Pittsburgh Steelers; 2012 Offseason Breakdown (The Real America’s Team)

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Pittsburgh Steelers; 2012 Offseason Breakdown  (The Real America’s Team)

By, Eric Hartvigson

 

Stadium: Heinz Field

Schedule Strength: 21st

Postseason Weather issues: vs. SD Week 14, vs. Cincy Week 16

Offensive Line Ranking: 11th

 

Head Coach – Mike Tomlin (Disciple of Tony Dungy);    Tomlin’s coaching career began in 1995 spanning over five different college programs in a six-year period. In 2001 Tomlin was hired as the defensive backs coach in Tampa Bay where he studied under legendary head coach Tony Dungy and defensive mastermind Monte Kiffen learning the famed Tampa-2 defense.  Success earned Tomlin the job as the defensive coordinator for the Vikings. After only one season in Minnesota, Tomlin would be hired as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. During his tenure in the Steel City Tomlin has had very little to do with the offensive system.  However, recent reports have surfaced indicating the Steelers management would prefer a return to classic “Steelers Football”, and offensive system predicated upon a strong running attack leaning heavily on the “Steel Curtain Defense”.

Offensive Coordinator – Todd Haley (Disciple of Bill Parcells);     A Pittsburgh native, Todd’s father Dick was the Steelers director of player personnel.  As a youngster Todd was actually a ball boy for the Steelers which included film study with his father.  Oddly enough Haley was instead a collegiate golfer.  From 2001 to 2006 Haley was the wide receivers coach for multiple NFL teams including the New York Jets, Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys, the latter making him a disciple of Bill Parcells.  In 2009 Haley was hired as the offense of coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals famously leading the high powered passing system to the team’s first Super Bowl appearance. Upon his success he was awarded the head coaching position of the Kansas City Chiefs. While in Kansas City Haley’s play calling was extremely conservative leaning heavily on running backs Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles, finishing top 5 in rushing all three seasons.  We must also note a very public dispute between then Offensive Coordinator Charlie Weis and Haley whereby Weis was pushing for a more pass oriented offensive system for which Haley disagreed.  Examining Haley’s coaching history creates a conundrum.  As a long time wide receivers coach and time spent in Arizona developing a prolific passing system it would appear to favor the Steelers passing game.  However, as the decision maker in Kansas City it was evident that Haley preferred a run heavy offensive system. As stated above, Steelers management has openly declared a desire for a stronger running attack, as Haley himself has been quoted as saying he wants to “run the ball more effectively”.  Although the Steelers won’t be team predicated upon a strict “ground-and-pound”, we should expect a shift in the new season leaning heavier on a running attack to open up the play action.

QB – Big Ben Roethlisberger;      Straightaway we need to recognize that Big Ben could just be the toughest SOB on the planet after nearly having his ankle ripped off last season in game against the Browns.  A highly talented quarterback, Roethlisberger is extremely elusive for big man showing the ability to escape pressure, extend plays with his feet and a cannon arm to deliver on the run.  A major downfall in previous seasons was a lack of pass protection.  The Steelers have made strides during the 2012 offseason to protect Big Ben with the drafting of David DeCastro and Mike Adams (Decastro has a future Hall-of-Fame type skill set).  Also increasing Roethlisberger’s value are two of the leagues more dynamic wide receivers in Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace.  However, the firing of Bruce Arians, and subsequent hiring of Todd Haley should leave us slightly concerned as to the offensive direction the Steelers will take in the upcoming season. Combining our research Ben will likely not reach elite QB1 status, but certainly will remain a solid mid-level QB1 deserving a player rating of 8.4.

