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Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Wednesday news, notes

Earlier in the week, I stated that Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau isn't the part of what's ailing the team right now. In fact, he'll be one of the solutions.

But one of the prevailing questions being tossed around the locker room today - when Incognito-Martin questions weren't being lobbed at players - was whether LeBeau had lost his fastball.


Since LeBeau returned to Pittsburgh in 2004, the Steelers have ranked 1st, 4th, 9th, 1st, 1st, 5th, 2nd, 1st and, yet again, 1st in the NFL in total defense.

In that period, the Steelers also went to four AFC Championships, three Super Bowls and won a pair of championships.

Just because Terrelle Pryor broke off a 93-yard run and Tom Brady torched the defense for 610 yards in back-to-back weeks doesn't mean LeBeau can't coach.

It means the players just aren't getting things done right now.

The biggest issue, to me, is that the run defense has allowed 197 yards in back-to-back games.

This is a team that basically has three new starters in its front seven - nose tackle Steve McLendon, Vince Williams at inside linebacker and the Jason Worilds/Jarvis Jones combo at outside linebacker.

Those three are replacing Casey Hampton, Larry Foote and James Harrison, respectively.

By themselves, those changes could be covered up. All together, it's a big change, not only in level of play, but experience.

And when the Steelers aren't crushing the run - they've fallen to 31st in run defense - it opens up a lot of things in the passing game.

Safeties Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu are biting  on pretty much every run fake because they have to with this front seven. And that's hurting the Steelers on the backside in the passing game.

@ David DeCastro was back at practice today, but Kelvin Beachum (knee), Marcus Gilbert (ankle) and Fernando Velasco (thigh) were all out.

@ It was good to see rookie receiver Markus Wheaton back at practice today. He still has his pinky wrapped, but it didn't appear to bother him catching the football.

@ Sean Spence was placed on season-ending injured reserve and wasn't around the facility today.

I'm sure Spence was hurt by the news that the Steelers weren't going to put him on the active roster as he continues his attempt to come back from a dislocated knee and torn ligaments suffered last preseason, but at least the Steelers are keeping the door open for him.

Pittsburgh could have released him outright, but he showed enough in the past few weeks of practice that the organization is willing to keep him around. The Steelers could have released him outright.


pennstump said...

Dale, there's a lot of mention lately about Tomlin's draft picks, with him taking full accountability, and how he and Colbert may have 'missed' on some players and reached on others.

Has anyone been asking Tomlin or the Steelers if Tomlin is making the right decisions on talent appraisal / scouting / drafting? Also, does anyone ever look back in time and look at what decisions were made and if they failed ask questions like -- why did they fail / why didn't they pick others?

Dale Lolley said...

Sure, they look at those kind of things all the time.

Tomlin saying he takes the blame for the draft picks was grandstanding. The organization makes the picks. They've missed on some. It happens.

Honestly, though, the 2008 draft was a tough one. It drives me nuts when people call Mendenhall a bust. That's ridiculous. He was a 1,000-yard back and scored 15 TDs in 2010. Sweed and Bruce Davis, absolutely. Not Mendenhall.

But Sweed was viewed by everyone as a top pick.

The 2009 draft is also trashed. But a large number of those players drafted by the Steelers are still in the league. Doesn't mean they were busts. They couldn't make a team that played in the Super Bowl the next season and was ridiculously deep.

Anonymous said...

Mel Kiper Jr. was talking about Sweed being the steal of the draft all through the rest of the draft. He had him going early first round and was basically insulting all of the teams that passed on him. The Steelers weren't the only people fooled on Sweed. Then again, Kiper is a Ravens homer so maybe it was all bait...

Anonymous said...

Mendenhall wasn't a bust but he was definitely a disappointment. He had what, two or three thousand yard seasons then struggled with injuries before being benched and let to leave in FA because he wasn't a team player. Tomlin certainly didn't like him and I didn't hear any teammates crying when he left. His most famous moments where his love for Bin Laden tweets and fumbling in the Super Bowl.

Anonymous said...

You're right about Spence. The Steelers held the door open for him this season as long has they could under the CBA. And by all accounts, Spence earned every bit of that goodwill with a relentless rehab. Can't ask for any more from either side in this, both acted as well as possibly expected. The door for this season is now closed for Spence, but nobody has shut the door on next season.

phil said...

2012 draft aint lookin too rosy either

Anonymous said...

i was messing around with numbers instead of doing my "real work" and came across the following:

since #7 has been in the league there are 32 QB's who have more than 500 attempts in the 4th quarter of games (I used that quarter since it is usually crunch time).

of those 32 only 7 have more than 1000 attempts, including #7. #7's sack % (sacks divided by attempts) is 10.9% while the next highest of the other 6 QB's is 5.8%. the other QB's are palmer, brady, eli, brees, favre, and peyton.

I think that is a pretty good sample size and you can't blame it on the o-line because #7 had an awesome 0-line earlier in his career. it's him, how he plays, and it won't change at this point in his career.

DD said...

My biggest issue with the DL d, now and always has been, is the tackle the catch philosophy. If you don't have the talent, as this team clearly does not, then you get no pressure and get gashed in the running game to be sure. But when you employ the tackle the catch philosophy late in close games, you significantly increase the odds of the other team moving easily 20 to 20. That ends close games which BR alwys forces this team into. Lots of teams struggling at the end of games this yr tho with the rules changes so maybe it does not matter as much as I think it does and it is basically up to this lackluster offense to score points. How about they try to get something on the first drive of a gme for once. ANYTHING....hell, I'll even take a first down vs. an all too common 3 and out thus putting the D in a terible field position battle right out of the gate each and every week.

Dale Lolley said...

Believe me, the Steelers don't listen to what Kiper's spewing.

It's a little early to judge the 2012 draft, Phil. DeCastro looks like a possible Pro Bowl player to me. Adams is their best run blocker. He'll be a part of the equation in the future.

I'm not ready to give up on Spence.

Pistol said...

Say someone like Mathews or Lewan is avab. Cant pass on that right??

TarheelFlyer said...


IMO, if Matthews is there we have our LT for the next 10 years. That may just be me, but that leaves Adams and Gilbert fighting for other spots. I prefer Adams, but that is just me. Then all we have to do is find a LG and this line could actually do something.

Oh wait, the QB will still try to hold the ball for 15 seconds on each play, so they will still look like junk.