What happens when you sit four film-room junkies down to have a chat? They talk about football, of course (and maybe throw around a good-natured insult or ten). BTSC is starting a new feature in which our film-room guys have a chat each week.
This week’s panel is Mike Frazer, Nathaniel Bodnar, Nick Martin (you know him as Fear94) and BTSC Managing Editor Jeff Hartman.
Which defense will we see against the Giants -- the one that looked dominant for eight quarters against the Browns and the Colts, or the one that showed up against the Eagles, Dolphins and Cowboys?
Mike: I have to say, I think the defense is going to surprise people going forward. I think we are starting to see a different Artie Burns, and I think Javon Hargrave has taken the next step forward. And Sean Davis looks like a new man since they cut his responsibilities back to almost exclusively safety.
Nathaniel: We will see the dominant defense that was displayed against the Colts and Browns. Yes, both teams have the worst offensive lines, but you can see the players and how their confidence has build up. They are playing better together and communicating better. I feel like this will be a solid defense going forward.
Jeff: Although I want to say the team we've seen the past two weeks, I also realize it will be down the middle. This defense gave up a 19-play drive to Scott Tolzien on Thanksgiving night. There will flashes of both brilliance and idiocy. Let's just hope the brilliance outweighs the stupidity.
Mike: I agree with that assessment, Jeff.
Jeff: Sean Davis being the new strong safety might be the most significant move on the defensive side of the ball this season.
Nathaniel: Mike, like Davis said, he doesn't have to learn two positions, really, anymore. He is solely playing at the safety position and he seems to feel comfortable learning that way.
Mike: I said before the season that this defense was going to be streaky, and we'd see both the best they could be and the worst.
Nick: I believe that will see more of an in-between, leaning more towards the good side. I don't expect them to shutdown Odell Beckham, Jr. along with Sterling Shepard. With that said, though, Bud Dupree is key to getting four-man pressure and I believe Dupree will end up notching two sacks against the Giants, particularly because their tackle, Flowers, isn't the best and I see Dupree being able to win that matchup. They'll give up plays but the edge pressure will force Eli into some mistakes in a high scoring game.
Mike: Okay Jeff, given that and what we have seen from Mike Mithcell and Robert Golden, how do you think the safeties will look in 2017?
Jeff: It all starts and ends with the run defense, in my opinion. If they stop the run, they will be okay. If they give up splash plays on the ground (i.e. - Week 10 vs. Dallas) then it will be a long day.
I think the safeties in 2017 will be Mitchell and Davis. As much as some hate Mitchell, he is exactly what they want in the deep secondary.
Nathaniel: Agreed Jeff. Both assessments. I love what Mitchell and Davis did against the Colts. True Steeler football. Hard hitting and pure dominance. Hope that continues.
Nick: Mitchell and Davis are interchangeable at the safety positions, which isn't something you typically see. Both are athletic freaks who can cover a ton of ground on the back end and both can lay the wood in the box against the run.
Mike: Good assessment, Nick. I think the traditional roles of strong safety versus free safety are going the way of the dinosaur, really.
Nathaniel: Mike you know all about dinosaurs, old man.
Mike: Say that again, sonny. I'm having trouble hearing you in my old age. Punk.
Nathaniel: All good Mike. I'll buy you a hearing aid for Christmas.
Mike: Just don't use any of the Sesame Street wrapping paper. That's all earmarked for you.
Jeff: Trust is a huge factor on defense. Both from the coaching staff to the players on the field. You heard Ryan Shazier talk about assignment responsibilities. You heard similar sentiments from Harrison and Gay. Keith Butler wasn't blitzing because of the youth in the back end. All of that is starting to change, and that is a good thing for the future of this defense.
Mike: We are seeing a blurring of a lot of lines on defenses today, and I think teams want guys who can play multiple roles. For sure, that's what Tomlin and Butler are shooting for. Guys like Ryan Shazier, and for other teams, guys like Su'a Cravens. The three levels are getting harder to distinguish these days.
Nathaniel: I just really believe this defense is going to continue to apply pressure. Might be a little difficult against the Giants' offensive line though.
That is a big test and if they register three sacks. I'll be satisfied.
Mike: I think three sacks and a turnover is a good goal for this defense. I'd certainly love eight sacks each game, but I'm not that naive.
Nathaniel: That won't happen again. The Browns are complete and utter garbage.
Mike: The question, of course, is can this defense limit a team like the Patriots, in the playoffs, in Foxboro?
Jeff: Without Gronk? Yes.
Mike: That's a big loss for them. I'd go so far as to call it yuuuuuuuuuuge.
Nick: That team has got a rising star in Malcolm Mitchell at WR but I think it's more possible without Gronk.
Mike: Yes, but did you end up starting Mitchell over Stefon Diggs on your fantasy team this week?
Nick: Mike, I don't want to look back on this chat on Monday knowing that's why I lost. Let's not talk about my fantasy team, which has seen it's fair share of terrible luck. I could probably write an article about it.
Mike: At least you're leading the BTSC Contributors Challenge. That's a good place to be.
Nathaniel: Yep. Absolutely. Remember Jarvis Jones. Yes Jarvis Jones having Nate Solder's number? Well. I know Jones might be the odd man out but James Harrison isn't. Get scared Solder. Your franchise QB Brady is going to get very upset when he gets pressured all game long.
