Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Steelers Secondary Coming Together


 

Were you as excited as me when you saw the Pittsburgh Steelers name show up on the first day of free agency, and it wasn’t a young player whose rookie contract was expiring and taking their talents away from the Steel City?  Or it wasn’t a former Steeler who was signed back to be a backup to the aging veterans starting?  No, the Steelers were on the opposite end of how things usually go, as they actually signed a young and up-and-coming player and locked him up to be part of the plans for the future.

The Steelers signed Mike Mitchell, a Free Safety who played for the Carolina Panthers last season, one of the best defenses in the game. Although Mitchell had a very unproductive first couple of seasons with the Raiders, he broke out last year, recording 4 sacks and 4 interceptions. Mitchell is a ball hawk, and is great in pass coverage, but his run support isn’t as good. The first thing you have to learn while playing under Lebeau is to tackle. Knowing Carnell Lake is one of the best defensive backs coach in the game, Im sure that won’t be too big of a problem to fix, especially if Polamalu plays more of the run support safety up in the box and Mitchell plays more pass coverage.

With this move, the Steelers are certainly preparing to move on from the aging veterans like Ryan Clark, and Troy Polamalu, and Ike Taylor. Ryan Clark will not be back with the team, Ike Taylor has one more season with the team, which will be his last, and don’t be surprised if this is Polamalu’s last season as well. The Steelers have replacements for all of them. The only thing missing is a second cornerback to start opposite Cortez Allen, which I have said all offseason will be found in the first round of the draft.

The future of the secondary should look like Mike Mitchell and Shamarko Thomas at the safety positions while Cortez Allen and a first round draft pick fill out cornerback spots. If you don’t think the Steelers know what they’re doing, then you don’t deserve to be reading this right now. The Steelers drafted Cortez Allen to start opposite Ike Taylor (either him or Curtis Brown, and Curtis Brown is done). He was drafted when William Gay was on the team before he left for Arizona. Gay left and Lewis took over, and really no one expected him to breakout like he did. So the plan the entire time was for Cortez to take over in two years, when Gay and Lewis left. Shamarko Thomas was drafted in 2013. He played his rookie year with valuable playing time, and will play even more next year, probably behind Mike Mitchell. Polamalu just signed a 2 year extension, but with Thomas waiting, this could be Polamalu’s last season. Shamarko would take over after having 2 years in the system. Ryan Clark leaves, and they don’t have a young player ready to take over the free safety spot, so they get a young free safety in free agency and lock him up. If they draft a cornerback in the first round this year, he will play behind both Taylor and Cortez Allen, then take over when Ike Taylor leaves in one year. Even though we didn’t know, the Steelers had the secondary all under control. All they have to do is go draft a corner in the first.

The Steelers are consistently good because they plan for the future before their veterans leave. Once the veterans leave, they have a young guy with some experience take over and then eventually have a defense playing together as a unit for several seasons. Then when they all start to age, that’s when the rotation starts all over again. The Steelers are on the verge of having that next defensive unit that stays intact for several seasons, which is when they will make several more serious runs for the Lombardi Trophy.

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment!

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Tags: Cortez Allen Mike Mitchell Pittsburgh Steelers Shamarko Thomas Troy Polamalu

  • bk

    5 years and 25 Million for Mitchell? Stupid is as Stupid does… for another 1 million a year they could have gotten Linval Joseph… Middle of the line fixed for 5 years… Instead, they overpay for a guy who had 1 good year and benefitted from playing behind a really good front 7.
    BTW, you call back to back 8-8 records consistantly good? I will be surprised if they win 8 next year…

    • Jason

      Having zero losing seasons in the past 11 years is indeed consistently good. Three SB appearances in a decade is consistently good. Having the most SBs in league history is consistently good. Move along.

      • bk

        How many under this regime with Tomlin’s players? Being a lifelong Steeler fan it pains me to see this happen… BigBen has 3-4 more years to try to get another SB, Is Mitchell going to get them over the hump? LOL yeah right..too many busts in the draft… JJones..too slow, will never be a pass rusher..Decastro? Jury still out due to injury issue, Pouncey? Hurt more than not.. Heyward? Below average.. Hood? release… the list goes on and on… not 1 all pro player has been drafted by Tomlin….

