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Steelers ready for big changes on defense

Casey Hampton,  Andy Dalton AP

Expect the Steelers’ defense to look a lot different in 2012 than it looked in 2011.

Although the Steelers have said they don’t want to tear things apart this offseason, the reality is that they’re currently slated to be about $25 million over the 2012 salary cap, which means there are going to be some difficult decisions to make. And many of those decisions will involve releasing longtime veteran starters on defense.

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that multiple defensive starters will be cut before the league year starts on March 13. The names that could be gone include Aaron Smith, Bryant McFadden, James Farrior, Casey Hampton and Larry Foote.

On the other hand, Bouchette writes, several defensive players are untouchable: Troy Polamalu, LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison, Ike Taylor, Brett Keisel, Ryan Clark and Lawrence Timmons won’t be going anywhere, even though they’re all high-priced veterans.

The question in Pittsburgh is whether the right mixture of new acquisitions can blend in with those remaining veterans to keep the team near the top of the league on defense. The Steelers proved during the final 15 games of the regular season that Warren Sapp was wrong with his “old, slow, and it’s over” declaration after Week One. But the Steelers showed their age in the playoffs, and whether they like it or not, the salary cap is going to force them to get younger this year.

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48 Responses to “Steelers ready for big changes on defense”
  1. mancinibread says: Jan 22, 2012 9:03 AM

    They should keep Farrior and get rid of Keisel. Ryan and Ike still have a lot of proving to do as well. And Troy, man I hope you get your step back, we miss it.

  2. bettis3636 says: Jan 22, 2012 9:04 AM

    ALL of the players listed here are ones that the Steelers WON several games WITHOUT last year… Pittsburgh knows the depth that they have UN LIKE teams like the Colts.. NOTHING WRONG with a youth movement… ALTHOUGH i would love to keep Larry Foote in Black N Gold!!

  3. muckman207 says: Jan 22, 2012 9:12 AM

    As a lifelong Stiller fan, I agree with all these cuts. These cuts should make them stronger!

  4. steelerfan9598 says: Jan 22, 2012 9:12 AM

    I wouldn’t say they showed their ‘age’. Hampton, Keisel and Clark were all replaced with younger players that day. Smith was already replaced by Hood. When you play a 3-4 and go into the 2nd quarter with all 3 of your normal defensive lineman out as well as your top backup NT, Chris Hoke, you’re going to have a problem.

  5. gronk87dez81 says: Jan 22, 2012 9:14 AM

    As a Pats fan, it truly is music to my ears that Ike Taylor is “untouchable”. D Thomas knows how untouchable Ike is…

  6. agc99 says: Jan 22, 2012 9:16 AM

    Old Steelers don’t retire they go to Arizona.

  7. fordmandalay says: Jan 22, 2012 9:40 AM

    So far, all Ike Taylor has proven to me is that he can cash a huge paycheck, and be totally beaten like a drum when the time relied on him to finally prove he deserves said huge paycheck.

  8. daryllh says: Jan 22, 2012 9:40 AM

    timmons is untouchable only until the team brass get tired of him phoning it in on big games.

  9. Stiller43 says: Jan 22, 2012 9:52 AM

    Aaron smith has played about 10 games the last 3 years.

    Bryant mcfadden saw the field about once in the last 14 games this season.

    Hamtons old and is only a one down player at this point in his career with his age and the quick pass style of offense that has grown like wild fire accross the league.

    Farrior is old as F and his replacement is believed to be on the roster in stevenson sylvester.

    Foote was bad when he bolted for detroit 3 years ago.

    Different names may be on the roster, but word has it the coaches really like curtis brown and cortez allen to play big roles in the secondary soon and that they really like the young guys in hood and heyward to not skip a beat on the d line…

    In tomlin and colbert we trust!

  10. steelnucs says: Jan 22, 2012 10:03 AM

    fordmandalay says:
    Jan 22, 2012 9:40 AM
    So far, all Ike Taylor has proven to me is that he can cash a huge paycheck, and be totally beaten like a drum when the time relied on him to finally prove he deserves said huge paycheck.

