Monday, July 30, 2012

Training Camp Practices Heat Up - Football Is Back

I love the smell of steel in the morning. Smells like...victory. 

The intensity is picking up in Latrobe. There had already been a minor scuffle with Willie Colon on Saturday, a good sign as far as I'm concerned. A little fire never hurt. Colon started a tussle as he blocked Timmons up the field. When asked what Colon was upset about, head coach Mike Tomlin responded, "Life."

All-in-all, Tomlin didn't seem to mind either. "I like the energy and enthusaism. We'll continue to clean up some of the professionalism...that's all part of it."

Well, that fire was stoked Sunday and the energy and enthusiasm picked up as Kelvin Beachum and Cameron Heyward got into a scuffle. Supposedly, it was fairly tame, but it's exciting and encouraging nonetheless. Football is back!

Before I go any further, I have to give a thankful shout out to Steelers beat reporters and other Steelers media members Ed Bouchette, Ken Laird, Mark Kaboly, Bob Labriola, David Todd (@hammerspeaks) Chris Adamski (@BuzzsawPGH) and Chuck Finder (@CBSSportsNFLPIT) for being on top of the goings on in Camp. They keep us bloggers happy!

Getting back to the hits, collisions and fights... Timmons apparently blasted Johnson at fullback and then blew up the play. Corbin Bryant also destroyed DeCastro on a play-welcome to the NFL, David. David Todd remarked that "Woodley [is] an absolute beast. Just dominated DJ 3 times in a row. So strong & quick." Though I love reading that, it is David Johnson after all. Even so, it may be a good sign for Woodley. 

Even former Steeler nose tackle Chris Hoke recognized the heightened levels of intensity as he indicated somewhat ebulliently on his Twitter page: “@hokiebro76: First time I watched backs on backers one on one drill... Great collisions!! Redman looked good and so did Sly Stevenson (Stevenson Sylvester)!” 

He wasn't the only one to recognize Redman. Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review said that Redzone is taking leadership role seriously. He said that Redman makes Chris Rainey do a drill over again if he sees that Rainey's just going through the motions. 

One player who really impressed was Chris Carter. His name was mentioned a lot and he even got "huge props from Tomlin & defense for huge hit," according to David Todd. 

He later said of him that he was the "most impressive player from what I saw today. Impossible to see everything." As I pointed out in a previous blog, he has to step up this year and prove his worth. With Jason Worilds out for two to four weeks recovering from his wrist surgery, he'll have his chance early. After Sunday's showing, as well as bulking up to approximately 246 pounds in the offseason, he seems to be taking that chance seriously. 

Bob Labriola also chimed in with his own assessment saying, "TEs vs LBs: looking good were LBs Chris Carter and rookie Adrian Robinson; Woodley dominated; TE Jamie McCoy held his own for the offense."

I know it's only the third day of Training Camp, but it's been six months without football. I have the right to be excited. 


TIDBITS: Emmanuel Sanders didn't practice Sunday. Mike Tomlin said it was precautionary. The workout was on a turf field due to heavy rains recently. He's fine.

With Heath Miller out with an ankle injury, Wes Saunders was "by far best TE in the live TE-LB drill," per both Kaboly and Alan Robinson (@arobinson_Trib). 

Kaboly pointed out that Jonathan Dwyer "looks good" when asked about his conditioning. 

Cornerback Keenan Lewis was out with a right shoulder injury, "an AC-joint sprain during Sunday's practice. No specific prognosis yet, but he could miss some days," per Bob Labriola. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Steelers' Chris Rainey: Speed Kills

With all the thunderstorms the Pittsburgh and Latrobe areas have been getting lately, another loud "boom" wouldn't seem to be welcomed. This wasn't loud thunder, though. It was the sonic boom created by Chris Rainey's sound barrier-breaking speed. 

Rainey, the running back/return man/slot receiver out of Florida, is flat-out fast! As was put by ESPN's David Todd on his personal Twitter account: "@hammerspeaks: Rainey takes a handoff and buzzes around right end. Lots of "Whoas"." Fast. 

Rainey is so fast that he was disappointed at being clocked at 4.37 in the 40-yard dash at the 2012 NFL Combine.-

You see, his personal best in the 40 is rumored to be 4.24. At the University of Florida's training facility, they have their own Combine-like drills and competitions. His best official time there was the time stated above. Not only that, but he believes he can do even better than that. Rainey’s goal before the Combine? A sub-4.2 in the 40. 

As has been well publicized by now, Rainey had a connection to the Steelers before he was ever drafted. Rainey and Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey know each other very well, as Rainey lived with Maurkice and his twin brother Mike, who plays center for the Miami Dolphins, during high school. They all moved to Gainesville and played together at Florida. Now, Rainey is on his "dream team."

“I always watch [the NFL Draft] with [Maurkice],” Rainey said in the post-Draft teleconference with Pittsburgh reporters. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. This is my dream team.…They are Super Bowl contenders, they win games, and they are good in every phase of the game, special teams, defense, offense, everything.”

Rainey said he can play running back, slot and special teams. “Wherever they want me, because I’m a playmaker all around.” His speed and quickness led him to 2,464 rushing yards with a 6.22 average and 13 touchdowns, and caught 69 passes for 795 yards and six touchdowns in college.

The only drawback the "Ferrari" has is his smallish size. He's listed at 5'8" and ain't a bit more than 180 pounds soakin' wet and carryin' a brick. His being undersized shows when he tries to pass protect too.

Mike Tomlin pulls him out of the pass protection drills. "I'm not gonna pull my boat with a Ferrari, you know what I mean?" Tomlin recognizes that Rainey would need to cut block in those situations, but it isn't allowed in practice and Tomlin naturally wouldn't want him doing that to teammate anyway.

There will be a lot that Chris Rainey will be able to do on the field. His skills are undeniable and bring to mind the abilities of such players as Lionel "Little Train" James and Darren Sproles. He's lightning quick and has scary speed. And you know that old saying about speed (may Winston Churchill forgive me): Speed kills. Absolute speed kills absolutely. 

Steelers Confirm Wallace Won't Be Traded; LaMarr Woodley Talks Defense

It seems Mike Wallace has even less leverage than he had before...if that's possible.

"Mike Wallace is not available for trade", Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert told ESPN's Ed Werder. 

If It Ain't Steel never thought so anyway. Neither proposed it as a possibility nor insinuated as much in an article. We are aware, though, that there were rumblings along those lines. Disgruntled Steelers fans had suggested it enough, but there was even such a suggestion by another Ed. 

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette posted the article "Trading Wallace Best For Both Sides" in which he suggested a scenario in which it could be accomplished. He wrote: "The Steelers give another team or teams permission to talk to Wallace to try to work out a deal. If they do, Wallace would sign his one-year tender with the Steelers, who then trade him to the other team." 

Interesting. Intriguing. Impossible. 

Not a chance it happens. Not just because of what Colbert said, but because, even as Bouchette would say later in the article, it sets a bad precedent. A move like that is all that would be needed for other players to refer to Wallace's situation and pout and hold their breath until they got what they wanted. It's a bad move and a potential distraction. 

Another reason it won't happen is because no team is going to pay the necessary money and fork over the draft choice. Steelers can win as they are right now. Wallace is a luxury, not a need, and they will wait for him to report. 

When will that be? Wallace has until 4 p.m. EST on November 13th to sign his tender or he will not be permitted to play in the NFL this year and would still be a restricted free agent next year. 

Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Friday wrote that Wallace’s asking price is in line with the five-year, $55,555,555 contract signed by Tampa Bay receiver Vincent Jackson. Jackson’s deal basically breaks down to $26 million guaranteed over the first two years. The Steelers would be looking more in the $8 million per year range. 

My guess is that it's still possible. The cap space is about $1.5 million, after the $8.5 million signing bonus given to Antonio Brown, with another $2.742 million already on the books from the Wallace tender. So, there's basically about $4.25 million in salary cap space. Just enough room for $10-$15 million guaranteed in a Wallace contract. 

