Foote Stomps Back To Steelers

Super Bowl XLIII

They always say “You can’t go home again.”

Evidently the Pittsburgh Steelers scoff at that philosophy.  For the second time since free agency started, the Steelers have brought back one of their ex-players. This time, it’s linebacker Larry Foote, who signed a three year/$9.3 million contract yesterday.  Since free agency as we know it went into effect about fifteen years ago, the Steelers have always adopted the Godfather-like stance of once you leave the family, you’re dead to them.

Now all of a sudden, they bring back not one former player but two.

The irony in saying “you can’t go home again” is that Foote spent last year with his hometown team, the Detroit Lions.  And by all accounts, he was miserable there.  Having spent his entire career with the Steelers, he had grown accustomed to being on a winning team and that was evidently his sole goal this offseason.  Despite being wooed by the Cardinals and Redskins, Foote was big enough to admit forcing his release last year was a big mistake and return to the team that drafted him in 2002.

Equally big were the Steelers, who by bringing him back also signaled that they had made a mistake in releasing him.  I wrote numerous times last year that it would’ve been nice to still have Foote on the roster and once again I’ve been proven correct.   Our once steady inside linebacking corps sucked last year.  James Farrior finally began showing his age, slowing noticeably especially when it came to coverage.  Lawrence Timmons, a former first round pick, is fast and athletic but small and easily pushed around.  He was terrible when it came to run defense.

Which is why Foote played in the base defense with Timmons only coming in during passing situations back in 2008.   To be fair, Timmons played all of last year with ankle problems so I’m sure the Steelers are going to blame that for his failures.   I’d imagine Timmons will go into next year as the starter with Foote waiting in the wings should he again prove not up to the task.  At only 29 years old, Foote could also be groomed to replace Farrior at some point.   The problem with that is Farrior is the guy who calls the defensive signals and makes sure everybody is in the proper alignment so if they want to replace him, Dick LeBeau will need to make sure somebody else is able to do that job.

According to football operations director Kevin Colbert, this marks the end of the Steelers free agency spending frenzy.   Focus will now shift to the draft which is a little over a month away.  While I would’ve liked to see a good quality offensive lineman brought in, overall I think these moves have made the team stronger and deeper than last year.  Hopefully that translates to on-field improvement, as well.

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  • Ron

    Chris – What is this…. you worship Foote and his “stomp” ? He is good, but he’s no savior. I theorize that they brought back Foote because of Farrior and not Timmons. Farrior loses so much weight during the season (down to 220) that by the 12th game, he is getting pounded by the fat guys at the line of scrimmage. When I played inside backer (Div I College level), you were taught to contact, scrape and read, disengage, tackle. Albeit, I played in a 4-3, not a 3-4, and I know the level of play in the pros is much different. Without Aaron Jones in there taking blockers off of Farrior, I saw Farrior and Timmons slicing through gaps, sometimes putting themselves out of position. They avoided contact and relied on speed more often than not. When Polamalu was in there, they knew that they had someone watching their back so gap play was less of a risk. Jones and Polamalu are essential keys to the run defense. Even though they did adequately, we weren’t No.1 against the run.

    You are so right when you say Timmons was terrible against the run. I watched him get blown off the ball all year. But he is an outside backer not an inside backer. His skills seem to be geared towards outside-in pressure. Maybe they can call up Levon Kirkland and see if he wants to stuff the run for another year. He was an inside backer in the modern Steelers defense.

  • chris

    Ron, being happy to have Foote back doesn’t mean I “worship” him. I just said last season that cutting him was a big mistake. Clearly the Steelers agree by the fact they brought him back…and not for a cheap price. I don’t know about you but I’d rather see Foote on the field during running downs than Timmons or Keyaron Fox.

    Who the hell is Aaron Jones? Do you mean Aaron SMITH?

    And you’re right, Timmons seems to be more of an OLB skills-wise. So who do you sit, James Harrison or LaMarr Woodley? If he can’t make it as an ILB (which he can’t), I don’t see his value to this team.

    Thank you for the insightful comment. You have a very good take on the mechanics of defense. I’d be interested to know which college you played ball at.

  • Ron

    Yes, I did mean Aaron Smith. Daaa. And, no I wouldn’t suggest replacing Woodley or Harrison. I played at WVU under Don Nehlen. I originally started playing at Frostburg State. After a catastrophic knee injury, I transferred to WVU just to go to school. Couldn’t stand not playing, so I walked on. I was one four walk-ons that made it out of 55 who tried. I played inside backer forever, but was moved to strong OLB (not by choice). It kind of screwed up my career to an extent because I had to relearn a new position after being out of ball for 2 years. Trust me – there is a huge difference in playing OLB as opposed to ILB. The strong OLB is normally over the tight end…. but when there is no tight end, it becomes a game of reads, keys, and calls which is hard to master quickly. Plus when you are a walk-on, you are a turd and the coaches don’t give you the time you need. Then I fucked up my knees again after two years of play and decided to graduate……….man the stories I could tell about college football….. not here though.