Monday, February 19, 2007

Bob Smizik Is a Grumpy Old Man

Okay, the two-week vacation is over. And by "vacation" I mean my other writing obligations that pay for my beer habit. Let's see if I can get caught up on all I missed (although you guys seem to be doing fine without me … which says a lot):

* I don't care about Faneca's who-should've-landed- the-head-coaching-gig comments. I didn't care when he seemed less than thrilled about the idea of a rookie quarterback getting the job in 2004. I like Faneca because he's honest and does his job. I don't know the context, but he was probably just answering the question. Frankly, I don't think many people were put off by it, and Tomlin wasn't worried. No biggie.

* SteelerBill points out something that I noticed when reading this article: namely, Tomlin likes calling his players "men." On the surface, I have no problem with that -- they are men after all -- but it reminds me of Herm Edwards. Not in a good way, either. In the scheme of things this ranks at the bottom of the "Things that might tank the 2007 Steelers' season," but I'm just putting it out there.

* Glenn adds this:
Tomlin: "The elite players defy scheme." I like it. I'm tired of the draftniks over-analyzing position and scheme, looking for the perfect fit. The Steelers should be looking for an elite player at 1.15 and I'm happy that this is seemingly Tomlin's philosophy (although he's certainly not making these decisions unilaterally).
Yes, yes and yes. In today's Post-Gazette Eddie B. gives some insight into Tomlin's long-term plans (which may not take that long to implement).
The Steelers have played a 3-4 defense since Chuck Noll switched to it in the early 1980s. They will stick with it next season, but Tomlin has coached 4-3 defenses throughout his NFL career and wants everyone to keep an open mind toward possibly moving to that defense in the future.

That means Steelers scouts will look at those tackles who aren't built to play the nose but are more suited to play inside than at end. They can look at undersized ends and not necessarily see them as outside linebackers two years from now. They can look at smaller outside linebackers who play more like Jack Ham than Kevin Greene.
Seriously, this is great. Initially I was concerned about switching away from the 3-4 but after thinking about it I couldn’t care less. First, it's not rocket science, it's football. Second, defensive schemes don't have to be a black and white proposition. Just because you run the 4-3, Cover-2 doesn't mean you can't mix in some 3-4 looks. Dick LeBeau said as much earlier this off-season -- and he even made it clear the Steelers run a lot of Cover-2 anyway.

And as Kevin Colbert mentions above, it gives the team a lot more flexibility in evaluating talent. How is this a bad thing?

(By the way, is it just me, or has Eddie B. been pumping out some pretty good stuff recently. I know I like to point fingers at people who aren't very good at their jobs, but it's worth noting Bouchette's work this off-season. I guess nobody wants to get Prisutaed. Fair enough.)

* Tomlin also says he's not afraid to put starters on special teams. My first reaction is: thank God. But I'm also the guy who questioned Bill Belichick for doing this, especially when Patriots starters were going down with injuries (Illian has similar concerns). That said, the Steelers special teams sucked last season, the new special teams coach's track record suggests not much will change, so it's probably the right move. Actually, I'm almost certain it is, although everybody knows Chidi Iwouma magically solves a lot of special-teams problems.

*Cols714 asks about Bengals free-agent guard Eric Steinbach and if he'd be a viable option for the Steelers.

(You know what's funny, this off-season we've hardly talked about free agency and last year we were throwing ideas around in the week between the AFCC and the Super Bowl. Almost all of that had to do with Pittsburgh having a crapload of free agents last spring, and no unrestricted free agents now. I understand that, but it's still peculiar.)

Anyway, I think Rob's right: Steinbach's going to get paid this off-season, and some teams might move him to tackles (the Browns are talking about it, apparently).

Also, Arians likes the idea of Kendall Simmons at center, which could create some vacancies on the depth chart at guard, but maybe Kemoeatu, Essex, Colon could solve that problem. Or, Simmons could stay put. A lot of "ifs."

For the sake of argument, let's say Simmons does move. Is anybody in favor of drafting Justin Blalock in the first round (or whoever ends up being the top guard in the draft)? Just like last year, put me down for "NO" on that one. It's a waste unless there is a glaring need at the position. And even though Simmons had an uneven 2006, and Kemoeatu is still unproven, there's no reason to think that a mid-first-round pick would be any better in 2007.

* Foge points us to this bit in the Tribune-Review:
[Colbert] said wide receiver is the strongest position in the draft, followed by safety. The Steelers, who have the 15th overall pick, won't rule out taking a wide receiver early, even though they used a first-round pick on Santonio Holmes last year. "It's hard to see us locking out any position high, except for quarterback," Colbert said.
Foge is okay with taking a wideout at 1.15 and there is an argument for stocking the position if Arians is serious about going to more four-wide sets on first and second downs, but I'm still not crazy about the idea.

