Steelers' Tomlin fully sold on 3-4 defense
The transition from staunch supporter of the 4-3 defense to 3-4 convert has been smooth and painless for Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.
Three years later, it's easy to forget that when Tomlin replaced Bill Cowher, he favored a four-man defensive front with a Cover-2 emphasis in the secondary.
Consider Tomlin — entering his fourth season as a true believer in the 3-4 taught by defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau — converted.
When describing 2010 draft picks Jason Worilds and Thaddeus Gibson, college defensive ends who will play outside linebacker in the Steelers' 3-4, Tomlin said, "Outside linebacker is their position or job description. We value that here in Pittsburgh. We believe that's a formula for winning football. They are big guys that can run."
Still entertaining thoughts the Steelers will eventually become a 4-3 team under Tomlin?
Considering that three of the Steelers' top seven draft picks were selected to play linebacker, and that none of them played traditional middle linebacker or outside linebacker positions in college, it's safe to suggest the 3-4 is here to stay.
"Watching some of the guys that played there before me, or now currently, I think I fit perfectly," said Worilds, a second-round pick from Virginia Tech. "With the types of rushes they have, those guys on the edge, I see myself in their mode. LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison — physical, explosive types of edge rushers."
Linebackers coach Keith Butler said the Steelers project Worilds as a stand-up 3-4 linebacker even though he starred at defensive end.
"He's not a guy that you expect to stand up," Butler said. "A lot of guys you stand up early kind of struggle with opening their hips and dropping in pass coverage. He was able to do things that we wanted him to do that we think he can do in this system. It was a matter of us projecting him in this system, and I think he's a good fit for us."
Butler had similar good things to say about Gibson, a fourth-round pick who recorded four sacks, two pass breakups and one interception last season at Ohio State.
"He played some defensive end like a lot of the guys we take at outside linebacker," Butler said. "He stood up some at Ohio State. They do some similar things to what we do. It's not like we're seeing him at the position for the first time."
With their third selection in the fifth round, the Steelers took Utah outside linebacker Stevenson Sylvester, an edge pass rusher who will move inside.
Sylvester weighs 231 pounds after playing around 222 last season. Butler said the Steelers aren't concerned about Sylvester's smallish frame because their defensive scheme will keep blockers away from him.
"He, like a lot of inside linebackers this (size), struggles with big guys. But what we do in our system for our guys I think will help him," Butler said.
"Our inside linebackers are not 250-pound guys, with the exception of Lawrence Timmons. Lawrence looks like he weighs 210, but he's 250. (Larry) Foote is about 235 or 240. (Keyaron) Fox is about 240. James Farrior is 230, 235. I'm not concerned about his weight."
The Steelers also signed free-agent defensive end Lindsey Witten of Connecticut (6-foot-4 1⁄2, 250 pounds), who recorded 11 1⁄2 sacks as a senior. Witten is a natural for the Steelers because he's attempting to make the conversion to outside linebacker in the NFL.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers won’t be backed into a corner at NFL Draft
- NFL draft preview: Rich harvest of receivers
- Ex-Alabama WR Cooper gains separation from other draft prospects at position
- Steelers visit with Arizona State receiver Strong, claim long snapper
- Steelers veteran cornerback Ike Taylor announces retirement
- Maligned Nebraska OLB Gregory visits Steelers
- Steelers host Auburn WR Coates, 2 others
- Rooneys say Polamalu ‘ranks right up there’ with Steelers’ all-time greats