Sunday, December 30, 2012

Steelers - "Post" Season, part 1

A few comments before today's game:

1. Seems like Polamalu agrees with me:
“James Farrior was a great leader here for a long time. So was Hines [Ward], Jerome [Bettis]; so was Joey [Porter],” he said. “James was not Joey, and Hines was not Jerome, but they definitely led in their own ways. So I think when you look for a leader, there‘s no need to look for the same cast those guys are built out of. You just look for someone who will step up that someone respects, and some of that is really natural.”

“When I look at the personnel that you lose, and I say, ‘Can we actually win a Super Bowl without them? Could we win a Super Bowl without Hines? Could we win a Super Bowl without James Farrior?‘ I think it‘s obvious that we can. But it took us a while to adjust when we lost Jerome. So I think this is kind of that adjustment period.”
Of course we shouldn't forget that the last time we had a disappointing losing season, 2009, had a strong similarity with this year in one big way: Polamalu was injured for much of the year. The stats are astounding.

2. When dealing with the draft and next season, there are things people have been saying we need. There's a saying that 1st round pick should be a passer, pass rusher, or pass-protector (Left-Tackle). OK, as far as it goes. But a few weeks ago, I was saying that we need to draft a Tight End, and that was before Heath got hurt! I will explain why.

My thinking was this: our defense is #1 this year (see below for more) and we lost not because of them but because of cruddy offense and special teams. I think we have talent for ST and all we need is a halfway decent coach. But what about offense?

Well, we were humming in the middle of the season; we had a running game and we were protecting Ben very well. Why/How? Because the o-line was finally working. What I hope is that now that we got rid of O-Line Coach Kugler - who I've disliked the moment I found out that he was the former ooach in Buffalo when they - whoda guessed it - had massive O-line imjuries. The guy is a problem and good riddance.

So with a better coach, maybe our O-line will be as good as they should be and that will mean that our running game will suddenly be good. Which will mean Haley's offense should shine. Those 3 games (Cincy 1, Washington, Giants) were indicative of what we should have been. Ironically the most indicative games were Cleveland and San Diego. Those games weren't lost because of our new Offensive philosophy but because our players weren't playing up to their necessary level. And I blame that on either (a) bad training and coaching, or (b) the fact that the players were spending so much time learning a complicated new offense that they didn't have time to spend on fundamentals. This especially goes for the Wide Receivers and Running Backs. One more year of training will help 'em.

So why do I think we should draft a Tight End? Because (a) the only spot where we have real depth is WR, and it's crazy to waste a 1st Round pick on WR anyway; but more (b) given Haley's offense, we need a TE because of the West-Coast offense (aka 'dink and dunk'). If we had another Heath Miller, or a Gronkowski, can you imagine how awesome the offense would be? Short passing would excel and a HM type would also support the O-line.

The other opinions say to get a pass-rusher. I think that this 'common sense' doesn't apply to the Steelers because (a) we need to see if Harrison will be able to rise back to his standard level, because he's still talented and as far as I know his contact restricts us; (b) all defensemen take at least a 2 years or more to learn LeBeau's defense. So I think our 1st rounders should go to immediate use (cf. Cameron Hayward).

Some comments that I will expand after the game:

3. A dude on Grantland made a good point, that the Steelers follow the pattern of teams with old players are almost always near the cap which limits depth (BTW, the older players should hate this system because it encourages firing them for cheaper rookies). The Steelers defense is old and many players seem not to be able to make it a full year. And this is part of the coaching/management culture and I'm not sure if it'll change.

4. The defense is probably better in stats than they should be because our special teams was so poor, and there were so many turnovers, that the defense had to deal with a lot of short fields. Also since the offense was so poor, and porous, the defense didn't have to give up a lot of points for the team to lose.

5. Our problem this year, IMO, actually wasn't injuries (except for the OL, and I blame Kugler, see above) given that our failures came from WR who couldn't run routes right and didn't try to get tough catches (especially the turkey, Mike Wallace). Also Rothlesberger, after his injury, was getting gun-shy, I believe. People think his new kid may be affecting his sleep, I think if anything it's making him re-evaluate his mortality. The big lug may be done.

6. A last question: has Tomlin actually drafted well? The great people seem to still be holdovers from Cowher: Big Ben, Polamalu, Heath Miller.

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