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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Steelers 2010 - D-line and Kicking

It's nice to turn to an area not full of questions. The line has depth and talent. But it also has age.
Aaron Smith, the best defensive end playing in a 3-4, missed the last 11 games due to injury in 2009. This was a big loss. Smith is equally effective against the run and the pass and an underrated part of the defense. Having him back healthy makes this the D much better.
On the other side is BRETT KEISEL. The Diesel has been solid and more than holds up his end of things. Not great but a good player, which is all Pittsburgh needs there with Smith and Hampton on the field.
ZIGGY HOOD got some PT as a rookie and it looks like they're grooming him to start when some contracts expire. Hood has shown some athletic ability for a big end. I like him.
NICK EASON has been an adequate fill-in the past two seasons, though he's also been put on the practice squad and cut. I'd expect him to be the #4 end this year.
RASHON (SONNY) HARRIS, the former draft pick out of Oregon who the Steelers lost to Carolina but got back later in the 2009 season, is in camp, though I haven't heard anything about him.
Former Buckeye DOUG WORTHINGTON was the 242nd player taken in the draft. I'm hoping he shows enough to make the practice squad this year.
EUGENE BRIGHT, a second year free agent out of Purdue, is in camp after being on the practice squad last year. I missed him earlier; as he actually has been converted to tight end. Unlikely he's going to make the squad. Also in camp is second year free agent STEVE McLENDON out of Troy.
LINDSEY WITTEN was signed as an undrafted free agent, cut already and is now in the United Football League. His older brother is former Buckeye Donte Whitner.
CASEY HAMPTON is still the best nose tackle in the game. He occupies two guys, clogs up the middle and even gets into the backfield once in awhile. They could not have taken a better player in the 2001 draft to build a 3-4 around.
He's backed up by veteran CHRIS HOKE. Hoke does a nice job giving Hampton a break and is a good fit for his role.
Smith is 34 and his contract expires after 2011. Kiesel turns 32 next month and is under contract through 2013. Eason is 30 and on a one year contract. Hampton will be 34 next month and his contract expires after 2012. Hoke is 34 and a free agent after this season.
The line is aging fast and with contracts coming up the next few years, it's going to have to get younger quick. Hood was the first step in that direction, but they're going to need to replace all three starters over the next three to four years. And as these guys get older, injuries will become a bigger factor. Without a quality d-line, the linebackers won't be free to make the big plays. So, this aging line is an important situation to address.
Yep, five Steelers. Smith and Hampton are about the best at what they do and Kiesel is solid. Hood is a nice young guy off the bench. They'll be lucky to get through this year without anyone losing major time to injury, but for one last season, this is one of the best D-lines in the game.
We'll hope that JEFF REED doesn't miss a game because he's in a holding cell for being really stuipd. Reed is extremely accurate and can handle the tricky winds at Heinz Field. Something Kris Brown couldn't do.
Off the field he's an idiot and he's publicly complained about being named the franchise player for 2010. I think his days are numbered: they aren't going to give him big $$$ as a kicker. I'm glad he's kicking field goals, though.
He sucks as a kickoff guy. Two touchbacks the whole year, I believe. Pittsburgh needs somebody else to kick off, even if it takes up a roster spot. Hopefully Sepulveda impresses when he's given a shot this weekend against the NY Giants.
STEFAN LOGAN was the kick return guy last year. There's been lots of grumbling that he shouldn't be back this year. BULL PUCKEY! I know he didn't have a TD return and he got caught on his season long 83 yarder.
He was second to Josh Cribbs in yards per return in the AFC. Logan - 26.7; Cribbs - 27.5. And he was third overall in the NFL. Logan was much better than the return guys the preceding several seasons (you want Najeh Davenport, Gary Russell and Allan Rossum back)?
It would help if Logan could go all the way. Of course, he probably would have had several touchdowns last year, except he doesn't get to return against our kick coverage unit in real games. But our historically crappy kick return game was THIRD in the entire NFL last year. He certainly deserves another season.
Both rookie receivers, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown, returned kicks and college and will probably get chances.
GRADE -  (this would be a four if we could get 10 touchbacks and one TD return)

1 comment:

    Unfortunately, Daniel Sepulveda recorded zero touchbacks in two preseason games kicking off. And one was in Denver, where the Broncos' kicker had no problem booting the ball into the endzone.

    Too bad. I really hoped he could get it done.