Sunday, April 29, 2012

2012 Draft Shows Tomlin's Influence

The last and final day of the 2012 NFL Draft has come and gone and we all must now go back to the reality of not having actual football. The NFL Draft is to actual football what the Victoria's Secrets Fashion Show is to...well, a Victoria's Secrets model. It's really just a tease.

But we watch anyway, don't we?

That having been said, I personally was nearly glued to my television for over 48 hours. Watching each pick and each analysis thinking about how I would've liked to have seen this guy drafted by my team, or how thankful I am that my team didn't draft that guy. Not to mention watching Mel Kiper's hair not move for three solid days.

What I took pleasure in watching most was, of course, the picks by the Steelers, which this year were all about core strength and explosion. There were calculated picks and moves that addressed the here and now as well as the future.

Like has been said in the past, the Steelers don't rebuild, they reload. Well, there were clips and magazines picked up is the three days of the Draft that will tear much flesh in the years to come. And the man pulling the trigger was Mike Tomlin.

The Steelers head coach seems to have put his fingerprints all over this draft. As a coach, he wants to win now. Wait...not now, right now. And the draft picks this year showed that maybe more than I've seen in his tenure.

The core of a football team is always your offensive and defensive lines. Then you get after the other team's quarterback and after that you look to create splash plays, explosive plays. All of which was addressed during this draft.

Tomlin talks 2012 NFL Draft - 

We've already spoken in the two most recent blogs about the picks from days days one and two, so we won't repeat those discussions, which certainly addressed core needs. Though I do need to mention one thing, I was evidently wrong about Sean Spence possibly eventually moving to strong safety, a la Carnell Lake. I was told he doesn't have quite the quick twitch needed for such a position. He'll be in the Mack for a certainty, but, even within that, more of a hybrid. In some cases you simply make positions available for certain players' talents. Like Butler said, they'll cover him up. Swing and a miss...moving on.

The Steelers first pick of day three was via a trade with the Washington Redskins as they traded up to get Washington nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu. He's a beast. A nasty one at that. Core.

Ta'amu's measurables read like this: 5.30 in the 40; 4.72 20-yard Shuttle; 7.52 3-cone drill; 26-inch vertical jump; 8'7" broad jump; and he bench pressed 225 pounds 35 times.

Ta'amu had 30 tackles and four sacks during his senior year with the Huskies and was an honorable mention All Pac-12 selection. - 

At the press conference following the pick, Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell said that Ta'amu will work to get his weight down, but not so much that he can't play double-teams. Ta'amu has to double-team blockers to keep them of the linebackers.

"He did that very well at Washington", Mitchell said.

Mitchell did say, though, that weight is an issue. He weighed as much as 390 lbs at one point with the Huskies, which is an appropriate nickname now that I think about it. Mitchell says Garrett Giemont, the Steelers strength and conditioning coach, will determine at what weight he needs to play.

Really, Mitchell? Ta'amu looks like a light eater to in, as soon as it get light out, he starts eating. Ta'amu can be a great player and the Steelers future at NT if he learns that the chairs to the training table slide out also. Hey, Ta'amu, put these two words into your vocabulary: "I'm full."

But, all jokes aside (no matter how bad they are), Mitchell did say that weight will be the biggest issue with Ta'amu initially, but that's where Giemont, as well as team nutritionist Lealie Ponci earn their paychecks.. Because, as Mitchell also said, young guys coming out of college don't always have the best nutrition. So, if Casey Hampton is "Big Snack", Ta'amu is "Four-Course Meal."

Speaking of Hampton, when asked about his health, Mitchell said he doesn't know if Hampton will be healthy enough to open the season on 53-man roster or not. "No one knows but Casey."

Ta'amu is a Washington native but says, "I was rooting for the Steelers when the Seahawks went to the Super Bowl." He  just became my favorite lineman.

Meet the Steelers' future starting nose tackle - 


The Steelers 5th round draft pick was running back Chris Rainey out of the University of Florida.

Rainey's measurables and Combine numbers read this way: 5'8.5" 180 lbs.; 4.45 40-yard dash (4.39 at his Pro Day); 2.52 20-yard dash; 3.93 shuttle; 6.53 3-cone drill; 36 1/2 vertical jump; 10'0" broad jump; and benched 225 lbs. 16 times. Explosion.

Add to that the 6.2 yards per carry that he had at Florida and you have a real weapon. Go look at his game film. He's elusive, has great change of direction, has great balance and bounces off of and wiggles out of tackles. YAC! YAC! YAC! Oh, and he also blocked 6 punts. Serious weapon and a steal. -

Rainey may be listed as a running back but he's not a threat to replace Mendenhall. He's very versatile and can be used as a receiver and return man. A point that was made by Todd Haley.

Rainey was very productive just missed joining the Gators' 4,000-yard Club as he gained 3,948 all-purpose yards. Pure explosion.

Todd Haley spoke about Rainey on saturday night and said that he can catch and run as well as return kicks. Rainey, though, didn't have overwhelming numbers as a return man at Florida, as he averaged 25.2 yards per kickoff return but only 9.04 yards per punt return. Still, no more returning punts for Antonio Brown.

Rainey is a situational player on offense, says Haley, but that he is an explosive player and he's excited about Rainey's unique skills.

Todd Haley says the Steelers will use Rainey as a running back and as a wide receiver, and will use his speed to create matchup problems. In other words, don't pencil him into any specific position. Oh, about those six blocked punts I mentioned earlier: "Hopefully I can break that record in the NFL."

I'm not insinuating anything, but running back/halfback/kick returner/punt returner/wide receiver/punt blocker. I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'. - 

As a side note, Rainey a teammate of Maurkice Pouncey's in high school and University of Florida. Two are extremely close. He also lived with the Pounceys for a while and even watched the NFL Draft at the Pouncey family home.

Rainey's older brother is former XFL running back and Philadelphia Eagle Rod Smart, a.k.a. He Hate Me.

Steelers fifth round 


After being reticent in the sixth round because of the trade with the Redskins, the Steelers selected wide receiver Toney Clemons out of Colorado.

Toney Clemons' best "unofficial" 40-yard dash time was at Colorado's Pro Day, a time of 4.36. Steelers wide receivers coach Montgomery said he liked Clemons' size and speed. "I think he was a young man that was hungry for an opportunity." Clemons has big hands as well and really goes up for the ball. High points it well. Splash.

When asked about Clemons, Tomlin said that Clemons is great in blocking, especially for bubble screens. (Yeah, that's right, haters, bubble screens!)

Clemons is cousins with Steve Breaston who played under Todd Haley. Clemons is from Pittsburgh and played in the WPIAL.

Video highlights of Toney Clemons here: 

PG Plus Blog: Ed: WR Clemons Would be a Nice Fit 


With the 33rd pick in the 7th round they selected tight end David Paulson out of Oregon.

Steelers tight end coach James Daniel said of Paulson: "He's a guy that has some talent and has some position flexibility."

Paulson is 6'3 246 lbs. and scored six touchdowns last year. He's played H-Back and is supposedly very intelligent, a great character guy. They say he needs blocking work.

Steelers select David Paulson in seventh round - 


The Steelers used their third seventh round pick on Texas A&M cornerback Terrence Frederick. He played both outside and in the slot in college. Purely a practice squad candidate, especially if Donovan Warren makes it to Camp again this year.


The Steelers made SMU offensive guard Kelvin Beachum with their final pick of the draft. Beachum visited the Steelers facilities in April.

Beachum has position flexibility with guard size and center intelligence, per Colbert. He even supposedly filled in at long snapper at times in college. Whatever helps him make some noise.

Here is some game film of Beachum in an SMU vs. Pitt game -

That wraps up the Steelers 2012 NFL Draft. All things considered, a potentially excellent draft. One that addressed real needs and indicated a new direction for both the offense and defense. So, when the Steelers next hoist the Lombardi Trophy, before he ever gets to touch it, Tomlin's fingerprints will be all over it.


I don't have a stable of writers and I don't sit at a computer 20 hours a day. It's just my lady and I. So, here's a link to and the Steelers complete 2012 NFL Draft and undrafed rookie free agents - 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Steelers Initiate Operation: PROTECT BIG BEN

At the press conference on Thursday for first round draft pick David DeCastro, Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said that drafting an offensive lineman didn't "preclude" drafting another the rest of the Draft or even the next day.

He was true to his word.

Day two of the 2012 NFL Draft saw the Steelers do just that as they took much maligned offensive tackle Mike Adams out of Ohio State. Adams is a Farrell, Pa., native and becomes the second half of the first Steelers back-to-back offensive line draft picks since 1968.

Mike Adams is 6'7" 323 lbs. He does have the requisite long arms you'd expect from a tackle, but he also unfortunately lacks the requisite core strength you'd expect from a tackle, as was evidenced by his 19 reps on the bench at the Combine.

He's a project who will require some work, but he's basically to be looked at as Willie Colon's replacement after the 2012 season.

Offensive line coach Sean Kugler spent a lot of time with Adams and feels comfortable with Adams. Great size and length says Kugler, but not a finished product. He will initially work on the right side, but he can play left tackle.

One reason the Steelers picked Adams and DeCastro consecutively is because they used a league-high 25 different offensive line combinations last season. So, Kugler says that they're adding two quality players.

Operation: Protect Big Ben is in full effect.

I referred to Adams earlier as "much maligned." Adams received a five-game suspension for receiving improper benefits at Ohio State and then also failed a drug test at the Combine. Because of this, many Steelers fans weren't exactly happy with this pick at first. Understandably so.

Not because I believe Marijuana is so evil and he has to be considered a bad risk. No, it isn't that at all. My own personal feelings or beliefs about marijuana won't enter into this. My issue is purely about stupidity. How do you fail a drug test *coughallegedlycough* at the NFL Combine when YOU KNOW THE TEST IS COMING? That really smacks at intelligence and raises a flag for me.

Given the only slightly-better-than-average second round selections during the Colbert era, bringing in someone whose past isn't exactly that of Heathcliff Huxtable is peculiar if not questionable.

Aside from that, I have no issues. I just want his play to be smokin'. I want him to burn up the field every Sunday. Light 'em up, Mike! If he needs help remembering plays, just tell him to think of the rotation. But instead of puff, puff, pass it's run, run, pass. Just make sure that if he sees some sticky, icky green with some purple mixed in, tell him it only means we're playing the Ravens.

Seriously, though, as long as he truly wants to get serious about his career and be a part of a great offensive line and of a great team, I'm willing to give him the second chance that Colbert and Tomlin have.

His being serious seems to be the case. Adams said the Steelers were only team he reached out to after learning of his positive drug test from the NFL Combine. Adams is a lifelong Steelers fan and wants nothing more than to be a part of this organization.

"I knew I screwed up, I [met] with them to show my remorse and let them know I love that organization and would do anything to be part of it", Adams said.

That's commendable, but Colbert made it clear in the press conference that the verdict is still out. The fact that Colbert addressed a second-round pick to the media in the first place shows that there is obviously still some concern with Mike Adams' background.

In the presser, Colbert said Adams sought them out for a face-to-face meeting. Colbert says that he told Adams he was off their board, but Adams was insistent and has since complied with stipulations set forth by the Steelers.

Colbert emphasized that there's a day-to-day working relationship with Adams and that they are comfortable with it. "We're comfortable in taking the risk...because he was forthcoming....Young people make mistakes." ~ Second Round Press Conference Transcript
Mike Adams Bio

Sounds basically like Tomlin and Colbert are cutting Adams a break. There is a lot of potential with this kid, after all. And the offensive line in the last few years hasn't exactly made ones think of the signature bruising lines of the past. Besides, it wouldn't be the first time the Steelers have taken a chance with a "troubled" athlete. Ernie Holmes, Najeh Davenport and some guy named Ben are a few who come to mind. So, let's hope he's worth the second chance.


The third pick in the Steelers 2012 draft was mostly outside linebacker, sometimes middle linebacker, possible future strong safety Sean Spence out of Miami (Fl).

Spence's Combine numbers and measurables were: 5'11 3/8" 231 lbs; 4.66 in the 40-yard dash; 1.55 10-yard dash; 2.57 20-yard dash; 4.28 20-yard shuttle; and 7.08 in the three-cone drill. Put those together with leading his team with 106 tackles (54 solo), having 3 sacks for negative 23 yards and a team-high 14 tackles for losses of 39 yards and you have one tough and quick tackling machine.

Spence started 39 at weak-side outside linebacker, but did play some inside. Inside is where he'll be with the Steelers also. The Mack position is where he'll be seen, along with mainly playing special teams.

Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler said Spence is a Mack linebacker for sure and will play special teams and provide depth behind Lawrence Timmons. Butler told Spence at the Combine that no rookies comes in for the Steelers and starts at linebacker. ~

Spence, though, has actually been referred to as a "classic" Mack 3-4 linebacker prospect. Miami linebackers coach Michael Barrow even went so far as to say of him, "Not only is he Peyton Manning-smart, but he also has the instincts to match."

We'll leave that to be determined. He's now with the Steelers, aka "Linebacker, Inc." We know linebackers.

That being said, the way Sean Spence flies around the field, one isn't hard pressed to think of another Steelers player, just not a linebacker. ~

I'm somewhat concerned that Colbert went this route before getting a true inside linebacker. Does it make sense that Spence would back up Timmons? A third round pick to be a backup? He's years away from starting and Stevenson Sylvester would be the actual backup if Timmons were to go down to injury.

In my humble opinion we have three Mack inside linebackers with this draft pick. Is something else in the works? There were after all A LOT of Steelers' representatives at Miami's pro day. I think even the water boy was there to watch some foosball. Might they see another position for Spence in the future? It's at least something to ponder as we prepare for the third and final day of the NFL Draft and upcoming season.

Speaking of the other linebackers, Butler said in the press conference that not having OTAs last year hurt Jason Worilds and Stevenson Sylvester. Worilds might get a shot at inside linebacker, he said, but right now he will play principally at his position at outside linebacker.

