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  1. I have no clue how this off season is going to go, but I wanted to get a mock in here over the break. Seems like we can go 100''s of ways, but I am going to try to do this. I am assuming that we are going to lose: Bud Dupree Avery Williamson Vance McDonald Alejandro Villy -retire Mike Hilton Tyson Alualu James Connor Sean Davis Vince Williams-cut/trade Joe Haden-cut/trade Resign: JuJu, Matt Feiler, Cam Sutton, Zach Banner, Chris Wormley, other cheap guys. Extend/Restructure: Ben, Tuitt, Heyward, Pouncey I am not sure if that gets us there, but it may be close. If all of the above happens, I see our needs as: OT/CB OLB/TE ILB/RB Safety IOL/QB I am going to use the projection of 9 draft picks (1 each 1-4, no 5 or 6, and 2 7's, with 3 comp picks-4(Hargrave) and 2 6's (Matakevich and Finney) 1.32--Liam Eichenberg, OT Notre Dame. 6'6" 305 Nice, safe, balanced pick who is technically sound and fits all of the boxes for us, save underclassman. Power 5, Big School, multi-year starter. Played both sides for the Irish, and can at least be a year 1 swing tackle behind Banner/Chuks. The cupboard is bare after these two, and with Banner coming off a knee injury and little that we can afford on the FA market, a Day 1 starter may be the ticket here. 2.64--Israel Mukuamu, CB South Carolina. 6'3" 205 Have to get a DB here, with Layne/Sutton now being starters. I love watching Mukuamu play, he is super physical (and probably won't be here in reality after testing) and does everything good. Needs the finer work of playing at a high level coached into him, but has amazing size and speed for the position. Can get beat by quicker guys, but makes up for it with run support and blanket coverage. 3.96--Chuba Hubbard, RB Oklahoma State. 6' 207 With the room being Snell and McFarland, Hubbard comes in as a high milage, name back that can really battle for the primary back role. Can play special teams if needed, and can be the true backup or feature back with McFarland as the home run threat. 4.135-Hunter Long, TE Boston College. 6'5" 253 The more traditional of TEs in this range, Long is a RS Jr and a work in progress in all facets. Has the size and willingness to block, and overall good technique. Runs a low number of routes, and is most certainly a Hash/Middle guy that is not a threat to YAC it up. With Ebron staying on as the Flex WR, Long takes the McDonald role of blocking TE/developmental TE with Gentry. 4.150 (ish-comp)-Malcom Koonce, Edge Buffalo. 6'3" 248 Mid round, MAC comp special. Highsmith was a small school guy with high production, and Koonce is as well, so we go to the MAC well here. High motor/finesse guy who gets home as a pass rusher and destroys MAC OTs. Needs to work on pressing and tackling in the run game, but will have a chance to come here as the #3/#4 OLB and special teams warrior as he learns. Highsmith ascends to the starting OLB with Watt, and Ola is a capable backup until Koonce surpasses him. 6.200 (ish-comp)--Justin Rice, ILB Arkansas State. 6'2" 225 4 year grinder that is the typical early down plugger. With Vince a salary casualty, we need depth behind Spillane for this role. Is a great player and communicator, but is limited athletically. Will be a team-first player and special teams stalwart. 6.210 (ish-comp)--Quentin Lake, S UCLA. 6'1" 193. Great hybrid defender with multiple safety ability. Can play deep or closer to the LOS, and can either play off of Edmunds or Fitz. Needs more reps and more functional strength, but can be our safety #3 or 4, depending on the role of Brooks moving forward. 7.220 (ish)--Tariq Castro-Fields, CB Penn State. 6'1" 197. Stealing another local, high pedigree kid here to fill out the DB room. Can play inside or outside, great run player at the POA. Needs to work on coverage ability, but can help with losing Haden and Hilton. Competition for Pierre. 7.230 (ish)-- Obina Eze, OT Memphis. 6'8" 315. Project tackle with size. Helps with long term tackle depth. UDFA: Kellen Mond, QB Texas A+M. (Ben-lite with escapablity and downfield passing prowess.) Trevon Grimes, WR Florida (Big, tall, high point catcher that gets lost in the FU offense. Fits our outside WR mold) JD Speilman, WR TCU (5'9", 180... quick slot guy that can burn) Luke Farrell, TE Ohio State (Big Blocking TE) Boe Wilson, IOL Nebraska (Lighter zone blocking OG) Nyles Pinkney, NT Clemson (Early down plugger and gap penetrator) Brad Stewart, SS Florida (Tough SEC strong safety) Oscar Bradburn, P VaTech (4 year starter, 45 yard average, only 6 touchbacks)
  2. Would love to know what is going on with UG3. So much promise, and now not getting a hat for Marcus Allen. Happy to see McFarland active... neat to see what he can do. OL reserves are Hassenhaur, Derwin Gray and Jerald Hawkins.
