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Thread: The Steelers Other Maginot Line

      
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    Default The Steelers Other Maginot Line

    The Steelers Other Maginot Line
    by maryrose on Jan 24, 2010 3:09 PM EST 65 comments
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    Thanks to Swissvale for posting an outstanding Maginot Line reference about the defense in 2009. He was spot on. The Steelers have another Maginot Line going on these days, literally a line. The defensive backfield is similar to the offensive line.

    I have seen too many times now the notion that "the offensive problems were schematic and the defensive problems were personnel." While such is a handy license for those who wish to bash the offense and exonerate the defense, this perfect little alibi is a gross miscalculation. There are no personnel problems with the skill people on offense, but major personnel problems with the offensive line. To lump the two together is erroneous.

    Over the last seven NFL Drafts, every single aspect of the football team, except for the offensive line, has been gifted with at least one first-round draft choice. The quarterback position (Big Ben) was given #11 overall (2004), the running back position (Mendy) was given #25 (2008), the wide receiver was given a middle first in 2006 (Tone) and middle second in 2008 (Limas). Even the tight end (Heath) was granted a first rounder (2005). On defense, the line was bolstered at the last draft with a number one (Ziggy), a guy who helped significantly to minimize the loss of Aaron Smith. The linebackers were given both one and two in 2007 (Timmons and Woodley) and given a two in 2003 (Alonzo Jackson). The defensive backfield was graced with a high number one (Troy in 2003), moving up in the draft to get him, plus two number two picks (Colclough in 2004 and McFadden in 2005). Granted, not all of them panned out, but at least we tried.

    While every phase was being bolstered by first-round franchise cornerstones, plus an extra smattering of number two picks for good measure, the offensive line has been given neither a one nor a two. I am one who believes the offensive line is the most important part of a football team, right up there with the quarterback, and yet it has been given the least since 2002. From 1998 to 2002, the Steelers drafted three offensive linemen in the one and two spots (Alan Faneca, Marvel Smith and Kendall Simmons). When all three were in their final year with Pittsburgh, Bruce Arians ran the ball more than any team in the NFL except two. People conveniently forget that the Steelers, under Pass Happy Arians, were a running football team in 2007, third in the league in rushing attempts.

    Since 2007, actually during 2007, the wheels began falling off the offensive line, one by one. The best of the bunch, Alan Faneca, took off for New York and joined three other first-round linemen. Now let's see, that's four first-round offensive linemen for the Jets and how far did they go this year with a rookie quarterback? Kendall and Marvel both suffered career-ending injuries. Max Starks, in bizarre fashion, went from starting right tackle, to getting benched, to getting franchised, to starting left tackle. Say what? Sean Mahan was brought in to succeed Jeff Hartings, and succeed he did not. That little experiment was dispatched for Justin Hartwig, whose current mediocrity improves the Mahan situation, but clearly ended the Steelers great lineage of superior NFL centers.

    Meanwhile, our right tackle is a guy who everyone in the Nation, from Jim Wexell to my own little Maryrose, insists is a right guard. Another guy out of position, Darnell Stapleton, a center who was called upon to play guard since no one else can do it, suffered a season-ending injury before the season began. His replacement was a career back-up (Trai Essex), meaning that we are now relying on back-ups to back-ups. And let's not forget that Chris Kemo went down, paving the way for an undrafted free agent to fill in that spot. So while everyone is blaming the 2009 Defensive Stock Market Crash on the loss of Troy, the entire offensive line is going to hell in a handbasket. Those injuries don't count? On offense it's all schematic (Arians) problems?

    In truth, the 2009 Steelers' defensive backfield was on par with the 2009 Steelers' offensive line, awful. Losing Troy was like the line losing Faneca. Trying to patch William Gay and Tyrone Carter and trying to keep Deshea young was painfully similar to the musical chairs and patchwork that the offensive line has been going through since 2006. Making matters worse for the offensive line, they haven't had a decent coach since Russ Grimm. Not only has the offensive line had major personnel problems, the guy leading them was a personnel problem himself.

    The result is that the defensive backfield and offensive line cost the Steelers the 2009 season and is costing the Steelers a chance at dynasty. The good news is that hopefully both of those entities have hit rock bottom and have already begun their ascent. Troy will be coming back and Keenan Lewis and Joe Burnett will be (hopefully) in that year-two surge. One of those two young guys, or a 2010 draft pick, has got to step up and avoid the calamity of 2009. On offense, the new line coach can assess what we have and beg for an injection of new talent. Maybe we'll throw the new guy a bone and give him, finally ending the seven-year drought, a first-round and/or second-round lineman.

