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09 Apr 2013

State of the Team: Pittsburgh Steelers

by Andy Benoit

The 2013 "State of the Team" articles will run daily through the NFL draft. These offer a snapshot look at a team’s roster, with players classified by color based on how they fit their role. My analysis is based on film study, not statistics, although we will try to note when my judgment differs significantly from FO's advanced stats, and explain a little bit why. Starters are in bold, and you will notice that there are 12 defensive starters rather than just 11. This denotes the extra playing time that nickelbacks and third receivers usually get in today's NFL.

Color Legend:

  • Star
  • Good
  • Adequate
  • Jury’s still out
  • Just a guy
  • Upgrade needed
  • No longer on the team

Some players colored pink as "just a guy" are younger low-round picks who just haven't seen much playing time, but keep in mind that 99 percent of the time, there’s a negative reason why such a player has rarely seen the field.

Players colored red as "upgrade needed" are not necessarily bad players. Sometimes, this simply means the player is a decent backup who should not be starting.

Since I generally don't do analysis on special teams, those categorizations are based strictly on FO stats, with any comments written by Aaron Schatz. We're only listing kickers and punters, as most teams go into training camp without specific players set as return specialists.

Click here for an archive of all State of the Team articles.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

OFFENSE

OVERVIEW

After having tremendous success with more of a big pass-oriented offense the past five years, the Steelers are concertedly aiming to return to their more traditional black-and-blue approach. Last offseason, they brought in Todd Haley and his multi-tight end, controlled passing game. This offseason, they’ve chosen to not pay speedsters Mike Wallace and Rashard Mendenhall. They’ve also prioritized youth along the offensive line. It’s a questionable approach given Ben Roethlisberger’s unparalleled skill set and the recent success of his wide receivers. But I’ll refrain from official criticism for now, as I’ve learned over the years that this franchise doesn’t make many mistakes when crafting long-term plans.

BACKFIELD

QB: Ben Roethlisberger, Bruce Gradkowski; Lost: Charlie Batch, Byron Leftwich
RB: Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman, Baron Batch, David Johnson (FB), Will Johnson (FB)

Roethlisberger’s play-making prowess in sandlot situations is unmatched in both its uniqueness and effectiveness. Lately, the 31-year-old has also shown new-found refinement as a pocket passer and field reader. He must rely on that maturation process in order to rebound from last season’s disastrous December, where he battled injuries and threw loss-sealing interceptions at the end of the Cowboys and Bengals games. Dwyer and Redman are both capable mudders who have just light enough feet to survive. They badly need a quicker scatback to complement them, though. Right now the hope –- and it’s just hope -– is that Batch can suffice.

RECEIVERS

WR: Antonio Brown (Or is it Antonio Brown? See below), Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, Plaxico Burress; Lost: Mike Wallace

TE: Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, David Paulson; Lost: Leonard Pope

Brown gets in and out of his breaks quicker than anyone in the NFL. He might be the league’s toughest all-around cover, especially at the intermediate levels. Sanders is similar in style to Brown: he’s a favorite of Roethlisberger’s when working inside from trips formations. Can he be a favorite as an every-down player? Cotchery no longer runs well, but still knows how to operate from the slot. Burress no longer runs well, but still knows how to be 6-foot-5. Miller is a smooth seam and underneath receiver who also contributes meaningfully as a blocker. Paulson was a seventh-round pick in 2012; his receiving abilities really intrigue the staff, but his future likely hinges on the development of his in-line blocking -- a skill Haley's system demands and one that Paulson did not work on much playing for Chip Kelly at Oregon.

OFFENSIVE LINE

LT: Mike Adams LG: Ramon Foster C: Maurkice Pouncey RG: David DeCastro RT: Marcus Gilbert

Backups: John Malecki, Kevin Beachum; Lost: Willie Colon, Max Starks, Doug Legursky

Adams improved gradually playing the right side as a rookie. He was clearly a better run blocker than a pass blocker. That will have to change now that he’s at left tackle. Foster is best suited to be a utility backup. Pouncey has evolved into the league’s best center: his athleticism is unmatched and he’s smart and fundamentally sound. DeCastro and Gilbert are both recent high-round picks who must prove they can stay healthy.