  3. DDC missed a couple of days with undisclosed injury. Wiz was playing Guard, so we needed another C for OL #2.
  4. Couple of odd thoughts: Would have loved to have a project LT like Alex Taylor or Mitch Hyatt than Anthony Coyle AND Jarron Jones. Keep one of those as a gameday dude that already knows the system, and use Taylor/Hyatt as longterm LT prospects. 2021 could be ugly with tackles, and I certainly do not think that Coyle or Jones are the answer. Absolutley LOVE Sean Davis back. #3 safety off the rip. Already knows all the backend positions, and can fit in right away. I have always seen him as a yin to Edmunds yang. May not be the most athletic or explosive, but knows where to be. I could see Davis being in the big nickel on day 1. Very happy about this. Dobbs to me is good... as long as we get Duck to the PS. Dobbs at least can be Jackson on practice weeks, and he knows the system. Good mix of project bodies and 53 ready bodies on the PS. We get to pull 2 up on gamedays, so keep that in mind. Gray, Brooks, Bandy and I hope a project LT should not see the 53, but need to get ready for 2021. Biggest surprise for me? Hassanhaur/Davis/Pierre on the 53. I get the DDC injury scare, and Pierre showing up big taking CB #6 role, but Davis.... who saw that coming?? WR room is interesting. JJSS, JW and DJ most downs, CC as #4. Ray Ray is the return/gimmick guy. Remember, Ebron is a WR in my world, so you will see him and Vance on the field at the same time, just not in 12 personnel. Switzer is redundant to me, and Cain is around on the PS to be added on gameday for a Holton-type. Special teams: Watt, Claypool, Ola, Highsmith, Spillane, UG3, Dangerfield and Allen/Pierre (whoever is active) are 4 phasers. McFarland/RayRay as returners, Layne/CC as gunners, other gaps filled by Samuels, Snell and Davis. Very exciting for Danny Smith, to be sure.
  5. Honestly, I would love to grab one of the EDGE players above, or a new guy. I personally have seen enough of Tuzar to know that he is a fringe player. I'd love to see if we could make Orchard, Walker or someone I missed into a real edge piece that can be used as a rotation once Bud leaves. Or, if you want insurance, bring back Chick for the PS.
  6. Intriguing names for me: Hakeem Bulter, WR ARZ Brett Toth, OT ARZ Evan Weaver LB ARZ Edmund Robinson, LB ATL Jerell Adams, TE BAL Davis Webb, QB BUF Stephen Denmark, CB CHI Alex Taylor, OT CLE Mitch Hyatt, OT DAL Cole Hikatuni, TE DAL Isaac Nauta, TE DET Dan Skipper, OT DET Jordan Ta'Amu, QB KC Malik Jefferson, LB LAC Natrez Patrick, LB LAR Lawrence Cager, WR NYJ D'Andre Walker, Edge TEN Nate Orchard, EDGE WAS These guys would be intriguing to upgrade the rooms on PS or at the backend of the 53. I also like S. Jones as @mwalker mentioned.
  7. While I understand why people are excited, Ebron should not be considered a TE, IMO. Big slot WR. It is 11 personnel with a single TE, and 3 WR (Ebron, JuJu and DJ/JWash)
  8. Totally agree. 100% special teams this year. Next year is in the nickelback conversation, TBH.
  9. I too am excited about Banner. It sucks that he bet on himself for us, as we might not be able to sign him after this year. I personally think you have to add Brooks to the LB room. I cannot see him as an NFL safety, but I would love to see his reps at camp.
