Sunday, March 31, 2013

Roger Goodell's Opening Night Excuse Not Valid

by Jayden and Jason

"{Roger Goodell} said playing the opener on Sept. 4 has been ruled out because of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah." -

Umm...did I read tha...uh...I beg your pardon?

As has been the norm for several years now, the defending Super Bowl champions are awarded center stage via the NFL season opener on the Thursday night before opening weekend. This year, that honor was supposed to fall to the Baltimore Ravens on September 5th, but the Baltimore Orioles have a home game of their own scheduled that night against the Chicago White Sox and, with the two stadiums sharing a parking lot, the two games cannot be played at the same time.

When the NFL commissioner informed the public that the NFL was having trouble scheduling the opening game because of the conflict, the above quote was the reason given for not simply moving the game up a day.

The positive aspect of this is that on the surface it would seem that Goodell is showing himself to have an evolved set religious sensibilities and to be respectful of the culture and faith of others. After all, there are men of many faiths in the NFL.

When delving deeper into it, though, we find the negative aspect of it: there are men of many faiths in the NFL. That considered, there are actually a few things wrong with his statement.

If Goodell is truly looking to be culturally sensitive, considering the NFL Deportes program has been in place for years, where is the sensitivity toward Mexican Independence Day which is celebrated on September 16th? -

If it is more a matter of religio-cultural awareness by Goodell, why aren't games preempted for Hanukkah? Christmas? Kwanzaa? Though of inaccurate and pagan origins, many still consider Christmas as a religious holiday, yet games are often played and even highlighted on December 25th.

You might have thought to yourself at some point while reading this that it isn't something he can control, though, because Jewish holidays are based on the lunar calendar causing the dates on our Gregorian calendar to change each year. Well, if that is the case, why bother at all?

Rosh Hashanah is a two-day holiday, meaning that even if there wasn't a scheduling conflict, the game would still be played on the holiday. Additionally, in 2012, Rosh Hashanah fell on a Sunday - starting September 16 at sundown (the Jewish day originally went from sunrise to sunset, or approximately 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.) to Tuesday, Sept. 18 at sundown.

Where were his evolved sensibilities then?

Whatever the real reason was for not moving the game back to Wednesday, we don't know. We must assume, therefore, that what the commissioner said is what he really believes, that he is being culturally sensitive in not scheduling the opening night game that day. Because he certainly couldn't be using it to veil an ulterior reasoning. I mean, Goodell has never done that. Has he?

Big Questions Lie Ahead For Steelers Offense

There is a lot that could be and that has been written about what might be expected from the 2013 version of the Pittsburgh Steelers. From a few believing that the team will be galvanized into bouncing back, to some who expect a repeat of 2012's record, to those few believe (or who want to believe) this is the beginning of the end of an era. And there are reasons that could seemingly support all of these hypotheses.

As If It Ain't Steel discussed in a previous blog post (, today's NFL greatly favors the offense. And without a doubt, there are questions about the key areas of the Steelers offense. Remember, despite there being problems early in the season with the defense, the team still has a 6-3 winning record. It was when injuries to franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and other key offensive players were sustained that the season was effectively brought to an end.

Now, with the NFL Draft rapidly approaching, questions rise as to what the Steelers will do to fill the holes left by departed and released players. There are also questions surrounding existing players as well as coaches and the front office. Normally, an 8-8 record wouldn't cause such uncertainty, division and consternation, but the Steelers are a proud organization that is used to winning.

What, then, are the main issues facing the Steelers offense?

Contrary to the selective memories of most fans, offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s west coast-style offense not only kept Big Ben upright (he was only sacked 17 times through the first nine games) but also had people, including If It Ain't Steel, talking about him as a possible MVP candidate. Then he got injured, and the sacks and interceptions started to accumulate and the talk became whispers and then complete silence.

Can the man who went from Big Ben to Gentle Ben to college graduate to Ben, Sr., return to the Big Ben we all knew and gave both too much and not enough credit?

Make no mistake, Big Ben is the lynchpin and the offense revolves around his performance. And if there's any question as to whether that's so, we simply refer you to the Steelers' aforementioned post-injury slide. He simply IS the franchise right now and all involved need to remember that. -

At the same time, though, like Velma in Chicago, he can't do it alone.

Two of the more talked aspects of the offense for the upcoming season are how Antonio Brown will perform without Mike Wallace, and how to replace Wallace's 64 receptions and eight touchdowns.