Nathaniel: Reports say Gronk will be out a few weeks. Doesn't seem like that with back surgery. I believe I read that on ESPN ... that was my first mistake.
Mike: Nate, I believe the report was at least eight weeks. I've had surgery for a herniated disc, and it was four weeks before I was allowed to lift more than five pounds. I don't see him coming back this season.
Nathaniel: Wow, Mike. Didn't know you can lift more than five pounds when healthy.
Mike: I'll let you live for that one Nate, but only because we need four people each week for this chat.
Jeff: Sheesh, when is the MMA fight between Mike and Nate?
Best team in the AFC right now: New England, Miami, Oakland or Kansas City?
Nick: Miami of course, Adam Gase, Coach of the Year. In all seriousness I don't think this is an easy answer. I'm going to say it's Oakland. Carr is playing out of his mind, Amari Cooper in my opinion is a top-5 WR in the league and among the best route runners in the league. Not to mention their defense starting to catch fire now with Mack going on a tear, along with Irvin starting to contribute more now. They win close games and have been tested a lot.
Nathaniel: Oakland Raiders. I'll tell you why in a few words.
Kansas City - Alex Smith literally can't throw the deep ball. We have seen this his entire career.
New England - Losing Gronk is yugggeeee.
Miami - They are fake man. Solid defensive play as of late but I still don't associate Tannehill with the word playoffs.
Oakland - Derek Carr for MVP. This defense is legit. Mack for DPoY and their offense is just stellar.
Mike: I've got to go with Oakland. Derek Carr is a legit contender for MVP this season -- which makes you wonder what his brother could have been had he had something more than a few lumps of meat blocking for him.
Nathaniel: Exactly Mike. Offensive line play is crucial in the NFL. People need to realize this. We have seen this with Roethlisberger as of late. No QB pressures on him last week at Colts.
Mike: We already talked about the Pats losing Gronk a bit. I think Miami is one of the most intriguing teams right now, and certainly not the cakewalk we thought they were supposed to be when they ended up beating the Steelers.
Nathaniel: Nick either takes forever to type or is currently writing a book.
Nick: If I believe any other team can take that throne it's Pittsburgh (no, not biased, listen). If Sammie Coates is healthy, just remember what type of impact he made on this offense when he was healthy and contributing. Now think for a second, if the core group is able to stay healthy and now you got Ladarius Green getting back into the offense, Coates being healthy could actually make Greens impact bigger. The reason I say this is because Coates draws safety help over the top, he stretches out the defense, if the safety is preoccupied with Coates and Antonio Brown is a constant double team, who's covering Green down the seam? Did I even mention Le’Veon Bell underneath? Yes this is a lot of offense but the Steelers have a chance on defense too with Dupree possibly giving them their best chance at getting more 4 man pressures, not to mention how effective he is dropping into coverage. I think the defense could be good enough and if the core group is healthy and Coates is back, the offense will surpass what it did earlier in the season.
Nathaniel: The answer is "book".
Mike: War and Peace, expanded edition.
What is the biggest key to a Steelers win on Sunday?
Nick: Crowd noise and pass rush don't let Eli get into a rhythm. Rattle him early, force him into a mistake.
Nathaniel: Nick, you love Dupree. All good. He's solid. Let's hope he can get back on the horse and get some sacks.
Nick: It's not that I love him, but I believe he's the best chance they have at getting pressure with four rushers. With Hargrave also at his natural 3-tech spot and Tuitt being moved around and Harrison being himself, I think it's likely sacks can start coming with less blitzes.
Mike: The biggest key for the Steelers is going to be dictating the tempo. The Giants are using a ton of no-huddle, so the Steelers need to make them one-dimensional and get some stops early on. If the Giants are dictating the tempo of the game, it's going to be a shootout. If the Steelers are controlling the pace, they win by at least 10.
Nathaniel: What Nick said. I believe and I guess Tomlin does as well. Crowd noise wins football games. I attended all of my high schools football games and I was always leading the crowd. I was the loudest and always will be the loudest. This applies to when I attend NFL games. I want that QB under center to fear the noise. To make the players not hear what is being said.
Nick: I hope Peyton [Manning] taught him how to slide and get up without giving himself up. Still ticked off about that.
Nathaniel: Oh. Artie Burns notches a pick against Beckham Jr. You heard it here first. Just so you guys know, I am the President of the Artie Burns fan club.
Mike: You were almost spot-on with your predictions for INTs and sacks last week, Swami.
Nick: Nate I seriously think your relationship with Burns is starting to get unhealthy. He's going to be good but I don't see it.
Mike: I think Phil Simms' Mancrushers Anonymous group has an opening in it, Nate. Just don't say anything bad about Tom Brady or you'll make Phil cry.
Nathaniel: Nick I'll tell you what: buy me a steak dinner if it happens.
Nick: If Burns shuts down Odell, I just may write an article on why Burns is our lord and savior.
Nathaniel: Awesome. I'm winning a steak dinner. Boom!
Nick: Mike, Brady is a great player but as the Giants found out, pushing the pocket back and not giving him a pocket to step into is how you beat him.
Mike: Alright guys, I think that's all we have time for tonight.
Nathaniel: One more thing. BTSC Fans: Thank You for everything! We appreciate you guys and all the comments we receive. Hope you guys have a safe and enjoyable Sunday and GO STEELERS!!
Mike: Nate, go brush your teeth. It's past your bedtime.
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