  10. While I might buy your first point (Barron essentially being better than the idea of Sutton/Edmunds), I wholeheartedly disagree with the second. Your backup situation is always a concern, not so much week to week, but in a game. If Sutton was/is the backup Outside CB, NickelCB and Safety, that is an issue and can take a whole formation/set and throw it out the window. You can move one guy and slot in another (usually in that spot) but if it happens twice, it is totally off the table. If someone is gone for a length of time, you have time to figure it out. In game, that is totally different. Sutton might be a better CB than Layne, and if someone goes down week to week, he might be the better option and coaches can coach around it. But, if things happen in game, that is a different thing altogether. So much of the gameplan/keys depends on dudes knowing what calls are. If you are the dime/nickel guy AND the backup FS, you have to know everything. That goes out the window if you have to take reps at CB. We essentially had one guy to play all the backup roles last year, and when we had to go even deeper, it was bad. Now, if you have a specified dude who is the backup CB (Layne), you can use Sutton as a move guy AND backup NB/Safety. In today's NFL, there is just so much difference when it comes to secondary slots. Hell, on my high school coaching staff, we have a different coach for safeties than corners. Safeties do all the adjusting/moving/calls, and yes, the nickelbacker/slot corner is part of that. Lemme give you a hypothetical. Nickel alignment has some form of Haden, Nelson, Hilton, Sutton, Bush, Edmunds and Fitz on the back 7. Haden breaks a shoelace. IF Sutton now has to go over to outside CB, that kills dime and even some nickel, because he is the adjuster/high safety while Edmunds moves. Then Riley/Dangerfield come in and are they up to the challenge? They are less players AND didn't get reps during the week. However, if you can play Layne as the backup CB, you can leave Sutton alone. You don't have to replace 2 guys, just 1. Just like if Minkah breaks a shoelace, you might want to put Riley in, if its short term. I hope this makes some sense...
  11. Ok, on the eve of watchable training camp, I wanted to go ahead and get this out. Replacing Mark Barron. So, this is a film-less review, and more of a look at what I think might happen coach-wise. So, putting on my coaching hat, I want to look at how I might think that the Steelers are going to replace the biggest hole in the defense... the 60% of snaps that Mark Barron played last year. Let's look at basics... we are talking about OUR standard nickel alignment (4-2-5, or 2-4-5 depending on your positional definitions). Quite frankly, the 30% of 'base' snaps will have Devin Bush and VWill (or UG3 in a pinch), and the 10% of dime/dollar will only have one LB (Bush) on the field. We are talking about nickel, which we are in more than base, but less than dime. Quick rabbit hole, we actually play two different nickel packages... the standard 4-2-5 and the 'big safety' 3-3-5. For the purposes of 'this' argument, the personnel is very similar, but the extra safety comes at the expense of the traditional nickel-backer. (You are keeping the nose in, and replacing the second MLB with a bigger cover safety.) . While this is certainly on the table to use, the personnel would be the same. What I mean is that whether we are talking about a nickelbacker or big safety, I see them as being the same person. OK, so for me... the numbers are easy. The 60% of the snaps that Barron played were roughly the 60% of nickel snaps. While there are some outliers, the basic formula is the following for converting from Base to Nickel (in addition to taking the NT off and Hilton on): Base 3-4 (MLB): Bush, VWill Nickel (MLB): Bush, Barron So, how do we replace the Barron position? There are two clear paths, and I will talk about each. Option #1: Replace with a LB-type. Really only one option here, and that is the ascention of UG3 to be Barron Option #2: Drop a safety in to nickelbacker to run with Bush. The issue with both of these is depth and personnel. We have 2 playable LB's in nickel (Bush and UG3) and 2 safeties (Fitzpatrick and Edmunds). So, as a coach, I am taking option #2 and thus the whole scheme depends on Justin Layne. I can see the confusion from here. Allow me to explain. The actual answer is Cam Sutton, but it is way more complicated than that. Right now, Cam Sutton is the backup CB, backup nickel, and backup safety (Apologies to Curtis Riley). I can tell you that is a full plate. Sutton, in 2019, was too valuable to use as a nickel defender. Having one dude be the backup to everything is crazy, and therefore he was not available to be used in such a way that would be best for him. So, this is where Layne comes in. He has to take the backup outside CB duties off of Sutton. That way, if Haden or Nelson break a shoelace, Layne goes in. If we are using Sutton somewhere else, it does not affect the whole defense. Sutton CAN function as the backup NB in nickel, since you would need a backup for him anyway, and he can slide to NB. But, if you have two go down, this is why you need Justin Layne. (In this scenario, I might use UG3 as the backup nickelbacker if Sutton has to move) So, how would you deploy this set? For one, I am not moving Fitz from FS. I would probably use Sutton as a safety as well, so that means Edmunds rolls down. He could move to the coverbacker/TE eraser role and be closer to the LOS. Like I said above, there would be no change in personnel to the big safety 3-3-5, other than Sutton plays closer to the LOS and Edmunds goes back to the Cover 2 safety. I am not a fan of moving Edmunds as I actually think he is improving as a player and is only 23, but I think he can be a killer closer to the LOS and as the nickel backer. Conversley, you could leave Edmunds and Fitz deep, and play Sutton as more of a box guy, but I don't think that matches his skill set. Regardless, if I were in the defensive room today, I would be advocating for Layne to step up, and pound the table for Sutton on nickel and dime. In reality, using Sutton in this way blends nickel, dime and big nickel so we could really cause some issues with offenses. Looking forward to 2021, hopefully we could resign Sutton as HIlton walks, and Sutton becomes full time NB, and UG3 rolls into the nickelbacker role. But, if I were a betting man, the Barron snaps are going to be soaked up by Sutton. BUT, only if Layne can prove himself to be a functional CB #3. If Layne is not able to do that, I imagine Riley is the next best bet, but that does not inspire me at all. This is because Sutton would really be too valuable to play so much base. Thoughts?? Offensive Line Breakdown aka Where does Feiler play? Replacing Mark Barron Breaking down the rookies pt.1--Fits and roles--DONE Breaking down the rookies pt. 2--Ceilings and Floors Breaking down the rookies pt.3--UDFA's camp bodies or projects?--1/2 DONE The Enigma of Terrell Edmunds "Can I Cover;" the Mike Hilton Story
  12. If I have to predict today with the current salary cap, we will lose: Bud Dupree, Cam Heyward, Vance McDonald, Mike Hilton, AV, Alualu, James Connor and Daniel McCullers (3 DL) We will keep: Feiler, Banner, Juju, Chris Wormley and Cam Sutton or we will be totally gutted (I don't know how). Ebron and VWill are cut canidates, for sure. If the salary cap goes down...
