View Full Version : Draft keeps Steelers a leg up in AFC North

05-02-2008, 01:18 AM
By Vinnie Iyer - SportingNews
Apr 30, 9:57 am EDT

With their win-now mentality evident during an aggressive offseason, the Cleveland Browns are hoping they will be the fourth different winner of the AFC North in as many seasons. Unfortunately, the team they are trying to dethrone, the archrival Pittsburgh Steelers, remains the best in the division.

The Steelers, as usual, didn’t break the bank to keep one of their key free agents—left guard Alan Faneca—or bring in marquee newcomers. That has been their M.O. throughout the salary-cap era; they’ve focused on building primarily through the draft. No one can argue with the results.

The Browns, meanwhile, decided not to do much drafting this year. Starting with the deal in 2007 that netted quarterback Brady Quinn, and continuing with trades for defensive tackles Corey Williams and Shaun Rogers this year, Cleveland is putting all its eggs into getting into the playoffs in 2008.

Going back to last weekend’s draft: The Steelers had picks in each of the first three rounds; the Browns had to wait until Sunday to make their first pick—in Round 4.

The offseason isn’t quite over, but with March’s free-agent frenzy and April’s selection meeting in the books, the Steelers’ approach has won out again.

A constant focus on the future keeps Pittsburgh above most of the conference, and in contention for big things. The organization has gotten into such a rhythm with the draft that it can recognize which holes will need filling in a few years and thus can avoid having to scramble to find replacements in one short offseason.

Just look at some of their projected starters this season. Tight end Heath Miller, left guard Chris Kemoeatu, wide receiver Santonio Holmes, right tackle Willie Colon, inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons, outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley and punter Daniel Sepulveda were drafted over the three previous Aprils. Several other recent draftees are in place as key backups and future replacements.

The Steelers have picked up just two notable veterans this offseason, but each is atop the depth chart. Former Panther Justin Hartwig is expected to start at center; former Viking Mewelde Moore will handle kick and punt return duties.

Their biggest offseason move was locking up quarterback Ben Roethlisberger—a rare talent who plays the position that’s hardest to replace—to a lucrative long-term deal.

Still, because they look ahead to add depth and the right-fitting players, the Steelers still have the best defense—both in terms of personnel and scheme—in the division. The Baltimore Ravens are behind in rebuilding their defense, and the Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals won’t immediately shoot up from the bottom tier despite their recent acquisitions.

That brings us to what the Steelers did in the first two rounds of the most recent draft.

The Browns pushed the pedal on offense last season, finding great balance with Derek Anderson’s passing and Jamal Lewis’ running. Now they’ve added speedster Donte’ Stallworth to their fine receiving corps.

How did Pittsburgh respond? It grabbed a couple more offensive players who can help the team this year—running back Rashard Mendenhall and wide receiver Limus Sweed.

Last season, the Steelers lacked their usual power-running ability, which hurt them in closing drives and games. The biggest reasons: so-so line play and the fact that Willie Parker is a speed back. Pittsburgh responded by throwing more in the red zone.

The physical Mendenhall is an ideal complement to Parker, and giving the rookie 10 to 12 touches a game will keep Parker fresher and healthier.

The Browns, on the other hand, didn’t get a young back; they’re counting on Lewis to somehow pound through another full load unscathed. That’s risky.

Although the Steelers still adhere to the Bill Cowher approach of pounding the ball, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has installed a more dynamic passing game. Holmes became a big-play threat last season, and Hines Ward shook off some early injuries to again be a red zone reception machine.

Sweed reminds many of former Steeler Plaxico Burress with his 6-4, 210-pound frame, but in the short term he will add more pop as a huge target in three- and four-receiver sets.

In other words, the Steelers matched the Browns’ addition of Stallworth.

Let’s go back to the relevant Steelers-Browns matchup of a season ago—we can throw out Week 1 because Charlie Frye was Cleveland’s starting quarterback then. In Week 10, with the well-established Anderson as their leader, the Browns were outplayed statistically but lost by just 3 points, 31-28, on the road.

Cleveland saw how far it had come, and it came out swinging in the offseason to close what not too long ago was a huge gap. The club certainly has improved and is much more confident than it was a year ago, but so are the Steelers under second-year coach Mike Tomlin.

The Browns were closer than they appeared in the Steelers’ rearview mirror, so the Steelers stepped on it. It’s easy to keep the right distance when you’re always looking out for what’s well down the road.