    Teams Since 2003 Drafting O-Line in First and Second Rounds:

    Five Players: 1 Team (SF)

    Four Players: 2 Teams, including AFC North Baltimore who understands the importance of running in the Division

    Three Players: 6 teams, including Cincy and Cleve, ditto like Baltimore

    Two Players: 13 teams

    One Player: 8 teams

    Zero Players: 2 teams, Pittsburgh and Washington (great company)

    Keep in mind, the above numbers do not include great players taken before 2003 who stayed healthy and on the team. Guys like Matt Light, Jeff Saturday, and many others add to the quality of their lines in addition to high draft choices since 2003. The Steelers high choices in that grouping, Alan Faneca, Marvel Smith and Kendall Simmons, have all left the team due to free agency or career-injuries. The above numbers would look even worse if you added all those guys. That creates more urgency for the Steelers to re-commit to drafting high-choice linemen.

    If Art Rooney II is sincere about running the football, and I believe he is, he needs to put his money where his mouth is. We've already seen evidence by dispatching Larry Zierlein and bringing in Sean Kugler. Now let's see more evidence on April 22. There will be no excuse this year that "all the good ones are gone and we don't want to reach." That won't hold water this year. The Steelers pick 18th and there are at least seven offensive lineman who are worthy of that spot. Every aspect of the team, except one, has been given love since 2003. Let's end that lone exception, and leave Washington behind as the only remaining team not to draft a first or second round offensive lineman since 2003

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    Default Re: The Steelers Other Maginot Line

    Good article. Definitely a problem for us that needs to be addressed.

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    Default Re: The Steelers Other Maginot Line

    Secondary needs retooled more than the OL this offseason.

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    Default Re: The Steelers Other Maginot Line

    Quote Originally Posted by Mister Pittsburgh View Post
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    Secondary needs retooled more than the OL this offseason.
    Absolutely.I'd also argue that ILB needs addressed immediately as well.Farrior really showed his age this season.

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    Default Re: The Steelers Other Maginot Line

    Quote Originally Posted by Les View Post
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    Absolutely.I'd also argue that ILB needs addressed immediately as well.Farrior really showed his age this season.
    ILB right now I think is the biggest need...unless Clark leaves.
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    Default Re: The Steelers Other Maginot Line

    Quote Originally Posted by BigBen2112 View Post
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    ILB right now I think is the biggest need...unless Clark leaves.
    We can always use a ILB, but I don't think Farrior was anywhere near the issue that our DB's were. Certainly a replacement for Farrior needs to be developed. However, we absolutely need corners. Biggest problem by far on this team, IMO.

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    Default Re: The Steelers Other Maginot Line

    I haven't just thrown Joe Burnett & Keenen Lewis in the trash. Hopefully they can fix the CB issue. I am more worried about our lack of depth at S.

    Anyone want to bet Troy doesn't play a whole season again? Plus, throw in Clark possibly leaving.

    Can Lewis or Burnett play FS? Mundy blows.

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    Default Re: The Steelers Other Maginot Line

    Quote Originally Posted by Mister Pittsburgh View Post
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    I haven't just thrown Joe Burnett & Keenen Lewis in the trash. Hopefully they can fix the CB issue. I am more worried about our lack of depth at S.

    Anyone want to bet Troy doesn't play a whole season again? Plus, throw in Clark possibly leaving.

    Can Lewis or Burnett play FS? Mundy blows.
    Actually I was thinking the same thing. What would prevent Lewis or Burnett from playing FS? Especially if Clark doesn't return. Certainly as a corner they must possess the speed necessary to roam. They just have to have good football smarts.

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    Default Re: The Steelers Other Maginot Line

    Quote Originally Posted by exNCite View Post
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    We can always use a ILB, but I don't think Farrior was anywhere near the issue that our DB's were. Certainly a replacement for Farrior needs to be developed. However, we absolutely need corners. Biggest problem by far on this team, IMO.
    We already drafted two corners that we haven't given a chance to yet. How many MORE do we have to draft and not let play before we get some good one's eh? I guess one could just HOPE for one of them to get lost and find his way onto the field and produce.
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    Default Re: The Steelers Other Maginot Line

    Quote Originally Posted by BigBen2112 View Post
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    We already drafted two corners that we haven't given a chance to yet. How many MORE do we have to draft and not let play before we get some good one's eh? I guess one could just HOPE for one of them to get lost and find his way onto the field and produce.
    I agree to an extent,Benny,but what happens if they don't pan out.Can you imagine the uproar next year??

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    Default Re: The Steelers Other Maginot Line

    Quote Originally Posted by Les View Post
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    I agree to an extent,Benny,but what happens if they don't pan out.Can you imagine the uproar next year??
    Well hopefully the coaching staff has some idea that they can play or not.....(although you would have hoped they would have known that Gay, cannot play!)

