Tag:Mike Wallace
Posted on: February 22, 2012 7:56 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 7:57 pm
 

Mike Wallace understands that NFL 'is a business'

It's not ideal, but the Steelers can survive in a Wallace-less offense. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

If, in 12 days, the Steelers haven't extended wide receiver Mike Wallace's contract, there's the real possibility that he may have played his last game for Pittsburgh. The organization will tender Wallace, a restricted free agent, the highest offer but teams looking for proven deep threats might willingly give up a first-round pick for his rights.

Exacerbating matters: the Steelers are some $7 million over the salary cap and likely wouldn't be able to match any contract another team might offer Wallace. Pittsburgh understands this and so does the third-year wide receiver.

"(Pittsburgh is) where I would like to be, but we all know that it is a business and you have certain things you have to handle," Wallace said during an appearance on SiriusXM Wednesday afternoon (via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review). "So if I have to go elsewhere, you know Pittsburgh will always be in my heart, but I have to do what I have to do. ...

"Yeah, we are talking, but I don`t know how far they are going to get right now because of the situation," he said, referring to the team's cap situation. "I know that they are working hard trying to take care of it, but I don`t know. We`ll see."

(We talked about Wallace's future -- among other things -- on the most recent Pick-6 Podcast.)


We wrote Monday about the doomsday scenario that has the Steelers losing Wallace and, well, it's not the end of the world some fans and media portray it to be. (We'll include part of it below since we buried it in a post about Big Ben and Haley, western Pennsylvania's newest BFFs.)

Wallace has put up some mind-blowing numbers during his three-year career, and you can even blame his second-half-of-2011 slump on Roethlisberger's health and defenses double- and triple-teaming him. But Pittsburgh also has Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. We think Brown will eventually be better than Wallace, if he's not already. And Sanders has the ability to become a solid No. 2 option.

The Steelers would also have an additional first-rounder, most likely near the bottom of the round. If, in their draft evaluations, they find a handful of players that they think would help them immediately (and when we say "players," we really mean "offensive linemen"), perhaps it's a tradeoff worth considering. Wallace is worth more than a late first-round selection but there are extenuating circumstances, chiefly the salary-cap purgatory the organization currently finds itself.

In addition to Brown and Sanders, Pittsburgh would need to re-sign someone like Jerricho Cotchery, or hope that Hines Ward has anything left for another season. (Worth mentioning: Ward had a severely sprained ankle early in the season and that may have hampered his production down the stretch.)

Then there is tight end Heath Miller, recently underutilized because of Pittsburgh's suspect pass-blocking. Haley announced at his introductory press conference that he was a huge Miller fan, and Miller could become another downfield option in the Steelers' passing game should they lose Wallace.

Finally, Pittsburgh has been to three Super Bowls since 2005, winning two. The group of pass catchers in 2005 included Ward, Cedrick Wilson and Antwaan Randle El. In 2009, it was Ward, Santonio Holmes, and Nate Washington. The takeaway: given the Steelers' financial predicament, keeping Wallace is more a luxury than a necessity.

The organization has less two weeks to sort this out. Whether that's enough time to get under the cap and extend Wallace is an entirely different issue. But Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has an impressive track record not only when it comes to identifying talent but knowing when to let them walk. We'll know shortly where Colbert stands on Wallace.

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Posted on: February 21, 2012 8:25 pm
 

Pick-6 Podcast: Ranking the free-agent QBs

Will Peyton end up in the Valley of the Sun?(CBSSports.com illustration)

By Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

The old saying goes something like this: yes, it's officially the NFL offseason but there really is no offseason. The Giants won the Super Bowl a few weeks ago but teams can already franchise would-be free agents, the combine begins this week and free agency the week after.

There are plenty of storylines, and Peyton Manning's future is among the biggest. On the latest Pick-6 Podcast, we talk whether the Arizona Cardinals make the most sense for Manning (he does look dashing in red), and where the other free-agent quarterbacks (Matt Flynn, Kyle Orton, Jason Campbell, Chad Henne) might end up this spring.

The conversation then turns to Big Ben and Todd Haley, and a possible theory for why the Steelers could let Mike Wallace leave as a restricted free agent.

(Did we mention that you should subscribe to the podcast via iTunes? And if you can't listen to the podcast below, download it here. And if you'd like to keep working while listening in your browser, pop that puppy out in a new tab here.)


