View Full Version : CBS Analysis of 2012 Steelers

07-19-2012, 07:56 PM

The Steelers have changed their identity on offense the past few years, and they are clearly a pass-first, spread-formation team. With starting running back Rashard Mendenhall likely out until sometime in December that's unlikely to change. Ben Roethlisberger should be right in the prime of his career and this is a team that could approach 5,000 yards passing ... assuming of course Mike Wallace is on board (can't imagine he won't be, and more on that to come).

With Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emanuel Sanders, the Steelers have one of the best trios in the NFL. All can run and make plays all over the field, and few teams have utilized the screen game with better success than the Steelers in recent years. Now, there were major changes to the staff (again, much more there down below as well), which could certainly dictate the shape of this offense, but the game will be in Big Ben's hands and with his issues behind him and in better shape and focused more than in years past, Pittsburgh is primed to put up huge numbers.

The Steelers might also finally have an offensive line to match the rest of the roster as well. They've managed to win Super Bowls despite a group that lacked individual stars along the line and that could be overwhelmed at times. Roethlisberger absorbed too much abuse (albeit he brings some of it on himself with how he clings to the ball), and major upgrades were needed.

Drafting franchise center Maurkice Pouncey was a great step a few years back and if rookies Mike Adams and David DeCastro live up to their promise, then Pittsburgh will have its most athletic unit in a long, long time, and no one will be smiling as widely as Roethlisberger.

For all of the talk about the Steelers' age on defense, and considerable early-season hand-wringing by fans and the media, they once again were right there with the very best in the NFL. They remain stout against the run and, aside from the playoff debacle at Denver, the secondary help up better than many expected during the season. They allowed the fewest points in the regular season, which cannot be overlooked.

Still, it's true that guys like James Harrison and Troy Polamalu and Casey Hampton are not getting any younger, and few in the history of the NFL have displayed more longevity and consistency than uber-coordinator Dick LeBeau, who shunned retirement again last year and is back for a quest for yet another Lombardi. So changes may be on the horizon at some point, though with the way Kevin Colbert drafts the next man up is quite often a future Pro Bowler himself.

The Roethlisberger/Haley vortex will be dissected all summer long. Arians had no bigger advocate than Roethlisberger, and it was no secret. They had worked together for a long time and the quarterback was incredibly comfortable with him and they achieved tremendous success together. Haley is a totally different cat. This is a major change in personality and approach.

Haley is fiery and emotional and is not afraid to clash with a star. He will challenge his players and things don't always necessarily just play out behind closed doors. He and Ben share a deep love for golf, and some who know them both well figure that's where they will probably bond first, before the classroom or practice field. Or at least that's where they probably should seek some common ground before the games start counting.

Haley will make sure the ball get spreads around, which is huge considering how many capable pass catchers are on the roster (don't forget about tight end Heath Miller, because Haley surely won't), but the interpersonal dynamics between he and Roethlisberger, and how quickly they cultivate trust, is much more important than any scheme or play call when it comes to this group.

X-Factor: Troy Polamalu

Few players are more exciting in the game. Few have made more eye-popping, instinctive, iconic plays. But since getting injured in 2010, he hasn't been quite the same according to scouts who have watched him closely. That burst, that ability to find his way to exact spot he needs to be to blow up a play, hasn't been the same.

The plays behind the line of scrimmage, screaming down on the box, haven't been there like they used to be. The sacks, forced fumbles, big plays, are way down. In fact, in 2011, he accounted for just two interceptions and no forced fumbles; a year before he had seven picks, a forced fumble and a touchdown prior to getting hurt.

When he is right, no one does it better (okay, Ed Reed perhaps). And the film was glaring in the playoffs, when free safety Ryan Clark could not play due to the altitude and his sickle cell trait. Polamalu was exposed in coverage in that game by Tim Tebow of all people, and undoubtedly that will spur him into this season.

If he is the Troy of old, then the chatter about the age of this defense goes away. Some say he may have lost a step.

Who's next to go?

The Steelers share a unique bond with their players, but excel at knowing when to let them go. Hines Ward is just the latest example. Emotion must be parsed aside in this business, and after looking at all the money pumped into young linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons, and given some of the headaches over the years, and his age and escalating contract, you have to wonder if James Harrison is in his last year in Pittsburgh.