    I think a lot of our issue is scheme too. I mean are you really putting your CB's in a position to succeed when they are lined up 12 yards off the line of scrimmage? You are pretty much saying 'Free 5 YARD OUTS AND SLANTS!'

    I mean when was the last time you actually saw one of our CB jam a WR at the line of scrimmage and then run with them.....or when is the last time you saw one of our CB play the ball instead of staying back ensuring they don't get beat deep?

    I am sorry, and this will sound sacreligious to most, but I think Dick Lebeau needs to rethink WTF he is doing. Even crappy offenses in the NFL can tear apart a soft zone secondary. There are plenty of first and second year players playing for defenses in the top 5, but our first round pick who is a 3-4 defensive end can't even play as the primary backup at DE after a full mini camp, training camp, preseason, and 3 or 4 or how many ever games into the season Smith went down.

    I think it isn't so much that Lebeau's defense is so hard to pick up. I think he has some sort of fraternity approach or something where you have to 'pay your dues' to play, which is a bull**** approach. I don't care if the starting DE has been through wars with me before if I am james Farrior. I do care if he is eating blockers and kicking *** though.

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    Default Re: The Steelers Other Maginot Line

    Quote Originally Posted by Mister Pittsburgh View Post
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    Well hopefully the coaching staff has some idea that they can play or not.....(although you would have hoped they would have known that Gay, cannot play!)

    I think a lot of our issue is scheme too. I mean are you really putting your CB's in a position to succeed when they are lined up 12 yards off the line of scrimmage? You are pretty much saying 'Free 5 YARD OUTS AND SLANTS!'

    I mean when was the last time you actually saw one of our CB jam a WR at the line of scrimmage and then run with them.....or when is the last time you saw one of our CB play the ball instead of staying back ensuring they don't get beat deep?

    I am sorry, and this will sound sacreligious to most, but I think Dick Lebeau needs to rethink WTF he is doing. Even crappy offenses in the NFL can tear apart a soft zone secondary. There are plenty of first and second year players playing for defenses in the top 5, but our first round pick who is a 3-4 defensive end can't even play as the primary backup at DE after a full mini camp, training camp, preseason, and 3 or 4 or how many ever games into the season Smith went down.

    I think it isn't so much that Lebeau's defense is so hard to pick up. I think he has some sort of fraternity approach or something where you have to 'pay your dues' to play, which is a bull**** approach. I don't care if the starting DE has been through wars with me before if I am james Farrior. I do care if he is eating blockers and kicking *** though.

    I agree very much with your post..............especially the bolded part.I've been critical of the way our CBs play off of receivers for years.Needs to change,IMO.

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    Default Re: The Steelers Other Maginot Line

    Quote Originally Posted by Les View Post
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    I agree very much with your post..............especially the bolded part.I've been critical of the way our CBs play off of receivers for years.Needs to change,IMO.
    And you're not alone in that belief. Mr. P stated very well what I've been screaming about longer than I can remember. Oh to have Mel Blount back!!!!!!

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    Default Re: The Steelers Other Maginot Line

    Just rewatched the Steelers Green Bay game (final 5 minutes or so). I think it was around the 2:50 mark left in the game it was 3rd & 1, Green Bay had the ball. Tyrone Carter was out covering the WR, almost like a CB. He was lined up, not ****ting you, he was lined up 12 yards off the line of scrimmage on
    3rd & 1. The receiver just ran a 5 hard curl type pattern right in front of him and then Ty tackled him for an easy as ****ing **** first down. I mean they my as well of just let Rodgers take the snap and skip for a first down.

    Anyway, I thought that fit into the whole 'our schemes need major overhauls' line of thinking. 3rd & 1 and you aren't up in press?

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    Default Re: The Steelers Other Maginot Line

    Quote Originally Posted by exNCite View Post
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    We can always use a ILB, but I don't think Farrior was anywhere near the issue that our DB's were. Certainly a replacement for Farrior needs to be developed. However, we absolutely need corners. Biggest problem by far on this team, IMO.
    Farrior has given us several years of fantastic ILB play...this year he was a liability in coverage (as much as I hate to say). His role needs to change if he sticks around. We needed one win to get into the playoffs this year; furthermore there were several plays that would have earned that ONE win. I cant help but think of the 4th and long play vs Balt (first game with Dixon) late in the game, which would have sealed an unexpected win...Farrior fails to make a play on Rice (his man), and a swing pass converted a 4th and loooooooooong (I think it was a 4th and 18...correct me if Im wrong), to help Balt extend the game to OT.

    We all love #51, but we have to be realistic...he blew a few other coverages that we were able to overcome. We need to get younger at ILB, and in the meantime Farrior's role HAS to change for us to succeed

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