After last Saturday’s debacle in Minnesota, where the Pittsburgh Steelers vaunted offense couldn’t manage a touchdown, the new look offensive line played downright offensive, and supposed superstar rookie RB Rashard Mendenhall couldn’t keep his hands on the ball, I suppose for our collective sanity we should move on to happier subjects.
With that in mind, NPC continues its 2008 Steeler team preview by focusing on the one aspect of the team that did look pretty good last Saturday, the defense.
2008 BLITZBURGH DEFENSE
The Steelers still use the 3-4, although everybody keeps waiting for them to go to the Tampa 2 scheme coach Mike Tomlin allegedly prefers. That won’t happen as long as grizzled defensive genius Dick Lebeau patrols the sidelines though. Keeping Lebeau during the changover from the Cowher regime was a really smart move by the Steeler brass as I don’t believe there is a more clever blitz-caller in the league.
RDE: Brett Keisel
NG: Casey Hampton
LDE: Aaron Smith
ROLB: James Harrison
ILB: James Farrior
ILB: Larry Foote
LOLB: Lamar Woodley
CB: Deshea Townsend
CB: Ike Taylor
SS: Troy Polamalu
FS: Ryan Clark
The D-Line is aging but still good as Casey Hampton is one of the best DT/NG’s in the game when his fatassery doesn’t land him in the dog house. Aaron Smith is entering his prime as a run stopper and pass rusher. James Harrison is an incredibly athletic pass rusher coming off his breakout season. Both Larry Foote and the newly resigned (5 year deal) James Farrior are also getting up there in age but remain quality ILBs. Farrior is the veteran QB of the defense and Foote, while unspectacular, will likely be platooned with 2007 first round pick Lawrence Timmons sooner rather than later. Everybody liked what they saw out of Lamar Woodley last season and this year everybody expects him to be a more than adequate replacement for Clark Haggans.
The corners are decent but nothing exciting. Townshend and Taylor recently flip-flopped the right and left CB spots for reasons I’m not entirely clear on. Those two plus Bryant McFadden comprise an excellent cover secondary but they fall short when it comes to ball skills. Slippery Hands Ike allegedly concentrated on his receiving skills this offseason so maybe he’ll be able to snag one or two of the enemy’s passes instead of simply swatting them away.
Troy Polamalu is a superior safety when he’s healthy. But that’s the big question mark with him as last season he was a shell due to injuries and he’s been seemingly plagued by a rash of problems this year as well. A peak Polamalu would take the defense to another level. Ryan Clark seems to have battled back from his season-ending spleenectomy. Tyrone Carter has looked okay as his backup. And I’ll say it, Anthony Smith is actually a very talented guy. If you watch him closely, his size and speed make him stand out. It’s just that despite his million dollar body, he was only given a ten cent brain. If he could somehow find the wonderful Wizard of Oz to hand him even an average portion of intelligence, he could easily be a starter and a very good one at that.
Also for your perusal:
–The NFL Network has decided to follow my lead by doing a Steeler preview of their own.
–Hugging Harold Reynolds pokes fun at Steeler fans with this obviously photoshopped picture. Bud Light? Members of Steeler Nation aren’t sissies who drink light beer. Somebody obviously confused us with Patriot fans. Even our women drink and drink hard. That’s why we have no need for cheerleaders. They’re all the entertainment we need.