RB – Isaac Redman, Rashard Mendenhal;     There has been speculation coming out of Pittsburgh that previous starting runningback Rashard Mendenhall will enter the new season on the PUP List, forcing him to miss the first 6 games of the season. As we already know, players coming off a devastating late season knee injuries always send up a huge red flag (same reason Adrian Peterson won’t be on my fantasy team). Mendenhall’s injury swings the door wide open for Isaac Redman to step through and become a productive fantasy player. A powerful runner in his own right, at 6 foot and 230 pounds Redman fits the ideal prototype of the Pittsburgh Steelers running back as they make their revival to balanced attack. Also note that during the offseason the Pittsburgh Steelers failed to draft or sign a qualified backup, further indicating a strong movement as Redman becoming the next Steelers 3-down-back. As we all know, the running back position is growing thinner than my hairline meaning when evaluating Redman the risk is worth the reward in the late 4th early 5th round.  Currently Redman carries a player rating of 8.5 equaling sleeper status with an ADP in the 6th round.  Missing 6 games lands Mendenhall with a player rating of 7.1

WR1 – Mike Wallace;      During the offseason the Steelers slapped Wallace with the “restricted free agent tag”, locking him down for the next season.  Wallace proceeded to holdout through minicamps while negotiating with Pittsburgh’s management for a new contract.  The team brass offered Wallace a lucrative deal in which he refused.  In typical Steelers fashion they quickly turned their attention elsewhere offering the same deal to WR Antonio Brown, in which he accepted now leaving Wallace now swinging in the breeze.  In the past wide receivers who enter a new season without a contract tend to be disgruntled and underperform while attempting to protect themselves from injury (think D-Jax 2011).  As for Wallace himself, he has built a reputation as one of the league’s premier “downfield” wide receivers with burner speed and excellent hands.  In combination with the arm strength of quarterback Ben Rothlisberger, these two play to each other’s strengths perfectly. On the downside much of Wallace’s fantasy value is predicated upon his ability to score long touchdowns meaning a lack of targets and underneath receptions.  Also factoring the recent rumors of the Steelers moving towards a more run balanced attack does not lend itself to high production from a “downfield wide receiver”.  Examining last season’s production, in weeks 12-16 Wallace ranked 31st in wide receiver scoring (ouch).  Thing are not looking good for Wallace in Pittsburgh entering 2012 as he is deserving of a player rating equal to 7.9

WR2 – Antonio Brown;      In 2011 Brown displayed an amazing skill set possessing eye-popping body control, excellent hands and the knack to make defenders miss utilizing his “kick returner” agility and quickness.  I personally owned Brown last season and became enamored every week watching his tippy toe catches along the sidelines and one-handed snags over the middle.  Now under a long term contract, entering his 3rd season and with the disgruntled Mike Wallace playing on the opposite side Brown could very easilty lead the Steelers in targets.  On the downside Brown lacks the size to be a Red Zone threat only scoring 2 touchdowns in 2011.  We should also note that Brown will continue handling kick return duties for the Steelers increasing his probability for injury.  As speculated above, the hiring of Todd Haley indicates a more balanced offensive system slightly further decreases Browns value.  All told Brown deserves a player rating of 8.5

TE – Heath Miller;     A bit of a lumbering tight end Miller does possess an above average skill set but hasn’t produced at a high level over the past couple of seasons.  The primary attribute working against Miller was poor offensive line play, requiring the tight end to block more frequently.  Miller is a red zone threat, but offensive coordinator Todd Haley does not have a history of utilizing the tight end.  Miller should be considered a mid / high TE2 remaining on our “watch list” with the improved offensive line.  Player Rating is 6.4

DST – Pittsburgh Steelers;     Upon initial examination we find many of the Pittsburg Steelers key defensive players are getting older including Casey Hampton, James Harrison and Troy Polmalu.  However the one constant continues to be the game planning and play calling of Hall of Fame defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.  Considered amongst the masterminds of NFL coaches LeBeau has literally written the book on the now famous Zone Blitz Defense. We know from past seasons this style of play will bring unrelenting pressure all game long, every game of the season. This is the formula that typically leads to top 10 fantasy production by season’s end.  We must further factor the Steelers offense will be making a greater push to a stronger running attack limiting the pressure put the Pittsburgh defense. We should expect another solid performance in 2012 leading to a player rating of 8.7

K – Shaun Suisham;     Traditionally we find that Pittsburgh kickers finish the season outside the top 12 for a multitude of reasons. We should expect this trend to continue at Suisham has a player rating of 7.4

About Eric Hartvigson