  13. I totally agree with your sentiments, but I cannot imagine that we would be out on all 3 OL. (Chuks has one more year, 2021 is the last one). I would guess that Feiler is a must sign at this point, since he can play 4 OL slots. You also have Connor and Juju, and Cam Sutton. If the cap is actually lowered, we are screwed unless there is some relief via a Ben extension, but that won't even be that much. He is on the books for like 41 mil. And Bud and Vance. FWIW, I think there are some decisions made. Sutton vs. Hilton, Banner vs. AV, Juju vs. Feiler. It will take some very creative accounting.
  14. Banner is another lunchpail/self-made man at this point. Also, very ballsy to bet on yourself this year. Came into the league in terrible shape and made himself into a swing tackle. Now has the chance to step up even more and take the job. I selfishly hope that Chuks wins the job cuz we won't be able to keep Banner in 2021, but I love Banner and he makes the team better. He has the tools to make it happen, for sure. Plus... man is he big.
  15. OK, *cracks knuckles*, time to get back on the horse. I've been putting this one off since I wanted to devote the time to it that it deserves.... Matt Feiler. Damn... dude is big. I guess that is what pops off first on film. Dude is legit huge. OK, that out of the way, let's look at what Matt Feiler is. Going back to his introduction to the Steelers, he was a camp body that stuck around. Why?? Dude is a sponge. You can literally see his growth from his time in camp/pre-season to today. He is so much more of a technition. His footwork is sooo much better. Angles, play strength. Not to say that Bloomburg stinks or did not have a good OL coach, but he really grew once he got here (thanks Munch!!!). He was always big and powerful, but he is so much better with his hands and feet now. That is huge when it comes to this elite level. Before we get to film, let's generally talk positions. I know Feiler broke in as a IOL, and then worked outside and really took off. So, the argument goes that he should kick inside, right?? Not to belabor the point, but just switching SIDES on the OL is tough. As the adage goes... 'tell anyone that it is easy to go home and take a s**t and wipe with the other hand." Sure, you can flip a LG to RG, but they have to acclimatize. Everything is backwards. Gaps, calls, options, flips, protections, blitzes, hand placements, foot stagger. Oh, and remember the snap count. Now, kick inside. I will admit that going inside is easier than going outside. Simply put, NFL OTs are hard to find. There are not that many. Tackle is such a different position than IOL. You have so much more responsibility. Not to mention more speed and technique from the players you are playing against. You never hear much about guards going to tackle on elite levels. Just different athletic profile and mental process. To say that it was impressive for Feiler to make the conversion is an understatement. If you look at the Rams game last year, he kicked inside in a WEEK for Foster. That is super crazy. I can only imagine that Feiler is a self-made man that came out of college as a camp body IOL, wanted to play and made himself indespensible. Then wanted to play more, and kicked outside. It is truly an amazing journey. His physical profile did not change much, but his mental work, film study, positional understanding and overall football talent just took off. To the film...what made him a good NFL tackle?? Size, obviously. You can't coach 6'6' 330 with good feet. Hands and feet are SOOO far ahead of 2017. Outside shoulder punch is blunt and vicious, and he is a powerful run blocker. His pass pro is actually pretty great, which surpised me. He can get beat outside, but stuffs inside well. He only gave up 4 sacks last year, which is super impressive. He is consistent and overall what you want to see with an NFL tackle. On film, you just see play after play of Feiler doing everything well. He doesn't bury guys, he doesn't KO dudes, he just does his job (He handled Aaron Donald, BTW). (There is some great film breakdowns on BTSC, BUT.... I like watching games and not highlights, so... Youtube). @MOSteelers56 wanted to know about Ramon Foster. Watching film of Foster wasn't as bad as I thought. Even against elite dudes, he was above average. He was very technically sound, and got the job done. Even the Pats game, he held his own. Again (this is a theme) he was on film doing things over and over very well. A bit more before and after