Larry Foote will be the starter at the Buck and Sylvester will back him up, per Butler, who also says that Sly has to convince him that he can start for them. Considering Sly has seen fewer than 75 career snaps, he has a lot to prove indeed.

Sean Spence Bio

Steelers select LB Sean Spence in third round

Friday, April 27, 2012

Steelers Get Gift As DeCastro Falls In First Round

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: As a result of the Steelers' pick of offensive guard David DeCastro, Heinz Field will now be serving up pancakes on game days!

Pancake blocks, that is.

The NFL so dominates the American sports consciousness that even it's ancillary events get national attention. That was on full display Thursday, April 26th as the NFL held the 2012 version of its annual draft. A draft that saw the Pittsburgh Steelers, like an early Christmas gift, have DeCastro fall to them.

If the second round follows suit, I'd like to put in a request for Amini Silatolu or Mychal Kendricks to fall as well...and season tickets. Just sayin'...

I'm not sure whether or not the Steelers are still smiling like the cat who stole the canary over DeCastro falling to them, but they must be ecstatic.

There's no specific reason as to why DeCastro fell the way he did, but the Steelers won't argue. Just like they didn't in 1987 or in 2004. But maybe the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's own Mark Kaboly said it best when he said, "The Steelers didn't pick DeCastro. The 23 teams ahead of them picked DeCastro for the Steelers."

Either way, they'll take it.

Decastro, who is 6'5" 315 lbs with 32 3/8" arms, is an extremely polished guard who started for three straight years at Stanford. He finished his collegiate career with 316 knockdowns and 68 touchdown-resulting blocks. He's NFL-ready, has surgeon-like technique, gets to the second and third levels very well and will likely be serving up pancake blocks for years to come.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said that DeCastro was one of the seven to ten prospects that the Steelers had identified as "surefire" NFL players before the draft, because he “has no holes” in his game. He also said DeCastro was a player that the Steelers had identified as one they would trade up for.

Thankfully, it never came to that.

DeCastro can pull too. Which means keep on running the counter draw to his opposite side like they did with Kemoeatu.

Colbert said on another occasion that taking DeCastro doesn't "preclude" the Steelers picking another offensive lineman the rest of the draft (like Amini Silatolu maybe).

As a point of amusement, DeCastro, a Washington native, grew up rooting for the Seahawks and cheered for them in Super Bowl XL.

"I wasn't the biggest Steelers fan growing up. You beat us in Super Bowl XL. Now I am the biggest Steelers fan there is."

All is forgiven, David.

With all that has been written about him already, there's no reason to rehash what has been repeatedly said. So, here's some reading and viewing pleasure for you. Hopefully it'll to hold you over until the 2nd and 3rd rounds:

PG Plus Blog: Ed: Steelers Were Willing to Trade to Get DeCastro 

David DeCastro Highlight Reel 

David DeCastro Bio

Steelers Video: Steelers pick David DeCastro No. 24 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Pittsburgh Steelers - Like A Rock

"The discreet man [builds] his house upon the rock-mass. And the rain poured down and the floods came and the winds blew and lashed against that house, but it did not cave in, for it had been founded upon the rock-mass. - Matthew 7:24, 25

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a reputation and long tradition for being steady and consistent in the NFL Draft and free agency. They show discretion by rarely reaching or gambling in either, but more often than not they find their reach to be true and their grip to be firm.

Steady, sound, a rock.

With the 2012 version of the draft starting this Thursday, that rock-like approach will surely be on display once again. As a part of the week's events, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin held a pre-draft press conference on Monday to discuss their thoughts and concerns...and possibly to allay others.

To wit - Mike Tomlin said, "We are not worried about the reports about Mike Wallace, we will see how it plays out." Kevin Colbert also said, "Our intention has always been to sign Mike to a long term contract." The Mike Wallace situation, though, will not affect what they do in the draft. (Because we obviously can't go a week or a blog without mentioning Mike Wallace. Now that that's done...)

Colbert started off the presser by saying that they were about 98% done with their prep. The board, Colbert said, is about set. The last minute character and medical checks are currently being done. Colbert said they will draft from about 150 players and that most of the depth is at wide receiver and cornerback. Whereas the least amount of depth is at fullback, safety, center and tight end.

There has been speculation over the last month as to whether or not they will trade up or down depending on whether the players or players whom they're keying in on is available or not. Or whether they find enough value to stand pat in the first place. Colbert essentially answered that when he said, "As always, we will make all our calls and find out what teams want to move up and down accordingly in the draft"

Colbert admitted that there are a few "surefire" first-rounders. After those players, teams will be taking more of a flyer than in past years.