Great article! This guy sounds like he knows what he is talking about. Some idiots in the press are already giving the division to the Brownstains........big mistake. First of all they also must play the NFC East and the AFC South, two of footballs tougher divisions. Plus they still have to play us twice and their defense is not on par with ours and neither is their offense. It will be enjoyable once again listening to the experts explain why their Brownstain prediction was nothing more than a pre-pubescent wet dream (lots of jerkin off and no climax). :hilarious:

05-02-2008, 04:01 AM
Loved the article!

05-02-2008, 08:17 AM
Great article!

05-02-2008, 10:09 AM
Good read!! To be the Champ, you have to beat the Champ. Last time I looked, we're the Champs!!! :cope::cope::cope::cope::cope:

05-02-2008, 10:31 AM
Can't wait to hear the "this is next year" rant.......:cope:
Great article. :yellowthumb:

05-02-2008, 11:32 AM
Atleast there's one journalist out there in who has it right. Everybody wants to jump on how great somebody's offseason was or how good of a draft they had and crown them with the 2nd coming. If more writers actually did their research they would see the real story like this person does.

Have the clowns closed the gap? sure they have, they played decent last year. This year will be a good sign to see how they really do with a tougher schedule and stiff competition from us again. Welcome to the big league Cleveland, it's time to put up or shut the hell up!

05-02-2008, 11:51 AM
Have the clowns closed the gap? sure they have, they played decent last year. This year will be a good sign to see how they really do with a tougher schedule and stiff competition from us again. Welcome to the big league Cleveland, it's time to put up or shut the hell up!

I disagree that they have closed the gap. Is Derek Anderson better than Ben? No. Is Jamal Lewis a better option than Willie and Rashard Mendenhall? No. Is Braylon Edwards, Donte Stallworth, Joe Jeruvicius, and Kellen Winslow Jr. a better tandem than Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Limus Sweed and Heath Miller? No. Thats just the offenses. Our defense was one of the best in the league last year and theirs was one of the worst. While we scored big points in BOTH games last year against their ****** defense, they only scored points in the second game when Aaron Smith was out and our defense was not playing its best ball. I think they are still going to have some problems consistently moving the ball against us and we shouldn't have too many problems moving the ball on their porous defense. We are still "king of the hill" and I don't think they have the metal to knock us off the hill! :nono:

05-02-2008, 11:54 AM
Ok, based on records they have closed the gap :lol: I think overall they have definitely improved as a team so I give them credit there. Granted their schedule was weak, they couldn't beat us, they signed an injury proned RB to a big deal, their defense can't stop anyone when it counts, Anderson had some good games but he was inaccurate against lesser NFL defenses, and they have a lot of questions going into this year that still need answered by the realistic NFL fans who aren't Clowns homers :lol:

That's why you have to love the general populus of clowns fans, as soon as they win some games they think they are super bowl bound and will totally ignore a realistic point of view when it differs from anyone saying how great they are.

I look for them to play hard this year but when it comes right down to it we are still king of the hill and they have to knock us off before they can claim anything.

05-02-2008, 12:21 PM
Actually, they would need to knock us off several times, but they will not realize that.......:helmet:

05-02-2008, 12:39 PM
Ok, based on records they have closed the gap :lol: I think overall they have definitely improved as a team so I give them credit there.

I agree that the Clowns have moved up from being one of the worst teams in the league to a mediocre team. They are not in the elite group yet! Nobody is going to look at their schedule and quake at the thoughts of playing the Stains! :lol:

05-02-2008, 04:33 PM
Very interesting read. Good valid points. But will remain opptimistic.

05-02-2008, 05:03 PM
They are not in the elite group yet! Nobody is going to look at their schedule and quake at the thoughts of playing the Stains! :lol::yellowthumb: You definitley have a point:lol: At the same time, I think that they are the second best team in the division, but a pretty distant second:tt02:

05-02-2008, 05:49 PM
Miller<Winslow (its close but Winslow takes it purely due to his athleticism)

Looking at it, it seems like the Steelers should have the offense that should be feared

Iron City South
05-02-2008, 08:17 PM
Right now, our mindset needs to be ...."We're last in the division and nobody respects us" ....

That needs to be our mindset the ENTIRE season regardless of our record.

05-02-2008, 08:36 PM
Indeed ICS, that's when this team plays it's best. When they think nobody respects them and everyone has counted them out, that's when they rally and play their best football. What I want to see though is a team as focused and disciplined week in and week out. I hate to see it and God knows I hate Belicheat and the Faketriots as much as anybody on this forum..but one thing about his teams is that they are focused and rarely beat themselves. Whether they have won 15 in a row or coming off back to back losses they are going to give you all you can handle and then some each week. That's how we need to be; not just playing well when the chips are down but playing well consistently even when we're on a hot streak.

black an gold 4 life
05-04-2008, 12:45 PM
great read:yellowthumb: