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Posted on: July 31, 2010 11:35 am
 

Training Camp Q's

Part One

(7/29) It's time for the annual two-part look at the most criticial questions facing the Steelers. It's been a tough offseason. In the span of 18 months, the Steelers went from kings of the world, to suffering thru a miserable 4th quarter-blowing season, to being the new Cincinnati Bengals of troublemakers. But all of that is (hopefully) behind us now, and The Nation is ready for a new season to dawn. Here is part one:

Will the Ben Roethlisberger situation be a total circus?
The answer unfortunately is yes. Just when you were starting to get used to not hearing about Ben’s off the field issues for hours on end, get ready for it to start up all over again with endless news reports and detailed analysis of every last word that Ben says on camera. Here is the good news: it won’t last all summer. Expect people to get bored with the circus rather quickly and for the media and fans to move on to more “important” issues, like why some obscure 6 th round draft pick should supplant James Harrison as a starting linebacker.

How will the Steelers address the Willie Colon injury?
They should address it by going out and signing a veteran tackle (Flozell Adams anyone?). However, it looks as if they are content to move guys around. This seems like a risky approach to me. Had Colon gotten hurt in the middle of the season, I can see not wanting to bring in someone off the street to start. But when you have all summer to prepare, why not replace Colon with a free agent?
Nevermind! The Steelers just signed Adams tonight! The five-time Pro Bowl left tackle should be a great fit, even at this late stage of his career.

Is Mike Wallace ready to start?
You will no doubt see the headline “Is Sophomore Slump in Store for Wallace?” somewhere along the way this summer. Wallace had a brilliant rookie year but he was not asked to play every down. He also had two Super Bowl MVP’s on the field with him to draw coverage away. No one knows how Wallace will respond to the challenge of having to fill Santonio’s shoes. I think he will do well, but it’s really anyone’s guess.

Which second-stint Steeler will have the greatest impact?
This offseason was rife with guys coming back to Pittsburgh after having played elsewhere. Larry Foote will add much needed depth to the linebacker core. Antwaan Randle El will pick up right where he left off as the slot receiver, although don’t expect as many of the old gadget plays that we saw when Ken Whisenhunt was here. Byron Leftwich will have no choice but to make an impact since he will likely start the first four games of the season. But I think the guy who will contribute the most is Bryant McFadden. The secondary was a mess last season. The William Gay experiment went south rather quickly, and while some of the younger guys are showing promise, none of them could be counted on to hold the fort. McFadden returns after a short absence to a system in which he had great success. His return coupled with a healthy Troy Polamalu should equal a resurgence for the secondary.

What will become of Deshea Townsend?
The Steelers decided not to invite Townsend back for a 13 th season with the team. That’s a little hard to believe given that Townsend is a smart veteran who is still more than capable of playing in a backup role. Maybe salary had a lot to do with it? Whatever the case, it’s unlikely that Townsend will be picked up by another team until a need arises. For the Steelers, I could see him easily being signed midway thru the year if another cornerback goes down. If not, then it would be nice to at least see him get some kind of proper send off. Only 15 players in the history of the franchise have out in more service than Townsend, and that list contains iconic names like Webster, Stallworth, Bradshaw, and Greene.

Should Ike Taylor just stop talking?
Yes. In case you missed it earlier, Ike basically dared the NFL to fine the entire secondary. Not a good thing to do when your franchise is trying to rebuild its classy image. I’ve always like Ike as a player, but he should stay away from the microphones.

How much pressure is on Rashard Mendenhall?
Mendenhall will be asked to carry a big load this season. Art Rooney wants the team to run more and brought in a new o-line coach, so it’s pretty much a guarantee that the Steelers will run more. And that all happened BEFORE our franchise QB got suspended. Mendenhall had a breakout season last year. This time around he is going to have to up that performance and he is going to have to deal with expectations – both from Steelers fans and fantasy football owners – that weren’t even on his radar screen last year.