"You get beyond the first seven or 10 guys [and] everyone's going to be picking and hoping. We'll be one of those teams. I guess there's less easy picks this year than in a lot of recent years. Quite honestly there's not a lot of players in this draft that can come in and be immediate impact guys for us."

Acknowledging that is basically stating that they aren't expecting much this year out of top pick. At that point, Dontari Poe or Dont'a Hightower seem logical picks for the Steelers. If they are there, that is.

Since the overwhelming choice by Steelers fans is Hightower, we'll use him in the scenario. If the Steelers take Hightower, linebackers coach Keith Butler would be able to groom him for a year behind Larry Foote and then have him take over at the buck linebacker position.

Hightower brings leadership and size and seems to have recovered from the knee injury and resultant surgery that cut short his sophomore campaign.

Some, though, question that size saying that he's too big and that it affects his open-field tackling ability. To that I say two words: Levon Kirkland.

The Steelers are simply rock solid. Time and again they make solid if not spectacular choices in their draft and free agency selections, of which Kirkland is an example.

Sure, mistakes have been made. But for every Daniel Sepulveda (traded up to get him in the fourth round) there's a Willie Parker and a Donnie Shell (undrafted free agents).

This may best sum up the Steelers draft success, especially under Colbert: "Need is not a good word. It's want. We want players, we don't necessarily need."

They truly have built their house on that rock-mass. Neither the winds of change nor the torrents of free agency have collapsed it. The most consistent and successful franchise in the Super Bowl era...and they're ready to continue that success this week.

Like a rock.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Throw Away The Throwbacks; Steelers Release 2012-2013 Schedule

Why do I feel that Morgan Freeman should be narrating the two Steelers throwback uniform games?

On Tuesday the Steelers released the 2012-2013 80th season throwback uniforms that will be worn for two games this year. To just cut to the chase, they're hideous. They're throwbacks a time when people actually broke rocks in a chain gang.

There had been much speculation that the commemorative throwbacks would be the 1966-67 "Batman" uniform, but instead this year's throwbacks are from the 1934 Pirates...and look like the garb of someone Batman would be throwing into jail. In fact, whomever decided to bring these back should be put in Arkham Asylum.

They have horizontal stripes. Horizontal! They are going to make Trai Essex look fat again. John Belushi in his Saturday Night Live Bee suit looked more svelte than anyone will in these uniforms.

Seriously, though, the uniforms are being roundly lambasted. I've yet to come across anyone who likes them. In fact many are against using the throwbacks at all. Though I was somewhat behind the black and mustard yellow throwbacks, I'm one who believes they may have run their course overall.

Will this be a continued look? Will we see these throwback uniforms in years to come? The NFL doesn't seem to be slowing down with the throwback theme, so we may as well get used to them.

"I wish I could tell you that [Ben] fought the good fight...I wish I could tell you that - but [the NFL] is no fairy-tale world..."


The Steelers 2012-2013 schedule was released Tuesday and they'll be facing Tebow and the Broncos again. Just on separate weeks this time.

Four of the first six games of the season will be on the road, including September 9th against the Peyton Manning led Broncos. (Gotta get used to that.) The next game is home against the Jets and Tim Tebow, with the final game before the early-once-again bye being at Oakland. So much for an easy early schedule.

The Steelers have five prime time games next season, but the only Monday night game is Nov. 12 against the visiting Chiefs.

The Steelers first divisional game isn't until week seven at the Bengals, but then play the hated Ravens twice in 15 days. Leave the women and children at home...

The Steelers 2012-2013 schedule goes as follows: at Broncos, JETS, at Raiders, Bye, EAGLES, at Titans, at Bengals, REDSKINS, at Giants, CHIEFS, RAVENS, at Browns, at Ravens, CHARGERS, at Cowboys, BENGALS, & BROWNS.

As a point of interest, the Steelers will be home to the Bengals for the 40th anniversary of Immaculate Reception on December 23rd. Too bad it couldn't have been the Raiders.

Sometime after the OTAs, this blog will do a breakdown of the season schedule and what we could expect for the upcoming season. In the meantime, here is an early ESPN schedule analysis:

Friday, April 13, 2012

Ziggy Hood: Is It All Good In The Hood?

We know more about sports than ever before. We have analysts who break down camera angles that capture every aspect of a player's performance. We have so much access anymore to games, game film and mindless stats that we can become much more educated than ever before. Average fans, even ones who never played a single down at any level are infinitely more knowledgeable than the average fan just 25 years ago.

Yet, with all that we have at our disposal, we still can't effectively measure a player's frangibility, will, determination or heart. And because of that a 6'3" 235 lb. linebacker built like he was forged out of stone and who can run a 4.5 40 yard dash can be outplayed by one who is 6'4" 250 lbs, is built like he eats at Coldstone creamery and runs a 4.98 in the 40.

