Wednesday, February 29, 2012

By Cutting Hines Ward Steelers Prove Their Main Goal Is Winning

Any stockbroker will tell you, buy low and sell high.

Today, Leap Day 2012, the Steelers announced the release of veteran wide receiver Hines Ward. Steeler Nation as a whole is in mourning. But, it isn't a leap to say that it was the right choice.

Hines Ward was drafted in 1998 out of Georgia. As a wide receiver for the Bulldogs (1994–1997), Ward's 149 career receptions for 1,965 yards placed him second in team history. He also played tailback and totaled 3,870 all-purpose yards. In 1997, Hines hauled in 55 passes and scored six TDs, which earned him All-SEC honors in the process. Ward played some quarterback his sophomore year, and holds Georgia bowl records for pass attempts, pass completions, and passing yards in the 1995 Peach Bowl in which he completed 31 of 59 passes for 413 yards. He also received his Bachelor's Degree in consumer economics from Georgia.

It didn't take long for Ward to make an impact with the Steelers, catching 61 balls and scoring seven touchdowns. Ward went to bigger and better numbers, including six 1,000 yard receiving seasons, four Pro Bowls, a Super Bowl MVP and, appropriately, 86 touchdowns.

Not bad for a man missing an ACL in his left knee, which he lost during a bicycle accident during childhood.

I'm sure I speak for all of Steeler Nation when I say, Thank you, Hines Ward. We'll miss that smile.

But, as Michael Corleone famously said, "It's not personal, Sonny, it's strictly business."

When you start to look at the business side of this, it was the right move. We look at players through Black and Gold colored glasses. We embrace our favorite players, even love them. But, it's still a business and the players know this. It's about wins. It's about Rings. The business side of things assures we have the right players who bring us those Super Bowl trophies with which Steelers fans are so elated to pose.

Naturally, Ward certainly wanted to come back. He's been open about it. His statement today even reflected as much. It read this way:

"This isn't how I wanted this chapter of my career to end. I did everything in my power to remain a Steeler and finish what I started here 14 years ago. I want to thank the organization, my teammates and coaches and everyone who made my run as a Steeler the best years of my life. To Mr. Rooney, thank you for allowing me to play for one of the greatest organizations in the world. To my fans and in particular, Steeler Nation, thank you for your support and all the great memories. I gave my heart and soul for you every down and I will always bleed black and gold. I do feel that I still have more football left in me and I am looking forward to playing in the NFL, again, this upcoming season."

The organization put out it's own statement on regarding the release as well, with Rooney stating:

"Hines has been an integral part of our success since we drafted him in 1998 and we will forever be grateful for what he has helped us achieve. He has meant so much to this organization, both on and off the field, and we appreciate his efforts over the past 14 years. Hines' accomplishments are numerous, and he will always be thought of as one of the all-time great Steelers. We wish him nothing but the best."

Again, thank you, Hines Ward.

But, Ward's numbers, as I pointed out in other posts, were simply going to be too high to justify keeping a 14-year veteran who can't play special teams anymore, would be a 5th wide receiver at best and who has lost a step. That's on top of the one he didn't have in the first place. Getting out now is best. Again, sell high to avoid losses.

As I've said in previous blogs, I'm no salary cap guru, so go to Ian Whetstone of for specific breakdowns. But, let's look at those aforementioned numbers briefly.

Ward still has a signing bonus proration this year and next of $610,000 each year. So, right now Ward is scheduled to count $4.61 million against the cap in 2012 and 2013. They could cut his base salary to $925,000, the 10-plus-year veteran minimum, but the '12 salary cap proration amount of $610,000 still would add to that $925,000 base, a $1.535 million base salary cap hit.

Saturday Mark Kaboly reported via his Twitter account, "The pay cut I am hearing Hines Ward would've been OK with in order to stay with #Steelers was 2 million. He is scheduled to make 4 million." If they restructured and turned $2 million of his $4 million base salary into signing bonus, his 2012 cap hit would then be $3.61 million. To bottom line this, Kaboly also pointed out that the Steelers saved $3.39 million against the cap by cutting Ward.

Again, for an aging wide receiver who can't play special teams and would be a fourth receiver at best, it just doesn't add up.

There's growing sentiment that Ward is in for a rude awakening. There's speculation that he won't be able to catch on anywhere else. Mark Kaboly and David Todd, the latter of and @hammerspeaks on Twitter, said that "he won't retire. Never" and that "it won't end well" respectively.

It was Tim Hasselbeck on NFL: 32 who said of Ward: "This should be a retirement party. He can't run anymore."

Mark Kaboly even suggested that Big Ben secretly loves Ward being gone. That Ben is the unquestioned leader of offense now. But, that's for another blog.

At the same time, though, such a move is hardly unprecedented.

Chuck Noll cut defensive end L.C. Greenwood during the 1982 training camp. The Steelers cut Franco Harris before the 1984 season over a contract dispute. Franco ended his career with the Seattle Seahawks. Mike Webster was "retired", Bruce Arians can appreciate this, after the 1988 season, then played two more seasons with the Chiefs. Rod Woodson and Alan Faneca each reluctantly left as free agents. Greg Lloyd, Joey Porter, Carnell Lake...the list continues.

It's nothing personal, Hines, it's strictly business. It's about winning.


In other news, the Steelers hired Shaun Sarrett, most recently with Duke University, as their new offensive quality control coach.

Good...what's that?

He's basically an entry level coach, similar to a college's graduate assistant. They prepare the statistical analysis as well as the initial video study of upcoming teams. They chart down-and-distance situations, field position, substitutions, etc..., and then gives that report to the team's offensive or defensive staff when they begin their game planning each week during the regular season.

For more on the details of the position, follow this link and read Jim Legwold's column on it: Q&A: "Quality control" coach is entry-level position in NFL - The Denver Post

Monday, February 27, 2012


As we near the end of the NFL's yearly Beefcake Beauty Contest, it's the defensive backs that take center stage today. According to Steelers beat writer and Trib reporter Ken Laird, 59 Defensive Backs met with the press today at the Combine, including "Antwaun Reed of #pitt and D'Anton Lynn & Chaz Powell #pennstate."

Now, on to players who may have an actual chance with the Steelers.

The Good ~

Shawn Zobel of and @ShawnZobel_DHQ on Twitter, tweeted this today: "Dontari Poe of Memphis is now the leader at the 2012 Combine with 44 reps on bench." He ultimately led the day and is now officially "Mr. Poe." I want this man on my team. Now.

He's from Memphis, by the way. Randy Fichtner coached at Memphis, by the way. We may have a connection to him, therefore, by the w...well, you get it.

One of the interviews with Steelers GM Kevin Colbert that hasn't gotten any real replay dealt with how various positions, both offensively and defensively, are evaluated and utilized.

Speaking on success at finding a quality outside linebacker for the NFL level, Colbert said: "The challenge is usually in college football there's not a lot of 3-4 defenses, so you don't get to see those linebackers playing the position that you're gonna project them to. So, there's a lot of guesswork involved mainly with how they'll be able to cover, because that's one aspect you don't get to see a lot of in the 4-3 defensive ends in college football." Does that then create in you a greater respect for LaMarr Woodley? It does in me.

When asked about Ben, offensive line and the decision making that goes into this year's draft, Colbert responded: "It's a little different, ya know. It's a little better on the interior, specifically at guard, which is unusual [compared to] how it has been in recent years. Tackles are still good, it's not as deep as it has been, and center is not very deep at all." Do you hear that, Peter Konz?

