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supersteeler
04-08-2013, 08:42 PM
Steelers Should Start Planning for a Post Polamalu and Clark World
Will Delaux, Yahoo! Contributor Network
Apr 8, 2013 "Share your voice on Yahoo! websites. Post a commentAs a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, I fully recognize that it is practically sacrilegious to suggest that the Steelers should part ways with -- or at least prepare to part ways with -- Troy Polamalu, one of the team's iconic players. However, as we have seen this offseason with the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens allowing Brian Urlacher and Ed Reed to leave in free agency, sometimes franchises must cut ties with key veterans from their defense given the realities of the salary cap and age-related declines in performance.

The Icon of the Defense

Even casual football fans can pick out Polamalu on the field; he is a hive of activity, alternately blitzing the quarterback, covering a tight end, or playing "centerfield" for the Steelers defense ready to intercept an unsuspecting QB. Polamalu's skills and ability have been key elements in the success of the Steelers' defense recently, as the team has ranked in the top five in total defense in each of the past five years.

However, the time is near for the Steelers to begin to look beyond Polamalu and identify his replacement. I believe that time will, and should, come following the 2013 NFL season. By the 2014 season, Polamalu with be 33 years old, which is quite old by NFL standards for a starting safety. Polamalu is scheduled to make $7.5 million in 2013, with one additional year at $8.25 million for 2014 remaining his contract. With the Steelers operating near the cap and the anticipation of a relatively flat salary cap for the next few seasons, an older safety with declining skills is a luxury that few teams, in particular the Steelers, can afford. In addition to cost considerations, the Steelers must also consider Polamalu's injury history. He has admitted to having suffered eight or nine concussions throughout his NFL career. Given the heightened emphasis on player safety, another concussion could easily spell the end of Polamalu's great career. And after he missed nine games in 2012 due to a strained calf, the potential for age-related injuries must also be taken into account.

The Solid Supporter

Safety Ryan Clark does not receive the acclaim and attention that Polamalu does, but he is just as essential to the success of the Steelers' defense. His solid play at the free safety position and in coverage allows Polamalu to freelance and move around the field, switching between pass coverage, blitzing, and run coverage. Clark provides the Steelers with stability in the secondary, supporting the cornerbacks in coverage. He also has a reputation for being one of the hardest hitting players in the NFL.

Clark will turn 34 during the 2013 season, and is scheduled to make $3.5 million in 2013 in the final year of a four year contract. This means that the Steelers will face the free agency question with Clark following the 2013 season. The key question is: can a team that is up against the salary cap keep two over-30 safeties that will make a combined $11 million in 2013, almost 10 percent of the team's total cap space? For the benefit of the team, which has other needs in the areas of running back and outside linebacker, the answer is no. It is time for the Steelers to begin to look for replacements for these two foundations of the defense.

Options in the 2013 Draft

The Steelers currently hold the 17th (first round), 48th (second round), and 79th (third round) picks in the 2013 draft. The team does have pressing needs for 2013 in the form of upgrading the running back and linebacker positions. However, even with these needs the team must start to look for a young safety that can be brought in to learn the defense and prepare to replace Polamalu or Clark in the secondary. Let's look at options for the Steelers at the safety position in each of the first three rounds. Potential draft targets are identified with the help of rankings from SB Nation:

First Round - 17th pick: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas

Second Round - 48th pick: Matt Elam, Florida; Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International; D.J. Swearinger, South Carolina; Eric Reid, LSU
Third Round - 79th pick: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma; Earl Wolff, North Carolina State

Given the importance of the athletic and skilled players in the Steelers' zone blitz scheme, I would lean towards a selection of a safety by the second round in order to ensure that the team adds a quality player. Given the Steelers' other positional needs, the selection of Reid or Swearinger in the second round would increase the potential for the Steelers to find a young safety that might reach the same skill level as Polamalu or Clark. Swearinger would be a great choice to replace the hard-hitting Clark, as he has gained a similar reputation in college. Reid projects as a possible Polamalu replacement. He is capable of playing anywhere on the field, helping to either stop the run or support pass coverage.

Hard Decisions

Parting ways with Polamalu and Clark will not be easy for the Steelers. When the time comes, there will likely be significant frustration expressed and no shortage of opinions on the decision from the fan base, football writers, and followers of the NFL. However, if the Steelers act now and use the 2013 draft as an opportunity to find a quality young safety, the sting of losing Polamalu and Clark could be mitigated through the presence of a young replacement worthy of taking the place of one of these two great safeties.

steelz09
04-08-2013, 09:23 PM
Swearinger is a stud and will be a good player in the pros. He's not a FS but he would be a great fit for the Steelers at SS. Here is a couple Swearinger highlights


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSlOXa1_Zc0

Chadman
04-08-2013, 10:23 PM
Swearinger is a stud and will be a good player in the pros. He's not a FS but he would be a great fit for the Steelers at SS. Here is a couple Swearinger highlights


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSlOXa1_Zc0

Is it just Chadman, or does Swearinger look like he has a couple of visits to Mr Goodell in his future? :)

Love his playing style- looks like a footballer. Will be interesting to see if the Steelers give him a visit.

steelz09
04-08-2013, 10:57 PM
Is it just Chadman, or does Swearinger look like he has a couple of visits to Mr Goodell in his future? :)

Love his playing style- looks like a footballer. Will be interesting to see if the Steelers give him a visit.

I think so.. :) Swearinger was a 4 year starter and he has only missed 1 game. That 1 game was a suspension because of a hit on a defenseless receiver.

Mister Pittsburgh
04-09-2013, 03:59 AM
Was thinking the same thing Chadman, when a few of the early hits in that highlight video were straight up h2h.