    BINGO. You know your secondary is bad when Taylor is the best cover guy you have. Gay is horrible, and McFadden is behind him on the depth chart and never plays, as mentioned above – that tells you all you need to know about him. If that Denver game wasn’t a wake up call to overhaul that secondary (easier said than done, I know) I don’t know what is.

    Stiller43 also hit the nail on the head. Farrior especially needs to call it a career (at least with the Steelers).

  11. 6ball says: Jan 22, 2012 10:06 AM

    .

    One of the great NFL storylines : can Pittsburgh and Baltimore with their more mature rosters hold off upstart Cincinnati and Cleveland in the AFC North. It will be even more interesting if the Browns can acquire a top flight QB in this year’s draft.

    .

  12. nightrain42 says: Jan 22, 2012 10:06 AM

    Only Big Snacks and Farrior played regularly. Tell they need a paycut, if not bye. Pittsburgh doesn’t rebuild, we retool.

  13. steelhammer92 says: Jan 22, 2012 10:20 AM

    Taylor had one bad game ALL SEASON and people talk like he’s a bum. LOL Thomas had a hell of a game and Tebow played the game of his life. It happens. I think Taylor and the Steelers seriously underestimated the Broncos ability to throw deep.

  14. apcsteel says: Jan 22, 2012 10:27 AM

    It wasn’t ike taylor fault it was zone coverage troy tryed to jump the route in ike got caught covering his mistake. And mandy blew the call of the adjustment in ot

  15. apcsteel says: Jan 22, 2012 10:30 AM

    The have to keep hampton and draft a nt.

  16. jrobitaille23 says: Jan 22, 2012 10:31 AM

    The Steelers do NOT have anyone on their current roster who will make a serviceable second cornerback let alone an upgrade (sadly) to Ike. This means they have nobody for when they are in nickle as well. They have Silvester to take over for Farrior and Heyward and Hood for Smith and Keisel. They have nobody special to take over for Hampton at NT and no depth either. All in all they need to drop all of these guys and draft in order: CB, NT, ILB. Of course there is the other side of the ball and they need to draft O lineman maybe more than defense and will need to address RB as it is unlikely they re-sign Mendenhall. With only Gilbert (questionable talent) at RT, and Pouncey (never healthy for playoffs) at C. Their line is abysmal. Easily the worst guards in the NFL and LT is a MUST!!!. Can they address this all in the draft? No…but IMO if they can get a really good CB and LT they will be ready to compete for superbowl again. They need to trade up if necessary to take a 10 year starter at either position because they have not addressed either in a decade.

  17. smart3rthanyou says: Jan 22, 2012 10:33 AM

    Ike held opposing receivers to an average of 2 catches for 30 yards all season long. He had one bad game & most of it was due to the Steelers reluctance to give him help once the Broncos came out throwing the ball deep.

    By the way, the Steelers were way over the cap last year & people were preaching doom and gloom for them. Happens every year and the Steelers just keep getting done what they need to do to remain competitive year in and year out.

    People are stupid.

  18. henrykissingerisgod says: Jan 22, 2012 10:35 AM

    Ike Taylor had a bad game in Denver. It happens, he is still one of the best CB’s in the game. The thing is, Taylor had a great year, based on FO game charting stats. He just had his worst game of the year at the worst possible time.

    gronk87dez81

    remember when he shut down wes welker

    and it is time for the offense to carry a bigger load. they have the youngest offense in the AFC and should put up over 26 points this year.

    The steelers defense may slip in the rankings but a defensive slip for the steelers is from top 5 to top 10.

  19. smart3rthanyou says: Jan 22, 2012 10:42 AM

    @apcsteel – Incorrect. The Steelers were playing an inverted cover 2. That means the safties are each responsible for a deep half of the field…however they play very close to the LOS in anticipation of a run. The run fake drew them even closer & that’s all that was needed.

    The Broncos lined up in that formation 16 times in that game and only threw out of it once. Guess when that once was?

  20. grogansheroes says: Jan 22, 2012 10:53 AM

    steelhammer92 says:
    Jan 22, 2012 10:20 AM
    Taylor had one bad game ALL SEASON and people talk like he’s a bum. LOL Thomas had a hell of a game and Tebow played the game of his life. It happens. I think Taylor and the Steelers seriously underestimated the Broncos ability to throw deep.
    __________________________________
    Yeah, cause Tebow really ripped apart the Pats secondary the next week. You know, that 31st ranked defense.

  21. emmac13 says: Jan 22, 2012 10:53 AM

    I could see the Jets getting Foote. After all Rex loves a little Foote.

  22. apcsteel says: Jan 22, 2012 10:57 AM

    You have brown, butler, and you forget they didn’t have otas because of lock out gilbert like most rookies played basicly a 2nd senoir year. They are just finding out want it takes to be a pro. I have coached youth and high school football for 10 years you are overreacting learn the game as a coach and being so much of a fan

  23. terrellpryorstattooartist says: Jan 22, 2012 11:00 AM

    Well if life has proven anything to me it’s that three things are certain; taxes, death, and the steelers are a well run organization and none of these players leaving will do anything to keep them from still being a top 10 defense next year. And I have no idea why they gave Timmons that huge contract I never see him do anything except run after guys that are making a big play. O well go ravens!

  24. ticalcaldwell says: Jan 22, 2012 11:26 AM

    this offseason, the reality is that they’re currently slated to be about $25 million over the 2012 salary cap,

    ====================================

    when the Free agency and draft money’s spent……you’ll have a whole lot of players jumpin ship….All good things come to an end….Its time for youth…RG3 to the Browns and my Bengals are going to dominate

  25. steeltroll says: Jan 22, 2012 11:29 AM

    @ grogansheroes. Of course you wouldn’t point out that LeBeau refused to put safety help over the top for the entire game, including OT. That game was not all on Ike, though he had a wretched day at the office.

  26. ravenfan820 says: Jan 22, 2012 12:05 PM

    I see a couple of snowmen in the stillers future next year….like 8-8

  27. j0esixpack says: Jan 22, 2012 12:18 PM

    I’ve heard for a long time what a bad job Belichick does in the draft and free agency – and that he could learn a thing or two from the Steelers who do a much better job

    Seems to me one team is old, slow and out of the running

    Another team is still alive with a young defense taking shape, despite the head scratching of some who questioned why Belichick made the cuts he did

  28. notwhoyouthinkitis says: Jan 22, 2012 12:23 PM

    Even in a down year, the Steelers usually finish no worse than 9-7. The number of years when the Steelers finished at .500 or worse are very very few over the past decade.

    Every year Steeler haters say the Steelers will be 6-10 (they did this year yet they ended 12-5). Got news for you, haters. Just because your team finishes 6-10 or worse some years does not mean the Steelers will!

  29. steeltroll says: Jan 22, 2012 12:24 PM

    I see Avearge Joe continuing his sub average play off performance today.

  30. jollyrob68 says: Jan 22, 2012 12:26 PM

    As a Steelers fan, Hampton needs to go or take a huge paycut. He already admitted he doesn’t study film and he’s afraid of being chopblocked.
    Its time for the youth movement and I cant wait. The should of had Dick LeBeau retire/be a consultant and promote Keirh Butler.

  31. 33rdasylum says: Jan 22, 2012 12:42 PM

    steeltroll says:
    Jan 22, 2012 12:24 PM
    I see Avearge Joe continuing his sub average play off performance today.

    I see Ben Roethlisberger continuing his offseason today.

  32. stewballz92 says: Jan 22, 2012 12:48 PM

    I say the Steelers don’t need a change in defense at all. They just need to get Tim Tebow on the team, and they won’t even need a defense.

