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Sunday, August 19, 2007

What I saw in Washington

Mike Tomlin talked this week about saving spots for two or three guys who make this team better.

Verron Haynes has to have one of those spots. I know he's brittle and the Steelers have some talented young backs, but Haynes runs harder than anyone else on this team.

© The Steelers can't cut Gary Russell, one of those young backs. He's the second-best pure runner on this team behind Willie Parker.

Russell did whiff on a block on kickoff coverage, though. He has to do a better job there.

© The next guy that Matt Spaeth blocks will be the first one.

© Same goes for Trai Essex.

© William Gay opened in the first-team quarter defense in place of Deshea Townsend. But after Washington converted its first two third downs, Townsend was back in.

© Townsend started and played the first two plays, but was replaced at right corner by Bryant McFadden.

© The Steelers' run defense may be better than it was last season, which is saying something considering they were the only team in the league not to allow a 100-yard rusher.

© That pass defense, however, was pretty bad in this game. It wasn't so much the downfield stuff that was killing them, though. It was more poor tackling on dumpoffs to the tight ends and running backs.

But when the season starts, we won't see Tyrone Carter trying to tackle a tight end in the flats. Anthony Smith will be handling that third safety spot.

© Lawrence Timmons got one snap in the first half quarter in place of LaMarr Woodley and then played more in the fourth quarter. He looked OK. Nothing great, but the kid's still getting his feet wet.

© Sean Mahan didn't help his cause at center with a bad shotgun snap late in the first half. There was also another snap in the first half that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger nearly mishandled. It's a good thing for Mahan that Chukky Okobi is still hurt. Mahan may win the center job by default.

© At this point, I'd take Willie Colon as my starting right tackle and Kendall Simmons as my starting right guard.

Colon is just plain nasty and Simmons makes fewer mistakes than Chris Kemoeatu.

© Punter Dan Sepulveda's net average was 48.5 yards on four kicks. Still think he wasn't worth a fourth-round pick?

Heck, even giving up the sixth-rounder they did was worth it.


datruth4life said...

Dale, I agree with most of your post, but I do have a few questions as well as some thoughts of my own:

-If Verron Hayes makes this team, then who do you cut? I keep Parker, Russell, Davis and Davenport. Do you consider cutting Kreider, and have Davis and Haynes split the fullback responsibilities? There's no way you can keep 6 running backs, is there?

-Trai Essex is better at left tackle than Starks, but that isn't saying much. Still, I think Essex will be the swing tackle on game days and Starks will lose his right tackle job to Colon and be inactive on game days. If Capizzi could play right tackle as well, he'd beat out Essex for that swing tackle spot. I still would hate to cut Capizzi and try to sneak him on the practice squad. He could very well get scooped up and there goes your left tackle for the future.

-This team just doesn't have the explosive athletes at OLB like they had in the past that can beat their man one on one for sacks. Haggans won't keep Woodley out of that starting lineup for long, however. Does LeBeau's exotic blitzes mean he realizes the same thing and that our secondary will have more sacks during the season than our OLBs?

-St. Pierre has done enough to make this squad. The way quarterbacks go down in this league and especially with our weak offensive line situation, we need 3 quarterbacks with experience.

-The Steelers have to decide whether to keep six wide receivers, 10 OL or seven defensive lineman. I think they will keep 9 dbs instead of 10, which will allow them to keep St. Pierre as the 3rd quarterback. Good-bye Chidi. Who do you keep at that no. 53 roster spot, McBean, Walter Young or Capizzi? You have already said you've been told that Capizzi will be put on the practice squad, so the decision is between Walter Young and McBean, who is a long ways away from being able to make a contribution in a game.
-I would have liked to have seen W. Young trying to catch that fade at the end of the game rather than D. Baker, who looked like his mind was elsewhere.