DEFENSE

OVERVIEW

The Steelers ranked first in yards allowed last season and sixth in points. However, they ranked 26th in turnovers and tied for 15th in total sacks. The dearth of big plays helped them finish with a DVOA of -2.9% (13th in the league) and, more importantly, a disappointing record of 8-8. This aging unit has not been declining in recent years as much as people think, but 2013 could prove to be a turning point. James Harrison and Casey Hampton are both gone and haven’t been meaningfully replaced. 32-year-old Troy Polamalu is coming off his second injury-riddled season in four years. Dick LeBeau is back, though, as is most of his staff. It’s one of the best staffs in football, as evidenced by the sound mechanics and chemistry that define so many of these players, as well as the well-orchestrated sub-package wrinkles the Steelers roll out each week.

DEFENSIVE LINE

DE: Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood, Cameron Heyward, Al Woods

DT: Steve McLendon, Alameda Ta’amu, Lost: Casey Hampton

If Ta’amu, last year’s fourth-round pick who was waived at midseason after being arrested for drunken driving, can redeem himself on the field by shouldering some of the nose tackle load, McLendon will prove sufficient for replacing Hampton as the starter. Style-wise, the 27-year-old undrafted veteran will have to rely more on penetration and less on sheer clogging. Keisel might be the best "role player" in the entire league. He takes on blocks and sets up stunts extremely well. It's a shame former first-rounders Hood and Heyward haven’t seemed to have learned from him. Hood plays too tall against the run; Heyward has not shown enough to catapult himself to the first string.

LINEBACKER

OLB: Lamarr Woodley, Jason Worilds, Chris Carter, Adrian Robinson; Lost: James Harrison

ILB: Lawrence Timmons, Larry Foote, Sean Spence

Woodley has the talent to dominate, but injuries and denigrating whispers about his conditioning pose legitimate question marks. He’s missed nine games over the past two years and has just 13 sacks in that time. Worilds is capable of starting, but he won't fill Harrison’s shoes. Timmons is the most athletic inside linebacker in the game. The Steelers do a great job diversifying his assignments in nickel and dime situations. Foote is sensational at diagnosing plays and taking on blocks.

SECONDARY

CB: Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen, William Gay, Curtis Brown; Lost: Keenan Lewis

S: Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark; Lost: Ryan Mundy, Will Allen

Polamalu played like himself when he was on the field last season, he just needs to be on the field more often. Clark is a borderline star with a football IQ that’s off the charts. Taylor is one of the best-kept secrets in all of sports: week in and week out, the lanky veteran matches up to No. 1 receivers and thoroughly wins the battle. He’s not quite a "shutdown corner," because at times he benefits from great safety help or buzzing linebackers, but that’s just part of the luxury of playing in a system designed for pressuring the passer without sacrificing bodies in coverage. Allen is ready to start, but the addition of Gay and subtraction of Lewis means this secondary as a whole has taken a slight step back.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Shaun Suisham P: Drew Butler

Nothing worth saying here.

* * * * * * * * *

AND NOW, A MESSAGE FROM THE EDITOR

During this whole series, I've occasionally responded to Andy with my thoughts when I feel that a player's color should be changed, generally based either on stats or on changing a young player to yellow ("jury's still out"). For example, I don't think it would surprise readers that Andy and I disagreed about Joe Flacco being blue. However, I think the player we disagreed most about in the entire AFC was Antonio Brown. We had a long back and forth about it, which showed a lot of interesting thoughts about a scout-first mentality compared to a stats-first mentality. So if you are curious about Brown's listing above, read this first. -- Aaron Schatz

Aaron Schatz: I disagree with Brown being blue. He's pretty good, but I don't think he's hit "star" status. I would make him green.

Andy Benoit: He's absolutely blue! You're crazy!

Aaron Schatz: About Brown being blue... He's talented, but I don't think he's a dramatic game changer. He's very good. His stats certainly don't equal "star" status, and unlike, say, Larry Fitzgerald, he can't exactly complain that he has a crappy quarterback who hurts his numbers. He was a little above average in DVOA in 2011, then average last year. Last year he was 36th in total yards and 55th in yards per pass (min. 50 targets), and he had just four touchdowns.

I realize he's a little better than his numbers, but I don't think there's a reason to say he's DRAMATICALLY better than his numbers (unlike, again, Larry Fitzgerald).