Harrison is also at a stage where another flagrant penalty could result in increased suspensions, and he's been fighting through several health issues in recent years as well. When he's been right, Harrison is still an elite quarterback hunter, but with Wallace just one receiver in need of a payday (Sanders and Brown aren't far behind), the small-market Steelers, who had cap problems coming into 2012, will be juggling funds and determining where they need to free up future space.

Mile High hangover

It's pretty unusual to see the Steelers getting shredded on the big stage, especially by a team like the 2011 Denver Broncos. One would go too far to say they were exposed, and clearly by that point the defensive roster had been gutted by injuries, but the film doesn't lie and no doubt others are studying it all offseason long.

Those types of endings can tend to mark the end of an era, or can be a springboard for greater success. A coaching staff can either use it as a motivation or bury it and never mention it again. It says here this organization, from the Rooney family to Colbert and Omar Khan in the front office to this accomplished coaching staff the Steelers will be right back in contention in 2012, but the way last season ended, with all the gaffes on defense, won't just go away.

Insider's Take

"I like the Haley/Roethlisberger thing. It will be good for him. He needs to be pushed. They think they'll be fine without Mendenhall. They like Dwyer and Heath Miller is going to be very involved in the passing game. He's going to get a lot of balls. The age is an issue on defense, but where did they finish overall last year? Exactly."

Xs and Os
By Pat Kirwan | NFL Insider

The Steelers' offense is being advertised as returning to the old school power run game under the direction of Todd Haley. There's no Jerome Bettis on this roster and the speedy wide receivers are their biggest strength. Coach Haley will do what he has to do to win.

One year when Haley was offensive coordinator in Arizona and head coach Ken Whisenhunt told me he really wanted to run the ball, Kurt Warner -- under the direction of Haley -- called 39 pass plays a game. The Steelers have won 53 of 80 regular season games in the past five years, so don't expect big changes.

Look for Isaac Redman to be the running back early while Rashard Mendenhall recovers from injury. I expect the Steelers to be in a lot of 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR). In order to get the power running game going without a fullback in the game, the Steelers will pull a guard and run 'G' power. What will make the Steelers different is the distinct possibility that they pull their right guard, rookie David DeCastro and run power left behind LG Willie Colon and LT Mike Adams. It also sets up nicely for the right-handed Ben Roethlisberger to half-roll right off the play fake and throw the vertical game.

Pittsburgh was 55 percent run on first down last year, which isn't consistent with the perception that they were a pass-happy bunch under former coordinator Bruce Arians. For the record, the Steelers were in the dead middle of the league in run/pass ratio with 42.8 percent run and 57.2 percent pass. At the end of the 2012 season, their percentages will be very close to these numbers.

As for the communication between Haley and Roethlisberger, it will be a bit volatile on the field at times, but it will not affect the outcome of the game.

The Steelers' defense is a base 3-4 look with lots of pressures and schemes. Dick LeBeau always feels like attacking an offense and rarely sits back in a bend-but-not-break philosophy. If any offense shows fan protection with an OT stepping out for James Harrison and or LaMarr Woodley, he will bring inside pressure from his ILB.

LeBeau also does so many different things with Troy Polamalu that offensive lines usually count him as a rusher if he's near the line of scrimmage.


07-20-2012, 09:22 AM
Solid article.

07-20-2012, 09:39 AM
It may be time for Troy to "tweak" his game...

LeBeau always allows a player in his D to freelance...usually, that player is Troy, but perhaps it is time for Troy to take a more disciplined/less reckless approach and a younger player to freelance...

07-20-2012, 10:11 AM
Good article overall, though, seriously the screen comment early in the article threw me off. The only screens I recall were bubble screens, and they were about 80% ineffective iirc.

07-20-2012, 11:27 AM
Looks like two separate articles, the first sounds like a homer wrote that article. It was very accurate, but even that person left out the use of Rainey, Cotchery and Pope. This Steelers team is very deep and should run the AFC North this season.

07-20-2012, 02:51 PM
From CNN - grading each teams off season:

• Pittsburgh Steelers (http://nfl.si.com/2012/07/04/offseason-breakdown-pittsburgh-steelers/): Some good fortune at the draft helped Pittsburgh land two potential OL starters (Mike Adams, David DeCastro) plus a DL contributor (Alameda Ta’amu). Still, the Steelers lost a ton this offseason, mainly due to cap issues. Replacing Hines Ward, James Farrior and other long-time vets will be just as hard in the locker room as on the field. The Mike Wallace situation also could be a massive distraction this year. Grade: C

Baltimore: B-
Cincy: A-
Clev: C+

Here's the link if you want to see all teams:


07-20-2012, 03:15 PM
If we have guys like Hines Ward, James Farrior, and Aaron Smith on our team, then we are "too old." When we let Ward, Farrior, and Smith go, all of a sudden it's "what will they do to replace them?"