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Posted on: February 21, 2012 6:58 pm
 

Report: Roethlisberger, Haley finally meet

Now that Big Ben and Haley are BFFs, the team has to decide Wallace's future in Pittsburgh. (Getty Images/US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

Some sad news for those fans and media looking for a story where there wasn't one: after a couple weeks on the job, new Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley finally had a face-to-face with franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette tweeted the details late Tuesday afternoon:

EdBouchette
News many have waited for: Ben & Steelers new OC Todd Haley finally met, sat down and talked.
2/21/12 5:46 PM

So what does this mean? Not much, really. Haley's arrival in Pittsburgh furrowed some brows but team president Art Rooney II said last week that the hire was soley that of head coach Mike Tomlin. Put differently: Rooney hadn't suddenly morphed into a meddlesome owner, ordering Haley's hire, even if Rooney wasn't jazzed by the prospects of Bruce Arians, Haley's predecessor, keeping his job.

There's still the issue if Haley and Big Ben can co-exist. Roethlisberger has stated previously that he's not a huge fan of yelling, we still think it won't affect his on-field performance. In fact, CBSSports.com's Will Brinson thinks the Steelers' Pro Bowl quarterback could have his best season yet in 2012. (We talked about it on the most recent Pick-6 Podcast.)


So now, with that all behind us, the second-biggest offseason storyline facing the Steelers is Mike Wallace's immediate future with the team.

CBSSports.com's Pat Kirwan wrote about it over the weekend: Pittsburgh is well over the cap and even if they wanted to franchise Wallace (they don't), their precarious salary-cap situation won't allow it. Which means that Wallace, a restricted free agent and one of the league's best young wide receivers, could be had by a wideout-needy team for a first-round pick should the Steelers choose not to match any contract offer Wallace would receive.

Before last summer's new CBA, restricted free agents tendered at the highest level would bring a first- and third-rounder should they sign elsewhere. Now it's only a first-rounder, which means that the Patriots, a club desperate for a deep threat that also has two first-round picks, would be a logical landing spot.

Ideally, the Steelers would find a way to keep Wallace, but that will require some nifty salary-cap maneuvering in the coming weeks; free agency starts March 5. But here's the other side of that argument should they lose him:

Wallace has put up some mind-blowing numbers during his three-year career, and you can even blame his second-half-of-2011 slump on Roethlisberger's health and defenses double- and triple-teaming him. But Pittsburgh also has Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. In our opinion, Brown will be better than Wallace, if he's not already. And Sanders has the ability to become a solid No. 2 option.

The Steelers would also have an additional first-rounder, most likely near the bottom of the round. If, in their draft evaluations, they find a handful of players that they think would help them immediately (and when we say "players," we really mean "offensive linemen"), perhaps it's a tradeoff worth considering. Wallace is worth more than a late first-round selection but there are extenuating circumstances, chiefly the salary-cap purgatory the organization currently finds itself.

In addition to Brown and Sanders, Pittsburgh would need to re-sign someone like Jerricho Cotchery, or hope that Hines Ward has anything left for another season. (Worth mentioning: Ward had a severely sprained ankle early in the season and that may have hampered his production down the stretch.)

Then there is tight end Heath Miller, recently underutilized because of Pittsburgh's suspect pass-blocking. Haley announced at his introductory press conference that he was a huge Miller fan, and Miller could become another downfield option in the Steelers' passing game should they lose Wallace.

The organization has nearly two weeks to sort this out. Whether that's enough time to get under the salary cap (they're currently about $7-$8 million over) and extend Wallace is an entirely different issue. But Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has an impressive track record not only when it comes to identifying talent but knowing when to let them walk. We'll know shortly where Colbert stands on Wallace.

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Posted on: February 19, 2012 7:02 pm
 

Report: Pats on Randy Moss: That ship has sailed

New England apparently won't be in Moss' future. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Randy Moss reintroduced himself to the public last week when he took to UStream to talk about everything from his NFL return to pro wrestling to his three piranha (one's named Gargamel because he's mean). Naturally, the media (us included) ran with it, speculating on where he might end up in 2012.

The list includes the obvious choices -- the Patriots, Redskins, 49ers, Jets and Eagles -- as well as the not-so-obvious: the IFL's Chicago Slaughter. (We talked about all this on a recent Pick-6 Podcast, conveniently embedded below.)


But Moss also had his detractors. Cris Carter reminded everyone that his former teammate was a quitter, and the Cowboys preemptively indicated that they'd pass on his services.

In Sunday's Boston Globe, Shalise Manza Young reiterated what some people already suspected: a Pats-Moss reunion isn't in the offing.

