Saturday, September 10, 2011

2011 Steelers Preview: Defense

Defensive End
Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood, Cameron Heyward

Defensive ends in a 3-4 scheme might be the most over-looked of any starters on the field, but they're really the guys that make things happen. They don't rack up a ton of sacks or tackles, but they fill the gaps and turn outside plays back inside for the linebackers to clean up. This might be the best set of defensive ends the Steelers have had in a long time. With two first round picks in the fold, the future of the position is set, but the vets are still perfectly capable of playing at a high level.

Nose Tackle
Casey Hampton, Chris Hoke, Steve McLendon

Casey Hampton is nearing the end of his career and Chris Hoke is over 30, so McLendon is really the only young depth here. Hampton is a plug in the middle while Hoke brings a bit of a change of pace with quick upfield moves. McLendon is a mix of both and played well after being called up from the practice squad last year.

Outside Linebacker
James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Jason Worlids, Chris Carter

Harrison and Woodley became the first two Steelers to ever record 10+ sacks in 3 consecutive seasons. Harrison is coming off back surgery and Woodley just inked a new deal. Second year player Jason Worlids is still developing and rookie Chris Carter will probably only see the field on Special Teams (if at all) this season.

Inside Linebacker
James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons, Larry Foote, Stevenson Sylvester

Potsie has been a consummate force during his time with the Steelers and he's still the leader of the defense. Lawrence Timmons is primed to have a monster year after finishing in the top 10 in the league in tackles last season. Timmons has the best closing speed on the team outside of the guy who wears 43. Larry Foote hasn't seen the field much in his second tour of duty with the team, but he is being groomed as the replacement for Farrior. Sylvester is a young talent that brings the boom on special teams.

Ike Taylor, Bryant McFadden, William Gay, Keenan Lewis, Curtis Brown, Cortez Allen

Ike Taylor got a new contract then broke a finger in the preseason, but that won't hinder his game much. He's been the most consistent corner we've had since DeShea Townsend saw steady playing time. McFadden has been good when healthy, but he has a lower body injury that might keep him out early in the season. William Gay has been feast or famine, and Keenan Lewis still has a lot to prove. Rookies Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen have the raw talent to be great players in the future, but a lack of offseason training activities hurt their early development.

Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Ryan Mundy, Will Allen

As long as Troy is healthy, he's a contender for Defensive Player of the Year. Ryan Clark has gotten a lot better about looking for the ball instead of the big hit, and his interception numbers have started to creep up. Mundy was the defensive MVP of the preseason, he was all over the field. Will Allen is a solid special teams player.

Daniel Sepulveda

Sepulveda won what turned into a surprising camp battle to be the Steelers punter. Everyone pretty much figured Sepulveda had the job, but Kapinos had a great camp and pushed Sepulveda for the job.

Long Snapper
Greg Warren

No one thinks much about long snappers until you realize how valuable they are. Think about how many bad snaps on field goals, extra points, etc you've seen from teams like Cincinnati and Dallas. Then think about how few you've seen from Pittsburgh. That tells you everything you need to know about Greg Warren.

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