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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Players I expect to make a leap forward for Steelers

A lot has been made of the Steelers' losses this offseason, and certainly there have been more than a few.

But the Steelers also have a number of young players poised to make big steps forward in 2013 who could help this team return to the playoffs.

Here are some guys I expect big things from in 2013 who didn't necessarily star in 2012:

1. David DeCastro/Mike Adams - I have combined these two because injuries derailed their rookie season, though both played enough for the Steelers to feel comfortable handing them starting jobs heading into 2013. DeCastro will line up at right guard and should be a fixture there for years to come. Adams will compete with Marcus Gilbert for the left tackle position, with the loser of that battle slated for right tackle. Adams is the more physical run blocker of the two, but he's also better suited to play left tackle.

2. Steve McLendon - McLendon has been on fans' radar for the past two seasons but averaged just over 10 snaps per game in 2012 playing behind Casey Hampton. That will change in 2013 as McLendon is slated to take over the nose tackle position. He's a different style of nose tackle than Hampton, playing more like Chris Hoke. That could add up to more pass pressure from the nose position, but will the run defense suffer? We'll see.

3. Curtis Brown - With fellow 2011 draft classmate Cortez Allen headed to the starting lineup, some are labeling Brown, who was actually selected ahead of Allen in the draft, a bust. No so fast. This is a make-or-break year for Brown and he knows it. He could win the slot job in a battle with William Gay and Josh Victorian, though Gay certainly has the experience factor in his favor. Brown, however, might have the best hands of the Steelers' defensive backs not named Troy Polamalu.

4. Adrian Robinson - All you need to know about Robinson is that when the team's offensive tackles needed somebody to work with on stopping outside rushers, they grabbed Robinson to work with. He's not going to be a starter and he needs to figure out what to do on special teams, but the young man has shown flashes of pass rushing skills. If he can put it all together, he could be a valuable backup.

5. Robert Golden - The Steelers liked what they saw from Golden enough that they felt comfortable passing on a number of highly rated safeties in the draft. He can play corner as well in a pinch. A smart kid who oozes with confidence, Golden could be the heir apparent to Ryan Clark.


Anonymous said...

I agree with your short list, but I would not stop there. The Steelers have a number of other players who need to step up and contribute and are on the verge of doing so. TE, David Paulson may be the starter in September, with Miller's injury limiting him. Of course the Steelers are counting on Emanuel Sanders having a big year at WR. He is capable of a 1,000 yard season, though he has not reached that lofty goal. Marshall McFadden hss shown ability, in practice, to be a soild player. He needs to prove himself on game day. I understand the Steelers like his potential.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't get greedy. Lolley coulda just as easily gone the other way with a list of potential sliders. But this is the season for hope, and that was good enough.

One quibble though, I wouldn't say this is a make-or-break year for Brown. Rather, a make-or-break training camp. He may possess the best set of hands in the secondary, but he also possesses the least amount of confidence from the coaching staff. Evidenced by his slide down the depth chart last year as injuries mounted providing one opportunity after another for him. Appeared to run away from it, reinforcing the shrinking violet rep hung on many a Longhorn. Seems his hands aren't the pair he most requires in order to take that leap forward.

TarheelFlyer said...

This is a year I am very excited about. Winning by this team, one in which the youth will be needed to win, can be exciting. Young players are going to have the chance to step up and make contributions. How large a leap they can make could determine how the season goes. We have youth or unproven 2-4 year players all over the palce. I look forward to seeing if these guys take jumps.

C. Brown

That is a LONG list of youth that has the potential to really help us this year. I look forward to seeing what they do.

Dale Lolley said...

I could have put more on the list, but I wanted to limit it to five.

Curtis Brown will be on this team regardless of whether he takes a big step at CB or not. He was the team's special teams leader in tackles last season. You don't cut those guys.

datruth4life said...

Dale, there was one player I hoped you would mention, but obviously you are just as unsure as I am on what he'll do this year - T Marcus Gilbert. From what I've seen, I don't think he has the feet to be a LT on this level. Nor can he stay on his feet long enough during a game to keep from getting rag-dolled and thrown into his other fellow offensive lineman. I think Kevin Beachum could end up being a nice surprise as a 7th round pick. I noticed Colbert, when talking about 7th round pick Nick Williams, said those late picks are very important because you could hit on a Brett Keisel or a Kevin Beachum. That's high praise coming from Colbert on a rookie who only had a couple of starts because of injury. I rewatched some of Beachum's footage from this past year and he seems like he is a legit tackle in this league, though he is a little undersized. I think with today's NFL, you better have tackles that have good feet and movement skills more so than just size. Like that the Steelers are flying under the radar this year. That is when they usually play their best.

