Friday, March 30, 2012

As Sean Payton Cajoles Bill Parcells He Thumbs Nose At Goodell

Only days after Commissioner Roger Goodell handed down the sanctions on the New Orleans Saints organization did we see head coach Patrick Sean Payton do something that was tantamount to flouting those sanctions.

Payton was suspended because of his involvement with and subterfuge regarding "Bounty-gate", but he basically thumbed his nose at it and started to woo his buddy Bill Parcells to come out of retirement and to coach the Saints while Payton sits in the corner on his year-long timeout.

From 2003 to 2005, Payton worked as quarterbacks coach of the Dallas Cowboys under Bill Parcells, and, of course, the Saints coach since 2006.

It began to sound like a scenario the Bard would conjure with the parties involved, Payton, Parcells, Goodell and Ray Anderson, completing this dramatis personae. It began to sound something like this:

SEAN PAYTON (Sampson) TO BILL PARCELLS (Gregory) (New Orleans Saints - Capulets):
I will thumb my nose at them by recruiting you to coach my team in my absence, if they bear it.

-- Enter ROGER GOODELL (Abraham) and RAY ANDERSON (Balthasar) (NFL - Montagues)

Do you thumb your nose at us, sir?
I do thumb my nose, sir.
Do you thumb your nose at US, sir?
[Aside to PARCELLS] Is the law on our side if I say yes?
[Aside] No, Congress is even looking to step in now.
No, sir, I do not thumb my nose at you, but I do thumb my nose, sir.
Do you have a problem with me, sir?
"Problem?" No, sir. I just thought you were retired is all.
Well, if you do, sir, I apologize. *wink wink* I love football as much as you.
No better or worse. I've proven my love by attempting to reduce injuries. I do believe that's why we're here in the first place, sir.
Well, sir, I suppose...but I was hoping to recruit and nominate my man, sir.
Did you abide by the Rooney Rule, sir? ~ Romeo & Juliet, Act I, scene i

Ok, yes, I have an imagination. Still, Payton has acted as if Goodell has no teeth and that he can go and campaign for his replacement. Not that he's acting completely mutinous, but it is still somewhat insubordinate.

Now Payton has also appealed, as he has the right to do, his suspension. That will give Payton more time now to cajole his friend and former coach to become the team’s interim head coach. And the plot thickens... -

Separately, the Saints, General Manager Mickey Loomis, and Saints assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt actually have all appealed their punishments/suspensions -

All things considered, including all we remember of Parcells' antics in the NFL, the attitude being displayed by Payton smacks at disrespect toward his situation. Even his apology for "what has happened" rather than for his complicit involvement and lying to the inquiry after the fact. I simply don't hear or see true remorse from Payton.

But, despite coming down with the appropriate severity in order to send an adequate message, Goodell's examples of inconsistent punishment are legion. So, it would be easy to understand the impetus behind Payton's mindset and actions.

A plague on both their houses...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Keenan Lewis Will Have To Battle For Cornerback Position

It was thought by many that, in the event that he decided to sign somewhere else, William Gay's departure from Pittsburgh would inevitably give Steelers cornerback Keenan Lewis a prime opportunity to step into the favorite's role as starter.

Up until Tuesday that still seemed to be the case. That is until Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told the press around him at the NFL Meetings in Palm Beach, Florida that something else should be expected.

"We're going to give all those men an opportunity to earn the position", Tomlin said.

Those men are Lewis, Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown who it seems will battle for the starting cornerback position opposite Ike Taylor. Though Lewis will go into offseason practices with the slight edge because he's been in the Steelers' system longer, this is nonetheless a little different from what many suspected would be the case.

But it might just be that this was precipitated by Lewis himself.

Lewis has had a bit of a roller coaster-like career in his first three seasons with the Steelers. Drafted in the third round out of Oregon State in 2009, Lewis was considered to be a possible early contributor for the Steelers. Unfortunately for Lewis, inconsistent play, injuries, and his own negative attitude all got in the way of his emerging as a starter or starter-in-waiting for the Steelers.

In 2009, Lewis sustained a back injury which hindered any real progress and limited him to a total of just four games his rookie season.

In 2010, Lewis was expected to turn the corner and start contributing at a higher level. He played in only nine games and blew his biggest chance to earn more playing time in a preseason game in Denver. With Bryant McFadden sidelined due to injury, Lewis played badly, committed idiotic penalties, and even attacked a defenseless mirror in the locker room after the game. Tomlin and the coaching staff relegated him to special teams the majority of the rest of the year.

Lewis' window of opportunity seemed to be almost closed heading into 2011. He faced what looked like stiff competition from both Crezdon Butler and Donovan Warren, but was eventually able to fight both of them off and make the 53-man roster.

Now he'll be battling again.

Usually, the biggest jump is from the first season into the second, but with Lewis it took until the third before appreciable maturation was seen. Now he has nipping at his heels two promising young cornerbacks who want the position as much as he does. One of whom, Allen, saw the field on defense quite often in the second half of the season as he was in on a lot of Nickel and Dime packages.

So, just as things begin to click for Lewis and he plays the best football of his young career, he finds himself now fighting for the job for which he should've been the front runner.

Overall, this is neither a negative thing for the Steelers, healthy competition edifies and solidifies, nor for Lewis. Because of his play in 2011 he's laid a solid foundation to be built upon going into 2012.

Again, that experience and emergence should be the fuel he needs to give him a slight edge for the position over his competitors. If he wants it badly enough and is willing to fight for it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Translating "Tomlin Speak" From The NFL Meetings

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin took questions Tuesday morning at the NFL Meetings in Florida for first time since the day after playoff loss. After hearing the mini-Tomlin Tuesday, I realized some of it needed translating for the Tomlin-Speak impaired. So, I did so below regarding the key points for any who need it.

I'll start off with some good news regarding running backs coach Kirby Wilson, who was badly burned in a December house fire: "Progress is good. He's attacking the rehabilitation. We are excited about getting him back at some point." Great to know! We're pulling for you, Kirby!

On to a hotly debated topic since it all first was announced, Tomlin reiterated what Art Rooney II had said recently, that, though he owns the team and can do what he wants to do, Rooney did not order him to fire Bruce Arians. Tomlin also said he and no one else hired new offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

"He did not. I hired Todd Haley as well, which is your next question....I thought that it was time for change."

Uh-huh...and Col. Nathan R. Jessup didn't order the Code Red.

Speaking of change, Tomlin expects some discomfort for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in transition to a new offense, which will include new nomenclature without necessarily any new blocking schemes, and coordinator, but also said, "I'm not worried...I don't anticipate any issues. I anticipate both guys getting along great.''

(Translation: They're both arrogant and used to success, so they'll butt heads, but my advice is "Get over it, get used to it and get me another Ring!")

Tomlin said he doesn't expect the contrast to affect Mike Wallace, assuming he stays with the Steelers. "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it...IF we come to it.''

(Translation: He'll adapt mainly because he's tired of me calling him "One-Trick Pony.")

Tomlin is obviously concerned about Emmanuel Sanders' ability to stay healthy and on the field, though. A point which I've touched on in this blog before. Tomlin said bluntly: "You can't anticipate it's going to stop", but he did say Sanders is on track to good recovery.

(Translation: We have no idea if Sanders will even make it through another season with us.)

He also said the same could be said about Willie Colon.

(Really, coach? One game in two years? Nah, he'll be fine. He should be rested by now, right?)

Coach went on to say that he likes the running back situation behind Mendenhall, but that if there is any further need in that department it will come in free agency or the draft. (Is there a third option?) He even hinted at using a fullback: "We're open to that. That will be determined by what we're able to acquire."

(I know for a fact that half of my readers just fainted at the word "fullback.")

On how, as Art Rooney II called it, Ben must "tweak" his game, Tomlin said Big Ben must "evolve", and that "Ben is Ben." He doesn't think Big Ben's ability to move has been adversely affected.

(Translation: Ben is one of the toughest SOBs I've ever come across. I could probably Nancy Kerrigan his leg and he'd just say "Rub some dirt on it and tape it up, I'm goin' back in." He just has take one or two fewer "Oh, gawd, he's dead!" hits a season and he'll play another eight years.)

The Steelers staff last week brought in prospects Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams, Cincinnati defensive lineman Derek Wolfe and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton of Florida International.

(Translation: ~ regarding the wide receiver brought in ~ We have no idea if Sanders will even make it through another season with us.)

It was also stated that Casey Hampton could very well open the season on the PUP list, so Scott McLendon and, as I've also mentioned in this blog, Ziggy Hood are possibilities at nose tackle. Of course, this doesn't include what draft pick may possibly be thrown into the mix.