        • Jason

          Your credibility was lost when you decided to judge last year’s first round draft pick after one season. DeCastro was one of the best guards in the league last year. If you were old enough to remember, you would know that Bill Cowher had three consecutive non-playoff seasons in the late 90s (including two back-to-back losing seasons) before winning his SB a few years later. Stop it. Just stop.

          • bk

            If you want honest dialogue you have to accept that everyone will not agree with you all the time, DeCastro struggled at times last year and I hope he will pan out. I was a Steeler fan back when Noll was coaching and they sucked, but, I could see improvement and direction… I see none of this now… Look beyond even the first round picks the last 5 years and tell me more than 5 that will ever be an all pro? I see 1 guy (hint, he is a wr)… but for every one of those you have a Mendenhall or a Ta’amu or Rainey, or Urbik or Sweed… etc

          • Jason

            Not everyone has to be an all-pro. Timmons has never been one, but he is a beast. Ike Taylor has never been one, but he has been a lockdown corner for the past 5-6 years. I see great potential for Wheaton, Shamarko, Jones, Vince Williams, Beachum, and Le’Veon. You haven’t mentioned that latter yet. The Rooneys know what they are doing. If you think Tomlin has the final say in player acquisition 100% of the time, you are misinformed. How can you not see improvement when the Steelers went 6-2 in their final 8 games last year and missed the playoffs by a mere inches…?

          • Thumper833

            Not to mention that there is an element of luck in all draft picks and not even the best scouting departments and the best organizations are immune to occasional mediocrity. I think the Steelers mortgaged their immediate future and tried to get another ring. It didn’t pan out and we’ve had a couple down years, but I can see us on the upswing for sure.

          • Niyi Delano

            your assessment of the guys that have been picked by this regime is way off. First of all, all teams pick duds so get over it. second everyone you listed with the exception of Rainey and Sweed, started for an NFL team last year. Ta’amu and Mendenhall started for the Cardinals, who had a better record than the steelers, Urbik started last year, I believe for the Bills.
            The problem the team is having is the same problem every team in the NFL has eventually, and that is you have been good for so long and you have to pay your players. That was the main reason why we couldn’t keep Lewis and Wallace.
            The steelers will get better, and we are currently on that path, but saying Tomlin has done a subpar job in picking Talent is off the mark completely.

          • bk

            So three guys went elsewhere and started, out of how many picks? you just made my case for me… if they are so good, why did they get released? Mendenhall may have started, where did he end up? On the bench behind a rookie…

          • Levi Combs

            Did you know there is a salary cap? can’t sign everyone. Your point was not made, your digging yourself into a deeper hole

          • Levi Combs

            You don’t call the 6-2 record the second half of the season as improvement? You don’t call young players like Jason Worilds, Cameron Heyward, and David Decastro having breakout seasons as improvement? Can’t hit on every pick. And your expecting 5 all pro players on the team? Some teams don’t even have one. Sounds like you are one of those fans who don’t watch a game all year until its playoff time and see where the Steelers stand.

          • Eric Robinson

            Tell em. sick of all the whiney babies. When you are constantly in contention year after year. You get the lower end draft choices every year. A few down years is to be expected. I think we are making smart choices so far this offseason. We may have payed a little much for Mitchell, but I think they got him because he is a Steelers type of player. Nasty. We need some of that edge back. We will not only be in playoffs this year. We will turn heads to all the Haters!!!!!

        • Levi Combs

          Jones, first rookie to start for Steelers in a decade. DeCastro, tore his ACL in his first season. Had a monster season his second. Could be all pro as soon as next season. Pouncey, made all pro his first three seasons. Heyward, breakout season last season, fans lobbying for an extension this summer. Hood, wasn’t released, contract expired. That happens in the NFL. Tomlin has drafted 2 all pro players. Antonio Brown and Maurkice Pouncey. Several players on the verge, such as David Decastro and Cameron Heyward if they continue to develop. Tomlin has done a fantastic job of drafting. You can’t hit with every pick. No one does. Being a lifelong Steeler fan it pains me to read comments like this who expect an all pro roster and expect too much. Please watch the upcoming season, and that should give you all the answers you need about the young players your questioning.

      • Levi Combs

        Thank you, some “fans” just don’t understand.

    • Marc Thomas

      get a clue. only roughly $5mill of the deal is guaranteed and the cap hit this season is only $2.2mill. great deal for the steelers and great incentive for Mitchell to play well enough to stay around.

