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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Getting ready for mini-camp

The Steelers will hold their mini-camp next week and will have a completely different look this season - particularly on defense.

While their will be some changes on offense, the majority of the changes on the team will be on the defensive side of the ball.

Mike Mitchell will be at free safety. Jason Woirlds and Jarvis Jones will get all of the first-team reps at linebacker  - not a huge change, but LaMarr Woodley won't be sharing that time. Cam Thomas will line up at defensive end opposite Cameron Heyward.

One spot there won't be a change at, at least not yet, will be at inside linebacker next to Lawrence Timmons. Vince Williams will likely open up as the starter - at least for now. But expect rookie Ryan Shazier to be worked in there plenty as well.

The Steelers are that high on their first round pick.

I would expect second-round pick Stephon Tuitt to get some work with the first unit as well, with the team masking it by moving Thomas, a free agent signing, to nose tackle at times.

With so many new faces on defense, this is an important mini-camp for the Steelers. Given the team's schedule this year - with three of their four games against Baltimore and Cleveland coming early in the first six weeks - it can't afford to stumble out of the blocks like it did in 2013 when it started 0-4.

And 0-4 start this season would include losses to both Cleveland and Baltimore, which would be killers.

This team needs to work its defensive starters together as much as possible in mini-camp and training camp to find its continuity.

17 comments:

Mike said...

Your last point is why I think Shazier pretty much gets slotted in from day 1 in training camp. Williams is Buck and Shazier a Mack (I know they are saying the distinction is getting smaller, but it's still a distinction) and I don't think they want to be flopping people around. Cohesion sooner rather than later.

What has me most excited about the defense is the youthful energy we should be seeing. When you have so many older veterans I think a sense of complacency is natural and a deferral of young players to old players. Tough to assert yourself if you are Cam Heyward when Kiesel is around. Same with Clarke and Woodley and Foote. We need new leaders to emerge and I'm excited to see who that is.

Dale Lolley said...

Timmons has played both so it's not a big deal.

Steve-O said...

Dale,
I heard Ed Bouchette on the NFL Radio network the other day. He seems kind of down on the Steelers' prospects this year. Mostly because of their defense and lack of significant talent at CB. Do you think thhis will be the Achilles heal of the 2014 Steelers or will pressue from the front seven you just mentioned make up for that?

Frank Beans said...

Ed needs to chill out. No one knows what they have until Week 1.

kyle said...

The Steelers' Pass Defense ranking for last season: 9th.

The Steelers' Rush Defense ranking for last season: 21st

Ike Taylor had the worst or at least second worst season of his career. Ryan Clark was bad. Troy was playing out of position. Cortez played better in 2012 than he did in 2013. Yet, the Steelers were still 9th against the pass. Is Ed saying a first round corner would move them up to 5th or something? DE and ILB were much bigger needs and they took those positions earlier. Makes sense to me.

Dale Lolley said...

Many beat writers simply focus on their own team and don't look at the league as a whole. Ed is very good, but he doesn't look at what everyone else in the division has done.

Baltimore will be worse. Cincinnati has issues as well. Cleveland is Cleveland.

Anonymous said...

Weren't we first in the league in total defense in 2012 and still went 8-8? Total defense doesn't mean much when you allow the big plays. And our defense has allowed big plays for years now. We need youth and speed on our defense; guys who can actually make big plays for US - something we've been sorely lacking for a very long time.

Steve-O said...

In years past I've enjoyed Ed's collumn but more recently his sarcastic wit has turned to condescension and contempt for fans who post questions during his weekly chat (I don't post). I'm not sure if his paper mandates that he do the chats but he is clearly annoyed when he fields a question that he addressed in a previous chat or news story (as if we are obligated to catch every story, tweet, or chat transcript that he posts)... But I digress...

I tend to agree with Dale. The Bengals lost their Defensive Coordiantor who in my opinion outshined his boss, the Ravens are probably going to split home games with us, and the Browns... Nuff said. The arrow is definitely up on the 2014 Steelers.

Homegrown Misanthropist said...