  33. cincybert says: Jan 22, 2012 12:49 PM

    This article could be more accurately titled, “Steelers getting rid of dead weight on defense in 2012″ Every guy on that list of potential cuts is either a complete non-factor or is easily replaced.

  34. FinFan68 says: Jan 22, 2012 12:50 PM

    On the other hand, Bouchette writes, several defensive players are untouchable: Troy Polamalu, LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison, Ike Taylor, Brett Keisel, Ryan Clark and Lawrence Timmons won’t be going anywhere, even though they’re all high-priced veterans.
    —————————–
    I disagree. I think that one or two of these guys will be gone as well. The steelers defense has been good for a very long time because they replace guys when they should. Then, suddenly the new guys make a name for themselves. Rinse, repeat.

  35. johntonioholmes says: Jan 22, 2012 12:52 PM

    “But the Steelers showed their age in the playoffs, and whether they like it or not…”

    More proof that you don’t even watch the games.

    5/11 starters were gone on that defense. They didn’t show their age, they showed their lack of depth and poor game-planning.

  36. svcfilmguy says: Jan 22, 2012 12:53 PM

    As a Steelers fan, this is a cause for concern, but we do have young reinforcements in place. Hood, Heyward, Carter, Sylvester, Worilds, Allen, Brown, Lewis…there are guys eager to step in and play. This is how the Steelers do business.

    Now, that being said, what does worry me is that it is all happening at once. We’ll probably be losing 4 defensive starters (Smith, Hampton, Farrior, Gay) all at once. It’s a huge youth movement, but it’s all worked out in the past. I’ll miss the old guys, but it is time to move on.

  37. njsteeler says: Jan 22, 2012 1:02 PM

    Changes definitely need to be made. Farrior is DONE! Like someone stated earlier, his replacement in on the bench. Big Snack unless he takes a paycut can be shown the door too. He has one more year at best, teamed with McClendon at NT. It might be time for Keisell to play a lesser role, and Cameron to take over as the starter. Glad to see some people speak up for Ike. He was solid all year. I really think they need to address the other CB spot in FA’s. Brandon Carr of the Chiefs would be a nice fit opposite Taylor IMO. It’s not as bad as people are making it out to be. For the person that said Troy has lost a step, I call BULLSPIT!! That guy is still playing at a phenomenal level. In 2012 the D will still be one of the best in the business. They will prove all the Sapp’s (pun intended) wrong once again!

  38. johntonioholmes says: Jan 22, 2012 1:05 PM

    FinFan68

    Umm, yeah they won’t get rid of any of those guys.

    Ryan Clark not only led the team in tackles, he was part of a defense that allowed the fewest 40+ plays in the NFL.

    That means Clark was better as the last line of defense than was the other two pro-bowl safeties, Weddle and Reed, whose defenses allowed several big plays this year.

    Keisel played 2-gap better than any DE not named Justin Smith this year.

    Timmons played OLB a lot this year (not a very effective rusher, but decent at sealing the edge). He should have made the pro-bowl last year, but Lewis had a decent year last year, and he’s going to make it on name-only nowadays anyway, so Timmons got bumped…but he had a better season last year.

    Woodley…they guy led the AFC in sacks until his injury. Suggs can thank Woodley if he wins DPOY.

    Harrison–started the season with a back injury, missed a handful of games and wasn’t as dominant of a rusher when he came back. No linebacker is better at shedding blocks to make tackles on stretch plays–he does it 100% of the time. He still gets held on most of his plays, but he used to get held on every play, so he’s clearly declined…there’s no way he’s bad enough the get rid of.

    Ike Taylor had one bad game this season–Denver. Other than that, he’s the best at covering receivers legally. Revis is the best at covering them illegally.

    Troy didn’t have a lot of pics this year, but he was still making a ton of plays that only show up as tackles or don’t even show up at all.

    All of those guys are studs at their position. They need depth behind those guys, which they don’t have.