The subject of small school talent was next addressed, specifically offensive guard Amini Silatolu out of Midwestern State. The 6-3, 320-pounder from became MSU's first consensus All-American after leading NCAA Division II's top-ranked scoring and yardage offense.

Silatolu also finished second in voting for the Gene Upshaw Award which is presented to the top performing lineman in all of NCAA Division II each season. He's expected to be the first small college lineman selected in this year's draft.

The problem, Colbert said, is that "any small school guy...they have to prove that they can do it at the next level because we can't see them. They're missing a step along the way. So, the further down the line you go in college football, division III, II, I-AA, the harder it is to prove that you're worthy of NFL competition because you're not at that level as you're preparing for that next step."

Based on those statements, getting a good-to-great offensive guard is essential. You have the talent in the draft and you have the need for that talent. Which actually touches on another potentially bad situation I'll come back to later.

Colbert spoke on the defense as well, in particular the defensive line. He mentioned how important versatility is and said it's "huge", but that they have to be able to "play in the base defense first. But, if there's other things that they can bring in from an athletic standpoint, that's obviously a bonus."

He went on to cite Brett Keisel as an example of one who, while being good in the base defense, has that aforementioned versatility because "he can also stand up and give some looks as an outside linebacker, or even stand up and rush from the inside. So, it gives the coaches a lot more flexibility in what they can do. Is it necessary? No. Is it a bonus? Yes." Not pointing you out, Dontari Poe. Just looking in your general direction.

The Bad ~

The Steelers are facing a literal changing of the guard on the offensive line. Tackle also, in that Marcus Gilbert is presumably moving to left tackle to replace Max Starks who's season ended due to injury again. There's the issue: the loss of Starks affects quality/depth and experience.

There is Trai Essex who'll likely be brought back, but no one else on the roster or practice squad is going to make anyone think of Joe Thomas or Ryan Clady. So, depth and quality are certainly affected.

Secondly is the experience at the left tackle position now that Gilbert is going to be there. Gilbert has little experience at left tackle, playing it only for approximately a half of a season in college. He played mainly right tackle before his senior year, even playing some guard. So, there will be some on-the-job training for Gilbert next season. Expect an increase in the running game and a lot of three and five step drops, in that case, to aid in Gilbert's growth.

The Ugly...and somewhat hilarious ~

Cornerback prospect Janoris Jenkins has four kids already. Four. They're ages are three, two, one year old and three months old. Joe Reedy, @joereedy on Twitter, stated: "Janoris Jenkins said he hasn't smoked in a year." Well, obviously! He's been otherwise involved. Finally on the subject, Scott Brown of the Trib tweeted: "Janoris Jenkins has 4 kids and 3 arrests from his time at U of Fla. Some team will take a chance on talented CB. Won't be the Steelers." From your lips to God's ears...

One last thing ~

Ken Laird of the Trib tweeted that Isaiah Pead from Cincinnati, who might be a Steelers running back possibility, ran a 4.41 in the 40 yard dash. Laird said that he would be great change of pace back in 4th round or so.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Look At Dont'a Hightower And Dontari Poe At The 2012 NFL Combine

As we get deeper into the beefcake beauty contest known as the 2012 NFL Combine, Ken Laird and Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review continue to provide great coverage and interviews.

The covering of various topics and players with Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert was a previous consideration, which I'll touch on again, and now there is also the highlighting of some players who may be in the Steelers crosshairs.

When Colbert was asked about nose tackle Casey Hampton's and the ACL recovery. He simply said: "It's a different position [than RB], so you don't have to worry about speed." Basically meaning the Steelers do want to keep him for next year and believe he can recover and should be ready for most of season.

This is definitely true. As long as he agrees to a restructure, (and there is incentive to do this before June 1st per a previous blog write-up of mine) I can only see the Steelers wanting to keep Hampton. I thought he was still fairly solid last year. Plus, there isn't much else at nose tackle besides McLendon.

As a side point, the subject of moving to Hood to nose tackle eventually to solve such issues in the future. According to Mark Kaboly, also of the Trib and @MarkKaboly_Trib on Twitter, there's little-to-no chance of moving Hood to NT. Regarding the subject he tweeted, "All he will play there is sub packages, but not base." The more I think about it, the more I agree. Let's just let him be the next Aaron Smith, those are big enough shoes to fill.

Colbert was also spoke on Pouncey and his offseason ankle surgery by saying, "The reports we got and the last time we saw him he was progressing just fine."

That's good news. Pouncey was still maturing physically when he was drafted, so healing and settling 'into his body', as it were, is potentially a very good thing. He could be the next in a very long line of Super Bowl winning and Hall of Fame Steelers centers that spans some 48 years.

Ken Laird, @Ken_Laird on his Twitter account, told us that Day 4 of the Combine featured 59 defensive linemen and 33 linebackers chatting with media. Included was Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe, @bigpoe74 on Twitter, a possible Steelers first round pick at nose tackle.

Dontari Poe, according to Scott Brown, said Casey Hampton is one of his favorite players. At 6' 4" and 346 lbs, Poe would be one of mine if the Steelers do draft him.

Dontari Poe said that "he's aggressive, one of the more aggressive defensive tackles this league has ever seen, that's what I admire most."

Poe also said, "I've always followed him. Being one of the best as he is, I've followed him for a long time."

Brown, @ScottBrown_Trib on Twitter said Poe is a big into lifting, and that it looks like it. Brown said it didn't look like he had a lot of flab on him, but also that Poe has not gone through any of the interview process yet.

For more on Poe, read the article from the Post Gazette Blog: Prospect Watch: Dontari Poe

Scott Brown said that the Steelers have scheduled an interview with Alabama LB Dont'a Hightower. He has, in fact, already talked with LB coach Keith Butler.

Some very encouraging words were heard from Ken Laird regarding Hightower when he tweeted, "Ok, I'm pretty much sold. Alabama LB Dont'a Hightower very impressive in his chat with the media. #steelers 1st Rd pick? Hightower or Poe?" So far, it seems we can't go wrong.

Regarding the then upcoming meeting, Hightower said, "Talked to a couple of [Steelers] scouts since I've been here. They're interested in me, looking forward to talking to coach Tomlin."

Scott Brown said that Hightower is hoping to run a 4.6 in 40-yard dash Monday. Speed may be one of few questions teams have about Hightower. He had major reconstructive knee surgery in 2009, but he said he's "as fast as I've ever felt." He's at 265 lbs though, and is trying to get to 255 lbs.

Among the linebackers Hightower said he listed as the guys he looks up to in the NFL were, "Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley." Not bad company.

Regarding the meeting the Dont'a Hightower with the Steelers, read this article:

On a personal note:
I had a known Mendenhall hater, based on the injury situation, ask me, "Is there any chance the Steelers cut Mendenhall?" I responded, "No, absolutely not. Can't any time soon anyway because of the injury, so he will be back next year. Deal with it and get over it." It was fun dashing his dreams...

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Taking a Break From Your Typical Steelers Blog

I decided to take a break from a typical sports/Steelers blog to let you all in on a little secret: I'm in love with the most beautiful woman in the world. 

Yeah, I know you guys feel the same about your ladies (or say it to avoid insulting her and then experiencing Dante's Inferno the rest of your natural born days), but there's one thing about that: mine actually is. ;-) My lady is, from the deepest part of her exceptional heart to her angelic face, the most beautiful person and lady alive. 