How important was the recent contract extension for Kevin Colbert?
It was absolutely huge. Colbert took over in 2000. Take a look at the Steelers drafts since then. Take a look at the free agent moves. There is a reason that the team has had only one losing season since he has been the GM. There is a reason that we have won two championships during that time. Colbert rarely gets the credit he deserves. I for one am thrilled that he will be here for years to come.

Are there any more Steelers who will get into trouble this season?
Let's hope not!

Category: NFL
Posted on: July 23, 2010 8:16 am
 

The Offseason from hell partII

Exactly one decade ago, I lamented the terrible offseason that the Steelers were having. In the time span between the end of the 1999 season and the start of the 2000 training camp, a series of unfortunate events seemingly destroyed the team, leading me to refer to that time as “The Offseason from Hell”. Well, if that offseason was from hell, I shudder to think of the origin of this current offseason! Since ending the season with a disappointing 9-7 record, the Steelers have spiraled into depths once thought unimaginable.

First the team was forced to jettison Santonio Holmes after he yet again got busted with drugs. Holmes was the Steelers best wide receiver, a Super Bowl MVP, and arguably one of the most clutch players in franchise history. At age 26, he had his whole career in front of him. He could have been the next Swann or Stallworth. Now he is gone.

Then the Ben Roethlisberger Milledgeville incident exploded. Ben was cleared of any criminal activity, but the conviction in the court of public opinion was perhaps just as damaging. All of Pittsburgh – especially of its female residents – now despised Roethlisberger. On a national level, the Steelers once proud reputation had been reduced to a laughingstock, inciting Roger Goodell to step in. The Steelers will now have to play the first 4-6 games of 2010 without their most important player.

The rest of the offense suffered losses as well. Willie Colon is done for the season. So is Limas Sweed, whose catastrophic NFL career continues to go downhill. So now the offense – the strong point of the team – will not have its two-time Super Bowl winning QB, its best WR, or its starting RT. And the offense was the strong point of the team. The defense – the unit who blew five 4th quarter leads last season – continues to age without a great deal of effort from the front office to correct it.

The strategy that the Steelers seemed to employ going into the 2010 season was to ride their crop of veteran players to one more Super Bowl run before the impending work stoppage next year. This strategy was evident in all of their offseason moves, from franchising Casey Hampton to bringing back Larry Foote and Antwaan Randle El. That strategy was seriously derailed however after the Roethlisberger and Holmes incidents.

So where does that leave the Steelers? Many fans are already bracing themselves for a 6-10 type of season. While a downturn may be normal for other franchises, it will be taken harder here because (a) the Steelers have only had one losing season so far this century and (b) many of the big name players – Smith, Ward, etc. – don’t have much time left in their careers, so one losing season could easily turn into three rebuilding seasons. However, there are reasons to be hopeful.

All is not lost this offseason. The personnel moves should help improve the team. Hanging onto Ryan Clark, Casey Hampton, and Jeff Reed will prevent new holes from forming. The Foote and Randle El signings were good ones, as was the trade to bring back Bryant McFadden. If the defense stays healthy, they should bounce back from last year’s debacle (remember that two of their three best players – Aaron Smith and Troy Polamalu – were hurt for the majority of the year). On offense, Ben is the key to everything. If the Steelers can stay afloat during his suspension, I think he will come back with a vengeance. Ben has always been motivated by proving everyone wrong, and while his personal behavior over the next few months will be the way to prove that he is changing off the field, he knows that playing well on the field will go a long way towards helping him rehabilitate his image. Mike Tomlin, who finally had his contract extended this week (that seemed destined to be another offseason fiasco), is a great coach who is capable of pulling everyone together during tough times.

Things appear to be in shambles now just as they were ten years ago. When the 2000 season kicked off and the Steelers played one of the more putrid games in recent memory at home against the Ravens, it felt like the roof had fully caved in. But that team rebounded. They put together a memorable winning season, and a few years later, a new Steelers dynasty was born. This 2010 team has even more potential, being just two years removed from a Super Bowl title. Let’s hope they can shake off “The Offseason from a Place Worse Than Hell” and surprise everyone with a great season.

