I realize there are still three games to play, but I feel the need to get the competitive jump on the off-season, so, sadly, we let the off-season begin today:
Mulefunk: What is the biggest need with this team? DB or OL?
It's the need to stop identifying positional needs and to start drafting the most superior of the athletes. That's the kind of thinking that mires contending teams in competitive slumps once the superior athletes who made them contenders in the first place begin to get old. If that makes any sense.
SteelersBuckeyesJackets: Clearly a fan of Cameron Heyward and his play, knew he was 'that guy' all along ... but ... any consternation with regards to his pile-driving of players? While fun to watch, I'm really surprised he has yet to draw a flag and especially a fine, seeing as how fines have little to nothing to do with whether a play is penalized or not.
I watched him body-slam four Dolphins the other day and didn't think a penalty was warranted on any occasion. As long as he doesn't horse-collar, or give anyone any extra business, he'll be fine.
IACAPA: Was last game's improvement by Mike Adams personal growth? Scheme related? An aberration unlikely to he repeated?
I think the snow had a lot to do with it. Olivier Vernon didn't seem to get near the traction his partner on the other side, the great and getting greater Cameron Wake, did. That's one. Two, Ben Roethlisberger is clearly taking to the coaching and getting rid of the ball. I think he needed that strip sack early in this game for a reinforcement.
Personal growth? I saw more scratching and clawing as if his career depended on it, but even though Adams didn't give up a sack I thought he was still a shaky proposition at best. He's trying to punch and use his hands properly, but he still has a long way to go.
AngryWeasel: Is there any chance we see some more position shifting for the LBs? In particular, moving Jarvis Jones or LaMarr Woodley to the ILB spot? Doesn't seem like we run much traditional 3-4, so why not rearrange the chess pieces where we can put Troy Polamalu back a bit and get more beef in the middle.
Whilst I pondered Jones as an ILB during draft season, I'm not seeing that as a logical move right now. He strikes me as an OLB only. Of course, they've used all three OLBs at the same time on some pass downs this season, and Jones does have some nice inside rush moves, but I don't see him covering backs and TEs consistently well. I like having Polamalu at ILB on pass downs for now. Yes, he was trucked by Mike Pouncey, but the week before he stood up one of the Ravens' OLmen in the hole and made the tackle. Plus, Polamalu runs much better forward than backward these days.
Ericksen72: What do you make of Cortez Allen's lackluster-at-best play since returning from the injury? (He was much better on Sunday, admittedly.) And are the run-D woes more about personnel or inexperience? I realize more experience should mean fewer huge runs against, but wonder if the problems are deeper than that.
I'm always surprised when Allen misses a tackle -- as he did vs. Minnesota and on the game-winning TD vs. Miami -- because I think he's such a good prospect. But, no, other than some missed tackles I haven't seen any lackluster play. I like everything about this young CB.
As for the run defense, two rookie linebackers and a completely refurbished DL have a lot to do with that. Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton and James Farrior were championship pieces, and they are gone. It's not coaching.
KentuckySteeler: Why do teams like the Bears who have rookies and backups everywhere seem so much sharper on offense? Is that personnel or scheme or maybe preparation? Is team speed on defense going to be a priority this off-season and draft?
Those questions meet at the middle and explode, because the Bears success has, I think, a lot to do with those massive WRs who are more than big, they can play. So if I'm going to copy the Bears right now, I would draft Kelvin Benjamin.
But the Bears suffered through their woes with a dreadfully inexperienced OL, while their ultra-quick defense and special teams carried them. Now, the big WRs are carrying them. Again, it's not the coaching. It's the talent.
I'll be back tomorrow to answer the rest of the questions. Thanks.