Last year's horrible defense got me thinking..."What does a number one defense have that we don't?" So I decided to see who finished first in defense last year. Unsurprisingly, it turned out to be the Pittsburgh Steelers, who just happen to run a 3-4 defense. I found their 2008 depth chart and did some research on the starters. This post is designed to get you to think about our defense by showing you a better one and describing it's players.
LDE Aaron Smith
RDE Brett Keisel
LOLB LaMarr Woodley
LILB James Farrior
RILB Lawrence Timmons
ROLB James Harrison
CB Ike Taylor
SS Troy Polamalu
FS Ryan Clark
Aaron Smith-- #91 LDE Height: 6’5” Weight: 298lbs. Age: 33 Exp: 11 years College: Northern Colorado.
Aaron Smith is currently the Pittsburgh Steelers’ left defensive end. He is 33 years old and has 11 years of NFL experience. Before his stint with the NFL, he went to college at Northern Colorado. He was drafted in the fourth round, 109th overall in the 1999 NFL Draft. Since the year of 1999, Smith has played a total of 145 games and has recorded a total of 421 tackles (310 solo, 111 assists). Not only is Smith a run-stopper, he is a fierce pass-rusher, recording 42 sacks through his 11 year career. His two highest totals in sacks for a season were in 2001 and 2004 with eight. The scouting report on him from “Sportsnet.ca” is: Assets: “Great size and strength. Has very good initial quickness and some closing speed. Makes a ton of plays in the backfield. Battles blockers until the whistle.” Flaws: “Isn’t an agile crafty pass rusher who would do well in a 4-3 system.” That is probably why the Steelers took him in the 4th round. Overall, Aaron Smith is a very good player. He has had a great career, stuffing plays in the backfield and although the scouting report says he isn’t that much of a pass rusher, he still has 42 sacks in his career.
Casey Hampton-- #98 NT Height: 6’1” Weight: 325lbs. Age: 31 Exp: 9 years College: Texas.
Casey Hampton, who has spent 9 years in the NFL, all with the Pittsburgh Steelers, is their current nose tackle. Hampton was drafted in the first round, 19th overall, in the 2001 NFL Draft. Before he was drafted, he played his college football at Texas. Over his career, he has played in 113 games, recording a total 254 tackles (148 solo, 106 assists). He is a five time Pro-Bowler and has played in two Super Bowls. Since Hampton is a nose tackle, it isn’t surprising to see his tackles or his sacks, 5.5, to be so low. The scouting report from “Sportsnet.ca” says: Assets: “Takes up a lot of space. Commands a double team on every play. Battles from snap to whistle. Really gums things up in the middle and can collapse a pocket.” His flaws: “Rarely makes a tackle and won’t ever get many sacks. Very slow. Shedding blocks just isn’t his style.” I think that his assets outweigh his flaws because of the double team factor. If the nose tackle can’t draw a double, then the whole line and the defense is in trouble. I guess you can say that Hampton is a typical nose tackle. He clogs the middle, draws a double team, weighs a ton, and doesn’t have stats that will blind you.
Brett Keisel-- #99 RDE Height: 6’5” Weight: 285lbs. Age:30 Exp: 8 years College: Brigham Young.
Brett Keisel, a seventh round draft pick out of BYU in the 2002 NFL Draft, has spent eight years playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he has recorded a total of 181 tackles (114 solo, 67 assists) in 76 total games. Keisel has also recorded 11.5 sacks throughout his career. Early on in his career is where he had troubles. He suffered injuries in 2003 putting him on IR (shoulder), and in 2004 with hamstring problems. 2005 was the year that he proved he could play in the league, recording 33 tackles and 3 sacks. This proved to be enough, so the Steelers extended his contract to a four year deal. The next year, he played tremendously, totaling 55 tackles and 6 sacks. He had an injury-free year in 2007, but then was plagued by injuries in 2008. On September 19, 2008, he suffered a minor calf injury and later in 08, was out from a knee problem. Keisel has played in two Super Bowls, winning both of them and if the Steelers keep it up, he could be playing in even more. I couldn’t find a scouting report for Brett Keisel, so I thought I would throw in a picture instead...
And look who’s the quarterback. I love it!!! (In case you can't see who it is...it's Philip Rivers)
LaMarr Woodley-- #56 LOLB Height: 6’2” Weight: 265lbs. Age: 24 Exp: 3 years College: Michigan.
