The Following is a 'round-table' hosted by Kyle over at PostGameHeroes. In addition to my answers, you can enjoy some Steelers opinions from the famous Pittsburgh blog Mondesi's House, as well as Kyle's answers to his own questions. This is copied and pasted directly from the fine PGH site (his formatting, not mine!). Thanks to Kyle for the invite. Enjoy. - Blitz-
With 5 games under our belts and loads to talk about, I figured it was as good a time as any to bring aboard some of the most well-known names in the Steeler blogging community. Today PGH is proud to introduce Blitzburgh from BehindTheSteelCurtain (arguably the most popular Steeler blog out there) and Don from Mondesi’s House (easily the most popular Pittsburgh blog on the internet). Enough of that….Let’s get it on.
1. What is Mewelde Moore’s role when Parker returns? After watching
what Moore has done, will RBs catching passes become a bigger part of
our offensive attack?
Mondesis House: Moore has already earned an increased presence in the offense. Which means he’ll be another running back of which fans can say, "He’s good, but he’s no Jerome Bettis."
BehindTheSteelCurtain: Hopefully we’ll see him mixed in on 1st and 2nd downs in addition to whatever contributions he’ll likely be asked to provide on 3rd down. I think it’s fairly obvious that we have a hard time establishing the run at will against the league’s better defenses, so my hope is that we see him sprinkled in on some non-obvious running situations, as well as with some draw plays on 3rd-3-6 yard situations.
PostGameHeroes: As I brought up a few weeks ago in this entry getting Parker the ball more, the RBs on this team (in this offense) have been neglected. The Steelers are just about always last in the NFL when it comes to getting their RBs catches out of the backfield. I can’t explain it. Mewelde Moore has shown Steeler Nation and hopefully the coaching staff what a huge weapon it is to have a RB get the ball in his hands in space. Getting Moore the rock in the flat has been one of our best offensive plays over the past 2 weeks. If teams are going to blitz Big Ben to death, then lob a few dinks and dunks to Parker or Moore and see how quickly they stop rushing the passer. Moore was brought in to return punts/kicks and also came with a rep for being a GREAT receiver out of the backfield. Use him. Nothing bad can come from getting a guy with 4.2 or 4.3 speed in space against slower LBs. Do it more often and get Moore on the field on every 3rd down. Heck, getting Moore and Parker in the game at the same time would make for a neat sub package.
2. Who poses the biggest threat to the Steelers winning the AFC?
Mondesis House: Themselves, because as long as they can keep Ben Roethlisberger upright they should be the favorites to win the conference. If they can stay healthy and focused they should go far. Unfortunately, those are not givens by any measure.
BehindTheSteelCurtain: Indianapolis. No question about it, though I do think we may actually match-up fairly well against them. Nevertheless, Peyton Manning has his training camp and preseason work behind him now that the first four-five games of the season are in the books (he did, remember, not take one snap this preseason in camp or in a game). Now that he’s got things fine-tuned, as evidenced by their dusting of Baltimore’s supposedly vaunted defense. Everyone else in the AFC seems to be fairly schizophrenic, though I suppose we’ll get a first-hand taste of how legit Tennessee is later in the year.
PostGameHeroes: Two solid answers above. I think you could easily make the case that the Steelers are the most talented team in the AFC on both sides of the ball and if they can remain healthy, should have no problems dealing with teams like the Broncos, Colts, Jaguars, Bills, Jets, and Chargers. I think RIGHT NOW the only matchup that would give me some concern is a game vs the Broncos. They have a good running game, great coaching, solid QB, top tier WR, above average TE, and a defense that really shouldn’t be as bad as it is. Don’t get me wrong….I think the Steelers would beat the Broncos, and would torch their Defense, but right now they’re one team that might match up with us on at least one side of the ball. The Colts are an enigma. There is a lot to be said for "the Steelers being their own biggest threat". If Arians and Tomlin can’t change on the fly, make adjustments, and put their offense in a position to put up points and beat the blitz, we might have some issues going forward.
3. Is the McFadden vs Townsend debate over?
Mondesis House: It was over two years ago in my mind, but unfortunately I do not make the starting lineups. But I finally believe Coach Tomlin has seen the light and will give #20 the playing time he has patiently waited for.