In the RSP Writer's Project draft -- which is a lot of scouting guys, not numbers guys for the most part -- he was the 21st WR taken, and partly that was because of age, as there were older guys taken after him who are prob better right now (Reggie Wayne, Steve Smith, Greg Jennings, a couple of examples).

Andy Benoit: Brown is the quickest route runner in the NFL. Maybe the league's toughest pure cover assignment from a fundamentals standpoint. Obviously the numbers disagree, we can acknowledge that. But to me he's clearly a "star".

Aaron Schatz: I guess part of the question here is where the line for blue is. How many wide receivers would you consider "blue" in the league? I'm curious to see your list of WRs who are better than Brown, to see who you would put on there.

And I have to wonder: if he truly is the quickest route runner in the NFL, and the toughest pure cover assignment, what would be the explanation for why his numbers aren't better? Like I said, it's hard to blame the QB. (His numbers go up if you take out the Batch games, but not by much.) It's not like he's the only good receiver there and can be easily doubled, although I can see that as part of an explanation for why his numbers dropped between 2011 and 2012, since Wallace decided to be a dickhead.

Andy Benoit: Yeah, I'm wondering about Brown's numbers, too. I thought about the Batch games, that's not a driving factor, though. Honestly, I don't know. But I'll drum up a list of superior wideouts.

CLEARLY BETTER THAN BROWN RIGHT NOW: A.J. Green, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Brandon Marshall, Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Steve Smith, Vincent Jackson, Larry Fitzgerald

HEALTHY DEBATE ON IF HE’S BETTER THAN BROWN RIGHT NOW: Mike Wallace, Santonio Holmes, Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, DeSean Jackson, Jordy Nelson, Percy Harvin

Aaron Schatz: I would put everyone on that second list ahead of Antonio Brown except for Jackson and Holmes. I also think the top possession receivers would fit better as "blue" even if a team would rather have Brown for his talents and age... Guys like Eric Decker, Wes Welker, and Marques Colston. I also think Dwayne Bowe and Sidney Rice are in the discussion.

So anyway, by that thought, that's like 20 or 21 out of the 64 starting wide receivers. I just think that puts Brown under the line between blue and green. Give him another year or two, and maybe that changes. And as far as the colors representing fit in roles... this is a guy who hasn't yet been asked to be the No. 1 receiver on his team, who now has to take on that responsibility. Is he "blue" as a No. 1 target?

The other thing I would say is that just like knowing a guy's skill set and what he's asked to do in the offense can show he's better than the stats may indicate -- your Flacco argument -- a guy with surprisingly low stats may be showing that he's not translating his skills to the field as well as he should be. That's why I think it means something that it's hard to find specific reasons why Brown comes out as just slightly above-average rather than really good like top guys like Green, Marshall, Jones, or Fitzgerald (in years he has an actual quarterback).

Andy Benoit: I'm appalled that Colston, Bowe, Decker and Rice are even mentioned in this discussion! If a team would rather have a guy like Brown than a top possession guy, doesn't that tell you something? It's about value. What can you do with a player? What threats does he pose?

Aaron Schatz: Well, you did say the colors were based on "players classified by color based on how they fit their role," rather than just potential. I mean, if he poses so many threats, why hasn't it resulted in more offensive success for the Steelers. (Yes, "their offensive line sucks" is part of the answer.)

Also, if the guy's skills are so apparent, how the hell did he last until the sixth round just three years ago?

Andy Benoit: You make good arguments. The numbers aren't there. In fact, they're really not there. Less than 2,000 yards over last two years. I'm surprised by that. All I can go with is what I see on film, though. Not saying that as a "because I say so" argument, saying that as a "when I see Brown on film, healthy, it never occurs to me that he could be classified as anything less than a star. Never even occurs to me." Now, maybe that says more about me than about Brown. It might. And perhaps as a No. 2 Brown is a star, but as a No. 1 he's only "pretty good". If I had ever ridden the fence about Brown, I'd go with that, I'd rate him green. But I've been so thoroughly impressed with him the past two years (2011 especially) that I feel like I'd be wasting my time watching film if I ignored my instincts on him. Toughest route runner to cover that I've seen, dynamic after the catch, versatile (also in the return game), can't bring myself to overlook it. The Steelers chose to pay him instead of Mike Wallace for a reason.

