Scouting for Steelers: Let the Shouting Begin

Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Tonight is the big night. The season begins, and the hopes and/or fears of Steeler Nation will be presented with some actual evidence.I can’t help but think of last summer, when the defense looked so appalling during the preseason that some had written the Steelers off before an actual down had been played. (You know who you are. I heard some of you call in to sports radio, declaring that if the offense didn’t score 50 points a game the Steelers would lose every one of them.

This season is also full of dire predictions for particularly the secondary. And okay, maybe it will be awful. But last year’s “awful” secondary (and it was admittedly pretty bad at times) took the ball away a few times. And don’t forget that William Gay holds an NFL record for five straight interceptions being returned for touchdowns.

But maybe one thing we should consider is that coaches, particularly established coaches whose jobs aren’t on the line, aren’t too interested in impressing their fan base (or anyone, apparently) during the preseason. It was all business. It was also pretty bland.

As none other that Bill Belichick, a coach whose tenure is possibly even more secure than Mike Tomlin’s, said a few weeks ago, when asked about the third preseason game being a “dress rehearsal”:

I don’t know what that means. In terms of playing time it might be a little different, but in terms of game-planning and strategy, what we see in the regular season compared to what we see the in third preseason game I don’t even think you’re in the same universe.

We’re still running our basic plays and we’d expect our opponents would run their basic plays. You get to the opener and start to get to game-planning and scheme, I mean you’re in a totally different ballpark, in my opinion. I don’t see any comparison at all. It’s too far away, I don’t see how you could compare them, from that standpoint.

So what are we likely to see tonight? Lord only knows. The depth at wide receiver is less deep than we thought, since Markus Wheaton is out. We already know the TE situation is not exactly ideal. Frankly, I’m guessing if you had Martavis Bryant it wouldn’t matter in the least, but it would be nice to have someone who is a bit more of a receiving threat than either Jesse James or David Johnson. Note that I’m saying this on the assumption that one or both guys will go out and have a huge game.

And speaking of what you might call mojo-related issues, after much thought and consideration I have repaired Stonn the Invincible and put him back into his accustomed place. (The linked article explains who Stonn is and what is his role. To read about the tragic accident [or possible murder/suicide] click here.

It was my youngest son who felt this was the correct path. I will have my niece, currently residing in the Rollett Home for Wayward Musicians (and Relatives) come get him and smash him if the Steelers are performing poorly. You do what you have to.

But back to the Steelers. As noted earlier, most of the angst in Steeler Nation focuses on the defense, particularly the secondary. But I do feel a bit of patience is merited. Although the group may seem awfully young and untested, I think this perception is incorrect. William Gay is one of the most veteran players on the team now, and although he’s not likely to end up in the conversation with Josh Norman and Richard Sherman, he also was, if I recall correctly, the only corner in the NFL to not give up a touchdown last season. Chris Harris, the Broncos corner who didn’t give up a touchdown for the entire 2014 season, didn’t give up one in 2015 either, until he gave up two of them to Antonio Brown.

On the other side you have Ross Cockrell, who wasn’t signed until after the Bills cut him at the end of August last season. Obviously Cockrell had to learn the scheme and so on, and by the end of the season he was the top-ranked PIT corner. I expect him to be even better.

Mike Mitchell was considerably better last season after he got his torn groin muscles repaired. He had been playing with them in a not-very-comfortable state all of 2014, and that has a bit of a dampening effect on one’s game. I expect him to look a lot like the guy we all thought the Steelers were signing two years ago. And whether you think Robert Golden belongs in a starting situation, he certainly is a veteran of the scheme. Long-time back-ups/special teamers do sometimes make these leaps, and there’s a decent chance Golden is one of those. (We have another in Arthur Moats, who is playing amazingly well.)

While the Steelers didn’t exactly draft Sean Davis to be the slot corner, he seems to be doing quite a reasonable job of it. And then there are the wild cards, Artie Burns and Justin Gilbert. A significant contribution from either would definitely be the icing on the cake.

Assuming Javon Hargrave and Cam Heyward play, I think we will see an even more exciting front seven. If the offense will just do them a big favor and not keep them on the field too long, I expect great things there.

But I can expect whatever I like. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and there is a feast spread before us tonight which I hope will not induce too much indigestion. So get out the Terrible Towels, and Go Steelers!

 

 

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