LeBeau Resignation Begins An Offseason Of Change

by Steelreign | Jan 13, 2015 - 3:19 PM
Dick LeBeau's surprise resignation has kicked off an offseason that is going to reshape the defensive side of the ball for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2015. It is also the end of an Era that included the second best display of defense in franchise history that resulted in two more Lombardi Trophy's in three trips to the Super Bowl in a six year period, from 2005-2010. LeBeau's replacement came from the in house promotion of Linebacker's coach, Keith Butler, often labeled as the DC in waiting over the last three years. It would make sense if the Steelers were to promote Jerry Olsavsky to Linebacker coach to replace Butler. These changes are just the beginning as things look to get interesting on the players side of the equation.

Just as the journey in Pittsburgh has ended for Dick LeBeau, the same will be true for many of the players as well. Ike Taylor, Brett Keisel, James Harrison and Troy Polamalu have very likely also played their last game in Heinz Field. All four of them played key roles in bringing two more Lombardi Trophy's home to Pittsburgh, but the time has come to move on from them and build for the future and there is a lot of work to do with the defense.

The Defensive line showed much improvement by the end of the season, especially rookie Stephon Tuitt. Both he and Cameron Heyward look to be solid bookends for years to come. Starting DT Steve McClendon isn't spectacular but has been solid, backup Cam Thomas should be on the first one way flight out of Pittsburgh. It should not be too hard to replace him whatsoever.

At Outside Linebacker, the Steelers have only one player under contract for next season, Jarvis Jones. Jones showed improved play this season, but was derailed by a dislocated wrist while sacking Cam Newton during the Carolina game and was never truly the same afterwards. The Steelers have a few decisions to make here as well, whether to resign free agents Jason Worilds and Arthur Moats. While Worilds is certainly not worth his tag price, I'd sign him for 3yr/$20 million.

The key to the CB woes is for Cortez Allen to get back on track. The same negative things being said about him now, used to be regularly bestowed upon Willie Gay, who has turned into the second coming of DeShea Townsend so to speak. Gay was easily the best CB on the roster this year, but the contributions of Brice McCain and Antwon Blake can't be overlooked, neither can the need for their return.This position... [Read More]
    1 Reply | 767 Views

The loss of LeBeau, a two-edged sword for Pittsburgh

by sluggermatt15 | Jan 13, 2015 - 3:18 PM
The loss of LeBeau, a two-edged sword for Pittsburgh

Friday's resignation of former defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau may have been an expected move by a portion of Steeler Nation. A unit that has slipped in the rankings since 2012 was due for a change. Pittsburgh was ranked 1st overall in points, and 6th in yards (2012). Decline shortly followed to 14th and 13th (points & yards, respectively) in 2013, and further to 18th in both categories (2014). The linear decline in performance was not only observed on paper, but on the field as well. The lack of proper personnel and developed talent to fit LeBeau's system appeared to be missing most of the 2014 season. Reflections of years past were observed on the field in 2014. Every Steeler fan could point these out. The defense looked terrible in the second half of the opening game against Cleveland, allowing the Browns to score 24 second half points. Four days later, they looked terrible against the Ravens. Two weeks later, the unit blew a 4th quarter lead at home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In each of these performances, "struggling" may be a vast understatement. Amid the inconsistencies, someone had to take the fall. It wasn't going to be offensive coordinator Todd Haley because his offense used 2014 to transform into one of the NFL's best. What about Coach Tomlin? No way. He may have saved himself by lead the Steelers to an 11-5 record, AFC North Division Championship, and home playoff game in the Wild Card Round. That leaves LeBeau. His "resignation" might not be all bad for the Steelers.

There is still hope because....

1. The Steelers replaced LeBeau from within. New defensive coordinator Keith Butler's tenure with the franchise dates to 2003. His developmental skills, coaching ability, and familiarity with the organization proved to be too valuable to lose. Further, Butler's knowledge of the 3-4 defense has been instrumental to the team's performance on the field. This includes the years when the defense was the top ranked unit (2008, 2010, 2011).

Consider the talent Butler has worked with at linebacker - Joey Porter (current defensive assistant), James Harrison (5X Pro Bowl selection, 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, 100 yd INT return for TD in SB XLIII), James Farrior (35.5 career sacks), Clark Haggans (46.5 career sacks), LaMarr Woodley (13.5 sacks in 2009), Lawrence Timmons, among others. The accomplishments... [Read More]
    6 Replies | 985 Views

Top 50 Prospects: 1-25

by battlingbucs | Jan 02, 2015 - 11:49 AM
25. Connor Joe: The Pirates selected Joe with the 39th overall pick in this past draft. He is a bat first player that the Pirates seemed to select a little early as Baseball America rated him 102nd overall. In his college career Joe split his time between first base, the outfield and catcher. The Pirates have announced they plan to get him work at catcher but there is a crowded situation in A and A+ so it is going to be difficult. Joe's power is more gap power than over the fence but he scouts do like his hitting ability and he possess great plate discipline. He obviously has more value if he can stick at catcher but I don't see that as likely. Due to injuries Joe has yet to make his debut but should start the 2015 season in A ball.

