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Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) scrambles to picks up a fumble as he is pressured by Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons (94) during the second half of an NFL football game in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)The Steelers have undoubtedly one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL and perhaps the best offense this team has ever seen in their rich history. Traditionally, the black and gold have relied on a strong defense and have had their entire identity based around stopping the run and stuffing the quarterback.Over the past few seasons, things have shifted in the Steel City as the defense has faltered and the offense has picked up the slack.In 2015, Dick LeBeau is no longer the chief of the defense, it’s now Keith Butler’s squad and it’s his job to turn things around. The defense is young but not without veterans who have had good success. Guys like James Harrison, Cam Heyward and Lawrence Timmons will need to help lead the young guys along and bring them up to the expected level of play that the city of Pittsburgh has become accustomed to.Unlike the offense, there are weaknesses on this side of the ball and battles for starting jobs and certainly back up roles will go through the end of the pre-season. Here’s how the roster will shake out when it’s all said and told.Defensive Line:Butler has stated the team will still run a 3-4 defense but could implement 4-3 schemes as well. In either form, the defensive line is where it all starts and the team needs guys that can plug the running lanes and get to the quarterback from the outside. Locks on the line are starters Cameron Heyward who is growing into a real force at right defensive end, Steve McLendon, who is still the starting nose tackle and Stephon Tuitt seems to have the leg up on the starting job at left defensive end.Unfortunately I’m not sold on McLendon or Tuitt as guys I would want starting on my line. Both are good players, capable of making plays when needed but they seem to be more suited to be reserve guys vs. getting the bulk of the snaps. Either way, this is what the Steelers are currently working with and they’ll make do with what they have.The black and gold will in all likelihood keep four defensive ends, with Heyward and Tuitt as the starters, the reserve battle will be between Cam Thomas, Joe Kruger, Matt Konrath, LT Walton, Ethan Hemer and Niko Davis.Davis, Hemer and Konrath are not options, they are bodies for camp and will not make the squad. Cam Thomas is talented and versatile, he has the ability to play both end or tackle and could even push Tuitt for a starting job, he’s guaranteed to make the team.The last spot will be a battle between Kruger and Walton. Kruger is currently listed ahead of Walton on the Steelers depth chart and was on the practice squad late last season. Walton was drafted this year and is also a versatile player, capable of playing end or tackle. In the end, the coaches will stay true to their draft pick and Walton will beat out Kruger for the final spot at defensive end.Since the Steelers do have the versatile Thomas and Walton, they’ll only keep one more nose tackle. The battle for that spot is between Daniel McCullers, Mike Thornton and Joe Okafor. Battle, however, is really a word that is lost in translation in this case, there is no question that McCullers is the guy. I don’t see how Thornton or Okafor even have a chance.Linebackers:The most important position in Steelers history is linebacker and there’s no difference again this season. If the team plays 3-4 or 4-3, the linebackers are the key to the teams’ success. With a very weak secondary, it’s incredibly pertinent that this group gets to the quarterback quickly and often.Lawrence Timmons will be the super star of the bunch and is still the best player on the defense. Timmons has been a rock his entire career and will need to truly lead the way again this season, helping bring the young guys along.Starting next to him on the inside will be second year man Ryan Shazier.Shazier missed a lot of time last season due to injury but has looked great in camp, drawing praise from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who said Shazier reminded him of an old Troy Polamalu. That’s high praise and hopefully for the Steelers, that will translate on Sundays in the fall.Jarvis Jones will be handed the starting job at right outside linebacker but this may be his last shot. The third year man hasn’t developed enough as of yet and Joey Porter, the linebackers coach, needs to get everything out of Jones that he can muster. Jones has the talent but it needs to translate to the field. I actually think he’ll make the big jump this year and prove his worth.The last spot at left outside linebacker is a battle between the re-signed Arthur Moates and the team’s number one overall draft pick, Bud Dupree. The job was left open by the sudden retirement of budding star Jason Worilds.Both Moates and Dupree are on the team, obviously, it’s a matter of who will start. Moates is ahead of Dupree right now, based on tenure and knowing the defense, having played in it already.Dupree is the better of the two players, having far more talent and a much larger up side. Many will tell you Moates will start the first few games and Dupree will eventually take over, I’m telling you Dupree will start week one, he’s just too good to sit out.With those five guys making the team, there are probably three more linebacker spots available. The team actually has some depth on the reserve level and the battle for three spots will be fought out between Sean Spence, Vince Williams, James Harrison, Anthony