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Dale Lolley on the Steelers

February 24, 2012

Dale Lolley:

First, can you let readers know what to expect from Dale Lolley in 2012? Any changes to the blog or your assignments?

No changes for me this season. I’ll be starting my 20th year of covering the Steelers for the Observer-Reporter, which can be accessed on the net at observer-reporter.com. Fans can also find my thoughts at nflfromthesidelines.blogspot.com, or on Twitter at @fdlolleyor. I’ll also still be an occasional host on ESPN 970-AM.

Another “turbulent” offseason.  Or is this just the norm for most teams and do fans expect more “regularity” than is fair in today’s NFL?

Change is always going to be the norm in today’s NFL. The Steelers are undergoing a little more than usual this year because of the coordinator change, but retirements and cap issues always seem to crop up. It’s all part of the game in the free agent era.

Are the Steelers too private? In today’s information age, does the secrecy just  lead to more versus less speculation and sometimes even appearances of deception?

The Steelers are actually one of the more open franchises in the league. They have practices that are open to the local media every day. Many teams only allow the media to come in and watch the team stretch, which doesn’t really tell you who is practicing and who isn’t. In terms of protecting information, that’s the norm. Nobody wants an opponent to have a competitive advantage. And some things just have to stay in house. It’s pretty much par for the course with any pro franchise.

You want secretive and controlling, look at the colleges.

Where do the offensive fixes need to start?  With o-line, Ben or gameplan – and how?

I think it’s a matter of tweaking both. I’ve long been a proponent of getting Ben to check down more. I’m not saying he needs to become Kent Graham, but if you watch Drew Brees, he uses his backs as well as anyone and still wings it downfield at times. It’s why he completes 70 percent of his passes.

And those checkdowns will make the offensive line look a lot better.

Where  do the defensive fixes start? With a better pass rush, corner play or better gameplan?

Keep James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley on the field together at the same time and the defense will be fine.

Is there any reason to make anything out of the fact Ben and Haley had not spoken? And who does that fall on in your opinion?

At this point, they have now spoken, so that crisis is averted. Too much was made of the whole thing. Other players seemed to find Haley just fine.

Roethlisberger was just being pig-headed by not wanting to make the first move. If he wanted to talk to Haley so much, all he had to do was go find him.

When the 2012 season starts, which key 2011 Steelers won’t be on the roster, in your opinion?

William Gay will likely be elsewhere. Too many teams have holes in their secondary not to take a look at somebody who has played solid football the last couple of seasons – I know, the haters won’t admit it, but he did. Max Starks will also likely be gone. Larry Foote will likely be let go since the Steelers like what Sylvesterter Stevenson provides.

And finally, I don’t see Hines Ward back in 2012. The Steelers worked too hard to get him his 1,000 receptions for me to believe that they will be bringing him back again.

Injuries have consistently  had such a big impact on the team over many years now. Has the team looked more closely at why, and do you think their physical style of play has anything to do with this?

Look at any team and injuries are going to play a factor. Heck, in the Steelers’ recent Super Bowl runs, you’d have a hard time convincing many people outside of Pittsburgh that the Steelers were the best team. But in many cases, they were the team that stayed the most healthy at key positions.

Who are some of the biggest characters on this Steelers team and why makes them so? Any examples?

I remember sitting on a bus next to rookie Emmanuel Sanders on the way to the practice at Latrobe High School and listening to he and Crezdon Butler work on their Mike Tomlin impersonation. That’s ballsy for a rookie, but Sanders is a character.

Brett Keisel is somebody who’s not afraid to play around with the media. And obviously, his beard has a character of its own. The aforementioned Larry Foote is somebody his teammates love. He’s always quick with a joke and is good at keeping everyone loose.

What young players do you see stepping up to fill leadership roles this season as veterans are released/sign elsewhere?

Antonio Brown’s work ethic has to rub off on the players around him. Nobody wants to look like they’re slacking off when somebody is busting it like Brown does. Maurkice Pouncey will also need to become even more of a leader than he already is on the offensive line with Starks likely gone.

Any last thoughts for readers?

Don’t get too concerned about this offseason. The Steelers will keep a low profile in free agency once again and will somehow still put a team on the field in 2012 that will win 10 to 12 games. It’s just what they do. The front office does an excellent job of restocking the team through the draft and always finds a way to stay competitive.

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