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View Full Version : Behind Enemy Lines: Pittsburgh Steelers.....



DIESELMAN
07-09-2007, 09:22 AM
Browns fans in the OBR's exclusive TAP Room forum leapt at the chance to grill Steel City Insiders' publisher Jim Wexell about what's going on in Pittsburgh. Blowing past hype from the national press, Wex gives us the scoop about what's happening in Pittsburgh as the Steelers move past the Bill Cowher era.

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Q: Does Tomlin have the respect from this players yet? I can't see a coach replacing a coach like Cowher and getting a fair shake. As a Browns fan, there isn't much I like about Cowher, besides the fact that he was once a Brown himself. That being said, he is a heck of a coach. He had done some pretty impressive things during his tenure in Pittsburgh. Tomlin has big shoes to fill. - CBDawg

A: I do believe Tomlin has the player's respect. Cowher was certainly an imposing figure, one who was something of a bully around the offices, but he was also a player's coach. He had his pals, like Joey Porter and Jerome Bettis, guys who could get away with more than others. Cowher was the type to coddle the tough guys while bullying, say, a punter, so I ask you this: How much would you respect that type of coach? Many saw through it. Many were self-motivators who thought Cowher's froth-at-all-costs pre-game speeches were childish. Those players are thrilled with Tomlin. While Tomlin may not send the fear of God through a player in the cafeteria, he's a high-energy man who is more apt to push a thinking player's buttons just with the smile in his eyes. Right now, he's got most of the players right where he wants them. Ben Roethlisberger has been quick to support him, and at the same time, those who groused last year about the way the staff coddled Roethisberger are also happy. Guys like Alan Faneca may long for the old staff, but he's smart enough to come around to a high-energy guy like Tomlin. I think the bigger question will be how the players take to the assistant coaches. Backbone stalwarts such as Dick Hoak are gone and replaced by a bunch of guys making a lot of noise. It has to make a player wonder if the rock-solid tradition has flown. But to that point, Tomlin has already made a big play by promoting the underrated and popular John Mitchell to assistant head coach. I really see big things for Tomlin and I think the players feel the same way. - Jim Wexell


Q: The Steelers over the years have had areas on their teams which were the best in the division, let alone, the conference, if not in the total NFL. The team had a great set of linebackers and a very solid offensive line. These two key ingredients provided an above average offense and an above average defense. Since Joey Porter is now gone, and it appears no player close to Joey Porter's playing level or fire appears ready to step in on September 9th, how effective is the Pittsburgh defense going to be in the early 2007 season? Who are the Steelers starting five offensive linemen for 2007 and will they provide a good offensive line for the 2007 season? - Ramllov

A: I think James Harrison will play better this year than Porter did last year. Will Harrison have the same fire? You tell me. You saw him slam the fan a few years ago. That's the type of man he is. While he won't yap like Porter, Harrison's meaner. In fact, when Sports Illustrated did that ridiculous cover story on Porter titled "NFL's Meanest Man," I wrote a column stating that Porter wasn't even the meanest man in his own locker room. No, James Harrison will be fine. And as for the defense as a whole, I think it'll improve with Cowher out of Dick LeBeau's way. As for the offensive line, I also look for improvement from a unit that was excruciatingly overrated the last two seasons. Make fun of Larry Zierlein's computer skills all you want, but I like the fact he pushed Max Starks and Chukky Okobi with Bronx bad boy Willie Colon at both the RT and C positions this spring. I look for Starks to play his best football in what's looking like his final season with the Steelers and I look for Colon to push him all the way. My guess on the 07 line: LT Marvel Smith, LG Faneca, C Sean Mahan, RG Kendall Simmons, RT Colon. - Jim Wexell


Q: What changes do you see in the systems & schemes that the new coaching staff will run? How will that change over the next 2-3 years? How will the zone blitz change with Joey Porter gone? - Chidawg

A: Man, you guys put too much faith in the national media if you're still buying the Joey Porter hype. No one in Pittsburgh expects James Harrison to be the cause of any sort of decline. They also have a couple of high draft picks to use as specialty blitzers this season. If anything, the change in head coaches has allowed Dick LeBeau to expand on his 3-4 zone blitz schemes. One noticeable difference will be the third-down defense. At times they'll use one down lineman and bring any of the four, five or six llinemen, linebackers or safeties who are roving around at the second level. It's an imitation of the Ravens' pass-downs defense with some LeBeau touches added to it. - Jim Wexell

Q: What differences have you seen in the "type" of player the Steelers acquire (or promote) since Tomlin has taken over for Cowher? TW, I still appreciate the number of Steeler fans who showed up with black arm bands the Monday night game after Modell announced he was moving the (old) Browns to Baltimore. Please pass that on to the Steeler fans. Thanks for sharing what is going on with your team! I look forward to giving you guys a good game both times this year. - Chidawg

A: I expect a much-improved Browns team as well. As far as differences in the type of players they'll acquire, I'm really not sure. I think personnel man Kevin Colbert will continue to look for high-character guys who are self-motivators, such as LaMarr Woodley. Tomlin has leaned toward drafting special-teams players. They drafted a punter in the fourth round and some would say an ST coverage man in the first. Lawrence Timmons doesn't really fit as a 3-4 OLB and they're already set at ILB, so, it appears they simply drafted a coverage head-hunter in the first round. - Jim Wexell


Q: Do you believe Alan Faneca will be a hold out this year and have the Steelers been even in the ballpark on any contract talks? - DDIII

