As I explained in Part I, I decided to go back and review the Steelers/Lions games from the standpoint of a scout, since the Steelers are clearly setting up their game plan with the idea of winning it as a very secondary concern. So let’s look at some of the guys on the bubble in the defensive front.
The first question is, who was getting the playing time, and where? I would go through and figure it out myself except that there’s no need to duplicate the fine work done by Dave Bryan at Steelers Depot. The big questions are, 1. Who starts at nose tackle in the 3-4 alignment, 2. Who backs up Tuitt and Heyward, and 3. Who plays in the sub-packages?
To see the earlier posts in this series, click the links: 1.Veteranosity vs. Youth, 2. Quarterback, 3. Defensive Tackle, 4. Tight Ends, 5. Inside Linebackers, and 6. Running Backs and Offensive Line
The battle for the outside linebacker slots is an odd one. The odd part (or depressing, depending on how you view life) is that the Steelers can’t seem to find anyone to beat out a 38-year-old man. That 38 year old would, of course, be James Harrison, and the Steelers have tried everything to replace him. They tried cutting him (actually, they tried that several times at the other end of his career as well.) They tried retiring him, but he was back a few weeks after a touching ceremony with tears all around. They tried sending his BFF, former defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, off into the sunset. (They haven’t been real successful with this move lately, as the offensive coordinator they sent into the old folks home is a highly regarded head coach. LeBeau is defensive coordinator for the Titans.) Pretty soon his age is going to match his jersey number.
Of the Steelers’ six picks in the 2016 draft, Feeney is the only player other than 7th round WR DeMarcus Ayers who I didn’t profile prior to the draft, or at least consider profiling. I can tell you this, though—had I seen this photo a few weeks ago he definitely would have been on the short list for Momma’s Mock Draft.
As I know almost nothing about him, we’ll start this journey together.
Not surprisingly, the “Ryan Shazier to safety” crowd have already started moving him around the field, as this episode of Asked and Answered testifies:
Q: I’ve noticed with the drafting of Travis Feeney, all the talk is about special teams and pass rush. Given that he has good speed and size and converted from safety to linebacker in college, how come there is no mention of using him as a possible dime back in sub-package? He could be used in the manner some teams are going, like the Cardinals do with Deone Bucannon.
A: Excellent. No sense waiting until these rookies even walk into the locker room at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex for the first time before switching their positions.
In case you can’t tell, Bob Labriola absolutely HATES “why don’t the Steelers move Player X to Position Y” questions. It’s a good thing the questioner didn’t know that Feeney was picked by the Oakland A’s in the 2011 MLB draft (but declined to sign) because then he could have really gotten creative. Read more