Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Franchise Tag for Casey Hampton

Is the franchise tag for Casey Hampton a good or bad thing?  For the Pittsburgh Steelers, it's a necessity as there is nobody behind him on the depth chart.  For Casey Hampton, it's at least $7 million in his pocket this year and potentially more long term.  Not bad for a 33 year old who hasn't really committed himself to physical fitness over his career.  What do you think?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Keep Casey Hampton or Ryan Clark?

With both Hampton and Clark about to be unrestricted free agents, this is a pretty tough decision for the Steelers.  Both players are key contributors to the defense. 

Hampton is really the cog of the 3-4 scheme.  He takes on blockers and opens the holes for the linebackers to make the plays.  While he's somewhat unheralded because of his stats, he's extremely valuable to the performance of the defense.  He will be 33 at the start of next season and has a history of injury and weight issues.

Clark is the safety valve of the defense when Troy Polamalu is flying all over the place.  Yes, he was exposed this season without Polamula in the line up, but who wasn't exposed on the defense this past year.  He is a couple of years younger than Hampton and probably has a little less wear and tear on his body because of the position he plays.  Clark is one of the most ferocious hitters in the NFL and receivers fear him coming across the middle.

Both players will be looking for top 5 money at their positions and the Steelers will not be able to sign both.  If Hampton does not come back, the team may need to shift to a 4-3 defense, a potential major philosophy change.  And, losing Clark would present a depth problem at safety.

Who do you think is more important for the defense to be successful again in 2010?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Holes the 2010 Steelers Must Fix

Yes, 2009 was a disappointing year for Steelers and us fans.  We can leave it at that and now move on.  What we did learn is this team does have some critical holes.  However, the situation is not dire and the Steelers should have a solid chance of getting back into the playoffs in 2010.

When analyzing the roster based on performances in 2009, here are the areas that I think are critical to fix:
Defense -- unlike the Steelers, it was the defense that continued to breakdown last year.  The depth is just not there to compensate for the losses of Troy Polamalu or Aaron Smith.  Both injuries had a huge impact on the teams performance.  The Steelers must focus on quality defensive depth when drafting this year.  Every defensive position needs some youth.

Defensive Line: Casey Hampton is a free agent and the rest of the line is getting older.  Ziggy Hood stepped in late in the season and showed that he will be an impact player.  However, he's the only player on the line younger than 30.  The team needs youth and depth here.  Is a first round pick needed?  Probably not, but two picks in later rounds would not be a surprise.

Linebacker: Woodley and Timmons will be the new cornerstones of this defense.  Harrison will still be a force for a few more years.  However, Farrior was exposed a little more this past season.  In the OT loss to Baltimore, Farrior looked slow trying to cover Ray Rice.  Why was Timmons not assigned to cover Rice?  Farrior is still the leader of the defense, but he cannot be put in situations where he doesn't match up well.  Beyond the starting four, there are also depth issues here.  Don't be surprised if a first or second round pick is spent on a linebacker.

Safety: Polamalu will be back, but who else will be.  Ryan Clark is a free agent and was exposed without Polamalu.  Tyrone Carter is an OK fill in for a game or 2, but he is not a long term solution.  There are some younger players, but they are unproven.  This may be the position the Steelers focus on in round one, especially if Earl Thomas is available.

Conerback: Ike Taylor is a good cover CB.  Just wish that he could catch the ball.  Deshea Townsend is probably not coming back.  William Gay lost his confidence after repeatedly getting burnt.  Can the young guys fill in here or do the Steelers need to draft or sign few new players?  This is another area where depth is needed.

Offense: Not a lot is needed on offense.  Willie Parker will likely not be back, so a RB will need to be drafted in the later rounds.  WR is all set.  QB is all set.  TE is all set.  The offensive line does need depth, but it's not as bad as the stats dictate.  This group will be healthier and better.  A second or third round choice should be used on an OT.  And, signing Willie Colon is a must.

Special Teams: The Steelers must sign Jeff Reed and fix the kick coverage.