  39. jimmer2372 says: Jan 22, 2012 2:11 PM

    Why do people pretend like the Steelers were basically without 7 starters for most of the Bronco game? 6 of whom have been All Pro in the past. Let us not act like that was the norm. Just silliness.

  40. antibenapalooza says: Jan 22, 2012 4:00 PM

    The Steelers offense needs some fixin’, too. They should get rid of Pig Ben Rottenberger.

  41. Deb says: Jan 22, 2012 5:12 PM

    McFadden and Foote are gone. Farrior and Smith should retire. Hampton should either retire or agree to a large paycut; he won’t get that kind of money anywhere else. I agree that the others are untouchable–as they should be. Ike had a bad game against Denver, and part of that was the way the team game-planned. We’ve got some good young talent waiting in the wings. I’d say offensive line is a bigger priority right now–but I’ve been saying that for years.

  42. apcsteel says: Jan 22, 2012 5:19 PM

    The steelers been drafting oline they need to stay healthy and ben needs to stop holding the ball

  43. Deb says: Jan 22, 2012 7:00 PM

    @apcsteel …

    Our first-round pick last year was on defense. We drafted Gilbert, who had a horrific start to the season, but is finally settling in. Other than that, the only real o-line find we’ve made in recent drafts is Pouncey. We’re getting rid of Kemoeatu, possibly Starks, and if we’re lucky, Colon. We overpaid for Willie, who wasn’t worth it on his best day–and he hasn’t played a game in two years. When did you last time how long Ben holds the ball? As a rule, it’s less than two seconds before the pocket collapses.

  44. apcsteel says: Jan 23, 2012 6:08 AM

    Let see how kemoeatu plays once he has knee sugery and lose some weight he improve as the season continued. Remember oline is a unit everyone has to be on the same page it is about individuals.

  45. sudz28 says: Jan 24, 2012 6:33 AM

    For all the hang-wringing about the defense, I still say it’s the offensive line that is most in need of an overhaul. It’s been patchwork and barely serviceable for the past several years, and Big Ben spends season after season running for his life while the ground game is stagnant. Please upgrade the O-line first and foremost!

  46. northsidesteel says: Jan 25, 2012 6:53 PM

    Certainly the defense will re-tool. I find the comments about Ike Taylor’s play curious. He took the hit for the poor pass coverage at Denver, some deservedly, but the real problem was the lack of support because the safeties were committed to the run instead of the pass. Good situational play calling made the defense ineffective. I think that Harrison’s inability to adapt his play to an unfamiliar offense was a contributing factor.

  47. aldashex86 says: Jan 29, 2012 12:07 PM

    You Steeler “fans” crack me up. Ike Taylor literally has one bad game and suddenly he is the worst corner in the league. Ike was left on an island all day with a fast, former 1st round pick WR. I know he was widely forgotten after his injury and because he plays in Denver but, Demarius Thomas….the kid is good and FAST!

    Also, Dick continued to leave him on an island even after his defense was getting no pressure whatsoever and the dline was dropping like flies. Ike had no safety help all day long and was chasing a 4.3 speed guy around for 4+ qaurters!!

    I know that it you all think “this is his job so he should be able to do it” blah, blah. Did you never have a bad day at your job? Do you think you should be fired for that one bad day? Didn’t think so. Ike had a Probowl year, don’t believe me? Look at the stats of the wr’s he gaurded this year before the Denver game.

    Ike is often overlooked and underappreciated. He had a bad game but, so did the rest of the team!! What was there…1 sack? The Lions destroyed Tebow and the #1 D couldn’t get 2 sacks? Coverage starts with the front 7. If you don’t have pressure, it doesn’t make a difference if u Have Deion or Willie Gay back there, they will get beat.

  48. apcsteel says: Jan 29, 2012 2:24 PM

    Dick lebeau should have brought more pressure but the sttlers did play zone. Give tebow credit he made throw that he never made before.

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