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Thread: Steelers D-line aging gracefully

  1. #1
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    Steelers D-line aging gracefully

    By John Harris
    TRIBUNE-REVIEW
    Monday, June 16, 2008
    http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 72938.html


    Steelers veteran defensive end Aaron Smith really means it when he says he and his linemates aren't too old. If anything, Smith feels like the Steelers' defensive line is too much.
    Too much for opponents to handle.

    "They have faith in the guys that we have -- the older guys," Smith said. "(We're) very capable."

    That faith comes from the fact that the Steelers had the NFL's top-rated defense last season. Obviously, somebody was doing something right.

    First, the good news:
    The starting D-line remains intact and should be good to go for the 2008 opener against Houston at Heinz Field.

    Now, for the rest of the story.

    Those three starters -- Smith, nose tackle Casey Hampton and end Brett Keisel -- will all be 30 or older at the start of the season.

    Smith is the oldest starter at 32. The primary backups -- end Travis Kirschke and nose tackle Chris Hoke -- are 33 and 32, respectively.

    "Absolutely, we're comfortable with who we are," said Smith, who missed more games last season (six) than in his previous seven seasons as a starter. "We've got guys who can start at a lot of other places (yet are) backing up guys here."

    Smith said he understands why the Steelers didn't select a defensive lineman in this year's draft.

    "Even if you draft a young guy in this defense, it takes a couple years for him to play anyway," Smith said.

    Entering his 10th season, Smith has 38 1/2 career sacks and plans to play as long as his body holds up.

    "How old was (former defensive lineman) Kimo (von Oelhoffen) when he left here?" Smith asked. "Older than 32."

    Von Oelhoffen, who just re-signed with the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday, was 35 when the Steelers opted not to re-sign him after winning Super Bowl XL.

    "I think it's just a matter of keeping yourself in shape, keeping your mind useful and enjoying the game," Smith said.

    Unfortunately, Smith couldn't overcome injuries in 2007. He missed two games with a knee injury early and was lost for good after suffering a biceps tear in the first quarter of a game against the Patriots Dec.9. He underwent surgery a few days later.

    "I played the rest of the game with it, but it hurt," he said. "It was like getting shot every time I used it."

    Smith sat out this year's minicamp and voluntary workouts. Instead, he hit the sled, performed defensive-line drills and worked out on his own as his teammates practiced. He said he probably could have practiced, but the team decided it was not worth the risk.

    "It's been frustrating," said Smith, who was cheered up following the birth of daughter Emilia on June 6. "Sometimes I feel like I'm a china doll, and they're afraid. I want to play.

    "I think if they wanted me to I could go now, but I think it's been more of a precaution. I should be able to go when we hit camp (July 2. I'm sure they'll ease me into it, but I don't see a reason for any setbacks."

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    Re: Steelers D-line aging gracefully

    I definitely view the age issue as a concern. Especially when you combine it with the possibility of injury and lack of depth at the position... The tail end of the season last year illustrated this point perfectly, IMO. ... Basically, from the Jets game onward, I didn't think we had that rough, tough, bruising defense that we all are accustomed to. ... There were drives late in the game that weren't stopped that cost us points and/or the game. ... Yes, they racked up awesome stats early on throughout the season, but faltered in the end... Was it age? Injury? Lack of depth? .... I think it was a combination of all of the above, and a little bad luck as well.

    IMHO, we have to be able to finish the season strongly and weather whatever issues arise. Otherwise, having the top-rated defense in any category doesn't mean squat.

  3. #3
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    Re: Steelers D-line aging gracefully

    Quote Originally Posted by NKySteeler
    I definitely view the age issue as a concern. Especially when you combine it with the possibility of injury and lack of depth at the position... The tail end of the season last year illustrated this point perfectly, IMO. ... Basically, from the Jets game onward, I didn't think we had that rough, tough, bruising defense that we all are accustomed to. ... There were drives late in the game that weren't stopped that cost us points and/or the game. ... Yes, they racked up awesome stats early on throughout the season, but faltered in the end... Was it age? Injury? Lack of depth? .... I think it was a combination of all of the above, and a little bad luck as well.