-Just another thought for you. Considering how our tackles have looked, where was Kevin Colbert when the Ravens took Jared Gaither from Maryland for a fifth round pick in the supplemental draft? I think that will be a decision that the Steelers will kick themselves on for many years to come. With him being in Baltimore, we'll be reminded of that mistake twice a year for the next 10 years. Talk about a Reggie Jackson whiff on that one!
Your thoughts, Dale?

Anonymous said...

On what Datruth says about Starks and Essex...I recall the last time the O-line had this many questions and concerns was in 1999, and the results were awful. I am worried about that. Chucky hurt, Mahan underplaying, no left tackle, Faneca unhappy and hurt....what does this do to QB protection. I am going to be looking for some things you two have commented on this PM when the game is played on TV here in GA. I havent seem it yet.

AdamG said...

Watched a replay of the game with specific focus on Essex as best I could from TV. He did block better than the day of and day after conventional wisdom says. The trip and missed block was a glaring mistake, but I did not see Ben getting a lot of heat off the blind side like the kind he got with Starks at LT. On the long drive before halftime, Essex was mostly good.

datruth4life said...

After looking at the game for a second time via the NFL Network:

-The Steelers 1st team offensive and defensive lines got handled by the Redskins. The offensive line did not have a good night, and that was with most of its regular season starters playing. This appears to be the weakest link on the team thus far, next to a putrid pass rush.

-I like Dick LeBeau as much as anyone, but sooner or later, your edge rushers are going to have to beat somebody one on one like Lamar Woodley did for you to be a playoff caliber defense. Blitzes are for teams that can't get pressure consistently with their front four.

-Arnold Harrison was probably the best linebacker on the field for the Steelers last night when you combine regular downs and special teams. I think he has beat out R. Wallace for that eighth LB spot. Also, don't be surprised if you see Timmons worked more on the inside than the outside as the year goes on with A. Harrison playing both, but being used to come off the corner if someting happens to James Harrison.

-The only way that I see Verron Hayes making this team is if Dan Kreider is cut. Who would you cut in favor of Hayes: Davneport, Carey Davis, Russell, Kreider? I think Roethslisberger is probably the most comfortable with Hayes as the third-down back, but I'm not seeing how you can keep him unless you keep six backs or cut Kreider.

-Timmons looked pretty good dropping in coverage. I would still like to see him hit somebody or beat somebody off the edge. Woodley has done both of those things well up to this point, a lot better than Haggans or J. Harrison to this point, to be exact.

-I agree that the first time Spaeth makes a block will be the first time. However, I did see Essex block on a few occasions. At least you feel that he has a chance to keep his man off of Ben. With Starks and his slow feet, you almost feel like the line is at a disadvantage before the ball is even hiked.

-Is it me, or does Chris Kemeautou just keeps making dumb mistakes throughout the game, whether it is blocking the wrong person, letting someone go or getting stupid penalties. I don't care how tough and nasty you are if you can't keep your man from making the tackle.

-Since teams are throwing flare passes to the same side that the Steelers blitz from, how about having someone on defense (i.e. a healthy A. Smith when he returns) lurk around in that area and either stop that play or take it to the house?
-Mahan didn't look all that impressive at center. His low snap and his not snapping the ball inside of the ten yard line when Ben wanted hurt an already struggling offense. The biggest thing that he has over Okobi right now appears to be his free agent contract. However, can you cut Okobi when M. Philips doesn't know his assignments?

-Will anyone join me in the save Jason Capizzi for a roster spot petition? Over the long haul, I might want him at left tackle over Essex and definitely Starks if Smith gets hurt. And by the way, doesn't Smith look like he has aged about ten years in the past couple of years with his declining play?

-Alan Fanacea saved Essex on a couple of occasions last night by helping with Essex's man. Just too bad this team isn't going to make a person the highest paid player at their position if they are 30 years or older. They usually come out ahead with this policy, but Fanacea might be an exception. Then again, this line will probably need total rebuilding next year, and do you want all of your money tied into two lineman over 30 who are both declining, Smith and Fanacea.

