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Roster Breakdown Part 1: Linebacking Corps

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Throughout the remaining 2 1/2 months leading up to the season, Behind the Steel Curtain will break down the Steelers' roster by position.  Let's start with the Linebackers.

Larry Foote
Height: 6-0
Weight: 239 lbs.
Age: 26
Pos: LB
Experience: 5 years
College: Michigan
Drafted: Year:2002 Round:4 Pick:30, Steelers

By today's standards, Larry Foote is somewhat undersized. As ridiculous as that is, it nevertheless forces Foote to use his athleticism and speed to avoid blockers.  He's not going to search for someone to take on; instead, Foote's more likely to use his natural instincts to get through blockers and make plays on the perimeter.  Foote's also an above-average LB in pass coverage.  

It was a breakout year of sorts for Foote in 2005, punctuated of course, with a Super Bowl victory in his hometown of Detroit. Foote made tons of tackles for Pittsburgh in 2005, 101 in all, 76 of which were solo. I expect similar productivity out of him this year, especially if he can remain as healthy as he has been for the past two years.

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Joey Porter
Height: 6-3
Weight: 250 lbs.
Age: 29
Pos: LB
Experience: 8 years
College: Colorado State

Prior to last year's playoff run, Joey Porter was better known for his mouth than his play.  During that stretch however, Porter backed up all the talking he does on the field with several big games.  He accumulated 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and found a way to harass Plummer, Manning, and Hasselback relentlessly throughout the playoffs.

Porter is not afraid to take on blockers--this creates opportunities for his teammates to finish off plays.  Porter only registered 57 tackles last year, but that stat doesn't tell the whole story of his productivity on the field.  Porter is also a great pass-rusher and an adequate option in zone pass defense.   The knock on Porter is that he often times is undisciplined.  He frequently will get out of position trying to make a big play.

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James Farrior

Height: 6-2
Weight: 243 lbs.
 Age: 31
Pos: LB
Experience: 10 years
College: Virginia

Farrior racked up 121 total tackles in 2005, despite missing two consecutive divisional games against Baltimore and Cleveland in weeks 10 and 11.  To put that in perspective, Brian Urlacher missed only one game, yet had only one more tackle than Farrior (122).

Farrior also came up biggest when it mattered the most--against the feared Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs.  Farrior had 2.5 sacks in the contest, along with 10 tackles, 8 of which were unassisted.  Farrior was a huge reason why Manning had trouble getting into a rhythm, especially in the first half.  

Somehow Farrior seemed to play with even more speed, acceleration, and tenacity, despite it being his 10th NFL season.  Other LBs entering their second decade of service have had a harder time staying healthy...see thugtastic Ray Lewis.  Farrior takes great angles to the ball, avoids blockers well, and has the motor to make plays on the perimeter.  

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Clark Haggans

Height: 6-4
Weight: 243 lbs.
Age: 29
Pos: LB
Experience: 7 years
College: Colorado State

Haggans lacks the speed and instincts (he was a DE in college) to be effective in pass coverage, but is a solid support piece to the Steelers' run defense.  He had a monster game against New England in a week 3 loss, making 12 tackles, sacking Brady once, and forcing two fumbles.  

Haggans is great against the run, and anticipates snap counts well.  This allows him to get to the QB in the pass rush, even though he doesn't have incredible speed.  Haggans accumulated 9 sacks last season, a career best.

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James Harrison

Height: 6-0
Weight: 242 lbs.
Age: 28
Pos: LB
Experience: 3 years
College: Kent State

Harrison improved in his second year under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.  Harrison went undrafted out of Kent State, but made his way onto the Steelers roster in 2004.  No surprise, the Steelers have a long history of scouting talent that other teams weren't interested in.  

Because he was overlooked, Harrison plays with a noticeable chip on his shoulder.  He's a big hitter and always around the ball when on the field.  Harrison is also a solid contributor on special teams.  Harrison's 25 yard INT return of Drew Brees in week 5 was instrumental in the Steelers victory.  As it turns out, that game was enormous, as the Steelers and the Chargers were battling for the final wild-card berths late in the season.  

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Reserves: Clint Kriewaldt, Arnold Harrison, Andre Frazier.

Kriewaldt, in particular, has proven himself to an effective substitue.  Against the Ravens in week 11, Kriewaldt recorded 8 tackles, and filled in adequately for the ailing James Farrior.

I was going to rank each player individually, as well as assign a grade to the unit collectively, but I thought I'd open it to the readers first. How would you asses the Steelers LBs?

--MB--