Thursday, February 28, 2013

In The 2013 NFL Draft, The Steelers Select...

...anybody's guess at this point.

The Pittsburgh Steelers' April draft board is set up to hopefully help a team that has more holes than a Louis Sachar novel. Holes on both sides of the ball. Holes for starters. Holes for depth. Holes amongst core players. Holes amongst playmakers. The interwoven tapestry of the names of those they've brought in for personal meetings do little to disentangle the conundrum, either.

That doesn't mean, however, that we're completely bereft of room for speculation. Since the needs are ubiquitous, we can at least glean clues from those whom they have brought in.

Keep in mind that teams are allowed to meet with 60 prospects during the combine for 15 minutes each. Per, they "are able to accommodate and process up to 335 total athletes each year." That's simple math, and therefore about 5.5% of the total players.

That being said, now that the Combine is in the books, below is a list of prospects the Steelers met with at the or who they are linked to by a source:

Met with -
QB Geno Smith WVU;
OG Jonathan Cooper NC;
RB Montee Ball Wisconsin;
WR Robert Woods USC;
DE/OLB Ezekial Ansah BYU; and
FS Kenny Vaccaro Texas (Jim Wexell has reported that the Steelers were to meet with him.)

Supposed interest -
DT Jordan Hill PSU (According to him in an interview with reporters);
LB Michael Mauti PSU (Jim Wexell says Steelers are interested in him);
OLB Jarvis Jones Georgia (Gerry Dulac has speculated on the Steelers' interest); and
WR Keenan Allen California (Per Dulac, the Steelers are interested. And if we missed any, please let us know.)

Seemingly, looking at those brought in so far and bringing their needs into view, we could be hearing the individual names of an offensive lineman, a linebacker, or a safety, with the outside chance of that of a wide receiver, being called out by the commissioner and vice commissioner on days one and two of the draft.

To focus on just the first three of those four positions mentioned above, offensive guard Jonathan Cooper may be higher on the Steelers draft board than the highly touted Chance Warmack, as was evidenced by this tweet last week by Steel City Insider's Jim Wexell:

As said of Cooper, "he graded out at 90 percent for the season and had double digits in knockdown blocks in nine of the Tar Heels' 12 games. He was a key part of Carolina's offensive success. The Tar Heels set single-season records in scoring, total offense and passing yards. Running behind Cooper and left tackle James Hurst, UNC tailback Giovani Bernard ran for 1,228 yards."

Though the annual NFL Beefcake contest that is the Combine can be overrated, Cooper showed the strength to back up those accolades also:

While, as Steelers beat writer Gerry Dulac pointed out, "Colbert conceded that the draft is thin in numbers in three areas, one of which is interior offensive." So, could the Steelers look to the interior line three straight years?

"Certainly can," Colbert said. "At No. 17, we're going to have a lot of options available to us and we won't close the door on any position in any round because that would be shortsighted." -

One of those options is a position not yet mentioned, that being the tight end. Per Kevin Colbert via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, with tight end Heath Miller still not having a timetable, he will miss training camp and will most likely be on the Reserve PUP list to start the season. "In my mind, when you have an ACL late in the year," Colbert said, "I still don't believe a player is 100% until a year is up." Those options include one position that is becoming of greater concern: tight end.

Since Miller, the Steelers leading receiver last season, ended 2012 with a torn ACL and MCL and a damaged PCL, which will be required to heal on its own and elongating the overall timetable, this means the tight end position will have to be addressed earlier than originally planned. In fact, Steel City Blitz went so far as to ask whether or not tight end is becoming a first round possibility. -

In a future article If It Ain't Steel will cover Heath Miller and how the Steelers could go about handling his absence. Now as for the other positions and players whom we could be hearing on the first (or second) day, outside linebacker is certainly a consideration, as is either safety position. We've written plenty about Ansah, Vaccaro and several others, and Dulac gave a rundown of Georgia's Jones, though he was most likely removed from their draft board due to a spinal issue.

So, then, who else could possibly be in the Steelers crosshairs at the top pick?

First of all, if it's the linebacker position it's outside linebacker. In truth, a quality inside linebacker can be gotten in the later rounds, names such as the aforementioned Michael Mauti or Alabama's Nico Johnson whom we've highlighted before. But, of the OLBs, one who might fall right in line with a long list Steelers linebackers with nasty streaks would be Khaseem Greene from Rutgers.

In the 2012 season, Greene recorded 136 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, six sacks, two interceptions and a partridge in a pear tree. His combine numbers weren't too shabby, either. -

However, the Steelers starting safeties are going to be 32 years old, Troy Polamalu, and 34 years old, Ryan Clark, next season. Getting younger at both positions is vital. One player who may fit well would be LSU's Eric Reid. A top prospect, the 6'2" 208-pound safety put up very good numbers by posting a 4.53/40, performing 17 reps on the 225-pound bench press and tied for the best marks in the vertical(40.5") and broad jump(134.0").

Reid should be a first-round selection in April's NFL draft. The speed and athleticism he showed at the Scouting Combine went a long way toward proving he can be a potential star on Sundays.

Will that future be in Black and Gold? It's anybody's guess.


TIDBITS: Steelers Antonio Brown took money upfront, er uh, restructured his contract to make Salary Cap room. Also, per Adam Schefter: "Not only did Steelers restructure Antonio Brown’s contract, as PFT reported, but they will restructure LB LaMarr Woodley’s contract as well.”

If the report of a $3 million cap savings is accurate, that means the Steelers took $3.75 million of the $4.5 million that he was going to earn and turned it into a signing bonus, which adds an additional $750,000 to each of the four years remaining on his contract. Four times $750k is the $3 million against the 2013 Cap.

That makes two restructures that have saved $8 million total in Salary Cap space. Couple that with the Cap itself being adjusted to approximately $123 million, that puts the magic number at about $4 million ($6 million if we still assume the Cap stays at $121.1 million). If Woodley and Ben Roethlisberger "restructure" as well, that's another approximate $13 million saved putting them $9 (or $7) million under the cap. We discussed the Timmons restructure and the possible ramifications of the Big Ben restructure in our last post:

Then the roster cuts start coming...

UPDATE: Big Ben turned $9 million of his $11.6 million base salary into signing bonus. So, it's $6 million in Cap savings, per Albert Breer.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Steelers Restructure Lawrence Timmons To Help Get Under Salary Cap, Roethlisberger Next

That was the tweet that Albert Breer of NFL Network sent out Tuesday morning. Lawrence Timmons' contract was the first to be restructured as Omar Khan and the Pittsburgh Steelers work to get under the 2013 NFL Salary Cap. Per Breer: "The move will free up approximately $5 million in salary-cap space for the Steelers" of the six-year, $50 million deal Timmons signed in 2011. -

Breer and others have pointed out that it was Timmons' roster bonus and another $4 million of his base salary that were combined and turned into a signing bonus in order to add up to the $5 million in Salary Cap savings. His, therefore was easy and, for lack of a better word, safe. The same may not necessarily be said for Ben Roethlisberger's deal.

Big Ben's base salary this seaaon is $11.6 million. The Steelers could convert over $10.6 million into a guarantee which would create $7.1 million in Salary Cap space reduction. But, as Pro Football Talk establishes, it may mortgage the future because "with a base salary of $12.1 million due in 2014, it converts to a minimum cap number of $18.325 million next year." -

With no extension, this wouldn't seem like a good thing when looking at the bigger picture. It would seem like more Salary Cap hell yet again next season. But, again as Breer speculates, that's just what the Steelers may look to do with their franchise quarterback.

"The Steelers' precedent has been to extend quarterbacks with two years left on their contracts," Breer commented, "and that would mean Roethlisberger could get a new deal next offseason."

