The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

February 25, 2007

Steelers look to be sticking with the 3-4 defense

By JIM WEXELL

INDIANAPOLIS — Oklahoma runs the Tampa 2, or the Tomlin 2, as those in Pittsburgh figure to re-name the defense of the Steelers.

And the pride and joy of that Sooners’ defense, Big 12 Player of the Year Rufus Alexander, would make be the perfect Derrick Brooks-type weakside linebacker.

With his outstanding coverage skills, Alexander would make a perfect chip for Mike Tomlin’s defensive transition.

But, alas, the Steelers have not spoken with Alexander. They have, on the other hand, spoken with Adam Carriker.

“They see me as a 3-4 end,” Carriker said.

And they’ve spoken with Jay Moore.

“I met their whole staff,” the Nebraska “tweener” defensive end/OLB said. “And we went in depth about playing the 3-4.”

And the Steelers spoke with Anthony Spencer and Jarvis Moss. Both said the same thing: The Steelers are looking for defensive ends to make the move to 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL.

A source with the Steelers made the admission that, yes, the Steelers are sticking with their 3-4 defense, even though their new coach, Tomlin, is an avowed Cover 2 devotee.

“We’ll run a 4-3 at times, only if we have that specialty type player,” said the source. “Otherwise, we’re still a 3-4.”

The Steelers don’t expect Carriker to still be on the draft board when they pick 15th, but several linebackers will be.

The most attractive might be Spencer, who played linebacker as a sophomore before becoming one of the nation’s most feared pass rushers as a 6-foot-2, 262-pound defensive end at Purdue.

He led the nation with 261⁄2 tackles for loss last season, and was also a finalist for the Lott Trophy, a local award that honors athletic achievement and character.

“I didn’t win it,” he said. “But I was very grateful to be on the list. I’m a pretty happy go lucky guy. I have a pretty positive attitude most of the time. I treat people right I guess. I don’t have any real enemies out there. I think I’m a pretty good guy.”

But he made a comment that won’t endear him to “Peezy” and the rest of the Steelers’ linebackers. When asked to gauge the Steelers’ level of interest, Spencer said: “They seemed pretty interested because they do have an older linebacking corps.”

The truth hurts.

But with 30-year-old Joey Porter a potential contract problem, and Clark Haggans and James Farrior creeping into their 30s, the Steelers are in need of fresh blood at the position.

“I’m pretty comfortable with my hand in the dirt, but if they want me to do it, stand up or anything, I’m ready for a chance,” Spencer said. “A lot of Purdue guys have been successful moving to linebacker.”

Florida has a bit of a history with pass rushers as well. Moss, the 6-61⁄2, 250-pound defensive end, gladly welcomed comparisons to Jevon Kearse. But no one asked him if he remembered Huey Richardson.

Moss had two sacks in the national title game. He also was suspended for a game a week after blocking two kicks to preserve a one-point win over South Carolina at midseason.

“I tested positive to marijuana on the 15th of October,” Moss said. “It was a real humbling experience for me. It came after the game of my life and I feel like it was God’s way of bringing me back down to earth. It was something I definitely learned from. My coaches stuck by me and we stuck together as a family. I regained their trust and we went on to do some pretty special things the rest of the year.”

Another defensive end who’s interesting the Steelers as a 3-4 OLB is Moore, who came on strong late in the season. He had three sacks in the Senior Bowl and forced two fumbles.

“They asked me to perform the linebacker drills and I’ll be glad to do it,” Moore said of the Steelers. “I told them I’ll do it at my pro day, too, and they said they’ll have somebody there.”

Moore weighs 275 and has been running 4.6 40s during speed training workouts. He said he’d drop 10 pounds or so if the Steelers draft him. Moore is considered a high second-round pick.