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Post Gazette lists position battles going into camp

Postby thesteelhammer » Sun Jul 27, 2008 8:59 pm

Ed's got a nice little list as part of this article. Love his take on Kemo.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08209/899904-66.stm?cmpid=steelers.xml

....competition will be keen for some individuals fighting for starting jobs and roster spots. Among them:

• Veteran Larry Foote vs. 2007 top draft pick Lawrence Timmons at the mack inside linebacker position that Foote has held the past four seasons. Even Foote has intimated the writing is on the wall for Timmons to take his spot.

• Newcomer Justin Hartwig vs. Sean Mahan at center. Mahan was underwhelming in his first year after signing from Tampa Bay in 2007. Hartwig once was a good center in Tennessee, but he was affected by an injury in Carolina.

• Chris Kemoeatu replacing seven-time Pro Bowl left guard Alan Faneca. Kemoeatu would seem to have no competition, even though he has started just two games in three years.

• Willie Colon vs. Max Starks at offensive right tackle. Colon beat out Starks, who started in 2005 and 2006, last summer. Does paying Starks $7 million this season add to his virtues in this competition?

• Deshea Townsend vs. Bryant McFadden at right cornerback. McFadden, entering his fourth season, has yet to surpass the steady old vet.

• Ryan Clark vs. Anthony Smith at free safety. As long as Clark, who had his spleen removed at mid-2007 season, is healthy, it's his job. Smith took over when Clark left, then could not hold onto it.

• Willie Parker and rookie Rashard Mendenhall at running back. This won't be an either/or situation but the start of what should be a good one-two punch for the Steelers that might on occasion see them in the backfield at the same time. How much time Mendenhall gets will depend on Mendenhall.

"The growth of his role will be determined on his ability to execute from an assignment standpoint," Tomlin said. "I don't have a crystal ball, and we will let that play out. He's got a nice, humble mentality about him, so I won't be shocked if he does some nice things for us."

• Finding a return man. Santonio Holmes, who did a good job of returning punts as a rookie in 2006, wasn't allowed to do it last season, and everyone else failed. He could be the leading candidate. Others of note: Mendenhall, Mewelde Moore, Willie Reid and Jeremy Bloom.

• Find a new third-down back: Najeh Davenport and, on occasion, Carey Davis performed that job last season. It almost surely will go to Moore, who was signed for that purpose as an unrestricted free agent from the Minnesota Vikings.

• Dennis Dixon, the team's fifth-round draft choice, will replace departed Brian St. Pierre as the No. 3 quarterback.

• Plenty of roster decisions must be made, such as the No. 3 tight end, the No. 5 or even 6 wide receivers, which backup offensive linemen to keep, whether one or two of the young defensive linemen can bump off an old vet backup or two, and if rookie Ryan Mundy can beat out Tyrone Carter as a backup safety.


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Re: Post Gazette lists position battles going into camp

Postby thesteelhammer » Sun Jul 27, 2008 9:09 pm

They are all about lists today.
Here's a link o their top 5 "Camp Story Lines"

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08209/899676-66.stm?cmpid=steelers.xml

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Re: Post Gazette lists position battles going into camp

Postby No l Gravity l » Mon Jul 28, 2008 4:09 am

Theres a lot of competition this year for starting jobs. Can't wait to see who comes out on top during the preseason

My take:

Hartwig winning the job is pretty much a given imo. If Hartwig doesn't win the job at center we miss the playoffs. No faith in Mahan at any position including guard.

Very interested to see who comes out on top with Starks and Colon and I really hope Starks steps it up and plays like he did in '05. Maybe Colon can be moved to Kemo's spot if he doesn't show signs of being a quality guard.

McFadden needs to beat Townsend. Its his time. Let Townsend play nickel with Gay.

If Timmons beats out Foote at the inside we will have the best LBing crew in the league

Clark is a stud and should win the job but I'm still a fan of Smith. Yeah he needs to keep his mouth shut but he hits hard and has had 4 ints in his 2 years of limited action. I think Smith is better suited as a SS anyway and it doesn't hurt to have a backup to Polamalu considering his frequent injuries.

Hopefully Mundy is good. Tyrone needs to be released.

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Re: Post Gazette lists position battles going into camp

Postby thesteelhammer » Mon Aug 04, 2008 6:49 pm

Even better break down of the position battles and numbers game.

http://www.timesonline.com/articles/2008/08/04/sports/steelers/doc4896779892335030327252.txt

Now, the Steelers' position battles begin

By Mike Bires, Times Sports Staff
Published: Sunday, August 3, 2008 11:31 PM EDT
LATROBE — Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says his main goal at training camp is to “leave as a hardened unit.” A secondary goal is to put together the best 53-man roster.

At some positions, trimming the roster will be effortless.

But at others, tough decisions must be made.

So now that camp is one week old and the first preseason game is just six days away, here’s a position-by-position glance at the Steelers.

OFFENSE

QUARTERBACK

In camp (4): Ben Roethlisberger, Charlie Batch, Dennis Dixon and Mike Potts.

The skinny: The Steelers will no doubt keep three.

Roethlisberger, with his eight-year, $102 million contract, is firmly established as the starter. Batch is a solid No. 2 man for now. But this could be his last season with the Steelers because of the rookie Dixon.