That would be much easier on the Steelers and their needs to sign needed players, and it aids Big Ben in that he gets a really big check now (which is basically all a restructure is) and assures his future as a Steeler.

Maybe of even greater note Tuesday, though, was Steelers beat writer Ed Bouchette reporting that the team met with James Harrison's agent, Bill Parise, at the NFL combine. Harrison, who will count $10.035 million against the Cap in 2013, so the meeting would seem to have been about that and a possible restructure.

The only viable way, however, to keep him is to ask him to take a pay cut. Parise had previously said that Harrison wouldn't take a reduction, but that the option wasn't discussed and the sides plan to meet again.

One can only hope that something gives, because there will be a degree of instability at the position next season with no real successor being groomed.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Steelers at the NFL Combine: The Week In Review

Beware the ides of March... (Ok, so March's ides are actually the 13-15. I'm a day off, sue me.)

March 12th, the start of NFL free agency, still looms large for the Pittsburgh Steelers as they have definitive decisions to make. While some are suggesting that the "March Massacre" will not be as bad as first expected, "change" will come.

"Obviously, change has to occur over time," Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said on Thursday at the NFL Combine was starting. "And you hope that you've prepared and drafted or signed free agents to deal with that change as it occurs. It's inevitable that change is going to happen. And that's what this process is about."

That "change" is going to be a major one and it needs to happen. As a colleague and fellow blogger said recently, just "rip the band aid off" and get it done. If there are more cuts than in a fight between Edward Scissorhands and Freddy Kruger, so be it.

Colbert says that this situation isn't a novelty.

"It's really not unique," Colbert said. "When you have some success, you probably have good players, some of them probably have been a little bit older. As I stated earlier, they're probably going to move on. We've got to be prepared, both from a salary cap standpoint and a talent standpoint, to make these changes. It's really not any more sophisticated than in previous years."

That Salary Cap has been the center of many discussions this offseason and has had many Steelers fans complaining (read: whining) over what is in front of the team for 2013. Some potential good news came from NFL Network's Albert Breer on Friday.

Breer, from his Twitter (@AlbertBreer) account tweeted: "Word circulating through some teams that the cap could wind up being set around $123M, higher than expected. Some are skeptical. We'll see.

All will be waiting to see if that transpires because, as discussed in our previous post (, the Steelers will be in rebuilding or transitional mode for next season. Just don't tell that to Colbert.

"I don't want to say transition," Colbert said, "because that means that you're going to accept anything less than a Super Bowl in trying to get back."

In other words, he wants to ride the stairway to seven as soon as possible. The scouting combine affords Colbert and company the opportunity to evaluate talent that can aid them in doing just that.

All offseason If It Ain't Steel has provided various names the Steelers could and may even be looking to draft in April's NFL Draft. We did so specifically in the "...Drafting for Defense" and "Playmakers" articles. We'll readdress them before the Draft along with other names from the combine. -

For the most part, those particular pieces highlighted ones who may find themselves drafted in the first or second rounds. But the Draft is three days of NFL grandeur and since this Draft is singularly important, the middle and later rounds needs to provide a steal or a diamond in the rough (or both).

Taking into the consideration the order in which they were presented, defense and playmakers, there are absolutely viable players that can be had the aforementioned rounds who could pact the team fairly quickly.

Much has been written, including by us, of safeties Matt Elam, Kenny Vaccaro, Eric Reid, D.J. Swearinger, Phillip Thomas Baccari Rambo and T.J. MacDonald. We're now adding another name to an already long list of safeties, a name made because of a winning performance at the Senior Bowl: SS Jonathan Cyprien from Florida International.

As Dane Brugler of said of him: "In a talented safety group, Florida International's Jonathan Cyprien stood out on Monday with his aggressive playing style and active demeanor. He practiced at full speed and left it all out on the field, not shying away from getting physical. Whether it was a contact drill or not, Cyprien is going to meet the ballcarrier with a pop, refusing to let up." -

Cyprien is 6’0” and 209 pounds, and has the ability to make both hard-hitting, run-stopping plays and to cover with his 4.56 speed in the forty-yard dash. In his senior year, Cyprien led Florida International with in tackles and also had four interceptions.

Colbert said he 'wants to have the guy who can strike the fear in guys within the rules,' well Cyprien can do that. It also would address what Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau earlier this week said he wanted, to "add some youth" at safety. -

Something else that LeBeau said was that he thought the Steelers were as good as the Baltimore Ravens and could have done the same thing they did.

"Do I feel we could have done the same thing they did? I do. I do,” LeBeau said as reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “It didn’t break that way. They got the right people back at the right time, and we continued to have more injuries, it seemed like. Many times that decides it.”

With five losses of three points, a loss by six when having eight turnovers, a loss by 12 when after being up 19-17. Add that to all the injuries and a new offensive coordinator, and LeBeau would seem to be correct.

In order for that to have been completely accurate, at least going forward, the Steelers need more legitimate playmakers - one area in which the Ravens are definitely ahead of the Steelers. And since Colbert said they won't make any decisions on their free agents until after the combine, the Draft is to be the main focus.

This is despite talk of wide receiver Steve Breaston being a favorite of offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Per NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala: "Told Steelers have interest in PIT-native Steve Breaston. But so do DET, DAL, TN... He likes Haley. Do Steelers offer enough $?” Do they indeed? Again, the Draft is the focus.

One player many have the Steelers taking as high as the first round is Tennessee Volunteers wideout Cordarrelle Patterson. At 6’3” and 205 pounds, Patterson is a big and physical target for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Add his 4.46 speed and you have someone who can beat the press.

It's just doubtful that it happens. It's more likely, if they go that route, that they'll wait until the middle rounds. If so, two choices stand out who may remind Steelers fans of a couple of someones.

On Friday, Steel City Insider's Jim Wexell posted this to his Twitter account:

Robert Woods represents both value and talent that can be found in third or even fourth round. He definitely has his upside, but there are also concerns.

Per Brugler again, "he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right ankle in December 2011 and was bothered by the injury much of the spring and summer. Woods looked mostly healthy throughout the 2012 season, but his long-term stability will still be under scrutiny if there is any issue with his ankles." Sound familiar? That's the caveat.

He is 6'1" and 185 lbs. with sub 4.4 speed, runs a "21.07 in the 200 meters and 46.02 in the 400 meters" and has "true separation ability." Sound familiar? That's the upside.

He would be a very good replacement for Mike Wallace in that he has similar scoring-threat speed, but is a better route runner and has slightly better hands. He tends to rely on his speed a little too much in order to make plays, but, well, that didn't exactly impede Wallace. Did it?

Another possibility in that area of the draft is Texas A&M wideout Ryan Swope. According to a few Draft experts, Swope has earned a "fourth-round grade." Wexell said of him that he's "a steal" in that round and that he is "closer to HWard {with a} large sac." (Brackets ours.)

He's 6'0", 204 lbs., is tough, is a very good blocker and simply loves playing the game. Don't take our word for it, though, just watch:

Going back to Colbert for a moment, he said touched on the LaMarr Woodley, Ryan Clark and Antonio Brown locker room issue. He said he isn't overly worried about team chemistry and said that, though he was "bothered" by it, he expects his team to respond.

"We have lot of young guys ready to take the next step," Colbert said. "I'm not concerned about our locker room. We feel we have our finger on the pulse and we're comfortable."

"I'm more bothered it was anonymous," he went on. "{Woodley will} be first to tell you he was disappointed."