BehindTheSteelCurtain: Yeah that debate’s long over. The real debate is whether or not we’re going to re-sign B-Mac this offseason. I asked Jim Wexell this question in a recent interview. (http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2008/10/13/634309/jim-wexell-answers-some-bt)
PostGameHeroes: Agree with both of you guys. Townsend is a solid nickel/dime back who can come in and help on passing downs but how in the world can you keep McFadden off the field when he’s playing this well? You can’t. Townsend is a little bit like Chad Scott and Willie Williams….guys who have started LONG past their primes. McFadden should have been starting 1 or 2 years ago, and now that he finally is given a chance to start, he has wrestled the job away from Deshea. We’ll need both of these guys going forward and teams will once again realize that under no circumstances can you EVER run the ball against the Steelers. At some point we’ll start to see teams spread us out, go with 4 WR, go no-huddle, and pass-pass-pass. We’ll need all the CB depth we can get our hands on before the season is through. Having 3 CBs capable of starting is a great problem to have. And oh yeah, B-Mac better get resigned. Good corners don’t grow on trees. (neither do good LGs of Samoan decent, but I digress)
4. Are you happy with Lawrence Timmons’ role on this team? Is he being put in a position where he can/will succeed?
Mondesis House: It’s kind of a tough spot, because the defense has performed so well that it’s hard to nitpick. Sure, I would like to see him on the field more, but having too many good linebackers is a good problem to have. He’ll eventually get his chance to shine.
BehindTheSteelCurtain: Yeah I’m pleased. He’s part of the reason we’re succeeding on special teams, which seems insignificant and secondary for a 1st round pick, but it’s part of the reason we’ve been successful thus far in 2008 despite being so up and down on offense. As for his role on defense, I think he’ll become increasingly important as the season goes on. If guys like Farrior and Foote slow down a half-step in December, there will be Timmons fresh and ready to go. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet this year, and I personally do not question one iota of what Dick LeBeau is doing with this year’s defense. I think it’s the best Steelers D we’ve seen in many, many years.
PostGameHeroes: Coming out of FSU I thought Timmons was a pass-rushing specialist, who was going to line up and kill the QB on each snap like Greg Lloyd or Kevin Greene. As it turns out, he’s a much more complete football player than I ever gave him credit for. When he is asked to blitz, he is one of the best pass rushers on the team, that’s a fact. When he is asked to sift through the traffic and find the ballcarrier at MLB, he’s not quite as adept yet. When dropping into zone coverage or when locked up against a TE or WR in the flat or seam, he’s fantastic. He’s really a valuable guy to have on the field at all times. Unfortunately we only see him once every few plays, but he can do it all. The Steelers could easily use him in the "Rover" role and move him all over the field….into the secondary, the DE spot, OLB, ILB, wherever. No matter how they use him, he’s going to be an impact player on this defense for years. While we’re on topic, have you noticed that the additions of Woodley, McFadden, Timmons, and a healthy Polamalu have given this defense speed and quickness that we haven’t seen from a Steeler Defense in a long, long time?
5. In a few words….What is the Steelers offensive identity? What
SHOULD it be?
Mondesis House: My answer: Whatever puts them in the best position to win. If it’s the pass setting up the run, so be it. Put the game in Roethlisberger’s hands. Please.
BehindTheSteelCurtain: Disjointed. I could write a dissertation on the subject, so I’ll instead just limit my thoughts to this: I hope this offense finds a way to just do enough to let the defense carry the team to glory. Let’s keep limiting the turnovers, in good times and in bad, let’s continue to make the plays we need to late in games, let’s convert a little better in the red-zone, and let’s hope we continue to get money kicking out of Jeff Reed in the big moments. I don’t think we’ll see much consistency out of the offense this year, so I’m merely hoping for some of those other deliverables.
PostGameHeroes: The Steelers don’t have an offensive identity and it’s the single biggest problem with this team. In fact, some might say the only thing standing between the Steelers and a deep playoff run is their offense. This team is not a power running team. Heck, this team really shouldn’t be a "run-first" offense. Pass to get the lead/score and run to finish the game. That’s what this offense needs to become, that’s what we did in 2005 during our Super Bowl run and that is how this offense was built. On offense you have: Big Ben, Willie Parker, Mewelde Moore, Heath Miller, Hines Ward, Nate Washington, Santonio Holmes, Dallas Baker, Limas Sweed, Matt Spaeth, and others…..and you think we’re a RUNNING TEAM? No way. This team needs to rely on a short-to-intermediate passing game with some deep balls and runs mixed in. If I’m the Offensive Coordinator, passes to the RB in the flat, quick slants, crossing routes, streaks, and screens are all huge parts of my offense. If the Steelers pass more, implement more no-huddle and find a way to get the ball into their playmakers hands, they’ll "hide" their Weak Offensive Line while at the same time utilizing the speed/skill we have at the WR, TE, RB, and QB positions.
6. Do you miss Bill Cowher at all? After 1.5 years what is your take on Tomlin?
Mondesis House: Not really. But he’s got to get out of that CBS role announcing highlights alongside Shannon Sharpe. You’re Bill Cowher, for crying out loud, not Josh Elliott!