24. Taylor Gushue: The Pirates selected Gushue in the 4th round of the most recent draft. He was drafted as a junior out of college but he was a very young junior as he graduated high school early and began attending college early. Due to his special circumstances he is actually closer to the age of a sophomore and probably has a little more room to develop than your average college draftee. Gushue is a solid defensive catcher who has decent power but looks like a below average hitter right now. Last season he got off to a hot start in A- but cooled off as the year progressed. As with Joe and many other catchers I have discussed there is a crunch in A and A+ so it will be interesting to see how playing time is split up. My guess is Gushue will be the regular catcher in A ball.

23. Chad Kuhl: Kuhl was selected by the Pirates in the 9th round of the 2013 draft. Like a lot of Pirates pitchers Kuhl's calling card is his sinker which he uses to induce a lot of groundballs. After an impressive debut in 2013 the Pirates sent Kuhl to A+ last year and he posted solid results inducing a lot of groundballs, showing good command and missing few bats. Kuhl should start the season in AA and will get a chance to see if his skills will lead to success in the upper minors. To me Kuhl looks like another Brandon Cumpton and if he does indeed become that it would be excellent value for a 9th round selection.

22. Stetson Allie: I'm sure most of you are familiar with Allie's story as he was drafted as a hard throwing right handed pitcher with control problems. Well the control problems never resolved themselves so the Pirates opted to switch him to a position player because of his... [Read More]
    0 Replies | 739 Views

Top 50 Prospects: 26-50

by battlingbucs | Dec 29, 2014 - 1:49 PM
I usually maintain a top 30 prospects list but this offseason I decided to take a page from Pirates Prospects and expand my list to a top 50. My list is my own personal list based upon many different sources including the previously mentioned Pirates Prospects Guide which I'll take this opportunity to suggest you all buy. Its a great resource for all Pirates fans. My list comes with far less research and far less information on the players plus I'm not including details on every player. My criteria for what constitutes a prospect is also slightly different as I am only including players who still have rookie eligibility and will be no older than 26 come July 1, 2015. This means John Holdkozm and even Jung-Ho Kang should he sign will not be included. In this post I will list the back half of my list and on Friday I will publish my top 25.

50. Yhonathan Barrios: Back in 2009, Barrios received one of the largest signing bonuses ever from the Pirates for an international player when he signed for 250K. He spent his first 4.5 seasons as a SS but the bat never developed so midway through 2013 the Pirates converted him to pitching. Usually this is just a desperation attempt to get some value but Barrios is different as he has a great arm and can reach triple digits with his fastball. The results (strike outs) aren't there yet but he held his own in A+ this past season and considering his kind of arm he is certainly worth watching.

49. Sam Kennelly: Kennelly was signed back in 2012 out of Australia but spent his first two seasons in the Australian baseball academy. He was signed as a shortstop but the consensus seems to be he won't stick there and will probably move to second but as a bat first middle infielder that is fine. Kennelly spent 2014 in rookie ball and had a very solid season. At 18 he was an appropriate age for the level and looks ready to move up to the new Morgantown team this season. He has a long way to go but his bat is quite polished for his age which gives him an advantage over the Pirates other low level middle infield prospects.

48. Jaff Decker: Unlike a lot of prospects Decker's value is all about the right now. He doesn't possess a huge upside and in fact is probably at his upside right now which is a capable major league bench player. The Pirates acquired Decker last year in a trade for Alex Dickerson and he saw... [Read More]
    1 Reply | 1,041 Views

What Can Brown Do For You?

by Steelreign | Dec 29, 2014 - 8:29 AM
Remember "Young Money"? They were going to be the next big thing. Mike Wallace, Emanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown were going to be the explosive weapons that Big Ben needed to take the offense to the next level. Mike Wallace, the "One Trick Pony", could blow the top off of any secondary with his speed, but his hands turned out to be directly proportional to the size of the paycheck that he wanted. When it became apparent that he wasn't going to get the money he wanted in Pittsburgh, they stopped working. Emanuel Sanders had the quickness to work the underneath routes, but his hands just didn't seem to work when the situation was critical. Both were allowed to leave when their contracts expired. The third member of young money, Antonio Brown, just might be the best wide receiver in the NFL.

One of the best decisions Kevin Colbert may have made so far, was to decide to give long term money to Antonio Brown instead of paying Mike Wallace, because the "One Trick Pony" hasn't even come close to having the impact on the Dolphins that Antonio Brown has had on the entire NFL. What can Brown do for you? Well for starters, how about finishing the 2014 season as the NFL leader in receptions and yardage while setting a Steelers record with 13 touchdown catches. His 129 receptions not only led the league, a first for a Steelers receiver, but is the second highest single season total in NFL history. That's not too shabby for a 6th round pick out of Central Michigan. Over the last two seasons, Brown has racked up 239 receptions for 3,197 yards and 21 touchdowns. Out of "Young Money", Antonio Brown is "Real Money".

During last night's division clinching win, Brown showed why he should be the NFL MVP, with a 71 yard punt return for a touchdown to give the Steelers the lead, and a 63 yard touchdown catch and run to seal the win. In both instances, he took out his own guy enroute to the endzone. Just how valuable is Brown? Defenses know he is going to get the ball and they still can't cover and stop him from getting it. He's done it his entire career, only now he's doing a whole lot more as the legitimate number one receiving threat. Brown is what Santonio Holmes should have been, the biggest difference between the two of them is Brown's team first mentality and his tireless work ethic.

Forget "Young Money", the Steelers have something new and better in this group of wide receives that is led by Antonio Brown. They definitely seem... [Read More]
    0 Replies | 2,885 Views

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