I don't know if it's probable, but it's possible. Much more possible than a trade. 


LaMarr Woodley spoke on the 2011 Steelers defense recently and had some very honest comments. Comments we'd suggested also regarding the ability of numbers to be deceiving.

"The ranking was high, but I don't think we played good defense last year", Woodley said. "We didnt get that many turnovers, we didn't get to the QB that much. So I dont know how we were ranked that high." 

From your lips to God's ears. The Steelers defense, as you remember, was ranked No. 1 last season in terms of yards allowed.

"Last year it happened a lot," Woodley continued, "we gave up a lot of big plays at crucial times. If you want to be a great defense, you have to cut out the big plays."

What did Mark Twain once say (or actually attribute to Disraeli)? "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics." 

The fact that so few passing yards were allowed masked their being gutted on the ground. They allowed more yards on the ground than they had in years. A very unSteeler-like 99.8 yards per game. Add the lack of turnovers and the fewest sacks in eight year and you have a team who's one-and-done in the playoffs. 

Woodley's assessment is correct, therefore, that sacks and turnovers, splash plays, are major keys to taking the defense to that next level that it was so obviously lacking last season. 


Remember Greg Lloyd's nickname? "Just Plain Nasty." Well, Willie Colon wants to bring back to Pittsburgh that moniker, but to apply it to he, Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro - the Steelers new interior offensive line.

Colon stated, "Being in the interior along with Pounce and DeCastro, we will have a chance to really show our aggressiveness. And we plan no doing it....I think we're a team that's gonna run the ball a lot more." 

Personally, I like that statement. A lot. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Steelers Extend Antonio Brown, Send Strong Message To Mike Wallace

On Friday, July 27th, the Pittsburgh Steelers announced that they extended Antonio Brown contract for five years through the 2017 season. The extension is for five years and $42.5 million. 

The same amount that supposedly was offered just a few days earlier to Mike Wallace, but that turned out to be a hoax. Coincidence?

There's no word yet on the guaranteed money, but the supposed deal for Wallace contained a $20 million guaranteed amount. I'd expect this to be around that. An approximate $15-$20 guarantee. 

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert made this statement regarding the signing: “We are excited to announce that Antonio Brown will be with the team through at least the 2017 season. He has played a major role in our success over the past two years and we are thrilled he will be a Steeler for many years to come.”

This obviously sends a clear message to Wallace. The Steelers aren't affected by scare tactics, they don't blink. They don't play kid games, either. Wallace wants to pout and hold his breath until he gets his way? Ok. Keep doing that, Mike. The Steelers sure won't. 

Antonio Brown epitomizes what a Steelers player is. He is hard working and who show a willing and humble attitude. It's that type of player the Steelers organization rewards. They've shown that yet again. 

Are you paying attention, Mike? Like Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review said on his personal Twitter account, "If I am Mike Wallace, I dont show Until week 10 now. No use."

"The Steelers offered Mike Wallace very similar deal to Antonio Brown's deal. Brown accepted, Wallace was offended....And just like that, Antonio Brown is a hero and Mike Wallace is bum in the eyes of Steelers fans."

Steeler Nation has been vociferous in their having had enough of Wallace, now the Steelers brass has shown it has as well. Like I said, they don't blink. You wanna play chicken? The Steelers just took your pink slip. 


Pro Football Talk reported that AB got $8.5 million guaranteed. The first year cap hit is supposedly around $2.25 million, second year is approximately $7.75 million and, as Laird pointed out, AB got $8.5 million up front/guaranteed (not $15-$20 million).

If It Ain't Steel will post an update if these numbers are wrong, but, from what I'm hearing, they're fairly accurate. 

Mike Wallace Decision To Hold Out Is A Lose-Lose Situation

Let me just state this right off the bat: I like Mike Wallace. A lot.

If you're a regular reader of this blog you know that we at If It Ain't Steel never bash anyone outright (except Jonathan Scott-which is the last time that name ever has to be written). In fact, we often praise Wallace for his talents. We are, nonetheless, always realistic about what we see as well.

What we see, therefore, is that Wallace's holdout is not a good idea. If he shows up in the "three to four days" that Emmanuel Sanders mentioned, then things can move forward toward repairing his image in the eyes of most Steelers fans. An image that has faded considerably in the last few months. Even more so now that it's been revealed that it is Wallace who decided to hold out and not because of bad advice from agent Bus Cook.

Make no mistake, Steeler Nation wants to see him and the Steelers could use him opposite Antonio Brown. Period. From a talent standpoint there's no question. What needs to be remembered, though, is that one man does not a team make. He's a great luxury, not a great need. Love the player, hate the attitude.

That is the issue here. What has Steelers fans upset is the persona and attitude that he's allowing to define him. No one denies what he can do on the field. Despite last season's second half drop off and leaving any and all stats out of this, Wallace is a major talent with monumental potential.

I also understand, though, that it's a business and that he wants to get paid. But one positive statement from Wallace by now could've quelled much of the backlash he's is getting. Just one. Instead, he looks like he doesn't care about the team. He's made it seem that way, no one else.

What's worse is that now the coaches and general manager are addressing the holdout, pointing out that, per policy, they won't wait around or contact him. He has to show up and/or contact them.

Tomlin was not very happy that Wallace is not in camp. He said Wednesday, "Mike Wallace isn't here today. That's unfortunate for him."

Short and sweet. Though, Tomlin did go on to say that he hasn't talked to Wallace for some 10-14 days at that point. It was Steelers GM Kevin Colbert who was more elaborate about things.

"We've chosen to not progress with negotiations at this point," Colbert said Thursday. "Once we made that decision, now we're in a different mode. We'll have to address any new negotiations if we get to that point."

Colbert said Wallace will have to sign the tender of $2.742 million before they will resume negotiations on a long-term deal.

"Him not being here, really we have to focus on what we can control because we can't control that. Again, every negotiation is unique, you put your best foot forward. If it's not suitable for both parties, you have to adjust, and we're really in adjust-move-forward-mode right now."

Regarding the policy mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago, Colbert stated, "I don't want to get into a lot of specifics of the negotiations because we don't do that as a rule, but at that point he didn't indicate to us what his next course of action was to be other than we weren't going to have an agreement. This is unique because it's a restricted free agent that has a tender that can be signed, and you can still negotiate off of that."

Colbert then pointed out that the next move is Wallace's.

"Yeah, we have to move on. We have to prepare with the 89 guys who are here. You have to, you can't focus on who isn't here because you lose track of what you're supposed to be doing."

Mike Wallace needs to get to Camp. He needs to realize that at present he's only hurting himself by holding out and he's alienating fans. It's a lose-lose situation. If he gets his head right, get to Camp and signs, I'll welcome him back with open arms as I'm sure will most of Steeler Nation. He needs to get back to work and once again show that monumental potential. But it needs to happen. Soon.

Wallace is very good, no doubt. A lot of what he is, though, is predicated on speed. The Steelers do, though, have two other wide receivers with 4.4/40 speed. Yeah, I know Wallace is sub 4.35/40, and such speed is a great weapon to have. With that said, though, allow me to help put this in perspective: name a Super Bowl the Steelers won with a sub 4.35/40 wide receiver. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mike Signs Contract, But Mike Doesn't: Latest On Wallace

Anything exciting happen yesterday?

Doesn't take much to get Steeler Nation up in arms, does it? Well, it was dealing with Mike Wallace after all. And if you don't know what I'm talking about, then you must have been under that rock from the Geico commercial. 

Tuesday afternoon, Jim Wexell, of Steel City Insider and Steelers Digest, reported that "Channel 11 [in Pittsburgh] reporting Mike Wallace and Steelers have agreed to 5 yr $42 million contract with $20m guaranteed." In a nutshell, he was wrong. It wasn't long after this that he admitted it as well.

"Apparently 'someone pulled a fast one on me' is what my source is saying. Sorry, no Wallace signing."

