View Full Version : Breaking the mold, TE's post threat

10-08-2006, 01:40 AM

By Scott Brown
Sunday, October 8, 2006

Ben Roethlisberger chuckled when asked if the Steelers defense will try to confuse first-year starting quarterback Philip Rivers.
"You don't know if Troy's going to do a somersault before he blitzes," Roethlisberger said, "or what's going on out there."

There is something else in tonight's nationally-televised game against the Chargers that may present Troy Polamalu, the All-Pro and apparently acrobatic safety, with a higher degree of difficulty.

That is covering Antonio Gates.

NFL tight ends have gone from blocking-first players that were generally afterthoughts in the air attack to sleek pass catchers that must be accounted for by safeties like Polamalu.

Gates isn't at the forefront of the movement but is the best model it has produced to date.

The fourth-year pro is 6-4 and 260 pounds, runs like a wide receiver and corrals passes in heavy traffic the way he once did rebounds as a standout basketball player at Kent State.

Gates has caught 170 passes for 2,065 yards and 23 touchdowns the last two seasons in becoming the prototype for the new tight end.

"They're big, they're athletic, they can run, they get great body position," Polamalu said.

They have become another source of angst for defensive coordinators since they are usually too fast for linebackers to cover and too big for safeties to handle.

The impact Gates and others have made is such that the Steelers moved up in the first round of the 2003 draft so they could select a fast, physical safety capable of handling big, athletic tight ends.

"We talked about getting Troy in the draft as a safety that can match up with some of those guys," Steelers coach Bill Cowher said. "It's not easy to do. These are guys that can line up like receivers (in) two point stances, they can create physical mismatches."

The Steelers serve as a microcosm in the recent evolution of the tight end.

We've had some outstanding TE's in Cowher's era. Eric Green was a freak of nature, if he could have stayed out of trouble he could have been unstoppable. Mark Bruener, the best blocking TE in the game, period. We never utilized his hands though, he set all kinds of records at Washington.

Heath is just flat out beastly, tough as nails and catches everything near him.

10-08-2006, 02:21 AM
You got that right. I don't think we have ever really utilized out TE's as much as we could have. With Miller I don't think they can ignore using him.
On the opposite side, Troy can stop just about any wr/te in the league. A lot of that does have to do with us putting on pressure and being where we are suppose to be.
All we need to do is confuse the hell out of Rivers and the game is ours.

10-08-2006, 01:45 PM
We're really blessed to have a player like Troy on our team, many teams just don't have any answer for players like Gates, Gonzalez, etc. either because they don't have the scheme or the player(s) to contain them. We've both the Scheme and the Player to do the job.

K Train
10-08-2006, 04:21 PM
Heath blocks like a beast and has amazing hands, he owns the middle of the field...he is like a truck after the catch. The thing is we go to him in the first quarter...but then we lay off, he should be bens best friend and id like to see him involved more.

Gates is so inconsistent its not even funny, hes not a TE, he a tall WR who cant block.