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Monday, November 04, 2013

Post-New England thoughts

There's not a lot to say about this game on the defensive side of the ball. In fact, there's nothing good to say about what the Steelers put on tape defensively on Sunday.

There were some good plays - Steve McLendon getting penetration at the goal line to stuff a fourth-and-inches run, Jason Worilds getting a couple of sacks - including one on which he beat the tackle - Troy Polamalu forcing a fumble early in the third quarter. But those were few and far between.

The secondary had easily its worst day of the season, failing to get its hands on a single one of Tom Brady's 33 pass attempts and drawing three pass interference penalty.

It was like an added scene from Airplane. "The Steelers picked the wrong day to quit playing defense."

The biggest problem was the run defense, or lack thereof. New England averaged 5.6 yards per carry with a long run of 23 yards and one Tom Brady kneeldown.

The Patriots averaged a ridiculous 8.6 yards per play.

@ By the same token, the Steelers offense played a reasonably good game - outside of three Ben Roethlisberger turnovers.

Roethlisberger was sacked five times, but at least four were because Roethlisberger held the ball too long.

@ As bad as things are right now, the Steelers were in the same boat in 2003. The Steelers didn't quit that season and went 4-4 down the stretch, including a 13-10 overtime loss at Baltimore in the regular season finale.

These Steelers won't quit, either.

So forget about all of the "They have to play this young guy or that young guy" stuff.

Jarvis Jones, Le'Veon Bell, Shamarko Thomas and Vince Williams are getting plenty of playing time. Markus Wheaton has been held back by his broken finger, but he wouldn't deserve playing time over Jerricho Cotchery at this point.

Cotchery is having an outstanding season.

@ Cam Heyward continues to get better and better.

But there's something missing in the team's run defense. McLendon makes some plays here and there, but he's not the long-term answer as the starting nose tackle.

In fact, he's probably better suited to be the No. 2 nose tackle.

@ It's probably not going to happen, but I would take a serious look at Jones at inside linebacker moving forward.

You can win with Jason Worilds at outside linebacker, but I'm not so sure that you can with Williams at inside linebacker.

Williams left Sunday's game with a concussion, so his status for next week's game against Buffalo will be in doubt.

Jones has good coverage skills and might be better served in the NFL if he didn't constantly have to take on offensive linemen. Put him inside and let him run the ball.


Anonymous said...

"there's something missing in the team's run defense"

Yeah, the ILBs. Williams is not NFL caliber and Timmons is an average player at best that gets overrated by the entire media.

Anonymous said...

"These Steelers won't quit, either."

That looked like all out effort to you?

adamg said...

I've been saying this for awhile, but McLendon isn't a 3-4 NT. In this scheme the NT and at least 1 DE need to occupy 2 OL each. That isn't happening. When the DL doesn't engage the entire OL, then none of the LBs are going to look very good, get pressure or be able to make plays.

This isn't a knock on McLendon or Hood. They are talented players, but right now they are square pegs in round holes.

The DL look better suited to a 4-3, but probably too late in the season to switch up. Having Hood and McLendon move around between NT and DE might at least show if one or both are long term answers at either position.

Jones will be fine at OLB. In addition to being a little undisciplined, to me, his biggest issue is lack of upper body strength. I'm always surprised that when I look at him even the skin tight jersey is loose.

As for the game, it was lost in the Steelers first two possessions with the sack/fumble, then the INT. If the Steelers score on the first drive, maybe it's a different game.

As for playing the young guys, by all means find out once and for all about guys like Curtis Brown, Derek Moye, Landry Jones, Justin Brown, Joe Long, etc.

Anonymous said...

Disagree on Jones. Too small. Can't beat NFL caliber OTs.

Anonymous said...

Jones is a rookie and banged up. Far to early to pass judgement. That said, he's not an inside LB and don't understand how he wouldn't be taking on OL just as often on the interior playing behind McClendon. Guy isn't a very good NG. Guy isn't very goo period, really. Nice depth, subpar starter. Would be better served as a DE here or playing a more penetrating role in a 4-3.

"These Steelers won't quit, either." That wasn't quitting at the end of this game?