He later would apologize again and even poked fun at himself when certain ones in Steeler Nation and, apparently other members of the media, were taking their shots: “@jimwexell: "@BladedWedge I get the feeling that some members of the media are finding joy with @jimwexell getting duped" -- he's not well-liked.”

Another "source" also took blame for the faux pas. His name is Bill P. and he goes by @SteelerBill13 if you're on Twitter. You can also call him and complain. His number is 1-412-... (lol Sorry, Bill...just takin' a jab)

It's easy to understand, though, the heights of elation and then the depths of deflation to which Steeler Nation was sent. This was about the speedy and promising wide receiver whom we can't go a day without hearing about. Young Money. One of the Bugatti Boys. "Da kidd" you'll find "in someone's end zone." Of course it was big news!

Don't get me wrong, though. Mike did sign on the line that is dotted. Mike Tomlin, that is. The Omar Epps look-a-like signed a three-year extension keeping him in Black and Gold through 2016. 

Other notable organizational moves, as reported by Ed Bouchette include the Steelers promoting Omar Khan to Director of Football & Business Administration ("Football" added to title), and the promotion of scout Dan Rooney Jr. to Player Personnel Coordinator. Listed No. 2 behind Colbert in that department.

Back to the main issue, though. Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported, "Looks like mike Wallace isn't going to show. According to Emmanuel Sanders he is expecting him to show in '3 or 4' days."

Hard upon that information, though, came information from both Kaboly and Emmanuel Sanders that there are rumblings in Camp that there might be a contract in place soon. 

Sanders: "I hear things...a couple rumors, that things are starting to get closer to signing." Definitely good news and completely feasible. A deal is not only possible, but easily worked out for a math genius like the aforementioned Omar Khan. 

The Steelers are currently about $6 million under the salary cap with the release of Jonathan Scott. With the probability of a Wallace contract containing a $15 million signing bonus for a 5 year contract, that would break down to approximately a $3 million a year cap hit, plus first year salary, proration of signing bonus for 5 years. Again, easily fits under the cap. 

Now, you might wonder about what would happen if the Steelers are $13-15 million over the cap next year considering Rashard Mendenhall, Antonio Brown and Sanders are due to be up? Trust me, a fair deal could still get done for several reasons. 

First, Lawrence Timmons and Lamarr Woodley can have a good portion of their 2013 base turned into a signing bonus. If they release James Harrison, which I recently blogged as being a real possibility, there is an approximate $7 million saved. Plus, depending on this year's performance, if Mendy should get a new contract it shouldn't have more than a moderate 2013 cap hit.
That's most of it right there. Let's say more is needed, though. In the second year of Wallace's contract they could restructure to save cap room by turning a portion of his salary into a signing bonus and then prorate it out over the remaining years. Bottom line: an approximate 5-6 year contract of about $47-$53 million, with that previously mentioned $15 signing bonus, is doable. 

As I've said before, I'm no salary cap guru but I know that this is fairly accurate information because I make sure to pay attention to people like Ian Whetstone of Steel City Insider. 

More information, speculation and drama is sure to surface in the next few days to come. So, just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

NFL Offseason Arrests Prove Goodell Has No Fist In His Glove

"Calling all cars! Calling all cars! Be on the look out for several subjects of Caucasian and African American persuasions. Subjects range from 6'0" to 6'5" and 190-325 pounds. Last seen speeding in a vehicle suspected to contain drug paraphernalia and from a residence where physical assault was reported. Subjects considered armed and dangerous."

Yep, that about sums up this NFL offseason. There has just been one after the other. There have been several arrests that range from DWI/DUI to possession of marijuana to simple and aggravated assault. All we've seen is a bunch of overgrown frat boys acting like they're on Spring Break, but they haven't ever seen a woman, had a drink or smoked a blunt before. The result has been a virtual Pandora's Box.

How did Deadpool/Wade Wilson put in X-Men Origins: Wolverine? "Great. Stuck in an elevator with five guys on a high-protein diet." That's a microcosm of this offseason. Except maybe that our abs aren't as good as Ryan Reynolds'. But, I digress...

This offseason has seen 32 NFL players and one cheerleader arrested. Some are even repeat offenders (not the cheerleader). The Detroit Lions alone have had three repeat offenders this offseason with two of them being released, cornerback Aaron Berry and offensive lineman Johnny Culbreath. I refer to such guys as “The Turds of the NFL" and it's time that Roger Goodell starts flushing some of them.

Thirteen of these players have been arrested for different ranges of DUI. Inexcusable. These guys make more money than most people even dream about in their lifetime. There is no excuse for them to be out drinking and then getting behind the wheel and endangering innocent lives. These guys could easily afford to hire a driver to drive them around, or even call a cab. They chose not to, though. I'm not the only one who feels this way.

Retired NFL running back Derrick Ward released a pyroclastic barrage of tweets recently, July 21st, over what he called "dumb" and "ridiculous" behavior. Below is that barrage, which is basically one long thought over several tweets:

Derrick Ward (@DerrickWard32): "Guys that actually do right in the NFL look bad. How easy is it to call a cab to get a ride home? So what? Leave your car get it in the am!?"

"Stop being so dumb! Yes that's right dumb! I'm sitting here retired enjoyed a great career now all I want to do is become a fan and I see..."

"Numerous arrest for DWI in the past several weeks? How many has it been this week 4? Absolutely ridiculous your not only putting yourself..."

"In danger but your putting other innocent people in danger that don't deserve your stupidity. Open your eyes and do the right thing. I know..."

"What its like to get go out get drunk and debate on weather to drive home or not. Call a taxi! So what if u spend some money to take one or..."

"U get a ticket on your car in the am when u go bac 2 get it At least u won't have to pay bail and then lawyer fees and then miss game checks..."

"From being suspended for a few games. Damn this really has me furious and its so avoidable. Tighten up youngesters of the NFL because guess..."

"What it doesn't mean National Football League it really means Not For Long league..... #JustVentingSorryEveryone"

"There's no excuse to drive drunk! NONE! If all else fails WALK! NFL players are world class athletes Walking should be nothing!"

What he said.

The rules of the NFL, in the CBA, state that this falls under the substance abuse policy of the NFL. This, I feel, needs to be changed. I understand that it's been collectively bargained, but something more needs to be done. The message isn't getting through to them. Goodell NEEDS to have a heavier hand.

The players don't seem to care if they get caught because most of the time the Law lets them off too. They're celebrities and they generally get star treatment. If that was me or any other normal citizen, though, we wouldn't get our charges pleaded down. We would go to jail and lose our licenses. Why fear a glove that has no fist?

These overgrown kids simply do not care. They act like they feel they're  untouchable, so to speak, and seem to have the mentality of, “Oh, well, I’ll just get docked a game check, it's not that big of a deal.” That is the attitude that needs to change and change in a hurry. There have already been innocent lives taken because of these boys behaving badly. If the Law cannot do its job, then I feel Goodell needs to do his and bring the hammer down on these players.

If this offseason has shown anything it's that these guys have not learned anything. I guess it is ok to stain that shield that Goodell holds so highly after all. A few years back he was suspending players with no actual charges, but now that there are actual charges and he chooses to turn the other cheek. That is not the kind of message that needs to be sent.

The Penn State mess should be a good reminder what turning the other cheek causes. But this “boys will be boys” mentality and the letting things go all for the sake of the game is the culture that needs to be changed. These guys should be held to a higher standard, but, as of late, they are not being held to any kind of standard.

Goodell has put all those rules into place and then very few get punished for breaking them. It makes it all just so laughable. These players agreed to allow Goodell to keep all his power when they voted in the new CBA. Yet, outside of the Saints Bounty Scandal, Goodell has done nothing. These guys are running around like a bunch of criminals with no regard for authority or public safety. That is not the message that Goodell said he was going to send.