BehindTheSteelCurtain: You know, I was thinking about Cowher the other day. I thought that perhaps he was the perfect coach for a young, cocky, talented but green QB like Ben Roethlisberger. There were times when The Chin and The Quivering Jaw and Spittle were the perfect ingredients for Ben’s accelerated maturation process. I also think that Coach Tomlin is the right guy for this stage in Ben’s development. I think Tomlin is a different kind of motivator than Cowher, and that his particular style may help Ben take another couple steps up the QB Pantheon. I don’t think there’s a ceiling on how good Ben can be this next five years and Tomlin, I think, can help bring out that last tiny bit of greatness that is so hard for athletes to reach. We’ll see. Anyway, I miss watching Cowher and his reactions, both angry and celebratory, on the sidelines. That’s about all though.
PostGameHeroes: I don’t miss Cowher at all, but I can’t say I’m in love with Tomlin either. I’m watching this movie…..I was excited walking into the theater…..the trailer and commercials looked good leading up to the movie….but now that I’m 1/2 way through the story, I see some glaring issues with some of the main characters and what direction the movie is headed in. That’s the best way I can describe it. With Dick Lebeau on staff, the Steelers really needed an offensive-minded Head Coach to take over. Tomlin doesn’t tell LeBeau what to do and Dick is in charge of the defense. Tomlin doesn’t know jack squat about offense so he can’t help out a struggling Bruce Arians. We’re in a bit of a pickle until Bruce Arians is gone. We need a true offensive guru to come in here and utilize the weapons we have at our disposal. Tomlin isn’t capable of taking over that aspect of the game or calling plays on gameday. So…..if he is hands-off on offense and hands-off on defense, what in the world does he do all day? I view him as a CEO type that sits back, leads (sort of) and oversees the operation. I’m not impressed with his handling of certain personnel moves, our losing streak late last year, our W-L record on the road, his inability to fix the offense, or the punt/kick return game. He sure seems excited after we win though, doesn’t he? He looks like I do jumping and screaming in the living room after Jeff Reed knocks in a game-winning Field Goal.
7. Give me one or two guys that have exceeded your expectations thus
far and one or two guys who have disappointed you.
Mondesis House: In a good way - Jeff Reed (he just never misses) and Lamarr Woodley (even better than I could have imagined.) In a bad way - Limas Sweed - is he still on the team? I know rookie receivers are usually slow learners, but yeesh…what a wasted year.
BehindTheSteelCurtain: Exceeded expectations = all of the D-Line. Every last one of them really, both the starters, the starters now injured, and each and every reserve. Underperformed: Marvel Smith. He’s been OK, I know. But I was hoping for outstanding, being that it’s a contract year for him. Do we shell out the dough to keep him around? Or do we look elsewhere, despite the paucity of tested options on our roster right now. I suppose I’m a bit miffed why Anthony Smith isn’t finding his way on to the field in certain nickel and dime situations, as well as special teams, more often.
PostGameHeroes: Justin Hartwig has exceeded my expectations. While not a pro-bowler, he has done a fine job anchoring the OL. Sure Big Ben is still getting sacked at times but no longer do you see the pocket collapse from "up the middle" and no longer do we struggle to get any push in short yardage and goal line situations. I’m going to cheat a bit here and say that the other "guy/guys" exceeding my expectations have been the Woodley/Harrison combo at OLB. Every training camp we hear stories about "increased pass rush" and whatnot but these guys are straight up beasts. Animals. I never thought Woodley would be this good against the run and the pass and I was curious to see how Harrison would do this year after his coming-out-party last season. These 2 guys are the most feared Pass Rushing tandem in the NFL right now and we’re extremely lucky to have them.
Thus far I have been a disappointed in Matt Spaeth. Call me crazy, but after watching him in college and seeing a bit of him last year before he got hurt, I thought he had a skill set that was very similar to Heath Miller’s. I had visions of Heath Miller and Heath Miller 2.0 lined up on the field at the same time. 2 versatile guys that were drafted early, can block, get open downfield, catch, and run after the catch. Either Spaeth isn’t quite as good as I thought or Arians isn’t doing a good enough job of integrating him into the offense. Probably a bit of both. You’d have to think defenses would sleep on him and he’d be able to get open. (he had a 2 drops last week, I know). Another guy I’m disappointed with is Carey Davis. I’m not disappointed in his play, I’m just annoyed that he’s still on the team. He brings absolutely nothing to the table and is a waste of a roster spot. Our offense isn’t built around having a traditional FB and he’s not really much of a 3rd down back or a ball-carrying RB…so tell me, what does he bring to the table on game day? Nothing