So, I'm taking this opportunity to let everyone know how much I love her. To do so, I wrote her a sonnet that I hope she enjoys. (Actually, I hope it brings a tear to her eyes, but I won't get greedy.)

I Thought I Knew...

I thought I knew beauty - it's excellence, it's proportion,
It's simplicity and it's complexity. I believed it was as clear
As in an orchestral symphony, or the dawn over the horizon.
But I see now Pygmalion's prayer being answered here.

I thought I knew compassion - how to feel, what to say,
What to think and how to care. I was completely sure
That my warmth was all I needed to make them stay.
But your smile alone pales my benevolent nature.

I thought I knew love - the euphoria, the wonder,
The agony and the despair. All I had felt and seen
Made me think my lightning would never have it's thunder
In this dramatic and passionate elemental scene.

Take from me all I knew, angel, my knowledge please defame.
And with all I'll give, all I ask to take in return is your name.


Jayden, I've come to love you so deeply that it seems I've loved you forever. And, though, you are my princess, I'm by no means a Prince Charming. So, I can't promise you "happily ever after." I can only promise you today. But, as long as I am allowed to draw breath, each day that I do, I promise to tell you so. Therefore, I have loved you forever and I love you today. Each day I draw breath I will remind you of that fact...Imzadi.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Steelers GM Colbert Speaks at Combine and a Real Steelers Fan Speaks With Me

 Ken Laird and Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review posted portions of Kevin Colbert's speaking with the media this morning. 

Colbert spoke on a plethora of players and subjects and spoke optimistically of the Steelers being able to keep Wallace since both sides want it to happen.

Colbert says he believes Mike Wallace has the same goal as the team to get a deal done with the Steelers, and gave strong indication that the Steelers will put the first-round tender Wallace. He also said the Steelers haven't ruled out using the franchise tag on Wallace: "We want Mike to finish his career with the Steelers. We think he's only scratched the surface of what he can do."

He did ultimately say, though, that it will be the Steelers decision to keep Mike Wallace, even if he gets offers. Colbert pointed out that the Steelers hold the cards.

Colbert went on to say the Steelers are guessing right now as to what the exact cap will be in 2012, though, probably around $125 million, and that more "terminations" and contract restructuring is coming.

Colbert said repeatedly he's waiting for the league's salary cap values to come out before decisions are made. He says that the Steelers "have to look at multiple scenarios."

Per salary cap guru Ian Whetstone, the Steelers have to account for approx $2 million for exclusive rights free agents and around $10 million for restricted free agents, including Wallace.

All of the salary cap issues can be tedious and confusing, but at the same time interesting to hear explained. Whetstone, of, said that our Omar Khan is better than most in that, while he negotiates similar yearly salaries for players, it's the lower guaranteed monies he's able to negotiate. He'll also explain the difference between "signing bonus" and "guaranteed money" if you ask him, which you can at

Getting back to Colbert, he also commented on Ben. He, in so many words, said that Ben is always going to be Ben. He even seemed to insinuate that Ben needs to trust the system and not try to do too much by saying: "Every meal is not a banquet." (I really need to write that down...)

He said further regarding Ben that both he and Haley are simply competitors and there will certainly be disagreements. This is definitely a possibility since one of the two men has proven to be a Divo (the male version of a "Diva") and the other to be arrogant. I'm simply of the mind that each one needs to remember that their goal is the same: a championship.

When then asked about the running back situation, Colbert said they aren't really in the "running back business" just because of Mendenhall's injury. He commented on Dwyer, as well. He said that he liked him, but that sometimes he is a "little too big."

Ken Laird, @Ken_Laird on Twitter, said that he asked Colbert if he missed the Dan Kreider days of a fullback. He said that Colbert responded: "Whether or not we'll have a fullback in the mix I can't say." And that, "Nobody knows until our offensive staff, particularly Todd [Haley], gains an understanding of the players we do have"

On a more personal level...

I had the pleasure of chatting today with Kim, staff writer with regarding the Steelers and her article

Kim, whom you can and should follow on Twitter via her handle, @Kimmy_KimKimM, and I talked about Mike Wallace and other Steelers players.

She pointed out that Wallace only made $480,000 last year and "is definitely ready to get paid!" And that she "Just hope(s) it's as a #Steeler”

I agreed that "he's due." I said that, "I understand it's a business at the same time, though." To that she pointed out that the Steelers seem to usually find a way. Yeah, they do. Case in point, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger restructured his contract today, bringing the Steelers virtually to an even cap number.

We then broke into a bit of a Shakespeare-esque "To tag or not to tag. That is the question." She said, "I don't see that as a good option either way. Too much of a cap hit, then next year you would have him and AB to sign."

I stated that the Steelers could still tag or sign, and that, regardless, we have to protect our side, our interests. I reminded her too that the Steelers always tag in order to make more time to sign long term. Even referencing that LaMarr Woodley did just that last year, basically turning the tag number mostly into a signing bonus. So, then only a small portion counts against cap.

In other words, two avid Steelers just having fun being totally engrossed in shop talk. So, I won't bore you with the rest. Just go to the aforementioned website or follow her on Twitter so you can also probe the wonderful mind of this great Steelers fan.

Steelers and 49ers GMs Talk Mike Wallace at NFL Combine.

The NFL Combine is here and the Steelers brass was present and accounted for. Ken Laird, host of and Steelers beat writer from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and Scott Brown, also of the Trib, were on site to talk with Steelers GM Kevin Colbert.

Colbert talked candidly about what the Steelers are needing to do to get themselves salary cap healthy.

As of about 4:30 EST, the Steelers are almost at Cap Zero, down approximately $29.35 million in 2 weeks, now that Ben Roethlisberger has restructured. What needs to be remembered, though, is that this DOES NOT include the money that still is to be tendered to the exclusive rights (Steve McLendon, Isaac Redman and Jeremy Kapinos-and they have to take whatever is offered) and restricted free agents (Mike Wallace, Ryan Mundy, David Johnson, Ramon Foster, Keenan Lewis and Doug Legursky). That could take the Salary Cap/Rule of 51 number, especially once you consider whatever dead money (left-over prorated signing bonus money) that has to be added, to anywhere from $1.5 to $6.5 million. But, that's definitely easier to handle now.

Now, these are just raw numbers, mind you. But Steelers GM Kevin Colbert did address such issues when he talked to the media this morning. Colbert said, after being asked about slashing salary cap space to make room for Wallace’s franchise number, “We want to make sure Mike can finish his career with the Steelers. I’m very confident that Mike wants to finish his career with the Steelers and play with a great quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger.... We think he’s only scratched the surface in what he can do."

San Francisco 49ers GM Trent Baalke was on Sirius XM Radio this morning with Adam Schein and Rich Gamnon at the 2012 NFL Combine. Indirectly Baalke was asked about Steelers' unrestricted free agent wide receiver Mike Wallace and the comments he made about his mind "wandering" toward playing for another team.

Schein acknowledged in his questioning that he knew Baalke couldn't mention Wallace directly by name, as that would be "tampering", but he did ask if that kind of deep threat receiver would be the kind he would be looking for in the offseason. Baalke said, "We're looking for guys that can make plays. We feel that we have a couple that can and we're looking for some more that can make plays. Obviously there's guys in the league, that when they get the ball in their hand they can score, and I'm not going to talk about any particular player individual, but that's what you're looking for. You're looking for a play maker at the position. Guys that can turn a 3-yard hitch into an 83-yard touchdown. The more of those guys you have, the better you can be offensively. So, we are always looking. We feel there are some players in free agency that fit that mold and we feel that the draft has some guys that fit that mold. So, we're going to do everything we can to make the right decisions in that area."

The 49ers have only the one first round draft pick in the upcoming NFL draft and that pick is the no. 30. They're one of four teams that could look to sign Wallace to an offer sheet should he be tendered at a first round level.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mike Wallace Likes Black and Gold, Loves Green

Despite the title of the article, this won't be a "doom and gloom" piece. I can only respect a man who is trying to get all he can from his abilities. Even in the form of money. Especially in the form of money. That having been said, I still think Mike Wallace stays in Pittsburgh and that a deal gets done by March 5th.

The Steelers restricted free agent Mike Wallace gave an interview today to Adam Schein and Jim Miller on Sirius XM NFL Radio and covered the main things on the minds of Steelers fans, most notably his pending free agency.

Mike Wallace, @Wallace17_daKid on Twitter, says his agent and the Steelers, basically, of course, Kevin Colbert and Omar Khan, have been working hard to get a deal done. Wallace says he wants to stay in Pittsburgh, but has to think about his family.

Hm...has to think about his family? Yeahhh...I'm not going to delve too deeply into that right now, because worms can be really difficult to get back in the can. Suffice it to say, people making $40,000 a year are 'thinking about their families' too. So, if he goes elsewhere for, say, $32 million over 4 years after the Steelers offered him $28 million over 4 years, that's a difference of $8 million as opposed to $7 million per year. At that point you're not thinking of your family, you're thinking of your "boyz." Because the only really difference that would make would be the ability to have your name engraved in gold on your Escalade instead of just having it gold-plated. Moving on...

To expand this, Wallace was asked if he thinks about the possibility of actually leaving the Steelers and signing somewhere else. Wallace said, "Well, the position that I am in, I'm always going to think about it sometimes because I have never been in this position before. So, it's kind of hard to just not think about anything. So yeah, my mind wanders from time-to-time, but my heart is definitely in Pittsburgh. That's where I would like to be at, but we all know that it's a business and you have certain things that you have to handle. 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.

Now, despite the poor grammar, I don't really have a problem with what he said there. That could be translated to, "I really like my girlfriend a lot, but I'm out the door if Halle Berry comes knockin." I ain't mad atcha, brotha. Not with the way you put it here, at least. Like Michael Corleone said, "It's just business, never personal."

So, Wallace then was asked if the San Francisco 49ers or the New England Patriots would be two teams he'd consider signing with and he replied, "Most definitely. Those are two playoff caliber teams, Super Bowl caliber teams, and I think the right piece to those guys would put them over the top. All they need is that one more piece to any one of those puzzles I think on both sides of those teams. So most definitely they're Super Bowl contending teams. So I would most definitely, if I were to go anywhere else, that would definitely be two teams because this is a situation of them being contenders. I wouldn't want to go anywhere and leave the situation where I am at that has a great quarterback, a great organization and go somewhere where I don't feel I can succeed.

When asked if a new deal is not done by the start of free agency, was his mentality one that he thought he would no longer be with the Steelers. Wallace said, "That's the mentality that you almost have to take and look at it, but I definitely don't want to look at it that way, because that is the team that drafted me, that's the team that took a chance on me. So I would love to be there."

Now, this I liked hearing. Because we want and love him, and it's always nice to know such feelings are reciprocated.

Then, further on he and his agent currently being in talks with the Steelers about a new deal, Wallace said, "Yeah, they're talking. But, I don't know how far they are going to get right now, because you know the situation. I know that they are working trying to get it taken care of and get me done. I know I talk to my coaches and I talk to everybody and I'm positive about the situation. It's just a situation that will have to play itself out. I know they're working hard trying to take care of it, but I don't know. We'll see."

An article recently stated that league sources have told NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora that there is "real concern" within the Steelers' front office that they could lose Wallace. Ok, slow ya roll. Who are these sources? The only viable "source" in this situation is Kevin Colbert himself.

While Colbert did cite "serious cap issues" in an interview not too long ago. When the offseason began, the Steelers were about $23-$25 million over the salary cap, depending on who was reporting. Now that number is down to about $8 million over.

I'm no salary cap guru, but even I know that there are a few more restructures of players' contracts coming and player cuts coming that will get that number below the salary cap. The cutting of Jonathan Scott, Chris Kemoeatu and Will Allen alone brings the cap number to zero, and probably even puts into the black.

Then add in/take away the money saved by Aaron Smith's retirement, the money saved from the retirement, restructure or cutting of Hines Ward, and the restructure or cutting of James Farrior and Larry Foote, and you have a workable situation. Now there's money for Wallace. You then also know exactly what you have in order to bring back a couple of the aforementioned players at the veteran minimum.

All of that, though, hinges on whether a workable deal can be mutually agreed upon by March 5th.

That raises the question then, "What if a deal can't, though, get done by March 5th?"

That's when the Steelers look seriously at using the Franchise Tag on Mike Wallace. As was covered in a previous blog post, that would mean paying him approximately $13 million with a salary cap hit of $9.4 million. This would carry along with it a first round tender. If someone presents an offer sheet to which Wallace would agree to sign, we'd actually receive that team's first round pick, actually giving us two.

Add to that the, most likely, two seventh round compensatory picks they're sure to receive and there are 10 draft picks for Kevin Colbert and Mile Tomlin over which to salivate.

That, my friends, is your worst-case scenario.

Remember also, in which round was Mike Wallace drafted? For that matter, in which round was Antonio Brown drafted? So, take a step back from the ledge and look and see that the horizon isn't so cloudy after all. No need for "doom and gloom." We simply have to wait and see how much money Mike Wallace needs for his family...and whether or not he's opposed to gold-plating.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Big Ben and Haley Finally Meet - Is a Wedding Far Behind?

I just knew those two kids would work things out.

Society was against them. They said it wasn't even possible. But, in the end, it had to happen.

I know what you're thinking, but, no, Kim Kardashian and Reggie Bush aren't back together. Oh, wait...they are? Well, I still don't mean them. I mean those two crazy kids Ben Roethlisberger and Todd Haley.

For the record, I could've said Kim Kardashian and (insert Black man's name...except mine) and I still would've been right. She's screwed more Black men than the Tuskegee Experiments. Every time she has a pap smear a gang-related shooting is solved. But, I digress...

Ed Bouchette reported this today via Twitter: "News many have waited for: Ben & #steelers new OC Todd Haley finally met, sat down and talked."

As David Todd, @hammerspeaks on Twitter said, "What will people talk about now?" You mean we aren't gonna explore the ramifications of this meeting? Was it over coffee? Could a football-ish little cherub be seen overhead throwing spirals at the two of them? Did Big Ben present Haley with a ring? (Ya know, the one he took from Haley in the last 2:30 of SB 43.)

So, as far as I'm concerned, there's lots to talk about. Where on Bourbon Street do we register? Should we book our reservations for New Orleans now? And, maybe most importantly, does Ashley see the writing on the wall?

Ok, maybe I'm going overboard here. Because the girlfriend and I speak to each other everyday, but often the words used are not very nice. Still, I'm a  sucker for a good love story...

Monday, February 20, 2012

AS THE BURGH TURNS (starring Haley, Big Ben, Mendenhall and Colon)

Or, "like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our black and gold lives." Starring Todd Haley, Ben Roethlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall and Willie Colón. I thought about an "All My Children" opening, but Teresa Varley is nowhere nearly as hot Susan Lucci. (Yeah, I said it.)

