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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Post-Cleveland thoughts II

The Steelers have locked up the 17th pick in the draft with Sunday's 24-10 victory over Cleveland.

That's not a bad place to be, especially considering the success the Steelers have had selecting in the teens in recent years.

In 2010, they grabbed Maurkice Pouncey with the 18th pick in the draft. He's worked out OK.

In 2007, it was Lawrence Timmons taken with the 15th selection. He's become the team's best defensive player.

In 2004, they took Ben Roethlisberger 11th. Enough said.

Same goes for Troy Polamalu at 16 in 2003 - though they had to trade up to make that pick.

Add in Casey Hampton at 19 in 2001 and you have to go all the way back to Troy Edwards in 1999 - a Tom Donahoe/Bill Cowher pick - to find a selection in the teens that hasn't worked out.

@ Phil Taylor's blindside shot on Kelvin Beachum was as cheap as they come and deserved all of the ire it raised with the Steelers.

But was it that much worse than Doug Legursky diving at the knees of linebacker Craig Robertson earlier?

That kind of got the ball rolling in the cheap shot department in this game, though the Browns also submarined guys on a PAT, drawing a pair of unsportsmanlike penalties.

Maybe the heat will start coming back for the Cleveland-Pittsburgh series.

@ If that didn't do it, then Greg Little (!) catching a pass and staring down the Pittsburgh sideline like he has actually done something in the NFL might.

@ It won't so much be what the Steelers do in the first round of this year's draft that makes a difference as much as it is what they do in rounds 2 through 7.

I think everyone trusts Kevin Colbert and company to get a player who will help immediately in 2013 in the first round. History tells us that will happen.

But the Steelers need solid picks this year in the later rounds to help make up for a 2008 draft that is now a total washout.

At least it will be if Rashard Mendenhall leaves, as expected. At this point, only Mendenhall and Ryan Mundy, a sixth-round pick, remain on the Steelers roster.

@ The Steelers need to do what's necessary to keep Keenan Lewis, even with the late emergence of Cortez "Turnover" Allen.

You need three solid corners in this league and the trio of Ike Taylor, Lewis and Allen is outstanding.

Pair that with a healthy Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark next year, and you don't have to worry about the secondary.

Josh Victorian showed enough that he deserves to come back, and Curtis Brown was the team's best special teams player and might still develop into a solid corner.

As I said last week, I'd also teach Allen to play safety if they don't get a young stud to groom at that position.

@ The Steelers were without leading receiver Heath Miller, their receiving yardage leader, Mike Wallace, and had a pair of Dougs, Legursky and Malecki, playing guard with Ramon Foster at right tackle after Beachum and David DeCastro left with injuries in the first half.

Is it any wonder the offense was a bit limited?

@ The key to playing defense in the secondary in today's NFL is the ability to get turnovers.

With the way the rules now favor the offense, you don't necessarily need good cover guys as much as you need guys who can catch or force fumbles back there.

Allen has shown that he has the instincts to be a turnover guy. I think with a full year of starting under his belt, Lewis will be better at that in 2013 as well.

And, according to the other defensive backs, Brown has the best hands of any of the corners.

@ It's a shame Brett Keisel's season ended the way it did, but it gave Cam Heyward a chance to play. He was his typical feisty self and disruptive in the passing game.

The run defense, however, wasn't nearly as good after Keisel left.

@ If I'm putting this roster together for 2013, I try to find a way to keep Casey Hampton around - though maybe as the backup to Steve McLendon.

I also want Larry Foote back, at least as a locker room presence and insurance plan in case Sean Spence isn't ready to take over and I don't get someone in the draft.

But I also want Plaxico Burress back to help mentor my young receivers.

Jerricho Cotchery is a great guy and solid citizen, but he doesn't command the respect among his peers that Burress can. And Burress showed Sunday that with a whole offseason under his belt, he could be a factor in 2013.


Anonymous said...

Ghoulish maybe, but I'm kinda hoping Lewis is just injured enough to get him thru the first wave of FA, if the Steelers can't sign him before then. Who'da thought coming into this season Lewis would be their key FA keeper.

Curious if the Mack could don the green dot on D? I know Spence was working at backing up both spots, so that might put him in play at Buck. But Butler seemed adamant on draft day that Spence is too small to play Buck and would back up Timmons at mack. So, how can two Macks coexist? Timmons does have enough size to slide over to Buck but, after all these years and still can't fit it up consistently, won't ever be the guy to QB/set/lead the D. Only way for both to be on the field is if one can set the D. That appears to be Spence, who again according to Butler is no Buck. So, bringing it back, can Spence set the D from the mack?

