Here's Part 2 of BTSC's Q&A with the Jets Fan blog in preparation for the Steelers and Jets Week 15 matchup at Heinz Field on Sunday afternoon. You can read Part 1 here if you missed it. As always, jump on in with your own opinions and insights on these questions. I was just rattling off what came to my mind this afternoon. As you'll see though, a few of the questions are worthy of their own book, or at minimum book chapters. So needless to say, I didn't get to every last point worth making.
To the questions....
1) The Rooney family has been one of the most successful owners in the league. Why are they so successful running this team?
BTSC:) Wow, a whole book could be written on this subject, so I'm not sure how to give them justice in a few short sentences. But basically, the Rooneys stewardship over the Steelers has been so successful for two primary reasons. The first is no surprise to any football fan: continuity and stability at the top. The Steelers have had just three coaches since 1969. Yes, the Steelers have been widly successful during the tenures of Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin, but there have been road bumps along the way. The Rooneys have never panicked, and instead have trusted that they had the right man for the job.
The second reason is probably less known by non-Steelers fans: the commitment to scouting. In fact, the Rooneys were behind the creation of the first college scouting combine in the early 1960s. It was called BLESTO, and I encourage you to read a bit more about it here. Nowadays, every NFL team is committed to scouting, but there's still a huge disparity in the allocation of financial and human resources amongst the 32 teams. For example, the Cincinnati Bengals are notoriously cheap when it comes to scouting. Not surprisingly, they've floundered for much of Mike Brown's reign over the team. The Rooneys meanwhile continue to invest heavily in scouting, and it shows. The roster is chock full of draft picks, inexpensive complimentary free agent acquisitions, and even undrafted free agents that everybody else had passed on.
Again, I feel a bit sheepish limiting my response about the Rooneys to just a few sentences. They are football royalty and deserving of every last accolade and recognition they receive.
2) Dick LeBeau draws up some of the best defensive schemes in the NFL. Why are his schemes so effective?
BTSC: Well, first of all, he has good players. I think Coach LeBeau would say that up front if asked the same question. Beyond that though, LeBeau's schemes have been so effective because they create confusion with the right combination of intense pressure and intelligent coverage packages. Unless you have one of the game's elite quarterbacks that can consistently make quick-hitting throws into tight windows (Brady, Brees, Manning), you're going to have a hard time consistently marching down the field. Because of the intense pressure, rarely do the Steelers get beaten for long plays deep. It's also next to impossible to run the ball against LeBeau's defense, which of course makes life infinitely more difficult for opposing teams. This too is a question that deserves far more time than I have here, but to conclude, it's worth noting that the man is 73 years old and has been in the NFL for over 51 years as either a player or a coach. That's mind boggling really. He's been in the league for longer than the vast majority of offensive coordinators he's squaring off against. Translation: he's seen it all, and has the richest data bank of information out there guiding his decision making.
3) Ben Roethlisberger had a tumultuous offseason with allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against him. Now that a few months have gone by, how do Steelers fans feel about him?
BTSC: I can't speak for everybody, but generally speaking, fans have moved on. Or said differently, I don't think there's too many that think about Ben the person while watching him compete valiantly for the black and gold. Look, even if this incident hadn't occurred, not too many in Steeler Nation would claim that Big Ben is everything they might hope for in a franchise quarterback and star player. He rarely talked to the media, did things like skip out on bar tabs (not cool), and didn't do much in the community (at least in relation to his celebrity and outrageous wealth, or compared to a guy like Hines Ward). He's a bit of a standoffish jock, the type of guy we all knew growing up that thought he was Billy Bad Ass growing up because of his athletic ability, his parents' money, whatever. All that's fine though so long as he's not letting us down in a huge way, like say, by sexually assaulting anyone. There were of course no charges pressed against Roethlisberger, so it's not really fair to label him a monster without really knowing what exactly happened. For me at least, it's pretty simple. One, don't screw up again. You're out of chances. Two, a different set of rules apply to you because of your talents on the football field. So take your craft more seriously moving forward. And three, regardless of what happens in the future, you'll never quite be revered in the same way as say, Hines Ward or Troy Polamalu.
4) The Steelers' defense ranks near the top of the league in most statistical categories. They seem almost impenetrable. Which teams have been successful against them and what did those teams do that was different from everyone else?
BTSC: Well, the only team that's really carved up the Steelers was the Patriots. I don't even want to think about that one again, but Tom Brady & Co. were perfect and the Steelers were a bit flat. Not a good combination. Outside of that game though, the Steelers haven't allowed more than 329 total yards in any one game, and that came in a 19-16 win in overtime over the Buffalo Bills. The Steelers have surrendered some disconcerting chunks of yardage through the air late in games, but it's hard to be too upset or critical of allowing yards and points in garbage time when the game has essentially been decided. The Cleveland Browns game, and the first Cincinnati Bengals games are examples of how the pass defense softened up after a big lead had been built. The Steelers haven't allowed anyone to run the ball, so the only way teams have found some success is with a great day in pass protection and an accurate array of short to intermediate throws from the quarterback. We'll see if the Jets can protect Sanchez. If not, will he stay calm, find his check-down options and hot reads quickly, and avoid taking costly sacks and/or fumbles.
5) Troy Polamalu is one of the most dynamic playmakers in the game. What does he do that makes him such a standout performer?
BTSC: A little bit of everything. Awesome in the running game, world class ball skills in the passing game. Throw in some uncoachable instincts and a commitment to perfection and you have No. 43. Fortunately for you guys, it looks like Polamalu will be out on Sunday, and perhaps even for the Steelers' final two regular season games as well.
Thanks to the guys over at Jets Fan for reaching out this week. Back at you soon with my Week 15 picks and thoughts about the playoff picture in both conferences heading into the final three weeks of the 2010 regular season.