Dale Lolley said...

Beachum does need to get stronger. That's what the offseason is for.

I didn't mention Gilbert because he basically started his entire rookie year. I was focusing on guys who hadn't started.

Tom said...

Great list Dale been chomping at the bit for any kind of Steeler analysis I can get.
My main question for the upcoming season is what if Worilds outperforms Woodley this season? Let's say Woodley has another injury plagued season, would the Steelers be willing to move on from Woodley and pay Worilds to play OLB across from Jarvis Jones in 2014?
To put it simply, are Woodley and Worilds essentially competing for one stack of money due to be handed out next offseason to one of the OLB's?

Dale Lolley said...

Can't move on from Woodley at this point, the cost is too much. He's already got his stack.

Plus, there's no reason to believe he's not going to play well.
I don't think anyone believe Worilds will outplay Woodley. Woodley's track record is much, much better.

Anonymous said...

There's no reason to believe that Woodley won't play well? You can't seriously believe that.

The Steelers are committed to Woodley though. We shifted more cap debt into the future and guaranteed more of his money. I can't wait to see which promising young player we loose so we can keep an under performing veteran.

marc said...

agreed on woodley. they are committed to him now, but he has certainly proven to be rather inconsistent at this point in his career. that could change of course, but i don't think it's likely.

i am really looking forward to this o-line doing some damage next season. it's there time to shine and the team will need them to do well.

kyle said...

My criticism of Woodley has been the slow starts but to expect him to be no better than Worilds or Jones is a bit much. When healthy, he's a Pro Bowl caliber player. In 2011 he even shut me up by coming into camp great and going on a tear through the first half of the season. Then he pulled his hammy. Then this past season he hurt his ankle. So, he's had one and a half down seasons out of six. I'd say Dale is right to expect him to play well. I guess we'll see.

Nate said...

Woodley's an underperforming veteran?

The guy has one injury-plagued season and all of the sudden everybody forgets that he has 11 sacks in 8 career postseason games. On top of that, he's been an absolute terror for the top two AFC North rivals with 15.5 sacks in 19 games against Baltimore and Cincinnati.

Before we all write Woodley off, I think Dale is spot on. There is really no reason to think he won't play well this season. The combination of Jones and Worilds should be enough to keep opposing pass protection honest.

He's had a long offseason to get his body right, and he's still on the good side of 30.

Dale Lolley said...

Inconsistent? How quickly we forget.
The man had 44 sacks in his first four seasons as a starter, including nine in 2011 when he only played 10 games.
Does he get them in streaks? Absolutely. But prior to his injury in 2011, he was carrying the defense almost by himself.

Dale Lolley said...

I might add that his hot streaks also seem to coincide with the playoffs, which isn't a bad time to do it, either.

Patrick said...

I think the real question is whether Woodley will receive a third contract from the Steelers. Hard to see that happening.

Dale Lolley said...

Got a couple of years to figure that out. If he bounces back healthy the next two seasons and has 25 to 30 sacks, it would be tough to let him walk.

Dale Lolley said...

The bottom line is that Worilds isn't going to be here after this season unless he is average or stinks in 2013.

If he has a great season, he'll be cashing in like Lewis

Patrick said...

that wasn't me Dale.

someone being a smartass

Anonymous said...

Reading the analysis from after the 2011 draft, it seems that Curtis Brown was always slated to be more of a nickel corner than a starter. Cortez Allen, on the other hand, was seen as a higher potential player who could be a starter. So the real question is not if Curtis Brown is a bust because he is not the next Ike. He may have a very good career as the next William Gay/Deshea Townsend. I think we have higher expectations for Curtis Brown than Allen because of his higher draft position. But they are different types of corners. He might fit in nicely as a nickel corner and this doesn't make him a bust at all. After all he was drafted in the 3rd round not the first. If he could add interceptions, I say give him a hat on Sundays.

Mrs. Isaac Redman

marc said...

i said, "inconsistent at this point in his career", which is completely accurate. he has had trouble staying on the field, has shown a lack of conditioning (which we pointed out before anything was said from the locker room), and his production has been spotty. imo, when players start to become injury prone, they stay that way, and that is why i don't expect him to return to the consistent production you refer to.

kyle said...

All pass-rushers’ production is spotty. Rarely do guys get one sack a game for 16 games. Usually they pile up a few in big games, get none, get a few more; it's a statistic of opportunity as much as execution.

