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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Steelers land a big fish

Sorry I've been a little inactive on the blog this week. Been in Myrtle Beach watching my son's high school baseball team open the season.

The Steelers, of course, added another good free agent pickup on Friday, signing running back LeGarrette Blount to back up LeVeon Bell.

Blount, a former 1,000-yard rusher with Tampa Bay, comes over from New England, where he ran for more than 700 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013 as part of a running back rotation.

He might not get quite as much work as the 150-plus carries he had with the Patriots in 2013, but I would expect the Steelers to split the touches between Bell and Blount in a 70-30 fashion.

Blount also averaged more than 29 yards per kickoff return in 2013 for New England, so there's a good chance he will serve that role with the Steelers as well.

The 250-pounder averaged a  very healthy 5.0 yards per carry in 2013 - the second time in his four-year NFL career he's been at 5.0 - and should give the Steelers the best 1-2 running back punch in the AFC North.

@ With a wide receiver and running back added to the equation, the Steelers will be done in free agency offensively. They'll add a wide receiver in the first two days of the draft in May to complete their offensive makeover.

I still see some mock drafts with the Steelers taking an offensive linemen in the first round and chuckle every time. That's not going to happen.

Pittsburgh is taking a wide receiver or corner in the first round with the top targets being Darqueze Dennard, Justin Gilbert, Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin, pretty much in that order.

If none of those players are available, or if it's Benjamin, who they feel they might be able to get a few picks later, you could see a trade down.

My perfect Steelers scenario at this point would be Dennard in the first round and a big wideout in the second, with Donte Moncrief and Jordan Matthews being the targets.

@ With Alex Carrington signing with St. Louis earlier this week, the odds increased for the Steelers to bring back Brett Keisel for one more year to serve in a defensive line rotation with Cam Thomas.


emac2 said...

Do you chuckle because you think the LT position is covered by a NFL mid level or better starter and backup?

I could live with any of the starters on the team at any position and I don't know that WR makes a lot of sense. An elite LT or CB is harder to find and should be given extra weight when we draft so high.

I think they fill in everywhere before the draft to maintain the freedom to draft an elite talent if one falls. If an elite LT drops to 15 I don't see anyone on the team blocking him.

I would pass if Munchak says we're good but wouldn't take anyone else's advice on the subject.

Homegrown Misanthropist said...

You mentioned before that Dennard was not the type of player the Steelers were searching for CB but Gilbert was, what made you change your mind?

Also I ve heard rumors of Kenny Powers still hanging at Myrtle Beach, any truth to that?

Easley said...

I am sure kick coverage units do not relish having to tackle a 250 pound RB with a full head of steam.

mike s said...

What exactly is the plan at ILB? They have timmons and as of last season, no one else. They tried two different guys there and wound up essentially going with Troy. Most mocks i've seen don't address ILB and they've not looked there in FA either. Curious as to what's the plan there? Is Williams supposed to magically transform over the summer and Spece be back to a 100%? I don't see either, but even if you get one of the two, you've still got no backup there. Seems to be being overlooked.

The LT spot seems baffling as well. Don't know if i'd rate Beachum as a top 16 in the league there, but they seem to be ready to repeat last years mistake of going into the season without a prove LT. Do they really believe that spot is 'set' with what they've got?

Don't get me wrong, i'd love the 1-2 start you have listed, but it seems as though a couple areas are being overlooked.

adamg said...

Moats can also play inside if needed, so he's the backup plan. Williams played well enough that Foote was able to be released. If Spence can return, that's just gravy.

I thought Kiesel was actually playing pretty well last year until the plantar fasciitis sidelined him. People look at his age, but forget he started his career late because of his LDS mission and played his first couple seasons mostly on STs. Not quite as much wear and tear on him as his age would lead one to think.

Anonymous said...

For the sake of argument, I would disagree with the comment that they will not take a offensive linemen in the first round. Here is why:

1. It is not often that franchise LT fall to 15 in the draft. If they believe Lewan is that guy they should take him. You rarely see LT in this league succeed when they are not take in round 1. Are there exceptions? Yes, but it is uncommon. There are plenty of very good WR and CB taken in the later rounds, with the Steelers being a perfect example of this.

2. The Steelers do not have a true LT on the roster. In fact, I'd say it is our weakest position on the team. Beachum is a serviceable pass blocker and below average run blocker. If he goes down, we have no player that can play the position. Adams has proven that RT he can do, LT he cannot.