Follow @Andy_Benoit
e-mail andy@footballoutsiders.com

Posted by: Andy Benoit on 09 Apr 2013

43 comments, Last at 16 Apr 2013, 12:04pm by JimZipCode

Comments

1
by Zerilan (not verified) :: Tue, 04/09/2013 - 8:40pm

Personally I think Brown's "green" until he can show what he can do without Wallace also drawing coverage.

I really love that you have Timmons blue though, I feel like he's the one of, if not the most underrated linebacker in the league as far as ESPN/AP recognition goes.

3
by jonnyblazin :: Tue, 04/09/2013 - 9:30pm

Its true that Brown benefitted from Wallace's presence, but I remember even in 2011 Lardarius Webb stated that Brown was the best Steelers WR. The Ravens mostly shifted their coverage to account for Brown first and Wallace second, probably because Brown could run all the routes and was a better all around WR than Wallace, even though Wallace has insane speed.

E. Sanders is also exceptionally talented but prone to drops and fumbles, at least from what I've seen.

The Steelers are known for drafting great defensive players, but I'm equally impressed by their ability to find WR's.

4
by JMM* (not verified) :: Tue, 04/09/2013 - 9:59pm

Funny how the Steelers learned to draft receivers after Hines Ward.i wonder if they will continue to have good luck drafting receivers now that he isn't in the meeting roon any more.

13
by bengt (not verified) :: Wed, 04/10/2013 - 10:45am

Limas Sweed...
Sorry, couldn't resist. And I will add that even that pick was unanimously applauded initially.

39
by herewegobrowniesherewego (not verified) :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 9:43pm

Hey, I'm sure plenty of people agreed that Mohamed Massoquoi and Brian Robiskie were both better than Mike Wallace in 2009, too. :/

43
by JimZipCode :: Tue, 04/16/2013 - 12:04pm

Interesting. For many years the Ravens had the ability to find Pro Bowl or near- Pro Bowl linebackers like pennies in the street. Adalius Thomas (6th rd), Bart (undrafted) Scott, Jarrett Johnson (4th rd). Coincidentally Ray Lewis was in the LB's meeting room. I wonder if they will continue to have that kind of luck.

12
by rageon :: Wed, 04/10/2013 - 10:01am

In no way is Brown a "star" to me. Aaron really put it best in that there's 20 guys better than him. One-third of the receivers in football can't all be stars. It's like the crazy debate over who is an "elite" quarterback. Apparently there are 10 "elite" QBs in football now, which makes the Rodgers-Brady-Manning-Brees group "super-elite" I guess.

18
by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 04/10/2013 - 11:41am

Benoit generally is quite positive about most teams, which isn't a criticism but it should be taken into account when reading these reports. There's going to be more blue and green than you'd get from another writer, he just seems to be a glass half full sort of analyst.

2
by theslothook :: Tue, 04/09/2013 - 8:51pm

Lamar woodley being green feels like a recency bias against him. He was pretty stellar for a large part of his career, but one really awful year has maligned him. If Polamalu is still blue, then I think woodley should be blue as well - even if I don't think of woodley as necessarily elite.

Plus - If i were choosing a list of the games absolute best receivers - Dez bryant would be very very high on my list. Outside of AJ green and CJ, i don't think there is another receiver that can be unquestionably called better.

5
by drobviousso :: Tue, 04/09/2013 - 10:26pm

It's hard to value Woodly because he's so streaky, and he's had his best streaks in the post season. Is that a sign of a guy who doesn't try hard every down? Is that natural variance? Who knows.

11
by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Wed, 04/10/2013 - 9:58am

I think woodley also suffers from the peerless price effect. all his best years were spent opposite a phenomenal talent who forced opponents to gameplan around him. is it a coincidence that lamarr woodley's best years were 2008, 2009, and 2010, when james harrison was absolutely electrifying? and when troy polamalu was generally healthy.

woodley is a supremely talented athlete, so maybe he can prove his doubters wrong, but right now he's a very uncertain commodity.

also, I would love it if someone more learned than myself could chime in on the relative importance to a pass rusher of playing on the defensive left as opposed to the right. Obviously there's a difference in the quality of blockers you face, and a right-handed quarterback can more easily see someone coming from his right, and there are probably also schematic differences as well.

