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Thread: Another Perspective On Our Defensive Line

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  1. #1
    Pro Bowler supersteeler's Avatar
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    Another Perspective On Our Defensive Line

    High picks not wasted on DL
    Posted 1 hour ago

    Bob Labriola
    Steelers Digest

    @BobLabriola

    aaFinding Brett Keisel on the seventh round of the 2002 NFL Draft with the 242nd overall pick, grabbing an Aaron Smith in the fourth round of the 1999 NFL Draft – those are the player personnel equivalents of hitting the lottery. And while it’s true that somebody wins the lottery every day, very, very, very rarely are you that somebody.

    Because defensive linemen in a 3-4 scheme have come to be seen as complementary pieces, and because the Steelers had such grand success with Smith and Keisel, can the argument be made that spending high draft picks on this unit is a waste?

    “Yes, you can get lucky in the seventh round,” said General Manager Kevin Colbert. “Any time a late (drafted) player develops into a starter, you got lucky because if you thought that player was that good, you should’ve taken him earlier. It’s a credit to the player and it’s a credit to his coach that they exceeded our expectations.”

    Clearly, Smith and Keisel exceeded expectations. But does that then make the No. 1 pick used on Casey Hampton back in 2001 a waste? That seems to be a ridiculous contention to make about a player who was voted to five Pro Bowls – more than every defensive lineman in franchise history except for Ernie Stautner, Joe Greene, and L.C. Greenwood, by the way – and was a starter on teams that were 2-1 in Super Bowls during his career here.

    “Defensive linemen are a premium in this league,” said Colbert, “and so if you want to have a good defensive line, you do have to invest higher picks because, traditionally, the big guys are going to be picked higher. You look at the Pro Bowl numbers, 70 percent of the guys voted to the Pro Bowl are picked in the first three rounds. I believe it’s 56 percent are picked in the first round. So, there’s no great mystery to it. Whether or not a guy lives up to that expectation, we’ll see.”

    Here’s another question to ponder: who are the best 3-4 defensive linemen in the NFL right now? There could be some disagreement, but J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans and Justin Smith of the San Francisco 49ers are two of the players who must be included on any such short list.

    Smith was a first-round pick in 2001, the fourth overall selection in the same draft where Hampton came to the Steelers 19th overall. And Watt was a first-round pick as well, 11th overall in the same 2011 draft that brought Cameron Heyward to the Steelers 31st overall.

    And with Steelers fans, that’s really the crux of the matter. Did their favorite team waste first-round draft picks on Ziggy Hood in 2009 and in Heyward in 2011?

    As is to be expected, Colbert doesn’t believe that to be the case with either Hood or Hayward, and it’s not that difficult to come up with some facts to support his opinion.

    Hood will play his fifth NFL season as a 26-year-old in 2013, and after learning behind Smith for most of his first two seasons he now has started 39 games. In 2012, his first full season as a starter, Hood finished with 40 tackles, three sacks and 17 pressures, second among the team’s defensive linemen to Keisel in all three categories. Certainly the Steelers need more from Hood, and they will expect more from him as soon as the 2013 season, but those are not the numbers of a bust.

    Heyward will play his third NFL season as a 24-year-old, and because he came into the league during the lockout he missed out on the entire offseason of his rookie year. Playing behind Keisel, Heyward has not made an NFL start as yet, and he finished 2012 with 22 tackles and 1.5 sacks. And don’t be so quick to criticize Heyward for not being take Keisel’s starting job, or Hood for finishing second to Keisel in those primary statistical categories, because Brett Keisel remains highly productive, with 58 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 40 pressures in 2012.

    “Collectively that group of defensive linemen, we’re happy with them because they’re part of a productive defense,” said Colbert. “Productivity for a defensive lineman in the 3-4 is based as much on plays that he creates as it is plays that he makes, because in all honesty, the playmakers in the 3-4 are designed to be the linebackers. There may be a time where a defensive lineman doesn’t look like he’s making the play, but he is creating a play for another guy.

    “Traditionally, 3-4 linemen aren’t going to be great playmakers, but they should be capable play-creators, and you do have to draft them high.”

  2. #2
    Hall of Famer fezziwig's Avatar
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    I get what he's saying but I'm not sold on it. Too many times I see Ziggy getting pushed around, slapped around or bowled over. I can't say too much good about Heyward either because he's hardly given a chance. Kiesel and Smith were a steal and they have done excellent. I don't know of any Steeer fan that feels Hampton was a waste at a number one pick. I'd take a Hampton every time given the chance. Maybe one season Hood will do well and maybe even get to a pro bowl but I highly doubt it but if hat happens, people will forget how much he truly sucked and then they'll say he was great.
    Let's look at from the positive side and say they are doing their jobs. If they're doing their jobs then who isn't performing at their own job.