Worst thing that could happen is they somehow manage to finish 7-9 or 8-8. Would allow the organization to delude themselves into thinking that maybe things are close and large changes in a few areas isn't needed. That would be a mistake.

marc said...

i concur with adamg on all except the first 2 possession thing.

dale, yes, some of the younger guys are getting good playing time. but, at this point, they need to take stock of the entire roster and find out what they really have there heading into this offseason. this is a great chance to get valuable playing time/experience and evaluation for all the younger guys.

also, tell me why would ryan clark start another game the rest of this season? he has not been playing well and everyone knows he will not be back next year.

finally, can someone tell me why the steelers refused to jam gronkowski at the line of scrimmage. anyone, anyone?

Anonymous said...

Oh, they started jamming Gronk some at the LOS....AFTER his second TD.

Maybe they needed him to prove he was back to 100% before they began defending him as normal? Guess he showed 'em.

Anonymous said...

I do not understand why it took so long to put Allen on Grontkowski. That first long drive by New England, even though it was stopped by a goal line stand, gave Brady all the confidence he needed to open up the field and pick the Steelers apart. And then I could not believe that they put Thomas on Grontkowski.

Steve-O said...

This defense has no "nasty" to them. No Greg Lloyd, no Joey Porter, no James Harrisson. They are soft.

Anonymous said...

I think the question that needs to be asked is: What changes are necessary to put the Steelers back in competition for a Super Bowl each year? The standard is the standard. In consecutive weeks, the Steelers have established new standards for team yards allowed and points given up in a game and the NFL standard for longest run by a QB. And some thought that the OL was the problem, it was just one of many.

I posted this after the Raider game, it was just a culmination of reasons for the Steelers decline that I’ve read from the readers’ comments, not necessarily my own thoughts:

1. The Steelers have done a poor job drafting.
2. The Steelers have done a poor job evaluating talent.
3. The Steelers winning record have left them with poor draft position.
4. The Steelers have extended and renegotiated contracts which have left them with cap problems.
5. As Adamg mentioned, the QB takes up more than 10% of the salary cap which affects the teams’ ability to spend money elsewhere to support the team.
6. LeBeau is past his prime.
7. The Steelers don’t have the personnel to run a 3-4 anymore, particularly at nose tackle.
8. Haley is not a good offensive coordinator for Ben’s abilities.
9. Ben’s extension of plays has good and bad ramifications, but have taken a toll on him.
10. Tomlin doesn’t bring much to the table.

I agree with Marc that the entire roster needs to be evaluated and now is as good a time as any to give the young guys real playing time. I hope no one is deluding themselves with thoughts that it sends the wrong message of giving up on the season, this is not a playoff team.

Agree with Anon 8:16, one of the worst things that could happen is the Steelers start to win because it would prevent real change from occurring and put the Steelers back in the middle of the draft. Have a plan and go through some short term pain to right the ship. We're already in pain, what's a little more?

However, I would also take a broader evaluation and ask the question: Organizationally, do the Steelers have the necessary people in place to turn this around?” In other words, like TEPCO or BP, do you trust the people who created the mess to clean it up?

Frank Beans said...


DD said...

Have to disagree somewhat with the comment that they picked this time to play their worst defensive game. Tho they did play terribly, I think the scheme was pretty much identical to every other game. Only this time, we played an elite QB who did what any elite QB would do.....completely shred this defensive gameplan with accurate passes to wide open WR's. Manning and Brees would easily throw up 50 plus pts on this D as well. This D just isn't relevant anymore in the NFL. Doesn't matter who they throw in there IMO. Granted, it would be nice to have some better talent, but that wouldn't fix what is clearly wrong.

Anonymous said...

The idea that our D isn't "relevant" anymore is laughable. The scheme is fine we just can't get any pressure on the QB with either OLB.

Harrison got old and Woodley just isn't that good.

Ryan Clark needs to get benched after this game. He has made more mental mistakes this year I can remember. He launches himself at the LOS like a rookie.

The best thing that could happen this offseason would be some new position coaches, especially on offense and trading Woodley. He's an above average player but the money he takes up on our salary cap is hurting the team. Ike Taylor needs to take a pay cut or get cut.

And I wouldn't give Pouncey that big deal he will want. Just sign Velesco or whatever his name is. Steekers fans laugh at other teams for overpaying FA's. Well sometimes we overpay our own guys and neither move is smart.

TarheelFlyer said...

