Found February 03, 2013 on
SteelBlitz Steelers Blog:
When a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers struggles during the regular season and misses the playoffs it causes an overreaction as to what needs to be done to fix the team. Many fans are ready to throw head coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley out the door following the Steelers 8-8 2012 season. However, there may be an easier way of looking at things. Pittsburgh struggled through multiple major injuries in 2012 and was lucky to finish where they did.
During the 2012 season the Steelers were without James Harrison, Troy Polamalu, LaMarr Woodley, Ike Taylor, Ben Roethlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Clark, Mike Wallace, Marcus Gilbert, Antonio Brown, Willie Colon, Heath Miller, Keenan Lewis, as well as their first and second round picks David DeCastro and Mike Adams for at least one game each. Many of those players missed multiple games in 2012 and the Steelers could never seem to get the team fully healthy.
When Harrison returned Woodley went down injured. When Ben Roethlisberger was about to come back and it looked like the Steelers were going to make a run Ike Taylor was lost for the season. After Taylor was out of the lineup the Steelers secondary struggled mightily. The Steelers offensive line was also ravaged by injuries throughout the year and was only consistent for a three game stretch from week 7-9.
With so many major injuries on the team it is no wonder the Steelers struggled during the 2012 season. However, even with the amount of injuries they had to overcome the Steelers were still in the playoff race until week 16 of the regular season. Now as the Steelers wait through a long off-season we start to look at how to get the Steelers back to the playoffs and the Super Bowl. Many want to make whole-sale changes at different positions, but many fixes could come internally.
The Steelers have a large amount of young talent on offense and defense and 2013 will see a lot of these players step into more prominent roles with the team. Here is a look at some moves the Steelers can make internally, without having to sign outside unrestricted free agents or use draft picks, to get the team back to the playoffs in 2013.
Salary Cap - The first task of the off-season will be for the team to get under the salary cap. They will want to clear enough space so that they can look to sign their own free agents as well as be able to sign their draft picks in April. As of now the Steelers will need to cut a decent amount of salary this off-season and the following moves can be expected to be made: Re-structure Ben Roethlisberger, Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley. Cut Willie Colon and James Harrison.
Outside Linebacker - With Harrison cut as a cap casualty the Steelers will need to replace him at right outside linebacker. As I wrote the other day the Steelers could move Woodley to the right side and let Worilds take over at left outside linebacker. Worilds played on the left side multiple times in 2012 with Woodley injured and he played very well. Worilds has struggled on the right side though and could be a liability as a starter in place of Harrison.
Running Back - The Steelers will re-sign all of their restricted free agents giving them three backs in Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman and Baron Batch. Dwyer should be given the starting nod and with a consistent offensive line in 2013 he could be a solid running back. Dwyer only played behind a consistent offensive line twice during the 2012 season and each time he surpassed 107 yards on the ground. If you average out Dwyer’s stats for around 275 carries (an estimate of the amount he’d get as the starting back) he would have a season around 1,200 yards and 8 touchdowns. That’s not exactly Adrian Peterson, but it would give the Steelers a much more balanced attack alongside Roethlisberger.
Wide Receiver - It’s unlikely the Steelers are going to re-sign Mike Wallace and he will likely find more money elsewhere on the open market. That leaves the team with Antonio Brown as their number one receiver. Behind Brown would be Emmanuel Sanders as the number two guy and Jerrico Cotchery as the third receiver. That group wouldn’t exactly instill fear into the opposing defenses, but in Haley’s short passing game they would be a solid group of receivers. The fourth receiver could be David Gilreath who showed flashes in the pre-season and was brought back late in the year after a short stint in Tampa Bay.
Nose Tackle - Casey Hampton is a free agent and may look for more money elsewhere. Even if Hampton decides to return to the Steelers on a minimum one-year deal it’s time to let Steve McLendon start at nose tackle. McLendon, who played on less than half the amount of snaps that Hampton played, recorded two sacks and forced a fumble. His ability to push the pocket and get to the quarterback makes him a huge asset on the defensive line. Here is my full reasoning for starting McLendon in 2013.
Defensive End - The Steelers invested two recent first round picks into defensive ends in Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward. Hood was rated very poorly in 2012 and Heyward is still struggling to see the field behind Brett Keisel. Keisel could be a cap casualty this off-season, but if he does return the Steelers need to let Heyward split time with him. Heyward played well in limited snaps in 2012 and until he sees the field more it’s hard to know what the Steelers have in him.
Middle Linebacker - Larry Foote is a free agent and it may be time to see what the younger guys can do. For years Stevenson Sylvester has been in the mix at linebacker, but he has struggled to see the field on defense. During training camp in 2012 Sylvester was in competition for the starting job with Foote, but Foote won the job and Sylvester only saw one defensive snap all season long. In 2013 the Steelers could use a two headed attack with Sylvester and Sean Spence at middle linebacker. They could also bring Foote back for one last season, but if they do that they need to give snaps to Spence or Sylvester so that one or the other can be ready to start in 2014.
Offensive Line - The offensive line will consist of Marcus Gilbert, Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Adams, and David DeCastro of that we can be certain. It will be determined in training camp who of Adams and Gilbert plays which tackle position, but right now it would seem Gilbert is the left tackle in 2013 with Adams playing right tackle, a position he played very well in 2012 as a rookie. The last spot to fill is left guard and it will likely be filled by either Kelvin Beachum or Ramon Foster. Foster played in all 16 games last season and the Steelers would like to keep him around, but he could be out of their price range in free agency.
Corner Back - The Steelers top priority for the off-season should be to re-sign Keenan Lewis to a long-term deal. Lewis finally came into his own in 2011 and continue to play very well in 2012. Lewis is the Steelers second best corner behind Ike Taylor and along with Cortez Allen projects to be one of the starters when Taylor eventually retires. Curtis Browns, DeMarcus Van ****, and Josh Victorian add a good amount of young talent behind the top three players and make this one of the deepest positions on the team in terms of talent.
Safety - Safety may be one of the biggest question marks this off-season. Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark are getting older and Clark is entering his contract year. The Steelers may have something in 2012 undrafted rookie free agent Robert Golden, but we won’t know much on that front until training camp. Ryan Mundy is a free agent and will likely be retained to continue to back-up Polamalu. Even so back-up safety is the one position that the Steelers can’t feel fully certain about based solely on in-house options.
If the Steelers make these moves and decisions it will dramatically cut down their needs and make for a less stressful draft. Pittsburgh first round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft will also say a lot about how they feel about one of these positions. If they draft a middle linebacker it will tell us that they aren’t confident in Spence and Sylvester. An outside linebacker would show a lack of confidence in Worilds. A nose tackle would mean that the team is not ready to put their faith in McLendon or could mean they plan to move him to defensive end as I have seen others suggest. Moving McLendon to defensive end could be a good option, but it would also tell us that the Steelers are not impressed with former first round picks Hood and Heyward.
One thing is certain as we wait out this long off-season and that is the Steelers still have a lot of very good players on their roster despite going 8-8 in 2012. Many have pegged the Steelers defense as old and many of the starters were in 2012, but what those people fail to realize is that the Steelers have a lot of youth waiting in the wings. Those young players should get their chance in 2013 and it will be interesting to see how they perform.
The post How Many of the Steelers Roster Problems Can be Fixed In House? appeared first on SteelBlitz.
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