3. It is a great business decision (under the new collective bargaining agreement) to draft high salary players at the top of the draft. You get to lock them in for 4 or 5 years at a reasonable salary compared to what you would pay a similar veteran in free agency. This is why teams that have the young quarterback (Seahawks, 49's, Colts) have great QB and cap space. The teams are loaded. We have the franchise QB with a big salary, so we need to lock in a high dollar position in the rookie wage scale. Finding a starting LT in free agency isn't difficult, it is almost impossible. And you are looking at paying a lot for them. Look at what free agent DB's and WR's went for this year. It is not even a comparable.

4. It becomes a good bargaining tool when trying to resign Ben. A great LT matters to a QB, it just does.

5. This draft is extremely deep at both WR and CB. It is not impossible to think we could go: Lewan, Jordan, Mathews, and a very good CB at compensatory 3.

Anyway, just some thought from a guy who doesn't know anything. Thanks for the insight Dale.

Noel said...

My two cents: I don't think the door should be closed on Adams at LT yet. He does have first round talent and he looked fine there most of the time but when he did play poorly he looked terribly bad and lost. Jared Allen has done that to enough Left Tackles that we should be able to forgive him that particular game. I think he can be coached out of his other shortcomings.

On another note, we all (rightly IMO) expect Adams and Gilbert to benefit greatly from Munchak but Beachum has already shown he has the intelligence and determination to make it. He may benefit from Munchak's wisdom quicker than the others. We can only hope but I think the o-line is going to be all right. The quick passing game and the resurgent run game will keep Ben clean. The one area I don't feel comfortable is the left side on running plays. Adams is far better than Beachum in the run game. Running behind Beachum and Foster isn't going to amount to much and is the main reason I would like to see Adams win a battle for that spot.

kyle said...

Anon 8:48,

Lots of good points but...

1. Yes, top of the line Left Tackles aren't easy to find later but talking about specific players, Lewan has as many red flags as Willie Colon has yellow ones. Robinson and Matthews will be gone. Nobody else at that position is worth 1.15 (and even Robinson is potential more than anything).

2. I can't say Beachum is a "true" LT. He can get the job done. Which is why LT is not the weakest position on the team. Williams/Garvin did not get the job done at ILB. Even if they sign Keisel back after June 1 I'd say DE is weaker than LT. OLB consists of two starters who couldn't lock up the job on the right side last season and the depth is Chris Carter and Arthur Moats.

3. Drafting potentially high-paid players is of course a good idea. No disagreement on that. However, your QB examples (Seattle, San Fran, Indy) aren't great to prove the point of drafting someone in the first. Only one of those QBs went in the first and he went first overall so he isn't exactly comparable.

4. I thought Ben wanted a "tall WR" like everyone else seems to want. (mostly kidding)

5. The draft does appear to be deep at the positions you site. I am hoping it is impossible that the Steelers draft Lewan though. He seems to be a dirtball.

Anonymous said...

Well, the point of my comments were really directed towards the fact that there is no chance we'll take a LT. I just don't think that is true. The Steelers Blogosphere as given Beachum as pass, but i'm not sure why, and, I don't think any level of coaching is going to turn Adams into a left tackle. Just an opinion, although I love his upside at RT.

Also, there is nothing about what the Steelers have done this offseason to make us think they aren't comfortable with their inside linebackers. In fact, they released Larry Foote, which is the biggest indicator of their comfort with Williams, Garvin, and Spence. Add Moats into the mix, and they will be fine. It is just really hard to be a great inside linebacker in their system as a rookie. Keep in mind, Timmons didn't start until year 3.

Finally, there is no point in getting a "tall or Deep threat" receiver if we can't pass block for longer than 3 seconds. So, if we get that LT that can pass block and run block, we open up the entire playbook for Ben. With the current line, I just don't think that is possible.

Noel said...

Pass blocking wasn't a problem in the latter half of last season.Personally, I would like to see a guy like Hageman as the first round pick and then CB and WR in the next rounds. Having a strong line will improve the secondary and the linebackers.

Anonymous said...

You just made my point for me. The pass blocking was not better in the second half of the season. The Steelers incorporated a no-huddle, short-passing scheme which got the ball out of Ben's hand faster and didn't allow for defenses to use many blitz packages. It was the scheme that was better. The personnel was still the same. We don't have a LT that can hold up one on one in pass pro or move people in the run game. Maybe Adams can develop into that player (i don't think so) but Beachum never will.

Noel said...

I think you make a very good point. We only differ in that I think Adams can be that upper level Tackle and the team can draft for other needs. If Robinson fell to them I'd be gleeful to see him in black and gold but none of the other linemen excite me enough to put aside other needs

kyle said...

I would never say anything is impossible. I think most Steelers writers are discounting the possibility of a Left Tackle in the first because Matthews will be gone, Robinson will be gone (and he's no better a pass-blocker right now than Beachum), and Lewan has some issues way more troubling than smoking weed (Adams).