I honestly think this team has more tools right now to be a 4/3 defense than a 3/4. Woodley would need to move back to a DE, which wouldn't be that hard. Keisel and Heyward take the other DE position. Hood and McLendon and Woods all become DTs. Worilds and Carter also go back to DE position. In obvious passing situations Heyward can slide to DT bringing Keisel in with him. I think we could get pressure on the QB with Woodley, McLendon, Heyward and Keisel all in at the same time.

Timmons and Jones move to OLBs, with Williams currently the MLB, but we don't have a true run stopper at that position so we would need to draft one.

adamg said...

For a long time the Steelers held out against restructuring contracts and pushing the cap hits out into the future, but once they started doing it, they sort of locked themselves into having to keep doing it to make it under the salary. Now the salary cap chickens have come home to roost. Alan Robinson reported the Steelers have almost 80M of cap space committed to just 7 or 8 players. That sure limits a teams ability to fill in whatever gaps there are in the roster.

I think the organization just gambled that some of these players would continue to be very productive into their early to mid-30s and they could keep competing for championships with them. It hasn't worked out this year.

It's also possible the organization thought the salary cap would rise significantly when they took this risk, but that didn't happen either.

Personally, I see this season now as a lot like Noll's first year when he was just concerned with finding players who wanted to play, not necessarily the most talented, and
then go from there.

marc said...

many good points being made.

imo, most important to move forward and improve is getting out from under the "salary cap problem." only way to do that is cut bait with some guys and move on, either from trades or out-right releases. this may be a crazy offseason.

Dale Lolley said...

Well, Justin Brown and Joe Long aren't on the active roster. And which two receivers are you dumping to put Moye and Brown in the lineup?

Also, you're going to bench Roethlisberger to start Landry Jones? Trust me, seen enough in practice to know he's nowhere near ready for any playing time.

I completely disagree that LeBeau is past or even has a prime. He's a coach, not a player. He can still teach with the best of them. But if you don't have the talent, you don't have the talent.

Ike Taylor has been playing great football all season. He gave up a long TD yesterday. It happens. Turns out, after the game, he was announced with a possible concussion. Don't know when it occurred, but the long TD was late in the game.

Frank Beans said...

I am not so much concerned with the lack of talent as lack of heart. I can't recall too many Steeler teams that lacked it. This one does.

Dale Lolley said...

Eh, heart/talent. Can't judge heart. Guys can be trying their butts off but just not be good enough. Looks like they lack heart, when in fact, they just lack talent.

adamg said...

Dale, why not dump one of the non-playing TEs for J Brown or Joe Long? I'm sure there are other players at the bottom of the roster who could be released and re-signed to the PS to give those two a chance. Why not give L Jones a shot? It's not like BR isn't a turnover machine or is the most accurate passer in the NFL. Can Jones be worse? Now is the time to find out because the Rooneys will have to make a keep/go decision about BR in the very near future given his salary is 10+% of the cap and scheduled to grow.

Anonymous said...


I agree with you on LeBeau, he is one of the all time great coaches. Which is why the selection of Tomlin was kind of baffling. I remember during the Chicago game, the announcers mentioned in the selection of Trestman, the Bears thought their defense was set, so they want a coach with an offense background. The Steelers could have easily told LeBeau that he has a job as long as he wants it as the defensive coordinator, then selected a coach with an offense background which is where the help was needed.

I disagree on the heart issue. Isaac Redman had heart, he lacked talent. Adrian Peterson has talent, but you can tell he’s playing with heart when he carries tacklers across the goal line, he’s on a mission and he’s going to accomplish it. James Harrison and Troy play with heart, though both are also talented. The Steelers need leaders that are talented and thus respected yet vocal enough to inspire their teammates in both word and deed. Ray Ray comes to mind.

I was complaining about this issue last year because we had the talent to win, but the fire in the belly, the desire to win, the intense focus were all lacking. This year, it’s nonexistent. It starts with the coach, Cowher had it, Tomlin doesn’t. On the hand, Noll didn’t have it, but his calmness eluded confidence.

Anonymous said...

