´ Steel Curtain Rising: Watch Tower: The Story Behind Max Starks Signing, Running Game, Woodley

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Friday, October 7, 2011

Watch Tower: The Story Behind Max Starks Signing, Running Game, Woodley

It has been anything but a slow news week for Steelers Nation in light of the Thrashing in Texas giving the Watch Tower plenty to focus its bright lights upon.

A Stark Reminder

The biggest news of course was the return of left tackle Max Starks. Gerry Dulac of the Post-Gazette get kudos for breaking the news, or at the very least he got his story that the Steelers were “close” to resigning Max Starks up before any of the other major competitor sites did. Good for your Gerry.

The story then took a couple of complicated twists.

During his PG Plus chat Dulac did his best to put the Stark into context, first explaining:
No, nor do they think he is the answer. But they need some players in their offensive line who know what they're doing, and Chris Scott was too young and Jamon Meredith is too new.
The questions, of course kept coming, to which Dulac clarified:
Well, I expect to see him uniform on Sunday, but only as an extra lineman. And the reason he will likely dress is because LT Jonathan Scott is not fully recovered from his ankle injury, even though he will likely start. Otherwise, Starks faces the very real possibility of being one of the two O-linemen who typically sits out each game. [Emphasis Added]
All of that made sense. After all, the Steelers just a week ago had committed themselves to playing with the men they had.

A short time later, however, Ed Bouchette dropped a bomb on PG Plus, revealing that Max Starks had taken snaps with the first team. Of course now the word is that Starks will likely start.

The football element of this – that someone could come off of the street after 11 months of inactivity to start an NFL game speaks for itself. But it also calls into question who was feeding Dulac this information about Starks role and why he seemed so sure of it.

Running with the Colts

The Steelers inability to run the ball (not to mention stop the run) has been at issue all season. A little tid-bit came to light after the Colts game, when Ed Bouchette revealed:
One source on the team said the run calls against the Colts looked nothing like the ones they practiced the week leading up to the game.
The curious part of this is the “one source on the team.” Enquiring minds of course want to know “who.” Of course we won’t find out now. But this is the job of the beat writer – to find out what is happening behind the scenes.

Its way too early to make too much of this kind of a “leak.” It could be that the offensive staff simply shift its game plan based on the looks the Colts defense gave it.

However, we know that, in contrast to his first few season, Mike Tomlin has been less shy about overruling his offensive staff. In fact, Bruce Arians almost decided to leave because of it.

Again, this might mean nothing. But if the Steelers fortunes do not improve it will be interesting to see if anonymous sources releasing similar pieces of news.

Laying the Wood on Woodley

This was not a good week for LaMarr Woodley. He looked stone footed against the Texans and easily had his worse game in a season where he’s done nothing to justify his status as the highest paid player in defensive history.

The first to take aim was Behind the Steel Curtain’s Michael Bean (full disclosure, the Watch Tower’s alter ego also writes for BTSC), who devoted an entire post to critiquing Woodley’s performance against the Texans.

Bean got company, although that was a little slow in coming. As mentioned here before, Steel Mill Blog’s column “After Further Review” on the Tribune-Review is one of the best we features out there.

What was curious was that none of the Tribune Review’s writers updated the blog with any new content for several days after the game.

However, when “After Further Review” did get published, it spared no quarter in going after Woodley, pointing out that in spite of the fact that Woodley failed to draw double blockers during the Texans game, number 56 was regularly out of position and otherwise getting overpowered or shown up.

Old and Slow?

There’s been a lot going on, but it does seem that some of the media have been a little slow to the punch. News of James Harrison’s injury didn’t become public until Mike Tomlin announced it.

Undoubtedly, that makes Tomlin happy, but the Steelers losing James Harrison for a month is a pretty big story.

Ditto the news that Casey Hampton will not play. That may have been mentioned, but was certainly not discussed as a serious possibility early in the week.

Should the Turk Have Cometh....?

Finally, 2-2 is not at all too early to begin the “what went wrong” columns. Bob Smizik entertained the criticism that the Steelers perhaps got too sentimental in their personnel decision making, likening it to the situation in the late ‘70’s or early ‘80s.

He then mentiones a few players whom he things the Steelers should have parted ways with (James Farrior and Aaron Smith.)

Both suggestions are plausible, but it is a little too over simplistic to suggest that both men should have been cut in training camp, unless he has two other players that the Steelers either let go or passed on whom he thinks should have taken their places.

Smizik has never been a Watch Tower favorite (dating back to the late ‘80s, when the Watch Tower read him on weekend trips to Grandma’s house), but this column does provide readers with good food for thought.

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