Hines Ward had a different take on it, however, says that the Steelers locker room is in "total disarray." He explains why, and what he thinks must be done about it. -

One of the "young guys ready to take the next step" is Brown. He echoed the words spoken by Ward when he said that a team must be a "band of brothers." Brown handled himself well and showed he's willing to step up and take the lead, and should be commended for it. -

All-in-all, it was an interesting if not busy week in Steeltown. There was even more that could have been disseminated, but still more is going on as we type. Because with the potential Salary Cap increase soon-to-come, more players than first thought may avoid the nearly-ides of March and find themselves back in Steelers uniforms next season.


TIDBITS: NFL Scouting Combine schedule -


Larry Foote says contract talks have begun between his agent and the Steelers. Ed Bouchette provides the whole story:


Another young player who wants to step up, at least from an on-the-field standpoint, is offensive tackle Mike Adams, who wants to start next season. -

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Rebuild or Reload: Steelers' Run Game Is Key Factor, part 2

UPDATED: 3/29/2013

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana - "Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, Vol.1"

In part one of this two-part series, we covered the need for a No. 1-caliber running back. Is Jonathan Dwyer that running back? Will they draft one? -
(Update: both Dwyer and Redman were tendered, Redman has yet to sign.)

Probably a more important question is will a better running back and running game in general affect the quarterback? Of course it can. And has.

The constant rotation of running backs and offensive linemen affected the play, regardless of injury, of Ben Roethlisberger. One area in which this was made evident was in the decline of Big Ben's splash plays and the ability to complete the deep ball. This coincided with the decline of the wide receivers' overall performance (and their occasional lack of effort).

Big Ben's passing statistics when looking to go deep, declined as the rushing averages dropped. His numbers in 2012 for passes 21 yards and longer were 8-37 (21.6%) for 317 yards.

These numbers were less prodigious than those in 2011 where we find that his numbers, given the same parameters, were 16-55 (29.1%) for 530 yards.

Compare that now to the numbers in the running game in the same time frame. The Steelers' average per carry dropped from 4.4 yards in 2011 to 3.7 in 2012 (per Trib Total Media's Alan Robinson, the fourth-lowest average since the NFL merger) and they also fell from No. 14 in rushing in 2011 to 26th last season.

In fact, as Dutch Wydo of "Steelers Pre & Postgame with Neal Coolong (and Lance Williams)" researched and detailed, since Big Ben's arrival in 2004, the Steelers winning percentage greatly increases the better the run production is:

"All Steelers games since 2004 where Roethlisberger was the Quarterback.

Yards per rush total and final game result. Summary of stats are at the bottom.

2004 2005 2006 2007

5.1 win 5.0 win 1.9 loss 5.5 win
5.1 win 4.2 win 4.5 loss 6.2 win
5.2 win 3.4 lost 3.8 loss 6.2 win
4.3 win 3.3 won 5.2 win 3.0 win
4.5 win 4.8 won 3.2 loss 4.0 win
4.5 win 3.6 won 5.1 loss 4.6 loss
3.8 win 3.6 lost 8.3 loss 4.8 win
3.5 win 3.4 lost 3.9 win 2.3 win
2.8 win 4.1 win 1.9 loss 4.5 win
4.8 win 4.7 win 2.5 win 3.4 loss
3.9 win 6.0 win 5.8 win 2.9 win
4.1 win 4.5 win 3.7 win 2.9 win
4.4 win 4.2 win 3.5 loss 5.7 loss
4.5 win 2.7 win 4.6 win 4.5 win
5.5 win 1.7 loss

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012

4.7 win 1.6 win 3.5 win 4.1 loss 2.9 loss
3.8 win 4.8 loss 2.1 win 3.5 win 2.4 win
1.7 loss 3.6 loss 5.1 win 2.4 win 2.7 loss
2.5 win 4.9 win 3.8 win 5.4 loss 4.4 win
5.0 win 3.9 win 4.8 loss 6.2 win 2.5 loss
4.6 win 3.9 win 4.9 win 5.8 win 5.8 win
4.3 loss 5.3 win 4.6 win 3.3 win 5.2 win
2.1 loss 6.0 win 2.3 win 4.3 win 4.5 win
4.4 win 3.6 loss 4.6 win 3.5 loss 3.3 win
3.3 win 3.7 loss 5.9 loss 3.5 win 4.1 loss
4.7 win 4.9 loss 3.3 win 3.5 win 4.1 loss
2.7 win 3.4 loss 3.3 win 4.1 win 3.1 loss
3.4 win 3.4 win 2.3 win 4.4 loss 3.3 win
3.0 loss 2.1 win 3.9 win 4.5 win
3.9 win 5.6 win 5.5 loss 6.8 loss
1.9 win
2.2 win

Roethlisberger is 40-12 when the Steelers rush for 4.5 or more yards per rush in a game.
That 77% win percentage would equate to 12.5 regular season wins on average.

The Pittsburgh Steelers would be tough to beat if Mike Tomlin’s team could add a running game to its arsenal."

It must be understood that there is no quick fix to the current state of affairs. We have to acknowledge, though, that returning to winning ways involves a healthy dose of skill at the running back position.

As Steelers offensive line coach Jack Bicknell, jr. said, he wants his lineman "to be athletic enough" to be able to keep up "with those great athletes on defense," which also involves a healthy dose of skill.

Bring the two together, allow them to aid in protecting your quarterback and in keeping your defense off of the field longer, throw in a higher percentage of splash plays...and quite a bit of luck, and you have the makings of a team looking to reload. And since that perfect storm isn't likely to happen, look for the Steelers to be in rebuild mode next season.

Harrison, Woodley and Spence: Troubling Times With Linebacker, Inc.

The linebackers of the Pittsburgh Steelers received a lot of attention this past weekend. Normally, the team we've referred to before as "Linebacker, Inc." is used to receiving praise for it's traditionally stellar play at the position. Unfortunately, not all of the attention received this weekend was 'normal.'

The positive news of the last few days was regarding the coaches wanting outside linebacker James Harrison back next year. The upside of the recommendation being Harrison's getting better as the season wound down and healing to the point where he once again resembled the Silverback. The downside of it is what Ed Bouchette pointed out in his article on Sunday.

"Harrison was held back by knee surgery that was curiously delayed until training camp after the issue kept him from participating in most of the spring drills," Bouchette wrote. "He missed the first three games and took at least half the season before he returned to form. He started the rest of the 13 games and tied for the sack lead with six.

Bouchette continued by saying that "the coaching staff is counting on Harrison and {LaMarr} Woodley for 2013. Harrison's salary could be an issue as the team tries to get under the cap, but the coaches would like him back at right outside linebacker." -

Harrison, will be 35 next season and scheduled to make $6.57 million. Recently through his agent, Deebo said that he's not interested in taking a pay cut. The problem is all that would be saved by a restructure is an approximate $1 million. For a team that is approximately $13.8 million over the $121.1 million Salary Cap, it's a very tough choice to make as to whether to find a way to keep him or to part ways.

As Bouchette also said, though, the coaching staff is depending upon someone else for next season as well.

After the season Woodley had, he's been questioned by some and castigated by (us) others. His production dropped off dramatically and was even outplayed by Jason Worilds who only started three games. Some even think he needs to stop with the photo shoots and commercials and to focus on football. Remember this one?:

Did that commercial scare you? If not, then you're probably a quarterback, because he didn't scare any signal callers this season. Woodley impotently squeaked out a total of 38 tackles and four sacks in 13 starts.

Worilds, who filled in when Woodley pulled a hamstring running to Krispy Kreme or sprained an ankle jumping for joy over a BOGO Whopper coupon, had 27 tackles and five sacks despite starting just three times. Yes, he saw action all season, but his snaps were still fewer than Woodley's...he just did more with them.

