As far as the state of the 2010 Pittsburgh Steelers is concerned, I will attempt to clarify and validate my position by comparing some elements of the 2009 squad to an old liars’ club story. A member asked one of his cronies what was the worst house he had ever seen. He answered, “I once saw a house that was in such disrepair I thought I was having an illusion. This place had to be blown up before it was fit to be remodeled.”
Well the nucleus of the 2010 Steelers isn’t quite that bad but there are facets of the team that need a bit of retooling starting with the “Dee…..fense.”
You should all know by now that the Steelers have reached an agreement with nose tackle Casey Hampton on a new contract. The agreement was announced Feb. 25 by Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert.
As usual Pittsburgh was mum about the details but it was reported to be a three-year, $21.3 million contract. Now that tidy sum boys and girls represents a heckuva lot of hot wings. However, that deal may not appear as bad as it looks on paper because if “big snack” sheds at least 30 pounds before camp “Tomlin” commences at Latrobe in July and Pittsburgh sheds the “best player available” nonsense on draft day and gets some help for Monsieur Hampton along the D-line that decision may pan out.
Everybody is yacking and cackling about the defense along with the special “ed” teams’ being the “cold sore” on the face of the team. Now hear this Steelers nation! The Steelers were ranked #5 in total defense for 2009. The Black and Gold were ranked #16 in pass defense and #3 in rushing defense. They only trailed the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings in regards to stopping the run. That, ladies and gentlemen is the reason that they re-signed Casey Hampton. Stuffing the opposition’s run game was not the problem because “Big Hamp” can stop a Mack truck if it goes off route and takes the road up the middle. Along the D-line the problem was putting pressure on the QB. I do not care how popular Brett Kiesel is. It is time for him to give up the ghost.
From a secondary point of view, the Steelers had better find a left corner, I mean one with quickness. Also, Deshea Townsend had better purchase a one way ticket out of the “burgh” on the first thing smokin’. As far as Keenan Lewis, Joe Burnett, William Gay and Anthony Madison are concerned, these “corners” should invest a percentage of their salaries in Smuckers jelly stock because most of the time if we buy the jam, they will be the toast. Only a couple of them are worth a plug nickel except in the “dime” defense or on special “ed” teams. One of the few times that starting Gay will not cause rivers of tears to flow from the eyes of the Steelers nation is if he is used in the “dime” package. Never, I mean absolutely never, should Gay be used in a man to man situation.
In regards safety, God bless him but Tyrone Carter should join Townsend and Kiesel on the platform waiting for the stagecoach to arrive. Will Troy Polamalu be healthy in 2010? Hey dude, only his personal trainer knows the answer. I have a feeling that the defensive strategy of replacing linebacker James Farrior on third and long will be flawed because of his questionable pass coverage skills. Opposing quarterbacks will be foaming at their mouths’ trying to scream audibles, changing from run plays to pass plays, regardless of the down and distance. What about Ziggy, Ziggy, Ziggy Hood? What is he being saved for? Turn loose the juice. Also, defensive end Nick Eason had better step it up or step aside.
The “Hall-of-Fame” offense also needs a bit of tweaking. They were ranked #7 overall, averaging 259.3 yards passing and 112.1 rushing. Pittsburgh also averaged 23.0 points a game which is one more than the defense surrendered to opposing offenses. Big Ben and company were #19 rushing and #9 in passing. But take a look at these stats. The offense ranked #9 in converting third downs. Pittsburgh converted 80 third downs out of 203 for a percentage of 39.4. All of the offenses that converted more third downs and occupied the eight slots above Pittsburgh except the Texans and the Cowboys had a third down conversion rate in excess of 43 percent. If your offense converts less than 45 percent of third down opportunities that stat may be indicative of; 1. Ineffective play calling. 2. Squandering scoring chances in the red zone. 3. Leaving your defense on the field way too…long.
The Steelers had better fix their red zone woes post-haste. They slapped a franchise tag on kicker Jeff Reed which was a no brainer because there were games during the 2009 season that Reed was the only “scoring” offense that the Black and Gold could muster up.
Most of the immediate skill positions don’t represent significant negatives, especially offensively but the offensive and defensive lines are in disrepair and in need of instant help.
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: email@example.com.)