      • bk

        You know what they called Mitchell in Oakland? Toast… cuz he got burned all the time…

        • Levi Combs

          Did you watch any of the NFL last season? Apparently not

          • bk

            I saw a great front 7 in Carolina and a guy who benefitted from it.
            Why do you think he was a bust in Oakland? He had to cover/play more than 3-4 seconds… Do you think the Steelers front 7 compares to Carolina’s?

          • Levi Combs

            do you not understand players can breakout. keenan lewis and Jason worlds for example. both terrible before the end of their rookie contracts. that stuff happens in the nfl. players actually grow with time. And with Worilds coming back, Jones with a full offseason ahead of him, and Heyward with a breakout season, our front 7 can be a solid group. Do you know those players?

          • bk

            Have you seen Jones play? He is not a quick twitch type of player that can get a jump on an OT… not in the NFL.. I would move him to the inside and play to his strengths there.

      • Levi Combs

        I completely agree. This was a fantastic move by the Steelers, not braking the bank for another safety, when this guy is still young and can still improve under Dick Lebeau and Carnell Lake. Great pickup

    • Levi Combs

      So you say not to pay a guy after he has one good season? Look at Keenan Lewis, he had ONE good season, and I bet you wish we still had him. He went on to sign a 5 year, 25 million dollar contract. And he didn’t have the interceptions or the sacks that Mitchell had last season. Jason Worilds? He had ONE good season. Don’t tell me that you weren’t hoping for him to be resigned. As of now, he is making 9 million dollars next year. The Steelers just cut their most expensive defensive player in franchise history in favor of Jason Worilds, remember, the guy who had one good season. Did you know that when someone has a good season, they get paid. Just like Lewis and Worilds did. And yes, I call 8-8 consistently good. When you have franchises like the Browns, Jaguars, and the Buccaneers who would do anything for an 8-8 season, and we Steelers fans are mad about it? Yes, it stinks we didn’t make the playoffs, however our down seasons are going .500? You know your consistently good when you consider that bad. True Steelers fan I see, doubting an 8 win season with our great stretch last season and all the young talent we have returning.

      • bk

        Woriilds is going to be Woodley II. Wait and see, He signs and comes to camp at 300#. Better off paying the same amount to Ware.. (too late)

        • Craig

          Dude where’s your head? Usually you are pretty sensible with your comments. Now you’re just being ridiculous. No way Worilds will come in like that. He hasn’t even signed a long term deal yet. He’s on a one year transition tender worth $9 mil. He can’t afford to blow next season. Plus he has lots to prove that he wasn’t some one hit wonder.

          I hope to god you were joking.

          • bk

            I hope not, I just have that feeling that they will sign him to a huge deal and he will get huge.

          • Craig

            Maybe they can put a Weight Watchers clause in the contract.

        • Levi Combs

          So you can predict the future?

          • bk

            I can predict that 17 year old kids who write homer blogs and cannot stand anyone with a differing opinion will not last long in the media world.

          • Levi Combs

            Gotta have some personality in your writings. Who wants a boring writer who doesn’t respond to his comments? The fun is in the arguments. Also fun to argue with grown men who hide behind a computer screen.

          • bk

            Now you sound like a liberal in a debate about guns… Who is hiding?
            Also, why do you assume that I am a man? Kind of sexist there boy.

          • Levi Combs

            Now is a good time to stop this. Guess I have to be the adult in this situation. Let’s stick to the steelers. Where are your comments replying to the rest of mine?

  • [email protected]

    Levi, overall I agree with you but don’t undersell the importance/difficulty of picking up a good CB in round 1. Logically they would go either Gilbert or Dennard; alternatively they could pick up the ‘big WR’ in round 1 and perhaps get Kyle Fuller in rd2. NONE of this is set in stone of course, and if we don’t pick up a quality CB in those first 2 rounds we could be in deep trouble given that Ike is coming back for what in essence is a farewell tour.
    Again, I ‘think’ we are OK, but a lot hinges on finding that quality CB in the draft.

    • Levi Combs

      I do agree that it will be corner and tall receiver in the first two rounds, just in what order? Obviously, I am wanting a corner in the first. About time someone knows their stuff and agrees with me.

      • mathew doakes

        Amen

  • [email protected]

    BK, kind of negative dude, you gotta keep the faith. Personally, I would have preferred they cut Ike, take ALL of that cap savings and get Verner. I think you are right in that we DESPERATELY need to find our NT, and move McClendon to DE thus solving 2 problems with 1 pick. We should be able to get a good space eater in rd3 or 4 don’t you think?