41
by Keetoosya (not verified) :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 6:19pm

OK AJ Green and Calvin Johnson are the best WR's in he league hands down, but Larry Fitzgerald would have been right up there too if he would have had a decent QB throwing him the ball in Arizona. And as we speak, there are a few other WR's soon to be making a name for themselves down to road. Are they in Pittsburgh? I doubt it.
Antonio Brown it too much of a hot dog and he's going to cost the Steelers a game one of these days with his childish antics. He had better get off his high horse because he's not as good as he thinks he is.

42
by Keetoosya (not verified) :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 6:20pm

And as we speak, there are a few other WR's soon to be making a name for themselves down the road. Are they in Pittsburgh? I doubt it.
Antonio Brown it too much of a hot dog and he's going to cost the Steelers a game one of these days with his childish antics. He had better get off his high horse because he's not as good as he thinks he is.

6
by drobviousso :: Tue, 04/09/2013 - 10:32pm

I don't know what Brown is, other than a crazy talented guy who doesn't have the numbers to back it up. It seems like everything could come together for him this year and he could put up monster numbers. He's the #1 receiver undisputed. He's had a year to learn the Haley offense. The line should be better.

But how many people can we say that about before the season starts.

Unrelated - I think the most important, unreported story for the Steelers this year is getting Spaeth back. He was drafted as a pass catcher, but he's turned into a top-notch blocker, especially in space. Seems like an important roll in the Haley offense

7
by J P-Breezy (not verified) :: Tue, 04/09/2013 - 11:42pm

I got a chuckle out of Adrian Robinson having "upgrade needed" status. He flashed as a pass-rushing specialist in his rookie pre-season as a UDFA and dressed for maybe five games or so as a special teams player. I'd say jury's still out on him, considering he looked decent and was in LeBeau's redshirt year.

I have a feeling that Ziggy Hood, if he demands any more than a modest salary for his next contract, is going to be a very good under-the-radar pickup for a team that plays a defensive line technique that allows the DE/DT to penetrate.

Antonio Brown is VERY GOOD at maximizing use of his tools, and he has a star quality personality and work ethic that has made him one of my personal favorite players and former team MVP, but I don't rank him as a star player. He just does not have game-changing ability.

8
by J P-Breezy (not verified) :: Tue, 04/09/2013 - 11:51pm

He just does not have game-changing ability.

By this, I mean the ability to single-handedly take over a game or dictate coverage. He certainly can make game-changing plays, my favorite of which being his helmet catch against the Ravens in the 2011 AFC Championship Game.

9
by Perfundle :: Wed, 04/10/2013 - 2:23am

If you've seen film of every play that Brown has been on the field for, shouldn't it be pretty straightforward to figure out why his stats haven't been better? I'm talking about the passing plays where he was on the field but didn't have a catch. Assuming the quarterback had enough time to throw, either he was open but a better target was available, he was open but the quarterback didn't throw it to him, he was single-covered but didn't get open in time, he was double-covered, or he missed the throw to him. The third and fifth ones would generally be his fault, while the other three generally wouldn't be.

14
by Aaron Schatz :: Wed, 04/10/2013 - 10:59am

Nobody on our staff has seen film of *every* play where Brown is on the field.

17
by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 04/10/2013 - 11:37am

I doubt anybody outside Pittsburg's staff has seen tape of every play of Brown's. Maybe a couple of shut-ins who comment on their SB Nation site and they would probably benefit from a. Watching some other teams to gain some perspective
b. Getting some fresh air to gain some perspective
c. Moving out of their mom's basement.

23
by Perfundle :: Wed, 04/10/2013 - 1:10pm

Well then, the best place to start would be to select several of those plays I was talking about and see where the issue was. Just watching every play of his in a single game that he didn't have good stats would shed some light on an issue apparently as contentious as this.

10
by Independent George :: Wed, 04/10/2013 - 9:56am

Polamalu might still be a star, but I don't think he's a great safety anymore, even when he's healthy. The better QBs in the league (two of whom are in his conference) seem to exploit his gambling now, and he no longer has the speed to recover like he did in his prime. I said almost the exact same thing about Ed Reed in the Ravens page.

25
by wr (not verified) :: Wed, 04/10/2013 - 2:56pm

Agree. Troy is at best green these days, and maybe not even that.

15
by fb29 :: Wed, 04/10/2013 - 11:10am

Ok now redo everything if Sanders goes to the Pats!

16
by drobviousso :: Wed, 04/10/2013 - 11:32am

Yeah, really.