Woodley had an injury during arguably his best season in 2011. He had another injury last season. Those are the only significant injuries in his career. Max Starks got the "injury bug" and then played every snap last year. There are no assumptions with injuries that aren't wrong.

marc said...

we'll just have to wait and see. i would bet woodley misses 4 games this year due to injury or is significantly slowed down but tries to play through an injury. hammy or ankle with outside shot at calf/achilles.

as for starks, early in the season he was clearly still recovering from his injury the previous season even though he played through it.

kyle said...

If you can show me a starter on an NFL roster who isn't playing through an injury at some point during the season, I'll show you a lucky man. It's the nature of the game. If you don't get hurt it's because you're lucky, not because you're bigger, tougher, or train better. It's luck. Or circumstance if you prefer.

Ike keeps himself in amazing shape - he got hurt. Hampton lets himself go - he got hurt. Look no further than last year's outside linebackers. Everyone knows the workout regimen that Harrison goes through, he's been hurt twice in two years. Everyone complains about Woodley's offseason shape, he's been hurt twice in two years.

Dale Lolley said...

"as for starks, early in the season he was clearly still recovering from his injury the previous season even though he played through it."

So Mark, you don't think Woodley was playing through the ankle injury he suffered last year?

He had a beastly training camp. Then he sprained his ankle badly and played through it.
There's nothing to suggest he'll suffer another ankle injury.
Woodley played in 47 of a possible 48 games in his first three years as a starter.

marc said...

like i said, the guy has become injury prone and has made him an incosistent player. thanks for proving my point.

marc said...

also, i fully acknowledge guys play through in injuries in the nfl, and every other sport for that matter. but, i am referring to injuries that are substantial enough to limit their production.

Patrick said...

A hot streak in the playoffs doesn't do any good if they don't make the playoffs. No third contract.

kyle said...

I meant every starter at some point during the season is playing through an injury that can limit their production. I'll skip the murderer's row of Steelers injuries last season.

There is no such thing as "injury prone." There are guys who are injured and guys who aren't injured yet. If Woodley had a repeat of the same injury multiple times then you'd have a better argument. He pulled his hamstring and he strained his ankle. Those aren't the same injury and they do not suggest Woodley will get hurt again. If he misses time because someone lands on him and breaks his arm will you use that as evidence of your point?

marc said...

of course not, regarding the broken arm, but i fully expect he will have more hammy/ankle problems this year, as i stated in a previous comment.

it's just my opinion, and as i said, we will find out this year. if he pulls up with a bad hammy again, then yes, i would consider that to be injury prone.

also, i do think you can consider some guys to be more injury prone than others. especially when it may result from lack of conditioning/physical preparation. broken bones - no. muscle pulls/strains/tears - yes.

Anonymous said...

I always hear people mention how Woodley "Gets hot in the playoffs". Is he really getting hot, or did it just take him the better part of the season to play himself into shape?

And it will be REALLY interesting to see how Woodley will do now that Harrison is not drawing all the double teams. Woodley looked pretty average to start the season when he was supposedly healthy.

kyle said...

You can blame injuries on anything:
Woodley - poor conditioning
Harrison - too old
Polamalu - Marinovich/style of play
Roethlisberger - poor Oline/style of play
Aaron Smith - too old
Taylor - freak accident

Everyone gets hurt. Woodley has gotten hurt twice in what should be the prime of his career and he has a huge upperbody so people blame it on him being out of shape.

And to Anonymous, Woodley started the 2011 season on fire. That was probably the best start of his career. It made me worry less about him starting slow. I don't think one padded practice and 30 minutes of a football game are getting him into shape any better than working out in Arizona.

marc said...

we could go back and forth for a while. some guys clearly get hurt more than others, for whatever reason. hopefully, woodley comes back with a monster season and proves me wrong.

Anonymous Brian said...

If Woodley's relatively healthy he's double-digit sacks easily. I don't think he can replace Harrison's impact on games but he's been a very good player most of the time, if a little overrated ("dong" sacks inflating his rep some, disappearing against nobody tackles, etc.). He's got really good hands / nose for the ball as far as picking up fumbles, tipped ints, etc.

His own position coach has expressed frustration about his conditioning twice in the last couple years (did it again, a little, in his presser after the draft this year), so it's not like people are just pulling that out of thin air.

Yeah, if Curtis Brown turns out to be an NFL-caliber nickel back that would be a huge plus. Helps with depth after picking 30-something Ike "Cap Hit" Taylor over 20-something Keenan Lewis. :)