Timmons did finish well/strong. But he was the main culprit on a number of key cutback runs this season which contributed to at least 2 or 3 losses. If Timmons is this D's best player now, it's not so much that he's elevated his game, it's that so many many others fell back to him.

Anonymous said...

The FO's track record on 1st round picks has taken a hit the last few years. Pouncey isn't as good as his rep, Mendenhall has a bad attitude, Hood and Heyward haven't made an impact.

Not exactly a great last few years...

Lance said...

I do not know if Spence is the answer, but I hope he is at least a very solid back up and special teams player. He seems to have the instincts, intelligence, and nose for the ball we need, as well as the quickness we need. They need at least one good ILB in the draft this year, or maybe a veteran free agent. Spenc size is not as big as it has been made compared to who we have and had. He is 5'11" and 230#, to put that into perspective, Foote is 6'1" 240, Timmons is 6'1" 235#, and Farrior is 6'1" and was 225-230# his last year to help him with speed. With the pass happy league, having a quick ILB would serve us well, another Troy Polamalu type back there, especiall in the pass "D".

We do not need a lot, just a few pieces and an infusion of hunger/sense of urgency that was greatly lacking this year. The conditioning needs a long hard look as well, just too many nagging injuries.

Anonymous said...

Dale, why not have an open thread with the subject "wish list for the 2013 Steelers". I think this year would be as appropriate as any.

Dale Lolley said...

Anyone can make the calls on defense. Doesn't matter what position.

Everybody misses tackles or overruns plays at times. It happens. Defense doesn't allow a lot of big plays. It could use more splash plays.

As for the recent draft picks, Mendenhall was a two-time 1,000-yard back on his way to a third when he was injured. Pouncey is a solid starter. Hood is a starter and Heyward just finished his second year.

Add to that that three of the picks have been linemen - offensive and defensive - whose play is tough to assess if you don't know the assignments, and I don't know that you can say they haven't done well.

Look around the league. There are guys from those drafts selected in the first round who are already out of the NFL. That, my friend, is a bust, not a player who is starting just because you don't happen to think they are living up to billing.

Tough to find impact stars drafting in the 20s and below every year.

Rebecca Rollett said...

"Tough to find impact stars drafting in the 20s and below every year."

Thank you, Dale! I once did a stats post about Ziggy Hood, and pointed out that 6 DEs were taken before him in his draft. Statistics repeatedly show that the first couple of players at a given position in a draft are almost always in a different class than the next ten - twelve players at the same position - the later players tend to be more or less interchangeable in terms of the chance of them panning out. The words "first round" seem to be some sort of magic potion, conferring the assumption of greatness. The truth its, picking at #32 is one pick away from the second round...

ibygeorge said...

I remember hearing some of Lewis's first year hits way up here in NY. He smoothed out those rough edges. What a fast transformation in the secondary. Let's hope for the same on the OL.

Dale Lolley said...

You get lucky in some years. For example, the year the Steelers took Santonio Holmes, there was no clear impact WR that year and Holmes was the first receiver taken - at the end of the first round, moving up seven spots to do so.
The Patriots, also in need of a wideout, took the second one with the early in the second round - a few picks behind the Steelers. They got Chad Jackson. How'd that work out?

Anonymous said...

With Sean Kugler leaving, who are the candidates for line coach? Is Russ Grimm available since Whiz was fired? Was the last parting from the Steelers so bad that he wouldn't consider coming back? I remember that Cowher jumped on the chance to hire Grimm, he did a good job and had assistant head coach added to the offensive line coach in both Pitt and Arz.

Dale Lolley said...

Ah, no, I don't believe Russ will be coming back.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dale, that confirms the acrimonious departure of Grimm and the hiring of Tomlin.

Dale Lolley said...

Well, wouldn't you be loath to return to work for a guy who beat you out for a job?

Anonymous said...

Dale, you have brought up the interesting concept of how the ego gets in the way of reality. It did with Wallace's contract negotiations and Ben with his dink and dunk comments. Grimm won't be unemployed for long, he's too good. But, let's just say for arguments sake, that he is unemployed. There is an opportunity in Pittsburgh, to take an offensive line, which has been noted as poor to average at best for the last several years and take it to the next level. The line is loaded with potential and what better person to take it there than a HOF offensive lineman. While the line has size, it's missing the attitude of a hog. Give him the title of "assistant head coach" and guess what? He succeeds, which I think he will and it opens up that head coaching opportunity for him again with another team. I've been married for 20+ years and one of the sayings I follow is "you can win the battle, but lose the war." In this case, Grimm loses the ego and he wins the war.