Do you know Jason Aaron? You should. Almost two years ago, we pimped his totally awesome comic book Scalped. Since then, Aaron talked sports with us, where his love of the Steelers came through. He also started a blog (Standard Attrition) that this blog thought was awesome. Essentially, we are very lucky when Jason takes some time to slum with us. And the best way to get him to slum with us is to ask him a ton of Pittsburgh Steeler questions.
Read on, as Jason plans for Zombie Alien defense, talks some shit at the Washington Drunken Savages, gets a little defensive about Charlie Batch, casually dismisses the ManGenius, references Tommy Maddox, and gives us the names of some young guns to keep your eyes on. Below follows our interview with Jason. Any photos, links, or videos are strictly the fault your editor, me. Interview commences...3...2... NOW!
Big Blue Monkey: In my initial email [to Aaron], I may have suggested that Hines Ward was no longer with the Steelers. I knew that to be a fact. Except that it clearly isn't. He's still a Steeler, and given the contract he was given, he will retire one. Last year, he had his best year in the past half decade or so--over 80 catches, over 1000 yards, close to 13 yards per reception, and 7 Touchdowns. Is Hines still the man of the receiving corps, even at age 33? (Staggering fact: I'm older than Hines Ward, despite the fact I've watched him play all my life. How does that happen?) Or is Santonio Holmes going to ride his incredible Super Bowl into the 2009-2010 season, and take the reins?
Aaron: Hines will always be The Man, as long as he’s still out there breaking linebackers’ jaws by blocking the shit out of them. Eventually though Holmes does need to step up and become the number one receiver. He just hasn’t done it yet. Yes, he made that amazing catch in the Super Bowl and big plays in both playoff games, but for long stretches in the regular season, he was really not much of a factor. He’s got all the ability in the world. I think he just needs to mature a bit more. Stuff like his LeBron James celebration in the Super Bowl (which should have been a penalty) shows he’s still a bit too immature to be The Man for the Steelers.
BBM: Is Limas Sweed ready to be a player in the NFL? Will the Steelers miss Nate Washington?
Aaron: If you go back and watch most of the Steelers’ regular season games last year (as I often do. Thank you, NFL Network), you’ll see Washington made lots of big plays for the team. Somebody’s going to have to fill that void. It might be Sweed, who looks like he’s making strides in his second season, or it might be rookie Mike Wallace, who can flat out fly. Or maybe they’ll just throw more to Heath Miller, the most under appreciated tight end in the league.
BBM: Bonus All-Time Pittsburgh Question: Is Hines Ward on his way to being the Best Pittsburgh Receiver of All Time? Top 3?)
Aaron: If you go by the numbers, he already is. And again his toughness is one of the qualities that has helped define this team for the last several years.
BBM: Everyone knows that Big Ben is back again, and coming off one hell of a season, but what happens if he misses a couple of games, which is not rare for him? Is Charlie Batch really the #2 in Pittsburgh? Can you say "Charlie Batch" without getting a cold shiver down your back? Do you think you will, at some point this upcoming season, utter the words, "I wish Byron Leftwich were here."
Aaron: What? Where have you been? Batch has been a terrific back-up for Pittsburgh. Now if it was Tommy Maddox back there, then I’d be getting cold shivers.
BBM: Who will be the #2 back on this squad? Will it be Mewelde Moore again, or does Rashard Mendenhall reclaim the excitement he had when he was drafted? Am I wrong to assume that Willy Parker is the #1 back?
Aaron: Mewelde Moore will be the third down back again, unless Parker can reclaim that job, which isn’t likely. Hopefully Willie can bounce back and have a big year. I just worry that maybe they ran the tires off him in 2006-2007. Backs who get a couple of those 300+ carry seasons in a row just don’t have a good track record of holding up. And the jury’s still out on Mendenhall. He hasn’t really shown anything.
BBM: Well, obviously, the Tomlin-led Steelers have a great defense, per Steelers expectations, and last year's Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison turned in one of the most iconic plays in Super Bowl history. Do you foresee yet another breakout player coming from that side of the ball?