"Moss seems realistic about his chances, acknowledging that he may not play anywhere in 2012," Young wrote. "As for a possible Patriots reunion, the feeling here is that that ship has sailed."

If the Patriots were to pursue a veteran it would be someone like Reggie Wayne (we've been beating this drum for months now), especially given how poor a fit Chad Ochocinco turned out to be. If, instead, New England is looking for a young playmaker at the position, they could use their bottomless supply of draft picks to trade up and grab Justin Blackmon, Kendall Wright or Michael Floyd. Or as CBSSports.com's Pat Kirwan suggests, they could make a play for Steelers restricted free agent Mike Wallace. It would only cost them the 31st overall pick, and Wallace, unlike the would-be rookies, is already one of the league's best young wideouts.

As for Moss, we still think he's a more viable option than Terrell Owens. This falls firmly under the heading of "the soft bigotry of low expectations," but we're also talking about two guys in their mid-30s who last played in the NFL in 2010. And unlike T.O., who had a nasty habit of burning bridges, Moss was generally well regarded in Tennessee, his last stop before retirement.

He was great," one team official told NFL Network's Albert Breer earlier this week. "He was a great personality, he brought an energy to practice. He was constantly talking, but it was all in a competitive way, not a negative way.

"As a player, he's never been a great practice player, but there were no issues. The problem was in games, he'd lose interest, he'd dog it sometimes. ... He gets frustrated with double teams; when he gets bracketed, he'll shut it down, and that causes a problem for you. But as a guy, he was good here."

And that's the rub. Are there teams willing to gamble on a guy who they know will "shut it down" in exchange for the occasional big-play payoff? Given the glut of wide receivers about to flood free agency, there may not be much of a market for Moss. Then again, there aren't many people capable of doing what Moss did regularly during his career. 

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Posted on: February 14, 2012 9:07 am
Edited on: February 21, 2012 9:59 am
 

What players will get franchise tagged in 2012?

Brees reportedly won't be happy if he gets tagged. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

On Monday February 20, NFL teams can begin to apply the franchise tag to players. They can do so up until March 5 at 4 p.m. ET. For those that don't know, the franchise tag is a method of keeping players from hitting the open market. Previously, the franchise-tag number was generated by averaging the top-five salaries at a position to determine a number for that position.

This year, the franchise tag value will be a percentage of the overall salary cap figure for the previous five years. As such, NFL.com (the league's official website, making the figures trustworthy, one would hope) the following figures, plus figures from last year that we've included:

Position 2012 Franchise Tag Value*
2011 Franchise Tag Value
Quarterback
$14.4 million $16.1 million
Running Back
$7.7 million $9.6 million
Wide Receiver
$9.4 million $11.4 million
Tight End
$5.4 million $7.3 million
Offensive Line
$9.4 million $10.1 million
Defensive End
$10.6 million $13 million
Defensive Tackle
$7.9 million $12.5 million
Linebacker
$8.8 million $10.1 million
Cornerback
$10.6 million $13.5 million
Safety
$6.2 million $8.8 million

*The only instances this doesn't apply: when a player already made more than the franchise-tag value, or when a player receives the franchise tag for the second-straight year, in which case tagging said player would cost 120 percent of their previous base salary.

Aside from the asterisked exception above, it's clearly much more cost effective to utilize the franchise tag on a player in 2012 than it was in 2011. Wide receivers like DeSean Jackson, Dwayne Bowe and Marques Colston might not be tag candidates at $11.4 million. At $9.4 million, they certainly are.


With all of that in mind, let's look at some possible franchise-tag candidates, in order of likelihood to be tagged.

New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees, Marques Colston or Carl Nicks

The Saints are all but guaranteed to use their franchise tag. Brees is a free agent and there is a zero percent chance that they let him walk into free agency. This is an absolute zero; losing Brees would not only be a disaster for the franchise in terms of winning, it would result in riots on Bourbon Street.

Various reports have emerged about where Brees and the Saints stand. (His agent, Tom Condon, is involved in a small contract situation surrounding Peyton Manning in Indianapolis.) As CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman wrote last week, "the road could be rockier than initially thought" when getting Brees a new deal.

If the Saints can't get a deal done by the tag deadline, they will use the tag on Brees and sort out a deal later. If they can negotiate a deal with Brees before then, either Colston or Nicks will likely get tagged. My money's on Nicks, who could be a steal at less than $10 million given his age and his performance on the interior line the last two years.
DeSean might finally catch that money. (Getty Images)

Philadelphia Eagles: DeSean Jackson

Reports are already rolling in that Jackson will be tagged and that the team will seek to trade him once they place the tag on Jackson. Philly better be comfortable rolling with D-Jax if they can't find a suitor, though, because the wide receiver is a good bet to swoop in and sign his tender quickly. The $9.4 million represents more than triple what Jackson's made in his entire career thus far, and you can bet he'd like to see some guaranteed money.