I'd rather see more of Heath Miller in the four-wide looks, especially if Cedrick Wilson and Nate Washington struggle with consistency I'd like to think Colbert was just throwing up the ol' pre-draft smokescreen, but a lot can happen between now and the end of April.

Concerning the four-wide stuff, I know Arians said it would be hard for most fans to discern much of a difference in the offense, but assuming we do, in fact, see more of the spread offense, I think the biggest issue won't be if Pittsburgh has the wideouts to pull it off, but if Big Ben can get rid of the ball quickly. I mean, I know he can, but will he? Some of the sacks he takes are on him (although the Bart Scott cremation is all on Willie Parker) and with only five or six blockers, timing will be even more important. I'm sure Arians understands this, but it's something to think about nonetheless.

* Last year, when it wasn't clear Jam Jam would be back with the Ravens, there was some discussion of him coming to Pittsburgh. I'll channel Eric on this:
no to duckett.
no to jam-jam.
no to travis henry
no to chris brown
yes to najeh.
Eric also likes Tony Hunt, and I'm not averse to Pittsburgh taking him (though I haven't settled on the round), but I'm still not in FULL DRAFT MODE. That'll happen this week with the Combine. In the meantime, like Adam, I wonder if Brian Leonard would be a good fit in Pittsburgh. I know Mike Mayock likes him as a "West Coast Offense fullback" or a halfback, but I didn't watch enough Rutgers football to really have an opinion (although I seem to remember he wasn't the feature back).

Also, like Israel, I'm not sure why people are down on Najeh. Or, why those same people, are so high on Duckett. The only difference, as best I can tell, is that one will cost a hell of a lot more than the other.

* FTID has possibly the best rumor … well, ever:
Some yahoo over at Yahoo posted that the Steelers are secretly pursuing a trade of Big Ben to the Raiders for lots of picks. The guy didn't give a source except to say "a friend who works for the NFL" (My guess is the friend sells beers at Heinz Field). Has anyone else read anything to lead them to believe that this guy is anything but completely full of... well, you know...
Maybe the Raiders were impressed with Big Ben's ability to throw touchdowns to Oakland players. You know, something Andrew Walter and Aaron Brooks struggled to do. I like this trade. And I want the Steelers to draft Brady Quinn with the top pick too.

* SteelerBill shares some sad news: Michael Irvin is out at ESPN. I wrote about this ad nauseum on AOL, and if anybody's interested in losing anywhere between 50 and all of your IQ points, I'd encourage you to read every comments (especially this one, and this one ... and this one). All one million of them. Honestly, I was shocked Irvin had to many supporters, but it turns out they are all Cowboys fans. I can understand that on some level, I guess, but jeebus the guy was awful at his job.

* In other on-air-personality news, Bob Smizik, who still gets his hair done by Richard Simmons' stylist, rips Bill Cowher a new one for, as best I can tell, being a dullard. Look, I'm all for making fun of people, but does anybody else think Smizik's just being a dick? Well, a bigger dick than usual? Whatever, Larry.

* Finally, it looks like Big Ben ain't the only NFL quarterback who's life changed because he forgot to wear a helmet. Too easy, I know.


I got an e-mail the other day asking if I'd talk about UNC basketball since I really haven't, well, in about two years. Sure, why not (I'm easy that way).

* I think Henigin is the Virginia Tech guy, so congrats on that beatdown last week. Obviously, it was frustrating for me to watch that game, but here's my question: How the hell has Tech lost seven games. And more importantly, how the hell are they near the bottom of the conference in rebounding?

The e-mailer had some not-so-nice thoughts on the Heels' performance:
The loss to VT on Tuesday was the worst coaching performance I have ever seen by ole’ Roy ! In the closing seconds of regulation, Roy calls a timeout, to design a play that had Lawson dribbling at the top of the key and shooting a 3 as time expires. No drive to the basket? No dump in to the post (Wright or Hansborough)? No shot for Ellington coming off a screen? WTF?
Yeah, I was talking to my buddy Andy about this and he wondered why the hell Lawton was taking so many shots down the stretch.

My feelings -- and that's all the are -- is that the play wasn't designed for Lawton to shoot a 20-footer. I think Tech did a good job of denying Lawton room to penetrate and he got caught having to take a tough shot.

That said, I have no real sense of what makes a college basketball coach "bad" other than wins and losses. Teams get, what, 80 timeouts each? As long as there are five players on the court and nobody kicks the basketball in the stands or something, all most coaches seem to do is yell at the refs, yell at their players, call out the defense, and yell at the ref some more.

Obviously, there's more to it than that -- and I think Williams does a good job subbing players (having 12 All Americans makes that a lot easier, I imagine) -- but in terms of Xs and Os, I really have no sense for what makes one coach better than another.

Finally, I hate Josh McRoberts Norbert McNerdbert. That is all.