Category: NFL
Posted on: July 12, 2010 10:39 am
 

1 strange draft

The week leading up to this year's NFL Draft could not have been any more tumultuous for the Steelers. First, the Ben Roethlisberger suspension came down (6 games, 4 with good behavior). Then after the Steelers traded a 7th round pick to re-acquire QB Byron Leftwich, rumors started flying that the team would stupidly trade Ben for a top ten pick. This made no sense from a football persepctive, not to mention Art Rooney II's talk of working to help Ben pick up the pieces of his life. Fortunately, the trade talk seemed to be nothing more than a smokescreen. Ben will remain a Steeler and Pittsburgh sat tight with the #18 overall pick. It came as a surprise to no one when they selected Florida center Maurkice Pouncey, who was projected on almost everyone's draft board to go to Pittsburgh.

At first glance, there would appear to be no tie-in between Pouncey and the Roethlisberger/Holmes mess. But on second look, the Steelers had to select a guy like Pouncey. By all accounts, he is a stud player. He won the 2009 Rimmington Trophy, given to the nation's top center. His fundamentals are sound, he run blocks well, and he has experience blocking for a QB in Tim Tebow who, like Ben, doesn't exactly stay in the pocket a lot (note that this is about the only similarity you will ever find between Tebow and Roethlisberger). But it's not just his on-the-field play that made him an attractive pick, it's his diligence off the field to working out and studying the playbook and doing well in the classroom. The Steelers couldn't afford to pick a guy with even the slightest hint of troublemaking. As SI's Peter King wrote, Pouncey is "the safest, surest player in this draft". I'm not disappointed. The Steelers need help on the o-line, where Pouncey will likely move to right guard. That position has been in a constant state of flux for the last two years, from Kendall Simmons to Darnell Stapleton to Trai Essex to Ramon Foster. If he can move back to center after that (as Dermontti Dawson did during his early years with the team), all the better.

While the first round pick looked nice, the next two were rather curious. In the second round, the team selected Jason Worilds from Virginia Tech. He is one of those undersized defensive ends who the Steelers will convert to a pass-rushing outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense, something they have had tremendous success doing in the past. That's all well and good, but don't we already have two all-pro outside linebackers? "In the eight years I've been here, we've never had a rookie linebacker start in our system," said linebackers coach Keith Butler. "We like to groom them for a couple years." Really? Your defense blew FIVE 4th quarter leads last year, and you're going to address that with a pass rusher who needs to be groomed for a couple of years? What about the hole at inside linebacker with James Farrior on the edge of being finished? What about the holes at corner? What about the rapidly aging d-line? Out of all the positions on defense, outside linebacker was the most secure. This pick just makes no sense to me right now.

The third round was no better. The Steelers took WR Emmanuel Sanders from SMU. Again, the kid looks like a decent player. He's fast, can return kicks, and caught 98 balls last year. But is that a pressing need? I realize we dumped Santonio Holmes, but we also signed Antwaan Randle El and Arnaz Battle, and there is still a chance - albeit slim - that Limas Sweed could still work out. I just don't see why you wouldn't address needs first. I also cannot believe we went offense with two out of our first three picks. This has been the pattern the last six or seven drafts, and it's the biggest reason why the defense crumbled last year. They are getting old and need to start rebuilding now while the veteran guys still have a year or two left in them. I'm really disappointed with the first three rounds as a whole.

On day 3, the head-scratchers continued. In the 4th round, the Steelers picked up ANOTHER outside linebacker in Thaddeus Gibson from "the" Ohio State University. Great, just in case Harrison AND Woodley suffer some crazy career-ending injury, we have two guys groomed to take their place. If I were a life insurance salesman, I'd be hitting up Kevin Colbert ASAP because he looks ready to buy. After the Steelers picked up tackle Chris Scott to kick off the 5th round, things started to again get interesting.

