Tuesday, June 08, 2004

ESPN on the Steelers

ESPN has a story on what the Steelers can expect in 2004. Some guy named James C. Black writes the story and most of it seems pretty general, but he might be right about one thing:
Even though the final numbers suggest they had some success, 11th in defensive passing yards (190.4 ppg), the Steelers had some struggles in that area. Now, they face a scenario where four guys aged 24 or younger -- corners Colclough and Ike Taylor and safeties Troy Polamalu and Chris Hope -- could be on the field at once and that's a recipe for disaster.
The last sentence sounds a bit dire, but I take his point. On the surface I'm all for the young DB's getting as much playing time as possible. Athleticism can go a long way in covering up any deficiencies that result from lack of experience. That said, there may be some growing pains, even for the most athletic of players (remember, Polamalu was a non-factor until the last few games of the season -- and much of that was due to trying to learn the defense).

Still, I'm willing for Hope, Polamalu, Taylor and hopefully Colclough to make as many mistakes as it takes for them to eventually be a solid unit -- anything to minimize the number of times I have to watch Chad Scott bite on a pump fake and get beat for TD.

As a sidebar to this story, John Clayton also gives his assessment on whether the Steelers can bounce back from a 6-10 season.
By becoming more of a ball-possession team, the Steelers should be less vulnerable on defense...But there is a transition going on in the defense that may leave the team short of the playoffs this year. Kendrell Bell needs to step up to fill some of the big-play ability lost with the release of Jason Gildon...Chad Scott has to have a big year. Troy Polamalu is showing great improvement in his second season at safety. Ricardo Colclough was drafted to compete for the third cornerback job. Once the secondary goes through the transition, the Steelers should be ready. That may take awhile.
I think Clayton is mostly right, although as a fan, I'd like to think the DB's will come along quickly (but hey, I just mentioned Polamalu's slow progress last season and it's taken Chris Hope two years to even get a chance to start). Forgotten in all this is safety Mike Logan, who was a valuable backup in 2002 and started (and for the most part, played well) last season. He can spell either safety and is a very good nickel back.

While the Steelers still have some questions on defense, for the first time in the last few seasons they've addressed some areas of need (either through the draft or by cutting players) and should be more competitive next season. Now only if they can find some offensive linemen to block and maybe find a way to get Plaxico on the field.