Finally, Tomlin also updated the offseason schedule when he said that OTA practices, down from 14 to 10 by the new CBA, will not start until May 22 and will go through June 14, then they break until training camp in Latrobe.

There you have it, the key points translated for you from Tomlin-Speak into English. I hope that helped answer any questions you had regarding the always crystal-clear Mike Tomlin.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Steelers Awarded Three Compensatory Draft Picks

The NFL Owners Meetings are being held and the Steelers got some unexpected good news to come from them. 

Scott Brown, of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, posted from his personal Twitter account, @ScottBrown_Trib, that the "Steelers awarded three compensatory picks in seventh round. That gives them four seventh-round picks in this year's draft."

I, myself, was expecting two compensatory picks: one for Matt Spaeth and one for Nick Eason. So, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that a third was awarded, that one being for Keyaron Fox for whom I didn't expect one. 

Brown also tweeted that the picks are "awarded based on a formula that takes into account free agents losses and gains from the previous year." It's a bit of a Chinese arithmetic situation we're dealing with here and I don't know the particulars. Suffice it to say, playing time and such play into it, thus it being a compensation. 

Spaeth signed a contract with the Chicago Bears and played quite a bit for them. He only had seven catches for 50 yards and two touchdowns, but he a total of over 350 snaps. Eason signed a two-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals and played in quite a few games resulting in well over 200 snaps. Fox was the wild card. He signed a one-year contract with the Washington Redskins and barely played just on defense, so compensation was expected. 

But, like I said, Chinese arithmetic. 

Brown tweeted the fact that, with the addition of the compensatory picks, "Steelers can draft players they may have otherwise had to bid on in as undrafted free agents." So, while it does provide a boon, "extra picks in seventh round hardly a reason for Steelers to do cartwheels."

True. But every little bit helps. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

What The Loss of William Gay Means For Steelers Secondary

When the news came down Sunday morning that William Gay had decided to leave the Steelers for the Arizona Cardinals, it didn't really come as any big surprise. Not even to Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert.

″We knew that was a possibility,″ Kevin Colbert said today. ″His representatives had been in contact with us. We were aware of his trips and that he was going to get offers and he got an offer that he took.″ 

It was actually William Gay himself who broke the news of leaving when he declared from his personal Twitter account: "@williamgay22: I'm #Birdgang now west coast". 

In Arizona, as I alluded to in a previous blog post, he will be reunited with Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton and assistant defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend. 

Make no mistake, William Gay's departure is a loss. Not only is there now the possible need to replace a cornerback, but the Nickel position as well. He started at the left cornerback spot for the Steelers last year from week two on after Bryant McFadden was benched following the week one loss to the Ravens. Then, when the Steelers would switch to Nickel and Dime packages, Gay would move inside to the slot and Keenan Lewis would come in as the left corner.

Gay made more plays last year than people choose to remember. He's not a starting NFL by any means, no, but the Steelers will still feel the loss, especially at the Nickel. 

That said, he was only beaten in a game-changing way twice all regular season, one of which arguably was caused by Ryan Clark being late over the top, and his 2011 regular season stats were on par with Ike Taylor's. The loss is real: he provided experience and depth, he was very good in the Nickel and he knows LeBeau's system.

At the same time, though, this is far from a major loss. There is good young talent at the position behind him in Pittsburgh. Even if he had stayed on a veteran minimum or qualifying contract offer, he still would have been the third or fourth defensive back in Pittsburgh next season. 

Is there a need to draft a corner to add to this young talent? Maybe, but the Steelers won't go against the norm and get someone via free agency. We may already, in fact, have what we need in Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith and/or Myron Rolle. They may be able to step up at safety and negate the need for an extra cornerback/Nickel defensive back.

Nonetheless, there should be healthy competition at cornerback to compliment Ike Taylor with Keenan Lewis being the leader in the clubhouse. Lewis has more defensive snaps, seeing game action to the tune of about 400 snaps last season. 

Also based on last year's game packages and total snaps, I'd expect to see Cortez Allen being the nickel corner Keenan Lewis starting opposite Ike since it was Allen who was used in the Dime, though not a true Dime, packages.  

Curtis Brown hardly saw action at all on defense in his rookie campaign. He does seem to hold the eye of the coaching staff, though, as Bob Labriola of Steelers Digest says that they are high on Brown and Allen both. Both showed promise, but Allen seemed to wedge himself in a little tighter in that he would line up inside on slot receivers and tight ends. 

Though the loss of William Gay is palpable, it isn't a loss that will completely hamstring the Steelers. The Steelers have young talent that, though very short on experience, is very long on talent and potential.


Steelers unrestricted free agent tackle Max Starks was on Sirius XM on Friday and expressed interest in coming back to the Steelers. Alex Marvez reported via his Twitter account, @alexmarvez, that Starks was recovering from his ACL tear suffered against the Denver Broncos.

His tweet read, "T Max Starks - who looks physically great despite having ACL surgery during the season -- is on @SiriusXMNFL #Steelers" 

At one point during the interview in question he was asked if there was a chance that he would return to the Steelers in 2012 and he replied, "I mean it's a potential. One of the biggest things is that for myself, there's been expressed interest, but once again it all stems off of my ACL recovery....It's my intent that I have the opportunity to go back there, but I know the reality is that I'm not going to get a legitimate look until June for my knee." 

Showing his desire to remain a Steeler is real, he further said, "I say 'us' and 'ours' when I'm talking about the Steelers, speaking from that past tense, but that's been my whole entire career, I was eight years there, so that's all I know."


The Denver Broncos brought in and are currently hosting Steelers unrestricted free agent quarterback Dennis Dixon.

Dixon has appeared in four games for the Steelers, making three career starts. He has a 2-1 record with one touchdown and two interceptions. If signed, he would battle Caleb Hanie for backup role. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Harvey Levin Becomes Twitter Majority Owner

...or at least it seems that way.

Harvey Levin is the managing editor of and TMZ on TV. If you don't know what the latter is, it's essentially a television version, a news website with emphasis on celebrity gossip. You know, yellow journalism.

Or, in this case, Black and Yellow journalism.

-- Aside: Yellow journalism is a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers or increase traffic to blog or website. (Ignore this article's headline, that was on purpose of course.)

This offseason has already had more than its share of rumors, speculations, incorrect reports and just plain misinformation. They have involved various Pittsburgh Steelers players like Hines Ward and his retirement rumors, but have mainly centered around the present and future of Mike Wallace.

Thursday morning brought its own fun when Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reported that Mike Wallace wanted $120 million to go to the San Francisco 49ers. ~

Just like that, one report gets posted and the whole of Steeler Nation fortifies itself against Mike Wallace. Cue the Twitter #Take-A-Hikes and the Facebook Fond Farewells.

The virtual backlash was immediate and vociferous. Fans already had Wallace in another uniform and the Steelers going 8-8 next year.

I've come to expect that from fans to some degree, your typical fan knows a lot less than he or she thinks she does, but I expect more from the media. Especially the local media.

Nonetheless, the media, namely Ken Laird and Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, jumped right into the deep end with the fans via their Twitter accounts. This was part of their exchange:

"@Ken_Laird: If Wallace is thinking he's worth 15 mil per year, have to believe a holdout is coming. #Steelers"

"@ScottBrown_Trib: @Ken_Laird Can't see this ending well."

I felt like I was reading something from the TMZ guy with the goatee. What's his name? Mike Walters?

I mean, really? Has no one ever heard of "leverage?" So, no one has ever postured regarding contract demands? Stop! Just stop it. Wallace isn't leaving & isn't holding out. He NEEDS to play to be able to take advantage of free agency next season.

Honestly, it's hilarious how a report that Wallace wants big money shocks and dismays the fans and media. While I admit to tossing around the (slight) possibility of a holdout, I maintain that the probability of it is minuscule. Again, he NEEDS to play to be a free agent next year. Plus, if he were to hold out, he wouldn't play. No play, no pay.

So, to up and assume that a holdout is coming, and that the Steelers should immediately get rid of him and take the first round pick, is ludicrous. If you suggested this, please turn in your Terrible Towel as you leave the building.

BREAKING NEWS: Jason LaCanfora just reported that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger just broke wind while in bed with his wife. Details on whether or not he gave her a "Dutch Oven" has yet to be confirmed.

Make no mistake, Matt Barrows is reliable. This report is to be believed. Lance Williams of had Barrows on his podcast before the Steelers vs. 49ers game and even stated today that "Matt does solid work." -

Mark Kaboly, also of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, tweeted, "I trust his report 100 percent."

So, trust in the report itself isn't in question, it's whether or not Wallace truly believes what was proposed in the report or, as I suggested earlier, was it just posturing?

