Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Cowher talks about the upcoming season
The Post Gazette reports some of Cowhers thoughts from the 2003 season and what he's looking for in 2004. Here are some of the highlights:
"There's room for more competition in the Steelers' backfield despite the presence of Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley.

..."I'm going in open-minded. I'm going to let them compete," Cowher said. "I like Verron Haynes. He's a guy no one's talked about. Verron, I think, is a pretty good running back. Jerome, I know he's anxious to compete. I know what Duce Staley can do. He's a three-down back, great hands, a player that Philadelphia's always kind of turned to in the playoffs. He's unselfish, a great blocker."
I hope this means that the Steelers are eyeing a RB in the early rounds. If RB Greg Jones (FSU) is available in the second round, let's hope the Steelers take him. He's been described as having Bus-like size, but faster. He has battled injuries in college, which is the main reason he may slip out of the first round.

No one has seen Verron Hayes finish a year without injury. The limited time he has seen, he's been effective, although he needs to minimize turnovers.

"There's no room for former Pro Bowl linebacker Jason Gildon, a starter since 1996 and their all-time sack leader. He will be traded or released...Linebacker Alonzo Jackson, a second-round pick who played only two games, is not a flop.

"He wasn't a disappointment... People say, why didn't you use him as a rusher? I would have if I had the luxury of a roster spot just to have him play on third down.""
This move is good for a couple of reasons. The Steelers can get rid of Gildon's big salary (even if they can't get anything for him) and Jackson will get a chance to quiet all of his critics. He played well in the Dallas preseason game in 2003, causing 2 fumbles, but of course that was against 3rd teamers. Hopefully we'll get to see what Jackson's learned from a year of watching from the sidelines.

"...there's still work to do, starting with the offensive line. He hopes things will settle down because many of the problems were caused by the ill health or injuries to tackle Marvel Smith and guard Kendall Simmons. Cowher wants more depth in the line, perhaps add a tackle, but is preparing to go with Oliver Ross as his starting right tackle."
I don't think that Oliver Ross is the long-term solution at right tackle. The Steelers should probably look to take an OT in the first three rounds, preferably someone that can come in and push for a starting job.

"Cowher gave quarterback Tommy Maddox a vote of confidence, explaining that his statistics suffered because of the problems with the offensive line and the running game, which Cowher promised would be much improved from its No. 31 ranking last season."
This year will tell if the problem is the offensive line or Maddox. I think Maddox will have a good year, and tend to agree that the porous offensive line made both running and passing a chore last season. Some 'experts' have said if the Steelers take a QB early, it will put added pressure on Maddox to perform, but I don't see a rookie QB playing one down next season (and they shouldn't take a QB in the first round unless than can get one of the top two)

""Hopefully he'll be able to get back to where he was," said Cowher [talking about Chad Scott], who expressed delight with the play last year of two other cornerbacks -- Deshea Townsend, who replaced Washington, and rookie Ike Taylor."
This can't be the Steelers answer to solving their cornerback woes -- hope. They still need to take a CB early in the draft and start phasing Scott out. I'm really surprised the Steelers haven't asked Scott to take a paycut.

The draft is 25 days away, and hopefully it will help clear things up.