Like my friend Lee, @phxsteeler on Twitter, asked me earlier, "When is this Ben vs. Haley soap opera going to end? LOL This can't be healthy start to that relationship."

I had to agree, it's not a great start.

When you're dealing with one successful and confident guy who is being stubborn and one successful and confident guy whom we know is arrogant, it isn't a great start at all. I do believe they both have phones. I know Ben does. How did he put it?

"I've received texts (first hint: you need a cell phone to receive a text message) from guys about him, good, bad and indifferent."

"I've talked to a lot of his former players (second hint: he obviously didn't talk to them all face-to-face) and just everybody and he does have a reputation that precedes him but I'm not going to jump to any conclusions until I have a chance to sit down and talk with him and see how the thing plays out."

There was also a report that Roethlisberger said he wanted to reach out to former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, who played under Haley, (third hint: he ain't talkin a Cam session on NFL Network) to get his thoughts.

I can't vouch for Haley's having a phone, so I'll simply say this: it's 2012 and the T-Mobile girl is so hot that I'd buy a phone despite their horrible service.

When Ben today said "he hasn't called yet", referring to Haley, one could make the leap that Ben has no intention of making the first move. But, with Ben being the leader of the offense, I do think it would go along way if he'd take the initiative and reach out to Haley first.

I will say this, though, as long as it happens by the time he and Haley are permitted to have their "mandatory" on Apr.16, per the CBA, schematically we'll be ok. The two should, though, still have informal talks before then.

The website produced this article on the Mexican Standoff, as well, just today: Roethlisberger still hasn't heard from Haley

What will or should the Steelers do if they don't have Mendenhall next season? While it's too early to assume we won't have him at all next year, we can safely assume he'll be on the Active PUP list to start training camp and, most likely the Reserve PUP list to start the season. The bottom line there is that we could see him as early as week seven or as late as week 13 because of how those rules work. So, that means there are a few options in front of the Steelers.

They could very easily stick with Redman, an exclusive rights free agent, maybe re-sign Mewelde Moore, keep a hopefully healthy and in-shape Jonathan Dwyer (I'm a fan of Dwyer when he has the ball in his hands. He just seems clueless otherwise), or also continue to see what John Clay has to offer. And we can't forget all the "wow"s that Baron Batch was showing in training camp last year before his injury. So, there are a lot of potential answers to that question.

Speaking of running backs, it was recently reported that Roethlisberger checked out of running plays "20% of the time last season. The Steelers, though, still ran 55% on 1st down for a 4.61 YPC average. Comparatively, the Patriots ran just 45% on 1st down and the Giants ran only 43% on 1st. Should we fire Arians again for that?

Willie Colon doesn't want to take a pay-cut. Good for him, I wouldn't either.

Colon is getting vilified from virtually everyone because of this report. If it's true, again, good for him. Because of the uncapped year of 2010, he missed out on a potential big payday. For that reason I have to side with him in this.

Now, those who know me know that my nickname for him is Willie Colon Cancer because of his many false starts and holds. But, in his defense, he still grades out pretty well.

With a minimum of 1,000 pass-blocking snaps over the last four seasons (2008-2011) there were 57 tackles that could be graded. The findings make good reading for those looking for some good football geek reading. (I have no life...) Four of the top 15 are hitting free agency. One of those four, even if he did miss all of 2010 and 2011, is Willie Colon.

With Colon missing the last two years, the Steelers were without a guy who, over the previous two years, had given up only 43 QB disruptions, and the team finished among the worst pass protection units in the league. By contrast, 2010 saw Flozell Adams give up 46 in 578 snaps in pass protection.

2011 was a more difficult year to gauge because Marcus Gilbert was just a rookie, but showed real signs of being very good...even if he will be protecting Big Ben's blindside from this point forward. Plus, he wasn't at right tackle the whole season. Jonathan Scott also...AARGH!!! Sorry...that tends to happen with the mention of his name. Regardless, I'm giving Marcus Gilbert a pass.

So, that means, a team who is in need of a sound pass protector on the right side, believe it or not, might do well to look to keep Colon. Injury wiped him from the memory of many twice now. Let's hope that no third is a charm.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

It's Time To Address the Mike Wallace Situation.

Let's bottom-line this on the first line: I believe there's only a 20/80 chance that Mike Wallace leaves. Why a 20% chance? Why not a 10% chance, a 25% chance or even 50/50? I'll get into that.

First, let's look at the man in question. From what I've been told by those who've met him, he is a personable, endearing and humble young man. One person in particular by the name of Juan José Vera shared this experience with me:

"Two Springs ago the Steelers Youth Camp was held here in Mexico City, Mexico. The show/day was over, but my son (he has Williams Syndrome {Williams Syndrome: A genetic condition that is present at birth and can affect anyone. It is characterized by medical problems, including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning disabilities. These occur side by side with striking verbal abilities, highly social personalities and an affinity for music.} and was 10 yrs old) saw Mike coming from nowhere and asked him for a pic. (Mike) could've said, 'No, sorry, show is over. Bye' or anything, but he smiled and let my wife shoot a pic with him. That's humble (or "humility"). I can't find another word for him." Thank you for that, Juan.

 For more on Williams Syndrome and its effects, go to

That's mama's home cookin' right there! THAT'S what we think of, at least what we want to think of, when we think of our Steelers players. It's the epitome of Steeler Nation and our Steeler family. (Sure, he comes off as supremely confident and borderline cocky in interviews, but, c'mon, have you seen him play? I'd be a little cocky too.)

So, for reasons like that, I believe that he'll decide to stay.

You could make the argument, I suppose, that 'this is from two years ago after his rookie season, and that fame and dollar signs hadn't filled his eyes yet.'

'Besides, you know these Divo WRs/young athletes, Mtv Cribs was a hit for a reason: these young cats want money NOW. They think they're too good for rings NOT to come. Dan Marino said he thought he was going to the Super Bowl every year after going so early in his career. Plus, your best players don't always go and/or win. Again, look at Marino and then remember Trent Dilfer and Chris Carter.'

'So, if he feels "insulted" by not getting as much as he thinks he's worth, the number that's currently in his head, I could see him signing elsewhere. Maybe even in the division to Baltimore or Cincinnati, two teams with salary cap space, therefore, lots of money to throw his way, and a need for his level of wide receiver.'

You certainly could make those arguments and throw them at the wall to see if they stick. You could, except that I've had similar experiences as the one I quoted before shared with me from just last year. I'm not, therefore, going to drink that Kool-Aid. He seems to be the same young man as he was a couple of years ago and, more importantly, WANTS to be a part of this Über-talented wide receiver corps. To essentially be the Don of the Young Money Crew.

No, the biggest part of why he may leave is a series of four other names: Vincent Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Wes Welker and Marcus Colston. Now, add Mike Wallace's name and you have the five big name wide receivers who are out there. In other words, it's a dog and pony show where Wallace isn't the only (one-trick) pony. Sorry, had to...

Wallace not being the only name is important because who's to say that a New England, a Baltimore, a San Francisco or a Cincinnati doesn't covet one of the Jacksons or Colston more so? Or that New England doesn't want to give up that extra first-round draft pick so that they can concentrate on Welker? They didn't give up their extra first-round draft pick in 2005 NFL Draft, did they? Oh, wait...they had no choice in that draft because of their contract with Kodak to film practices and walk-throughs. But, I digress...