It's the message being received nonetheless. A message so clear that various websites, including itself, have tracked the list of frat boys. There were 31 arrests as of the publishing of the article posted below. Since then there has been one more: defensive back Russell Stuvaints was arrested and tasered by McKeesport police for allegedly threatening a female. - 

That makes 32, almost twice as many as last offseason. Is that clear, Mr. Goodell? Let me make it even clearer still for you: that's one for each NFL team. You're trying so hard to keep the NFL pristine, yet the shine of "the shield" is being tarnished right underneath your nose. A similar thing happened with Michael Corleone, and we know how that ended.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Packers And The Steelers: Does More Equal Better?

I feel the need to begin this piece with a breaking announcement: the NFL existed before the Super Bowl. Long before.

I know, I's difficult to accept. I'm afraid it's true, though. In fact, sacks weren't always recorded, ties didn't count into a team's overall record and there was even a time when ESPN didn't have a take and opposing take on every single blessed thing that they then contradicted with their next take. Yes, we're talking THAT long ago.

The NFL in its infancy was just a very different league and game. In its budding years there were fewer teams, naturally. Though, while we're used to a structured format of teams and games played, for years there wasn't. There wasn't even a balanced schedule of games. Such an imbalanced head-to-head schedule would also see one team play as many as 17 games while another may only play one. On top of that, for the first 30 years the number of teams as well as the number of games per season fluctuated. There were as few as 8 to as many as 22 teams. At that point, 1951, the league finally put in place a regulated schedule between its American and National divisions.

As was stated earlier, ties weren't calculated into early schedules either, not until 1972 actually. This was of special interest when studying the "champion" each year. In 1935, the Detroit Lions won the NFL's West Conference with a 7-3-2 record. In that same conference were the Green Bay Packers who finished the season with an 8-4 record. Had this happened 1972 or later, there would have been need of an actual playoff system or there would have been tie-breakers in place to settle this. You see, both of those records are, by today's system, a .667 winning percentage. In 1935, though, with ties not being counted, the Lions won the conference with a .700 winning percentage. The Coffin Corner breaks this down even further here, as it relates to wins and championships, as well as draft positioning. - 

Another difference of the young NFL was the use of college football's rules. This came to an end after the 1932 season. This was because it was the first season that required a playoff game. The Portsmouth Spartans, who became the Detroit Lions two years later, and the Chicago Bears finished with "identical" records--6-1-4 and 6-1-6--requiring a playoff. Thus, the 1932 NFL playoff game is sometimes unofficially called the 1932 NFL Championship Game with the Bears winning 9-0. Thereafter, the NFL began to develop its own rules. The popularity of the playoff game also led the NFL to start holding annual playoff games, giving us the first true championship game in 1933.

Thus, we arrive at crux of the discussion: championships. And the team with the most NFL Championships is the Green Bay Packers. Sorry, fellow Steelers fans, but they got 13 of 'em. Including one against our beloved Steelers. However you want to label them, Titles, Rings or Championships, it all means the same thing: they were the champs. It's canonical. Deal with it.

I remember arguing this fact with a less-than-intelligent Steelers fan once. His response was, "They got most of their championships when there were eight teams and no championship game!" Well, I asked him if he would have counted those same titles for the Steelers had they won them? Of course he would have (though, he didn't respond after that). It's hypocritical and also disingenuous to say otherwise.

The thing to focus on at this point, though, is that the NFL existed before 1966, and that, despite its deficiencies, those championships count. Though I will cover the differences in eras, this isn't a comparison of the titles themselves. So, if you're the type of fan who never takes off the Black and Gold colored glasses, squawk and protest all you want about it. It won't change the truth. Pride, or being proud of your team, is one thing, idiocy, or even being obtuse, is quite another.

Thirteen is more than six no matter how bad you are at math. The Steelers aren't even second, but actually fourth behind the Bears and Giants. That being said, I'd agree with someone who wanted to argue that any "championship" awarded without it being played on the field is hollow. Even then, 10 is still greater than six.

Remember the title of the article, though. More doesn't always mean better, sometimes it's just more. The Packers have more titles, yes. Both franchises, though, are steeped in tradition and success, and the Steelers have done as much, if not more, in a much harder era than did the Packers.

To use a boxing illustration, Muhammad Ali, even among other heavyweight boxing champions, was a legend. He was lightening fast, had undeniable power and was incredibly light on his feet. He was so "pretty." Jack Johnson, though, sometimes called "the original Muhammad Ali", was an amazing fighter who took on all in front of him, shocking and angering the boxing world and defying white America at the turn of the 20th century. It's just that the sport, the level of athleticism and depth of competition had all advanced by the time Ali "shook up the world." All things considered, Ali really was just better. He was "The Greatest."

That being said, is there anyone who'd argue, with two-to-three times as many teams, that it's much harder to win titles post-merger than it was before there were playoffs or a championship game? I know that "you can only play who's in front of you", but having only 14 teams, much less and less specialized competition has to be considered.

Any Packers fan would be expected to argue at this point that they were winning championships before the Steelers even came into existence, and they'd basically be correct. As was discussed earlier, though, those first three were by record only and calculated without ties. So, while the Packers definitely have a rich tradition and history that reaches back to the infancy of the NFL, how more difficult it is to win championships in the post-merger era must weigh into that equation.

Simply put, more doesn't always mean better, sometimes it's just more. The Packers have more championships than any other team and no one can take those from them. Only four, though, came in the Super Bowl era and only two came since the merger.

Don't misunderstand me, I haven't forgotten 2010. How could I? So, yes, they lead the head-to-head 1-0 having earned one of those against us, but let's look at the whole post-merger picture when the level and amount of competition has been much greater. In short, the Steelers lead or are tied for the lead in all of the most important categories: total wins (429), total win percentage (.611), season wins (396), All-Pros (67), playoff wins (33), playoff berths (26), division titles (20), winning seasons (31), Super Bowl berths (8) and Super Bowl wins (6). The Packers in those categories? Nowhere close.

The Packers are a great franchise without question. The level of competition, though, of the Super Bowl/post-merger era is much more prodigious than that of the 1920s to the early 1960s. Level of competition always weighs more heavily on history's scales. I would agree with that. Give me Muhammad Ali over Jack Johnson any day.

Friday, July 20, 2012

NFL Players Can't Have It Both Ways Regarding Concussions

Concussions. The word alone can cause a stir, especially when attached to the NFL. It has not just become an important issue in the NFL, but a polarizing one as well. Some of the most marquee players, otherwise still fit to play, have been forced out of the league because of head injuries.

There was a published report of 1,094 former players, ages 27 to 86, that revealed that more than 61% of those surveyed had concussions during their playing days, and most of them said they were not sidelined after their injuries.

That report was published in 2001. That's 11 years ago, and it was based on data collected over 15 years ago in 1995-96 by the NFL Players Association. Has the NFL truly done anything to clean this up? Not according to former NFL center Dermontti Dawson.

Recently the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Dawson, a former member of the Pittsburgh Steelers who is to be inducted into the 2012 Hall of Fame, is of the latest of former NFL players to file suit against the NFL for head injuries sustained while playing professional football.

According to a suit filed July 3rd in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, Dawson and three other former Steelers, are among 47 former players being represented by attorneys John D. Giddens and Phillip Thomas in Jackson, Mississippi.

In the suit it is alleged that the league "was aware of the evidence and the risks associated with repetitive traumatic brain injuries and concussions for decades, but deliberately ignored and actively concealed the information from the Plaintiffs and all others who participated in organized football at all levels."

It also claimed that the repeated injuries can lead to "Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy", or CTE.

As would be expected, the NFLPA sides with the players in this. DeMaurice Smith, head of the NFLPA, has been dealing with such issues this offseason. In an interview last June with Michel Martin of NPR News' "Tell Me More", Smith answered questions regarding the New Orleans Saints Bounty scandal, lawsuits and player safety.

Staying specifically on the topic of concussions and player safety, there were two things that Smith said that was of particular interest. Though being in the somewhat precarious position of defending player vs. player, he addressed openly his view of the safety of the game.