19
by dryheat :: Wed, 04/10/2013 - 12:05pm

Lots of superlatives here:

Roethlisberger’s play-making prowess in sandlot situations is unmatched in both its uniqueness and effectiveness....Brown gets in and out of his breaks quicker than anyone in the NFL....He might be the league’s toughest all-around cover....Pouncey has evolved into the league’s best center: his athleticism is unmatched....Keisel might be the best "role player" in the entire league....Timmons is the most athletic inside linebacker in the game

Either this series exists on hyperbole (and I haven't read enough of them to know), or the Steelers are serious underachievers with all those "best" players on the field.

22
by justanothersteve :: Wed, 04/10/2013 - 1:06pm

Karl and another had similar comments above and I agree. I am enjoying the series. But they also remind me of draft grades given the Monday after the draft where even the worst grade is often a C-. I'm not sure how much is avoiding the wrath of disgruntled fans. It will be interesting when it's done to tally the numbers of stars and good players. I'll leave that to someone still living in their mother's basement.

24
by dbostedo :: Wed, 04/10/2013 - 2:36pm

But you also have to take into account what "best" is referring to. In this case, most of those players are not the best player at their position, they're just the "best" as some aspect.

"Most athletic", "toughest cover", "best 'role player'" - none of those really say that those players are tops at their position, or even near the top. It's just a way at describing what their strengths are. I don't think you can read any more than that into it.

So, no, they may not be underachieving based on the description, because the description doesn't imply they are necessarily good players.

27
by dryheat :: Wed, 04/10/2013 - 3:44pm

That's fine, and my last sentance was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it's not like we're talking about Lawrence Timmons being the best horseshoe pitcher among NFL linebackers, or Maurkice Pouncey the best at playing "guess that smell". The attributes given are things that are desireable on the football field, and it seems a more than a bit hyperbolic that the Steelers have so many of these best-in-shows.

28
by theslothook :: Wed, 04/10/2013 - 4:08pm

We have to remember, some of their losses were close and they had injuries, especially to some of their stars like ben and polamalu. In fact, had they won that dallas Ot game and their cincinnati game - they would have had the same record as baltimore and might have ended up far in the postseason just like the ravens did. Its an interesting thing how a few games lost can completely alter the face of history.

37
by dbostedo :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 7:36pm

I was thinking that even if the superlatives are desirable football traits, when they're somewhat minor things you could name lots of them across lots of teams. Pouncey being called the best center doesn't fit there since it's not a small detail, but for everything that comes up like "best route runner", you could probably list 20 other receiver "bests" that would apply to 20 other receivers. I'm guessing if you wanted to, you could find many "bests" like that on every team. Actually, if you read all of these team synopses, that seems to be actually happening in some cases.

20
by Bem (not verified) :: Wed, 04/10/2013 - 12:10pm

This may be nitpicky, but I don't understand rating Kelvin Beachum as pink instead of yellow. The player was a 7th round pick last year who started 5 games. Now, admittedly, I didn't watch any film except for the live games, but wouldn't Beachum have to be pretty terrible to warrant a pink rating this early in his career with the film he has available? Is this indeed what the film showed?

Also, great analysis on Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward. They have been very disappointing as first round picks, and it was nice to read reasons why, such as Hood playing too tall.

21
by Dean :: Wed, 04/10/2013 - 12:27pm

The debate between Aaron and Andy reminds me of Moneyball. Brown looks the part but the production isn't there. "We're not selling jeans here."

26
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 04/10/2013 - 3:35pm

Billy Beane spent most of Moneyball talking about how the Detroit Tigers were going about their draft and organizational strategies all wrong.

The Tigers 2004 draft was better than the A's 2004 draft according to traditional or advanced metrics. That high school pitcher they foolishly drafted? Justin Verlander. (He alone was worth more than the combined 2004 A's draft) Since then? Detroit has two pennants to Oakland's none.

Billy Beane, much like he was as a player, looks like Tarzan and plays like Jane, and can't handle prosperity.

29
by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 04/10/2013 - 4:19pm

Verlander turning out to be good does not by itself invalidate the idea that high school players are too unpredictable to take at the top of the draft.

I might have to read the book again but I can't remember many mentions of the Tigers at all.

30
by rageon :: Wed, 04/10/2013 - 4:52pm

It's actually the 2002 draft that is covered in great detail in the book.