Worst case, of course, is that Philly ends up giving its top playmaker one more "contract year" at turning in a big performance before hitting free agency. $9.4 million is a lot to pay for a wideout, but it's better than a) doling out a big contract to someone new and/or a malcontent, or b) letting Jackson walk for nothing in return.

Chicago Bears: Matt Forte

The rumors of Forte getting tagged began long ago as the Bears said they simply won't let him get to free agency. And they can't: Mike Tice replaced Mike Martz, but that could mean Chicago becoming more dependent on Forte's skills as a rusher and pass-catcher.

Forte said he's OK with the franchise tag provided it leads to further contract negotiations. Those appear to be more successful this time around, without Jerry Angelo on the other side of the table. But if Forte struggles early in his return from injury (an MCL sprain) things could get dicey.

Regardless, he's a steal at $7.7 million in 2012.

Baltimore Ravens: Ray Rice

Another no-brainer for the team here: Rice is one of the most dynamic backs in football and accounted for a large chunk of the Ravens offense. Rice's league-leading 2,068 yards from scrimmage accounted for 38.2 percent of the Ravens 5,419 yards, to be exact.

Rice lead the team in rushing ... and receptions. The Ravens need him and it's unfathomable that they'd let Rice walk. He probably won't be happy about playing for $7.7 million in 2012 and it seems obvious that Ozzie Newsome would like to lock down a guy who's averaged just shy of 2,000 yards from scrimmage in the three years he's been a starter for the team.
Will Welker's drop hurt his value? (Getty Images)

New England Patriots: Wes Welker

Welker's taken a lot of grief for his now-infamous drop in the Super Bowl. But just because the guy missed one catch doesn't mean we should forget what he's done for the past five years in New England: Welker averaged 111 catches and 1,221 yards per season since arriving from Miami.

Here's where it gets interesting though: Welker will be 31 when 2012 begins. He's considered a "slot" receiver. But he reportedly wants to be paid like an "elite" receiver. (It's, uh, kind of hard to blame him.) Lots of people think Welker wouldn't be as successful without the Patriots system, but how successful would the Patriots be without Welker?

In other words, we might be headed to an old-fashioned standoff, where the Pats use the franchise tag on Welker (it's all but certain they will, mainly to avoid him landing with an AFC East rival), and Welker refusing to play. Our Rapid Reporter Greg Bedard's speculated as much previously, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Welker sit out the first few weeks if the Pats aren't willing to give him a long-term deal.

Washington Redskins: Fred Davis

Davis had a big year in 2011, catching 59 passes for 796 yards in just 12 games (with Rex Grossman and John Beck throwing him the ball). He missed four games when he was suspended under the NFL's substance-abuse policy. But that actually works in Washington's favor here, since they can commit just $5.5 million to Davis without any fear of long-term blowback.

Buffalo Bills: Stevie Johnson

I spoke with Johnson at the Super Bowl and he said he'd be amenable to playing under the franchise tag in 2012. And it's hard to imagine Buffalo letting one of the more talented and underrated receivers in the game simply walk away. Johnson, depending on the market, could be one of the top wide receivers available.

Given the nature of Buffalo's weapons on offense, $9.4 million isn't all that steep for someone who's produced as steadily as Johnson has over the past two seasons. He took a small step back in receptions, yardage and touchdowns in 2011, but part of that can be attributed to the injuries to Ryan Fitzpatrick, and the Bills late-season swoon.

And if he's willing to ditch the penalty-inflicting celebrations? He's worth it.

Bowe's a fan favorite in KC -- for good reason.(Getty Images)

Kansas City Chiefs: Dwayne Bowe or Brandon Carr

This is quite the conundrum for KC: does new coach Romeo Crennel, recently promoted from defensive coordinator, push to keep the 25-year-old defensive back, or does he sit back while the franchise lets Carr walk and hangs onto it's top wideout?

Bowe quietly put together another monster season in 2011, catching nine more balls than he did in 2010 and only three yards less. Granted, he found the end zone 10 times less this past season, but chalk that up to the Chiefs stupid-easy schedule against the pass in 2010. Oh yeah, and because he was catching balls from Tyler Palko for a quarter of the season.

Bowe's a better value at his franchise cost ($1 million less) I suppose, but Carr will be harder to retain in free agency, because of the nature of cornerbacks on the open market.

Atlanta Falcons: Brent Grimes or Curtis Lofton

The Falcons, not so quietly, have a ton of guys up for free agency this year. Grimes, Lofton, defensive ends John Abraham and Kroy Biermann and center Todd McLure lead the list. One of Grimes or Lofton surely will get the franchise tag.

For the same reason as listed with the Chiefs, Grimes makes the most sense -- he'll simply be harder to retain in free agency. Lofton would be $2 million cheaper but Grimes is more important to the Falcons defense. A logical move might be to feel out contract negotiations with both players (provided the Falcons want to keep both of them anyway), work out an extension with one as quickly as possible, franchise the other defender and look to cut a deal with them down the road.
It's hard to put a price on Avril's pass rush. (Getty Images)

Detroit Lions: Cliff Avril

Avril's made no bones about the possibility of being franchised, and isn't happy with the notion. But the franchise tag actually doesn't exist simply to keep a guy around for another year without paying him big money. It's to keep a guy around while you work out a long-term contract.

That's what Avril, who will turn 26 in April, wants, and it should be what the Lions want too, given their dependence on a strong pass rush on the defensive end of things. At $10.6 million he would provide nice value. Provided he played the whole season anyway.

Indianapolis Colts: Robert Mathis

Chuck Pagano's a defensive guy, and even though he's coming into a rebuilding project, it's hard to see he and general manager Ryan Grigson passing on a shot to keep a talented pass-rusher like Mathis around for one more year at a reasonable rate.

Mathis probably said it himself over the weekend on Twitter when he noted that "The #TAG is an honor but personally if i was tagged now id feel they didnt want me but just have not found my replacement yet." Prepare to be honored sir.

Dallas Cowboys: Anthony Spencer

According to one report out of Texas, the Cowboys are at least considering franchising Spencer. The logic isn't that the outside linebacker, drafted 26th overall in 2007, is a monster and worth $8.8 million next year. He's not.

But Spencer might be worth holding onto if the Cowboys don't believe they can fill that spot with a reliable enough player through free agency and don't want to force themselves into selecting an outside linebacker early in the draft and forcing him to play.

Giving Spencer that sort of cash at least provides a safety net for Rob Ryan's defense.

Green Bay Packers: Jermichael Finley

Finley's case is a fascinating one. At $5.5 million, the tight end is a no-doubt-about-it franchise tag choice. But what about at $9.4 million? I ask because Finley's reportedly ready to argue that he's actually more of a wide receiver than a tight end, based on the number of snaps he takes from a wide receiver position. (He may want to remove the words "best tight ends in the league" from his website then.)

The Packers don't seem ready to give Finley a long-term deal yet, but they're also not willing to let him go. That tune could change if Finley's awarded the same price as a wide receiver in arbitration.
Wallace's RFA status is a concern. (Getty Images)

Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Wallace

Wallace is actually on a restricted free agent, but as Wilson pointed out on Tuesday's podcast, there's been a lot of discussion in Steelers-land about the possibility of using the full-blown franchise tag on Wallace regardless of his status.

Here's some hypothetical logic: the Steelers use the non-exclusive tag on Wallace, the Patriots, with two first-round picks in the coming draft, negotiate a deal with Wallace and force the Steelers to match said deal or take one of the picks from the Pats. The pick isn't that high and Wallace is a stud, so Pittsburgh, who wants to lock down Wallace anyway, would be letting the Pats (or whomever) negotiate for them.

Lest you think this is silly, look no further than a guy we already talked about: Welker. The Patriots obtained him via trade, but only after the Dolphins used the restricted tag on Welker. After they did, the Pats negotiated with Welker to work in a provision in his contract that would include a monster bonus if he played X games in the state of Florida (AKA "a poison pill"). The Dolphins caved and simply dealt Welker to the Pats instead of trying to play chicken.

The downside is that the Steelers would be forced to paying $7 million extra in 2012 for their No. 1 wideout. The upside is not getting poison-pilled by an AFC rival who'll then hijack the Steelers for the deep threat they need. Hypothetically speaking of course.

Oakland Raiders: Michael Bush

The idea of paying Bush more than Darren McFadden's been bandied about, and it makes sense given Run-DMC's injury history. It doesn't make sense when you consider that new GM Reggie McKenzie would suddenly have a ton of money committed to two running backs. But here's an idea: tag Bush, trade McFadden and then give Bush a new contract. You keep him off the market, you recoup some of those Carson Palmer draft picks and you keep the back best suited for Greg Knapp's zone-rushing attack.

