Labriola On

Labriola on Revis, signing depth, Vince

Ready or not, here it comes:

  • It was the sound bite that sent hearts all over Steelers Nation aflutter. Darrelle Revis was stopped by news crews after having charges dropped resulting from that incident on Pittsburgh's South Side, and he was asked whether he would be interested in playing for the Steelers.
  • "It would be a dream come true," said Revis. And with a straight face, too.

Check out what some of the Steelers have been posting to Instagram.

  • Revis in a Steelers uniform is more of a pipe dream than a dream come true at this stage, because the player is getting older while the team's defense is getting younger. There was a time, as recently as two years ago, when the Steelers made an overture to Revis about making his dream come true, but fresh off a Super Bowl winning season with the Patriots, Revis let it be known he was interested in another big payday.
  • Far be it for me to come down on the side of leaving money on the table – especially for someone in a profession as tenuous as professional football – and that's not what this is meant to portray. It's just that there may have been a time for Revis and the Steelers to make dreams come true, but it's now 2017 and that time has passed.
  • Ike Taylor played cornerback for the Steelers for 12 seasons, and so he has first-hand knowledge/experience with this issue from both sides. He understands what it means to play for the Steelers, and he knows what it's like to be a professional football player in the twilight of his career. Now an analyst for NFL Media, Taylor authored a 600-word opinion on the issue of Revis, who will turn 32 before the Steelers head to Saint Vincent College, returning to his hometown for an 11th NFL season.
  • "On Wednesday, a judge dismissed all charges against Darrelle Revis stemming from an alleged assault in Pittsburgh last month," wrote Taylor for NFL.com. "And despite a trying season in 2016, Revis claimed after the court hearing that he's still hungry to play. But I don't want him to. I know this is not my decision, but I'm paid to provide an opinion. And that's how I feel."
  • Taylor goes on to support his opinion with statistics. How in 2015, Revis allowed 27 catches on 56 targets (48.2 completion percentage) for 370 yards and a 51.9 passer rating. And how in 2016 those numbers showed Revis allowed 51 catches on 79 targets (64.6 completion percentage) for 743 yards and a 102.5 passer rating.
  • "Only Green Bay's Damarious Randall had a higher passer rating allowed (107.9) in 2016," continued Taylor. "And Revis' 64.6 catch rate was the highest of any of the league's CB1s last season – 11 percent higher than the NFL average. To say he was far from what we typically see from him would be an understatement."
  • Taylor concludes with, "From my point of view – as a former cornerback who played in the NFL for 12 seasons – I strongly think Revis should retire. And five years from now, the impact he made during his decade in the league will put him in Canton."
  • Whether Revis takes Ike Taylor's advice or not, it would be a bad idea for him and the Steelers to get together to chase dreams in 2017. Revis isn't the player he once was, but the expectation of the fan base will be that he is. How might Revis, long the top player at his position in the NFL, react/respond to being used in a manner befitting his declining skills? And what would befall the Steelers defense if the team instead attempted to deploy him in the manner befitting his reputation?
  • What was a "maybe" during the 2015 offseason sure looks like a definitive "no" this offseason.
  • During the last week, the Steelers added four unrestricted free agents for depth, which should provide them with all of the flexibility they'll need to utilize the top of the upcoming NFL Draft to add the kinds of players necessary to continue the process of upgrading their pass defense. The Steelers have become adept at finding complementary pieces during this phase of free agency, and on paper it seems as though Justin Hunter, Knile Davis, Coty Sensabaugh, and Tyson Alualu will fit in nicely.
  • Alualu once was a first-round draft pick, 10th overall by Jacksonville in 2010 – the year the Steelers chose Maurkice Pouncey No. 1 – and he fills the need for someone sufficiently capable of eating snaps so that neither Cam Heyward nor Stephon Tuitt is over-used during the early stages of a season.
  • The Steelers believe Alualu can play all three positions along their defensive line, and his addition could set up an interesting summer for L.T. Walton, who developed enough over the course of 2016 to have the team believing he can be a contributing part of the rotation moving forward.
  • If Alualu is most comfortable playing defensive end, Walton can expect to be tried at nose tackle, where he would back up Javon Hargrave. If Alualu is most comfortable playing in the interior, Walton would see the bulk of his playing time at end.
  • And Alualu's 17.5 sacks as an interior defensive lineman in Jacksonville's 4-3 alignment indicate he is capable of contributing on all three downs.
  • Sensabaugh can play either slot cornerback or outside cornerback, and he can be viewed partially, right now at least, as Senquez Golson insurance. If Golson cannot or does not take control of the slot/nickel cornerback role, Sensabaugh could be someone the team could utilize there.
  • Davis wasn't signed necessarily to be Le'Veon Bell's backup and as a replacement for DeAngelo Williams, but more as someone to provide competition at the bottom of the running back depth chart and offer a proven alternative as a kickoff returner.
  • If the Steelers are able to find value in a running back during the draft, the depth chart at the position at the start of the 2017 season would be: Bell, the rookie, and Davis or Fitz Toussaint. With 73 career kickoff returns for 1,960 yards (26.8 average) and two touchdowns during the regular season, plus another four returns for 196 yards (49.0 average) and a touchdown in the playoffs, Davis would have to be considered the favorite to win that third spot.
  • One job that can be considered open-but-not-really is the inside linebacker spot alongside Ryan Shazier. Technically open because Lawrence Timmons left for Miami via free agency, but not really because Vince Williams is waiting in the wings.
  • A sixth-round pick in 2013, Williams sufficiently proved his value to the Steelers during his first three seasons in the league to be rewarded with a three-year contract extension last August that included a $1.5 million signing bonus. Williams has an enthusiasm for his job that is infectious among his teammates. And obvious to everyone else.
  • Earlier this month in announcing his retirement, Jordan Cameron, a tight end who played for both Cleveland and Miami, said, "I don't think a lot of these guys love football, to be honest. A lot of them don't. You play for other reasons, and every guy has his own reason. They know why, and as long as your why is really important, you keep playing without really loving football. Because really, who loves to get hit in 10-degree weather by a 280-pound person? Really, no one likes that. 'Do you love football?' I couldn't stand when people asked me that."
  • Cameron went on to say that players who are truly passionate about the game are in the minority. "There are a few guys who love it. Ray Lewis loves football. Peyton Manning. They love it. But a lot of guys don't really love this game, and there are players who will read this who will understand exactly what I'm talking about."
  • Vince Williams won't understand what Cameron is talking about, and likely won't want to try. Or as Cam Heyward tweeted shortly after Timmons signed with the Dolphins, "Uh oh! Vince got the reins now … keep your head on a swivel."
  • Upcoming Steelers opponents would be wise to heed Heyward's advice.
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