The truth is that Wallace will come close to getting those numbers in 2013, unless a long-term deal is signed this year. But it will be performance based: the better the season, the higher the asking price can be pushed. As a point of example to that, Vincent Jackson got what amounts to a two year, $26 million deal after a slightly-better-than-average season.

So, it will happen. And you can't blame Wallace for asking either. The question in this instance is, "From whom?" The Steelers won't pay him that much. Period. Neither will anyone else this year, though. A great player with great potential Mike Wallace no doubt is, but just not $120 million great.

At this point, though, Wallace is basically already under contract. Why then should the Steelers pay more? Unless, of course, it's in a multi-year deal that's agreeable to BOTH sides. If not, the Steelers would still have the option of placing the franchise tag on him next year. The ball is still in the Steelers' court. They're in no rush, and rightly so.

So, don't get caught up in the TMZ journalism. (Or is it TRZ {Three River Zone} in this case?) Because fan and media reactions can be scary. And "fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering." And I don't want you suffering...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I Knew Fans Could Be Clueless, But The Media???

Dear Internet and especially Social Media, Tim Tebow will not be breaking news of his own trade via Twitter. That is all.

Folks, Michael Lombardi got fooled by a fake Tim Tebow account. How does ESPN put it? C'mon, man! Seriously, main stream media, first Hines Ward to the Ratbirds, er uh, Ravens, the fake Eagles story and now this?

Tim Tebow was involved in a trade, though, where he basically was allowed to pick the team to which he wanted to go. He picked the Jets. Denver has agreed to trade Tim Tebow and a seventh-round pick to the Jets for the Jets' fourth-round pick and a sixth-round pick.

Cue the "Mark Sanchez is so fragile, this is a bad message to send" articles. They just guaranteed him $20.5M. Play better & get tougher. Oops...sorry, David. ;-)

The Jets agreed to pay half of rhe $5 million in compensation back to Denver that was previously in dispute in the Tim Tebow. The details are here:


Steelers president Art Rooney II released a statement via regarding the Bounty-gate sanctions brought down on the Saints. He expresses his agreement over Goodell's decisions.

Rooney: "I think the Commissioner wants to send a message that we are not going to stand for this kind of thing. So in general, I think it was the right approach. We don't need this in our game. I think the Commissioner is sending a very loud and clear message here. Hopefully, the effect is going to be that we will get these kinds of things out of the game."


William Gay is going to make his decision soon about where he'll play next year. He tweeted on his Twitter account that the tour is over.

His tweet read this way: “@williamgay22: Pitt,Denver,Arizona, and Tennessee..Great places to play for but I can only chose one!!!! Blessing from GOD sure he will show me da way”

Gay has been a very good Nickel corner and knows LeBeau's system. I don't think he's a good starting NFL corner, but he is definitely valuable. I'd like to see him stay, but, as was pointed out in a previous blog post, he'd only be brought back on a veteran's minimum or qualifying contract. He's probably looking for a multi-year deal which he won't get in Pittsburgh.


Showing how obvious his teaching abilities are, as he's mentored and taught his teammate wide receivers for years, Hines Ward was offered but turned down high school football head coaching job -


Offensive tackle Jamon Meredith, who was on the Steelers' practice squad last year and originally drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 2009, signed an offseason contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers today via Steelers tight end Weslye Saunders' Twitter account.

Saunders tweeted, “@Wes_Saunders88: Dang..looks like I'm the only Gamecock on the Steelers roster again. But good luck to my boy Jamon with the Tampa Bay Bucs!”

Good fortunes, Meredith.

NFL Network's Rich Eisen was talking today with Vince Young about the Tim Tebow trade. At one point Young was asked what he thought about being a quarterback who might have been targeted in a bounty. Young replied, "Yeah, it's very disturbing to hear certain things like that. From seeing the playoff game and Brett Favre and the hits he took. I even got dunked on my head playing Pittsburgh. Rodney Harrison dunked me on my head. You don't want to think that these types of things are going on, but as the news is putting these things out there, these things are happening. They must stop, definitely, because we don't want anybody to get hurt. Definitely the nature of the game, when you put your shoulder pads on and helmet, you have a 50/50 chance of getting hurt. If these type of things are happening, it's very bad for the game."


Well, it would be if it had been James Harrison and not Rodney Harrison. Oh, by the way, Vince, the Steelers PREFERRED you in the game. You suck, Kerry Collins was better than you and almost pulled off the comeback. Harrison, who was one of three players involved in that sack, was fined $5,000 for it. Obviously, though, the hit affected your memory...

This Time Goodell Gets It Right With Punishment Of Saints

The news finally came down Wednesday morning on the New Orleans Saints' bounty program after a lengthy investigation. The punishment for former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, head coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis has been announced and it is unparalleled in it's severity.

"Bountygate" brought penalties against the Saints organization, coaches and GM that is unprecedented in NFL history. It tops the New England Patriots "Spygate" scandal from and makes it clear that commissioner Roger Goodell finds the purposeful and complicit organization of injuring players distasteful and egregious.

For once, we agree on something.

This blog has been consistent in it's disdain for Roger Goodell. His inconsistency in punishing players is a point of contention for players and fans alike. So much so that he even comes across at times as impotent, showing favoritism and/or being vindictive. He even seems to have a personal grudge against the Pittsburgh Steelers and, in particular, James Harrison. So, to admit that Goodell actually got something right is like swallowing medicine without the teaspoon of sugar.

The actual sanctions, though, were as follows according to the NFL:

"The New Orleans Saints are fined $500,000. Because the violation involves a competition rule, the Saints will have their second round picks of the 2012 and 2013 NFL drafts taken away."

"Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis is suspended without pay for the first eight regular-season games of the 2012 season."

"Former Saints (and current St. Louis Rams) defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is suspended indefinitely from the NFL, effective immediately. Commissioner Goodell will review Coach Williams’ status at the conclusion of the 2012 season and consider whether to reinstate him, and, if so, on what terms. Commissioner Goodell said he will give close attention to the extent to which Coach Williams cooperates with the NFL in any further proceedings."

"Saints head coach Sean Payton is suspended without pay for the 2012 NFL season, effective April 1."

"Saints assistant Head Coach Joe Vitt is suspended without pay for the first six regular-season games of the 2012 season."

"The Saints and the individuals disciplined today are expected to participate in efforts led by the league office to develop programs that will instruct players and coaches at all levels of the game on the need for respect for the game and those who participate in it, on principles of fair play, safety and sportsmanship, and to ensure that bounties will not be part of football at any level."

March 2nd was the date we all heard the announcement of the NFL’s initial findings. It was then that the league office conducted a further investigation, including the meeting of Goodell with several of the key individuals involved, sometimes with subsequent visits. He also met with the leadership of the NFL Players Association and individual players to discuss it.

Along with all of the sanctions levied, the Commissioner also released this statement:

Commissioner Roger Goodell notified the New Orleans Saints today of the discipline that will be imposed on team management for violations of the NFL’s long-standing “bounty” rule that endangered player safety over a three-year period.

Discipline for individual players involved in the Saints’ prohibited program continues to be under review with the NFL Players Association and will be addressed by Commissioner Goodell at a later date. The program included “bounty” payments for “knock-outs” and “cart-offs,” plays on which an opposing player was forced to leave the game. At times, the bounties even targeted specific players by name.

The NFL’s extensive investigation established the existence of an active bounty program on the Saints during the 2009, 2010, and 2011 seasons in violation of league rules, a deliberate effort to conceal the program’s existence from league investigators, and a clear determination to maintain the program despite express direction from Saints ownership that it stop as well as ongoing inquiries from the league office.

“We are all accountable and responsible for player health and safety and the integrity of the game,” Commissioner Goodell said. “We will not tolerate conduct or a culture that undermines those priorities. No one is above the game or the rules that govern it. Respect for the game and the people who participate in it will not be compromised.”

“A combination of elements made this matter particularly unusual and egregious,” Commissioner Goodell continued. “When there is targeting of players for injury and cash rewards over a three-year period, the involvement of the coaching staff, and three years of denials and willful disrespect of the rules, a strong and lasting message must be sent that such conduct is totally unacceptable and has no place in the game.”

Regarding the employes and players, Goodell said, “Beyond the clear and continuing violations of league rules, and lying to investigators, the bounty program is squarely contrary to the league’s most important initiatives - enhancing player health and safety and protecting the integrity of the game,”

Goodell also said. “Let me be clear. There is no place in the NFL for deliberately seeking to injure another player, let alone offering a reward for doing so. Any form of bounty is incompatible with our commitment to create a culture of sportsmanship, fairness, and safety. Programs of this kind have no place in our game and we are determined that bounties will no longer be a part of the NFL.”