On Sunday, Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that the Steelers coaches and teammates want Woodley to focus on more of an actual training/workout routine in the offseason to get ready for football. Also, in the article, an undisclosed teammate was quoted as calling Woodley "awful."

"He tells us he works out, but we didn't see it," said the teammate. "He wasn't in shape. That has to be a reason why he was always hurt." -

This caused a backlash that Steelers veteran free safety Ryan Clark said was evident of a "fractured" team and that whichever teammate said those words anonymously was "cowardly." -

There's no doubt that Woodley underperformed last season. And as even his position coach said last preseason, his weight has been an issue. In the Bouchette article quoted earlier, the Steelers beat writer even said that Woodley "needs to specifically work on his hamstring issues because those can linger -- as they have for him -- if not strengthened."

Also, if I may here imbue this article with a bit of my anatomy and physiology training and knowledge, it isn't just a matter of strengthening the hamstring, but also of lengthening the fascia that covers the muscle in question.

Fascia is a colloid, a gel-like, fibrous connective tissue, that surrounds all of the body's muscles like stockings. If the fascia is "shortened," the muscle's ability to perform is hindered. Just as a muscle needs to be kept stretched and hydrated for maximum efficiency, so also the length and the pliability of the fascia needs to be maintained from origin to insertion.

This could be playing into Woodley's continual hamstrings issues. Something that hopefully his trainer, whomever that is (considering he turned down Tom Shaw's offer), explores as a part of his kinesiological regimen.

Regardless of how this eventually plays out, Harrison and Woodley are an integral part of the Steelers' offseason and season to come. The outside linebacker position is and always has been at center stage of the Steelers defensive attack. Being the subject of attack is definitely rare and uncomfortable.

Let's go inside for a minute and look at what the Steelers have and what they may need. It will be easier to approach it initially by going with what we know.

Lawrence Timmons arguably should have been in the Pro Bowl and is under contract, and Larry Foote led the team in tackles with 113 total. Foote is an unrestricted free agent has said he'd like to return and would take a pay cut to do so.

Inside linebacker Stevenson Sylvester is a restricted free agent and will likely be tendered at the original round level. That leaves Marshall McFadden (practice squad), Brian Rolle and Kion Wilson (Futures/Reserves contract players) as the only other ILBs who are under contract for the 2013 season.

Which brings us to Sean Spence. Though he is under contract, it isn't known whether he'll be ready for Training Camp or whether he'll be put on the Reserve PUP List to start the season. And even if he is back in time, will he be that same "see-to-do" player that head coach Mike Tomlin praised in last season's Camp?

Last preseason Spence tore his ACL, his LCL and dislocated his knee cap. A very serious to his left knee that begs the question of whether or not to move forward regardless.

If Kevin Colbert and Tomlin err on the side of caution and select an ILB fairly early in April's NFL Draft, there are several viable candidates from which to choose. listed the top five pre-Combine ILBs, which can used as a reference point. Those men are Alec Ogletree (Georgia), Manti Te'o (Notre Dame), Kevin Minter (LSU), Kevin Reddick (N. Carolina) and Kiko Alonso (Oregon). -

Since I don't expect them to take one in the first round, I would consider Te'o out of the equation. Add to that Ogletree's recent DUI and you can probably scratch him off of the list.

That leaves Minter, which is a plausible choice, Reddick and Alonso. As the NFL Combine takes place, also look for what Alabama's Nico Johnson does.

Whomever they choose, the need to return to Steel Curtain or Blitzburgh dominance is imperative. It doesn't require a ton of research to know the level of play has dropped off. Is Linebacker, Inc in danger of shutting down its assembly line? The plant may not shut down, but the products coming out aren't top of the line right now, either.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Rebuild or Reload: Steelers' Run Game Is Key Factor, part 1

As the Pittsburgh Steelers wind their way through the offseason in preparation for 2013, the problems that face them beg the question as to whether they will be able to reload or whether they'll have to rebuild.

While at present it seems that the scales are unbalanced toward the latter, there is still a long offseason to go. As new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell, jr. said last week, the "foundation" of a successful team and season definitely begins with the offensive line, and, more pointedly, players "athletic enough and be able to move."

Though it won't be a one-year transformation, with Bicknell saying that more athletic offensive linemen are needed, naturally such a running back who can exploit the various blocking schemes that will be seen going forward must be found. More pointedly, a true No. 1 running back.

Now bear in mind, we're not advocating selecting a running back in the first round. History dictates that a number one or first-round running back isn't a guarantee for success. Finding someone in the middle rounds is completely possible and feasible.

Case in point: of the top 10 rushers in the NFL in 2012, five - Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin, C.J. Spiller and Chris Johnson - were 1st-round picks. Of the remaining five - Alfred Morris (173rd pick), Jamaal Charles (73rd), Steven Ridley (73rd) and Frank Gore (65th) - were not first rounders, with Arian Foster not being drafted at all.

So, although Steelers fans know full well that the team could also find someone after the draft (see: Willie Parker), they still won't likely take such a chance. The likeliness is that they will look to find a good running back in the middle-to-later rounds.

Who, then, fit the bill and would be available in the middle rounds?

Montee Ball (5'11", 215 ibs.) is a workhorse of a running back. He knows where the hole is and he attacks them (4.57/40). But he can also change direction quickly enough to be used in a zone-blocking offense. Further, he's as productive as he is aggressive. He lead the NCAA in rushing yards (1,923) and yards from scrimmage (2,229). -

At the risk of going to the well once too often, the University of Florida's Mike Gillislee (5'11", 207 lbs.) has very good speed (4.56/40) and wants to make a big play every time he touches the ball. Though he has the tendency to stutter step a bit, somewhat like the soon-to-be-departed Rashard Mendenhall, GIllislee's vision had the Steelers scouting him at the Senior Bowl. -

Others worth taking note of are Ray Graham (5'9", 192 lbs.) of the University of Pittsburgh and Joseph Randle (6'0", 200 lbs.) of Oklahoma State University. Both are burners (4.54/40 and 4.50/40 respectively) who can pass protect and who are good pass catchers out of the backfield.

One source, though, believes the Steelers already have a running back on their roster who is suited for the role, and can stand pat. The website gives an argument for the retention of Jonathan Dwyer. -

That would leave the Steelers with Dwyer, fullback Will Johnson and exclusive rights free agent Baron Batch, since it's doubtful they would tender both Dwyer and Isaac Redman. At that point they could sign an undrafted free agent or retain a Futures contract player who shows enough promise.

However the Steelers approach the issue, it will affect the entire offense and the success of the team. History dictates that it will affect them greatly. And in the conclusion of this two-part series, we'll show how the running game has affected the success of the team, positively and adversely, in recent years and why parts of that history the Steelers shouldn't doom themselves to repeat.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Steelers Hire WRs Coach Richard Mann; Roethlisberger Inducted

"Steelers hire Aliquippa native Richard Mann as their new WRs coach." - Bob Labriola

The Steelers went into their backyard to find their next wide receivers coach. The Aliquippa native has 28 years of experience as an NFL WRs coach. He has coached with the Baltimore Colts (no typo), Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. -

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and Mann have a history together as they coached together in Tampa. When Mann joined them in 2002, Tomlin was their defensive backs coach. The 65-year old Mann, though, hasn’t coached since the 2009 when his contract wasn’t renewed by then-head coach Raheem Morris.

The veteran Mann may just be what "Young Money" needs, though at least some of that money is travelers checks as Mike Wallace is sure to be gone this offseason.


Speaking of wide receivers... If you missed it, the Steelers wideout Antonio Brown says he wants to spend career with the Steelers, and is working hard to be able to be a leader next season. -


TIDBITS: Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch would love to be back with the Steelers in 2013, even though he realizes plenty of changes are coming this offseason.

