Are You There CBs? It’s Me Ryan

I don’t want to make too big a deal about this because, well, we’re one game into the preseason, and guys have been practicing a grand total of two weeks after no OTAs or minicamps. It shouldn’t be a surprise that last Friday’s effort was somewhere south of mediocre. It’s just hard to reconcile the Steelers’ no-show performance with Rex Grossman playing like a competent NFL quarterback.

So, yeah.

Next up: the Steelers host the Eagles. The last time these two met in a meaningful game it was early in the 2008 season and Philly’s defense absolutely dominated Pittsburgh’s offensive line and sacked Ben eight times before Tomlin took mercy on him and pulled him. This time, the Eagles come to town as the Dream Team, and if their Week 1 first-team effort against the Ravens is any indication, their defense is as tenacious as ever.

Hopefully, the Steelers decide to actually block defenders this time around. Which brings us to Tony Hills, seemingly on the coaches’ shit list his entire career only to suddenly emerge as a possible starting right guard candidate. Very weird. But, hey, if he’s the best guy for the gig, more power to him, and credit to Tomlin and Kugler for giving it a try. Hills is also the backup left tackle, although it sounds like rookie second-rounder Marcus Gilbert could assume that role in the near future.

JJ’s mentioned it previously, but Pittsburgh’s legitimate depth along the interior line borders on the absurd. I joked that the Steelers should regularly feature an unbalanced line made up of Pouncey and guards, and take it from there.

On the other side of the ball — and with nowhere near the depth — are the cornerbacks. Ike broke his thumb against the Skins and he’s expected to miss the rest of the preseason. That’s not a problem because we all know what Ike can do (cover and tackle) and what he can’t (catch). No amount of pretend games will change that.

For everybody else, though, questions remain. Chief among them: who can, you know, play cornerback well enough to earn some playing time? B-Mac will miss another game with a tight hammy. Going forward, I’m going to assume that B-Mac is hurt until I hear otherwise. He had six months off, and after a week of practice, he pulled up lame. Maybe this is a blessing — at the very least, we’ll get to see if anybody else can play, because at this point I don’t expect B-Mac to play more than four games all season. (Yes, I’m sorta frustrated.)

Also out against the Eagles: Crezdon Butler and Cortez Allen. I’m less concerned about Allen since this is a redshirt season for him anyway, but Crezdon needs reps. On the other hand, Keenan Lewis and Curtis Brown should be available. It’s something.

Perhaps I’m overreacting. DrObvious made a good point in the comments regarding William Gay — “I think you are a little too hard on Gay, suggesting that he should be moved to dime. When he plays over the middle as the 3rd CB, he’s done very well. It’s only when he’s been on the outside (or playing against NE…) that’s he’s really struggled.”

I don’t disagree with that — and, truthfully, my animosity was probably displaced after watching Lewis and Butler do little against the Skins and not watching B-Mac at all.

Here’s the bottom line: the Steelers need two CBs to step up over the next three weeks. Ike’s job is set, Gay’s nickel back job is set, but there’s a need for a No. 2 starter and a dime back. I know Juan sometimes assumes the dime roll, but when teams spread the Steelers out (and they will), it would be nice if, say, Butler or Brown, or, hell, Lewis, could contribute.

That’s all I’m saying.

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  • Anonymous

    I thought Keenan Lewis had a pretty bad game against the Redskins because several catches were made against him. But when I looked a little deeper, the YPA against him was actually pretty good. He did allow 5 catches on 6 attempts, but he also only allowed 3 yards after catch on those 5 catches and 37 total yards. That’s 6.17 yards per attempt. From the QB perspective, that’s Kyle Boller territory. Of course that doesn’t account for game situation, for example I think at least one catch was of the 3 yards to go sort. But still the numbers tell a more encouraging story that my initial impression.

  • Hoffstra323

     Tony hills is going to surprise some people if given the opportunity. I can’t believe that he is not a better option than jonathan scott at tackle, look for him to step up this year, at the guard or tackle spot. I agree that the steelers need some corners to step up but at this point i see no one who can challenge mcfadden. people love to hate on him but don’t forget that he has won 2 rings with the steelers and he is a physical corner with good size. he is also one of the best tackling db’s in the league. I know he is not the fastest, but he has good hands and can get to the quarterback when asked. He really has not missed that much time due to injury either. I would love to see him move back to the safety position which is what he played in college. not this year for cortez allen. I would love to see brown challenge willie gay. I also think butler has a shot at being something but he needs to stay healthy. bout ready to stick a fork in lewis.

    • Anonymous

      I agree that McFadden is being somewhat underrated, but I think injuries a bigger factor that you are making them out to be. In addition to missed time last season, McFadden played part of the season with a stomach injury. And while he did play through it, it clearly affected the quality of his play.

    • ryan

      I love B-Mac, accept him for what he is when healthy, it’s just that he really struggles to stay on the field. If I knew he’d be available 14-16 games I’d feel a lot better about this secondary. It just seems that he’s always out with some ailment or another.