The point is that, because there are other options, he isn't Tupac, so it's not all eyes on me, as it were. That is to the Steelers' advantage. Here's why.

During the several interviews last week, Steelers GM Kevin Colbert stated that the Steelers WILL protect their interests in Wallace, again a restricted free agent who will, by the way, receive a first round tender of around $2.74 million. That tender would allow the Steelers the ability to match whatever offer sheet is given by another team that wants to sign Wallace, or to receive a first-round draft pick from that team should they decide not to match it or if they can't match it.

Colbert also said that the Steelers have not ruled out the possibility of placing a franchise tag on Wallace, which for wide receivers this year is going to be about $9.4 million. If a team were to then try to sign Wallace away, it would cost them two first round draft picks instead of the one first round picks that the first round restricted tender provides.

The problem with this is that the difference in the amounts is that the Steelers would have to be able to fit that amount under the salary cap until hopefully a longer term deal can be reached with Wallace, thus lowering his 2012 cap hit. Which is why I believe that Omar Khan and Kevin Colbert are working on this as you read this. It makes more sense to fit everything else around this signing considering that we all know several cuts are coming. Until those cuts happen, it seems to be more of an issue than it may actually be.

As was written in another article in this Blog, ones like Ward and Smith could still retire, and Farrior, Foote, Will Allen, Kemoeatu and Jonathan Scott, could all be cut. (Do you think the saying of Jonathan Scott's name brings a blood-curdling scream from Big Ben like that of the saying of Frau Blücher's name brought a scared whinny from the horses in Young Frankenstein? I bet it does. Anyway...)

Granted, this isn't simple by any stretch of the imagination when we're anywhere from $11-$15 over the cap and to tag him would mean approximately another $9.4 million would also count against the cap taking it back up to $20-$24 million over the cap. So, that's why I said what I did: don't try to fit a square peg in a round hole. Get your numbers in line as to what you want to do and can do, and then trim the fat. You could do so and then cut the players accordingly. We know they're going to be cut anyway. It has to be done before March 13th to be in accord with the Rule of 51 and before free agency, but it can be done. I am looking at it realistically and believe it can be done. We've seen Omar Khan work his magic before, we need it again.

A Little Fan Story

Wanted to share a story with our followers out there.  This is Miss Maison, she is a little die-hard Steeler fan in training and huge "Big Ben" fan.   She even has a board with Ben drew on it.  When Maison was at school one day  , they were learning sign language.  When they did the symbol for "I love you "  the teacher asked if anyone knew what that symbol was.  Miss Maison raised her hand and said " Touchdown Steelers".  The teacher was curious so she asked Maison how she got that. She responded, "When the Steelers score that is what Ben does".  The teacher thought it was adorable and told her  Mom about it , because come to find out the teacher was also a Steelers fan.

Her Mom which is as die hard as they come , shared this story with a group of friends that get together and talk about football.  We all thought it was so cute.  I debated whether to share it but , when I was on my Facebook account , I seen this picture pop up on my home feed and several of my Steeler friends on there had liked the picture and commented on it.  That is when I decided to share her story with everyone.  With her Moms permission of course.  It was just to cute not to. 

It is amazing how the little mind works and can relate simple things like that .  When we think that the kids are not paying attention , they really are.  But when it is a Little Steeler fan that relates and pays attention to things, even better.  That is showing that the next generation of Steeler fans are just as numerous as us older ones. 

Little Maison related the "I love you symbol" to it being a touchdown.  All us Steeler fans know why Ben does it.  But to this little fan it means we have scored.  Gotta love that.  So that shows that her Mom is raising her the right way.  The Black and Gold way .  To me there is no better way to be raised.  I know that is how I was raised.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Another Gratuitous Ben vs. Eli Article

It seems they just can't escape one another.

No matter what they do, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning are constantly compared to one another anymore. Is it a bad thing? Not when both are Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, I suppose. Because, let's be real, no one cares about comparing Dan Orlavsky to Tyler Palko. So, I'll take it as it is.

There is another quarterback who was drafted along with them by the name of Phillip Rivers. You remember him, right? No? He plays for the San Diego Chargers. Yes, San Diego still has a team. C'mon, they wear powder blue...oh, forget it. Moving on.

Getting back to the Battle Royale that is Ben vs. Eli, if we're going to compare the two it has to be done with the most important numbers and accomplishments. Wins cover so many ailments and both quarterbacks bring those to the table. Each one has his downfalls too, but the good outweighs the bad in each case.

For the record, my money is with Ben Roethlisberger. I respect Eli Manning and even wanted him coming out of Ole Miss. Manning has also taken the edge recently in fourth quarter comeback victories with 21, while Roethlisberger has 20. But, to this point Ben simply has the edge in my book.

Roethlisberger leads Manning in seven out of the ten most important categories. Roethlisberger has thrown fewer interceptions in the regular season (29 less) and has won 16 more games overall. But, Manning has thrown for 20 more touchdowns in the regular season and 10 fewer interceptions than Roethlisberger in the postseason. Ultimately, Roethlisberger and Manning are reasonably similar. While Ben and Eli compare well to each other, and despite Manning’s two Super Bowl MVP Awards, the slight edge has to go to Big Ben because of his consistency.

A quarterback’s primary responsibility is to win games, and Roethlisberger has shown consistently, since his first year in the league, that he is more than capable, even more so than Eli, with a .714 winning percentage. Also to be considered is that during Ben’s eight year career, he has posted a 92.1 quarterback rating, while Manning in that same eight year period has only even topped that mark twice.

Finally, when it comes to protecting the football in the regular season, Manning has accounted for 160 total turnovers, nearly five more turnovers per year than Roethlisberger.

The numbers, as I stated, lean in Big Ben's favor. It has resulted in one more Super Bowl appearance for Big Ben as well. What really needs to be remembered in this is that Ben might just be energized by these comparisons. Plus, don't underestimate Ben's passion for winning another Super Bowl. It wouldn't be surprising to see Big Ben with a resolve to be even better and to "tweak" his game so that he can coax as much as possible out of his young wide receivers and so that he isn't sacked as much. Would you want 300 lbs of man-meat falling on you? Unless you're Adam Lambert or Clay Aiken, I'm assuming your answer is no. Neither would I. Did I just cross a line?

Regardless, the wins, playoff wins and overall numbers point to Big Ben being the better quarterback. But, seriously, Phillip Rivers. He wears no. 17. He's been to the playoffs for goodness sake...!

The NFL Draft, Roethlisberger, Haley and Wallace.

To correct a recent blog post, the Steelers have until Mar 13th, not 1st to be Rule of 51 compliant with the highest contracts. So, considering this, it's time we address a few issues. One of which is the April 26-28 NFL Draft.

Mike Mayock was interviewed recently regarding the NFL Draft and the Steelers and he said that the 2012 draft is "very deep" at DT and is also a good one for interior OL. Mayock says this regarding the upcoming NFL Draft: "I think for the first three rounds you can get a lot of quality at center or guard."

That sets up well for the Steelers who need to seriously upgrade at one or both guard positions. A possible consideration for the position is Wisconsin's OL Peter Konz who has the ability to play both center and guard at the next level and gives the Steelers a real upgrade inside if picked at 24.

Mayock went on to say that he has 1st-round grades on 5-7 defensive tackles. PSU's Devon Still is among that group; Mayock says he could play DT or NT in NFL. Considering the Steelers' biggest needs going into the draft are OL, NT, ILB, S, WR and maybe RB, such a player fits right into what's needed.