He further stated that NFL coaches and supervisory employees need to "communicate openly and candidly with the principal owner and/or his designated representative; to ensure that club ownership is informed on a complete and timely basis of all matters affecting the club’s operations; and to avoid actions that undermine or damage the club’s reputation or operating success.”

Coach Payton knows this. It's in the contract he signed.

Commissioner Goodell will address players separately along with assistance from the NFLPA. Regarding this Goodell said, “While I will not address player conduct at this time, I am profoundly troubled by the fact that players - including leaders among the defensive players - embraced this program so enthusiastically and participated with what appears to have been a deliberate lack of concern for the well-being of their fellow players.”

Goodell further said. “While all club personnel are expected to play to win, they must not let the quest for victory so cloud their judgment that they willingly and willfully target their opponents and engage in unsafe and prohibited conduct intended to injure players.”

One player who is believed to be the player to face the harshest punishment is Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma. He reportedly offered $10,000 to any player who could knock Brett Favre out of the NFC Championship Game.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees was "speechless" over the sanctions and wants an explanation.

Roger Goodell's response to Brees' demanding an answer regarding the suspensions: "We were lied to"

I agree...for once. Goodell has actually handled this well. But, hey, even a blind pig finds a truffle now and then. (I'm sorry, did I get off track?)

The Saints, though, as an organization was contrite regarding the bounty punishments

Gregg Williams is also quotes as being "shocked but remorseful" over it all.

All in all, the NFL Commissioner laid down a heavy hammer regarding the bounty program, and rightly so. There's simply no place in the already-very-violent NFL where there are full-blown, blatant attempts to "willingly and willfully target" someone to injure them.

Goodell may have caused hair on the back of many necks to rise with his trying to deter and curtail debilitating, career-ending and life threatening hits and overall play. I still maintain that it is because he has been very incongruous in how he doles out his punishments. This time, though, he actually got it right.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Today one of the greats in Steeler history, Hines Ward, announced his retirement after 14 years with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  A tearful Hines Ward gave us, Steelers Nation, what we all wanted. That he will retire and remain a Steeler for life.

There had been stories put out there that possibly Hines could be playing elsewhere this season, but he also spoke about that and stated,  “There’s been some interest from other teams...but I just couldn’t picture myself playing in another uniform.”

He is also not ruling out coaching down the line. He has already been a mentor/coach to his young receiver teammates.  Ward said he had told them not to get caught up in stats. "One person can't win a Super Bowl" he said.   He also told Mike Wallace that there is not another special place like Pittsburgh.  I have to agree with him on that.

Wallace will not find another devoted fan base like Steeler Nation that will always have his back.  The old saying goes "Black and Gold until I'm dead and cold."  We as fans take that seriously.

Personally, I would love to see Hines come back as a receivers coach and groom these young guys.  He has been like their coach since they became Steelers. This would only help improve their overall game by keeping them in the right mind-set that it isn't about stats,  it is about winning games and championships.  He could also mentor these guys in keeping them in the right mind frame of what it is to be a Steeler.

Then he goes on to say these heartfelt words to Steeler Nation.

“You guys meant the world to me,” Ward stated to Steelers fans. “This city and this organization means the world to me. So today I came back to Pittsburgh to grant Steeler Nation this one last request. Today I am officially retiring as a Pittsburgh Steeler. And as much as I will miss football, my teammates, coaches and everything about the game, I don’t want to play in any other uniform. The black and gold runs deep with me, and I will remain a Steeler for life.”

This is where it really touched me in his press conference as he wiped tears from his eyes and I wiped them from mine.  He said that he is retiring because of us the fans because "we mean the world" to him.

Hines , you also mean the world to us, as a proud member of Steeler Nation, You were the Steelers to me.  As I stated in a previous blog,  I know all about Lynn Swann and his greatness, but was never witness to it because of my age.  You were the greatness that I witnessed.  You were the face of the franchise in my eyes. " The Real Man of Steel".

I, as a fan have been fortunate to watch you be one of the all time greats and that is something that I will be able to pass on to my children.  When they ask me who was one of the greatest receivers in Steelers history, you will be who I tell them, as it was passed on to me about Lynn Swann by my Dad.  You said it best when you said being a Steeler fan passes down from generation to generation, that most are born with Terrible Towels in their hands.  I was fortunate to be one of those fans.  I could have chosen to root for another team, but I chose to root for the Steelers. 

You, Hines, will always hold a special place in my memories of some of the greatest Steeler games and moments.  You will be who I think of when I think of greatness and what it is to be a Steeler.   I will never forget that smile.  That was the highlight of any game to see you take a hard hit and come up and be smiling.  That is one of the things I will miss the most with you not being there.

Your legacy will always be a part of the Steelers. You touched the heart of so many fans , even fans that were not Steeler fans.  When they think of the Steelers they think of you.  The joy you brought so many fans like myself, will be greatly missed.

I know you said it was what you felt  was the right thing to do. I for on am happy you retired a Steeler but would have been  OK with your decision if you would have decided to keep on playing.  It would have been hard as a fan to see you in another uniform, but you would still be my favorite.

I just want to say as a Steeler fan I was blessed to see you play . I have so many fond memories of you as a Steeler that I will always cherish , as I know other fans will.  This hurts because you never want to see one of your favorites go.  I have seen a lot of favorites go, but I never thought I would see you go.  I, want to thank you for the memories.
In closing, I will just say that I look forward to seeing your beautiful smile on a bronze bust in Canton and I will make the trip there to see you inducted. Enjoy your retirement and hopefully we will see you again on the sidelines.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Why Manning to Denver Doesn't Mean Steelers Could Lose Mike Wallace

Unless you've been living with those two guys from the Geico commercial, (i.e. under a rock), you should know by now that all is but a done deal between Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. And before the ink from the Mont Blanc is even dry, the speculation machine has started rearing it's ugly head (yes, I said "speculation" because right now that is all it is) that Mike Wallace will soon be joining him.

I, for one, do not believe so. It has been all over the Social Media networks that the Broncos should sign Wallace. Well, why would they? They have two very capable and speedy receivers on their staff as it is.

Jamie Dukes of NFL Network said it best, though: "The Broncos have other issues they need to address besides getting Manning a shiny new toy." The Broncos are giving Peyton a hefty contract that is supposed to be in the area of 5 years for $90 million, which could mean a cap hit of around $20 million.

Why then would they throw another big contract at basically a speedster when they already have that in Demaryius Thomas? He was the one that burned the Steelers secondary to beat them in the playoffs.

One thing also that's still not known is if Peyton is the Peyton of old or not. Yes, he can throw the ball around, but is he truly 100% healthy after four neck surgeries? Time will tell.

There are those, though, who think this is a good idea. That throwing money at Wallace to pry him away from the Steelers would be a good idea. Mike Mayock, for one, is adamant that the Broncos should do it.

“I would make an offer that Pittsburgh would have a lot of trouble matching for Mike Wallace,” Mayock said. “I’d be happy to give up my first-round pick, and I’d make that young man a rich, rich young man. And I’d have a vertical threat to go along with Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas — I might look at Dallas Clark. You’ve made a commitment to Peyton Manning. Now let’s go get him the weapons.” -

While I can certainly see why Denver would be tempted, again, the Broncos have a promising playmaker in Demaryius Thomas, and they can always bring along a Manning favorite in tight end Dallas Clark. In fact, Mike Klis of the Denver Post said as much on his Twitter account. He said, "@MikeKlis: Expect the Broncos to sign TE Dallas Clark”

But looking at the other options, Eric Decker and Matt Willis, I can see the Broncos being tempted  to go after Wallace. I just don't see the actuality of them doing so. Wide receiver and return man Ted Ginn, jr. might make enough of an impact for them and would be much less expensive.

To be certain, the correct deal for Wallace to be signed away just went up a few million last week. The Broncos, on the other hand, need offensive line help as well as the tight end help mentioned before. Plus, who says Wallace would even sign offer sheet? Just because they may want him doesn't mean they'd get him.

The Broncos have a lot of questions on defense as well. Their secondary is suspect at best. Big Ben basically exposed it while on just one good leg, and Tom Brady shredded it not once, but twice. So, that makes me ask the question, "Why would you give up a first round pick and and another big contract for something that they do not need?"

After a closer look at the Broncos roster, it's clear that they have too many holes to fill to give up a first round pick AND commit $12 million of cap space to get Mike Wallace. Not going to happen.

Let's be real here, Peyton Manning made Austin Collie and Pierre Garçon household names in Indy. No one knew who they were until Peyton did what Peyton does. Peyton can surely do what Peyton does with Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Matt Willis too.


Steelers unrestricted free agent cornerback William Gay visited the Arizona Cardinals on Monday. The Cardinals defensive coordinator is Ray Horton, who once coached the Steelers defensive backs.