-Max Starks, that car that just passed you on the outside for your spot is owned by W. Colon racing Inc. Instead of just losing weight, maybe you should have taken some ballerina classes to try and help with your footwork. A dose of some of Colon's attitude wouldn't hurt, either.

-James Harrison, you are allowed to carry over some of your RBs on LB drill nastiness to the game. You did too much standing around and dropping back in coverage last night. This defense absolutely needs you to make plays.

-It's looking like K. Colbert might have to go 1 and 2 in next year's draft for the same position again, except this time, it will be the offensive line.

-How do you think Ray Lewis and Ed Reed felt looking at that Steelers offensive line last night? More importantly, how do you think Big Ben felt last night looking at that line in front of him?

Your thoughts on any of the above?

Anonymous said...

In fairness to Spaeth he did throw some Redskin into the backfield on a kickoff return....Of course, I will add that he also knocked down our returner when he did it.


adamg said...

Neither line got manhandled by Wash.
Campbell did a good job finding his WRs on 3rd and long. Wash could not run the ball at all. Wash did not get great pressure on BR. The times they did were the result of breakdowns along the OL, like Essex tripping as he went to backpedal and block.

I agree about Arnold Harrison, he's played well in all 3 games. I can only hope this means the end for Kriewalt who is simply too slow to play with the first team D.

I believe Haynes will make the team. Every year he's written off, every year he shows he's a player. I wonder if Davenport might not be the odd man out given that he's basically a scat back in a power back body. The Steelers need Krieder, no TE has shown an ability to be a lead blocker so far.

I, too, like Capizzi. I know his time has come against the 2nd, 3rd, 4th teams, but what I've seen, he looks surprisingly comfortable at LT.

I think Starks played 3 qtrs against Wash at RT. He didn't look bad. He's obviously a project at LT
and it's been sort of unfair to have thrown him in there after not having taken a snap there since college. FTR, I don't think Zerlein will be back as OL coach next year.
The Rooneys won't forget how much the organization was embarrassed by him forwarding that raunchy email around. Had it not been for the fact that it would have been hard to find a replacement at that late stage of game, Zerlein would've been fired or forced to resign this year.

datruth4life said...

adamg, you said that Washington didn't get great pressure on Big Ben. I guess Ben ended up on his back a few times and did all that scrambling in order to just stretch his legs in a preseason game.

-I too agree with you about Capizzi. The guy looks comfortable during games and has better feet than Starks or Essex. I know the Steelers faithful want to make Marvel Smith seem like he is the cure to all and the second coming of Anthony Munoz, but hello, his play has declined the past couple of years as well. Capizzi could be their future left tackle for cheap.

-I've heard from several people that the Steelers will keep six wide receivers and seven defensive lineman. If so, that means that Chidi will be cut and the team will keep 9 dbs. That would also mean that the team would keep 5 rbs and 9 OL.

-If that happens, bye bye Verron Hayes and Barlow. Congrats Carey Davis and Russell.

-Kriewaldt hasn't been a problem on this team. He's been the best backup ILB on the team this preseason. A. Harrison has taken some snaps at ILB, but he is more comfortable as an OLB. Timmons will eventually play ILB since he appears to be more comfortable dropping into coverage rather than coming off the edge. Besides, the only 3-4 OLB I remember coming off the edge and being effective at 230 lbs. was Greg Lloyd. Timmons could prove me wrong though. I hope he does.

-By the way, I'd sacrifice W. Young for Capizzi. If we need a big WR, then pluck either Fowler or Baker off of the practice squad. Our offensive line looks a mess right now and a big potential help is already on the team - a 6'9'' free agent who has played the best at backup left tackle on the team this preseaon.

-There's a way to keep W. Young and Capizzi. Just cut Nate Washington. I think W. Young has beat him out anyway. I'm probably in the minority on this though.

Your thoughts?

adamg said...

Ben did run a few times, but except for the Essex trip, it was mostly because he couldn't find anyone open. I credit Wash DBs, not their DL, for that.