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Posted on: February 10, 2012 3:21 pm
 

Ben's heard 'good and bad things' about Haley

Ben doesn't sound thrilled about Haley coming to Pittsburgh. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

On Friday's Pick-Six Podcast, we talked in-depth about the Steelers hiring Todd Haley as their offensive coordinator. I think it's a great move; Wilson hates it. And he's not the only one, either. Ben Roethlisberger doesn't sound too thrilled.

In an interview with Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Roethlisberger said he's heard things, "both good and bad" about Haley from various people around the league.

"I've gotten a lot of calls and texts and emails from people around the league, both good and bad about him," Roethlisberger said. "Everybody has an opinion, as we all know, and they're letting me know what their interaction with him was -- good, bad and indifferent. I've heard a lot of things and I'm looking forward to meeting him and forming my own opinion."


Thus far, Roethlisberger's made no bones about his unhappiness with the Steelers "retiring" Bruce Arians. Typically when you see a new hire like this, the quarterback and/or face of the franchise guy spits standard lines like "I'm really excited about working with him" and "Obviously I'm sad that Bruce is gone, but I think Todd can help us continue to have one of the best offenses in the league."

Or something. Not for Roethlisberger -- he's enthusiastically terrified of change.

"That was my biggest talking point to Mike and those guys -- I would hate to just throw everything out and start over because I feel it would set us back two or three years because these guys are just starting to get it," Roethlisberger said. "I hope we don't have to start over and, if we do, you know what, here we go. Let's do it. We'll do it. We're not going to complain about it. But I would hate to have to set certain guys back who are doing so well right now."

Roethlisberger's concern is warranted, mainly because the Steelers passing game has really evolved into one of the league's best over the past few years. If hiring Haley meant taking a step back, that would obviously be problematic.

But the Rooney family has a decent history of producing good football teams and as much as Ben might be upset about the transition, he's better served to just trust the process and get to know Haley before passing too much judgment.

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Posted on: February 6, 2012 7:21 pm
Edited on: February 7, 2012 2:26 pm
 

Steelers hire Todd Haley as OC

Haley's taking his old boss' old job in Pittsburgh. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

Todd Haley's going to have a new gig in 2012 and it's a pretty good one: he's headed to Pittsburgh to take over as offensive coordinator after Bruce Arians recently "retired" to take the Colts job.

“I am excited about the opportunity to come back home and work for a tremendous organization,” Haley said in a statement. “It is an honor to work with the Rooney family and Coach Tomlin and continue the success that has become synonymous with the Steelers. My father has so many fond memories both from his playing days and his time in the personnel department with the team, and I look forward to helping bring more championships to Pittsburgh and to being a part of one of the storied franchises in the NFL.”

When Haley was head coach of the Chiefs, his team never finished with a passing offense ranked any higher than 25th. And Haley topped out at ranking 18th in passing attempts in his first year in KC.

But while he was with the Cardinals, under former Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, Haley slung the ball around like crazy. Arizona, at the time with Kurt Warner, finished second in passing attempts both seasons and was top 10 in the league in points scored both seasons.

Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders provide a much closer approximation to those Warner teams than Matt Cassell and Dwayne Bowe do.

We'd heard word that Haley was interviewing with the Cards, but also that Haley didn't want to take anything less than a coordinator job. Pittsburgh gives him a fantastically soft landing spot after a rough tenure with KC.

It also means that both Roethlisberger (unhappy with Arians departure) and Art Rooney (wanting more points) should be happy. So it's a great fit, as long as there aren't any big ego clashes and the Steelers don't bug Haley's cell phone. Allegedly.

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Posted on: January 10, 2012 11:02 am
 

Coach Killers, Week 18: Taylor needs time machine

Coach Killers is your postseason look around the league at those performances, decisions and "Wait, what did he just do?!" moments that ends Super Bowl aspirations and begins "So, where should we vacation?" discussions.

By Ryan Wilson

Ike Taylor, Mike Wallace - Steelers

It's not a stretch to say that cornerback Ike Taylor had his worst game as a professional at the worst possible time. In fact, he said as much after he spent Sunday afternoon helplessly chasing on-target Tim Tebow passes to Demaryius Thomas. By the time it was over, Thomas had 204 receiving yards, including the game-winning touchdown grab on the first play in overtime. (Incidentally, overtime took less time than explaining the new overtime rules.)