“I definitely want to play another year. The body feels fresh," Uncle Charlie said. "Right now, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but you have to figure at some point changes will be made."

The 1998 second-round draft pick who led the Steelers to a win at Baltimore in December, emphasized this by stressing the importance for the Steelers organization to succeed. "Not making the playoffs won’t be tolerated by the Rooneys much longer.”

The Steelers need a viable and young backup to starter Ben Roethlisberger. Uncle Charlie had indicated he wanted to retire toward the end of the season, but he seems to want to try another go at it. As long as they get a solid No. 2 QB as insurance for Big Ben, I'm all for it.


Speaking of Big Ben, we all know he's on an NFL Hall of Fame curve, but he's already received one induction. The Miami of Ohio University inducted the veteran quarterback into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Big Ben holds all of Miami of Ohio’s major passing records, and was also named Miami’s Male Co-Athlete of the Year in 2001 and 2003 and the MAC Offensive Player of the Year in 2003. Congrats, Big Ben. It's a stepping stone to the other HOF in Ohio, which you'll get to in about 10 years or so. -

Will Harrison, Polamalu and Clark be Steelers in 2013?

Math isn't my strong suit, but even I can tell that $24,922,500 is more than -$12,000,000.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are facing some tough decisions as they delve deeper into the offseason. Yet again, first among those decisions is the Salary Cap and Rule of 51 dilemmas that have them more upside down than the typical Fannie Mae home.

The reason that's said is because the $24.9M amount above is the Cap hit that would be taken from linebacker James Harrison and safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark alone. The negative $12 million is (most of) the amount that the Steelers are over the Cap. And as was stated in the previous "Salary Cap Update" article, those monies include the exclusive rights free agents, DeMarcus Van Dyke and Baron Batch. Then add to that the six restricted free agents, assuming all will be re-signed, and you have an approximate $8-$10 million more in contracts.

It doesn't take a math wiz at that point to figure out that not all three will be back. Harrison, though, may have made the decision as to which one that will be an easier one.

Harrison’s agent, Bill Parise, told John Harris of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that they’re "certainly willing to do (restructure). Do we need to take less money? I don’t think so. Personally, I think he’s a bargain.”

An aging linebacker who has started/played in just 24 of a possible 32 regular season games in the last two years, who is coming off of multiple surgeries to his back and knee, who subsequently saw his production suffer and who will count $10,035,000 against the Cap is "a bargain?"

No, my finding a Franco Harris throwback jersey for a quarter the price because the never-saw-a-football-game-in-her-life salesgirl got the tags mixed up was a bargain. This is no bargain.

It isn't fiscally responsible, either. The problem that the Steelers face is that it might be cheaper to roll the dice and restructure (though, they would only save about $1 million in doing so). -

If the Cap casualty is Polamalu, though, his departure would clear $10,137,500. This is another player whose age and health could possibly mean that he won't be in a Steelers jersey next season. After all, the Steelers secondary did attain its number one status without him.

Don't worry, though. I'm not asking for his head on a pike, either. While defensive end Brett Keisel (who himself will count about $4,500,000 against the Cap and realizes he could also be gone next season) did say that the Steelers do "need some splash plays by those young guys" to bring the defense back to the level it had been before, that wasn't to mean that the veterans are just to be tossed aside.

The presence of a healthy Polamalu provides an almost unquantifiable comfort level and stability for the defense. At the same time, his presence often causes a great air of uncertainty for an offense and signal caller. Because of Polamalu's being able to be at the line of scrimmage to stuff runs or rush the quarterback, to play underneath given the pass play or to play deep on long passes, he must be accounted for when on the field.

That explosive play, splash-play ability, is what was often missing from the defense in 2012. They were solid to say the least, but lacked the triple threat. A threat that he showed signs of again in the final two games of the season. He is still, even with his absenteeism of late, a player the Steelers are better with than without.

But this game is still ultimately a business, and business is dictated by the bottom line. Saying that, it may be a 50/50 as to whether they cut losses and go younger or keep the veteran and chance that he can be healthy for the majority of the year.

A difficult decision to say the least. After all, this game is no country for old men, and I must ask, "What's the most you ever lost on a coin toss," Kevin Colbert?

The last being focused on here is free safety Ryan Clark. Clark left Twitter back on January 28, 2013 because he is, as his wife (@WriteHereYONKee) tweeted "Focusing on rehab & training."

The minor controversy it caused aside, Clark is scheduled for a Cap hit of around $4.75 million in 2013, the final year of his contract. Should he be released, the Steelers would also save the $3.5 million base salary he's due.

That said, he was arguably the Steelers defensive MVP of the first of 2012. He finished the season with 102 tackles, nine passes defensed, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He was the vocal leader of the defense and the Yin to Polamalu's Yang.

However, his other stats were two concussions and a deep thigh bruise to end the season, Add that to the fact he'll be 33 years old next year and it can be understood why his is a name considered for a possible release. A dilemma that surely has Omar Khan hanging this sign on his office door:

If It Ain't Steel's guess is that, of the three and despite proven backups at any of the positions discussed, Harrison is one most likely to be gone.

Still, whomever leaves, I don't need to need to be a math wiz to know that something has to give this offseason or the next numbers we could be considering are 8-8 x 2 = 2013.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Steelers Coach Montgomery Leaves Staff; Salary Cap Updates

Another has left the roost. Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers coach Scottie Montgomery served three seasons as wide receivers coach at Duke University, his alma mater.

These are the facts: Montgomery is the third Steelers' assistant to leave since the end of the 2012 season. The others were offensive line coach Sean Kugler, who left for the head coaching job at UTEP, and special teams coach Amos Jones, who made a lateral move to the Arizona Cardinals.

The 34-year old Montgomery played at Duke University from 1996-99, and ranks second on their all-time list receptions list and is fourth on all-time receiving yards with 171 catches and 2,378 yards respectively. He was the Blue Devils' Most Valuable Player 1998 and 1999. -

What is just as important, however, is how this affects the team continuity and preparations for next season. There are enough issues at hand with regard to the actual players, let alone the ones in charge of guiding them. And, as alluded to before, Jones and now Montgomery, who, according to many, were supposed to be Tomlin's guys, only took lateral transfers?

"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."

So now, per Ed Bouchette, Tomlin now has two openings on his staff to fill. As he tweeted from his Twitter (@EdBouchette) account on Friday: ".... Unfilled ST asst he may use elsewhere."

Who will it be, though, to fill the WR coach position? Some have suggested Hines Ward might fill it. Well, allow me to address that as elaborately and eloquently as I can.


Ward has said that coaching may be in his future, but in so many words said that it would be 'no time soon,' and that if and when he did it would probably be at his "alma mater."

Mark Kaboly suggested this with respects the opening: "Steelers might not have to go far to find Scottie Montgomery's replacement. Bobby Engram is only right next door at #Pitt."

Whomever it shall be remains to be seen. What we have already seen, however, is that, either Tomlin is cleaning house and is dead set on presenting the best possible product for 2013 and forward, or the coaches under Tomlin are chafing badly under his headship. Let's hope, for continuity's sake that it's the former.


As we presented in our last blog, Pro Football Talk reported that the Steelers have a credit of $758,000 which is a carry-over of unused cap space from 2012. It's also more than originally expected or known.

In light of the extra monies provided the Steelers and to break down the Cap situation of the Steelers, we thought we'd turn to Ian Whetstone of Steel City Insider again as last season.