    I guess Lamar Woodley could have fingers pointed at him and the lack of James Harrison. So with that, our defensive line needs Harrison and Woodley to be at their best, top physical condition so the defenseive line can look good. It's already known Ziggy is a first round pick along with Heyward and Hampton. You have and had Kiesel and Smith playing like high number one draft picks and yet, all this number one talent and we can't get to the qb, create turnovers etc.
    If the d-line was getting the job done, our backups and or average starters should be making more progress along with our starters.
    Last edited by fezziwig; 01-23-2013 at 06:56 PM.

  3. #3
    Pro Bowler supersteeler's Avatar
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    The injuries to Lamar and James hurt us big time. No player stepped up when given the opportunity like James did when Joey Porter was injured and he replaced him back in the day.

    Carter did squat and Worlids only made a few good plays but inconsistent. Its going to tough to find a player like James Harrison should he not be here next season. Our D-line never was that good getting sacks, it isn't designed that way, they are supposed to eat up blocks opening up lanes for our LB's and stopping the run.
    Aaron Smith was the last D-linemen I can remember that had 8 sacks which is damn good considering our scheme, but a healthy Harrison and Woodley all year would of made a difference.

  4. #4
    Our D-Line is doing their job and that's part of the why the defense was #1 in yardage and #6 in points allowed...

    Guys like Woodley, Harrison and Timmons need to be healthy to make the splash plays...the guys who aren't as talented as those three make tackles, but not splash plays...

  5. #5
    Hall of Famer fezziwig's Avatar
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    No joke that the defense does better with James Harrison. How many James Harrisons fall from the trees these days ? Th d-line needs to improve also because they can't always have a super star in the wings. Woodley has turned into an over weight mouth that he can't backup. Being out of shape doesn't help his injury problems and are probably the cause of his injuries. I thought Joey Porter was over hyped but I will say, the guy came to play and was always in shape as far as I remember.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by fezziwig View Post
    No joke that the defense does better with James Harrison. How many James Harrisons fall from the trees these days ? Th d-line needs to improve also because they can't always have a super star in the wings. Woodley has turned into an over weight mouth that he can't backup. Being out of shape doesn't help his injury problems and are probably the cause of his injuries. I thought Joey Porter was over hyped but I will say, the guy came to play and was always in shape as far as I remember.
    And that's why guys like Ovi call for the 4-3 incessantly...

    If you want your d-linemen to get after the QB, then you have to scheme to send them...

    Yes, Aaron Smith had an 8 sack performance in a season...statistically, that was an outlier...more often than not, the DEs in this scheme get less than 5 sacks...

    Remember this?:

    More of an issue is Ta‘amu getting used to the switch from defensive end to nose tackle in the Steelers‘ 3-4 scheme.

    Ta‘amu is required to occupy blocks with his wide frame and stay gap-sound rather than use his athleticism to make plays. He found out at minicamp that‘s not as easy as it might seem.

    “I got to the quarterback on one play, but the coaches told me that we are a gap team and we don‘t need a Superman,” Ta‘amu said


    Read more: http://triblive.com/sports/steelers/...#ixzz2ItupRQNk

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slapstick View Post
    And that's why guys like Ovi call for the 4-3 incessantly...

    If you want your d-linemen to get after the QB, then you have to scheme to send them...

    Yes, Aaron Smith had an 8 sack performance in a season...statistically, that was an outlier...more often than not, the DEs in this scheme get less than 5 sacks...

    Remember this?:
    Thank you Slappy. The ability to replenish talent in the 3-4 is exactly why I support the 4-3.
    Playing Fantasy Football does not qualify you to be the in the front office or on the coaching staff of the Pittsburgh Steelers. They are professionals and you are not!

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Slapstick View Post
    And that's why guys like Ovi call for the 4-3 incessantly...

    If you want your d-linemen to get after the QB, then you have to scheme to send them...

    Yes, Aaron Smith had an 8 sack performance in a season...statistically, that was an outlier...more often than not, the DEs in this scheme get less than 5 sacks...

    Remember this?:
    KVO and Ray Seals were also guys that had 8+ sacks in a season and could push the pocket. On passing downs, Heyward does seem to have some ability to create pressure, but I haven't seen it from Ziggy Hood.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by phillyesq View Post
    KVO and Ray Seals were also guys that had 8+ sacks in a season and could push the pocket. On passing downs, Heyward does seem to have some ability to create pressure, but I haven't seen it from Ziggy Hood.
    Those high sack seasons are outliers for DEs playing in our scheme. They are once, maybe twice, a decade occurences.
    Playing Fantasy Football does not qualify you to be the in the front office or on the coaching staff of the Pittsburgh Steelers. They are professionals and you are not!

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Oviedo View Post
    Those high sack seasons are outliers for DEs playing in our scheme. They are once, maybe twice, a decade occurences.
    It's about more than sacks. It's about controlling the line and getting pressure. Regardless, the point is that talented guys in the Steelers scheme do get sacks. No, they aren't putting up the numbers of a JJ Watt, but nobody really is. Justin Smith has never put up more than 8 sacks in a season, and he is widely regarded as among the best lineman in football - a reputation that he earned not in a 4-3, but after moving to a 3-4.

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