Shawn
04-09-2013, 08:26 AM
Safety is clearly the greatest Steeler need. The Steelers will need to fill two spots in short order. Troy and Clark are big shoes to fill.

grotonsteel
04-09-2013, 08:46 AM
Safety is a need but not the greatest...Troy could play for 2-3 years...Golden is another one to watch out for. Lebeau and Tomlin are very high on him...

Steelers can load Safeties in mid-round and start them. This draft is loaded with good safeties.

JUST-PLAIN-NASTY
04-09-2013, 09:53 AM
Based on both their ages...Clark being in his last year & I doubt he will be brought back...Troy's injury history the last couple years...I would say yes. One or both may be gone in 2014 depending on how many games Troy logs this season. That being said, I don't like any at @ #17. Not a fan of Vacarro. Possibly a trade down for Elam...I heard they worked him heavy at the Proday. Also like Cyprien in the 2nd but his value is on the rise. Like someone said, this is a deep S class so they could address anytime.

steeler_fan_in_t.o.
04-09-2013, 10:22 AM
Safety is a need, but not an immediate one. We have two strong starters going into the 2013 season, we just have to pray that they both stay injury free and we don't have to play a playoff game in Denver.

Ideally I would like to come out of this draft with at least one safety in a very deep class. I would also draft a second, but only if the perceived value is there. I wouldn't want to act desperate and overdraft one. I'd be happy going into the year with Troy and Clark, with Golden and a highly regarded rook in the wings. We have so many areas that need replenishing that we can't go taking a flyer for the hopes of filling the position.

calmkiller
04-09-2013, 10:44 AM
I would say yes. But I also would not take one at 17. I would like to see them trade down and acquire more picks and take Reid in the early second.

Oviedo
04-09-2013, 10:58 AM
Safety becomes less of a problem filling when we go to a 4-3 Cover 2. You don't need a player like Troy with his unique abilities then.:stirpot

B&GinNC
04-09-2013, 12:39 PM
I see one mid round and one late round safety coming in... class is deep enough that guys taken R1/2 last year would be 3's this year. Good value.

Saw some early mocks project Robert Lester from 'Bama as the second or third best safety last year if he'd come out in the Mark Barron then nobody else class of '12. Now he's projecting as a 5th rounder. Should've jumped.

Saw an interesting proposition (regrettably can't remember who the poster was to give proper credit) here on the board about moving Ike over after Clark leaves. Good tackler, knows the defense, plenty fast, enough size... keep the knowledge and leadership on the roster, extend his career, and find a corner early and a depth safety late in the draft.

ikestops85
04-09-2013, 01:18 PM
Saw an interesting proposition (regrettably can't remember who the poster was to give proper credit) here on the board about moving Ike over after Clark leaves. Good tackler, knows the defense, plenty fast, enough size... keep the knowledge and leadership on the roster, extend his career, and find a corner early and a depth safety late in the draft.

The problem I see with moving Ike to safety is he isn't very good playing the ball in the air. That is not a good quality for a safety. Ike is great at shadowing receivers so the QBs don't throw as much in his direction but when they do Ike is just not good at reacting to the ball ... especially the deep pass.

Since this draft is very deep in safeties I think the Steelers need to choose at least one. Of course then we will have to listen to the LeBeau detractors complain that the safety is sitting on the bench -- even though they should sit behind Troy and Clark. :stirpot

thor75
04-09-2013, 03:17 PM
I would say CB has a slight edge over S as a greater need. Just because Allen is unknown as a starter. And if Ike or Allen go down with injury our backups at the position are not very good. The same can be said for safety as Golden is virtually unproven as well. You know what you got with Clark and Polamalu. And you know what you have with Ike. But with this being Allen's 1st year starting, I would give the edge to CB. I definitely feel both positions should be picked in the first three rounds.

Shawn
04-09-2013, 04:53 PM
Safety is a need but not the greatest...Troy could play for 2-3 years...Golden is another one to watch out for. Lebeau and Tomlin are very high on him...

Steelers can load Safeties in mid-round and start them. This draft is loaded with good safeties.

When was the last time Troy had a healthy season? As much as I like Golden, he is more than unproven at this junction.

Big Ern McCracken
04-09-2013, 09:28 PM
agreed. Troy is sure to miss at least half the year... so you may as well pencil in golden as the starter.

Shoe
04-09-2013, 11:30 PM
Safety is clearly the greatest Steeler need. The Steelers will need to fill two spots in short order. Troy and Clark are big shoes to fill.

I think you misspoke here dude. How can it be our greatest need? We have a future HOF, and a guy coming off his best season yet. Granted, both have obviously question marks, but we have a lot more needs than Safety at this point. Personally, I'm way more concerned about our pedestrian D-line, our combination of laissez-faire Tackles (o-line), and no defined "@s$-kicker" on defense (i.e. Lloyd-->Porter-->Harrison).

Chadman
04-10-2013, 12:21 AM
Finding Troy & Clark's eventual replacements doesn't necessarily require 2 top round draft picks, as the role they are asked to perform does not require them both to be as athletic as, say, Troy Polamalu.

But certainly one of the 2 will want to be an upper echelon type player.

Wouldn't surprise if a Round 2 pick is used on one of the 2 safety positions, with maybe a 5th or 6th spent on a thumper-type.

Rara
04-10-2013, 12:31 AM
Phillip Thomas in the second would be great!

steeler_fan_in_t.o.
04-10-2013, 09:34 AM
When was the last time Troy had a healthy season? As much as I like Golden, he is more than unproven at this junction.

2011....but I get the point

2012 - 7 games
2011 - 16 games
2010 - 14 games
2009 - 5 games
2008 - 16 games
2007 - 11 games
2006 - 13 games