Five who could fail

Everybody knows Chad Scott's a bum and Oliver Ross is barely passable as an NFL player. You don't need an insider to tell you that, you can see it with your own eyes. <br><br> But Scott isn't the only Steelers' player who figures to struggle in 2004. Here's a list of five players who may also flop this season:

  • 1. Kimo von Oelhoffen, defensive end - Von Oelhoffen is a great guy and a player who's always willing to take a younger player under his wing. But let's face it, his eight sacks in 2003 were not only a career-high, they were also nearly 40 percent of his career total.

    Now 33, von Oelhoffen is ready to begin his downward slide. It will be tough to watch a good guy like von Oelhoffen struggle, but the Steelers also have other options at defensive end who are ready to play.

  • 2. Clark Haggans, outside linebacker - Previous outside linebackers in the Bill Cowher era have either relied on great speed or great power. Haggans has neither.

    Haggans has three career starts and played well in the opener last year against Baltimore in place of injured Joey Porter. But he disappeared the following week against Kansas City and for much of the remainder of the 2003 season.

    Haggans did have 6.5 sacks as a rush end in the team's dime defense in 2002, but six of those came in the team's first eight games as he wore down as the season progressed. Haggans had better be ready for the rigours of being a starter because unless Alonzo Jackson or Nathaniel Adibi show they can handle the position while Haggans sits out the first few weeks of training camp with a broken hand, Haggans will be in there for the long haul.

  • 3. Plaxico Burress, wide receiver - Many are expecting big things from Burress this season because he'll be a free agent at the conclusion of the 2004 season.

    But that supposition is based on their belief that he dogged it in 2003 and that's why his numbers weren't as good.

    Burress didn't dog it in 2003, opponents found ways to take him out of the game. Hines Ward is able to continue to make plays because he has great hands and runs good routes. Burress, on the other hand, does not have great hands and is not a great route runner. His game is based on his ability to get off the line of scrimmage cleanly and then beat his man in one-on-one coverage.

    But he didn't see a lot of one-on-one coverage last season and when he did, quarterback Tommy Maddox didn't have the time to get the ball to him. The addition of Duce Staley isn't going suddenly make opponents respect the team's rushing attack. They are going to continue to play both safeties deep, doubling Burress, and daring the Steelers to run the ball.

  • 4. Duce Staley, running back - Staley is an odd member of this list, but he's on here because many are overestimating his value.

    Staley's career-best season was in 1999 when he got 325 carries and rushed for 1,273 yards and four scores. On two other occasions he's rushed for 1,000 yards, but just barely so. And as everyone knows, you only need to average 62.5 yards per game over 16 games to have a 1,000-yard season.

    The Steelers need more than that, but that may be all he has to offer as a runner. He has just 13 career 100-yard games in seven seasons, after all.

    This doesn't mean Staley's signing wasn't a good one. He's going to catch 50 passes and will have between 1,400 and 1,500 total yards. But the addition of Staley doesn't mean the Steelers are going to start pounding opponents on the ground again, either. Those days are gone - at least for now.

  • 5. Jeff Reed, placekicker - Many are quick to point to Reed's bad hip for his awful performance in 2003, when he missed nine field goals and a PAT.

    But Reed is far from a proven commodity. He only has a season and a half of NFL experience, after all.

    The most troubling fact about Reed's 2003 season was that he missed three field goals in the 20 to 29-yard range in addition to the PAT. Those are killers.

    It's troubling the team really didn't bring anyone in to push Reed or at least give them an option if Reed continues to struggle. Rob Bironas, the team's other kicker going into training camp, has no NFL experience and the team would likely have to look elsewhere if Reed craps out.

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