D Rock
07-20-2012, 03:26 PM
If we have guys like Hines Ward, James Farrior, and Aaron Smith on our team, then we are "too old." When we let Ward, Farrior, and Smith go, all of a sudden it's "what will they do to replace them?"

Headlines from around the NFL:

Chicago Bears youth movement set to carry team to greatness

Belichick does it again; Top draft picks display coach's genius, prepare New England for another dynasty

Dallas Cowboys create salary cap space to sign the NFL's most explosive weapon

Steelers lose veteran leadership, hope to fill holes with draft picks other teams passed over

07-21-2012, 09:05 AM
He comments on the age of the defense, but I wonder if these guys bother to look at the roster. We have a lot of young talent on both sides of the ball.

07-21-2012, 02:13 PM
Other than our backup QB's, our offense as a whole is incredibly young (WR's are young, RB's are young, OL is young).

On defense, the DL has been the main culprit for the aging D, since we have relied on Smith, Hampton, Keisel, and Hoke for so long...but now Smith and Hoke are gone and we have plenty of young proimising replacements such as Hood, Heyward, McLendon, and Ta'Amu. At LB, Woodley and Timmons are just now entering the prime of their careers...while Harrison are Foote are not spring chickens, the cupboards aren't exactly bare with Worilds and Carter outside and Sylester and Spence inside. Ike is aging as well, but we have 3 young corners with upside in Lewis, Allen, and Brown. The only position that is aging without a future plan already in place would be at safety.

07-21-2012, 08:27 PM
Burke Not Impressed With Steelers Offseason, Dom Not Impressed With Grade

Jul 21st, 2012 by DomSteelers

Some good fortune in the Draft helped Pittsburgh land two potential OL starters (Mike Adams, David DeCastro) plus a DL contributor (Alameda Ta’amu). Still, the Steelers lost a ton this offseason, mainly due to cap issues. Replacing Hines Ward, James Farrior and other long-time vets will be just as hard in the locker room as on the field. The Mike Wallace situation also could be a massive distraction this year.

Grade: C

Not-So Negatives

Loss of (Veteran) Players Might Not Be So Bad, and Leadership is All Over Roster

Do the losses of Aaron Smith, James Farrior, and Hines Ward hurt to see as a life-long fan of this team? Of course. These guys were some of the most integral players in the franchise’s recent history, and three of the biggest reasons why the team won two Super Bowls.

But you know what? Their releases are not what you would call important in terms of what they would bring to the table in 2012 from an “on-the-field” perspective. And if you wanted to take things a step further, one could even argue that these moves were “addition by subtraction” in a salary cap and productivity senses to boot.

In case you did not notice Mr. Burke, Smith missed over 30 regular season games from 2009 to 2011, was a non-factor for the Defense last year, and spent too much time on the sidelines to help the Defense in any significant capacity. As for Ward, his production on Offense declined so steadily last season that by December Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery had jumped ahead of him on the depth chart and his snaps decreased as the season progressed. And Farrior, like Ward, was a shell of his former self last year, became an even bigger liability in pass coverage, and was thus a Two-Down player at best at this stage in his career.

As for the loss of the released veterans’ locker room presence, Burke’s language suggests that they were the only veterans on the Steelers’ roster which led the team or mattered one iota. Yet I must ask: Do the names Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Larry Foote, Brett Keisel, LaMarr Woodley, Willie Colon, and Heath Miller ring any bells? I am sure that a follower of professional football like you would have heard of a veteran Quarterback named Roethlisberger, right?

So as you can see, despite the fact that three of the team’s most important veterans are gone, the Steelers’ 2012 roster is not bereft of experienced players which can bring leadership to the youngsters this season and beyond. Because of this, these talented and mature players which I alluded to above are more than qualified to become adequate team leaders and do exactly what Ward, Farrior, and Smith did over their careers’ in the Steel City: impart their wisdom on the young players and become professionals. Thus, the franchise will likely not lose any sleep over the “leadership vacuum” being filled.

