the #1 seed in the AFC, and the Bungles were a 3 win team. We lost to the Bungles that day, I think 26 - 23, but it was HOW we lost that was key - they didn't even pretend to care about the run game. Jon Kitna threw it 64 times, completed 43, both at the time single game records. Flash forward to the start of the '02 season. We open at New England, home to Oakland. Brady and Rich Gannon both throw it 60+ times, they outscore us a combined 64 - 24, and 2 weeks in, our season is on the brink.

Basically, ever since, teams with an ounce of sense (and an elite QB) have just spent entire ballgames chucking it all over the yard against us and daring us to stop it. We have had lots of success over the years because a. not everybody has an elite QB (I'm looking at you, Joe Flacco) b. some teams have trouble blocking the 3 - 4 (Indy), and c. many teams have coaching staffs unwilling to defy conventional wisdom and untether themselves from attempts to run against our D (thanks for the Lombardi, Whiz! Lord knows if you'd've unleashed Kurt Warner on us for 60 minutes, that game might've been first to 50...).

The Sodfather
06-22-2011, 10:09 AM
The Packers discovered it???

Who the **** wrote that garbage.

The Pats have been doing that since the opener in 02.