--Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will sign a one-year deal to return to the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. There had been rumblings during the postseason that LeBeau would be courted by the Arizona Cardinals, but the 72-year-old said he wouldn't coach anywhere but Pittsburgh.
-- An infection that is not considered serious, and should not delay the procedure for too long, forced Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison to postpone back surgery scheduled for Monday, The Sports Xchange has confirmed.
Agent Bill Parise confirmed late Monday afternoon that the back surgery, which he described to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as "routine" earlier in the day, had been pushed back. A Steelers source concurred with that.
"It's nothing serious, just a virus or something, and once it runs its course, he'll have (the surgery)," Parise said.
There had been some confusion about the surgery, since various reports over the weekend had characterized it as a procedure to Harrison's right shoulder. But the surgery, Parise emphasized, is for a minor, lower-back injury. Harrison, who did sustain a shoulder injury in a division-round victory over Baltimore, and may undergo some non-surgical treatment, is expected to be sidelined for 4-6 weeks after the operation.
Harrison, 32, finished third this season in the voting for defensive player of the year, an honor he captured in 2008.
The seven-year veteran started every game at right outside linebacker, and posted 100 tackles, 10.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, two interceptions and five passes defensed. It marked the third straight season in which Harrison registered double-digit sacks. He was named to a fourth consecutive Pro Bowl appearance, but, of course, did not play because the Steelers were in Super Bowl XLV.
Harrison has been extremely durable since moving into the starting lineup in 2007. In the past four seasons, the onetime undrafted free agent has missed just one regular-season appearance and one start. For his career, he has 488 tackles and 49 sacks in 107 games and 71 starts. -Len Pasquarelli
--Given their uncanny ability to draft, develop and advance players, the Pittsburgh Steelers rarely lose a veteran for whom they don't have a ready and able replacement, but the AFC champions might be out of luck in supplanting corner Ike Taylor if he departs via free agency.
Taylor's agent, Joel Segal, told The Sports Xchange this week that there have been "zero negotiations" to date and that he expects the eight-year veteran to be "a very hot guy" in free agency.
He might be right.
It could be time to break out of the closet those old, dusty, "I Like Ike" campaign buttons from the 1950s and polish 'em up.
Taylor has some of the poorest hands in the league among cornerbacks, and drops more than his share of would-be interceptions, but coaches, particularly defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, regard him highly. He is the closest thing Pittsburgh has to a "shut-down" cornerback and is a terrific fit for the Steelers' system, a guy who is rarely out of position in coverage and plays the run well.
Hard to say what the Steelers would do without Taylor, who will be an unrestricted free agent no matter the resolution of CBA discussions, and who seems destined to test the open market.
"I've been (in Pittsburgh) my whole career, and I'd like to finish with the Steelers," said Taylor, a fourth-round pick in 2003. "It's my home, and I really don't know anything else. But (stuff) happens, so we'll see."
Taylor signed a five-year, $22.5 million extension just before the start of the 2006 season, but that deal will expire, and it will likely cost the Steelers a lot more to keep him. Despite the success of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers in last week's title game, Taylor played pretty well in Super Bowl XLV. Rodgers clearly targeted corners Bryant McFadden and William Gay throughout the game. On one of the game's biggest plays, a third-and-10 completion to Greg Jennings up the seam, Taylor had excellent coverage, but Rodgers lofted the ball just over his finger tips.
Director of football operations Kevin Colbert acknowledged last week the Steelers are "definitely behind" on some negotiations, because of their appearance in the Super Bowl, but emphasized Taylor is a priority for the club. But the team is expected to use a franchise tag on linebacker LaMarr Woodley, so retaining Taylor could be a stretch.
As of Thursday night, there were no discussions planned as the Steelers, like many teams in the league, wait for CBA negotiations to play out.
Pittsburgh has drafted four cornerbacks the four years - Gay (fifth round, 2007), Keenan Lewis (third round, 2009), Joe Burnett (fifth round, 2009) and Crezdon Butler (fifth round, 2010) - and none seems ready enough yet to step in. Gay started 14 games in 2009, but was inadequate enough that the Steelers re-acquired McFadden in a trade. Gay is seen more as a nickel defender than a starter in the "base" defense. - Len Pasquarelli
--Four of the five Steelers' losses this season came to teams representing two-name cities: New Orleans, New England, New York and Green Bay. And, for the first time wearing their white jerseys in four Super Bowls, they lost.
--Troy Polamalu has been fingered as having done little in the Super Bowl to show he was defensive player of the year in 2011. But that looks more like a coaching decision to keep him deep and prevent the Packers from hitting the big pass play.
"When you spread out the offense the way they do," Polamalu said, "you're able to put somebody on one side of the field and just work on the opposite side of the field."
--Hines Ward mentioned that he could not watch any TV in the days after the Super Bowl because all it showed was Green Bay. The Steelers took the loss hard because no one on that team had ever lost in a Super Bowl - the only other one lost by Pittsburgh came 15 years earlier.
"I lost an AFC Championship Game one time and the pain was there for about four to six weeks," linebacker James Harrison said. "I don't know how long this is going to last but I hope it is over with fast."
--Ward was still bemoaning that final two-minute drive that started off with a 15-yard completion to Heath Miller and then a 5-yard completion to Ward. But after the catch by Ward, the confused Steelers wasted 30 seconds lining up for second down and it was followed by three consecutive incomplete passes to Mike Wallace.
"We were scrambling a little bit because we lost Emmanuel," coordinator Bruce Arians said regarding the broken foot to WR Emmanuel Sanders. "Guys were in a little bit different position and we lost a little bit of time to set up."
QUOTE TO NOTE
"He just told me it's not even an option so don't even think about it." - Hines Ward, on what coach Mike Tomlin told him about retiring.
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