Martin asked him, "Just on the question of whether you feel that the game is being made you think you and the league are on the same page that you're moving in the right direction?"

Smith replied, "Yes, I do. We made an affirmative decision that the players weren't going to have two-a-day practices anymore, not because we wanted to have our players off, but because all of the medical data shows that if you want to make a significant change in the management of potential concussions, what you do is you decrease the exposure to head-to-head or head-to-ground contact."

That's all well and good. Protecting your investment, as it were, is only smart. It's well known that boxers get "punch drunk" from not so much the hits in the actual prize fights, but from the hundreds and maybe thousands of sparring rounds during years of training. Reducing the number of such hits is only one part of it, though.

Amongst other things, as this blog has touched on before, the rabbit hole goes much deeper. It's an aggregate of game hits, practice hits, turf as opposed to grass, helmets, the team doctor/trainer and, maybe most importantly, the player himself.

Speaking on those last two points, Smith said that "there shouldn't be a football exception with respect to how a doctor treats a player. He should treat a player as a patient. We should remove anything like a football exception where bad conduct is justified, glorified, or accepted. We should do a better job of researching and providing our resources towards trying to make the game safer."

Tell that to Colt McCoy of the Cleveland Browns. What Smith said next, though, is what causes this article to be written.

"I'm not willing to say that it is a sport that cannot be made safe. What I am, and fervently believe - over the last four years have we done things in football to make the game safer for our players? Yes. But that has only come by the dedicated effort of the players themselves to change the culture and the paradigm of football."

Ah, there's the rub.

On Wednesday, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu was on the Dan Patrick Show and made some very candid comments about whether or not he's had concussions.

“Yes, I have, for sure,” Polamalu said.

Polamalu evidently, though, sees a distinction between having one's "bell rung" by a hit to the head and blatantly lying about a significant injury.

“I wouldn’t say I’ve had any major lies,” Polamalu said. “Somebody may say, ‘Is your knee messed up?’ It may be kind of messed up but you just kind of push yourself to be out there with your brothers. I wouldn’t say there are any major lies where I totally lied may way out of concussions. In fact, during concussions, if it’s serious enough you can’t even be conscious enough to lie.”

“I’ve had, I believe, eight or nine recorded concussions. We’ll have another conversation after I’m done playing football,” Polamalu continued. “When you get your bell rung they consider that a concussion - I wouldn’t. If that is considered a concussion, I’d say any football player at least records 50 to 100 concussions a year.”

He then said, "There’s so much built up about team camaraderie and sacrifice, and football is such a tough man’s game. I think that’s why it’s so popular, why so many blue-collar communities and people feel really attracted to it, because it’s sort of a blue-collar struggle that football players go through in terms of the physicality of the game and the commitment you need. It’s that commitment you need to play football. You feel sore, you’re beat up, you’re injured, you’re legitimately injured, most people may take three months off to work in an office, we choose to play the next week.”

As always, I appreciate his candor. Polamalu is a true warrior and only speaks from that standpoint. He's a throwback. He's the type you want in battle with you. He is a bruiser and has uncanny instincts in the secondary. He's going to hit you no matter what the consequences are. He simply plays the game the way it should be played: physically.

That having been said, his comments go against what DeMaurice Smith said regarding a "dedicated effort of the players themselves to change the culture and the paradigm of football." What Polamalu said isn't a player changing a culture or paradigm.

The same can even be said of Dawson. Not that he blatantly made any such definitive comment, but Dawson just crushed people. Regularly. He may have been the best pulling center ever and he was a tenacious blocker at the second and third levels. He mauled defenders and was a major reason Jerome Bettis was able to rack up all the yards he did.

So, with all that's been said, I don't know how much room many players have to cry foul against the NFL. If they didn't know what they were getting into before stepping onto the field, they damn sure knew with that first hit.

Players have talked openly in the past about not feeling completely better until the time the next week's game comes around, and not completely healed from the previous season until it's time for next season's training camp.

The NFL has been described, specifically the offensive/defensive line play, as being in a car wreck 60 times a day. Now, multiply that by 16 or more games a year and then by 10 or more years. I'm no math major, but it's more than my toes and fingers so I know it's a lot. And these players want to claim ignorance and, in essence, sue McDonalds because they placed a hot cup of coffee between their legs while they drove and didn't think they'd get burned?

Make no mistake, the NFL is certainly guilty of marketing these "car wrecks" in the various videos that they sell to make millions of dollars. They certainly exploit the players to a degree as well. Are the players not aware of this, though?

If the players go into this knowing they're using their bodies in this manner to make money, do they really have the right to then turn around and blame the NFL? The next time you see a pimp and his ho, ask them.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Is This James Harrison's Final Year?

"I do believe that this will be Harrison's last year with Steelers. Either [they] aren't going to [be able to] afford him anymore or his back will get best of him."

That quote from one of the Steelers beat writers has been echoed many times in the last two months. After basically seeing only spot work during minicamps and OTAs, you can understand why this has been a consideration.

That being the case, there has been concern that the Steelers could see a repeat of last season. We touched on this in a previous blog, Deebo does have a couple of different physical issues. His back being the main one.

So, will Harrison be a victim of dollars and sense? Will his back not be able to endure another season of torque and twisting & pressure and pounding? Why don't we start by just looking at both issues concerning The Silverback and go from there?

What the beat writer was basically saying was that Deebo will be a "cap casualty" as of the 2013 season. Well, would that make sense if he rebounds and has a comeback season this year? A season like he had from 2008-2010 when he had double-digit sacks and caused offensive coordinators to stay up until all hours devising ways to stop him. Remember, his doing so this year would be a boon toward staying one more year and for Worilds and Carter, the next two on the depth chart, to continually learn under him, if they're both still in Black & Gold.

Deebo's tutelage could certainly be used with the two young backup linebackers.  Jason Worilds wasn't exactly the epitome of "the standard is the standard" when he substituted for The Silverback. He wasn't a force when rushing the quarterback and finished with only three sacks in seven games. The Silverback had nine in 11 games. He was also suspect in defending the run and needs to learn to be quicker off the snap of the ball and how to shed blockers better.

Chris Carter? All he does is catch touchdowns. Oh, wait...wrong Chris Carter. While Carter is another young option, he still has a lot of learning to do. He also needs to step up after missing eight games last year with a hamstring injury. The Steelers can ill afford to wait past this season for him, else Deebo will be tutoring next year's early round linebacker pick.

I won't say that anyone who thinks The Silverback will be a "cap casualty" in 2013 is crazy, but it isn't a forgone conclusion either. He'll stay until the end of 2013 most likely. The Steelers know his worth. Yes, the Steelers buy low and sell high and have released ones before in a similar position. See: Joey Porter (he's in the news again too). But the dearth of experience behind Deebo will likely affect how the Steelers look at this situation.

What now about the other element in this equation: Harrison's back? As was reported in a previous blog posting, Deebo was first diagnosed with a herniated disc in his lower back in October of 2010 and was presented at that point with the option of surgery, which would've caused him to miss the rest of the 2010 season, or play through it and put off surgery until after the season. The Silverback took the second option and ended up having two total back surgeries, the initial and the follow-up, within two weeks of each other after the Super Bowl loss to the Packers.

This, in If It Ain't Steel's opinion, is what would prevent another sequel from Deebo. (Besides, another sequel without Smokey ain't worth it. I know, bad pun...)

Yes, he's basically only played five seasons, which some would say could elongate his career, but 34 years old is still 34 years old. That's especially so when the 6'0" 245 pounder is routinely going up against men several inches taller and at least 50 pounds heavier.

Yes, he also may be going through an extensive offseason training and therapy program, but the constant car wreck-like pounding that comes with an NFL season will still take its toll. Though he has adequate speed, his game is based on leverage and power. Can he stand two more seasons of such conditions?

While I remain optimistic that he will, knowing how dedicated to training and therapy he is, his surgically repaired back is what should be paid attention to in this scenario. Either as a catalyst to being let go or directly affecting his decision, it will likely be the greater factor as to whether Deebo will make it two more years.