Chickillo, Jordan Zumwalt and Terence Garvin.James Harrison is a given, he’s a former super star who’s still capable of starting in a pinch and is certainly a team leader, almost a player coach. His presence in the locker room alone is enough for him to stay.The talent that Sean Spence possesses is too hard to overlook. He’s versatile enough to play both outside and inside and for that reason he’ll stay.The remaining spot is truly up for grabs. In the end, it will come down to Vince Williams and Anthony Chickillo (drafted this year) and Williams will prevail. There are a lot of Williams detractors who think he has been mediocre his first two seasons, I’m not one of those guys. I think he’s done an admirable job and is a very solid reserve player. He understands the defense and will earn his spot on the roster.Secondary:By far the weakest unit on the team is the secondary. There is no more Ike Taylor or Troy Polamalu back there, it’s a whole new look and these new guys have big shoes to fill.The Steelers should keep nine guys on this unit and will probably need to use all of them this season as I don’t anticipate anybody stepping up big.The two starting cornerbacks at the moment are William Gay and Cortez Allen. You didn’t read that incorrectly, those are the starting corners and yes, your thoughts are correct, that’s a problem.Gay did have a great year last season, Allen, not so much. That said, Gay played way over his head and Allen played slightly worse than he’s capable of. Either way, it’s problematic when you have to face off against top level quarterbacks.If the linebackers don’t do their job, the pass defense will be torched weekly. Mike Mitchell is back as the starting free safety and I still maintain the man is overpaid. He came in last season and didn’t do anything. He’s the best they have but again, problematic.Strong safety is expected to go to Shamarko Thomas but in my opinion Will Allen is the better player. Thomas has not shown anything since coming into the league a few seasons ago. He was drafted to be Polamalu’s replacement, well now he’s getting his chance. He’ll certainly make the team but to me, Will Allen will beat him out for the starting job as he’s a proven veteran who may not contain the same athletic ability as Thomas but he’s wiser and makes smarter plays.Brandon Boykin and Antwon Blake will be the primary backups at corner and both could eventually become starters. Robert Golden will be the next back up at Safety along with Thomas.The last spot will go to Senquez Golson, drafted in round two this year.The guys not making the team will be Kevin Fogg, BW Webb, Gerrod Holliman, Ross Ventrone, Doran Grant, Alden Darby, Jordan Sullen, Jordan Dangerfield and Ian Wild.Of that group, Webb and Ventrone can push for jobs and may slip in there or force the team to keep a tenth guy on the unit.The defense is going to need to develop this year as the team certainly sports a Super Bowl caliber offense. If this side of the ball can play average, meaning they give up around 20 points a game, the team will be in it. If they can grow and play cohesively and improve on obtaining sacks and forcing turnovers, then they could be part of something extremely special.Opening Day Defensive Starters:LDE: Cam HeywardNT: Steve McLendonRDE: Stephon TuittLOLB: Bud DupreeLILB: Ryan ShazierRILB: Lawrence TimmonsROLB: Jarvis JonesLCB: William GayFS: Mike MitchellSS: Will AllenRCB: Cortez AllenMike Pelaia hosts the website Steel Nation Association www.steelnationassociation.com- Covering the Steelers and helping Children’s Hospital All Day Everyday. You can e-mail him at [email protected]
Sport EN CEST Upd. at 00:02 Abdelmoumene Djabou whipped in a free-kick and Slimani was on hand to take full advantage of Akinfeev’s misdemeanour. Algeria: Mbolhi, Belkalem, Halliche, Mesbah, Feghouli, Brahimi (71), Medjani, Slimani (Soudani), Bentaleb, Djabou (Ghilas 86), Mandi. Booked: Kombarov, Kozlov. Goal: Slimani 60. Things had started so well for the Russians as well. And, despite having to come frome behind, it was the Africans who advanced after Belgium beat the Koreans in the group’s other match. However that was as good as it got, and it can’t be hidden that this has been a disappointing campaign from the Russians. Inside the opening six minutes, Oleg Shatov did well down the left and delivered a cross which was wonderfully thumped home by the head of Alexander Kokorin. With Belgium already safely through, it was left to Algeria, Russia and South Korea to battle it out for a match with Germany on Monday. Arguably in one of the tournament’s weaker groups, a manager of Capello’s experience should have been able to do better than third place. Booked: Mesbah, Ghilas, Cadamuro. If it’s any consolation to the Russian stopper, Algeria would probably have found a way through anyway. A second-half equaliser from Islam Slimani sent Algeria through to the last 16 and elimated Fabio Capello’s Russia in the progress. He just made it easy for them. Russia: Akinfeev, Kozlov, Ignashevich, Glushakov (Denisov 45), Kokorin, Kerzhakov (Kanunnikov 81), Berezutskiy, Shatov (Dzagoev 67), Samedov, Fayzulin, Kombarov. 27/06/2014 Match facts Referee: Cuneyt Cakie (Turkey) Igor Akinfeev was at fault for a goal against South Korea in the opening round of matches, and it was his fumble here which allowed the Algerians to score the goal which took them through. Goal: Kokorin 6.
By ROSIE WEBSTER IT WAS a time for reflection and reminiscing at the Pakenham Lions Den on the night of…[To read the rest of this story Subscribe or Login to the Gazette Access Pass] Thanks for reading the Pakenham Berwick Gazette. Subscribe or Login to read the rest of this content with the Gazette Digital Access Pass subscription.