F**k, exuded not eluded. I was talking about Tomlin not Noll when I said eluded.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure glad I didn't DVR that game, I couldn't stand watching it again.
Ryan Clark was hurting, he couldn't even pull himself off the turf a couple times. As far as Ike... he has been money all season, just not this game..
Pats saw something, in a certain formation, play X would have the middle open. While the safeties got sucked up and troy trying to back up the gimpy corner.. Give them credit, they executed and won the game.. Lets not forget, the PATS were 6-2 going into the game and we were 2-5..

IMO I thought Ben and Co had a B+ day, putting up 31 points isn't anything to sneeze at.

Obviously our D was horrible, I hope this comes as a wake up call for them.

The cap is what worries me the most, we don't have any room to go out and pick up high calibar FA. Not that we have ever done so in the past, but I think this off season would of been different if we had the $$$ to spend.

And we don't sit our $100 million QB to see what the other guy can do! The one pick was all him, but if he didn't throw it and got sacked, the outcome would of been the same except for them getting 2 points. They were on the six inch line!!!

It's time to revalue some guys but not to scrap the entire system.. It's a bad year, how do you think the guys on the field feel, they want to win just as bad as we want them too..


TarheelFlyer said...

Looking at the "from the endzone" INT, it reminds me of the Super Bowl a few years ago. It wreaks of not learning a lesson. You are backed up, but once again rather than just take the 5-6 yards on something small, we try to get it all back at once. We had 48 TGTS in the game....Heath got 5 of them. This is the perfect scenario for it be more than that.

adamg said...

Our 100M qb is mostly playing like a $10 qb. He probably has more turnovers by himself than some entire teams this season.

Anonymous said...

Gronk looked enormous compared to the Steelers DBs.
William Gay could have all the "heart" in the world, but he just is too small and weak to play. He has his moments, but shouldn't have been brought back.

At the end of the day, the Steelers doing poorly is proof of parity in the League. You can't pick at the bottom of the draft year in and year out, and still be a top team.

Also if the team can even sniff a top QB in the draft they need to take him. BR is just a guy and has been for a while. Too many turn overs...

Dale Lolley said...

Adam. There is no way in hell they are going to bench Ben Roethlisberger "to find out what they have" with Landry Jones. He's not the future and isn't thought of as the future. They see him in practice every day.

Who would you be playing Joe Long over? The offensive line is all young guys too.

The safeties are biting up because they have to help stuff the run. Vince Williams isn't very good and McLendon isn't starter material. It's making them very easy to run against.

Steve said...


Gay has played well overall this season. Certainly much better than the people who were beside themselves when he was re-signed and made it out like he was the worst CB in the NFL expected. As with Ike, one game doesn't = 8.

Along with Bell, Brown, Cotchery, Heyward, Ben (at times)and Worilds (at times), I'd add Woodley as one of the bright spots yesterday. Also, I thought McBriar did a good job punting.

Anonymous Brian said...

I agree Ike has looked all right for the most part this year.

Still, they let a better, younger CB go play for the Saints because Cortez Allen is better, supposedly. Never know when Cap Hit Taylor may fall off a cliff the way Clark has this season.

(All I think about in my spare time is having cut Ike to keep Lewis for purely financial / age reasons. Not that Ike is bad or Lewis is great, but they're basically the same player and one is much younger. Even though we'd still be 2-6 and this has nothing to do w/ yesterday's embarrassment.)

Polamalu is a liability in coverage and is basically an undersized linebacker at this point. All of that and no pass rush. Yum. And realistic thoughts about moving your supposed edge rusher / future James Harrison, etc. to ILB because he can't beat NFL tackles. Double yum.

Kind of a relief to be bad? Been spoiled for the most part since what, '92. Nah - still depressing.

Anonymous said...

There's no organizational leadership or vision right now for this franchise.

Sometimes it looks like Tomlin's ideas, sometimes Art II, sometimes Colbert. It's all over the map.

One thing true from all three visions is they think we are better than we are. Constant mortgaging of our salary cap and re-signing of ex-Steelers shows complete lack of self-analysis. This is an average team at best, talent wise, but the front office treats it like we just have bad luck on injuries.

Until we clean up the cap mess, cut the fat, start drafting like we mean it and have a clear vision for the future of this organization (from one person), it's not going to get better.

Dale Lolley said...

Everyone assumes that Keenan Lewis wanted to return. I don't know that was necessarily the case. He wanted the most money he could get and he got a chance to go home.

I was a proponent of re-signing him. Thought they should have made a pitch to do so all season until Allen had those big games down the stretch.