Joey "Peezy" Porter To Retire As A Member Of The Steelers

It seems Kordell Stewart has started a trend.

NFL reporter Ian Rapoport confirms that former Steelers linebacker Joey Porter has retired. Porter, Peezy to Steelers fans, plans to retire as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“That’s where I started at,” Porter said,  “It’ll be an honor to go out there and retire as a Steeler. Started there, end there. Thirteen years. I never thought I’d play that long when I first started.”

Porter has said he's already talked to the Steelers organization about it. What led to the retirement decision, though? Peezy said it was because of health, and didn’t feel like himself last season with the Cardinals, aka Pittsburgh West.

“Not being able to get 100% healthy to play at the level I am accustomed to playing at,” Porter said, telling why. “The last two years, I tried to play and I wasn’t out there as healthy as I’ve been in the past. This year, I knew my knee wasn’t getting any better as far as this season.”

Peezy was beloved in Steeler Nation and there was an initial uproar when the Steelers let him go over contract and other issues. A personal friend, my Little Steeler Pixie Amanda Taylor, even called me up after it was announced and said, "What are they doing??? They released Joey!" I told to calm down and remember the name James Harrison. 'Nuff said.

Peezy was one of the best and most fierce. He was a leader in the locker room and on the field. He never backed down and he dared you to cross him. Just ask William Green and Terrelle Smith, formerly of the hated Cleveland Browns.

Peezy got into a pregame fight with Browns running back William Green in November of 2004. Peezy was already pissed because Browns defensive lineman Gerard Warren had threatened several days before the game to "rattle" Steelers rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger by hitting him in the head.

Bad idea. Since 1974, the Steelers have always had at least one linebacker who just scared everybody. At that time it was Peezy. Bad idea.

After Peezy and Green began yelling at each other, Green shoved Peezy (bad idea), who countered by throwing punches at, and connecting with, Green. Green left leakin'! (Sorry, street slang. Green left with a bloody lip.) Brown fullback Terrelle Smith was also there and tried to come to Green's aid (bad idea). He got tagged too. Go back and try to find tape on it. You could actually see Peezy say something like, "Oh, you want some too?!" Joey!!!

In Peezy's eight years with the Steelers he recorded 327 tackles, 60 sacks 10 interceptions, 17 forced fumbles and eight fumble recoveries. He went to three Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro in 2002.

It just feels right that he retires as a member of the Steelers. -

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Welcome Back, Max Starks; Goodbye, Jonathan Scott

"@BobLabriola: Max Starks signed to a 1-year deal, puts Steelers at 90 players on their roster."

That was the message that flashed across my phone Tuesday morning...causing me to shed a brief tear. I say that not only because the Pittsburgh Steelers re-signed Max Starks, their starting left tackle since 2008, but also because it most likely means the departure of Jonathan Scott. Finally.  

I personally have wanted to see Starks back, and we at If It Ain't Steel have blogged about his possible return and the implications of such an acquisition.

Max Starks gives the Steelers the luxury of keeping second-year man Marcus Gilbert at right tackle, where he started as a rookie and at what is seemingly his best position. Starks and rookie Mike Adams, the Steelers second-rounder, will contend for the starting job at left tackle in training camp. I'm sure, though, the rookie would have to be outstanding in camp to become the actual starter going into the season.

Before they drafted Adams, there were stirrings that the Steelers had planned to move Gilbert to left tackle. Gilbert practiced on both sides during the minicamps. He also played left tackle, albeit for only approximately six games, while at Florida.

Like Ed Bouchette said, "No need for Marcus Gilbert to move to left tackle if Mike Adams could grasp it now with Starks signing with Steelers." We also know now why the Steelers kept their roster at 89 players for so long.

Starks had said back in May that he was aiming for week one to be healthy and ready to go. According to his posting on Twitter this morning, he's on schedule: “@maxstarks78: It's a great day, doc gave me a great report! On my way to being game ready!”

He then posted proof, just in case there was any doubt: “@maxstarks78: It's real and sealed! I'll be seeing you in Latrobe!  

Though not the best left tackle in the game, Max Starks is still one of the most liked persons amongst those in the organization and in Steeler Nation. A sentiment echoed by Mike Prisuta of the DVE Morning Show in Pittsburgh and co-host with Labriola of "Agree to Disagree."

"When Steelers types talk Starks they get to 'comfortable' and 'respect' and 'good fit' pretty quickly. I'll second that 'no lose' assessment."

I'm right there as well. In fact, I'm so happy about this that I won't even bash Jonathan Scott. I've done that enough anyway. I won't point out that the crew from Ghost Hunters was hired to find him on the offensive line and couldn't. I won't suggest that he gets smoked more than a joint at a Snoop Dogg concert. Nor will I suggest that he's on his back more than Jenna Jameson.

I won't say any of that. I'm a bigger man than that (he said as he shined up his sh*t kickers ready to boot Scott outta town).

Welcome back, Max.

Dez Bryant and the Hypocrisy of Main Stream Media

I have been watching all the stuff that has been unfolding  with the Dez Bryant issue and how mainstream media is not trying to “Try him in the court of public opinion."   Bryant was arrested on Monday for misdemeanor assault against his mother.    I am not going into the details about it because the article does that.   This is nonsense, though, and something needs to be done ASAP.

There has been more to come out about this incident and the more that comes out the sicker I am getting.  For one, why are mainstream media outlets like ESPN and others giving him a free pass on this?  I was watching ESPN's First Take this morning and was appalled at the garbage that Skip Bayless was saying.  Yes, I know all the facts had not come out at that point and that they did not want to pass judgment.  But in the same segment he was talking all about Bryant’s mother's past run-ins with the law and he basically said we shouldn’t judge Bryant.  Well I beg to differ.  To me, that is hypocrisy at its finest. You can't condone one while excusing the other.

Where was all this “Not Judging in the Court of ESPN First Take” and other sports news outlets when Ben Roethlisberger was accused but never charged?  ESPN led the charge in pretty much destroying Ben’s reputation, and was basically screaming for Ben’s head on a platter even after the facts came out.  Ben was suspended due to the media fueled “Trying in the Court of Public Opinion”.   I for one did support Ben’s suspension, not because I believed he was guilty, but because I believed he needed a kick to the pants that Goodell delivered. And, if you'll notice, we have heard nothing bad about him since.

 So why does Bryant get a free pass with the media  for hitting his mother?   This is the wrong message you are sending, in my opinion.   It was basically said that it is ok.  Here is the link to the first segment, but the other one was not posted, and if it had been, you would see what I am talking about.   

 I am not going to quote something I cannot back up, but being a victim of domestic violence, I was appalled at the words in the second segment.  I am so sick of this issue being made of light of, intimating that it is ok to hit women, just because she has a record.  That is the message I got and it made me want to throw up.  It is not ok to hit any woman, let alone your mother. Period.  I do not care what the circumstances are.  That is the woman that gave you life, has cared for you, and is always there for you.   I do not care that she had a past record.    Women are not punching bags no matter how you try to spin it.  The media's constant picking and choosing of who gets a pass has gotten out of hand.  If you are going to damn one player to hell, the same rules need to apply to all of the players.    Just because he has never been arrested does not make it ok for you or anyone else to condone violence towards women.  Bryant is not the first athlete that has gotten this free pass for domestic violence, there have been several.   It needs to stop.  
According to them, we are supposed to turn the other cheek, so to speak, because this is his first arrest.  Well, where was this turning the other cheek on other athletes that you have harped on while making other players the poster boys of bad behavior?    Oh, that's right they  did not hit women and all they had against them was allegations and no facts.   But I guess that is ok to damn them to hell?  Right?
This is the wrong message because it slaps in the face true victims of assault, especially women that have been victimized over the years by men.  I feel that Goodell needs to address this and address this quickly, and not give him a free pass.  He has shown a pattern of bad behavior over the years and it is escalating.  Goodell said he does not need an arrest to suspend a player, if they show a pattern of bad behavior he can suspend.  Well, now is the time to show it Goodell.  Don't join in with the media led “turning the other cheek” and basically condoning violence towards women.  That should not be the message you want to send considering women make up a big part of the NFL fan base.  
I will end this with what Stephen A. Smith said in the second segment.  He did not condone it, he looked at it the way I did, “If it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck, it isn’t no Mongoose." 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Former Steeler Willie Parker Runs To A Coaching Position; Ray Rice Signs

You can't coach speed. Willie Parker, though, is looking to coach the rest of what it takes.

