Friday, September 7, 2012

2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense Preview

The 2012 season is upon us and we are wrapping up our previews with a look at what to expect from your Pittsburgh Steelers. There has been quite a bit of roster turnover from last season. On offense, there are 5 men in the starting lineup that are different than the starters that took the field last year in Baltimore. On defense, there will be anywhere between 3 and 6 new starters, depending on how injuries play out. Today, we're going to take a look at the Steelers defense.

Defensive End

Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood, Cameron Heyward, Al Woods

Aaron Smith was a fixture at the defensive end position for the last decade, but had suffered significant season-ending injuries the last few seasons and made the decision to hang it up this offseason. Brett Keisel has stepped up not only as a leader of this unit, but was named one of the captains of the defense. Ziggy Hood had a tremendous offseason and looks like the player he was billed to be when we took him in the first round. Cam Heyward, another first round pick, enters his second year after having a very good rookie season. Al Woods beat out Corbin Bryant for the last defensive end spot.

Nose Tackle

Steve McLendon, Casey Hampton, Alameda Ta'amu

McLendon was almost an after-thought entering last season when he was one of the last players to make the team. Now, with Casey Hampton coming off an ACL injury, McLendon is the presumed starter in Denver. Don't be dismayed though, he has looked fantastic in the preseason and had a really good training camp. Ta'amu is basically a red shirt this year as he probably won't dress much but will get time to learn the defense. He is a mammoth of a man, but just has to learn how to harness that size and strength like Hampton has.

Outside Linebackers

James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Jason Worlids, Chris Carter, Adrian Robinson

Neither Harrison or Worlids played in the preseason, spending the whole time on the PUP list. Both were reactivated from the PUP, but Harrison is still a bit of a question mark entering the season. Worlids had a wrist injury, so the concern for him would be disengaging from blockers, whereas Harrison had a knee injury that was still swelling as of a few weeks ago when he had surgery again. LaMarr Woodley is taking the reigns as the dominant pass rusher of the group and was on his way to competing for Defensive Player of the Year before a hamstring injury caused him to miss most of the second half of last season. Chris Carter was a 5th round pick last year but has looked very good in preseason. Carter is a good pass rusher and is quick off the ball, but his run defense still needs some work. Adrian Robinson, an undrafted Free Agent out of Temple, is another guy that has a load of upside and showed some really nice pass rushing moves in the preseason.

Inside Linebackers

Lawrence Timmons, Larry Foote, Stevenson Sylvester, Brandon Johnson, Sean Spence (IR)

After a fantastic 2010 season, Lawrence Timmons seemed poised to take over in 2011 but a slew of linebacker injuries forced the Steelers to move Timmons between inside and outside linebacker, which hurt his numbers and his production. Defensive captain James Farrior retired this offseason and Larry Foote steps in as the starter. Stevenson Sylvester enters the season injured and will miss a few games. Brandon Johnson was a free agent signing who most recently played with the Bengals. He will likely be the top backup in the unit while Sylvester is out. Johnson had a pretty good preseason playing both inside and outside linebacker. Rookie Sean Spence looked fantastic in the preseason but suffered a gruesome knee injury in the finale against Carolina that put him out for the year.


Ike Taylor, Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown

Possibly the most talked about group on the roster, the departure of William Gay opened the door for competition for the starting spot opposite Ike Taylor. Keenan Lewis entered camp as the starter and did just enough (for now) to hold off Cortez Allen to be the starter entering the season. Allen had a fantastic preseason and is delivering on the potential that got the Steelers to invest a 4th round pick in him last year. Curtis Brown, last year's 3rd round pick, bounced back after a brutal game against Philadelphia and actually played really well over the last three weeks. Brown led the team in special teams tackles last year and has a knack for finding the ball.


Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Ryan Mundy, Will Allen, Robert Golden

With the first game of the season in Denver, Ryan Clark will be sitting out which means Troy Polamalu and Ryan Mundy will be the starters. The defense obviously needs Troy on the field to be successful, and if he can return to his 2010 form when he won the Defensive Player of the Year award, this will be a deadly group once again. Mundy is a solid backup and Will Allen is a special teams ace. Ryan Clark had the best year of his career last year, and should be chomping at the bit to go come Week 2 against the Jets. Robert Golden is an undrafted Rookie out of Arizona who had a very good preseason, making some significant plays including an interception against Buffalo.


Drew Butler

The Steelers decided to part ways with oft-injured punter Daniel Sepulveda and Jeremy Kapinos, who had replaced Sepulveda the last few seasons, was also injured entering camp. This left the door open for Drew Butler, a rookie out of Georgia, to win the job. Butler did a good job in camp and preseason. Hey, he can't be worse than Mitch Berger, and we won a Super Bowl with Berger as our punter.

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