I've not given up on Allen being a player. In fact, he's making some plays. But I think he rushed himself back from the high ankle sprain and paid the price for it against Minnesota.

Woodley had the same injury last season and said it bothered him all year.

That said, that would be one move I'd make. I would put Allen back out there as a starter and make Gay the nickel again, despite his solid play this season. Brady went after him hard on Sunday

Anonymous said...

Gay does alright but he shouldn't have been brought back. He simply is not good enough. Arguing that Gay is alright or good enough is why the Steelers are a losing team. The Gronks and Adrian Petersons of the league rape him. So your team can go 2-14 and show highlight reels of Gay stuffing nobodies, or the occasional big play. I would pass on him though.
I would say that about Ben too. Flacco won a Super Bowl. Kaepernick got there. Hell, Nick Foles just had a 7 TD pass game... Ben has had his day. I loved those SB teams too, but those days of Bettis, Ward, Porter, Smith, Hampton are long gone. Ben had enough mature, talent around him to get by. They don't have that now. He doesn't have the defense to bail him out when he has multiple interception games. To win with Ben, you will either need a O-line that can keep rushers off of him for 2 minutes or a defense that creates turn overs and holds other teams completely down. He has shown glimmers of good play but he is too unsteady.

Steve said...

To add to what Dale says, I think another reason for letting Lewis walk was that they believe that Ike, in large part because of the tip-top shape he keeps himself in, can be an effective CB through at least the end of next season despite his age. Of course, my guess would be that the expectation is that Allen passes Ike as the #1 CB sometime between now and then.

Troy was never the greatest in coverage. The lack of overall consistency with the pass rush + Clark hitting the wall are both hurting his effectiveness.

Gay was brought back to be the #3 CB. They didn't expect Allen to get injured. Still, Gay hasn't really been a problem overall despite seeing more action as the #2.

I don't see Jones being moved inside, at least not anytime soon.

emac2 said...

I like the idea of Jones inside. He's looked good when he lines up inside.

Frank Beans said...

I know it's not in his nature but you think the one thing Ben would learn after all these years is to throw the damn ball away if all the receivers are covered rather than take the sack. He constantly puts this offense in the hole taking all of those sacks and they aren't the offensive line's fault.

marc said...

they saw mike adams everyday in practice but still seemed to think he could start at LT. practice alone apparently isn't a good enough of an evaluation tool.

if they don't eventually trot landry jones out into game situations then that was a total waste of a 4th round pick. and those garbage/nonsensical mid round picks by colbert are really starting to pile up.

Anonymous said...

Troy was just trying too hard to make a play and he got burned for it. I know he is a freelancer bit you can't freelance every play. Bad game on his part but I still think he is having a good season.

The fact that we are right against the salary cap with a team so devoid of talent as to be 2-5 says everything you need to know about the job Colbert is doing. We are paying top dollar for players who don't deserve it. And I don't buy the excuse that Ben is taking up our salary cap. There are teams paying their QB more with more talent.

Pistol said...

I've thought all along that Jones would be a perfect fit for Mack/Buck. He is relentless and is a run/hit guy not a guy who can consistently whip OT's.

Not a Tomlin fan by any means but when your team picks at the bottom of the rounds consistently it makes he and Colberts job that much more difficult. Price of success.

HACK said...

Dale I agree with your Landry Jones "they see him in practice everyday" line of thought.....My question is don't they see Steve McLendon in practice everyday too?

marc said...

what i hope we see the rest of this season:

offensively - wheaton (when healthy) getting plenty of playing time and opportunities. moye getting more chances at WR. landry jones getting at least two starts to evaluate his progress. bell being used extensively as a receiving option out of the backfield. adams plugged back in at LT for at least two starts for his final chance to prove he can do it.

defensively - golden replace clark at FS for rest of the season, cortez allen back at #2 CB, c. brown moved up to #3 CB, hood replace mclendon at NT, sylvester replace williams at ILB.

the steelers can't fix this in one offseason. they don't have the talent or the cap space. they have to find some of these answers internally and that means getting as much playing time/experience and evaluation as possible this season. then, wherever they feel they are falling short, they can try to plug holes via FA and draft. of course, that means dumping/trading some of their higher price tag players.

imo, this all comes down to the salary cap situation. until they resolve that they will be restricted as to their options and dependent on the draft for an influx of better talent. that, of course, takes more time and is clearly dependent on them actually drafting well.

i believe, if they feel they can adequately replace him, that the rooneys will let colbert go this offseason. i also believe that will be the appropriate warning for tomlin that he better get his end of the deal turned around soon.