As a result of the Holmes trade, the Steelers had three 5th round picks. They traded the second of those picks to the Arizona Cardinals for.... (wait for it).... CB Bryant McFadden! Are you serious? We got McFadden back?! For a 5th round pick??? That's awesome! There is no doubt that McFadden's departure helped tank the Steelers secondary last year. It's great to have him back in the fold. I can't understand why Arizona gave him up so easily when he was their star free agent signing last year, but I know no one is complaining that we didn't draft a cornerback anymore. This is nuts - the Steelers have brought back everyone from the Super Bowl teams this offseason. If Alan Faneca and Joey Porter ended up on our opening day roster, I don't think I would be the least bit surprised at this point.

The Steelers rounded out the draft with CB Crezdon Butler from Clemson, LB Stevenson Sylvester from Utah (yet ANOTHER linebacker!), RB Jonathan Dwyer from GA Tech, WR Antonio Brown from Central Michigan, and another guy from Ohio State in DT Doug Worthington. It was disappointing that they waited until their final pick to finally take a d-lineman. On the other hand, the Dwyer kid is a big back who may actually find some quality playing time depending on how he looks (although be careful - we said the same thing last year about Frank the Tank Summers). All in all, the trades evened this draft out for the better. We'll see how these guys develop, but I still think the Steelers are missing the boat by not drafting more defensive players. <!-- - DRAFT BOARD -->

Category: NFL Draft
Tags: steelers
 
Posted on: April 12, 2010 12:54 pm
 

DogHumper Colbert Strikes Again, Dumps Holmes for

Kevin Colbert, the doghumper himself, has struck again with his humpa-billy ways, dumping WR Tonio Holmes off to the Jets.   In return, The Humper receives a whopping 5th (FIFTH) round pick. 

 

This is jackassed stupidity at its worst, on so many fronts.  

 

Yes, Holmes MIGHT -- maybe -- receive a 4-game suspension.  MAYBE.     And yes, he’s had some piss-ant little discretions.  And for that, HumpaBilly Colbert dumps him off to a conference rival, for a pissfuk 5th round draft choice….?   Who’s running the Stillers, David Littleyield or Neil Huntington??    Had Colbert shopped Holmes around and even waited for the frenzy of draft day, surely he could have gotten more than a 5th rounder for an in-his-prime, clutch performing, #1 WR.    Recall the Bettis trade in ’96, which the Stillers gave up a 2nd rounder.   At that point in time, Bettis had a resume about, oh, one-tenth that of Holmes.  

 

From a PR standpoint, this trade is as ass-ugly as it comes.   Here the Stillers have a white QB who is wrangled in accusations that he sexually assaulted a female, a far worse transgression than anything Tonio has done.   In the “Steeler Way”, the white QB stays; the black WR gets peddled away for $24 in beads in trinkets.  

 

Holmes should have been retained.   If Humper Colbert really wanted to peddle him, he surely should have gotten more -- much more -- in return.   Of course, knowing Colbert, he probably wanted to devote more time in offering Farrior yet another contract extension….

 

Category: NFL
Posted on: March 9, 2010 8:51 am
 

Grow Up BigBoy

My opinion is of Ben Roethlisberger. I think he is one of the all-time greatest Steelers players. There is no way we win two Super Bowls without him, and it ticks me off to no end that he never gets the proper respect from the dumbed-down national sports media. That being said, I have to say that I am really disappointed to hear these latest off the field allegations. In case you missed it, a college student in Georgia is accusing Ben of sexual assault. This may be true or it may be made up like it was in the Nevada case. If it is the latter (and The Nation better pray that it is), there is still a big problem at hand. Roethlisberger is a superstar quarterback. He has millions of fans, including a ton of kids. God blessed him with an amazing talent for playing this game. And what does he do with that talent? He uses it to not only pick up random women, but does it in situations that leave him vulnerable to trouble. On the field, Ben is more comfortable winging it. He works better when operating out of the no huddle or scrambling around to make a play. It would seem that he operates his personal life in much the same way. Unfortunately, the results haven't been quite as good. Maybe it's time for a new way of living. Maybe it's time to start acting like a grown-up. If this latest mess doesn't wake him up, I'm not sure what will.