Kriewaldt always looks good in preseason and then when he actually plays against the other team's first teamers, he's exposed as inadequate. He's also a highly overrated STer, IMHO. He's in the same class as John Fiala, looks like he can play, but in reality, he can't.

I like Nate Washington and think he's got the team made. The "drops" are a mostly a creation of the media drumbeat as anything he's done. For ex, the 2nd "drop" he was accused of against NO was hardly even a catchable pass as could be clearly seen on replay. Had Nate caught that ball, it would have been a highlight reel catch. I know the coaches expect these guys to catch anything near them, but that's not very realistic. If they keep 6 WRs, I see Ward, Holmes, Wilson, Washington, Reid and Young.

I see the DBs playing out as Townsend, Taylor, McFadden, Polo,
Clark, Smith, Chidi and Carter. Chidi has been going out as the ST captain so I doubt he'll be cut. Plus he looked pretty good at CB against NO and GB even though he's on the small side. If there's 9 DBs it will be between Gay and Madison.

I think the Steelers might keep more OL than normal just because with 3 potential UFAs next year, they need to develop replacements.
I can see Capizzi making the final 53 or at least being moved to the roster if they put him on the practice squad and someone tries to sign him. That's what I think the OL shuffling has been about, the team really needs to know who's worth keeping and who's not.

Hopefully, the Steelers will not keep 3 TEs. I certainly don't think Spaeth has done anything to merit making the team except being healtheir than Tuman.

Wieters said...

I think people are overreacting a bit to the state of the O-line. The right 4/5 of the line is at least adequate, and they have a competent backup for each position. The only area of concern is that they have NO backup left tackle. If Marvel stays healthy and plays well, there's no problem. If not, WATCH OUT! I wonder why it took them until now to realize they had no backup LT? I guess they did a poor job of talent evaluation before the draft. Maybe Capizzi is the answer, but the "experts" don't seem to be giving him much of a chance of making the team. It's safe to say that their first-round pick next year will be the best LT on the board.

Concerning the RBs, I have no problem with "Vernon Hayes" making the team, as long as it is NOT at the expense of Gary Russell. I hope they do the right thing.

Overall, I feel pretty good about this team. They're at least adequate at every position, and they have capable backups at every position except LT.

Love the site, Dale, keep up the great work!

datruth4life said...

-Dale or blog nation, One question that I have is if Essex and Starks have shown that they can't do it, then why not give Capizzi a shot? I have seen Essex play better at left tackle in the past, and he isn't as bad at left tackle as Starks is.

-Every time I've seen Capizzi play, he has looked smoothe and hasn't given up a sack. One thing that may hurt him is that he has only played one position. However, if that position happens to be the most important on the offensive line, then I don't mind giving him a legitimate chance to be the backup left tackle.

-I wouldn't be too worried about the rookie free agent at left tackle scenario. The Skins and Ravens are two teams that have rookie left tackles, and both of them looked better than Starks and Essex trying to play the position.

-Am I the only person that thinks Capizzi could probably do a better job than Essex or Starks and should, at the very least make this team?

-You have 3 lineman heading into free agency and two already have one foot out the door (Fanacea and Starks). Simmons is no lock to remain either. Why not get a head start on next year and begin developing what could be your LT of the future? In practice, he's stopped Kiesel, Harrison, and Kirschke and he hasn't given up a sack yet in a game. The team is short on quality lineman right now. Am I missing something to this scenario?

Adamg said...

I agree with your comments about Capizzi. I certainly would give him at least a series or two against Philly to see what he could do. OTOH, the Steelers like to bring their OL men along slowly, at least a year watching/not dressing for games and then a year as a back up. Faneca, Smith and Simmons are the exceptions.

datruth4life said...