Pete Roussel of reported Monday that former Steelers running back Willie Parker accepted a coaching position on the West Virginia Wesleyan staff. Good news for Fast Willie Parker.

FWP, who holds the record for the longest touchdown run in Super Bowl history, never had a chance to have any sort of swan song after being released by the Steelers. His bad-mouthing the organization didn't help matters any. Nonetheless, he tried to get on with several teams after that to no avail. So, If It Ain't Steel is glad to see him turning the page in his career.

FWP should do well as he begins his coaching career if he is able to apply what learned and endured as a player. He didn't start at the University of North Carolina. He wasn't drafted out of college. He had a Steelers legend in front of him when he got to Pittsburgh. He even had to endure being told, during a chance encounter with a Steelers fan before making the team his rookie year, "I hope you get cut!" when he revealed that he grew up a Dallas Cowboys fan.

Point blank, FWP knows what it takes to be successful at the position and the game: he knows about overcoming adversity and the mental toughness it takes, on top of whatever physical gifts, and he learned how to be a great running back and to be gracious while being so from a great running back who was gracious while being so. If he can take what he learned and overcame and convey that to his players, we're certain to see an FWP protégé in the NFL one day.

Who knows? Maybe we'll even him in the NFL again one day too. On the sidelines.


The Baltimore Ravens and Ray Rice sneak five-year, $40 million deal in under Monday's deadline. Total numbers are five years, $40 million, with $25 million in first two years. I believe only Adrian "AD" Peterson is higher. - 

Rice is essential to the Raven's offense, so this was a necessary signing. Even in a league where the quarterback is still the golden boy who gets the cheerleader, even in Joe Flaccid's case, there is always X-factor workhorse who is the glue holding it all together. That's Ray Rice.

Baltimore could get by without The Unibrow, but not Ray Rice. They're already in danger of being bereft of two former defensive players of the year, they couldn't afford any issues with Rice also.

Antwaan Randle El Follows Kordell Stewart's Footsteps; Mike Wallace Update

First Kordell Stewart, and now Antwaan Randle El. The second former Steelers wide receiver/quarterback/rusher in almost as many months to announce his retirement. I fully expect to hear of Mark Malone's announcement of his retiring as a Steeler player any day now.

My first thought when I heard about this back on July 6th? "Ya mean he isn't already?" He then announced officially Monday, July 16th. Ok.

Look, I appreciate all that Randle El did for the Steelers. He was, in a sense, the second coming of "Slash." He returned kicks and punts, was a serviceable wide receiver, ran the ball on occasion and also played quarterback. There, as a matter of fact, is where his memory shall be closely guarded. As El is the only wide receiver in NFL history to throw a touchdown pass in a Super Bowl. (Something for which Steelers fans will be eternally grateful.) -

It's just that I don't know why a wide receiver who had 370 receptions, 4,467 receiving yards and 15 receiving touchdowns (21 total when adding returns) in nine total years feels the need to "announce" his retirement. Or am I too cynical?

The next stage of El's life will apparently be in broadcasting, as he’s going to work for the Big Ten Network as well as some preseason work with the Washington Redskins. Being that he's a very intelligent and articulate man, I'm sure he'll do very well in this next endeavor.


On Saturday, ESPN posted that the Pittsburgh Steelers are confident that a deal for Mike Wallace will be reached soon. I thought it over and, since we can't go a day without hearing about the speedy wide receiver, I decided to jot a few thoughts down. There is enough wiggle room to garner such confidence, but will we see it come to fruition?

The Steelers could afford a salary cap hit of about $4 million or so in 2012. As was noted in a previous blog, the current numbers show the Steelers at $3.73 million under the cap. A deal for Wallace could be written in such a way so that it could be restructured in the next couple of years, a la Timmons and Woodley. The thing, therefore, to concentrate on in this or any contract reached is the true guaranteed amount, not the total average per year of the agreement. For instance, the actual value of Vincent Jackson's deal is $13 million over each of the first two years. That's it. Despite all those fives, it's a 2-year, $26 million deal.

So, while I have faith that Omar Khan could make the numbers work, it's a question of whether they're numbers that the Steelers are interested in paying. Though it could be structured various ways, you'd be looking at $11 million a season no matter how much smoke there is and no matter how strategically the mirrors are placed.

The good thing is that Wallace already counts $2.74 against the 2012 cap as it is. Sign him to a long deal and that will go away. Cut Jonathan Scott and another $2 million plus ($2.2M?) is freed up. There's almost $5 million right there, the amount for the salary cap hit mentioned earlier. So, albeit very tight and full of Chinese arithmetic, it's possible. The question is whether it's probable.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Death Penalty Punishment Of Penn State Would Only Hurt Players

On Thursday, July 12th, the Freeh Report of the Penn State university 14-year sexual molestation scandal was released. I have not even had a chance to digest it and I've already seen lots of clamor for a "Death Penalty" for the football program.

I'm not the only one.

“The blogosphere is alive with calls for a death penalty,” said Bob Dvorchak, co-author of the book “Game Over: Jerry Sandusky, Penn State and the Culture of Silence. For Penn State and the football program, I think there will be sanctions, and the basis of that will be lack of institutional control.”

The "Death Penalty" would mean that Penn State's football team would be shut down by the NCAA for at least a year. In a word: ridiculous. As Dvorchak said, this is about "institutional control", not strictly about a football team.

Pulling the team out of play for a year or more is tantamount to punishing a child when it was a parent who erred. The ones who'd suffer the most in that scenario would be the players who couldn't play, would have to transfer and possibly sit for a year, or, if special considerations were to be made for transferring players, would have to battle for a position they'd already had locked up at their current school.

There wasn't one player in any way involved in the scandal, but people want to give Penn State the Death Penalty? Purely asinine!

Like Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review said: "This is bigger than football and it would be irresponsible to punish one aspect of the university. It should be a broad-stroke punishment."

What's the best way to do that? Money and scholarships. Not just from football, either, but from all aspects of the university. This was a cover-up from day one and should be approached as any other scandal of this nature, because Spanier, Curley, Shultz and even Paterno all "concealed critical facts." -

The aforementioned Kaboly agrees with me on this: "How to punish PSU as a whole? MONEY. And that starts with cutting state funds in some way for period of time."

No matter what was thought of a particular individual or how lauded he or she is/was, it can never excuse the deliberate endangerment of innocents, especially children.

Anyone, by the way, who would present the argument that the USC football and Michigan basketball programs were hit hard by the NCAA and that it was subsequent players who suffered needs to remember something: there was actual player involvement in those cases. Players, boosters and coaches were in cahoots to win at all costs. It cost them alright. The punishments there, though, fit the crime. It absolutely would not be the same in this case.

Penn State as a whole needs to be punished for this. This was a disgusting, reprehensible and malicious ongoing crime against multiple youths. Like was said in the movie The Untouchables, "Somebody steals from me, I'm gonna say you stole. Not talk to him for spitting on the sidewalk. Understand?"

In this case, the entire university shares in the culpability of stealing the innocence from these young men. They should all share, therefore, in the punishment, and have the football team's players punished for something in which they had no part.


TIDBITS: There was a report published by Sport Illustrated in 2009 that said 78% of NFL players are bankrupt or facing serious financial stress within two years of ending their playing careers.

It seems Larry Foote is getting a jump on that.

