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Four Positions The Steelers Need to Upgrade This Offseason

There’s plenty of thinking and tinkering to do with the Steelers roster as we get set for the offseason and entering the 2012 campaign. With free agency and the draft coming up faster than we all think, today we’re gonna look at a couple spots on the team that could use improving in 2012 and for the future.

1. Offensive Line – A revolving door position in 2011 due to injuries as well as poor play, there’s not many out there that would put the O-line at the top of the list for positions that need to improve. Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked more times over the past few seasons than any other NFL QB, and if they don’t do a better job of protecting him, the injury he suffered to his ankle this season is going to be nothing than what will happen in the future. They would do well to spend 1-3 picks in the first few rounds on linemen.

2. Cornerback – A lot was made about the Steelers having a top pass defense in 2011, but let’s be real. If they were so dominant, would Tim Tebow have carved them up in the wild card game? This is a unit that needs another 1-2 players, and again, while injuries took their toll at the end of the season, this unit isn’t as good as they were made out to be. Better than 2010, but a group that will need to get better if the team is going to make it back to the Super Bowl in 2013.

3. Running Back – Rashard Mendenhall’s injury was thought to be a death blow for the postseason, but then Issac Redmen showed up and had a huge playoff game, making some wonder just how good Mendenhall really is. I think they could for sure afford to get another back or two that either could be a solid 3rd down back, or even an everydown starter. There’s some guy named Peyton Hillis who is going to hit the free agent market, and he kinda reminds me of what Jerome Bettis was in 1995. Just saying.

4. Quarterback – Sure, the team has probably the 2nd or 3rd best QB in the AFC, but if in fact he gets hurt, I’m not a huge fan of having to play Charlie Batch or Dennis Dixon longterm. Then there’s Byron Leftwich, but he’s been fragile over the years, and I would like to see the team pick up a longterm solid backup, so if Roethlisberger does go down for an extended amount of time, the team won’t be left in critical condition.

Matt Loede has been in the sports media for over 16 years, with experience covering the MLB, NBA, and NFL. On Sunday’s during football season, you can hear Matt on national networks like Fox Sports Radio, Associated Press, and others. Born and raised in Cleveland Ohio, Matt studies and talks football inside and out, and is anxious to share his thoughts and comments with readers on a daily basis.



  1. Luther mcmillian

    January 16, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    quarter back position is fine long term.

    • blackNgold4life

      January 16, 2012 at 10:58 pm

      Fine long term? Are u kidding me? If we had any other Qb
      besides Ben we’d be in serrious danger. Steelers definately need a proven backup.The Playbook is cut in half with Batch, and the run game can’t win games like when the Bus was in town. With that shakey O-line Ben could go down on any given play

  2. chuck campbell

    January 16, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    need offensive line offensive line offensive line please.

  3. blackNgold4life

    January 16, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    1ST O-LINE no explation needed
    2nd Secondary..true they were rankd #1but those stats were deceiving, Troy and Ryan are not the ball hawks they once were
    And they definitely need another corner who can play man to man.
    3rd D-line..with Smith most likely headed for retirement,and Hampton not being the force in the middle he once was Steelers need a Tackle who can demand a double team to free up Farrior and Timmons and a DE who can make plays on the outside and rush the QB..right now Keisel is all we have unless Hayward and Ziggy step up.
    ?bonus..every team can use RBs. I like the Mendenhall, Redman combo but I would love a Sprolls type Quick with hands eventhogh Arians probably wouldent use him to his abillty. Dwyer was excellent in college catching the ball.. and we rarely saw him dressd. I can’t wait to see what happens.

    • tut

      January 17, 2012 at 10:50 am

      A M E N!!!!

      blackNgold4life is absolutely spot on! Ben can not continue to get beat up if he is going to be long term. Ok, so he plays tough & buys time with his size…..he shouldn’t have to so much! Once in a while maybe, but all the time? If the Steelers don’t crap can that line they have….they’re done! You might as well just write Ben off, because his ankles and knees will start to give out! No one touches Brady on a consistant basis, and he carves people up! His line is great! We need that!