Gentleman, this is my final 53-man squad for the season. I welcome all comments and thoughts. Here goes:

3 Quarterbacks – Roethlisberger, Batch, St. Pierre. I'll take these 3 over any other team's situation in the NFL right now. There aren't enough good QBs in the league for each team to have one good starter. The Steelers have two good QBs and a 3rd who could get the job done in a pinch. And besides, if St. Pierre has to play this season, then we're done anyway.

5 Running backs – Parker, Davenport, Davis, Haynes, Russell –Our first curve ball on the roster under Tomlin. Tomlin and his staff believe that the FB duties can be split between Davis and Haynes, who both can catch, block, run and play special teams. The only thing Kreider can do is block, and that is about it. Plus, the team would save close to $1 million by letting Kreider go. This way, Tomlin keeps his best blitz pick-up and 3rd down back, Haynes, and he can have 4 RBs active on game day that can do everything -- block, run, catch, and play special teams. If it turns out they need a traditional blocker in the backfield afterall, then John Kuhn is on the practice squad and ready for duty.

5 Wide Receivers - Ward, Holmes, Wilson, Reid, W. Young – This is my five, but I think Tomlin will keep Nate Washington over Walter Young and could possibly keep all six. Nate had a much better game against the Skins than the previous two games, but the guy really seems like he doesn't want to get hit when he goes over the middle. Young doesn't flinch going over the middle and offers much better size and hands. As I said before, Tomlin could keep six, but I think it might be more important to keep an extra OL and DL.

3 Tight Ends – Miller, Spaeth, Tuman – Yes, Spaeth hasn't done much. But you don't cut third-round picks unless they totally stink out the joint. He'll have a redshirt year.

10 Offensive Lineman – Smith, Fanacea, Mahan, Simmons, Colon, Starks, Essex, Kemeatou, M. Philip, Jason Capizzi – This is a big decision for the team. Whether to carry 9 or 10 OL, and more importantly, whether to keep Capizzi or try to stick him on the practice squad (don't do it, just keep him). If Philips looks good these next 2 games, then Okobi will be gone. Do you think the tight Rooneys will pay $2 million for a backup center that can't play guard as well? I don't. Capizzi has impressed coaches but is viewed as more of a pratice squad player because of inexperience right now. However, if he plays lights out the next couple of games (and he will get plenty of playing time, I'm told), he could make this roster. I think Essex has made this team because of Starks lead-footed tryout at LT. The team's season could come down to how this unit plays.

7 Defensive Lineman – Smith, Hampton, Kiesel, Kirschke, Hoke, Eason, McBean – I've been told by at least two Steelers beat writers that the team will keep seven defensive lineman. The reason is because of Kirschke's troublesome back and that they think McBean isn't ready now, but will be in a couple of years. Eason will be insurance for Kirschke and McBean wouldn't make it to the practice squad. By keeping 7 DL, it could cause my boy Capizzi a roster spot.

8 linebackers – J. Harrison, Farrior, Foote, Haggans, Woodley, A. Harrison, Kriewaldt, Timmons – A. Harrison is the eighth LB because of his ability to rush the passer (I still haven't seen him actually sack the QB yet) and play special teams. A lot of you don't like Kriewaldt, but until someone better knocks him off the team, he'll be here.

9 defensive backs – Taylor, Palomula, Townsend, Clark, A. Smith, McFadden, Carter, Gay, Coclough – Coclough has done what I thought he couldn't do -- show something in the preseason to make this team. Gay has probably been the most impressive corner in preseason. He has had good position on a lot of deep balls against him, which have killed our corners for years. I know there is a Chidi contingent out there, but would you keep him over St. Pierre, Young, McBean or Capizzi? Also, where has Chidi been on special teams in the preseason? A. Harrison, Gay and Carey Davis have made all of the special teams tackles.

3 specialists – Warren, Sepulvada, Reed – Sepulvada was worth whatever they gave up in the draft and more. The good thing is he will only get better. Our special teams should be much better this year with Tomlin playing starters, Sepulvada and a healthy Willie Reid.