Understandably, Taylor, who a lot of people (us included) thought had a Pro Bowl-caliber season right up until the moment of the Steelers-Broncos kickoff, was upset and saddened by his performance. According to ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley, after the game Taylor "sat in front of a ripped-up locker, staring blankly down at the floor."


Hey, at least the locker didn't outrun him to the end zone.

A day after choosing to not talk to the media (and we don't blame him), Taylor took to Twitter to take responsibility for what transpired in Denver.

"I apologize for playing the worst game at the wrong time apologize to my teammates steelernation and family. Luv y'all to def."

There is no doubt that Taylor's performance had everything to do with the outcome, but wide receiver Mike Wallace deserves some mention here, too.

The former third-round pick out of Ole Miss spent much of his first three seasons running go-routes past defenders who couldn't believe just how fast he was. At the beginning of the 2011 season, after Wallace had 16 touchdowns in 20 starts, the joke was that Ben Roethlisberger couldn't overthrow him deep. And for the first eight games or so that proved to be true.

But a confluence of events changed that over the final two months: the emergence of Antonio Brown, new defensive strategies to slow Wallace, and Ben Roethlisberger's ankle injury, which hampered his ability to throw accurately down the field, all affected Wallace's productivity. But the biggest problem was that Wallace just wasn't playing well.

A microcosm of his inconsistency was on display against the Broncos. With the Broncos leading 7-6, Roethlisberger completed what looked like a 52-yard pass to Wallace that was eminently catchable except for that Wallace didn't actually catch it. Denver challenged the ruling on the field, won, and Pittsburgh punted a play later.

But that wasn't the worst of it. With the Steelers trailing 17-6 in the third quarter, Wallace dropped a Roethlisberger lateral that was recovered by the Broncos on the Pittsburgh 18-yard line. Because the officials had blown the play dead it couldn't be reviewed which effectively means that horrible officiating had saved Wallace, who had dropped another throw (even if it would appear in the box score as only an incompletion).  If the play is called properly on the field, it's game over. Denver was already in field goal range and Pittsburgh seemed incapable of moving the ball on offense.

Yes, Taylor had his troubles Sunday, but Wallace wasn't far behind.

Atlanta Falcons offense

We could jus stay "everybody in the Falcons organization is responsible for the debacle in the Meadowlands" and just get on with our day. And in fact, the defense is a close 1a) for coach-killing honors this week because their third-ranked rush defense allowed the Giants' Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs to go to town on the ground (Football Outsiders ranked New York's run game 20th.) 

But it's Altanta's offense that never gave this team a chance. Atlanta scored two (TWO!) points, and technically, that was thanks to Eli Manning throwing the ball to no one out of his own end zone. Matt Ryan, meanwhile, was 24 of 41 for a measly 199 yards. His leading receiver on the day was rookie first-rounder Julio Jones (seven catches, 64 yards).

While there's no disputing that Jones had a great rookie season (54 receptions, 959 yards, 8 TDs), he wasn't worth what the Falcons gave up to get him on draft day 2011.

Quick refresher: Back in April, Cleveland traded the sixth-overall pick to the Atlanta in exchange for the Falcons' 2011 first, second and fourth-round picks, as well as a first and fourth-rounder in 2012.

Wild Card Recap
Atlanta promptly selected Julio Jones, who along with A.J. Green were considered can't-miss prospects. (And at the end of the season we can agree that they were just that.)

It's hard to fault the Browns for making that deal with the Falcons. After all, on draft day, New England coach Bill Belichick told Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff, "Thomas, I'm just telling you as a friend. I wouldn't do it."

Belichick added that he thought Jonathan Baldwin was "just as good if not better" than Jones. Which leads us to this: the Browns weren't wrong to trade out of the No. 6 pick, but they really could've used a playmaker. And the Falcons could've settled for Baldwin, kept their draft picks, and been just as well off. (This has nothing to do with Jones' performance against the Giants, more a commentary on how the Falcons went all in and lost.) 

You could argue that the Jones deal wasn't a one-year, all-or-nothing proposition. Except that it sorta is. Yes, Jones will be in Atlanta for years but the trade was made because Dimitroff thought it gave the Falcons the best chance to win now. Why else would you give up a '12 first-rounder, too? 

Put differently: could Atlanta have made it to the playoffs with Baldwin, who went late in Round 1, instead of Jones (and they would've still had their 2011 second-rounder)? If you're willing to accept that as a possibility, then this season was a failure from the perspective of the Jones trade.