What are you basing your suggestion that it is impossible for Beachum to develop? Height and arm length? What he has shown so far? Because the former doesn't mean much. In regards to the latter, Beachum has shown that he can pass block well enough in a quick passing offense against NFL talent. Matthews is the only first round tackle I would trust as a rookie to be better. Robinson is a physical marvel but his pass blocking has room for improvement to put it lightly. Lewan (putting aside his troubles off the field) was beaten badly the year before last by Clowney. Clowney is as good a barometer as any and he very well might eat Beachum's lunch if they face each other but I don't know that Lewan is a day 1 improvement over Beachum.

Anonymous said...

I a know LT is the second most important position on offense. But the guys on our team now, including Beachum, were part of an offense that really came together in the last 9 games of last season averaging 28 ppg. Regardless of the fact we ran more hurry up and short passes, it worked. I don't think we need to take an OL in the first. We have invested so much in terms of high picks in recent years into the OL. Time to spread the wealth. This team needs playmakers on offense and defense. CBs, OLBs, Safeties, WRs change games with big plays on each side of the ball. Safety is taken care of now with Mitchell and hopefully the development of Shamarko. The starters at OLB are suddenly young and full of potential. CB and WR both could use a player that can make game changing plays. Gilbert, Dennard, Evan one should be available.

Anonymous said...

Back to my original say there is no way we take a offensive lineman, I think, is not true. LT is clearly a weakness on this team, and also a very important position for many reasons. If a truly dominant LT falls, we take him. It is just good business and would open up the entire offense.

To the question about Beachum improving, I don't think he'll get much better. He is already working extremely hard, but has major athletic limitations, hence being drafted at the bottom of the 7th round. Not just his size either. He is very slow, and not strong, to go alone with short. I wish it was different, but his ceiling is just lower. If we could we could combine the best qualities of Adams and Beachum, we'd have an answer!

And to say the Lewan won't be good because he was dominated by Clowney is just silly. Clowney is a freak show. Just imagine what he would to to our tackles if we left the one on one with him!

kyle said...

As I said, I think writers like Dale are saying it's "impossible" (with maybe a bit of hyperbole) more because of who would be available and less because they think Beachum is Anthony Munoz. Matthews and Robinson will almost certainly be gone (crazier things have happened but mock drafts don't typically rely on crazy things to happen). And Lewan is not the player Matthews is and he doesn't have the athleticism Robinson has.

Beachum can get stronger and possibly a little faster. I don't think the Steelers are set at LT for the next 10 years but I don't think they're going to move up for a LT in this draft.

Clowney didn't dominate every LT he faced. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess Clowney won't lead the league in sacks his rookie year. There are pass-rushers in the NFL who are better than he is and Lewan will face some of them. I think Lewan can be good. I don't think he's better than the third best LT prospect and as I've mentioned too many times now, he seems to be a scumbag.

Anonymous said...

Just for a point of clarity, Beachum won't "get faster". I train athletes as my job. The type of explosiveness and quick twitch speed which would make him a better tackle is all developed before you turn 19. Being that he is already a professional athlete, he is in good shape and strong, just not getting any faster. Secondly, to say Robinson is a better athlete than Lewan is just silly. Lewan dominated him is every combine drill except bench press, where Robinson got him 3.

kyle said...

People get faster. They don't tend to get MUCH faster but they get faster if they work at it. Just like if they stop training they slow down. Beachum may be at his physical peak. Neither of us know that.

Dominated? Are you referring to the 40 where Lewan beat Robinson by five/hundredths of a second? Lewan is taller, a little lighter, and faster. Robinson is much stronger. Not just "3 bench presses" stronger but "much better run blocker" stronger.

I hope the Steelers don't draft Lewan. It doesn't have much to do with Robinson or Matthews or Beachum. It's because I don't think he's a very good person. I care about that. And not just in a hippy-dippy way. He could get in trouble. He wouldn't be the first Steeler to get in trouble but I'm not keen on drafting a guy in the first round who has multiple red flags surrounding his character.

Dale Lolley said...

I didn't like what I saw of Dennard dropping into coverage at the combine. But it's my understanding that he looked better at his pro day.

Vince Williams got better as the season went on last season. Moats could surprise there as well. They're saying backup OLB, but he can play inside as well.

Beachum did a credible job at LT last season, well enough that they don't HAVE to spend a pick there. There's also hope that Adams could blossom as well.

As for Lewan, I'm not a fan at all. Add in the off-field stuff and I'd pass on him every time.

Patrick said...

this is completely off topic, but did anyone know that Antonio's Brown dad was an AFL superstar and sounds like a great guy all around?