Dale Lolley said...

They've already taken Golden out of their big nickel package because he was making mistakes.
Bell is already being used extensively as a receiver out of the backfield. Averaging more than three catches per game.
As I guessed, Allen is back in as the probable starter at LCB.
Curtis Brown as the No. 3? No thanks.
There's no way Landry Jones is getting two starts - or even one - unless both Roethlisberger and Gradkowski are injured.

As for Adams at LT, that could still happen. He's still their best long-term option there. He's got the skills to do it.

adamg said...

I agree with marc, throw the young guys out there to see what you have. They have to find out one way or the other because of the salary cap problem and the need to know if they should extend BR's contract in the next year or so. It's pointless to pay a qb 15-20M/yr if there's no supporting cast.

adamg said...

Kevin Colbert is a North Catholic guy just like all the Rooneys. I doubt he's going to be gone any time soon. That's why AR, Jr ought to be brought back for an extra set of eyes on the players the Steeler scouts find and like.

marc said...

would you rather have golden making mistakes or clark? i'll take the younger guy who might be around next season and try to teach him how to learn from those mistakes.

regarding bell, i meant i would like to see that continue. it will be great preparation for him for next year.

regarding curtis brown, who cares if he makes mistakes. will it be any worse than gay getting torched? i understand gay was having a decent season, but what is his long term value to this team? it can't be anymore than getting curtis brown much needed experience.

regarding landry jones, they might as well put him on the practice squad and bring up someone else to evaluate if what you say is accurate. what you are effectively saying is that they currently have no succession plan for #7. that's poor, imo, considering the beatings he takes and his declining level of play.

Pistol said...

made a mistake on previous post. Jones CANT consistently whip OT's was how it should have read to make sense ha

Guys the Steelers arent a franchise that mails it in. They have had that chance on several occasions and as early as last year when they won that last meaningless game. It dropped them at least 5 draft spots if i remember.

Dale Lolley said...

For the 10th time, Art Rooney Jr. is 70-plus years old. Why in the hell would he want to come back to work those kind of hourse?
I might add that you say Colbert won't be fired because he's a North Catholic guy while totally discounting that Dan fired his BROTHER!

The Steelers aren't going to punt on the season. It's just not how they work. If you don't like that approach, you might want to start following the Browns.

marc said...

dale, you're missing the point. if they are gonna have guys playing poorly and/or making mistakes, it might as well be younger guys and developmental guys than older vets who very well may not be around in a year or so. you still play to win and expect top notch effort.

Anonymous said...

"The Steelers aren't going to punt on the season. It's just not how they work. If you don't like that approach, you might want to start following the Browns."

As a coach you have two priorities.

Your first priority is to make the playoffs.

When that doesn't work, your second priority should be to develop the players on your roster going forward to see who's worth keeping and who's not - especially if you have salary cap issues like the Steelers have now.

Right now the focus should clearly be on that second one. I'd be happier if our remaining losses had some potential long term benefit that we might see later on.

(Note: I'm not blaming you, Dale because absolutely none of this is your decision one way or the other.)

See, I live in Chicago and had to suffer through the Dave Wannstedt era - an era where Wanny flatly REFUSED to rest his starters and play the backups when his team was already eliminated from playoff contention.

He had key players (like Raymont Harris) getting needlessly hurt in meaningless games because he didn't want to sit some starters.


Because he either though that momentum carried through an off season or so he wouldn't end up worse than 8-8 and have a "losing" season on his resume.

Or both.

I remember him saying "All the pieces are in place." But after years of mediocrity (at best) and a 1-11 record vs the Packers, everybody changed the quote to "All the pieces are in Green Bay."

I really hope Tomlin learns from Wanny's mistakes and doesn't repeat them.

And while I'm not a Browns fan .. I have started following the Saints.

bruinmann77 said...

WHY NOT acivate Fangupo at least for a few games to see if he can be more stout aganist the run.You can also play Mclendon and Brett as a rotation on DE