That being said, something has become somewhat evident and should be brought into the light: it's time for Ziggy Hood to prove that he is the future at left defensive end or the Steelers need to consider moving on.

Bold statement, I know. But hear me out.

Evander "Ziggy" Hood was drafted by the Steelers in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft out of Missouri. He was drafted to be groomed as Aaron Smith's replacement and ended up having to do so sooner than expected as injuries marred the end of Smith's career.

But, to this point, Ziggy has only been the successor to Smith, not truly his replacement.

Smith was a rock at left defensive end for the Steelers for the better part of 12 years. He was the immovable object who thwarted opponents' supposed irresistible forces at running back, accumulating 453 tackles. He even rushed the quarterback on occasion, garnering 44 over his career. For his efforts Smith was named to Sports Illustrated's 2000s All-Decade Team.

Typically, though, the defensive end in a 3-4 scheme isn't going to have gaudy stats as generally it's his job to clear a path for the linebackers. Numbers nonetheless are a gauge. That said, if you go by the numbers, Ziggy's 31 tackles last year to go along with 1.5 sacks in his 14 starts, would seem to be on par with Smith's average numbers.

Both players were college standouts as well, with Smith being Northern Colorado's all-time sacks leader and Ziggy, despite constant double-team coverage, collected 10 sacks, 15 stops behind the line of scrimmage and 16 quarterback pressures his last two seasons. -

Ziggy played different positions along the line in college, but was mainly at end in Missouri's 4-3 scheme. The Steelers thought Ziggy could play two-gap at the NFL level, but they may have been wrong. Ziggy actually seems best suited as a 2- or 3-technique, one-gap player.

For those unfamiliar with those terms, the "gaps" are the spaces in between the center and guards, guards and tackle(s) and finally tackle(s) and tight end. The A, B, C and potentially D gaps. What "technique" boils down to is the physical location where the players line up before the snap in relation to an opposing player. The most basic technique is 0- technique where the nose tackle lines up directly across from the center. In the 1- technique, the player is lined up over the center’s outside shoulder and in the 2- technique, over the guard’s inside shoulder and so on and so forth. I’m just keeping it basic, folks.

Now, in his defense, Ziggy does that well. The problem is that having a 3-4 defensive end who is only one-gap, 2- or 3-technique sound puts excess pressure on your outside linebackers.

As opposed to in that of the 4-3 defense, the outside linebacker in the 3-4 is used more in rushing the quarterback and, because of more gap control responsibilities, there are typically fewer stunts run out of the 3-4. So, much of the onus is on the outside linebacker.

Still, the outside linebacker is going to benefit from a defensive end who is able to occupy the blockers.

It isn't as if Ziggy can't improve, of course, in fact he has shown signs of improvement, but some things he can't truly change. Like his build.

Aaron Smith and even Brett Keisel are both built similarly, solid cores with long arms, whereas Ziggy is comparatively larger chested with shorter arms. He's also heavier, reportedly having reached 310 rock-hard pounds, than the aforementioned Smith (298 lbs) and Keisel (285 lbs). It's pure speculation, of course, that his build (wingspan) and mass & density affect his agility and overall, but it may be something worth tracking.

Considering his size and significant strength, the theory of him playing full-time at nose tackle has been brought up by many. I even tossed the idea around at one time. Let me address that here and now: Ziggy has no shot as nose tackle.

For emergencies and possibly specific sub-packages, maybe he could play the nose tackle position. It would only, though, be in those situations, not for an entire season. Ziggy did take snaps at that NT last season, but he'd be out of his comfort zone with such a complete position shift.

Ziggy did handle the double teams when he lined up at defensive end last year -- he can definitely stuff the run. What's disconcerting is that he brings little to the table as an interior rusher on passing downs. Improvements are being made, but they're slow-moving.

In brief, this article started off speaking of analysis of players and often how their seemingly minute aberrations can translate into big differences in quality on the field.

Then the comparison was made between Ziggy and Aaron Smith. Is the juxtaposition unfair? Maybe. Is Ziggy as good as Smith? No.

Unfair or not, Smith is the benchmark. He is the standard by which whomever was to succeed him would be measured. And as Ziggy has heard many times before, "the standard is the standard."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mike Wallace Won't Sign Tender, Will Sit Out...And Pout

What an offseason...

Steelers have lost five veteran leaders this spring to retirement, release or greener pastures in Hines Ward, James Farrior, Aaron Smith, William Gay and Chris Hoke. Now they are also facing something that maybe should have been expected: Mike Wallace is threatening a "holdout".

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the free agent waters...

Oh, and there's a new offensive coordinator (replacing someone else who "retired") to boot. Welcome aboard Todd Haley and good luck - you're gonna need it. Seriously, getting an easy early schedule was never more important than this year.