Did they hit on every pick? Of course note, they had 4 guys taken in the top 100 that never made the majors. That said, they did take Swisher, Blanton and Teahen, all of whom have been useful players and most teams picking outside of the top 10 would probably be willing to take the A's 2002 draft if given the choice.

31
by bucko (not verified) :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 5:14am

I appreciate Aaron sharing the background and completely agree with his perspective. I don't know what 'toughest route runner' even means.

I also want to second and third and fourth the comment about Polamalu. Even when on the field he's guessing constantly. He's Charles Woodson now only Woodson has the excuse of being 37. Polamalu is a net negative for his position because when he guesses wrong it results in a big play for the opposition.

32
by bengt (not verified) :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 9:29am

It should be mentioned that only five of the twelve 'no longer on the team' players have signed elsewhere and are therefore unavailable for the Steelers. And in some cases, e.g. Casey Hampton, I'd say there is a greater than 50% chance that they will re-sign.

33
by Tomlin_Is_Infalllible (not verified) :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 12:03pm

and...

1) it should be pointed out they don't have the cap room to resign most of those guys
2) they would have to restructure some current roster members to create said cap
3) their current cap hell is from constantly restructuring the SB roster core to keep the 'window open' and finally cutting dead weight
4) looking how many of the 'core' nobody else in the league wants really puts the combination of not getting more PT for the youth out there sooner (last 2 seasons) and overplaying washed up senior citizens ANYTHING above vet minimum or so. their now current cap dead money has this team locked into another 8-8 season at best, and if the recent string of injury bugs hits this team in 2013, they will be prime candidates to win the Clowney sweepstakes

34
by Tomlin_Is_Infalllible (not verified) :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 12:04pm

forgot #5

5)
a worst case terrible losing season and getting a top 3 type pick and taking Clowney......

would this finally force Lebeau's hand to play rookies in Y1 and/or Y2

LOL.

38
by herewegobrowniesherewego (not verified) :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 8:26pm

They may be 4th in the AFC North (wink) but even in a worst case scenario they will be around 5 or 6 wins if their good players can be even somewhat healthy.

It is hard to predict which games will bounce which way because they did very well against the NFC East last year but very poorly against the AFC West, and split vs. each of their AFC North opponents. Both of their "matching" AFC games are the bad teams that surprised them last year--Oakland and Tenn.

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by bengt (not verified) :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 4:02pm

You are mostly wrong.
The Steelers would have to offer contracts for the veteran minimum, which then would barely matter cap wise due to displacement. I don't see where any of the free agents in question would get more than that in the current climate, so I consider it possible. Your points 1) and 2) therefore are trivial as well as meaningless. Whether they are in 'cap hell' is hardly obvious, as they mostly suffer the 'fate' of any team that has to pay a franchise QB. Their dead money of around 5M$ is mostly from cutting Willie Colon, and that is neither an example of bad management nor is it comparatively much. And your point 4) is completely incoherent: Their 'core' is either not on the market (Ben, Pouncey, Miller, Brown, Keisel, Hood, Timmons, Woodley, Taylor, Polamalu, Clark), so you have no idea at all whether 'nobody else in the league wants' them, or has been signed almost immediately (Wallace, Mendenhall, Lewis(!)).
And yes, I wrote this solely because I am sick of your idiotic ranting and your giving Steelers fans a bad name.

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by Intropy :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 2:00pm

I agree with Aaron about Brown.

I think Heyward and Ta'amu are more of "jury's out" guys right now.

Burress, is an "upgrade needed." I realize that it's somewhat relative to position on the depth chart, and he's listed as 4th here. Even with that I'd say upgrade needed, but all the more if Sanders is gone.

Redman and Dwyer are both "just a guy" and Batch is a jury's out but very likely to be a "just a guy" when they return with their verdict.

McLendon being "adequate" is fair, but I think there's some aspect of "jury" with him, and I think adequate is his floor right now. I think he has a good shot as being a "good."

Miller is a "star," albeit one coming off a bad injury.

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by Geo B :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 2:15pm

I think Woodley's downfall when he was in the games last year is no more Aaron Smith, a VASTLY underrated DE who also like Harrison made you account for him, making sure Woodley was getting his fair shot. That said, he definitely looked overweight as well.

Steeler fan trapped in Houston!
Six Time SB Champs! ;-)