In part, he said "the Steelers currently have 44 players signed for 2013...and when including the Exclusive Rights Free Agents -
$555,000 CB Van Dyke, DeMarcus
$480,000 RB Batch, Baron -

{and} Dead Money {hits} -
$344,824 DT Ta'amu, Alameda
$37,368 WR Clemons, Toney
$34,422 CB Frederick, Terrence
$23,256 RB Batch, Baron
$3,334 CB Carter, Terry
$3,334 DE Igbinosun, Ikponmwosa
$3,334 OL Lee, Ryan
$3,334 WR Maze, Marquis
$2,667 LB Lindsey, Brandon
$2,667 DE Stoller, Jake
$1,667 WR Dixon, Connor
$1,334 TE Saunders, Weslye -
there is a $133,101,630 current Cap commitment."

He further said there is a "$121,000,000 projected 2013 salary cap
Unknown 2012 cap carryover (should not be more than a few 100k)
Unknown 2013 cap adjustment. {editor's note: as stated at the outset, both have been increased since the original posting.}

"The Restricted Free Agents:
RB Dwyer, Jonathan
P Kapinos, Jeremy (I think)
DT McLendon, Steve
RB Redman, Isaac
WR Sanders, Emmanuel
LB Sylvester, Stevenson

"Projected RFA Tenders:
$2,879,000 First-round tender
$2,023,000 Second-round tender
$1,386,000 Original round tender

"Unrestricted Free Agents
S Allen, Will
QB Batch, Charlie
WR Burress, Plaxico
LB Foote, Larry
OL Foster, Ramon
DT Hampton, Casey
LB Johnson, Brandon
TE Johnson, David
CB King, Justin
QB Leftwich, Byron
OL Legursky, Doug
CB Lewis, Keenan
RB Mendenhall, Rashard
S Mundy, Ryan
TE Pope, Leonard
OL Starks, Max
WR Wallace, Mike
LS Warren, Greg"

So the Steelers do have the adjusted figure of a $121.1 million Salary Cap. Yet with all of their UFAs, even with having three $250,000 veteran Cap credits at their disposal, they still have no choice but to clean house. Especially considering that Baltimore Ravens team president Dick Cass said at the team's season-ending press conference that the "cap is not expected to go up dramatically in 2014....It should not be much more than $122 million in 2014.”

So, the nine-year extension of its Sunday broadcast television packages with CBS, FOX and NBC that will run through the 2022 season, was expected to blow up. It turns out that the cap will remain flat after all. Which means a careful stratagem will be needed continually into the seasons to come as well. All of which should start in mid-February.


TIDBITS: Who could the Steelers lose in their March purge? As we wrote last June, James Harrison could be one who would go. -


Ravens say they won't restructure contracts to keep their team together. If so, Anquan Boldin says he would retire before wearing another jersey. ...yeah, ok. -

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Whether Offense Or Defense, Steelers Need Playmakers

by Jason and Jayden

If you watched the Super Bowl a few days ago, you probably noticed that, despite whatever differences, there were two things that both teams had in common: speed and playmakers.

The trends and rules of the current NFL make it so that no one should even expect to have real success without them. Whether Colin Kaepernick, Joe Flacco, Navarro Bowman, Paul Kruger, Frank Gore, Ed Reed, etc..., he list goes on for both teams. Look at the NFL's version of the final four, as well as the rest of the playoff teams, and numerous playmakers could be rattled off.

Now turn your attention to your Pittsburgh Steelers and see how many you can name who were true playmakers. Ben Roethlisberger? Definitely. Lawrence Timmons? For the most part, sure. Troy Polamalu or James Harrison? Maybe - at least when available or healthy. But, like Mr. Tony says, that's it. That's the list.

The dearth of speed and playmakers, reliable and consistent ones, was an issue for the Steelers last season and could be a real problem next season considering who all may be lost in free agency. Just as speed kills, the lack of it does also. -

Wednesday morning, Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider tweeted from his Twitter (@jimwexell) account: "Stop mocking these for #Steelers: {linebacker Alec} Ogletree, {nose tackle John} Jenkins, {linebacker Jarvis*} Jarvus Jones. Not that there's anything wrong with UGA. players.” (Brackets ours)

He then followed that immediately with: "Start looking at this guy instead: Tavon Austin. #Steelers”

We already have, Jim. If It Ain't Steel, being that we're WVU Mountaineers fans as it is and saw every game of his, provided a breakdown of Tavon "Awesome" in a previous article. -

As we stated in that posting, Austin is fast, quick, elusive and lined up at wide receiver, in the slot, as a returner and as a running back. When watching him play, it was often like looking at the old Bugs Bunny baseball cartoons where it was "Bugs Bunny: shortstop; Bugs Bunny: left field; Bugs Bunny: right field; Bugs Bunny: centerfield..."

Basically, like what Chris Rainey was supposed to have been last season. As well, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders were supposed to be some of the best playmakers in the league. Instead they dropped the ball - literally and figuratively. And as Brown told KDKA-TV recently, since he wants to be a Steeler for life, he and "guys like myself...we have to take this team to the next level." -

Austin is a perfect example of what the Steelers could use, as a compliment or a replacement, in their lineup. He's in high demand, though, so they must have other options in place as contingencies. One player who used the Senior Bowl to become several teams' main choice or contingency is Texas Longhorns wide receiver Marquise Goodwin.

SportsDayDFW offered this regarding Goodwin: " analyst Daniel Jeremiah compiled his list of Senior Bowl risers and sliders, and former Texas wide receiver Marquise Goodwin is one who’s made quite the impression.

'Every time Goodwin lines up for a repetition in one-on-ones, there is a hush in the crowd,' Jeremiah writes. 'NFL evaluators have been intoxicated by his explosiveness off the line of scrimmage and ability to find another gear when the ball is in the air. He has been caught up in press coverage a few times this week, but his overall performance has left quite an impression on clubs in need of a home-run hitter at receiver.'"

For some reason, Goodwin only had 33 touches on offense all season for Texas, and that includes 13 carries. But he made those touches count. In spades. There were a couple of games in particular where this human pinball machine was directly responsible for the TILT of his opponents.

Goodwin, a 10.4 100-meter speedster and Olympic long jumper, had five total touches for 132 yards and two touchdowns against Oregon State, and another four touches for 182 yards and two touchdowns against Ole Miss. Included in those stats were TD runs of 64 and 69 yards respectively. Definitely underutilized, but it could be a blessing in disguise if the Steelers are interested and are able to pick him up. -

Since Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin values versatility, each of these players fits to a tee.

With all that speed a splash-play making ability on offense, someone has to be able to keep up on defense. The Steelers were bereft of an abundance of playmakers there too. This year's NFL Draft offers viable options for being that playmaker stopper. One who comes to mind is a safety we've highlighted before. Now, though, we offer him as the very solution to the "awesome" WVU player we so covet.

Senior safety Kenny Vaccaro has size, speed and athleticism and was on the short list of the best safeties in the Big-12 last season. He earned First Team all-conference honors while tackling 82 ball carriers, eight for a loss, recording two sacks, breaking up eight passes and intercepting two more.

That alone makes him worth a look. But, as we said earlier, we didn't miss one WVU game, so we know first-hand what Vaccaro is capable of doing. As does Tavon Austin.

When the Longhorns and Mountaineers met in week five of the college football season, Vaccaro lined up primarily against Austin. Much to the dismay of many Mountaineers fans, turning "awesome" into just "Aww..." A breakdown of the spread offense stopper's performance is provided here:

Don't tell Wexell, but on top of providing a Tavon stopper, we're also going back to Georgia. With the size and speed to play either safety position, Bacarri Rambo is a player who could possibly interest the Steelers.