Honestly, I swear I blogged about this before, 30+ days ago, but I need to say it again: Mike Wallace will be the number one wide receiver come opening day. Period.

There’s no sign that another team is going to offer Mike Wallace a contract before the deadline. In fact, though the deadline is April 20th, if nothing is offered by the 14th, there WILL BE NO OFFER.

Unfortunately, that isn’t moving Wallace any closer to signing his tender from the Steelers, either.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reported on NFL Live Wednesday that Wallace has no plans to sign his tender, which would pay him $2.74 million, and will sit out the team’s offseason training activities (OTAs) if he doesn’t get a new deal. He reported that the Steelers and Wallace's representatives have had a hard time coming to an equal footing on a new contract.

There's one problem with this: Wallace needs this year to become an unrestricted free agent after next season. So, again, he will play!

What are Wallace's options (assuming the two sides can't hammer out a long-term deal)? To sit out and pout throughout OTAs and then tuck tail as he goes into camp to sign the tender. That's it. That's the list. So, whoever is giving him this bad advice *coughBusCookcough* needs to stop it.

Let me reiterate: there is NO chance Wallace sits out the season.

Like I've said before, he's a divo wide receiver who wants to be paid. He won't be paid sitting out. Like David Todd said on Twitter, "@hammerspeaks: He may think he's worth a lot more than $2.74M, but he ain't walkin away from it." Real talk!

Ken Laird, Steelers beat writer, pointed out that he only needs six games accrued this season to become an unrestricted free agent.

Yeah...the Rooneys would love that: come back just in time for the playoffs like everything is honky dorey? Uh-huh...ok.

As I've said before, back away from the ledge, Wallace WILL play this year. After that...Wes Lyons is 6'8", right?

Steelers Enter Free Agency, Sign Cotchery And Pope

The Steelers are known for not diving too deeply into the free agency pool. Often they simply dip their toes in the shallow end to test the waters to see if they want to swim or not. Aside from the cannonball in the form of Jerome Bettis, their moves have been calculated and generally close to the vest.

This year has been no different.

Manish Mehta tweeted today, Wednesday, that Steelers own free agent was the splash being made: "@TheJetsStream: WR Jerricho Cotchery has agreed to a two-year deal with the Steelers, per source. #nyj"

David Todd of speculated that the contract could be around $3 million. That would make sense: approximate $1 million signing bonus and structure the deal so that the second year salary cap hit is minimal; therefore most of the money is received in the first year.

This signing is also very key to the Steelers wide receiver corps on the whole. The young Steelers receivers can only benefit from his veteran presence. This blog has even referred to Cotchery in the past as "a younger & faster Hines Ward" and that the Steelers absolutely needed to re-sign him.

The veteran wide receiver essentially slid into Hines Ward’s role toward the end of last year. Cotchery is now back to fill that role again. Hopefully, also, to build an even better rapport with Big Ben.

Cotchery only caught 16 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns in 13 games, but that was because he was hampered a good portion of the early part of the season because of a hamstring injury.

The Cotchery signing is also important because of his red zone prowess. Of the 20 touchdowns he's scored in his NFL career, 11 have come inside the 20-yard line.

I know he doesn't have any Sweat Hogs, but...

Only other splashing sound you may hear would be a jack knife off the diving board in the form of a long-term deal to keep Mike Wallace from swimming away.


Speaking of the red zone...

Tuesday the Steelers signed tight end Leonard Pope. Pope was a draft pivk of the Arizona Cardinals in 2006. He is 6'8" 264 lbs and is a big target in the red zone.

Pope has been with Steelers new offensive coordinator Todd Haley both in Arizona and in Kansas City, so it isn't a huge surprise. The Steelers certainly had a need for another pass catching tight end, especially with Weslye Saunders gone for the first four games of next season. The timing was a bit surprising, but not the signing itself. We could be looking at Todd Haley's first finger prints on the organization as I'm sure he had a say in it.

Does this spell the end for Saunders or David "DJ" Johnson? No, not Saunders. He has too much talent. I'm not sure how/if DJ fits, though, because of two things: the offense Haley will run isn't yet known, and the Steelers have practice squad players and offseason signings Jamie McCoy and Will Johnson nipping at DJ's ankles as well.

Will this amount to a good tight end signing, one who'll contribute to the team? Or is Pope another John Gilmore or Kevan Barlow? Time will tell.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Is It Time To Draft Ben Roethlisberger's Replacement?

"Sure, absolutely we would [draft a quarterback]. We aren't going to take a quarterback in the first round, but beyond that I would never close the door."

Those words were spoken by Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert at the NFL Annual Meetings back on March 26, 2012 regarding whether or not it's time to look at drafting a viable backup. That may now be in the process of being answered.

