2013 Preview: Pittsburgh Power

Alvin Ray Jackson recorded a League-leading 14 interceptions with the New Orleans VooDoo in 2012.

Feb. 18, 2013

AFNation Report

2012 RECORD: 5-13 (t-3rd, American Conference East)


COACH (RECORD): Derek Stingley (4-16 overall, 3-5 with Pittsburgh)

OFFENSIVE STAR: WR Mike Washington (115 receptions, 1,484 receiving yards, 34 touchdowns)

DEFENSIVE STAR: JLB Alvin Ray Jackson (75 tackles, 14 INT, 3.5 TFL)

2012 OFFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 12th overall (12th passing, 12th rushing), 14th scoring (45.9 ppg)

2012 DEFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 1st overall (1st passing, 16th rushing), 9th scoring (53.5 ppg)

KEY ADDITONS: QB Jordan Jefferson (free agent), QB Shane Austin (free agent), QB Steven Sheffield (free agent), FB Kirby Griffin (free agent), WR Shamar Graves (from Jacksonville), JLB  Alvin Ray Jackson (from New Orleans), DB Sergio Gilliam (from Kansas City), DB Brandon Freeman (from Chicago), K Joshua Smith (from Milwaukee)

KEY DEPARTURES: OL Greg Niland (to Chicago), OL Moqut Ruffins (to San Antonio), DL Justin Parrish (to Jacksonville)

KEY FREE AGENTS: QB Bryan Randall, QB Andrico Hines, WR PJ Berry, WR Oderick Turner, WR Randy Hymes, DL Anthony Degrate, DB Bryan Williams, DB John Green

MARQUEE MATCHUPS: at New Orleans (Week 5), Philadelphia (Week 13)

PROGNOSIS: Pittsburgh’s “power” stems from its secondary. Coming off a season in which the Power led the Arena Football League in both total defense and pass defense, the team only bolstered its defensive backfield during the offseason, bringing in All-Arena Jack linebacker Alvin Ray Jackson and veteran defensive back Sergio Gilliam to mesh with the franchise’s career interceptions leader, Chris LeFlore. Jackson immediately gives Pittsburgh an edge at the Jack position, after snagging 14 interceptions – more than any Jack in the history of the League – with the New Orleans VooDoo last season. Meanwhile, Gilliam led the Kansas City Command with six interceptions and LeFlore led the Power with nine interceptions last season. With Gilliam and LeFlore in place, the Power should be more adequately prepared for the potential loss of leading tackler Bryan Williams. On the defensive line, Dominie Pittman was intriguing as a rookie last season. The team will need a big year from him, especially if fellow lineman Anthony Degrate does not return to the squad. The defense will need to be sound if the Power are to earn their first playoff berth in franchise history. On offense, Pittsburgh boasts a number of interesting, yet unproven, options. Pittsburgh’s Achilles’ heel the last two seasons has been the quarterback position. Coach Derek Stingley hopes to change that this year with the addition of former LSU signal-caller Jordan Jefferson. Though a tremendous talent, Jefferson is still an unproven commodity who will have to beat out fellow rookie Shane Austin and third-year journeyman Steven Sheffield for the job. There will also be an interesting battle at fullback, with last season’s starter, Tyre Young, competing for carries with Kirby Griffin – who took last year off after helping the Jacksonville Sharks to an ArenaBowl championship in 2011 – and Jason Ford – who ranks second in Illinois history with 26 career touchdowns. Question marks still remain at the receiver position, however. The franchise’s career receiving leader, Mike Washington, returns for a third season as the squad’s clear number one target, but the next three receivers on the team’s 2012 depth chart all remain free agents. The biggest name on the list is undoubtedly former Ironman of the Year, PJ Berry, who has starred as a receiver and kick return specialist over the last three seasons. The team is also currently without the big play abilities of Oderick Turner and Randy Hymes, who are both unassigned to this point. On the team’s current depth chart, the recently acquired Shamar Graves comes in as the second-most experienced wideout on the roster after hauling in 29 passes with the Jacksonville Sharks last season. Though the team is certainly not devoid of talent at the position, bringing in another veteran receiver – whether a new face or one from last year’s squad – may likely be on the immediate agenda. In the kicking game, Pittsburgh hopes that new acquisition Josh Smith can help the team move up from a dreadful 70 percent conversion rate on extra-point attempts last season. Coach Stingley insists this will be a very interesting training camp for Pittsburgh and with plenty of talented, yet unproven options, Power fans will want to stay tuned during the month of March.