Another way to think about it: let's say there's a three-year horizon on the deal. Are the Falcons, as currently constituted, favorites to win the Super Bowl next season? Of course not. They'll be in the conversation as one of the NFC's playoff-caliber teams but not much else. Again, would that conversation be any different if they had Baldwin -- and a full complement of draft picks -- over Jones? Not likely.

And that's the point. This isn't an indictment on Jones' ability. Clearly, he's a special player. But the Falcons' front office took a gamble, it failed, and now, like 24 other teams, they're sitting on their couch wondering what happened.

Detroit Lions defense

It's hard to fault anybody faced with the task of slowing Drew Brees and the Saints offense, but as Lions head coach Jim Schwartz mentioned several times during his post-game comments Saturday: missed tackles, the inability to get off the field on third down and dropped interceptions (not to mention the happy whistle that negated a possible Lions defensive touchdown) conspired against a Detroit team that otherwise exorcised any remnants of Matt Millen's presence in the organization.

"Well, there is no question that they are a good team," Schwartz said. "They're 13-3, scoring 44 points a game (on average the last four weeks) and undefeated at home. There is no question that they are a good team. But when you face a team like that, you can't give them second opportunities."

And that's it right there. The difference between advancing in the playoffs and packing your bags one last time until minicamps usually comes down to a play, maybe two. There's no guarantee that the outcome would've been different if the Lions had twice picked off Brees, or had been allowed to return the Saints fumble for what looked like a touchdown, but it wouldn't have hurt.

“Should have been a touchdown because every other time in this league they let that play go and they don’t blow the whistle,” Schwartz said. “We were a victim of that last week (when officials ruled Titus Young didn't have two feet down on a touchdown catch and the Lions didn't have a challenge left to dispute the call) and for some reason in this game they decided to blow the whistle when that would have been seven points in this.”

Brees' numbers were, well, Brees-ian -- 33 of 43 for 466 yards and three touchdowns. But it will be the two interceptions that got away that will haunt Schwartz for some time.

"We were able to score on offense, missed a couple opportunities there but it was really more about missed opportunities on defense," he said during his Monday end-of-season press conference.

"With a team like the Saints, they are going to get some yards, but you got to find a way to stop drives and that is going to come from third downs that is going to come from turnovers. We stopped some drives in the first half with turnovers and had some other plays that we didn't make. We didn't do a very good job on third down. Even when we stopped them on third down, we allowed the conversion on fourth down and they were able to keep drives alive and then big plays, particularly in coverages that we shouldn't give up big plays. It just made it that we couldn't score enough with them because of those things."

Andy Dalton - Bengals

We could just as easily give this to Pacman Jones for getting toasted by Andre Johnson for a touchdown, or Chris Crocker for getting trucked on the way to the end zone by Arian Foster, but it was Andy Dalton, a rookie in name only, who played one of his worst games of the season.

A long day for Dalton. (Getty Images)
When it was over, he was 27 of 42 for 257 yards with three interceptions, although one -- the "wait, what just happened?!" pick-six from rookie defensive lineman J.J. Watt -- doesn't count. Dalton will throw thousands of NFL passes and he'll never ever see anything like that again.

Watts' acrobatics aside, Dalton was off and it played no small role in the outcome. To be fair, he was in the hospital three days before the game because of the flu, but this is the time of year when no one's healthy. Just ask the Texans' quarterbacks.

The Bengals remain winless in the playoffs under Marvin Lewis (the sad truth: Cincy hasn't won a postseason game since 1990 -- Dalton was three), but unlike previous teams, this one is young, full of promise and without egos. Which means no offseason reality shows or MLS tryouts or bull-riding stunts. Just a focus on getting better.

“I don’t want to end in the first round of the playoffs anymore,” Dalton said Monday, as he talked about becoming more of a leader next year. “You get to come back and critique all of the little things that you did in the season,” Dalton said. “You get to work with the guys and not just come into training camp where you have two weeks before your first preseason game. It will be nice to come in and watch stuff, try to get better and do a few things with everybody and make sure everybody is on the same page.”

“I’ll fly wherever he needs me,” Green said of Dalton and their offseason workout plans.

That used to be Carlson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco. Now it's Dalton and Green, who after just one season have the potential to be much better than their predecessors.

“[The past 12 months have] been a freaking whirlwind,” Dalton admitted. “Starting with the Rose Bowl, getting ready for the combine, Senior Bowl, pro day, getting drafted, getting married, a couple of weeks later moving up here. It’s been a crazy year. It seems stuff like that happened a long time ago, but its crazy it’s already over. It’s already 2012.”

And training camps are just seven months away.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com