Gay has said he wants to stay with the Steelers for next season and the Steelers have also left that option open. If Gay were to come back, he would probably do so on a one-year qualifying contract like he did last year. That contract paid him $685,000 in base salary with a $50,000 signing bonus. Expect a similar deal with the requisite percentage increase.

Gay will also be visiting Tennessee Titans on Tuesday, per Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean

The Pittsburgh Steelers: Linebacker, Inc. - Where Does James Farrior Rank?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a very long and storied linebacker tradition. The names from the '70s dynasty easily come to mind, but the greatness at the position didn't start or end there. In fact, it's alive and well and still at the confluence.

One linebacker who masterfully represented that tradition just ended his days with the Steelers on March 2nd of this year. That man was the Happy Days-loving, University of Virginia product known as James Farrior. Or, "Potsie" to teammates and Steelers fans.

From 2004-2011 James Farrior was the unquestioned leader of the defense. In the locker room and on the field, he had his teammates ears and their respect. The defensive huddle was his - all with being incredibly soft-spoken. His was a quiet leadership, yet he was heard as clearly as much more colorful and vocal players on the defense.

Farrior's level of play did justice to past Steelers linebackers virtually from the start. This brings a question to mind, though: where does Farrior rank among the greatest of Steelers linebackers? He would seem to have the résumé to have his name mentioned amongst the greats. There are too many Pro Bowlers, All-Pros and Super Bowl winning linebackers to do an actual top 10 or 20 list, and it might just simply be too subjective an argument. So, let's stay with Farrior for now and then look at all of the other greats and leave it to posterity to decide.

In Farrior's first year with the Pittsburgh Steelers, acquired via free agency after the 2001 season because of his being seen as somewhat of a bust by the Jets, Farrior recorded 82 tackles throughout 14 games. But he was just getting started.

In 2003, his second with the Steelers, he recorded 141 tackles and one interception. In his third season with the Steelers, Farrior made 94 tackles, three sacks, and a career-high four interceptions. He also finished second to Ed Reed for NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors.

During the Pittsburgh Steelers 2005 campaign, Farrior missed 2 games due to an injury, but played very well in the 14 regular season games and 4 postseason games in which he appeared. He finished the season with 119 tackles and a Super Bowl ring.

Farrior maintained a stellar career, including another near MVP-like season in 2008, until two out of the last three years when his play dipped from the level Steelers fans were used to seeing. All told, Farrior's accomplishments included 154 games played and started, 1,078 tackles, 30 sacks, 12 forced fumbles, 8 interceptions, 2 Pro Bowls, 2 All-Pro selections, 2 Super Bowl rings and a Steelers MVP. Plain and simple, Potsie was one of the best.

Who then are the other CEOs of Linebacker, Inc.? Let's start with the Chairman of the Board, take it through his executives and then filter our way down to middle management and then to the ones who didn't quite make it past entry level positions. I'll even mention a couple of promising young interns as well. I'm staying out of the mail room, though. They're a strange breed down there.

Remaining JOINT CEOs -

Jack Lambert, or "Captain Jack", was selected by the Steelers in the second round of the famed 1974 NFL Draft. Though a natural athlete, Lambert played quarterback at Crestwood high school and then switched to defensive end at Kent State, many thought he was too small to play linebacker in the NFL. While most of his pro career he was reported to be 6'4" and 220 lbs, he measured only 6'3½" and 204 lbs. as a rookie.

When the Steelers took a chance on Lambert to replace an injured player in Lambert's first season, he made the most of it and went on to earn the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. He was a central figure on a great Steelers defense that went on to win their first Super Bowl by beating the Minnesota Vikings 16-6 in Super Bowl IX.

Lambert was the Steelers starting middle linebacker, for nine seasons, starting right inside linebacker for two seasons, and, according to the Steelers media guide, averaged 146 tackles per season through his 10th year. He recorded only 19 in his 11th and final season because an injury suffered to his toe (Turf Toe) forced him into retirement.

Lambert's accomplishments are downright gaudy. He is a member of the 20/20 club as he amassed 28 career interceptions and (officially) 23½ sacks (sacks weren't kept as an official statistic until 1982). He collected the 1,479 career tackles referred to earlier, was named to nine straight Pro Bowls, was an a first-team All-Pro seven times, was a four-time Super Bowl winner, a member of the NFL's and Steelers' respective 75th Anniversary teams, the 1970s and 1980s All-Decade Teams and was the 1976 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. *whew* With the knee-pumping antics, the missing front teeth, the "That'll cool your ass down!" sound bite, the throwing of safety Cliff Harris to the turf after he disrespected Roy Gerela by patting him on the head after a missed kick and many other highlights, he is the reality that the myth would strive to be. Blood, sweat and no tears: Captain Jack.

Jack Ham was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second-round of the 1971 NFL Draft. Jack Ham was so good that he won the starting left outside linebacker job as a rookie. He was first-team All-Pro six years (1974-1979) and was named to eight straight Pro Bowls (1973-1980).

Ham was blessed with tremendous quickness and, according to former Steelers coach Chuck Noll, he was the "fastest Steeler for the first ten yards, including wide receivers and running backs." He was one of the few outside linebackers who could play pass defense as well as the NFL's top safeties. Although he was a tremendous hitter, Ham was known as being a player who couldn't be fooled and was seldom caught out of position.

Ham's career statistics and accomplishments are only slightly less opulent than Lambert's. Some of his numbers include 21 fumbles recovered, 32 interceptions and a Steeler media guide unofficial 25 sacks (again, the NFL did not begin recording sacks until 1982, Ham's final year, so he officially has just three sacks). Though he didn't play in Super Bowl XIV because of an ankle injury, Ham was a member of all four '70s Super Bowl winning teams during his twelve-year career.

As you can see, Ham had a penchant for the big play. He was guided by some of the best football instincts ever for a linebacker, and was duly recognized for them as he was also member of the NFL's and Steelers' respective 75th Anniversary Teams and was a member of the NFL's 1970s All-Decade Team.

Greg Lloyd - this guy scared everybody. Lloyd was just plain nasty, and he was a personal favorite. Lloyd was notorious for wearing that worn, old t-shirt at practice and under his game jersey that read, "I Wasn't Hired For My Disposition." He tried proving it every Sunday too.

Lloyd was injured his first year (1987), and most of his second year, but became a starter during the 1989 season at outside linebacker where he would wreak havoc for nearly a decade (147 games). He became the emotional and fiery leader of the Steelers defense.

Lloyd was indeed the most feared player in the league for his time. Jim Harbaugh, former NFL quarterback and current coach of the San Francisco 49ers, claims he wasn't afraid of anything until he played against Greg Lloyd, the man he respected and feared on the gridiron more than anyone.

A true enforcer. He was everyone. But, he was also a true leader and student of the game. Lloyd continued to make an impact on the defense even while injured by teaching young linebackers like Jason Gildon, dubbed "Baby Lloyd", the finer points of the Steelers linebacking tradition.

Team President Dan Rooney once said of Greg Lloyd, "He was one of the best, not just one of the Steelers' best, but one of the best in the league. Greg could play in any era. He has the makeup, whether it's in 1998 or 1938. He's just a football player." He'd know.

Steeler fans themselves recognized this and showed it by voting Lloyd to their 75th anniversary team. He was also voted to the Pro Bowl five times (1991-1995), was first-team All-Pro twice (1993 & 1995), and was United Press International's (UPI) AFC Defensive Player of the Year for 1994.

Like Lambert, Lloyd had his own share of sound bites. He once could be heard telling the Dallas Cowboy sideline after stopping a running play before it got started, "I told y'all don't run that sh** over here!"

He famously dissed former NFL quarterback Joe Namath in 1991 when Namath, then an analyst of NBC, accused Lloyd of playing dirty. Lloyd responded by saying "Who is Joe Namath? This is a guy who, if he played in the league today, I'd probably just go hit him late and see what he did, just for the hell of it. Joe Namath can go to hell; he can kiss my ass."

But the most famous is after beating the Indianapolis Colts for the AFC crown, Lloyd forgets that he's on camera, or just doesn't care, and tells his teammates, "Let's see if we bring this damn trophy here next year along with the fu**ing Super Bowl." Just plain nasty.

Joey Porter was drafted in the third round of the 1999 NFL Draft. Joey was an emotional, cocksure player who commanded respect, earning him the nickname "Peezy". Peezy was another in an increasingly long line of Steelers linebackers that struck fear into the hearts of NFL players.

Joey received his share of accolades as well. While with the Steelers he was a three-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro (2002, 2004 and 2005). Also voted to the Steelers 75th Anniversary, Joey was a member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team. He had 376 tackles, 60 sacks, 31 passes defended, 14 forced fumbles, 10 interceptions and a Super Bowl win. He was a force to be reckoned with at all times.

