Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

02 May 2006

Spring Drills to Be Limited for Steelers' No. 1 Pick

I'm all for guys staying in school -- except for Matt Leinart -- but this seems kinda weird. Santonio Holmes is a junior, so it's not like he's taking classes to graduate this semester. Still, the NFL and NCAA have an agreement "that limits a rookie's participation in the spring until his college class graduates." Good for Holmes for finishing out the semester, but I wonder if, under the agreement, he can just drop out of school and report to his new job in time for the "voluntary" coaching sessions.

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 02 May 2006

29 comments, Last at 02 May 2006, 11:00pm by RowdyRoddyPiper

Comments

1
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 12:27pm

Good for Holmes for finishing out the semester, but I wonder if, under the agreement, he can just drop out of school and report to his new job in time for the “voluntary� coaching sessions.

I don't think so. Holmes doesn't plan on graduating anyway (shock!) so it doesn't really matter for him.

I'm pretty sure this also applies to the other OSU first round picks, incidentally. I have no idea why Holmes is the only one being noticed.

PFT is also wrong that Hawk has graduated.

2
by DGL (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 12:36pm

"I have no idea why Holmes is the only one being noticed."

Probably because the article is from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and they aren't that concerned with other OSU picks.

3
by DJAnyReason (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 12:38pm

The reason Holmes is getting noticed is that this article is from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The PG is being noticed because Ryan's doing the noticing, and he can tell you how much of a smart guy he is for doing stuff like subscribing to their in-depth Steeler coverage :)

I'm sure the Green Bay papers will pick up the story on Hawk any day now.

4
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 12:39pm

The article's on the NFL wire as well. It's on NFL.com on the right side.

5
by MadPenguin (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 12:41pm

this is going to be a very interesting season for the steelers, if holmes can stretch the ball deep and allow for more single coverage with ward wilson and miller, that could open up all sorts of things.

but please remember to run first. no tommy gun experiments ever again.

6
by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 12:56pm

Why? Our passing game is better than our running game. Without Bettis, likely MUCH better, even more than last year. This is a pass offence now.

7
by DJAnyReason (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 1:00pm

Re: 5

Well, there's a big difference between the Tommy Gun offense with Maddox running it and the Tommy Gun offense with Ben running it...

2003's biggest problem was OL problems. The Steelers, personnel-wise, probably should be a pass-oriented team. And if you look at their playoff strategies, in each game they pretty much followed this formula (although it took a bit longer to get going @Cin and in the SB):

Vertical passing and home-run running with Willie Parker, to try and build a 2+ score lead. Once you get the lead, shut the game down with 3 yards+cloud of dust offense and ears-pinned blitzing defense.

8
by centrifuge (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 1:05pm

I see no reason Pittsburgh should go pass-first. Of course, they no longer really have any reasons to go run-first (they're not nsulating Ben anymore and I don't think that Staley can wear defenses down like Bettis did). What's wrong with just being balanced?

On topic, I'll be curious to see whether Willie Reid can use his three-week head start to possibly ninja Holmes' rank on the depth chart. I also wonder if the Steelers were thinking about Holmes' obligatory absence when they took Reid.

9
by gleebergloben (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 1:11pm

if the steelers decide to pass first like they did in 2003, then kiss their playoff hopes goodbye. the run feeds the pass. i just hope the cowher learned his lesson from the last time.

10
by DJAnyReason (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 1:19pm

Re: 9

Yeah, I don't know what Indy, Cincy, or New England were thinking with their passing oriented offenses last year. They'll never make the playoffs like that. Oh wait...

11
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 1:20pm

Huh. Since when do OSU players have to go to class?

12
by Regio (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 1:29pm

Sweet balance...with all of the options that the Steelers will have next year, they can pretty much design an offensive game plan for every different defense they will face, the opposition basically must pick their poison. Run first or pass first, it wont matter, they will have the weapons to adjust and perform pretty well on offense.

13
by GlennW (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 1:32pm

> I also wonder if the Steelers were thinking about Holmes’ obligatory absence when they took Reid.

I doubt that the Steelers were thinking that deeply on a matter involving the likely #3 WR, who is missing two weeks of minicamp walkthroughs but will probably get some form of prep-schooling before training camp anyway. A 3rd-round pick would be a heavy price to pay for such WR insurance, at least.

I'm as baffled as everyone else as to why this is "news", specific to Holmes at least.

14
by David (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 1:32pm

Yeah, imagine if they'd just told Ben to open it up in the AFC Championship, and hadn't even been able to gain 3 YPC between Bettis and Parker. They'd never have made it to the Super Bowl then.

Okay, sarcasm off. Cowher's got an excellent passer on his hands, he knows it, and he showed last year that he's not afraid to change the gameplan to fit his players' abilities. I don't expect him to ever approach, say, Reid or Martz's level of pass-wackiness - there were still more called runs than passes in the AFC game, after all - but the strategy was pass first, run later.

15
by GlennW (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 1:41pm

There's a difference between being "pass-first" and "pass-happy". I suspect that there will be games in which the Steelers pass first, and games in which they run first, and this determination needn't be formulaic-- properly responding to the defense is what game strategy is all about.

Rest assured though that Bill Cowher isn't going to abandon the run, unless there are physical breakdowns. That's what happened to the Patriots last year with Corey Dillon (and K. Faulk, and P. Pass), and with a Duce Staley, sure, it could happen to the Steelers, but hopefully won't.

16
by Ilanin (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 1:53pm

I think it's reasonably obvious from the draft priorities (two recievers in the top three picks) that the Steelers plan on passing next season. I don't see this as a major change from the way the offense was run in the playoffs, though - pass to establish a lead, run to maintain it (though I occasionally think that the Steelers switch into their 'prevent offense' too soon; then again, given Cowher's record defending leads, he probably knows better than I do).

