After the Ty Warren signing, and certain NFL analyst pundits snyde remarks about us signing Ron Fields and going back to the 3-4... It brought to my attention the fact that neither "alignment term" matters. Any member or guest of MHR can go dig up Hoosier Teacher (Steve N.) articles on defensive alignments and come out with understanding that defensive terms like 3-4 and 4-3 are terms used to describe an alignment. However, when you break it down to brass tax, a Defense is much more straightforward and complex than that. It's not about who is lined up where. All pre-snap alignments (like a 3-4 or 4-3) do is talk to the opposing QB.
What it really all boils down to is assignments. Front seven players are primarily assigned gaps (1 or 2 of them - sometimes LBs are assigned coverage, or a zone, and occasionally even a DLmen can be assigned a zone coverage). Normally a QB can just glance at the personnel and have a very good understanding of whos going to be where right after the snap. Certain personnel can make those reads more difficult (if players on the edges are DE/LB hybrid types). Most 3-4 defenses frequently bring a LB down to the line as an under or over type look and essentially become 4-3 defenses. So the term is pretty flexible and general.
What i'm getting at is that we have defensive personnel experienced in both mainstream alignments. Nearly all of our LBs have played in both fronts (besides the rookies) and could pass as either a DE or LB on any given play and play either one fairly well. Guys like Ayers, Dumervil, Haggan, Hunter, Miller, etc. All these guys could line up on all fours or standing up off the line and be in a good situation.
Go back and watch John Fox's interviews when talking about the defensive alignments and he speaks about the 4-3 pretty casually. Because he knows its just a technical term, but the way you "look" presnap doesn't really have you locked in to playing a down a certain way. The Steelers do Zone blitzes and drop DL into coverage zones, etc. Now I have heard a few times that we will be using a much more straight foward defense with less disguises, but that doesn't mean we can't change up between a 3-4 or 4-3 alignment between plays without exchanging personnel. This gives our defense more options - even if those options are straight forward, its going to make the opposing Coaches job tougher because switching alignments for a playcall could happen without a personnel adjustment and force the opposing QB to adjust accordingly without getting a favorable offensive playcall.
I think we've got the personnel to adjust freely between the 3-4 and the 4-3 presnap "looks" on the fly. This flexibility also gives us the opportunity to specifically game plan primarily in one defensive alignment or the other on a week to week basis. Both alignments have their pro's and con's and although offenses have to be prepared to deal with both in a season, its much more difficult for them to prepare for both in the same game.
Just tossing thoughts around. I can't remember which coach it was that talked about changing teams, but I remember one of our coaches (from this staff or the last) that talked about the opportunity changing locations offered for coaches to add in new wrinkles or new portions and schemes to their playbook that they couldnt just add in to a previous team's playbook. Because for the most part, coaches playbook options are limited by the personnel on hand. Our personnel offer Fox the opportunity to try something slightly more dynamic than he did in Carolina. I'm not saying this will be a staple of our defense, but it is an added wrinkle that our defensive guru Fox could unfurl when the need or opportunity arises.