Dale, You mentioned last year during the 2013 season that Justin Brown had gotten better, do you still believe this to be true? Do you think he can beat Moye for a roster spot?

Anonymous said...

OTAs are when a team reveals what type of team they intend to be on both sides of the ball. Their identity, philosophy, direction, ambition. I'm not so much interested in specific players at this point. I'm more interested in who they intend to be. Because for the first time in a very, very long time, it's not at all apparent.

Last year began with the offense trying and failing to really establish the run game, and the OZB. Only to close the year very strong with no-huddle. But their no-huddle as it was last year is not sustainable for a full season and it is not very compatible with their conventional offense. To be sustainable and remain effective it needs to be both broadened and streamlined, and it needs to be a seemless transition between conventional and no-huddle. Switching back and forth with the same personnel without self-defeating wholesale substitutions. Last year it was a very small package, 20 plays maybe and mostly 4 WR sets from the gun. They need to be able to go no-huddle with 2TE or 3WR. Under center or from the gun/pistol. Whatev. That's what I mean by broaden. As is, it will be too predictable, especially with how much they already put on film last year. And by streamlined, I mean blocking. When you're making your calls from scrimmage in the no-huddle, there's no time for the OL to really think about assignment and what scheme the play calls for. Best to keep it simple with so much going on, imo.

So, on O, things I'm curious about. How often is Ben under center, in the gun? How much time are they spending on no-huddle versus conventional? Same personnel for both, or different? How much time Munchak spends on OZB? Last year they had zero commitment to it in the offseason, and it showed. How much time spent on cut blocks? Is he working with the TEs on that install too? Cuz they were responsible for it's demise too. Redzone offense.

O and D are yin and yang. One tends to complement the other. But the Steelers D presently is not compatible/complementary to a no-huddle offense. Those tend to be geared towards stealing possessions in a shootout. And that ain't them. No where close. And last year they went heavy with dime. Which was a radical departure from the previous year. Not sure how Tomlin figures a 10% shift. Went from 38% base to 62% packs in 2012 to reversing those numbers in 2013. That's not 10% by any calculation. But given the injuries and the mad scramble to correct for the injuries and correct for the corrections, was last year the anomaly or LeBeau finally conceding to league trends? Dunno. Maybe some of both. But the extra DBs didn't help. At all. So how much time do they spend in Base, and how much in Packs? 50/50? How much zone, how much man? Are the coaches drilling into them to keep the play in front of them, or encouraging them to trust their instincts and seize opportunities? DL configuration. Stuff like that.

Anonymous said...

Bouchette seems to have forgotten how and more importantly who makes his profession possible. That's why I read Mr. Lolley instead.

I find it amusing said...

A sportswriter who's an old curmudgeon...

unheard of.

kyle said...

I like Bouchette. He's dry and sarcastic and I'm fine with that. I even relate to it. I just disagree with him. I don't think the Steelers are "set" at CB but the defense had problems all over last year and then lost players from the front seven. The draft made sense to me. If they had drafted Gilbert or Fuller in the 1st it still would have made sense to me. Very few defensive positions would have confused me to be honest.

Anonymous said...

Bouchette clearly hates his job and dislikes Steelers fans. Just listen to the man talk. I've seen janitors more excited about their job.

Dale Lolley said...

Hey, we all get grouchy sometimes. No big deal.

Dale Lolley said...

I do think Brown has gotten better, BTW.

The receiver battle should be interesting. Top three are set. Bryant will get a spot.

Does that leave room for a fifth or do they use Archer as the third RB/fifth WR spot?

Joel Christman said...

I expect a 5th WR and a 3rd RB and also Archer as a flex returner/WR/RB. I don't remember Stefan Logan taking any WR or RB spot on the roster when he was here.

QB (3), RB (3), FB/TE (4), WR (5), OL (9) + Archer = 25 offensive roster spots
DL (7), LB (8), DB (9) + 1 extra = 25 defensive roster spots
3 special teams (K, P, LS)

That's a pretty typical breakdown under Tomlin's reign.