9, 10 - A brief comparison between Steeler, Bengal, Patriot, and Colt passing offense last season:

TEAM DVOA
Pittsburgh 23.8%(8)
-----
Cincinnati 26.5%(6)
New England 35.4%(2)
Indianapolis 51.9%(1)

A little examination of the personnel reveals the reason for the marginally worse performance of the Steelers throwing the ball:

QB DPAR DVOA
Roethlisberger 57.4(8) 33.5(3)
-----
Palmer 108.3(2) 34.5(2)
Brady 104.0 (3) 29.6(4)
Manning 112.5 (1) 41.7 (1)

Not there...

Reciever#1 (by number of attempted passes) DPAR DVOA
Ward 30.4(8) 25.4(6)
-----
Johnson 38.0(2) 20.6(11)
Branch 27.9(2) 19.5(13)
Harrison 26.6(13) 13.8(22)

Not there either...

Reciever#2 DPAR DVOA
Randle El* 0.2(75) -14.8(77)
-----
Houshmandzadeh 29.8(9) 24.9(7)
Givens 13.5(27) 6.8(34)
Wayne 22.6(17) 11.4(24)

With more Heath Miller and Santonio Holmes/Cedrick Wilson, and less Antwaan Randle El, there should be no reason the Steelers' passing can't emulate the other three teams in being the primary component of a playoff-caliber offense.

17
by bowman (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 2:01pm

This is a "problem" that comes up every year. Last year the U. Washington graduated after spring practices.

The rule does seem silly. It limits the speed at which the rookies can absorb the new information presented to them, while preventing, as I see it, absolutely nothing.

Does anybody know why the rule was passed?

18
by GlennW (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 2:07pm

> Does anybody know why the rule was passed?

Ostensibly it's a disincentive to a player dropping out of school any earlier than necessary. The NFL is throwing the colleges a bone here, but it probably isn't working. And it is a free country, after all.

19
by centrifuge (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 2:11pm

Want to give us the DVOA on passes to RBs? I recall some pretty nice screens to Willie Parker, although they did it rarely.

Actually, found it myself. 47.7% DVOA for 24 total passes to Parker. (If only he could get that -1.1% rushing DVOA up...)

20
by andy (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 2:28pm

#16
that makes ALOT of sense, good job. but i've always wondered why randle el can't succeed solely as a receiver - he has the speed and hands.

21
by andy (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 2:31pm

i've also thought that the redskins run the same offense as the steelers - i even read somewhere that the steelers use the counter trey to the degree of effectivenes that the hogs and john riggins did. the steelers are seen as a run-first, smashmouth team. but they're actually more commited to the run - that's why they do so well with trick plays, because opponents don't expect it, they expect a run up the middle. the redskins run and then pass deep, like the steelers, and now they have a new dimension in their playbook that pittsburgh had.

22
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 2:35pm

The NFL is throwing the colleges a bone here, but it probably isn’t working. And it is a free country, after all.

Er? It works fine. I doubt Hawk would graduate if it wasn't for the fact that it wouldn't help him get on the field any earlier.

The draft is at the end of April. Why? Because most colleges graduate shortly after the end of April.

This is just to deal with dopey schools like OSU who are on a quarter system rather than a semester system like all sane schools should be on.

23
by DGL (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 2:47pm

#21: i even read somewhere that the steelers use the counter trey to the degree of effectivenes that the hogs and john riggins did...

Maybe something to do with the fact that their OL coach is some guy named Grimm.

24
by GlennW (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 2:56pm

> Er? It works fine. I doubt Hawk would graduate if it wasn’t for the fact that it wouldn’t help him get on the field any earlier.

I don't know about that. I saw a piece on Hawk and his parents earlier this year, and it sounded as if education is a very big priority in that household, and that Hawk is a good student. In any case, yes, I'm sure there are exceptions, but the hard-and-fast rule (applied even to players who may have already dropped out) seems silly, if that is indeed how the rule works.

25
by bowman (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 3:29pm

18, 22.

The rule is phrased upon graduation, not upon passing the course. The kids could be done with school, received their grades, but still unable to practice with the team that drafted them because the graduation ceremony is a couple weeks later than the norm.

Thus, I consider it silly.

26
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 4:15pm

Is there any university whose graduation isn't roughly a week after finals end?

OSU's classed don't end until the first week of June. Spring commencement is a week later.

27
by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 5:23pm

Speaking of academics, I think NFL front offices should put education incentives in their rookie contracts. If a player hasn't completed college yet, give them a bonus for attending and passing a class or two in the off-season. Have the team subsidize it. That way, Junior busts will at least get a bit more cash, and when they're bounced out of the league will have a degree to work with, rather than just a high school diploma. The teams get slightly smarter and disciplined characters, since they've been thinking and working in the off season. Win-win.

28
by Subrata Sircar (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 7:37pm

Re: 21, 23
The counter-trey (and in fact, a trap-block-based run-blocking scheme) has been a mainstay of the Steeler offense since Franco Harris joined the team. Look at any Steelers article about the run in the '75-'85 timeframe, and there's a good chance it will mention the trap-block scheme; their linemen were famous for it.
While I doubt the Steelers invented it either, it seems more likely that the 'Skins picked it up from them. It's a great way for mobile linemen to maximize their abilities.

29
by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 11:00pm

I think Reid was brought in as more of a KR/PR. I'm not sure that the Steelers were too thrilled with the idea of their first rounder out there getting zoned in on by gunners. Penn Staters should remember Reid as the gentleman who returned a punt for a TD in the Orange Bowl. Had the Lions lost, I would have been a lot more upset with the Steeler's pick.