Mike Wallace Situation

While the Wallace situation “could” have been a massive distraction, why would you even put it into the equation to measure your offseason grades? With this in mind, I must ask one simple question: Is Wallace’s contract situation resolved? No, wait, let me check, carry the two, oh no, it is not. Has Training Camp started yet? Oh, wait, no. Heck, Wallace has not even sat out any preseason or regular season games as of right now. So let us all just calm down before we get ahead of ourselves and start hitting the “panic button” and downgrade any significant progress in the matter at hand.

In fact, just after you published your “grades,” it was reported by Jason LaCanfora of CBS.Sports.com that Wallace and the Steelers are moving closer to agreeing upon a long-term deal. There might even be a chance that Wallace will be ready to go for Training Camp next week. Sure, learning a new Offense might be a bit tough on Wallace. But if the Steelers can get him into Training Camp and signed within the month of July or even mid-August, it should be more than enough time for a Pro Bowler like Wallace to come in and at least have a decent grasp of the new system. And while Wallace still needs to hone bits and pieces of his game (route-running, blocking, etc.), he still runs a 9 route better than most in the League. Plus, Wallace and Big Ben have more than enough pass-catching weapons around them to help out while he adjusts accordingly to the new Offensive system.

Overlooked Positives

Steelers Used Free Agency Period Sensibly

To his credit, Burke actually highlighted the Steelers’ 2012 Draft as being one of the better ones in the League (A- Grade). But anybody that has any sort of vague understanding of what the Steelers’ needs were entering the Draft would have to give Colbert and Co. credit for addressing their most dire of needs. You know, from the Offensive Line (DeCastro, Adams, Kelvin Beachum), to the Inside Linebacker position (Sean Spence), to Nose Tackle depth (Ta’amu), and the 3rd-Down Back (Chris Rainey). But what Burke (as well as the rest of the media) might have overlooked is how the Steelers found two solid yet unheralded Free Agents (Leonard Pope and Brandon Johnson) which addressed other needs on the team as well.

At least to me, performance in the trade and Free Agency market should not be based on how much one team spends, but on how they spend their money. In fact, the two moves which the Steelers made during the Free Agency period should pay dividends this season in a couple of areas where Pittsburgh needs some help: blocking in the run game, a tall pass-catching option in the Red Zone, help on the Special Teams units, help in pass coverage from the Linebacker corps, and help on 3rd Downs to boot.

Were the moves to acquire Pope and Johnson “sexy” from a headline garnering standpoint? No, but that is not in the Steelers’ “Baller on a Budget” and frugal yet savvy style. Overall, the Steelers saw ways to improve their ball-club in Free Agency, worked it out financially, and made the moves accordingly. No over-spending, no big-contracts doled out to outsiders with question-marks, and low-risk/decent-reward investments.

Have Young and Developing Depth Ready to Step-Up

While the Steelers’ purse strings may have been limited in the area of signing Free Agents, it likely would not have mattered because the team already has a great deal of young depth ready to step up and play on their roster this season. And as I outlined months ago in this post, the Steelers have a youth movement (especially on Defense) to look forward to now and should be poised to strike as early as this season.

I mean, is it really Pittsburgh’s fault that they have players like Ziggy Hood, Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown, Steve McLendon Isaac Redman, David DeCastro, Mike Adams, and Cameron Heyward on their roster and ultimately believe they can step up this season and beyond? No. In fact, the eventual (and hopeful) development of these aforementioned players should be considered a huge plus for the organization because it required Colbert and Co. to not be pressed to look outside of their franchise for help at these specific positions. But most importantly, the Steelers did not have to use the high-priced Free Agent market or any other means besides the Draft to help address these needs at all.

Final Thoughts

How a franchise which was given an “A-” 2012 Draft Grade, have had their most important players stay out of trouble, unloaded veteran and expendable players with huge contracts and/or diminishing/expendable skill-sets, possess more than enough experienced players on the roster to fill “leadership vacuum,” remedied a couple of extra needs in Free Agency, and have some developing depth ready to break-out in 2012 be given a “C” offseason grade by the very person which graded the Draft?

Even if one takes into account some questions which the Steelers face heading into the 2012 campaign (Safety depth, RB by Committee and Who Emerges, Wallace not being signed immediately), they cannot significantly or conceivably diminish the numerous positive things which this organization has done over the last six months to warrant just an “average” grade for their efforts. Heck, if I wanted to, I could go into the number of different ways that Todd Haley will be an upgrade over Bruce Arians in the Offensive Coordinator department. But for the sake of brevity I will leave that stone unturned for now.