 

 I was all set to unload a rant detailing how upset I was by the signing today of Tampa Bay safety Will Allen. It's not that Allen is a bad player, but rather that this signing seemed to signal the end of the Ryan Clark era. That would have been a huge mistake. Clark is probably the most underrated player on the defense. Fortunately, the Steelers came through. The Allen signing turned out to be for depth only because the team announced tonight that Clark has been re-signed to a four-year contract! This is great news for Steelers fans. The big three key free agents are all staying in the fold. They will have some new teammates however.

The Steelers made an uncharacteristic splash into free agency today by signing two more players in addition to Allen. The first was Buffalo tackle Jonathan Scott, another depth signing. The second was San Francisco WR Arnaz Battle. He is a seven-year veteran who will add - you guessed it - depth to the position. He will also likely push Limas Sweed out of a job. If that is the case, it would mark the end of a disastrous tenure in Pittsburgh for the team's 2008 second round pick. Let's just hope that the Battle signing works out better than the last time we signed a 49ers receiver.

So you would have thought the Steelers would have been done there, right? Nope. One more player was signed later, and it's a familiar one. Antwaan Randle El is heading back to Pittsburgh four years after leaving for a lucrative free agency deal in Washington. I really LOVE this move. I'm not sure Randel El is still the same playmaker he was when we had him the first time, but he is still a productive receiver (50 catches last year) and an all-around great guy whose presence will only do good things for the Steelers locker room. The Super Bowl XL hero got a three year deal. The offense is now loaded at the receiver position. Bruce Arians must be a happy man.

Category: NFL
Posted on: February 16, 2010 12:12 pm
 

Fat Hampton...

There’s been plenty of chatter about the Steelers putting the franchise tag on NT Casey Hampton. The big man has already said that it’d be a ’slap in the face’ if the team did so, but hey, if they did so, Hampton would be making quite a bit of money, more money in one season where he’d make in one season with anyone else.

Of course the thing with Hampton is he wants a long-term deal for security reasons, and who can blame him? But the Steelers have to do what’s right. From all indications the right thing to do is to simply put the tag on Hampton, and do what they did with Max Starks last year and then try to work out a deal.

So the tag doesn’t appear to be coming anytime soon, but it’s a move that you have to think is going to happen sooner rather than later.

Category: NFL
Posted on: February 9, 2010 8:51 am
 

Looking Ahead...

It hurt so much last night watching two other teams in the Super Bowl and not our team defending their Super Bowl title. That being said, I believe and you all should also believe that much better days are on the way. Because I would not trade a completely healthy Pittsburgh Steelers defense with Troy Polamalu with a completely healthy knee and a healthy Aaron Smith, for any of the other 31 defenses in the league. That being said, look for a major youth movement through the NFL Draft on defense to solve all of the defenses depth problems that were exploited during that mid-season losing streak I am keeping my fingers crossed and saying my prayers hoping that Colbert and Tomlin decide on Southern Cal's Taylor Mays by trading up to get him or waiting at the 18 spot for him,because that kid is a beast in pass coverage and run defense. There is no way that the Steelers defense is as bad as they showed in 2009, because they are not, and look for Lebeau and his guys to return to to the #1 spot in the overall defense rankings. Expect it, and be ready for it!
Category: NFL Draft
Posted on: January 26, 2010 8:05 pm
 

This looks like it should fit...

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach Sean Kugler said he is looking forward to the Steelers having a physical offensive line that can run the ball. "Of course, as a line coach, I love to run the football, and I know the Steelers have a history of putting a physical line up front that runs the football. I'd love to be a part of that," Kugler said.

He did nice things in Buffalo this year with some young spare parts after guys went own with injuries.

I've heard nothing but good things about him and you have to be somewhat impressed with what he did with Buffalo's group of rookies. Besides, the dude just looks like a no-bullshit, get 'er done kind of guy. What's the word in the Burgh about this guy? Someone fill me in since I am displaced out here on the left coast.

Category: NFL
 
 
 
 
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