On Tuesday, April 3rd, Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that new Colts and former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians wants the team to sign unrestricted free agent Byron Leftwich as a backup quarterback. Obviously the thought being that he knows Arians offense and could also tutor Andrew Luck.

Leftwich, an unrestricted free agent, spent three years together with Arians as player and assistant coach. He has yet to be offered a contract by the Steelers, though they have expressed interest in keeping him around as Ben Roethlisberger’s backup. ~

If the Colts were to be able to entice Leftwich away, that would create a major gap at quarterback behind Big Ben. Then those words spoken by Colbert that opened this article would carry even more weight.

Just as weighty and interesting would be the words spoken by Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. Asked about whether drafting a quarterback this year would be too soon or not, Tomlin said: "We're interested in acquiring a young quarterback in some form or fashion. I think that's why we signed the guys we're working with in the offseason coming up here in a few weeks in  Jerrod Johnson and Troy Smith. But we could add to that via the draft or free agency."

Tomlin continued, "We're going through that right now from a preparation standpoint. And that's something that we look to do, in terms of globally or long-term."

In other words, organizationally the Steelers realize that they need to be prepared. I'm not a doomsayer, just considering possibilities. Because, simply put, no one can predict the future. So, just in case Roethlisberger goes down and isn't able to be John Wayne, but instead is a "dead Indian in [a] cowboy movie", the Steelers need to be prepared.

As part of that preparation, Tomlin spoke of two players signed to Futures contracts: Jerrod Johnson, signed 1/13/2012, and Troy Smith, signed 1/20/2012.

Neither is exactly going to make people clamor for being put in a game. Usually the most popular player on the team is the backup quarterback. Not in this case.

Johnson, a former Texas A&M Aggie, will be nothing more than a Training Camp body and Troy Smith...well, he had a good career at Ohio St. At 6'0" 218 lbs., he's not built for the NFL at quarterback. While there are NFL quarterbacks who are his approximate weight, he's too short to play behind offensive linemen who are all taller than he is. He was the pride of UFL's Omaha Nighthawks last year for a reason.

The other quarterback we currently know about is beloved veteran, and AARP card holder, Charlie Batch. Batch's particulars don't need to be rehashed anymore. We know what he brings to the table. What he's done when filling in for Big Ben the last two years says enough. He's a coach in the locker room, on the sidelines and, when he does get into games, on the field. But he can't be expected to come in and take the reins long-term if Big Ben were to be gone for an extended portion of the season. (For more on Batch, go to the blog post, "Charlie: The Best Of The Batch")

So, that means that looking for that viable backup, unless I'm forgetting a feasible free agent QB, might just mean looking to the draft.

One name I've heard suggested is University of Houston product Case Keenum.

Case Keenum is by definition a system quarterback. He's undersized, lacks an NFL-size arm and plays mainly out of the shotgun. Yet, he is accurate and does have instincts enough to keep his eyes downfield while under duress. In fact, Keenum is actually very poised in the pocket. He has the feet to buy time and puts a nice touch on his throws when he’s off balance.

It's feast or famine with Keenum: what allows him to make big plays can also lead him to make remarkably dumb decisions. Sound familiar?

Keenum may have the skill set, but just doesn’t have the size to handle the poundings he'd take in NFL, and especially the AFC North.

Another possible draft consideration might just be someone suggested by Vincenzo Landino of - Brandon Weeden.

I disregarded the notion at first, but relented as I gave it more thought. Weeden is NFL-sized, has a big arm and is tough. He would work well in the short-term as well as the long-term should something go awry.

Weeden positively sticks throws into tight windows, throws to the spot instead of the receiver on slants and shows necessary touch on fade routes. He's a tough player too: he played most of the 2010 season with a ruptured tendon in the thumb on his throwing hand. Described as a leader on the field and in the locker room as well.

Naturally, there are negatives too. Weeden is already 28 years old, can have a problem with recognizing the blitz, has the tendency to force throws and has a history of injuries. For a certainty this will be noted by scouts. He certainly has the arm strength, size and requisite intangibles teams look for, but I wouldn't be surprised if he dropped to the bottom half of the draft because of those aforementioned negatives.

If he does, might the Steelers take a chance on him? Kevin Colbert has already answered that question: "If that happens at any position you have to be prepared to deal with it."

So, maybe Vincenzo Landino was on to something. He did make a good point when he said: "You can't say never. We do need a solid backup, though, so that we don't have to change the whole offense if Ben gets hurt.”

Whether he "tweaks" his game to a significant degree or not, Ben could of course fall victim to injury. So, it's a good thing Colbert isn't closing that door, we may need it open as early as this April 28th.


For more of Vincenzo's ideas, articles and great research, follow his Steelers website,, or follow him on his Twitter account, @vincenzolandino.