With Pittsburgh’s first set of OTA’s completed at the UPMC Complex, let’s start breaking down Our Team Assessment’s towards preparing for a successful Playoff run in 2013.
THE INJECTION OF YOUTH
There will be no plastic surgery, HGH supplements or Botox injections in Pittsburgh this time around. Simply put, the Steelers have gotten younger. With a well-executed (in my opinion, at least) and gradual move that is balancing our traditional Veteran-only approach with drafted potential, Pittsburgh will not be promoting purely cosmetic changes in 2013. For the first time in a long time, the Steelers are no longer one of the NFL’s oldest teams. We are undoubtedly younger, quicker and more athletic than we have been at any time during the Mike Tomlin era. The Offensive Line has completely transformed, younger. The Defense, the oldest starting unit in the NFL last season, is also transgressing. From purging aging veterans and fan-favorites, Colbert has methodically moved the Steelers towards a youth infusion to regain a stranglehold on the AFC North. To accomplish, the New Kids on the Block must develop and contribute, and they must do so earlier than our tried-and-true system of development has worked in the past. The past in Pittsburgh is looking towards a younger, brighter future and that all begins in our work within Organized Team Activities.
AN OFFENSIVE OFFENSIVE LINE
Leading the Youth Movement and led by Maurkice Pouncey (my personal nominee for Team Captain), Colbert has assembled a group with a high degree of Draft Stock pedigree mixed with some developing talent that has shown signs of being competent starters. According to “Pro Bowl Pouncey” the O-Line is determined to dominate in 2013. On paper, and if able to finally (and I mean finally) stay healthy, the Offensive Line in Pittsburgh could
be a literal team strength: Adams, Foster/Beachum, Pouncey, DeCastro and Gilbert looks promising indeed, but the promise needs promotion to fulfillment. The positioning and play of Gilbert and Adams and the battle between Foster and Beachum in particular is of high OTA interest. I have a feeling we carry a total of eight (8) Offensive Lineman this upcoming season, so for the rest of our OTA’s and Training Camp, we need: to solidify the RT/LT scenario and Foster vs. Beachum as well as establish solid, competent depth with final decisions on Guy Whimper, John Malecki, Justin Cheadle, Mike Golic, Jr., Joe Madsen and Nik Embernate. Remaining as unsigned Free Agent is Doug Legursky; with as many lineman already I seriously doubt he gets a call, and I know some don’t think much of ‘Gursk, but he’s a quality reserve that can play multiple positions and needs no introduction to what we intend to do on the line. Just saying… regardless, in OTAs and Camp the O-line needs to put the stamp on being an ultimate team strength for next season.
RAMPING UP THE RUNNING GAME
Is Pittsburgh filled with more question marks, or more talent towards resolve, heading into 2013 in the Offensive Backfield? No group has more expectation for improvement (again) than our Running Backs. Le’Veon Bell has
the skill set for a much needed every-down Back; Dwyer and Redman have the unenviable position of once again fighting for a spot as Starter, or as Rotational, or off the Roster. That pressure is a good thing; I’m still a fan of Dwyer and certainly love what Redman offers situationally out of the backfield. Howling was added in free agency. With an O-Line that should be in good working order, the Running Backs have no excuse but to produce.
BIG BEN’S NEW PLAYBOOK
With appropriate position Coaches and our once in a generation QB infusing offseason input to the Playbook, Roethlisberger appears much happier with the “Revised Rosetta Stone” from last year. While the rest of the league will “have to wait until the first game” to find out what that means, I’m expecting to see Todd Haley start to stretch the field with more play action (insert Le’Veon Bell here), some hurry up/no-huddle with Roethlisberger calling his own plays and basically letting Big Ben do what #7 does best. Ben had a great start in our first year under Haley last season, but the second half was as painful as Ben’s partially dislocated rib. In 2013, “dink and dunk” gets peppered with “think and chunk”.
Can I make a post without making a Landry Jones comment? Doubt it… as I’ve tried to relay til I’m blue in the face, that’s really up to Jones himself. He looks subpar? I’ll report he’s looking subpar. He looks like he’s ready to be another 3rd String QB winning a game versus the Ravens? I’ll report that, too (glowingly!). For a Decade, I’ve opined about our substandard handling of the backup
Quarterback position, so no one is more pleased to have us actually draft a solid young Quarterback to the roster than I am. Couldn’t be happier with that. What fan would not want one of their team’s players to not perform well? Jones, given time, will adjust and begin to perform up to the hefty statistical weight he amassed as a Sooner; they are, in fact, jaw-dropping. I’m pulling for Jones to really develop into a solid role backing up Ben. Totally. Completely. But that doesn’t excuse lackluster-to-poor showings while he’s on the job (reported by an entire audience of sports journalists, local and national), or by anyone on our roster – I called out Ben last year for personally blowing two football games – Dallas, anyone? I am peachy-keen that Landry is on our roster, but please people… let’s stop using College statistics to cover up as excuse when he doesn’t look up to snuff (… or that his receivers “might have been” running the wrong routes, or that those receivers haven’t worked with him before when one of them was, literally, his “college” teammate…). Which takes us to our Receivers –