Coming into this year, the Pittsburgh Steelers' overall rating was listed at an 80, but has dropped to a 78. Comparatively that is the same as the Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs, Detroit Lions, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Due to the Steelers' overall performance, it is reasonable to see overall decreases on the roster, but certain defensive players' ratings do raise eyebrows. For everyone who doesn't know, you can still use players listed on the team's injured reserved list, so long as they have not been released. So when you play, be sure to check your roster and put Heath Miller, Maurkice Pouncey and any other veterans you may want in the game.
This post will provide insight into the changes on the roster so far in the 2013 season.
The only two differences in the halfback position are that Jonathan Dwyer's overall rating has dropped from 76 to 74 and Felix Jones is available. Jones serves as a stronger version of what LaRod Stephens-Howling brought to the table in the early weeks as a speed back. Stephens-Howling is slightly faster and has better hands, but Jones' strength, carry and trucking ratings make him a more viable speed back when running the ball. Le'Veon Bell is still a good talent to have at halfback during normal down and distance plays due to his combination of agility, speed and power.
EA Sports doesn't care that Derek Moye caught a nice fade pattern last week, he's still a 62 rating and will need to make more plays before he becomes a good option in the passing game. Until he does, keep Plaxico Burress in your lineup for height advantages, while mixing in Jerricho Cotchery and Wheaton for possession/speed advantages.
EA Sports did take good notes on the deficiencies of Mike Adams. He's dropped from a 76 overall rating to a 71, making him the worst starter on the offensive line. Once you put Pouncey back into the starting lineup (Kelvin Beachum currently is listed as a starter over Fernando Velascoe) you'll see that there are no viable replacements for Adams. I tried putting Pouncey at tackle, where he was given a rating of 80, and allowed Velascoe to play center with a rating of 79. From what I saw, it wasn't a good decision. Pouncey's 88 rating at the center position allows for better run blocking in the middle of the field. Running the ball is still no easy task with the Steelers against opponents who know what they are doing. The only plausible change here should be to replace Guy Whimper as a back up right tackle with Velascoe, there's a five point rating difference favoring the former Tennessee Titan.
Hooray for our first rating boost in Steve McLendon! The defensive tackle was definitely noticed in the first two weeks of the season and boosted from a 78 to an 81. In time that could improve even more. Ziggy Hood also improved from a 77 to a 78 making a more viable backup to that of Cameron Heyward. Heyward is still the better option because his block shedding, power moves and hitting power ratings make him better to stop the run. However Hood becomes a little better of a backup to every position on the line. Brett Keisel saw a one point drop, not sure why, but he's still effective at sacking the quarterback.
Lawrence Timmons dropped from a 91 to a 90. Not sure why, but he's still a great weapon in flowing from tackle to tackle, stopping edge run plays. He's also lethal in pass coverage with a hitting power rating of 88 to cause fumbles and incomplete passes. That with his 85 speed making him a very solid person to have. I would suggest putting Larry Foote back in at middle linebacker, unless you want to be hamstrung by having to manually control Kion Wilson, Terrence Garvin or Vince Williams on most plays. They are faster options, but Foote still reads plays well when not being controlled to make him effective.
Left Outside Linebacker
LaMarr Woodley saw an increase in his overall rating by one point to put him back to an 88. He's still the best pass rushing option for the Steelers and offers decent coverage when faking blitz defenses. Chris Carter is good for speed when needing to throw in exotic blitzes, but thanks to the depth chart battle of Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones, there is an abundance of players that can be used.
Right Outside Linebacker
So most readers probably want to know how much Jarvis Jones has improved since his solid preseason performance and his big hit on Chris Johnson; brace yourself. He's dropped from his original rating of 76, to a 74. His tackle rating dropped from an 81 to a 78, his pursuit increased from 85 to 87, but his block shedding decreased by a point. Block shedding is very essential to success in Madden because it allows for more run stopping plays. I still use Jones over Worilds (who also decreased from a 78 to a 76) because his hitting power is still five points better and allows for more fumbles. Jones also took an interception back for a score once for me, so he's still my favorite in the game.
The only difference in this group is that William Gay has increased from a 77 to a 79, and that our speed demons of DeMarcus Van Dyke and Justin King are gone. The team only has four cornerbacks listed with Curtis Brown rounding them out at a 69. Don't try putting Shamarko Thomas there either, he's listed at a 62 for the cornerback position.
Troy Polamalu has increased from a 95 to a 96 overall rating, and although Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith is listed as second on the depth chart, Shamarko Thomas is the next best bet with a 71 overall rating. Thomas is faster and has a 90 hit power rating (and man does that make people mad when they don't know who he is!). The only difference is Cromartie-Smith is still a better cover safety because of his hands, he's made a few key interceptions in games for me.
Ryan Clark remains the same, but switch Shamarko Thomas to the backup spot here as well. He's definitely a better option than either Robert Golden or Antwon Blake at this point. Blake has a 95 speed and matches Golden's 65 overall rating, so put Blake in at your 3rd string if it ever gets to that point. He's also the best option at a 5th cornerback spot.
Shayne Graham was on the team for a hot second, but wasn't rated better than Shaun Suisham, who is still listed at an 86. Leave Antonio Brown in at punt returner for ball security, but you might want to switch up kick returners. I like to put in Markus Wheaton because of his 93 speed and 95 acceleration which is better than either Felix Jones or Stephens-Howling. It also comes into play because he's so far down the depth chart for Madden that if he gets injured it won't matter. as much to your offense. Jones and Stephens-Howling can be deadly from out of the backfield on 3rd down, and an injury to either of them could make late game comebacks more difficult if you need them.
That's it for now. I've been tweaking different schemes for the team that I'll put in a later post. The team definitely has some threats that can be frustrating for opponents, but you have to be smart because you don't have an offensive line that can create running plays for you (or a running back for that matter).
If you're looking for holistic schemes to wreck people with, checkout maddenmastermind.com. A membership there is free for now, and they give you tons of easy tips to make your game better. They also sell e-books on which playbooks work the best and how to use them to destroy your opponent. I've been a member for a few weeks and infusing some of their ideas certainly helps. In my Steelers strategy edition you'll probably see some of their tips, but not a complete approach from their playbooks because I still keep my own flavor to things, and it would take away views from their website. They have several respected members of the Madden online community working to develop better Madden tips including iMAV3RIQ, dreamkillas, MrGoldenSports and more.
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