The 6'0" 210-pound run stuffer is also a coverage guy who runs a 4.5 in the 40. At Georgia, he had 162 tackles (110 solo) and 16 interceptions. Rambo is a first blood type of player who fits the physical style of the Steelers defense.

Be it on defense or on offense, though, speedy playmakers are definitely needed. Because it's kill or be killed.


TIDBITS: NFL Live on Wednesday suggested that free agent Reggie Bush could be picked up by the Steelers. With new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell, jr. wanting athletic linemen who can play in space, that would lend itself to obviously having a running back who can play in space and run intelligently between the tackles.

It's at least plausible when you consider that with 443 carries for 2,072 (a 4.67 yards-per-carry average) and 12 touchdowns, by himself he surpasses the three "feature" backs for the Steelers the last two seasons. Between themselves, Rashard Mendenhall (2011) and Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman (2012) accumulated 494 carries for only 1,961 yards (3.93 YPC) and 13 touchdowns.

Bush is also a very dangerous receiver out of the backfield and returner. Best of all, after seven seasons in the NFL he's just 27 years old.

Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley had a similar player in Dexter McCluster when he was the coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. As stated earlier, the Steelers drafted Rainey to be a similar player, so they clearly want that explosive, versatile player. Either Austin, Goodwin or Bush could fill the need for speed and versatility.


Speaking of Rainey, he cleared waivers on Tuesday. The Steelers released him after the Super Bowl, but none of the other 31 NFL teams wanted to gamble (pun intended) on taking him. -


According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the 2013 salary cap will be $121.1 million and not barely-over $120.9 million as had been reported previously. Also, as Pro Football Talk reported, the Steelers also have a credit of $758,000 which is a carry-over of unused cap space from 2012. This is more than was originally reported, as we posted in a blog about a month ago. -

Monday, February 4, 2013

Baltimore "Holds" On To Turn Out The 49ers Lights, 34-31

Sorry this took so long to get out there, folks. I watched the Beyonce halftime show again...and then I watched it again...and again...and again...and well, I needed more alone time after that...(ahem)

Even though it was the Baltimore Ravens winning the Super Bowl, I have to admit to it being a great game. In fact, as Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco said, "it was f***ing awesome!" -

Flacco torched the San Francisco 49ers defense for 192 yards and three touchdowns, going 13 for 20 in the first half. Flacco went 22 for 33 overall for 287 yards and three touchdowns Sunday. In our pregame article where we broke down whom we thought would win, we picked the 49ers. But the Ravens (ahem) held on to win. -

After an average, middle-of-the-pack season when he finished only 12th in the NFL in passer rating with 87.7 - even when missing three games, Ben Roethlisberger had a 97.0 rating - and throwing 22 touchdown passes against 10 interceptions, he was perfect in the playoffs throwing 11 TD passes and no interceptions, tying the record previously held solely by Joe Montana. All told, Flacco went 73 for 126 for 1,140 yards.

He also went four out of five for 106 yards and two touchdowns on third down, with the play of the day offensively coming late in the second quarter when Flacco hit Jacoby Jones deep for a 56-yard touchdown pass.

Congratulations on the MVP, Flacco. It was certainly deserved. But "elite?" Slow ya roll, youngin'.

Like Hip-Hop artist Nas said,
"You went platinum?...Oh, that's nice.
Now let me see you do the same thing twice.
Three times, four times,
Then a couple of more times..." - "Classic"

Merely as a point of comparison, Tim Smith set a Super Bowl rushing record with the Washington Redskins in 1988, rushing for 204 yards and two touchdowns in the Washington Redskins' 42-10 blowout of the Denver Broncos. Smith last played in the NFL in 1990 with the Dallas Cowboys. Last I heard, he was living in the Grey Bar Motel after being busted for drug distribution in 2006.

Now I'm not saying at all that Flacco is destined to have a roommate named Ben Dover any time soon, but the point is that this is the same quarterback who had the two lowest QBRs in the recent memory, 0.3 and 0.4, both this season.

I had a 0.2 just sitting on my couch after throwing the remote at the t.v. in disgust on Sunday. So, let's wait on the "elite" talk. (By the way, sorry about that, sis. Tell my brother-in-law that I'll get that repaired asap.)

To this point, I thought this was going to be a blowout and decided to just focus (closely) on Beyonce. Then Kelly and Michelle and jumped on stage, too, reminding us just how "bootylicious" they all still are. When I recovered from that, the 2 Broke Girls special promo aired. After coming to, I awoke to find the lights had gone out.

I totally missed Jacoby Jones putting on his new Skechers Go-Run 2 shoes and making the 49ers special teams look silly as he sped through them untouched for a 109...ahem...108-yard kickoff return.

I thought I was still out cold when I saw the lights inside the Superdome were out. I don't know what had happened...a circuit breaker tripped...a blackout...Ray Lewis crying so much that his crocodile tears shorted out some wiring... (Yeah, he was there. I don't see him, either. I had to look his numbers up in the stat sheet.)

It was finally found out what happened...

Since San Francisco was used to the dark, they went out after the more-than-30-minute delay and quickly scored 17 consecutive points to make things interesting and eventually pull it to 34-29.

The Ravens found a way to "hold" on, though, eventually stopping the 49ers on a fourth-and-goal at the five-yard line.

Everyone in the Superdome, except the referees, could see that Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith held on the play causing the pass from Colin Kaepernick to sail over the head of Michael Crabtree.

A livid Jim Harbaugh argued that Crabtree got held and bumped by Smith: "There's no question in my mind that there was a pass interference and then a hold on Crabtree on the last one."

No question in anyone's mind, Jimbo. Well, no one outside of Baltimore anyway. It stood, though, ending 34-31.

Oh, well...I swear, the Ravens got away with murder.


TIDBITS: Remember the 'guarantee' by LaMarr Woodley made that the Ravens would never win the Super Bowl as long as he's in the league/the Steelers have something to do about it?: I Wonder What Humble Pie Tastes Like to Steelers Linebacker LaMarr Woodley. -


What are the Steelers odds to win Super Bowl 48? According to they are 18 to 1.
These are the odds on the rest:

New England Patriots: 7 to 1
San Francisco 49ers: 8 to 1
Denver Broncos: 8 to 1
Green Bay Packers: 10 to 1
Houston Texans: 14 to 1
Baltimore Ravens: 14 to 1
Seattle Seahawks: 16 to 1
Atlanta Falcons: 18 to 1
New Orleans Saints: 18 to 1
New York Giants: 20 to 1
Washington Redskins: 30 to 1
Dallas Cowboys: 30 to 1
Chicago Bears: 30 to 1
Cincinnati Bengals: 35 to 1
Detroit Lions: 40 to 1
Minnesota Vikings: 40 to 1
Indianapolis Colts: 40 to 1
San Diego Chargers: 40 to 1
Philadelphia Eagles: 50 to 1
Carolina Panthers: 50 to 1
New York Jets: 50 to 1
Miami Dolphins: 50 to 1
St Louis Rams: 50 to 1
Kansas City Chiefs: 50 to 1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 60 to 1
Cleveland Browns: 66 to 1
Arizona Cardinals: 100 to 1
Buffalo Bills: 100 to 1
Tennessee Titans: 100 to 1
Oakland Raiders: 150 to 1
Jacksonville Jaguars: 150 to 1

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Hall Of Fame Eludes Jerome Bettis...Again

"Steelers Jerome Bettis fails to make Pro Football HOF after reaching the cut to 10 today." - Ed Bouchette

I needed time to calm down after hearing this news. All because of 80 yards.

I could understand why he hadn't made it before...Steelers bias?...not a "first-ballot" Hall of Famer?...other running backs ahead of him? Various reasons to fall back on for debate as to why he hadn't been inducted yet. Yet, he missed it by 80 yards.