Steelers need to address the safety position as well, as both starting safeties are aging, but, unfortunately, it is not a good draft for safeties.

Some guy named Ben did an interview this morning and spoke on not yet having spoken to new offensive coordinator, Todd Haley.

Ben did say, though, that he has a desire to be approached a certain way.

Ben said "The quarterback position is not one where you want to do a lot of screaming to, because he's kind of your leader and the guy that has to be clear-minded," Ben said. "So, I've been yelled at. It's not fun to be yelled at. I don't think anyone likes it. But you get as much if not more out of me if you just talk to me, whether I screw up or do good. Just talk to me so we can work through my reasoning instead of getting yelled at."

Roethlisberger did address Haley's vocal coaching style. "If he's as good of a coach as we've all heard, then I think he'll learn how to coach each guy individually and get the best out of each guy," he said.

Good. Because we've seen both approaches to Ben, and a mix of each might be needed to cajole the absolute best out of his game. Rooney II's saying that he'd like to see Ben's game "tweaked" just refers to his not taking as many unneeded hits. As he approaches 30, this is going to be essential.

Mike Wallace is a Pro Bowl player who hasn't yet reached his ultimate potential. His drop off in the second half of the season, where his numbers were literally cut in half, is a concern. This just may be where Haley is needed most.

From 1999 to 2000 Haley was the Jets' wide receivers coach, helping Keyshawn Johnson make his second Pro Bowl appearance.

In 2001, Haley joined the Chicago Bears as wide receivers coach and served in the position until 2003. In 2002, he helped Marty Booker become the first Bears Pro Bowl wide receiver since 1971.

From 2004 to 2006, Haley was the wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys. Haley helped develop quarterback Tony Romo and the Cowboys' passing offense, which centered around wide receivers Terry Glenn and Terrell Owens.

Mike Wallace has the abilities that could propel him to be better than any wide receiver, save maybe Larry Fitzgerald, that Haley has ever coached. Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders play into this as well, but I'm saving them for another blog.

I'm focusing on Wallace primarily because of his decline after the Arizona game this year. Let's face it, Wallace has "Oh, sh*t!" speed, but sometimes gets lost. It's almost as if he becomes disinterested if he isn't involved very early and often thereafter.

Haley will need to correct that tendency and make him realize just how good he can be. If Wallace can be more than a one-trick pony and develop his skills to match his world class speed, he'll have defenders saying "Oh, sh*t!" all the time.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Will We See Either Ward or Mendenhall In A Steelers Jersey Next Season?

Steelers beat writers Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Ed Bouchette of the Post-Gazette have been posting comments this morning received in interviews with Steelers GM Kevin Colbert on Twitter regarding the future of the team and, in particular, Hines Ward and Rashard Mendenhall.

GM Kevin Colbert said that no decision has been made about Hines Ward's future with the team. Colbert that no decision made on Hines Ward yet, though it's no secret that the Steelers are well-over the salary cap and need to trim as much as possible by March 1st, per the Rule of 51.

Colbert also said, as I've stated on more than one occasion, there is a good chance Rashard Mendenhall (knee) won't be ready for start of 2012 season and will open the season on the Active PUP list.

Colbert further said that the Steelers won't sign any of their own free agents before start of free agency on March 13 as they work to get under the aforementioned cap.

Steelers are basically not counting on Mendenhall in 2012, as Colbert went on to say regarding this: "I never feel good abut ACL for a year." Especially with the injury happening at the end of the season, his recovery time would extend to approximately the middle of the next season.

Despite Mendenhall's injury status, though, Colbert says running back is not necessarily a need in free agency or upcoming Draft. Actually, the Steelers could easily enter camp with six running backs, led by Isaac Redman, battling for three or four positions.

On other subjects, Colbert says Steelers have work to do to get under cap by Mar 13, the start of free agency, and that none of their own players are likely to be signed before Mar 13, thus all will hit free agency.

Finally, the Steelers could use the franchise tag on WR Mike Wallace, according to Colbert. He, like Art Rooney II, said signing him to a long-term deal is a priority. It would also make the most sense. If the franchise tag is used on Mike Wallace, it should be around $9.4 million, based on comparison of the top-paid players at his position around the league. The Steelers could also tag him to hold him here while a long-term contract is worked between his agent and the organization.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Steelers May Have Wiggle Room Under Salary Cap

The Steelers might have another $506,000 worth of salary cap space to work with if Mike Florio is correct. Florio points out that there is an important provision in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that states that teams may carry over any remaining cap room from one year to the next by submitting written notice, signed by the owner of the team, to the league. Kinda like if you do not use all of your salary cap room in one season, you get a credit the next season for the dollars you ended up being under the salary cap. Clear as mud? Good.

This new mechanism is in Article 13, Section 6(b)(v) of the new CBA and indicates that the written notice must indicate the maximum amount of cap room that the team wishes to shift from one cap year to the next. This is news to me, I must admit. The question is if there is any backlash to doing it. The Steelers used the most all of their cap space in '11 and so have only slightly more than half a million to roll over into '12. But a half million is a half million, and this is potential good news to a very cap strapped team.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Not Debating Or Arguing, Just Time For Hines To Go

Franco Harris, Mike Webster, Rod Woodson, Gregg Lloyd, Carnell Lake, Joey Porter...maybe you have your own example of a player you couldn't stand seeing retire in another uniform. But none has never, and may never, caused quite the emotional stir as Hines Ward.

I can't put it strongly enough how much I love Hines Ward. Check previous posts in this Blog. I love Hines Ward. The post, "Hines Ward Is The Real Man Of Steel" was a t-shirt I had made for me before it became a blog post here. If you know me personally, just ask my friend, Matt Vargo. Though he doesn't read this blog and who goes by @MVargo18 on Twitter, he saw the shirt first-hand after it was made. Plus, it had 12 reasons on it too, not just 10.

Not only is he the epitome of the Pittsburgh Steelers in how the game is played, how to win and lose, how to represent your organization and team when succeeding at other ventures (his whipping out the Terrible Towel upon winning Dancing With The Stars specifically), and, aside from a serious lack in judgment last year when allowing himself to drive while intoxicated, has been THE face of the Steelers for more than a decade.

To any of you who argue that last statement, by the way, by saying that Troy Polamalu has been the face of the organization, you're simply wrong...he's been the hair of the organization. But, I digress...

On his Facebook page this afternoon, Ward said this regarding his future: "I don't normally like to respond to rumors, but as I've said all along I wants to finish my career with the Pittsburgh Steelers." He went on to say how he is willing to restructure his contract to stay in Black and Gold.

Thank you, Hines. We'd love to have you back too. But, this is football. It isn't a university where you could be Wide Receiver Emeritus. It's the NFL, which, as Jerry Glanville once said (not-)so eloquently, stands for "Not for long."

So, I'm sorry, but that just wouldn't be enough. Here's how it works. First, the head coach has to decide whether he can be part of the plan. If not, he's gone. Period. If he can be, then they negotiate.

Hines is scheduled to make over $4 million next season, with almost $3.5 million counting against the salary cap. The minimum for him would be $925,000. So, IF they saw value in keeping him, the amount he'd be offered would something between the minimum and approximately $2 million.

Then there has to be some thought to, if they do see that value, whether they have any real use for a No. 4 (or No. 5) receiver who can't play special teams.