  4. DrGeorge

    January 17, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    I concur with Matt Loede’s areas of need, with this caveat – this year, you could list any position, and you would be right. The Steelers need help at every position. But the needs on Defense are paramount. Here’s why. Our offensive needs at O-line, RB, and QB are not pressing and can be addressed through free agency. But our defensive personnel are obsolete, better suited to an era that no longer exists. We should use every draft pick to improve the D. The long rationale that follows also explains the apparent anomaly of why the worst defensive teams are in the playoffs this year. Our needs and that anomaly go together.

    The New England Patriots provide the model D for the pass-happy rules of today’s NFL: huge, strong linemen able to stop the run and pressure the QB, four light LBs who can play tight ends and RBs man to man, and CBs and Safeties who can run with WRs man to man. The prevailing emphasis for these positions is speed. Now, consider the Steelers. Our D-line, except for Keisel and possibly Heyward, fails the test; among our LBs, only Timmons is fast enough to cover TEs and RBs, and even he can’t cover Gronkowski; in our secondary, both CBs and both Safeties are a step slower than the Pat’s.

    The new NFL rules took the intimidation out of secondary play (don’t hit too hard, don’t hit the helmet) and took the foot out of “football” (it’s so easy to throw the ball, why run, except to keep the defense honest?). The spread offense works only because the D can no longer impede receivers down field. Even Mel Blount and Dick LeBeau in their prime couldn’t stop WRs under these rules. The NFL wants teams to score, often. Scoring boosts TV ratings. It’s all about money. So, the NFL no longer plays real football; it plays basketball on grass. And it’s no accident that more and more basketball players are showing up in the NFL at the TE position – good speed, great hands, an ability to jump, and very little heavy contact. Or that track stars, who would have been crushed under the old rules, are now stars at WR. Get the picture? Purists like me hate the new rules. But it is, what it is.

    This explains the anomaly I mentioned above – why the teams with the worst defenses, statistically, are in the playoffs. The Pats, Giants, G. Bay, and 49ers have already made the transition to lighter, swifter defensive players. The Ravens have not made a complete transition to speed because of the Steelers ‘old school’ emphasis on the run. The modern umbrella defenses, built for speed, give up a lot of yards via short passes and the run between the 20s, but play deep to prevent easy scores. In the red zone, they depend on gang tackling to stop the run and on speed in a more compressed space to stop the pass. Their stats look awful, but they do not give up many points. Thus, the anomaly. Our measures of defensive efficiency have not caught up with the new rules, either.

    The Steelers offense has adapted to the new rules. But not our defense. To flourish under the new rules, the Steelers D must be rebuilt to emphasize speed and pass defense. Which means, some of our stars on D are now dinosaurs: Farrior and Hampton for two; Polamalu and Clark for two more. They are great athletes with the wrong skills sets for the current rules. Even Woodley and Harrison may not be fast enough.

    Conversely, on offense, the Steelers should rebuild to emphasize the run and short passing game. Why? Because the lighter defenses give away the short pass and can’t stop a consistent ground attack, especially in the red zone. The running game wears them down, if used consistently. All of the playoff teams have proved that. Traditional Steelers football is the perfect antidote to the umbrella defense. And the Steelers won’t use it. Although the Steelers have adequate personnel on offense, Arians and Ben R. play into the strength of the light, umbrella defenses by continuing to go for the big pass play. The aerial circus doesn’t work well against them. Arians’ offensive scheme generates huge statistics, lots of interceptions, many sacks, but few points. And it gets really ugly when Ben R. is not able to distort opposing defenses by scrambling. In this regard, he is very much like Tebow. On offense, we don’t need new players. We need better discipline at QB, better blocking schemes on the O-line, and a new OC.

    The NFL began tinkering with the rules back in the late 1970s, specifically to penalize the Steelers dynasty for the sake of competitive balance. It took the Steelers 10 years to adapt to those rule changes while Jack Lambert (quite rightly) fumed. Let’s hope we make the transition quicker this time.

    So, will the Steelers do as I suggest? Probably not. At least not in one year. For “continuity,” they will probably do things piecemeal and gradually. Because the coaching staff is still playing by the old rules. But until the Steelers adapt to the reality of the new NFL rules, the team will continue to be what it is today – a relic that is good, but not good enough.

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