The Steelers are intrigued Dixon’s athleticism, and he projects as the backup of the future. Potts, who played at Tomlin’s alma mater (William & Mary), is strictly a practice player.

RUNNING BACK

In camp (7): Willie Parker, Rashard Mendenhall, Mewelde Moore, Carey Davis, Gary Russell, Justin Vincent, Billy Latsko.

The skinny: On paper, there’s a ton of talent at the halfback position. Now, it’s just a matter of figuring out how the carries will be divided.

Coming off a broken leg, it’s doubtful that Parker will run 300-plus times as he did the past two seasons. His string of three straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons may even be in jeopardy.

That’s because of Mendenhall, the No. 1 draft pick who’s looked terrific in camp. Mendenhall will get his share of carries.

It will be interesting to see how Moore fits. He excelled as a third-down back when he played with the Minnesota Vikings. He caught 116 passes for 1,093 yards the past four years. Just as a comparison, Parker had 75 catches for 620 yards over the same span.

Last year, the Steelers kept five running backs. They’ll likely keep five again this year. Vincent and Latsko have no chance.

WIDE RECEIVER

In camp (11): Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Limas Sweed, Nate Washington, Eddie Drummond, Willie Reid, Dallas Baker, Jeremy Bloom, Micah Rucker, Gerran Walker and Marvin Allen.

The skinny: With Ward and Holmes set as the starters, Sweed and Washington will battle for the No. 3 job. Washington, now a fourth-year pro, has an edge in experience and speed. At 6-foot-4, Sweed, this year’s second-round pick, is the big receiver Roethlisberger has coveted since Plaxico Burress left town.

It didn’t bode well for Reid when the Steelers signed wide receiver/kick return specialist Drummond last week.

TIGHT END

In camp (5): Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, Jon Dekker, Cody Boyd and Dezmond Sherrod.

The skinny: It has been said by at least one Steelers insider that Boyd (6-8, 264) is the best blocking tight end on the roster. That bodes well for Boyd’s chances of replacing Jerame Tuman as the Steelers’ third TE.

Miller and Spaeth are perceived to be better pass catches than blockers.

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is fond of three tight end sets, so it only makes sense that the Steelers will keep three again this year.

LINE

In camp (13): Marvel Smith, Willie Colon, Kendall Simmons, Chris Kemoeatu, Justin Hartwig, Sean Mahan, Max Starks, Trai Essex, Darnell Stapleton, Tony Hills, Matt Lentz, Jeremy Parquet and Doug Legursky.

The skinny: Last year, the Steelers kept nine O-linemen. Unless they cut another veteran this year, they’ll probably keep 10.

Would the Steelers dare cut Mahan if he loses the starting job at center to Hartwig?

Probably not.

But they also probably won’t cut Starks, despite his $7 million contract, Essex or Stapleton because of the “position flexibility” as Tomlin calls it, or Hills because he’s a rookie fourth-round draft pick.

DEFENSE

LINE

In camp (11): Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel, Chris Hoke, Travis Kirschke, Nick Eason, Ryan McBean, Scott Paxson, Kyle Clement, Martavius Price and Jordan Reffert.

The skinny: Left to right in the 3-4 base defense, Smith, Hampton and Keisel are set up front.

Eason, Hoke and Eason are the backups.

Last year when the Steelers drafted McBean, a defensive end, they knew he’d be a project. Now it looks like he may never play in the NFL.

LINEBACKERS

In camp (13): Larry Foote, James Farrior, James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons, Bruce Davis, Keyaron Fox, Mike Humpal, Andre Frazier, Arnold Harrison, Patrick Bailey, Anthony Trucks and Donovan Woods.

The skinny: Foote will keep his starting job at right inside linebacker for now, but Timmons, last year’s No. 1 pick, will play more and more as the season progresses, especially on obvious passing downs.

If the Steelers keep nine linebackers as they did last year, Fox, Frazier and Arnold Harrison will battle for the eighth and ninth spots.

Davis, this year’s third-round draft pick, won’t be cut. Even though he’s a sixth-rounder, Humpal has been impressive so far.

SECONDARY

In camp (13): Troy Polamalu, Deshea Townsend, Ike Taylor, Ryan Clark, Bryant McFadden, Anthony Smith, William Gay, Tyrone Carter, Grant Mason, Anthony Madison, Ryan Mundy, Travis Williams and Roy Lewis.

The skinny: Another position which is all but set. The top eight players are entrenched. Mason, Madison and Mundy will battle it out for the ninth and 10th spots if the Steelers keep 10 DBs like 2007.

SPECIAL TEAMS

In camp (4): Jeff Reed, Paul Ernster, Daniel Sepulveda and Greg Warren.

The skinny: This is a no-brainer.

Reed is one of the NFL’s most reliable place kickers. Warren is a solid the long-snapper. They have no competition in camp right now.

And someone has to punt, whether it’s Ernster, who was signed when Sepulveda re-tore a knee ligament last week, or someone else the Steelers may bring in between now and the start of the regular season.

Interestingly, the Steelers have yet to put Sepulveda on the season-ending injured reserve list. But maybe they will after his surgery on Wednesday.

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