I am not sure how you arrived at a “C” grade for the Steelers’ offseason Mr. Burke if you indeed evaluated Pittsburgh’s offseason by the criteria you outlined in your article, but hey, you are entitled to your opinion and I enjoy your work along with the work of the rest of the football writers on CNNSI.com. But when you hand out these grades next time, you might want to try to follow your grading scale a bit more closely or pay attention to all of the offseason moves made by franchises. Otherwise, people might be inclined to poke a few holes in your argument and raise some questions as to how and why you arrived at your conclusions.


Discipline of Steel
07-21-2012, 09:00 PM
I give him a 'D' on his 'C' grade.

07-21-2012, 09:34 PM
I give him a 'D' on his 'C' grade.

me too, a 'D' for 'Dumb'...

Discipline of Steel
07-22-2012, 12:41 AM
I havent been so satisfied with a Steelers off season since i started paying attention to steeler off seasons. As far as Im concerned, they keep making the right decisions right up through trading out J Scott for Fatt Maxx.

07-22-2012, 02:04 PM
Steelers Situational Downs Key For Successful 2012 Season

Jul 21st, 2012 by CraigSteelers


The untested ‘new’ offensive line and the untested running back of the Steelers raise many doubts throughout as to whether the Steelers can succeed with the type of running game that combination will produce. Add new OC Todd Haley into the mixture, and there are numerous unknowns about this offense and its ability to influence the outcome of a football game into a W.

Isaac Redman will assume the starting role when camp starts and will retain it unless ‘The Others’ (Batch, Clay, Dwyer, Rainey) take it away from him. Redman’s ability to run well over the course of an entire season is his biggest uncertainty and worries lots of fans and media. His ‘explosiveness’ is also put into question because that was one of the things greatly lacking from the Steelers running game last season. And that’s where the crux of debate of what was ‘wrong’ with the 2011 Steelers run game and what will still be ‘wrong’ with the 2012 Steelers run game is revealed. Even though the Steelers run game lacked ‘explosiveness’ with big gains, it was the situational running that bit them in the rear last season and is what needs to greatly improve.

Believe it or not, Mendenhall gained an average of 4.1 yards per carry last season. His longest run was 68 yards (pretty good), and he lacked a large amount of 20+ or even 15+ yard gaines. Hence the lack of explosiveness, yet he was gaining yards. His best Hines Ward on DWTS impression every time he carried the rock led to many a ’3rd and short’ scenarios. It frustrated the hell out of Steeler Nation and became unbearable when Bruce Arians called bubble screens and other asinine plays on 3rd down. Throw in a bunch of Red Zone trips with the same type of game plan, and Steeler Nation was about ready to storm the castle.

With Redman as the new back, we can expect quite possibly the same kind of output that the team experienced with Mendenhall. We won’t quite see the dancing with Redman as with Mendenhall. But, with a younger line that will be working out its kinks on run and pass blocking, Redman may not have the holes in the defense to get big gains. Redman’s head down and bowl’em over style will work well and probably net similar gains on 1st and 2nd down scenarios. The key for the success of the Steelers offense will come to 3rd down situations and red zone situations.

There are many, including Joseph Bruno from Bleacher Report, who feel that the Steelers offense will be focused on Big Ben and the passing game because of the lack of an explosive run game. In fact the word ‘backseat’ was used several times. I disagree. I think that the Steelers will balance out the running and passing in the offense. Ben has his targets, but even the best of pass blockers and receivers need to create running lanes to keep the linebackers and corners honest and not sit back and wait on every down. The Steelers are going to need Redman and ‘The Others’ to contribute with consistency all season long. They will need to average 4+ yards per carry. And Todd Haley is the one who needs to come up with schemes that move the chains on ’3rd and short’ downs.

That’s where new guys like Chris Rainey and Leonard Pope, one a draftee and one a FA pickup, will be very important. Guys like Heath Miller, Baron Batch and Jerricho Cotchery will also be important. Screens (like REAL screens), slants and curls will be key in both ’3rd and short’ and red zone situations. The offensive line will also need to be able to create push off the line for Redman, Batch and Rainey for those times that Haley needs to change things up and run on a 3rd and short or use John Clay at the goal line.

So, I think everyone needs to relax about whether the run game will be an explosive one or not. Settle down about arguing if Roethlisberger and the receivers will make or break the success of the team. Focus on the consistency of the run game and those situational downs – that’s where this team will either be a 11-5 team or a 5-11 team.