Finally, the recent restructuring of contracts has NOT put the Steelers under the salary cap. They've saved about $15 million, but still need to trim more. As I said before, just restructuring his deal wouldn't be enough.

Most likely what will happen is that the Steelers will try to bring back Jerricho Cotchery first. Cotchery is a younger and faster version of Hines Ward who will test the free agent market. He's someone who could get No. 2 wide receiver money, but who also has said that he likes the organization and playing in Pittsburgh. If so, he could sound Ward's death knell.

If all of this comes to fruition the way it seems at present, losing Hines would still be readily felt. He brings intangibles that can't always be seen on a stat sheet. He's a coach on the field and in the locker room, he's a motivator, and he's an inspiration to the still young wide receiving corps.

Regardless, when the information comes straight from head coach, which at least adds some truth to all that has been said, it's still a situation where the player in question seems to be out the door. It's a business. It's about Rings. It's a money play. And it's a time when I hope to God that I'm wrong.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Has A Message Been Sent To Ben In The Hiring Of Haley?

A lot has been said already regarding the hiring of Todd Haley as the Pittsburgh Steelers new offensive coordinator, including this blogger made on Twitter regarding Ben Roethlisberger needing to basically keep his nose clean because Art Rooney was sending a message to him by the hiring of Haley. A little clarifying is obviously needed here: do I think Roethisberger is on his way out the door? No. That's asinine and I won't even address that any further. But, do I believe that Rooney II wants it clearly understood that he didn't exactly like how the offense was being executed and the decisions, let's just say, that Roethlisberger had made this past year? Yes. Unequivocally, yes.

Lynn Swann, former Steeler wide receiver and Hall of Famer, may have said it best last week when he was asked about the Steelers' quarterback and his statement made at the Pro Bowl that he was going to sit down with Art Rooney II to find out in which direction the offense was going to go now. Swann said," The last time I checked, he was a paid employee of the team." He later said, "I don't think you question an organization that has had the consistency and success the Steelers have had." Well said. I'm not saying that Ben needs to shut up and deal with it - this is by no means a Ben Bashing Blog - but I do believe that Swanny makes a good point. A point that was accentuated by the hiring of Haley, in that one of the knocks against Arians was that he was Ben's BFF and that it hindered Arians' being able to lay down the law and get Ben back in line when he veered off course or just plainly and simply did something stupid. That won't be the case with Haley.

And now that Haley has been officially named the new offensive coordinator, we will see just how much Swanny's comments may come to fruition and if Ben likes being just a "paid employee."

Was this, though, a wagging-of-the-finger at Ben and, by extension, Mike Tomlin? I wouldn't go that far with it, with Tomlin at least. A gentleman on Twitter whom I respect who goes by the handle @SteelersNasty suggested that it may have been by saying that "Tomlin didn't want him." While I don't agree there, it is obvious that this was a Rooney II hire. He then backed up this sentiment by tweeting this: “@SteelersNasty: "Tomlin had told Arians several times since the end of the season that he wanted him back for 2012 and Arians
 The posted link connects to an ESPN article debating whether or not Tomlin was on board with this at all or not. Regardless, I still believe this smacks at Ben being sent a message long before Tomlin being sent one.

Quarterback coach Randy Fichtner (pronounced "Feet-ner"), thought by many to be the OC-in-waiting and the one whom I was personally hoping would get promoted, will now probably have the job of mediator in the early going. Though, he won't have much say in what Haley puts together for a game plan, at least not early on, he may just be the buffer needed at first, if Haley lives up to his reputation. Assuming, also, that Ben does in fact react the way many seem to feel he will. It is still possible that we could see Ben actually respond to Haley. At this point, only time will tell.

Aside from any messages that may have been sent to Big Ben and how this affects him, what about the other players on offense? Expect Haley to chin up others too.

As a for instance, I've been somewhat harsh in how I speak of Mike Wallace since his going MIA after approximately the Cardinals game this year and don't ask any apologies for it. Wallace's number fell in half in the second half of the season - literally in half. Trust me that Haley will get in his face about catching the ball more with his hands and running more precise routes in order to finally be able to shed the "One-trick pony" (or maybe "One-and-a-half-tricks" as Tomlin said during one weekly press conference this year) moniker.

Also, expect Antonio Brown to definitely hear it the first time he misses a hot read and runs the wrong route. There are a few others on offense as well who are sure to be in for something they have not seen before, ("Redman, for each %#@&% fumble you %@&#$ make, I'm gonna %#@&% %#@&% %#@&%...") But, you get the idea...

None of this, though, bothers me. Abrasiveness, ego, etc...bring it on! I know that many in Steeler Nation are already chafing at the idea of the "disagreements" he will have with one of the offensive players, but most of them could use a kick in the pants now and then. He's a fiery SOB who ain't afraid of no one. Not a bad thing in my book.

Besides, Haley's reputation precedes him in how he make offenses go too. Whether the strength is in the running game or the passing game, he made the most of what he had in front of him. Here are some of Haley's accomplishments:

2007 - In Haley's first season as OC, quarterback Kurt Warner passed for 3,417 yards in 14 games with 27 TDs and 17 INTs. Warner was only sacked 20 times also. Edgerrin James, the Cardinals running back, rushed for 1,222 yards on 324 carries. Good numbers. The key is this, which Steelers fans will love: the offense had a 68% red zone percentage that was good for 3rd best in the league in '07.

2008 - In '08, Haley's final season in Arizona as the Cardinals OC, Warner passed for 4,583 yards in 16 regular season games and threw for 30 TDs and only 14 INTs. He was sacked just 26 times also. The backfield was split that year, though, with James carrying 133 times and Tim Hightower toting the rock 134 times. They averaged about 3.5 yards per carry. Though, the red zone percentage dipped down to about 58% that year, it was still good for 9th best in the league.

2009 - Haley was named the Chiefs head coach in '09 and had nothing but issues from the word go. Matt Cassel was brought in to be the quarterback and only threw for 2,924 yards and only had 16 TDs against 16 INTs. He was also sacked 42 times. Here, though, he was able to establish the running game for as Jamaal Charles ran for 1,120 yards on 190 carries and Larry Johnson added 377 yards. The running game averaged 4.4 yards per carry, good for 8th best in the league.

2010 - With Charlie Weiss brought in as the Chiefs' new OC in '10, Cassel threw for 3,116 yards in 15 games with 27 TDs and only 7 INTs. He was only sacked 26 times that year. The running game was even better as Charles ran for 1,467 yards on just 230 carries, and veteran Thomas Jones ran for another 896 yards and the Chiefs' 4.72 yards per carry was good for 4th best in the league. The Chiefs also turned their fortunes around and returned to the playoffs after winning the AFC Western Division.

So, from his track record we can see that Haley knows how to manage an offense. The knock has simply been his seeming inability to manage players. It's no secret either: there have sideline blow-ups caught on camera as proof.

How he's received, though, is as important as how he comes across. Though they had a run-in or two, Kurt Warner enjoyed a renaissance while playing QB in Arizona under Haley. Warner: "He's a coach who's not afraid..." For more on what Kurt Warner said, read this article by @ScottBrown_Trib: Warner: Haley will challenge Ben - The Steel Mill:

Still, it's impossible to say for sure yet if Haley will be good or bad. Sure, he has a great offensive mind, but what makes teams winners goes beyond Xs and Os and that is what has most fans concerned. As I alluded to earlier, the key to it all may well be Big Ben and whether this "paid employee" gets the message.