Pro Football Talk Thursday reported that Larry Foote was the victim of fraud. -

I won't linger too long on this, but I'll simply say that I hope he wasn't just stupid or ignorant about some shady deal and that one of his handlers mishandled an investment. Because, before I part with any significant amount of cash, please know that I will have done a THOROUGH investigation of where my money was going.

Granted, most NFL players are multi-millionaires and can’t just put $10 million in the cookie jar or under a mattress. They have to invest. Some guys evidently invest badly.

Hopefully he is able to rectify this and learn from his lesson so that he'll be of that other 22%.

Rashard Mendenhall Returns To Twitter And With Good News

It's official! We at If It Ain't Steel have achieved a new level: Trendsetters. Just a day after coming back from the ashes, another Phoenix arose. Yes, Rashard Mendenhall is also back. He's back on Twitter and with good news.
His first tweet was a simple, "Hello Everyone : )." It was his second tweet, though, that got the attention.

He tweeted, “@R_Mendenhall: My knee has healed wonderfully, thanks for all the well wishes!”

This is very good news because it means that the Steelers have another running back body for the stretch-run of the season. As for now, Mendenhall just needs to keep rehabbing his knee to be able to be that dynamic player again.

I'm actually hoping, though, that it has a slight affect on his style. Anyone who has read this blog for the last year knows that we're Mendy fans. We're not blind, though. Mendy has two issues that keep him from being a top tier running back. First, he has little confidence in his offensive line and it causes him to dance at the line too much. He wants to hit the home run every time and that sometimes causes a loss of yards or no gain. Sometimes he just needs to hit the hole and get the two or three available yards. He's not Barry Sanders. Besides, sometimes you have to set up those home runs with a slew of singles and doubles.

The other issue that Mendy has is vision. He doesn't have the great vision that the truly elite have and it affects his production. Not only does it affect his production, but it can, and does, kill drives.

Lance Zierlein of said something similar recently: "Watching some Steeler tape & is unreal how many yds Mendenhall leaves on field due to lack of vision."

So, I'm hoping that Mendy, along with his rehab, has been looking at tape also and realistically looked at what he could do better and focus, no pun intended, on what he could do better.

Regardless, it's good to see Mendy back on Twitter and we at If It Ain't Steel are glad we had a hand in that. (That's our story and we're sticking to it.)


We posted yesterday that the Steelers would be stupid to waste a draft pick on a risk of a player in the supplemental draft. The player in question, Josh Gordon out of Baylor, was projected to go between the third and sixth rounds.

The Cleveland Browns evidently thought differently because they took him in the second round. I know they need wide receiver help, but this could be a stretch. They'd better hope that this is a high risk, high reward situation and not a high risk who just wants to get high.

Cleveland, though, has a history of bad decisions that have lead to bad teams. The basketball and baseball teams are just as snake-bitten and historically bad. There's a reason LeBron James, Jim Thome and, well, the entire Browns team left Cleveland.

Do any current Cleveland sports fans under 35 years old even know about having a winning team? Do they remember Brad Daugherty and Craig Ehlo? Do they even know about Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield? Have they ever heard of Albert Belle and Joey Belle? (Please tell me you got that last one.)

Look, I could keep this to football, considering how this was introduced and just say "that's why they're the Browns", but I need to lay it on the line and call a spade a spade: Cleveland sucks.

And if you hate what I said, YOU'RE READING THE WRONG BLOG! I'll just let my man Dwayne close this out:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

McLendon Isn't 280 And It Isn't 4:20 In Pittsburgh

"I'm back." - Michael Jordan

"I'm thinkin' about makin' a comeback." - Muhammed Ali, The Greatest

"Don't call it a comeback!" - LL Cool J

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening, Steeler Nation. We at If It Ain't Steel have come out of rehab following a nervous breakdown to get back into the ring and we're coming out swinging. Not pulling punches, just throwing haymakers!

On Wednesday, Pro Football Talk posted what seemed to be a well-written article regarding Steelers nose tackle Steve McLendon. The problem is that they listed McLendon at 280 pounds. He isn't 280 lbs. and hasn't been for about a year now.

The article "Steelers’ Steve McLendon: I can play nose tackle at 280 pounds." Not that McLendon didn't say those words, because I'm sure he did. My problem is that I can't find the actual quote. I've looked over the Internet and can't find those specific words within an article, just those eight words.

Everything I'd read, and that I've written, to this point has been that McLendon had bulked up the last year and a half. He was supposedly closer to 300 lbs. last year and is reportedly around 320 lbs. now. Don't believe me? Ok, that's cool. But you should believe Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider and Steelers Digest and Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, a couple of guys who spend a little bit of their time around the team and facilities.

On his Twitter page Wexell tweeted this in response to Pro Football Talk's article: "@jimwexell: Steve McLendon can play nose at 280 Because he's 320."

He then tweeted this: "@jimwexell: McLendon's actually 325. Been listed at 280 since was URFA in 2009. Listing must be reason so many media predicted Steelers would draft NT."

The "listing" comment has real validity. Do the eyeball test, people. Did Big Ben LOOK like he was 241 lbs. a couple of years ago? I would have debates with fellow fans about his weight...but we were debating about 250 lbs as opposed to 260 lbs. I would venture to guess that, using the eyeball test, McLendon looks at least 300 lbs when watching him on the field.

Now, what about Kaboly? What'd he have to say? "@MarkKaboly_Trib: #Steelers NT Steve McLendon weighs 325-330 pounds."

He also touched on the original weight listing when he tweeted, "@MarkKaboly_Trib: Don't believe weights on #Steelers roster. They don't change them after initial rookie weigh-in."

Even if he isn't quite the 330 lbs. claimed by Kaboly, the Steelers coaches certainly have confidence in McLendon. We quoted Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell in a previous blog post saying as much. It was after the NFL Draft when he praised and defended McLendon. Read what Mitchell had to say here:


Wednesday morning, a respected member of the media, when speaking of this Thursday's NFL Supplemental Draft, suggested something the Steelers might do. He surmised, "What if Steelers surprised everyone & took Josh Gordon in tomorrow's supplemental draft. Big receiver. Would send loud message to Wallace. He's there in the 6th RD they better take him."

My response to that when I read it was an expected one: What are you smoking?!?

Actually, that's an easy answer: the same thing Gordon, the 6'3" 225-pound former Baylor wide receiver who ran a 4.52 40-yard dash at his pro day Tuesday, was smoking that got him suspended. The suspension which led to him being in Thursday's supplemental draft.

"It (suspension at Baylor) was due to a failed marijuana test," Gordon told the Houston Chronicle after his Pro Day work out Tuesday. "It was against school policy, of course, and I was (suspended) in the summer. I've definitely put that part of my life behind me. I don't plan to ever go back there. It was a difficult time, but I learned from it, and I've moved on."

Ok, I'll buy what you're selling. You did it in under 420 characters too. The Steelers, though, have already invested some green in purple, and they won't do it again. Sacrificing a draft pick for a weed-smoking risk won't happen. Not judging him at all, I just know it won't happen. Especially since there's varying opinions on his worth in the first place.

He's projected to go in the third round to the Cleveland Browns, according to Sigmund Bloom of FOOTBALLGUYS.COM, and Albert Breer of says Josh Gordon may be "overhyped"

Not nearly enough to burn a draft pick (no pun intended).


TIDBITS: Brief salary cap news from Brian McIntyre of Tuesday, the Steelers are somewhere between $116-$117 million for the Rule of 51 number, which, according to, puts them $3.734 million under the salary cap number.

In the report they state that the Steelers adjusted cap number is $121.195 million: the $120,600,000 base 2012 salary cap figure, plus the $506,000 remaining cap space left over from last year and other Chinese arithmetic.

Bottom line: the Steelers have room for Mike Wallace (y'all knew we couldn't do this without mentioning him) and an 11th hour move should an injury occur. Like, for instance, if I go to Latrobe and go all Tonya Harding on Jonathan Scott's leg. Not that I would, I'm just sayin...though, it would also save money in the process. Hm...