I have to give a thumps up to Tomlin for one thing so far that you wouldn't have seen from Cowher: an admittance that a player can't do something. I give Tomlin credit for limiting the Max Starks experiment at LT to the two games, and now taking a look at Essex and Capizzi there. Cowher would have stuck out his chin and keep marching Starks out there until something bad happened. And Starks would have been this year's Ricardo Coclough -- being put in a position by the coaching staff to fail and doing just that, through no fault of his own. Coclough just can't catch punts and Starks just doesn't have the feet and quickness to play LT. Face it and move on. Cowher wouldn't have.

This is my 53. With this team, I also save the Rooneys about $3 million by releasing Okobi and Kreider. What do you guys think?

Wieters said...

Hey datruth,

I'm pretty much on board with your roster. With the notable exception of not having a viable backup left tackle, I feel pretty good about this team. Some thoughts:

- I don't see any way Nate Washington is cut in favor of Walter Young.

- It will be interesting to see what they do about Kreider. I don't have a really strong opinion on the matter, though I know some people will be screaming bloody murder if Kreider is cut.

- I can't believe you're trotting out the "Rooneys are cheap" argument again. They always spend right up to the salary cap. If Okobi and Kreider don't make the team, it will be because they aren't considered necessary to the roster, not because of their salaries.

- I agree with you on Cowher vs. Tomlin. Cowher had the tendency to be a stubborn, arrogant fool at times. I'm glad we now have someone who will make objective decisions based on what he sees on the field, rather than on ego, loyalty, or hard-headedness.

Anonymous said...

Wasnt Reggie Brown a third rounder out of UGA?

Dale Lolley said...

Wow, lots of good stuff here. Sorry I didn't get on this sooner, but I took my wife to her parent's house in Philly after the Redskins game and took a few days off for R&R before the season kicks in and I'm back to working every day again.
Capizzi will get a shot to show he can play LT for this team. But to say they don't have a LT is a bit extreme. Marvel's injury is minor and they're trying some different guys out over there to see what they have and make sure Marvel's injury doesn't worsen. No big deal.

© Kreider is the guy who is firmly on the bubble right now. Carey Davis is a very good special teams player, can run the ball in a pinch and is a adequate lead blocker in those kind of situations. Plus, they'll use a tight end more as well in front of the back. I don't know if that's a good decision to make, but it looks to be the direction they are heading.

© The lines didn't get dominated by the Skins. The Skins couldn't run the ball. The Steelers ran it OK, not great, but OK. There wasn't a ton of pressure on either side.

© I think you can definitely guess the Steelers will spend at least a first and third rounder on offensive line. Though I still think they'll make an effort to re-sign one of their own guys, probably Kendall Simmons, who will be the least expensive. That way, they only have one hole to fill on the line instead of two.

© I agree that Woodley is better than Haggans.

© They're not going to cut Spaeth. You don't cut third round picks. He'll get a chance to learn.

© Same with McBean. He's got this roster made.

Wieters said...

Hey Dale,

Thanks for the info. The O-line will be fine as long as Marvel is healthy, but the concern we have is that the backup LTs they've been trying out have looked awful so far.

In the event that Marvel gets seriously injured, who do you see stepping in at LT that will be able to get the job done adequately?

adamg said...

I really think Simmons' future is at center. He's very good at pulling, which the Steelers love to do with their centers. Plus Simmons wouldn't always be required to handle the league's bull-rushing DTs by himself.

OTOH, IMO, Okobi and Mahan are better guards.

Spaeth will make the team by default. He hasn't shown much, if anything in his chances except that he's healthier than Jerame Tuman.

On Krieder, I don't understand why they don't give Dan a chance to run the ball. I think he'd be as good as Alstat ever was.

Dale Lolley said...

I think Faneca could end up being the LT again if something happened to Marvel.
As far as Kreider carrying the ball, he didn't even do that in college.

Wieters said...

Heh, I wish them luck trying to talk Faneca the Grouch into playing LT again!