The third was supposed to have been the charm for The Bus. He was supposed to have pulled into his last stop this year - in Canton. Instead, seven others will wear the mustard-colored jackets at the Hall of Fame Induction ceremonies August 3rd, 2013.

All because of 80 yards!

Why do I keep saying that? Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Trib Total Media tweeted this from his Twitter (@arobinson_Trib) account: "HOF selectors spent more than 30 minutes debating Bettis. One hangup: his 3.9 yards average. 80 more yards and he hits 4.0."

To help make his point more lucid, last year's HOF inductee running back Curtis Martin ran for 14,101 yards in 11 years and finished with a 4.0 average. Bettis? 13,662 yards in 13 years finishing with the aforementioned 3.9 average. Thus, Martin got the edge last year...and most thought Bettis would get in this year. Instead, the third charm felt more like a third strike.

As Ed Bouchette also wrote, however: "Maximum of 7 make Pro Football HOF. Bettis candidacy was his strongest yet. Should make it, maybe 2014." Maybe. Hopefully.

Nonetheless, as If It Ain't Steel has written before, Bettis was the best truly big running back in NFL history. Period. End of sentence.

The "first ballot" nonsense has always gotten on my nerves: A Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer. This should've been the year the bowler who's built like a bowling ball and who was a multi-year Pro Bowler was to roll a strike. Instead, not even a seven/ten split.

Those seven new Hall of Famers who did make it are legendary coach Bill Parcells, Dallas Cowboys offensive guard Larry Allen, the wide receiver who 'only caught touchdowns', Cris Carter, Green Bay Packers linebacker Dave Robinson and Curly Culp. Larry and Moe didn't make the cut. (Actually, Culp was an Pro Bowl defensive lineman for the KC Chiefs and Houston Oilers.)

To add insult to an already injurious weekend, Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden was a first-ballot inductee (sorry, Steelers fans, I hate it but he deserves it), and the chapter 13-filing, Tourette-Syndrome having, diarrhea-of-the-mouth spewing Warren Sapp who'll find a way to hock his jacket within a year's time.

So, let's review a rundown of this weekend: the Ravens are in the Super Bowl ('nuff said), they're playing the San Francisco 49ers (possible 6-0 SB record), Bettis doesn't get into the HOF, and then Ogden and Warren B**ch Tits do get inducted.

Yeah...I'm going to bed until Monday.

At least the NFL provided a parting gift...

Will Another Running Quarterback Lead 49ers To A Super Bowl Victory?

(Hey! Didja know that two brothers were facing each other in the Super Bowl? Really! I'm serious. We figured that we'd better tell ya since NEITHER ESPN NOR NFL NETWORK HAS MENTIONED IT AT ALL. And now that you know...)

When you're at least 6'2" and in excess of 220 pounds, athletic enough to play multiple positions (and sports) and set NCAA records at a respected west coast university, you're expected to do well in the NFL....and that's just what Steve Young did.

The current version of the San Francisco 49ers multi-threat quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, had almost an impressive of a résumé, and is just a touch bigger (he's 6'4" 230lbs) than Young. Add to that, Young is "jealous" of what Kaepernick has going for him so early in his career. Attributes and assets that have him in Super Bowl XLVII against the Baltimore Ravens in what will be his ninth start.

“He’s got a lot of great weapons with the best offensive line maybe since the 2000 Rams, and maybe then since the ’92 or ’93 Cowboys,” Young said, via Pro Football Talk and Matt Maiocco of “I mean, this offensive line is well ahead of most everybody else. That dictates terms...for Colin Kaepernick....I’m actually really jealous about the pistol. I think it’s such a cool thing.” -

The Pistol is a hybrid of the Shotgun formation where the quarterback lines up four yards behind the center rather than the normal shotgun seven yards. It has the advantages of being able to be utilized as a read-option offense, and allows an athletic quarterback such as Kaepernick to be a dangerous X-factor.

Young had maybe the most iconic touchdown run in NFL playoffs history when he ran 49 yards while breaking five tackles on his way to a score. That was from under center. Imagine if he would have had an offense like the Pistol/read option. No wonder he said he's jealous.

As Young admitted, though and as the article made lucid, the 49ers are doing their best to keep him out of harm's way to best utilize his skills. Because a running-styled quarterback opens himself up to being hit more often. He's potentially in greater danger to injury.

How the Ravens attack this will determine their success. They had a look at a very similar offense earlier this season when they faced Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins. They didn't fair so well in that one, losing 31-28.

In that game RGIII passed for 242 yards a touchdown and 34 rushing yards, while running back Alfred Morris ran for 129 yards on 23 carries (a 5.6 YPC average). The Ravens had no answer early on, but adjusted as the game progressed. Still, they eventually succumbed to the combination of the multi-threat read-option QB and the bruising runner.

Exactly what they'll face in Kaepernick and Frank Gore on Super Sunday.

But the 49ers are far more than an option team. Kaepernick won't let the bright lights affect him, either. His first ever collegiate start was in hostile territory, the blue turf of Boise State, and all he did was pass for 243 yards and three touchdowns and to run for 177 yards and two more touchdowns.

That said, there are two main ways the Ravens can handle a Pistol/read-option offense: play back and adjust to what they hive you, which is much what they did against the Redskins, or attack with a form of controlled fury where your unblocked defender attacks from the outside to contain. Points which Greg Cosell breaks down very well here:

Team defense is absolutely necessary against a QB with Kaepernick's skill set. They must hit him and hit him often. As said a few paragraphs earlier, a running-styled QB opens himself up to being hit more often. He's potentially in greater danger to injury. Something that Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Bernard Pollard are more than willing to do. -

It's that defense that has led the Ravens to winning the last three meetings with 49ers by combined score of 69-19, with the last game being a 16-6 win on Thursday Night Football on November 24, 2011.

But what of their offense? The Ravens have a QB who bears a bit of a resemblance to Steve Young also. Not only Young, but also Joe Montana.

Ravens QB Joe Flacco can join Young and Montana as the only QBs to finish a postseason with nine touchdown passes and no interceptions if he throws at least one touchdown and no interceptions. He’ll tie Young at that point. Less likely is his throwing three touchdowns and no interceptions to tie Montana.

Nonetheless, leading his team to four losses in their last five regular-season games and having the two lowest QB Ratings in recent years, Flacco has turned things around in the postseason. He has passed for an average of 276 yards a game to go along with the absence of interceptions.

On top of that, running back Ray Rice is controlling the ground game. With a balanced offense of Flacco, Rice and Anquan Boldin, the Ravens are a force and at times even surgical. -

However, one reason for that is the lack of pressure on the quarterback. Knowing the Ravens the way we do, Flacco can be rattled when hit. Not grazed, not glancing blows...HIT.

The 49ers defense can and will do just that. With Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Aldon Smith and the rest of the NFL's third-ranked defense, they will look to do some purple-people eating. Aldon Smith alone had 19.5 sacks on the season and is likely salivating over the only 20th-ranked Ravens offensive line that allowed 38 QB sacks and 69 QB hits.

But this still comes back to the X-factor: Kaepernick. Gore and LaMichael James can be key for the Ravens to contain, but the amount of physicality the Ravens bring to Kaepernick that will be needed to limit him, intimidate him or even stop him is what will win or lose this game.

If the Ravens can do that, win. But I don't think they will be able to do it enough to get the win. I picked the 49ers in If It Ain't Steel's postseason prediction blog at the end of the regular season, and I'm not coming off of that. Take the 49ers with another multi-threat QB to win the Super Bowl over the Ratbirds. (I just had to...)