LaMarr Woodley, the LOLB for the Steelers, now has three years of experience in the NFL. He was drafted by the Steelers in the second round, 46th overall, in the 2007 NFL Draft. After the 2009 season ends, he will have one year left on his contract. In his only two seasons in the NFL, Woodley has 74 tackles (55 solo, 19 assists) through 28 games in the NFL. He has 15.5 sacks, 11.5 of them last year, and he has caused four turnovers. He is definitely a bright spot for this already bright Steelers defense. This is the scouting report on him from “Sportsnet.ca”: Assets: “Great pass rusher. Has outstanding quickness and technique when attacking the quarterback. Great overall athlete. Has potential as an all-purpose outside linebacker.” Flaws: “A system guy who only had one role on the defense. Must develop instincts in coverage and learn to stack, shed, and pursue against the run.” I would say that that is a pretty good prospect…at least in my mind.
James Farrior-- #51 LILB Height: 6’2” Weight: 243lbs. Age: 34 Exp: 13 years College: Virginia.
James Farrior, the current LILB for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was drafted in the first round, 8th overall, in the 1997 NFL Draft by the New York Jets. The first round prospect out of Virginia is now 34 years old, with 13 years of experience in the NFL. Through 13 seasons, Farrior’s stats look like this: 1,126 total tackles (781 solo, 345 assists) and he has 24.5 sacks through a total of 184 games. In other words, Farrior had an average of 94 tackles a season if you round up. Not only does this say that he is a ball-hawk, it says that he is a solid tackler. He has also forced 17 fumbles and has intercepted 10 passes. The scouting report from “Sportsnet.ca” says: Assets: “Very experienced. A good system fit. Stays at home, gets good position, and cleans up plays. Very solid in zone coverage. Plugs gaps well.” And his flaws: “Has lost a step. Not a top pass rusher. Can get outrun in the open field.” Although James is getting up there, he still can hit hard and stuff plays in the backfield. Another great player for Pittsburgh’s defense.
Lawrence Timmons-- #94 RILB Height: 6’1” Weight: 234lbs. Age: 23 Exp: 3 years College: Florida State.
Arguably the greatest linebacker of all-time had the initials: LT. That was Lawrence Taylor, this is Lawrence Timmons. Timmons was a first round draft pick out of Florida State. He went 15th overall in the 2007 NFL Draft. This year will be his third year of experience in the NFL. Through two seasons with the Steelers, Timmons has racked up 78 tackles (54 solo, 24 assists) in 32 games, recording 65 of those, last year. He has also totaled five sacks, all of them coming from last year. I am real familiar with Florida State, and through the years I have watched them, I have noticed that their linebackers are fast, ferocious, and they hit hard. If this holds true for Timmons, then opposing backs better watch out! I couldn’t find a scouting report for Lawrence Timmons, but here’s another picture…
I almost feel bad for the Jaguars running back.
James Harrison-- #92 ROLB Height: 6’0” Weight: 242lbs. Age: 31 Exp: 6 years College: Kent State.
James Harrison, the Steelers ROLB, was an undrafted free agent that signed with Pittsburgh in 2004. Not only is he a 2-time Pro-Bowler, he is the 2008 AP-NFL Defensive Player of the Year. This is why…Harrison recorded 101 tackles, 16 sacks, seven forced fumbles, and had one interception last year. Through his five year career, he has 309 tackles (229 solo, 80 assists) and 28.5 sacks in a total of 74 games. James is just entering the prime of his career and this could spell trouble for all the teams in the NFL not named: the Steelers. The scouting report on Harrison from “Sportsnet.ca” is: Assets: “Excellent edge rusher. Has a quick first step and a variety of moves. Can outmuscle or out-hustle his blocker. Will slice inside to disrupt the run or shove his blocker into the ballcarrier.” His flaws: “Not great in pursuit. Below average in pass coverage.” James Harrison is like icing on the cake for an already elite linebacker corp. He has enough talent and potential to have even more Pro-Bowl appearances. With the way he plays, it’s hard to believe that he was an undrafted free agent.
Ike Taylor-- #24 CB Height: 6’2” Weight: 191lbs. Age: 29 Exp: 7 years College: Louisiana-Lafayette.
Ike Taylor, a fourth round draft pick, out of Louisiana-Lafayette, in the 2003 NFL Draft is now entering his seventh year in the NFL. Taylor is 29 years old and is looking to add to an already incredible career. Over his career, he has 79 passes defended and eight interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. He has played in 93 games totaling 353 tackles (290 solo, 63 assists). His best year, in terms of defending the pass was in 2007, when he picked off three passes for a total of 56 yards. The scouting report from “Sportsnet.ca” says: Assets: “Very physical. Redirects receivers well. Will contest the jump ball and knock it away. Solid tackler who excels in run support. Has been the crosshairs for years and has learned to avoid big mistakes.” Flaws: “Lacks top quickness and anticipation. Sometimes sits in his deep zone and lets the play develop under him. Will drop some interceptions.” Ike sounds like a very good cornerback. He has been a solid starter, and it looks like he isn’t done just yet. The scouting report does agree with his stats, especially his tackles.
