WILL TIMMONS REGAIN GAME CHANGING ABILITY?
For the Steelers defense to be dominant, they have to get significant pressure from their outside linebackers. That’s been a fact for years and was extremely clear last season with James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley rarely on the field at full strength together.
In Sunday’s week one opener vs Denver, the Steelers pass rush was nearly non-existent in the final three quarters of the game and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau went conservative with his pass rush in the final three quarters when trying to combat the Broncos hurry up offense.
The result was LaMarr Woodley rushing the passer just 10 times in the game.
With the NFL evolving into a pass happy, quick strike league, the Steelers have to find other ways to get pressure.
While the Steelers don’t seek defensive ends in their 3-4 system to be Jason Pierre-Paul type pass rushers……. one would be nice with how the league is evolving.
As for the Steelers current personnel, there continues to be a mystery surrounding Lawrence Timmons as his game changing, dynamic ability has fallen off in the last two to three years. Timmons in 2009 playing on a bad ankle for much of the season, had 7 sacks and 4 forced fumbles in 14 games. In 2010 Timmons flashed premier numbers with 135 tackles and he was just a game changer all over the field, especially early in the season where Timmons had games of 11, 15, 15, 11 and 12 tackles in five of his first seven games.
His quickness and ability to cover the entire field has not been seen from him consistently since the early part of 2010. At age 26 that shouldn’t be gone yet but you just don’t see that closing speed to the ball he showed earlier in his career where he had that wow factor at times and Timmons continues to be plagued by taking bad angles.
Timmons might be the most important player to this defense moving forward.The focus for Dick LeBeau needs to be getting Timmons back to being a force in rushing the passer like he was earlier in his career as he combined for 12 sacks in 2008 and 2009, a span of 30 games, and he has just 5 sacks in his last 33 regular season games.
— The question mark surrounding the Steelers offense remains whether Todd Haley’s philosophy of a quick passing game that focuses on a lot of dink and dunk passes is going to lead to putting more points on the board in the long run. The jury is still out on that one as the Steelers have always been a so called “yardage” and “time of possession” offense for several years. What’s interesting with the Steelers offense under Haley is that a short passing game is something Dick LeBeau seeks to let happen when defending opposing offenses.
— While the Steelers ran 54 three+ wide receiver sets vs Denver, they have to be more aggressive with 15+ yard passes through the air and they have to get more aggressive on first down. With the weapons they have, there is just no excuse not to take more chances down the field and under Haley we just haven’t seen it much from the preseason to week 1. Most glaring was the Steelers being as conservative as they were in the first half to open a series. In the first half the Steelers rushed the ball on first down for all four possessions to open a series and ran the ball on second down on three of the four opening series possessions in the half. If the Steelers are to consistently get into the type of third and long’s they got into early Sunday night, they are going to be playing a dangerous game.
— Head coach Mike Tomlin has become a big believer in running back Jonathan Dwyer and that showed Sunday night when Dwyer was on the field for 42 snaps compared to starter Isaac Redman who was on the field for 24 snaps. That ratio could continue on Sunday vs Jets and head coach Mike Tomlin hinted at that in Tuesday’s press conference…… Don’t be surprised if by the end of the season, Rashard Mendenhall and Jonathan Dwyer end up being the Steelers best backs.
— Willie Colon’s up and down play vs Broncos was what I expected based on his play in the preseason. The buzz among Steelers officials about Colon’s play at left guard has died down since Colon has been playing under the lights. The Steelers feel there is a lot of room to grow for Colon but some were jumping the gun expecting a smooth transition based on Colon’s play in practices.