Position Analysis (Part 2 of 2) - By Nick Signorelli

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

I get the privilege this week of telling you how I feel about this years version of the best defense in the league. Here we go...

DEFENSE

Nose Guard - I think I can say that the Pittsburgh Steelers have the best NG in the league. I can say that easily, because so few teams run the 3-4. I know that a lot of them are converting to our base D (coincidence?). Yes, we even converted the Super Bowl champs. Think back 5 years. How many other teams ran it? The reason we ran the 3-4 so well is that we ALWAYS have a beast at nose guard that is mean enough to tie up 2 offensive linemen, letting our LB's roam free. Casey Hampton is coming off a serious knee injury. It makes sense that someone that is that big is going to need time to make sure it heals. Remember Joel Steed? Came back too quick and ended his career. That is the main reason that so far this off season, the Steelers have selected to resign Chris Hoke already. They need to make sure Casey is really healed before they give him the big money. If Casey isn't like the old Casey, I believe Hoke can step in and show that we might not need to resign Casey at all.

Defensive End - Being a defensive end for the Pittsburgh Steelers is like being a defensive tackle on any other team. Though Aaron Smith is quick, the Steelers will never go after a player in the Javon Kearse mold, because, like our nose guard, our DE's are made to take up blocks and allow the LB's to make plays. Aaron Smith went WAY beyond that role last year earning himself his first Pro Bowl. Though Kimo vonOelhoffen had a good year last year, he is 34. My thinking says that his best years may be behind him (please prove me wrong Kimo). I think that unless Cowher decides to put Alonzo Jacksons hand on the ground, we go for a DE in the first round of the draft next year. With our LB corps, we could afford to lose Alonzo to the line, and that is probably what is best for the player and the team.

Linebacker - I don't care how good people say Ed Reed played last year. I can admit that he had a great year, but James Farrior got ROBBED when he didn't get the D MVP. James Farrior was the Best ILB in the game last year. He played so well that nobody cared that we lost Kendrel Bell (I for one think that KC WAY overpaid). Larry Foote showed that he can be a starter in the NFL and that if he continues to progress the way he has been, he can play in Hawaii. On the outside, Joey Porter is one of the best in the game. Even though he doesn't get credit like most, there isn't any other LB I would rather have on my team. Clark Haggans had a good season last year, but he better watch out for James Harrison, or we'll have a new starter opposite of Joey. Some people may think I am nuts, but does anyone else see Harrison as a young Greg Lloyd? Strong, fast, and mean. I think that within a year, Harrison is going to step up and take the starting job from Haggans.

Cornerback - Deshea Townsend is a very good corner. (Time for Applause). I don't think that he is a #1 corner. (Time for Boos). I like Deshea, but I think that to be #1 against the pass, we need a better corner. I think that is a feeling that is shared by the Steelers coaching staff (Deshea is in the last year of his contract, and no talks to resign him yet). Why else would we have used a second round pick on corners the last two years? Willie William's, lets be honest. He is there to help groom the kids, but I will be shocked if Willie is the starter at the end of the season. IF Ty Law isn't signed, next year, our starters will be Ricardo Colclough and Bryant McFadden. Ike Taylor is fast, and getting better, but I think he will never be anything more than a nickel back for the Steelers. I am glad that Chad Scott is gone. Too many times have I watched him get beat deep. Hopefully when the Steelers play the Patriots in week 3, we'll get to see him line up against Antwaan Randle El.

Safety - The way Troy Polamalu played last year is exactly the reason we moved up in the draft 2 years ago to get him. He is a hitter like Ronnie Lott. Polamalu made it to the Pro Bowl last year and he shows the potential of being all-pro. Chris Hope really took strides last year. I, for one, like how he hits. If the Steelers are to stay at the top of the NFL in Defense, it is going to be up to these two. The way they both support the run, to me, makes them the best Safety combo in the league. Chris Hope needs to get a little better at pass coverage, but I think these two BOTH have a shot at making the Pro Bowl this year.

Coaching - I have to say, there are not too many owners in the NFL, or any pro sports team, that have loyalty like the Rooneys. Fact that we have only had 2 head coaches in my lifetime shows that we are not one to start from scratch. However, we do need to get over that hump, and win ONE FOR THE THUMB. The fact that, basically, our entire coaching staff returns, is one more plus to build on for next year. I for one think Bill Cowher is a great coach, but, if he can't get us to that next level, then we need to get someone that can. I give him 2 more years. If he can't, with the team and coaching staff we have, he needs to go.