Six degrees of separation: During the preseason of his rookie year, Joey wore number 95, the first player to wear the number since linebacker great Greg Lloyd was released after the 1997 season. Whether it was despite his similarities to Lloyd in terms of playing style and vocal leadership or perhaps because of it, Joey changed his jersey number to 55 before the start of the regular season in order to develop his own identity. Fast forward to November 14, 2004 against the Browns in Cleveland. During warmups, Joey felt Browns running back William Green disrespected him as Green passed him. A fight ensued (after Peezy straight clocked him) and both were ejected. James Harrison, who would ultimately replace Joey in the starting lineup after Joey was released, would get his first NFL start.

James Harrison, nicknamed "Deebo" (based on the character of the same name from the movie "Friday") and "The Silverback" because of his incredible strength (the latter epithet given to him by former Steelers HC Bill Cowher), went undrafted in the 2002 NFL draft, because it was thought he was too short, he's 6'0", to play linebacker, and too light, 240 lbs., to play on the defensive line. Nonetheless, the Steelers signed Harrison as an undrafted rookie in 2002, making him only the second linebacker from Kent State to play for the team since Hall of Famer Jack Lambert. Good company.

The Silverback has his share of detractors as well, ones who claim he's a dirty player. But, enough about Roger Goodell.

Deebo is fierce. Once he learned the game and all the nuances of the position he plays, Deebo began to wreck shop on the NFL. He's even been called "Mr. Monday Night" because of the incredible games he's had on Monday Night Football.

Then, on January 5, 2009, Deebo was named the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year for the 2008 season, becoming the first undrafted player to win the award.

During Super Bowl XLIII after that same 2008 season, Harrison intercepted a pass from Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner at the goal line and ran back the length of the field for a 100-yard touchdown at the end of the first half. Harrison collapsed in the endzone and spent several minutes catching his breath as his teammates celebrated. It was the longest play in Super Bowl history and helped the Steelers defeat the Arizona Cardinals 27-23. It was also the longest interception return in Steelers franchise history, surpassing the 99-yard return by Martin "Butch" Kottler which occurred in the club's second ever game and was the oldest team record.

Just like his predecessors, Harrison has many awards lining his trophy case. He has so far been named to five Pro Bowls, he has four All-Pro selections, and the aforementioned Defensive Player of the Year award. His is also a laundry list of accomplishments so far in his career: 547 tackles, 58 sacks, 27 forced fumbles, 18 passes defended, five interceptions and a partridge in a pear tree!


These players could have been higher had they played longer or had they not been overshadowed by truly great linebackers:

Andy Russell played linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1963 and from 1966–1976, the two-year gap being from when Russell temporarily left the team for the Army. He was an early member of Pittsburgh's famed Steel Curtain defense.

Russell made seven Pro Bowl appearances (1969, 1971-1976), one first-team All-Pro, the Steelers' MVP in 1971 and earned two Super Bowl rings in Super Bowl IX and Super Bowl X. Russell intercepted 18 passes in his career.

Levon Kirkland was a massive inside linebacker. He was only 6'1",  but weighed anywhere from 275-300 pounds during his career. Despite this, he had great speed and agility, especially for a big man. He became a starter at inside linebacker for the Steelers in his second season, 1993.

Kirkland made the Pro Bowl after the 1997 season, making a career-high and team-leading 126 tackles and career-high five sacks, as the Steelers went to the AFC Championship game.

He was a two-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro (1996 & 1997). He made 1,029 tackles, 18.5 sacks and 11 interceptions in his career with the Steelers. He was also a member of the NFL 1990 All-Decade Team.

Jason Gildon, deemed "Baby Lloyd" because of his style, build and ferocity being similar to Greg Lloyd.

Gildon played a large role on the Steelers special teams unit during his first two years before being inserted into the starting lineup in 1996, after All-Pro pass-rusher Greg Lloyd went down in the season opener with a torn knee ligament. Gildon turned in 7.0 sacks in 1996 and landed a permanent spot at outside linebacker. He never looked back from there.

Gildon was a three-time Pro Bowler (2000-2002) and one-time All-Pro. Along with 520 career tackles, Gildon's major accomplishment came when he set the Steelers all-time sacks mark, breaking L.C. Greenwood's record of 73, in 2003. He would eventually register 77 total with the Steelers.

Robin Cole was an underrated linebacker for twelve seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Because he played with many great Steelers linebackers, especially early on, some feel he did not get as much recognition as he deserved. But make no mistake, Cole more than held his own.

In Cole's second year, the Steelers reached Super Bowl XIII. The Steelers started veteran linebacker Loren Toews against the Dallas Cowboys. "After a [few] of series, I came in and played the rest of the game," remembered Cole, as the Steelers won, 35-31.

Coming into his own in 1979, Cole helped lead the Steelers to Super Bowl XIV.
"It was huge," said Cole, "I consider it my most memorable game." Cole's performance spoke volumes in the Steelers' 31-19 victory.

"I was told that I was the MVP going into the fourth quarter," Cole said. "I wound up second to Terry (Bradshaw). For a linebacker to be MVP, you have to play (well) the whole game. A defensive back can return a couple interceptions for touchdowns or a quarterback can throw a couple of bombs."

Cole was named to the Pro Bowl and to the All-Pro team in 1984 when the Steelers reached the AFC championship game and was an alternate in 1985 and 1986. --

Earl Holmes was another underrated linebacker the Steelers had briefly in their midst. Just ask him.

When drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 4th round of the 1996 NFL Draft out of Florida A&M University, Holmes said to Cowher, "Congratulations, coach. You just got the best linebacker in the Draft." He may have been correct.

Holmes, 6'2" 242 lbs, gained a reputation as a solid run stopping inside linebacker. He played his first six seasons with the Steelers where he totaled 547 tackles (392 solo), 9.5 sacks, an eye-popping 56 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, four fumbles recovered, 21 pass deflections, and one interception for 36 yards, all in 81 games.


These are two players who may have been good or even great during their careers, but only made a brief stop in Steel Town. Their contributions while in the Black and Gold nonetheless are worth noting:

Kevin Greene - Two-time Pro Bowler (1994, 1995) and one-time All-Pro (1994) while with the Steelers. He sacked the quarterback 35.5 times while a Steeler and was a member of the 1990s All-Decade Team.

Mike Merriweather's was elected to the Pro Bowl in three consecutive seasons (1984-1986) and was 5th in the NFL in 1984 with 15 sacks, a Steelers record that stood until broken by James Harrison in 2008.


These are the two Steelers linebackers who are currently on the cusp of greatness. They could go on to greatness or have average careers and eventually fizzle out. (Kendrell Bell, for instance, was named a starter his rookie season, was AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and then was lost because of having no head for the game and because of injuries. So, early success doesn't mean continued success):

LaMarr Woodley was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round with the 46th overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft.

With two sacks in both the Divisional Round and Conference Championship, Woodley became the first player in NFL history to record three consecutive multi-sack playoff games, dating back to the Steelers' 31-29 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Wild Card Round of the 2008 playoffs. In Super Bowl XLIII, Woodley extended this streak to four games when he sacked Kurt Warner twice, forcing the game-ending fumble on Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner with 5 seconds remaining in the game to secure the win. He had double-digit sacks three consecutive years and had nine sacks in 10 games in an injury-limiting 2011 season. He's been a Pro Bowler and All-Pro once (2009).

Lawrence Timmons could possibly have the greater promise of the two. Despite getting less acclaim than many on the Steelers defense, Timmons led the team in tackles with 135 and also recorded 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions. His numbers dropped last season, but that was largely due to injuries to several players and his being asked to fill voids. He essentially played out of position much of the season.

Timmons career numbers thus far include 384 tackles, 21 passes defended, 17 sacks, eight forced fumbles and four interceptions. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has said that his versatility allows Timmons to be able to put up such numbers, but it also allows LeBeau to use him in many different ways. He considers that a great asset to being able to institute multiple sets and to be able to disguise coverages.

The list you just reminisced over represents nearly 50 years of Steelers linebacking greatness, from Andy Russell to James Farrior. At least one All-Pro in each decade during that time period, several Super Bowl participants and winners, many Pro Bowlers and countless award winners. The Pittsburgh Steelers: Linebacker, Inc.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

And Just Like That, Mike Tolbert Is No Longer A Consideration

Maybe I was right after all. 

I posted not 12 hours ago that Kevin Acee of the Union-Tribune San Diego passed along word that free agent running back Mike Tolbert was drawing interest from the Pittsburgh Steelers. News that came hard upon a report that Tolbert and the Chargers were about to separate after contract negotiations went sour.

Kevin Acee, though, may have been misled regarding the Steelers’ supposed interest in Tolbert.

Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette just posted on his Twitter account, @GerryDulac, that Tolbert hasn't any visit lined, and that no deal is happening. 

Specifically, Dulac said, “Go easy on Mike Tolbert to Steelers talk. No visit. Not happening.”

Bringing in Tolbert might have made sense for the Steelers because of Rashard Mendenhall’s ACL tear against the Cleveland Browns at the end of the season, but obviously the Steelers see things differently.

I blogged a week or so ago about the Steelers running back situation being an unknown commodity. At the same time, though, it could be an embarrassment of riches. Time will tell. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Running Back Mike Tolbert May End Up With The Steelers

I blogged a few days ago that Mike Tolbert, free agent running back with the San Diego Chargers, did an interview where he mentioned the Pittsburgh Steelers as a desired possible destination. I was plain at the time that I didn't expect it to happen.

I may have been wrong.

U-T San Diego columnist Kevin Acee reported via his Twitter account that Mike Tolbert could end up in either Pittsburgh or Carolina.

He posted this to his account: “Mike Tolbert expected to land in Pittsburgh or Carolina ... I'm told this isn't like Malcom Floyd, who returned last yr after deal was dead.”

Later Acee, @UTKevinAcee on Twitter, tweeted: "I think Pittsburgh is the leader for Tolbert, but how perfect would Carolina be? He'd join Turner, Brees, Sproles, Jackson in NFC South.”

It's well known that the Steelers feature running back, Rashard Mendenhall, will start training camp and presumably the season on the PUP list. Mendenhall could be on the shelf anywhere from week 7, once he's off of the PUP list, to as late as week 13 because of how the rules read for such players.

Pittsburgh could be concerned over whether he'll come back as strong and as dynamic of a runner as before. They also could simply be cover themselves for any eventuality.

The Steelers would potentially have gone into training camp with six or seven running backs. If, that is, you include unrestricted free agent Mewelde Moore. Regardless, this is worth watching.

For more from this developing story and Kevin Acee:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hampton Takes A Pay Cut, Wallace Sits Back And Watches Free Agents Contracts

As Brian McIntyre of Mac's Football Blog first reported this morning, Wednesday, March 15th, Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton restructured his contract in order to free salary cap space. -

Only it wasn't a restructure. In actuality Hampton took a pay cut. I'd heard in the past from ones in the know that Hampton is as down to earth as they come and it wouldn't surprise them at all if something like this would happen. They turned out to be prognosticators.

Big Ben, Woodley, Timmons, Colon, and Ike were all actual restructures, meaning they got some salary turned into bonus money. Hampton's was a flat-out $3 million pay cut. And a pay cut makes more sense than restructuring in this case, because the Steelers don't want to guarantee money to an aging, injured veteran in the final year of his deal. Nonetheless, way to take one for the team, Big Snack.

Lance Williams of and @SteelRadio on Twitter posted this spreadsheet to show how it's charted: "Hampton Contract Reduction Breakdown" ~

That being the case, where do the Steelers stand where the salary cap is concerned? Also, how does it affect Mike Wallace and the potential signing of other free agents?

Based on information from Ian Whetstone of and other sources whom I trust, the Steelers Rule of 51 number should be approximately $114.6 million, which includes all of the restricted tenders. The Steelers personal cap number I do believe is about $122.7 million, which includes the approximate amount of $500,000 carried over from the 2011 cap and the $1.6 million in extra money generously provided by the Redskins and Cowboys. (Uncapped Year-Gate?) That puts the Steelers at a round $8 million or so under the cap. Again, that's after the tenders and as of 2200 hrs PST.*

With restructures, releases and one reduction, Omar Khan has slashed a little more than $43 million off of the Steelers salary cap. In five weeks. Essentially the salary cap is Omar Khan's bitch. (Don't tell my mama I said that!)

How does this affect Mike Wallace and his situation? If another team wants to sign Wallace to an offer sheet, the signing period for this ends on April 20th. If, again, another team makes Wallace an offer and he does sign it and Pittsburgh doesn't match, the Steelers receive that team's first-round pick. These are the things we know, and admittedly it was a calculated risk that the Steelers took.

From what we've seen so far, teams picking in the approximate top half of the draft have been unlikely to give up their pick for Wallace. This isn't because he is not worth it, but because, with a rookie salary cap now, they would be trading a modestly-priced draft pick for a high-priced signing. And most teams picking in the second half of the first round don't have the cap room to offer a deal that the Steelers could not match.

In order to take Wallace away from the Steelers, a team would need to have a high cap number this year. The Steelers must match any deal as it is written. So, all it would take is a significantly high cap number and the Steelers wouldn't match it. If a team offered Wallace a deal with a cap number of around $16 million this year, the Steelers would lose its main burner.

It behooves the Steelers to get a long-term deal done. Sooner rather than later is in the Steelers best interest also. To put it plainly, it's less expensive over the long haul, as it's always cheaper to buy than to rent.

How do the recent wide receiver contracts affect Wallace and a deal the Steelers could get done? Let's look at the main ones:

Calvin Johnson - 8 years, $132 million stays with Lions (Doesn't affect Wallace. Let's move on.);
Vincent Jackson - 5 years, $55.555 million to Bucs (Real money: 2 yrs/$26 million);
DeShaun Jackson - 5 years, $51 million stays with Eagles (Real money: $4 million 2012 cap hit: $10 mill to sign along with base of $750,000 and 2012 $250,000 workout bonus.);
Pierre Garçon - 5 years, $42.5 million to Redskins (Real money: 2012 salary cap hit $4.7 million & 2013 cap hit $8.2 million; real guaranteed money just $13.25 million.); and
Brandon Marshall - traded to Bears for some undisclosed draft picks.

Wallace is better than both Garçon and DeShaun Jackson now, and is close to Vincent Jackson. Therefore, Wallace will have to get an offer somewhere in the $52-$54 million range with a good amount of guaranteed money, maybe around $16 million. Then most that would be in the form of a year one signing bonus, which could then be prorated over maybe 5 years, with the rest put into a year two roster bonus.

If none of that happens and he rides the tender of $2.74 million, they could still use the franchise tag next year if it comes to it. The Steelers still are in the drivers seat.

What else does this mean? -

Sorry, that was as close to "Welcome back, Cotchery" as I could come.

*Lance Williams pointed out that in 2012, each club may "borrow" up to $1.5 million in cap room from a future year. Both these amounts would be repaid in future years. This might be attractive to the Steelers to use. They didn't use it last year when it was $3 million as certain ones thought they might, but the money is there if needed. -

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Steelers Sit Calmly at the Eye of the Free Agent Storm

Ed Bouchette, joined the Fan Morning Show on Tuesday to preview the opening of NFL Free Agency. There wasn't much to preview regarding the Steelers specifically as they rarely do more than dip their toes into the free agent pool. This year is no different so far. 

Bouchette said he doesn’t see the Steelers going after free agents this year, unless it is players that other teams wouldn’t want in order to fill depth. With limited cap space, the Steelers will be hurting at tight end during the four-game suspension of Weslye Saunders.

Bouchette, @EdBouchette on Twitter, doesn’t expect another team to sign Mike Wallace away from the Steelers. As this Blog has said more than once, whomever would look to do so would not only be forfeiting a large contract, but they would also sacrifice a first round draft pick. What percentage does Bouchette give Wallace coming back? "I'd guess 80%" Now, where have I heard that before...?

Also as was said within this Blog, teams who may have interest in Wallace probably saw some stock drop considering the second half of his 2011 season was pedestrian at best. Bouchette said that those teams “have video tape of the same second half of the season that we saw.” 

Well said, Ed...


It's well known that the Steelers could use help at inside linebacker. Alabama’s Dont’a Hightower would be an ideal candidate, and Boston College standout Luke Kuechly would be a possibility. 

More depth in the secondary would also be good. Safety is key as we all saw what happened in Denver when Ryan Clark was inactive. As it is, next year could his last year in a Steelers uniform. A possibility as his heir apparent is Trent Robinson. 

Trent Robinson can cover well and mirrors tight ends well. He trusts his footwork and makes good plays because of it. He can turn and run with wideouts and has the speed to stay with them. He has the body control to turn when running with a wideout and make an athletic play on the ball. Robinson is good in run support. He is 5'10" and weighs 195 pounds. He runs a 4.52 in the 40-yard dash at the combine. He also bench pressed 15 reps of 225 pounds, had a 35 inch vertical jump and a 10'5 broad jump. Robinson had 229 tackles, 12 pass break-ups and nine interceptions in 46 career games at free safety at Michigan State.


The Steelers are the Steelers and will probably once again be the team to beat in the AFC by the time the playoffs roll around, especially with the free agent losses suffered by the rest of the AFC North, but they enter the season with far more uncertainty than in the past. One of those is backup quarterback. 