A: I've heard the offer was kind of close to -- I can't even write this with a straight face -- the recent contracts signed by Eric Steinbach, Derrick Dockery, Kris Dielman and Leonard Davis, but there's no way the Rooneys will end up paying a guard that kind of outrageous money. They've made Faneca the highest-paid guard in the league before, but that still left him the third-highest paid player on their team. There's no way they'll raise their salary structure that high for a guard. Faneca hates that type of thinking, and thus the spring blow-up, but my understanding is that he was a keen student at the three-day minicamp and knowing his character I doubt that he's a problem this year. There's no way he holds out. - Jim Wexell


Q: What is your prediction for Steelers record? I see them dropping a bit, definately not in the elite category. I see it as they could either be re-tooling this year...or beginning of a re-build. - Tommybo

A: I think the Steelers will be a great bet in Vegas, whether it's going over the win total, winning the division, winning the conference or even winning the Super Bowl. Roethlisberger looks great and has much to prove to the critics -- like me -- who question his leadership skills and off-field dedication. They have great skill personnel -- Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller, Willie Parker -- and I expect the offensive line to play much better than it has the last two seasons, particularly with three of the starters in the final years of contracts. I also expect the defense to play better with a healthy Troy Polamalu and reinforcements at linebacker. Their defensive front is still the best 3-man front in the game and their defensive backs will improve under Tomlin's tutelage. I'm thinking 11-5 at this point. - Jim Wexell


Q: Hi Jim, What, in your opinion, were the main reasons the Steelers came back looking mediocre at best after the impressive Super Bowl season? And how have those issues been addressed this offseason? - TaipeiDawg

A: Super Bowl hangovers are real. And then when you throw in a wrecked quarterback, a lame-duck head coach, an injured defensive superstar (Polamalu), and a difficult schedule, you're looking at mediocrity. Besides, they never took a serious look at their O-line problems that weren't exposed in the 2005 playoffs by defensive lightweights Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Denver and Seattle. Those teams didn't have the inside muscle that caused teams like San Diego, Jacksonville and New England to give the Steelers such fits over the years. - Jim Wexell


Q: Roethlisberger's QB rating dropped from 98.6 in 2005 to 75.4 last year. Was that due mainly to his motorcycle accident, or were there other factors involved? Do you expect him to rebound given the concerns on the offensive line? - Prosecutor

A: I think the line will improve, particularly its pass-blocking. I also think Roethlisberger let the success go to his head, which of course was throbbing from the wreck and the early-season concussion. - Jim Wexell


Q: With Whisenhunt and Grimm exiting out to Arizona, that left only LeBeau as the one chief contributor to the staff intact. Tomlin stated he wasn't going to fiddle with the defense when trying to retain LeBeau. Now there are reports he has. The change to the 4-3 from LeBeau's unique version of the 3-4 is happening in little pieces. What kind of rift do you see with the two if any..., or are they on the same page? - Lumpy

A: No rift. Tomlin is learning from LeBeau as the two are working together. I know nothing of this new 4-3, except it has to be the future for Lawrence Timmons. Then again, why would they draft a classic 3-4 OLB such as Woodley in the second round? I think the report you're referencing is the one in which Tomlin was quoted as saying LeBeau had used a 4-3 front 40 percent of the time in 2006 and that cover-2 teams use that particular coverage only 33 percent of the time. Good coaches such as these guys will always be mixing it up, but the Steelers are still a 3-4 team. Would you change if you had Casey Hampton on the nose? - Jim Wexell


Q: What impact do you see losing Grimm and an unhappy Faneca having? I'm a big Grimm fan and know how important his value to the team was. - Lumpy
A: I think Larry Zierlein is an outstanding line coach. I think Faneca's unhappy about money and the front office, not about the team. He's too classy and too much of a pro to let it affect his performance. I think he'll have a killer year. - Jim Wexell

By Site Staff
Posted Jul 8, 2007



Thought I'd share this with everybody. Good questions and insightful answers from Wexell. I agree with his assessment of Cowher, him being a power and control guy, thats one way of getting respect and players to play for you but I never liked that approach. I think Tomlin has his own style that will work wonders in Pittsburgh as well as get the player to perform a whole helluva lot better. :bigthumb:

SteelerSal
07-09-2007, 09:43 AM
I like Wexell, his interviews are usually pretty good.
Any of you ever read, "Tales from behind the Steel Curtain"?
Great book by Wexell. I'm not a book reader but I could'nt put this one down.:bigthumb:



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SteelersfaninPhilly
07-09-2007, 12:14 PM
This not the first report that has been posted. In regards to Tomlin giving more power to his assitants unlike when cowher was here. Are we about to see LeBeau take this defense to a whole another level? :tt02: .

manofsteel
07-09-2007, 12:16 PM
I would love to see DL take the gloves off

BlitzburghNation
07-09-2007, 02:13 PM
Great read 'deez' ~~~:bigthumb:

All I can say,,,,,,,ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL :tt02::tt02::tt02:

BlitzburghRockCity
07-09-2007, 06:23 PM
I love this statement !! James Harrison is going to be a beast for us this year !


You saw him slam the fan a few years ago. That's the type of man he is. While he won't yap like Porter, Harrison's meaner. In fact, when Sports Illustrated did that ridiculous cover story on Porter titled "NFL's Meanest Man," I wrote a column stating that Porter wasn't even the meanest man in his own locker room. No, James Harrison will be fine

SteelerSteve
07-11-2007, 02:40 AM
Joey Porter sure scared the hell out of the browns though!!:lol::bluelol::lol:

Stlrs4Life
07-15-2007, 08:58 PM
Seems like there actually are some smart Browns fans out there, they were pretty good questions.