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Insider: Steelers erred in testing Packers CB Williams

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By PFW staff

The following quotes are from NFL scouts, coaches and front-office personnel, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

• "I was very surprised that on 4th-and-5 (at the end of the game), the Steelers decided to throw to the guy (that Packers CB) Tramon Williams was covering. They had one healthy cornerback left to avoid and that is the way they throw? It was a great play by Williams. If I were (Steelers offensive coordinator) Bruce Arians, that would have been the last thing I said — avoid throwing No. 38's way. He was hands down the most improved defensive player in the NFL this year."

• "When the Packers lost Charles Woodson (in the first half of Super Bowl XLV), they knew (Jarrett) Bush could not cover — that's why they kept blitzing him."

• "If you look at how Sam Shields played from the time he entered preseason to the end of the year, the improvement was phenomenal. He did not know what to do early on. That's coaching right there. My hat's off to Dom Capers."

• "Everyone got all excited about Michael Vick — and there was reason to be excited early — but if you look at how he finished the season, you see (that) teams started to figure out that if you make him play quarterback, he is not that good.  He's not a great three-step, five-step, read-and-throw-to-the-open-receiver quarterback. And he takes more hits because he does not read it quickly. Look at the Indy game when (Colts MLB Gary) Brackett drills him. If his primary (receiver) is not there and he has to go through the thought process, he holds it for an extra second to second-and-a-half, and in this league, that is the difference between a  defender breezing by — like they do with Peyton Manning, barely touching him — or getting drilled. If I'm Michael Vick, I'm digging up every game that Steve Young played late in his career when he made his transformation, and I'm studying it."

• "Losing (C Maurkice) Pouncey was a monumental loss for the Steelers. He made that line go. What do you think the outcome would be in any other profession if you took one of the best around and tried replacing that person with the 50th-best? It's hard to cover that up. (Pouncey) covered up a lot of flaws of the rest of the line. Without him, it made the jobs of Big Ben (Roethlisberger), (Rashard) Mendenhall and the rest of the line a lot harder."

• "Watch (James) Jones' and Jordy (Nelson)'s drops — I don't think they were dropped because they have bad hands. I think they were surprised at how well (Aaron) Rodgers was threading that needle. He was absolutely just threading it. Even the go-and-fade route to Jordy — they were passes that just missed by an inch — and what was great about it — (Rodgers) puts the ball where only his guys have a chance to catch his misses. His only bad pass was to (Andrew) Quarless up the seam. Not many quarterbacks have the confidence in their arm to look, look and turn, and throw left the way (Rodgers) did on the seven-yard hitch to Jordy. For most (quarterbacks), that would have been seven (points) going the other way."

• "The Packers have better defensive personnel (than the Steelers). If you take the secondary, maybe Troy Polamalu is better than Charles Woodson — but they pretty much cancel each other out. If you look at the rest of the secondary, I take Sam Shields, Tramon Williams and Nick Collins over Ryan Clark, Ike Taylor, (Bryant) McFadden and William Gay every day of the week. (James) Harrison might be a little better than (Clay) Matthews, but had Desmond Bishop waited and did not re-sign, he would have been a hot free agent. He was one of the most underrated guys on the field. He hits like thunder — why do you think Nick Barnett is so pissed? I don't think he's getting his job back. I'd take (B.J.) Raji over (Casey) Hampton and (Cullen) Jenkins over (Brett) Keisel. Losing Aaron Smith really hurt (the Steelers). Ziggy Hood is so stiff that he cannot rush the passer, and he does not play the run very well outside a very short area."

• "Give (Packers GM) Ted Thompson credit for locking up Tramon Williams and Desmond Bishop. He did a great job of evaluating his own. And then you look at the street free agents they bring in — Jarrett Bush and Charlie Peprah. I'm sure it was hard to let Aaron Kampman go, but he got hurt again, and he was not a fit. Mike McCarthy gets it. They have a president (Mark Murphy) who understands football and a bunch of smart football players. That is what Ted understands. If a guy is dumb, he gets stuck on the bench — coaches won't trust him."

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