Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I Told You!

Building on the work of Pittsburgh Steelers Fanatic, Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review adds his two cents in on the "3-4 or 4-3" discussion and comes to a conclusion that is very similar to the one drawn by the "experts" here at PSF:

"Mike Tomlin, who is following two coaches that won 342 regular-season NFL games between them, said his approach to his new job isn't any different from the one he would take if he were a mortgage broker.

It is fitting that the Steelers' new coach would choose an occupation so bound to numbers for his comparison.

Numbers are at the root of the intrigue Tomlin brings to the Steelers: Will he go with a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense?

The Steelers are built to play the former, while Tomlin received the equivalent of a master's degree in the latter. Tomlin has not tipped his hand as to what shape the Steelers' defense will take next season, and Monday he downplayed the significance of schemes.

'The elite players defy scheme. They do,' Tomlin said. 'Troy Polamalu is going to be an excellent safety regardless of what defensive scheme he's in. Casey Hampton's going to be a dominant defensive lineman regardless of what scheme he's in. We're not going to get enamored with that.'

The clues to what scheme he wants to play -- Tomlin used a 4-3 last season as the Minnesota Vikings' defensive coordinator - could come shortly.

The period to sign free agents starts March 1, and that is followed by the NFL draft in late April.

Tomlin said he has been reviewing game film from last season to identify players' strengths and weaknesses, not to evaluate whether they better fit into a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense.

He said the Steelers will take the same approach when it comes to acquiring players through free agency and the draft, adding that talent will trump all other considerations.

Several signs points to the Steelers playing a 3-4 defense, at least in the short term.

One of the assistants that Tomlin retained from Bill Cowher's staff was defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.

In addition, the stability that has become a hallmark of the Steelers' organization makes wholesale changes unlikely, especially since the team is one season removed from winning the Super Bowl.

'We're going to continue to shape our package to what our players do and do well," Tomlin said. "It will be a constant evolution.'

As for LeBeau, Tomlin said, 'As I start to work with him on a day-to-day basis, he's exceeded my expectations in terms of what he's capable of. It's been refreshing, not (just) with him but with the entire defensive staff. It's been fun. We're in there every day hacking away at it.'

Tomlin made it clear that he and his assistants aren't the only ones who will be working hard leading up to his first season as the Steelers' head coach.

Tomlin said he plans to hold two minicamps -- the dates are still being worked out -- and that he welcomed the selection of the Steelers to play in the Hall of Fame exhibition game, because it will give the team an extra week of training camp.

'I have always loved camp,' said Tomlin, whose team will play the New Orleans Saints Aug. 5 in Canton, Ohio. 'Most players won't agree with that, but I am looking forward to it. It is an opportunity to eliminate some of the outside distractions that are involved in everyday life and focus on the game itself.'

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