IX - I reserve the right to elaborate on this further, but chances are I'll opt to not piggyback too much more on Football Outsiders work after the recent series of posts I'm still working on about broken tackle rates in 2010. Just in case then, check out this analysis about which defensive players most frequently made plays for their team in the running game that Football Outsiders would qualify as non-successful plays by opposing offenses. In other words, which players not only made tackles, but actually shot a gap or took an awesome angle to the ball and then shut down a play before it had a chance to materialize into something more than just a ho-hum, insignificant play at best.
What do you know, there's James Harrison at No. 3. I don't see Clay Matthews Jr. there. Nor do I see Paul Posluszny or most of the guys who didn't allow many broken tackles last season. Deebo is not only nails shutting down good, but not great, plays, he's also one of the very best at being the root cause of opposing team's offensive struggles and momentum-crippling plays. I think I'm ready to argue with anybody that James Harrison has been the best defensive player in football since 2007. Back to that debate sometime soon.
X - Hopefully we're a few short weeks (at most) from getting the opportunity to learn something of substance about the Steelers' crop of 2011 NFL Draft picks. Once the pads go on in Latrobe (or elsewhere if traditional training camp schedules are cut short or nixed because of this year's circumstances), we'll get a better idea of what kind of prospects Kevin Colbert & Co. targeted in this past April's draft. For now, we're left with hearing what these guys sound like as young men and competitors through radio or print interviews. The National Football Authority caught up with Chris Carter, the Steelers' fifth round selection out of Fresno State, for an interview recently that fans might enjoy.
XIII - Former defensive backs coach Ray Horton, who was named the Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator this past February, has been trying to earn his pilot license while the lockout drags on. Apparently Horton got his first real exposure to handling adversity in the cockpit recently.
XIV - Relevant to the Steelers? No, not really. But Mr. Irrelevant is honored back in my second hometown of Newport Beach each year, so I'll share anyway. It's not exactly like winning the lottery, but the dude who is picked dead last in the NFL Draft each year is sure as hell one lucky son of a gun compared to the dude who gets picked one pick before him.
XL - Wow, totally by happenstance, let's stay in Newport Beach, or at least the Orange County, CA, area with this crazy story about Eric Naposki, a former NFL linebacker (for a very brief period of time) who's on trial for the murder of a former lover's boyfriend. I wouldn't go so far as to say this kind of stuff validates Ray Lewis' comments about crime spikes in the event of a prolonged lockout, but it certainly is a reminder that the vast, vast majority of the young men who enter the league feeling invincible ultimately wind up feeling desperate and trapped to make things happen for themselves once they realize that greatness on the gridiron ain't going to support their way through life.
XLIII - Sean Kugler belongs on this list, but Steeler Nation shouldn't cry too much about it. Our two primary assistants aren't 'up and coming'. Sure, some might wish Bruce Arians was more on the upward trajectory this past few years. But for whatever faults he may have, the man his in his 60s, coordinated some of the better offenses in franchise history, won a Super Bowl, and helped mold Ben Roethlisberger into not just one of the league's most exciting playmakers, but also one of the NFL's more polished pocket passers in those (unfortunately not so abundant) times when he has time to go through his progressions. As for Dick LeBeau, well, no comment needed. You take your first place votes Mike Zimmer, the highly respected defensive coordinator who registered on the national radar two years ago when he coached the Bengals' defense to unexpectedly solid results in the immediate wake of his wife's tragic death. Great man, competent coordinator. Thankfully for him though, 'up and coming' lists don't include the Hall of Famer coordinating the Steelers defense. Let's just hope Keith Butler.