If there is a free agent the Steelers have their eye on, it would be Byron Leftwich. Leftwich can be had for vet minimum to $1.2 million. Then, if Leftwich were to get injured again, there is still a good chance Charlie Batch could be back as well. 

But, if none of that floats your boat, Tomlin and Colbert did have dinner with Michigan St. quarterback Kirk Cousins. 

Cousin measured in at the NFL Combine at 6' 2 1/2" and weighed 214 pounds. He is considered the 5th or 6th best quarterback in the draft this year. He has a quick release and good fundamentals from playing in a pro-style offense in college. 

Could he be a project to be considered as eventual backup to Ben? If he falls to the 5th or even 6th round, it's a possibility.


Source: CBA: (1) Right of First Refusal Only (2) : one year Player Contract with Paragraph 5 Salary of at least $1,200,000 

That being said, the Steelers aren't done making monetary moves. They're salary cap compliant, about $10.5 million under, but they've tendered all the restricted free agents and at least two unrestricted free agents, Jerricho Cotchery and William Gay, have expressed interest in wanting to come back. 

They do have the money for Wallace now, a deal that will be reminiscent of the Marquis Colston and Vincent Jackson deals. I'm still of the mind that no team comes knocking, but the deadline for a team to submit an offer to a RFA is April 20.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Racism Or Just Monkey Business? Radio Host's Comment Begs The Question.

(Disclaimer: This blog will go slightly off the beaten path. This is an incendiary topic that will, therefore, include incendiary language.)

"Look at that little monkey run!"

Many of you may remember ESPN anchor Chris Berman always saying "Look at that little Meggett run!" when referring to Dave Meggett of the New York Giants whenever he'd make a big play. That was a reference to the quote above. The author of that quote was Howard Cosell.

Howard Cosell was an American sports journalist and iconoclast who was widely known for his boisterous, cocksure personality. He rose to prominence covering boxer Muhammad Ali, starting when Ali still fought under his birth name, Cassius Clay. He also was a part of the original and iconic Monday Night Football crew.

His quoted exclamation is once again relevant because of a very egregious error by WDAE-AM Tampa radio host Dan Sileo on Tuesday morning.

During the broadcast, when speaking of three Black players who are free agents that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were looking to sign, Sileo said, "If they get those three monkeys, I'm good. I'm ready, man. I'm ready. I want those guys. Those guys are great players." -

It was those sentences, really that single word, "monkeys", that essentially cost Sileo his job. He left the WDAE sports talk show, assuredly at the behest of his managers. Sponsors would certainly have applied pressure for some such departure. And, in these politically correct days, understandably so.

We live in a day and country where such comments by white, or caucasian, men and women simply can't make such mistakes. If in actuality it can be considered a mistake. I say that because, when taking the entire statement into consideration, he was being complimentary of those players. He said that he wanted them on the team he follows. If some other word had been substituted for monkey then the unemployment rate wouldn't have increased.

--- Aside: I said " and women" because it's an unfortunate reality that there is a double-standard in this country with regard to Black and white issues and what can and cannot be said. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan, among others, have said all kinds of racist and pyroclastic things in the past with virtual impunity. Yet, Jimmy the Greek makes a statement in 1988 regarding the Black athlete being bred to be that way during the times of slavery and he's summarily fired, never to be heard from again. *Sorry, but his statement was basically true. You don't believe so? Like a great man once said, African-Americans make up approximately 12% of the U.S., but about 90% of the NBA. The NFL? It stands for Niggaz Fuckin' Large.* Simple reality ---

It is just one word that makes his statement inflammatory. Is it for good reason? Was his statement a form of closet racism? Or is this an example of allowing political correctness to make people overly sensitive and overly cautious?

In order to answer this, let's focus back on Howard Cosell, what he said, and what repercussions he may have endured?

As was mentioned earlier, Howard Cosell famously covered Muhammad Ali most of his career. The two were friends despite their very different personalities. Cosell was one of the first sportscasters to refer to the champ as Muhammad Ali after he changed his name and supported him when he refused to be inducted into the military.

Cosell also was an outspoken supporter of Olympic sprinters John Carlos and Tommie Smith after the raising of their fists in a "Black Power" salute during their 1968 medal ceremony. Many sports broadcasters avoided social, racial, or other controversial issues, and didn't butt heads with, often even pandered to, the sports figures they covered. Cosell did not.

This is relevant because it helps to shed light on what was said by Cosell on that famous broadcast.

It was 1973 and Howard Cosell was doing the halftime highlights voice-over game recap. Herb Mulkey of the Washington Redskins returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the St. Louis Cardinals on that previous Sunday, and Cosell exclaimed, "Look at that little monkey run!" This wasn't the first time, though.

In 1972 Howard Cosell said, "That little monkey - you know, the theorem was that he was too small for pro football" referring to Kansas City Chiefs running back Mike Adamle after a short run in the fourth quarter of the July 29, 1972 Hall of Fame Game. Mike Adamle was a white man.

Again, in 1982, Cosell called Atlanta Braves second baseman Glenn Hubbard, another white player, a "little monkey" while praising his fielding skills, saying "That little monkey can really pick it."

Lastly, in 1983 Howard Cosell said, "Joe Gibbs wanted that kid, and that little monkey gets loose doesn't he" when referring to Washington Redskins wide receiver Alvin Garrett on Monday Night Football on September 5th in a game against the Dallas Cowboys. -

The Rev. Joseph Lowery, then-president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, denounced Cosell's comment as racist and demanded a public apology. Cosell refused. In his refusal, Cosell cited his past support for Black athletes, many mentioned in this post, and stating that "little monkey" was an affectionate term he had used in the past for diminutive white athletes, also mentioned herein, as well as for his own grandchildren from the time they were able to walk and playfully scramble around.

I cited all of these as reference to his character. Despite the reverend's claims, if he were a racist, would he, as he himself pointed out, use the same allegedly derogatory term toward the white players that he'd used toward the Black players?

If he were racist would the aforementioned Ali so lovingly say this of Cosell, "Howard Cosell was a good man and he lived a good life. I have been interviewed by many people, but I enjoyed interviews with Howard the best. We always put on a good show. I hope to meet him one day in the hereafter. I can hear Howard now saying, 'Muhammad, you're not the man you used to be'. I pray that he is in God's hands. I will miss him."
-- Former heavyweight boxing champion, Muhammad Ali 

Given all of the previous evidence and the character witness provided, in no way can it be said that Cosell was racist. The reverend was out of line and spoke out of turn in this case.

That was then and this is now...

The social climate is simply different now. People are much more umbrageous nowadays and anything close to a racist statement causes an immediate reaction. It can be a precarious situation to handle because of the resultant clamor as well.

I suggested earlier that using another word might lessen and/or change the meaning of what was said. That it could easily have been a slip of the tongue. While that normally is true, in cases such as this, what is said most likely was in the mind previously anyway. Else, how could it have been brought to mind in the first place? A sort of Freudian slip, if you will.

Is that meant to suggest that Sileo is a closet racist? Not necessarily. But, we all often say things in our home or amongst our closest associates that we wouldn't ever say elsewhere. Some slightly above benign or innocuous, and some down right intemperate. But, if these are said regularly, they can slip out at the wrong times. And I quote, "Out of the heart's abundance the mouth speaks."

I won't condemn Sileo for what he said specifically, as I don't particularly have a problem with that word. But I do take issue with the lack of his having common-enough sense to realize what he said. I take offense with his not even realizing what was said until being alerted to it later. And I take offense to having been left with a feeling that somewhere within him lies the capacity to use such a term that probably a majority of Black people in America would construe as, or possibly equate to, "nigger."

Monday, March 12, 2012

Mike Tolbert Talks Free Agency On Sirius XM

Mike Tolbert, the San Diego Chargers running back, was on Sirus XM NFL Radio this morning and spoke of his free agency choices.

When asked by host Adam Schein what he thinks about playing on certain teams with various running game needs, he said, "I think I could fill that void pretty good."

Tolbert discussed the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay, Denver, Kansas City, Atlanta, Miami, Green Bay and the Giants as teams in which he's interested.

Tolbert also said, "But, you know, 4 o’clock tomorrow we’re going to see really how it heats up and what happens. So I’m excited. I’m ready to go.”

This is true, but I doubt "we're going to see" the Steelers put their hat in the free agent ring regarding Tolbert. That's despite feature running back Rashard Mendenhall being on IR and the likelihood of him starting the season on the Reserve PUP list also. Nor will they with Brandon Jacobs, who was released by the Giants, which prompted this interview in the first place.

Mike Tolbert was correct about something, though, 4 p.m. EST Tuesday will see things heated up.