I never heard this before and usually things like this you hear 100 times a season.

drinkyourmilkshake said...

"Touchdown Eddie Brown" didn't exactly provide Antonio with a solid home life, the announcers might not talk about him possibly due to Antonio's wishes

Anonymous said...

naI'm holding out hope on Adams as well. I'm sure coach Munchack will be a big influence on him. Also, core strength is extremely important to an offensive tackle. It your core allows you to maintain balance out of your stance and during quick change of direction, but also give support during a bull rush, especially for a tall player. Being that he was stabbed in the abdomen and had to have one of his organ removed a few weeks before training camp had to have a huge effect on him. Lets hope so, because he wasn't good at LT last year.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone has ever thought Beachum was a franchise LT type. He did a credible job and I think they found a way to protect him within the offense.

As one poster already mentioned, the front office has to continuously find ways to plug holes and build the team comprehensively. While a franchise LT would be great, one won't be avaialable at 1.15 and there also other needs that are probably more pressing right now.

for example, the d-line needs help right now. i realize they will probably bring keisel back for another year, but they need to draft a high quality d-lineman. it's a shame Carrington didn't work out.

datruth4life said...

Dale, here is a K. Colbert type of draft vs. what I would do this year. Which one do you like best?

K. Colbert type of 2014 Mock Draft:

1 – CB D. Dennard, Michigan State
2 – WR J. Matthews, Vanderbilt
3 – OT B. Turner, North Dakota State
4 – DE B. Urban, UVA
5 – CB W. Aikens, Liberty
5 – ILB Kevin Pierce-Louise, Boston College
6 – WR J. Brown, Pittsburgh State
6 – OLB L. Webster, Bloomsburg
7 – NT R. Carrethers, Arkansas State

DaTruth4Life’s type of 2014 Mock Draft w/trade down in 1st round (netting extra 3rd & 6th rd picks):

1 – ILB R. Shazier, OSU
2 – CB, J. Verett, TCU
3 – WR D. Moncrief, Mississippi
3 – OT B. Turner, North Dakota State
4 – DE B. Urban, UVA
5 – CB W. Aikens, Liberty
5 – OLB/DE Prince Shiembo, Notre Dame
6 – WR J. Brown, Pittsburgh State
6 – OLB L. Webster, Bloomsburg
6 – TE C. Gilmore, Colorado State
7 – NT R. Carrethers, Arkansas State

Robbie said...

It would be a shame for them to have to blow a first-round pick on a CB just because they were too stupid to offer Keenan Lewis a contract.

I too am surprised by all the Dennard talk, since the knock on him was that he can't play zone coverage, only bump-and-run.

Will the Steelers draft Dennard only for him to be another "square peg in a round hole" disaster like Ziggy Hood? Nothing would surprise me anymore.

Anonymous said...

um, i'll take the kevin colbert draft. i want no part of shazier especially in a 3-4, we dont need another nickel corner (also verret will be gone), and i'm not convinced donte moncrief isn't stephen hill.

Anonymous said...

Not sure Williams got better from the bench. When Foote got hurt they threw VW in and he played a ton. Then those snaps were trimmed more and more as they morphed into a dime team. Didn't go dime because they wanted to. It was a better alternative to them than having Williams on the field. By the end of the season, what few snaps his position was receiving was being split between him and Garvin. I didn't see improvement. I saw a guy they kept finding new ways to keep off the field. They had no contingency plan if Foote went down. And unless Moats is the plan, I don't see one yet this offseason either. Anything attached to Williams, Garvin, or Spence is entirely hope-based.

Anonymous said...

If they need a cornerback, it's OK to draft a cornerback.

Keenan Lewis wanted to play in his hometown of New Orleans. The Steelers were unable to move their entire team down there for him, so negotiations fell apart. If only!

Anonymous said...

I'm hoping the first three rounds are a combination of CB/DL/WR.

BlackNGold said...

Anon 10:37,

LoL, great reply.


Kennan Lewis is a Saint now, get over it.

Dale Lolley said...

I like Urban as a late-round guy. The fourth might be a tad high. He's a classic 3-4 end type who played out of position the past two seasons.

datruth4life said...

Dale, if Dennard, Gilbert, and Mike Evans are gone, do you think the Steelers might take CB Kyle Fuller instead of trading down to take WR Benjamin from FSU? Mike Mayock has moved Fuller up to no. 2 on his board for CBs ahead of Gilbert. I think the Steelers will have their shot at some decent 3-4 DE vets after June 1 when teams releasing some vets after trying to fill holes via the draft.

Dale Lolley said...

That's a possibility, DaTruth. There's also the chance they take a Dlineman there as well.