    • Levi Combs

      I would have like to cut Ike as well, but he very well could be the second corner this year with Cortez moving to the number 1. If a rookie plays well enough, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sub in for Taylor later in the year. NT will either be Mclendon or Hood next year, with the other playing DE. Just what I think is the smartest move right now so the Steelers can take a tall receiver and a corner in the first 2 rounds. Not much cap space to deal with now besides signing back some of their own.

  • Niyi Delano

    I don’t know if the Steelers go CB in the first. We need a Corner but I believe we need a true nose tackle more than a CB. McLendon needs to play end in a 34 and not nose. Now my belief is, if the NT from Notre Dame is gone before the steelers pick, then they would go for the Corner from Michigan State, if he is still available.
    If we could pick up a serviceable receiver (Miles Austin or Eric Decker), in free agency if one is available for a reasonable price, resign Velasco if the price is right, we could use this entire draft to rebuild and stock the defense.
    Currently we are un-certain at the other ILB position, no true backup to OLBS, little depth at cb and no starter at RDE. Loosing the 3rd round pick stinks but we need a lot on defense.

    • Levi Combs

      I do agree that there are a lot of needs to go with the little money we have and losing high draft picks, it will be difficult to address all of them. The Steelers will not go for Miles Austin or Eric Decker. They can resign Jerrico Cotchery. Looks like the Steelers have faith in Vince Williams to play the other ILB spot, or they wouldn’t have cut Foote. Depth at the outside linebacker spot will be a problem this year, as they don’t have the luxury to draft one high in the draft or have enough money to find a serviceable backup. Also, bringing back Ziggy Hood would be a great idea to play the nose and move Mclendon, and if that doesn’t pan out, draft a NT early in next years draft. NT will be a luxury pick this offseason, as Mclendon did a nice job. You have to remember there were 3 rookies on the field at point last year, 2 being linebackers. Run defense wasn’t all the DLine.

  • Carl Eagan

    Most people who say the Steeler’s need a nose tackle just don’t understand football. The reality is the majority of running yards against the Steeler’s came while McLendon was standing on the sidelines not much he can do from there. Not to mention the fact that moving him to RDE will be a trail as he will have to relearn how to play end. get 2 CB’s one early and one late, a receiver, an ILB to develop and depth for the o-line.

    • Levi Combs

      Couldn’t agree more about the Steelers needing a nose tackle. Mclendon did a serviceable job and that’s not the problem pertaining to the run defense. Go corner early and late, draft a tall receiver early, depth for oline in middle rounds or late. I do disagree about your ILB comment. The Steelers currently have 3 ILB that they can develop. If they didn’t have faith in them, they wouldn’t have released Foote. Big supporter of Vince Williams.

  • scott sinclair

    Levi, I love the enthusiasm, but I think you’re a little off. The line near the end where you say ‘the Steelers are consistently good” Ummmm…two 8-8 non playoff seasons do not mark consistent goodness. And their recent drafts have not yielded quite the result neither we nor they have hoped. They’ve held onto veteran guys for several reasons, not the least of which is that they haven’t had the young guys ready to step in. Hood is a bust, Heyward finally came on this year, Curtis Brown was a zero, and it will take a year or two more to decide on Jarvis Jones and Vince Williams. I don’t see this unit as one that will be around together for a while, not as long as a thing called free agency exists. If Cortez plays big, he’ll command a big salary and we all know how the Steelers are with the cap. Let’s be patient here and see, I think you need to reign in the excitement a little.

    • Levi Combs

      Thank you for your comment regarding my enthusiasm. For me, it’s exciting to see a bunch of young guys on the team and what their potential can be. Personally, I think they have hit on the draft the past couple years. They did have a drought from 2008-2009, however the last couple drafts have picked up key players in “reloading”. Maurkice pouncey, jason worilds, antonio brown in 2010. Cameron heyward, Cortez Allen in 2011. David decastro and kelvin beachum in 2012. The steelers first 4 picks of the 2013 draft all show promise as future starters for the steelers, some superstars. Like I have said all offseason, it takes time for these young guys. Look what time did for both Cameron heyward and jason worilds. Now one is about to be locked up and the other one should receive an extension. Watching young players play very good the second half of the season gives me excitement for the future.