Deshea Townsend-- #26 CB Height: 5’10” Weight: 190lbs. Age: 33 Exp: 12 years College: Alabama.
Deshea Townsend, although he has had a great career looks like his is starting to fade. He is a fourth round draft pick out of Alabama in the 1998 NFL Draft (he went 117th overall). He has played in 171 games in his career…all with Pittsburgh. In those 171 games, he has had 119 pass deflections, 20 interceptions, 412 tackles (342 solo, 70 assists), and 15.5 sacks. His best season was in 2004, when he had four interceptions, 14 pass deflections, four sacks, and 56 total tackles. The scouting report provided by “Sportsnet.ca” says: Assets: “Very experienced. Doesn’t make dumb mistakes. Plays well as the deep corner in a Cover-3, where he can break on the ball before the pass is thrown. A sure tackler who gives a high effort against the run.” Flaws: “Aging. Not strong in man coverage. Doesn’t jam well. Not a top athlete who can match up against better receivers.” Townsend has had a great career. I’m not saying that it’s over, but so far, he has been a big help for the Steelers. It does look like he’s on the downside of his career though. But overall, he is still a veteran corner that can hurt you if you make a mistake against him.
Troy Polamalu-- #43 SS Height: 5’10” Weight: 207lbs. Age: 28 Exp: 7 years College: USC.
Troy Polamalu, who is one of the best safeties in the game, was drafted in the first round, 16th overall, in the 2003 NFL Draft. The former USC Trojan is now entering his seventh year in the NFL. In those six other years, Polamalu has recorded 433 total tackles (327 solo, 106 assists). He has 63 pass deflections, 17 interceptions, taking one of them back for a touchdown, and has forced seven fumbles. His best season was in 2004 when he had 96 tackles, 15 pass deflections, and five interceptions. This proved to be enough to get him into his first Pro-Bowl. This was the beginning of multiple trips to the Pro-Bowl (six Pro-Bowls in all). The scouting report from “Sportsnet.ca” says: Assets: “Had tremendous range. Can line up in the box and record a sack or get back and break up a deep pass. A gambler with excellent instincts. Hits like a truck. Always seems to be around the ball.” Flaws: “Is more effective as an in-the-box safety than in deep coverage.” There is no doubt, that if Polamalu keeps playing like he is now, then he will be going to the Pro-Bowl for even more years and his play could possibly bring Pittsburgh more championships (not that they need anymore). He has definitely lived up to his potential.
Ryan Clark-- #25 FS Height: 5’11” Weight: 205lbs. Age: 29 Exp: 8 years College: Louisiana State.
Ryan Clark, an undrafted free agent from the 2002 NFL Draft, first signed with the New York Giants. After stints with the Giants and the Redskins, he signed with the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent, to a four year deal. Through all of his time with the Steelers, he has not played an entire 16 games in a season. He was looking forward to playing with them in the 2006 campaign, but he was plagued with a groin injury that sidelined him for three games. That year he had a total of 72 tackles and one interception. The 2007 season proved to be worse because he was placed on IR after a spleen injury. Clark only played in six games that year. The 2008 campaign proved to be his best with the Steelers so far. He had 87 total tackles (52 solo, 35 assists) and one interception. Although Clark isn’t the best free safety around, he can still get the job done. His only concern should be to stay off the IR or he might not get that many chances to play again. Once again, I couldn’t find a scouting report for Ryan Clark, so here is a picture…
The point of this post was to look at a number one defense, and what their players are like. If I couldn’t find a scouting report, then I looked for a photo that would show you who they are. I didn’t put Denver players in their, because I want you to think about where we are defensively instead of me telling you where I think we will be. I have my opinions about our defense and you have yours. Sure, the point of every post is to share an opinion, but I want this post to make you think about where our defense will be ranked next year. The point of this post is to also, show you what a number one defense looks like and then compare our defensive players to theirs, so you can decide where we’ll be ranked next year defensively.
But, I will share my opinion on our defense anyway…
I believe that our defense is in the middle of the road. I think that Brian Dawkins will help soooo much in our secondary, along with Renaldo Hill and Andre Goodman. Each one of them don’t make many mistakes and plus they’ll be playing alongside Champ. IMHO, I think that our linebacker corps are the best they’ve been since the Orange Crush years. Plus they have depth in Wesley Woodyard and Spencer Larsen. Although they wouldn’t be great starters, they are great back-ups and should make an impact on the team. The line is the only major question mark coming into the season. To tell you the truth, I am not truly sure who is going to get the starting jobs on the line. I would love to hear your opinions about that, because I am truly lost when I think about who is going to start on the d-line.
So that is really it. Hoped you enjoyed the post. I am going to do the same thing with my next post, except it will be with Denver’s defense.