Aaron: The Steelers lost two starters on defense, but should actually still be better than they were a year ago, because the two new starters both played extensively last year and look to have big upsides. Especially keep your eye on new inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons. He looks to be the kind of pass-rushing beast the Steelers haven’t had inside since Kendrell Bell’s first few healthy seasons. And on the outside opposite Harrison, Lamarr Woodley should only get better. Last year was his first as a starter, and he had 11.5 sacks and then added another 6 in the playoffs [Editor's Note: Aaron completely predicted Woodley's success last year]. Assuming the ageless-one James Farrior can keep it going, this should be one of the best groups of Steelers linebackers ever. And that’s saying something.
BBM: On paper, The Steelers are clearly the class of the AFC North. Who will be the stiffest competition within the division? If you say Cleveland, please explain in detail.
Aaron: Yeah, Cleveland, right. Mangini. Nice hire. Good luck with that. The North will come down to the Steelers and the Ravens again. All three games they played last year were brutal nailbiters, and you wouldn’t expect this year to be any different.
at this point, I turned the questions over to fellow IDYFT'ers:
Miwacar: How does Troy Polamalu rate for you in the long, illustrious line of great Steeler defenders?
Aaron: I think if Troy keeps playing the way he has been, then no doubt he’s a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest safeties to ever play the game. People always talk about Ed Reed as the best in the game today, but I don’t see any other safety who does as much for their team as Polamalu. The dude is just all over the field.
Miwacar: Who are your favorite defensive players and why?
Aaron: Easy. Jack Lambert and Greg Lloyd. Two of the toughest, nastiest linebackers to ever play the game. If aliens ever invade or zombies ever take over the earth, those are the first two guys I'm calling to recruit to fight for my side.
James Harrison is close behind. He's gotta be the scariest defender in the league today. Just ask that Cleveland fan he decked on the field a few years ago. Imagine how much of a terror he'd be if he wasn't getting held almost every down.
Andrew Wice: Congratulations on a sixth Superbowl for your Steelers. I was born in Pittsburgh in 1974 (they won that season) and have always been a fan, though I'm a Redskins fan to the marrow. I do dig the way the Steelers win their Superbowls: hard running, great WRs, a winner at QB and the motherfuckingestdefense around.
Question: Are the Steelers RBs, talented though they are, too fragile? They ranked 23rd in rushing in 2008.
Aaron: Maybe they seemed fragile because they were getting hit in the backfield too much. Yeah, their top two backs were both injured last year, but the real reason they struggled to run the ball was the offensive line. The Steelers just don’t have a very good one. Jut look at how bad they were on short yardage. They were horrible. Or watch their game against the Eagles from last season. Jesus, that was hard to sit through. I think the Eagles sacked Big Ben at least 87 times. Maybe the o-line will be better this year, since a lot of them were new faces last year. I hope so, because there’s no way Ben can keep doing what he’s doing, taking hit after hit like he has the last couple years. The Steelers just can’t keep relying on Ben to run around like a madman and pull magic out of his ass at the last second. They won so many games like that last year. Imagine what they can do if they just get some semblance of a running game going?
Andrew Wice: Last year, the Steelers weathered the hardest schedule. This year, they have an easier schedule. Will that make them softer in the postseason? follow-up: is this a bullshit question?
Aaron: I don’t see Mike Tomlin letting these guys get soft. And when you’re the defending champs, you got a bullseye on your chest every week, no matter who you’re playing.
Andrew Wice: the Steelers play against Washington in the second game of the (pre) season (8/22). How many points will the Steelers lose by?
Aaron: Oh sorry, that game has come and gone now, and oh look, the Redskins did win. Enjoy that victory though because by the looks of the Washington offense, they won’t be winning a whole lot more. (Editor's Note: That's just mean, Jason Aaron. Prove him wrong, Washington Area Drunken Savages!)
Andrew Wice: Final Question: the Steelers return 20 of 22 starters from the championship team. What could keep them from repeating, besides injuries?
Aaron: The offensive line. They have to open some holes in the running game. There’s too much talent on this offense for them not to be an elite squad. On the plus side, the Steelers look to finally have some burners to return kicks, including little 5 ft. 7 in. spitfire Stefan Logan, so if the o-line just holds up its end of the deal, this team could easily be better than last year’s Super Bowl winning squad.
Thanks to Jason Aaron for a great look at the Steelers in 2009. Be sure to read his shit. You think he's entertaining talking about football, you should see him when he's writing about the FBI, Tribal Cops, and corrupt leaders on the Rez. Go buy a copy of Scalped, already!
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