    IMHO, we have to be able to finish the season strongly and weather whatever issues arise. Otherwise, having the top-rated defense in any category doesn't mean squat.

    Last year we were 3-4 primarily with integrated 4-3 alignments periodically. What if our aging DL does start to degrade by the end of the season and we integrate more 4-3 alignments inserting more LBs to help with the depth issues? Hypothetically speaking.

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    Re: Steelers D-line aging gracefully

    Quote Originally Posted by asiansteel
    Last year we were 3-4 primarily with integrated 4-3 alignments periodically. What if our aging DL does start to degrade by the end of the season and we integrate more 4-3 alignments inserting more LBs to help with the depth issues? Hypothetically speaking.
    ...My question would be the quality of personnel that would work the "4" portion of the 4-3... I really don't know brother.

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    Hall of Famer AngryAsian's Avatar
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    Re: Steelers D-line aging gracefully

    Camp just needs to start so that we have more material for our speculative discussions.

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    Re: Steelers D-line aging gracefully

    Quote Originally Posted by asiansteel
    Camp just needs to start so that we have more material for our speculative discussions.
    ...39 days and counting till camp....

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    Re: Steelers D-line aging gracefully

    Quote Originally Posted by NKySteeler
    Quote Originally Posted by asiansteel
    Camp just needs to start so that we have more material for our speculative discussions.
    ...39 days and counting till camp....

  8. #8

    Re: Steelers D-line aging gracefully

    the key words should be

    "Steelers D-Line Aging"

    We could have drafted a Defensive lineman last year but apparently we needed a replacement for Larry Foote.

  9. #9
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    Re: Steelers D-line aging gracefully

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Smartmonies
    the key words should be

    "Steelers D-Line Aging"

    We could have drafted a Defensive lineman last year but apparently we needed a replacement for Larry Foote.
    I was on the Carriker bandwagon last year (would have traded up to get him or Okoye), but alas, it did not come to pass. Which D-lineman available at #15 would you have taken? Harrell? Branch?

  10. #10

    Re: Steelers D-line aging gracefully

    Quote Originally Posted by NKySteeler
    I definitely view the age issue as a concern. Especially when you combine it with the possibility of injury and lack of depth at the position... The tail end of the season last year illustrated this point perfectly, IMO. ... Basically, from the Jets game onward, I didn't think we had that rough, tough, bruising defense that we all are accustomed to. ... There were drives late in the game that weren't stopped that cost us points and/or the game. ... Yes, they racked up awesome stats early on throughout the season, but faltered in the end... Was it age? Injury? Lack of depth? .... I think it was a combination of all of the above, and a little bad luck as well.

    IMHO, we have to be able to finish the season strongly and weather whatever issues arise. Otherwise, having the top-rated defense in any category doesn't mean squat.
    The biggest factor in our defensive decline was injuries, not the team wearing down due to age.

    Unfortunately, we were hit at positions where we had the least amount of depth on D. Aaron Smith has proven tough and reliable over his career. I don't expect him to become injury prone now. I started a thread a few weeks before his season ending injury last year naming him our Ds most important player - the position with the biggest drop off between starter and backup (if not the best player as well). His return makes our D much stronger.

    Ryan Clark also proved how valuable he is by going down in a freak occurence. He is a big question mark going into this year, but if he is recovered then our D is much better and tougher than the one we fielded against the Jags.

    Troy has been injured and relatively ineffective the past few years - since his dominating '05 season. He has returned to his training roots, and if he can stay healthy again then that seriously upgrades our D once again.

    That is three positions that are greatly improved with just having the players return to health. This has nothing to do with factors such as upgrading our starters (Woodley), players hopefully improved year over year (McFadden, Timmons) or young kids stepping up and contributing (Davis).

    This D should be better than the D that led the league last year, but couldn't deliver in the end.

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