snap talking, a bit more sloppy footwork/hand placement, and more penalties. In this vein, I thought about 2017. Going back to the film I culled for Feiler, I put on Foster. Damn... Its like I was watching 2019 Felier (tech-wise). Foster was a MAN in 2017. (Watched the first Baltimore game... wow). Feet, hands, tech, run block, pass pro... dude was awesome. Father time is undefeated, and Foster was not the same player in 2019. And, it was not something that would get better. Moving off of the film, why would you move a top 5-10 NFL RT to LG?? Here is where I put on my coaching hat and pontificate. In no particular order, I feel like the reasons are: role of LG, protection for Pouncey, have to find out if Chuks/Banner CAN step in, fix run game and plan for backup/backup plan. The Steelers are different when it comes to OL responsibilites. I am not sure if other teams do this as much, but the Steelers have the LG call protections (well, Foster did it). Without making this overcomplicated, defenses do many things pre-snap. In the old days, the C did all of the legwork when it came to pre-snap changes. But, the Steelers, for a while, have split up the duties. The trickle down of all of this is, if the LG (or anyone else on the OL) does the protections, the C doesn't know if the offense is 'set.' This is why you saw Foster nudge Pouncey before the snap. While Pouncey is listening for snap counts, audibles, checks, flips or even whole play changes (when Ben is at QB) and making changes, Foster was looking at the defense for blitzes, shifts or stems. (I can go into this further if you all are interested in this). Now, I would imagine that DDC could do this, and may, but maybe they want Feiler to do it? This may be a controversial statement, but Pouncey is also on a decline. His snaps are obvious, but defenses are starting to pick on ole Pounce. Now, luckily he is still above average (I wasn't watching him, but it was hard to miss him...). You have a top 2 RG on one side, and you can theoretically surround him with elite guards. By Tomlin publicly saying that Feiler is starting at LG, you MAKE Chuks/Banner step up. They are on blast. Chuks got a tryout in the Rams game, and did OK. Now, time to take the job, or Banner takes it... or neither. The off season mandate to fix the run game affects this decision. While there are MANY reasons the run game fell off last year, Foster was never an elite run blocker. Feiler is very, very good. Very, very powerful. Theoretically, moving him inside makes the run game better. Ties into #3... we all WANT Chuks/Banner to take the RT and run. Every coach in America will tell you that you play your best 5. If Chuks/Banner is one of your best 5, they can't play LG (in theory... I will argue that Banner would make a great guard), which means that Feiler has to move (Villy at guard would be hilarious). BUT, if you find out after your first scrimmage that it isn't going to work, you can ALWAYS kick Feiler back out and play Wiz at LG. I do not want to get going on Wiz, but I love him as a backup IOL, not as a starter. (Also, while I am at it, the whole 'your backup center can't start' is rubbish). Bottom line, you start with your dream OL, and let them fail to a backup plan that you hold in your back pocket. If I had to guess, I would put money on 3, 5 and a bit of 2. Our inside run game would suffer greatly with Pouncey/Wiz inside. So, @MOSteelers56, I am sure I forgot something. DDC is a grown man, but does get sloppy at times. Pounce is Pounce, and is gojng to be around as long as Ben. We will miss him when he is gone, but he is not the same player either. Villy is a fully functional LT who gets beat with smaller speed rushers. But Feiler... man, I hope we can resign him. It should be no surprise that my dream line for 2020 would be the status quo... Chuks/Banner take a leap. But, not because I don't trust Feiler... Anyway, that was fun... question it up. Offensive Line Breakdown aka Where does Feiler play? Replacing Mark Barron Breaking down the rookies pt.1--Fits and roles--DONE Breaking down the rookies pt. 2--Ceilings and Floors Breaking down the rookies pt.3--UDFA's camp bodies or projects?--1/2 DONE The Enigma of Terrell Edmunds "Can I Cover;" the Mike Hilton Story I want to do the Barron one next in a couple of days. It will be more of an opinion piece, with my idea of how I would replace him. I will save Edmunds for after training camp gets kicked up. In the meantime...
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