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Dale Lolley on the Steelers

January 14, 2014
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First – in terms of be run defense issues. How much was Larry Foote missed and how much of it really was on the play at NT?

The Steelers missed Foote, especially early in the season. Vince Williams got better as the season went on, though the team used Terence Garvin late in the year in its sub packages as a coverage man. Many of the big runs allowed could not be directly attributed to the nose tackle position, but it was obvious in short-yardage situations that the Steelers were lacking there – as their 18 rushing touchdowns and 4.3 yards per carry allowed would suggest.

How much conflict is there on player retention between coaches and the front office! We’ve heard this about Max Starks. Does that exist with current players and how is it handled?

There’s always going to be some give and take there. It’s not even close to what existed between Bill Cowher and Tom Donahoe, though. By the end of Donahoe’s tenure, the two barely spoke. The front office has the job of not only building the team, but looking down the road, as well, while the coaching staff is solely focused on the year at hand. Any time you have this kind of setup, there are going to be some disagreements about players.

On not getting the most out of many of the young players – is it about the draft or about player development? And if the latter, is that why the team is looking elsewhere now for an OL coach?

I  thought the Steelers got a lot of out their young players this season, more so than in previous years. Jarvis Jones, Le’Veon Bell and Vince Williams were starters. Many others made contributions throughout the season, though some, like Markus Wheaton and Shamarko Thomas, had their development slowed by injuries. That happens.

The inevitable Worilds an Woodley question. How do you think this gets resolved and what is the organizations viewpoint on both players right now?

I think there’s a 50-50 shot the Steelers find a way to keep both. The Steelers still feel LaMarr Woodley is a valuable player – when he plays. He might not be worth the current salary he makes, but having him on the roster makes them a better team. The organization has always been high on Jason Worilds’ ability. He just couldn’t get much of an opportunity to play because of who he was playing behind. But even in his limited playing time, they thought he could play.

Hardy Nickerson  – a former Steeler – was hired by Tampa Bay recently. What current/recently retired Steelers do you see getting into coaching?

I could see Ramon Foster getting into coaching when his career is done. Same goes for Larry Foote – if he doesn’t find his way into the media. Both are sharp guys who relate to people well.

The NFL changed so quickly to becoming a heavily offense oriented league. Were the Steelers to slow to adjust and “catch on”, or considering the cap situation and personnel, were these growing pains inevitable?

I don’t know that the Steelers were “slow” to catch on. I think they could see how things were moving. But because they had a number of veterans locked up long term, they were unable to adjust quickly. In the matter of one year, a player such as Ryan Clark were made half the player he was before because the big hits were legislated out of the game.

It’s early. But  in terms of the draft, if the Steelers had their way, what positions and players do you see them target in the first few rounds? Who would you like to see them target?

I would go for a wide receiver in the first round and then go heavy on the defensive side of the ball after that. Kelvin Benjamin, Mike Evans or even tight end Eric Ebron would make the Steelers offense dynamic. There are a ton of CB/S prospects in this draft that can be mined in rounds two or three along with defensive line help.

What younger players do you expect to step up and contribute more next season?

Jarvis Jones can obviously contribute more than he did as a rookie – if LaMarr Woodley isn’t retained. Even if Woodley stays, you could continue to see a three-man rotation at outside linebacker. Shamarko Thomas should get more work in the sub-packages as well. And Markus Wheaton should break out as a slot receiver.

Having been there since Tomlin’s first day, how have you seen him improve most as a coach and what specifically does he do that most contributes to the team’s success?

I haven’t seen a lot of change from Mike. He still delegates well and allows his assistants to do their thing. He has learned to watch some of his statements. You won’t hear an “unleash Hell in December,” quote again anytime soon. That was thrown back in his face throughout the rest of that season.

What veteran players do you see being released this off season. And how hard is it for you as a reporter that gets close to these guys?

Foote and Woodley could both be released, but that’s about it. Ike Taylor could be asked to take a paycut. With so many unrestricted free agents, the Steelers are going to be signing more than they are releasing. As for getting to know some of these guys, it depends on the player. Some guys are pretty open with everyone. Others, not so much. Obviously, the longer they are around, the more you get to know them.

Make sure you visit Dale’s blog at http://nflfromthesidelines.blogspot.com/

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