First off, there should be little concern from Big Ben that Brown will be able to handle the increased attention. In fact, Brown had 123 total targets in 2011, more than the 119 targets Wallace in 2012. Brown also caught a higher percentage of those targets (69 for 56.1%) than Wallace (64 for 53.8%).

Steelers former wide receivers coach Scottie Montgomery even said of Brown, in a one-on-one interview with Bob Labriola back in June of 2012, that Brown's biggest flaw was just slowing down.

"For one, 84, or Antonio, as most people would know him as, sometimes you just have to work on him backing off a little bit," Montgomery said, "because he is a guy that wakes up at 6 am and starts working out, and doesn't stop working out until about 10 p.m."

Montgomery veritably gushed over the receiver in that interview and said something that most already suspected about the Central Michigan product.

"I don't doubt any day when Antonio Brown wakes up that he's not trying to be the best in the world," Montgomery also said. "When he wakes up, he is trying to be the number one player in the world...So what he needs to understand, is from a professional standpoint, professional development sometimes happens through rest."

Keep in mind also that Brown isn't afraid of the spotlight, the workload or the responsibility. This is the same man who set a Steelers record with 2,048 all-purpose yards in 2011, has been the Steelers MVP and has been more vocal recently about taking a bigger role as a leader on the team.

The speedy wideout, almost as fast as Wallace and definitely quicker, could still benefit from a next-level speedster on the other side of him. While If It Ain't Steel has highlighted several who could fill that role, the bigger issue to Brown's game being hindered is the absence of tight end Heath Miller.

Miller is that salve that provides a panacea to any breakdown or double coverage that ails the wide receivers. During the time that he'll be away and on the mend is when the effects will actually be seen.

Yet another way of looking at it, though, is that Brown could step into Wallace's shoes as the one drawing the double coverages.

If Emmanuel Sanders does stay (the New England Patriots have until April 19th to formally make an offer to him), the Steelers are better off. Sanders is a very good blocking wide receiver who runs very precise routes. He's mainly a slot man, but is even actually a hair faster than Brown. His emergence would be a serious boon to the offense and it could benefit players like Plaxico Burress and/or Jerricho Cotchery.

Then there is the probability of adding a rookie wideout to that mix to spread secondaries thinner still. Even with Wallace gone, however, Brown, Sanders and Miller provide Big Ben with his share of big-play options. The running game, however, needs to improve. So...

No, that's neither a typo nor déjà vu. This "AB" is Ahmad Bradshaw. There's no question that the Steelers running game needs a leader, a true No. 1 back, and Bradshaw could be that back. -

Bradshaw is a good cutback and backside runner, is a good receiver out of the backfield, is a good blocker and runs with a full head of steam that has earned him a career 4.6 yards per carry. He was also listed as the top free agent running back this offseason by Pro Football Focus. -

Bradshaw met with the Steelers Thursday, but left without a contract offer. Not because the Steelers aren’t interested, but because Bradshaw’s foot is still recovering from surgery (with the walking boot clearly seen in the photo above). Even the PFF link pointed out that anyone wanting to sign him would have to consider his feet issues and "weigh that against the probability that he might miss an extended period of time with his recurring issues."

The question here, then, is whether or not the Steelers feel there is someone in the draft worth taking instead. Also, are they weighing "proven vs. unproven" and are willing to wait to work him out in a few weeks? Their Salary Cap numbers aren't exactly friendly at present, but will open up more as of June 1st - approximately $2.5 million now and just under $8 million in two months.

Also, the Steelers still have Sanders, Isaac Redman and nose tackle Steve McLendon to sign. We'll keep an eye on this, therefore, because the Steelers could bring Bradshaw back closer to Training Camp, once he is able to work out.

Will This Be A Less Offensive Line?
The Steelers' offensive line has two first and second-round picks each in its lineup: Marcus Gilbert, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Mike Adams. Can Gilbert protect Big Ben's blind side, or will he stay at right tackle and allow Adams to take the left tackle position? We're on record as saying that Gilbert and new left guard Ramon Foster work well together, especially in the run game. So, the probability exists that Gilbert, who has clamored for the opportunity to man the left side, could be moved.

With the move to more of a zone-blocking scheme involving everyone, including wide receivers, runners and even your quarterback on occasion, the need for these men to be nimble is essential. Thus their allowing Max Starks to walk. That means this very young unit has to gel and mature quickly. An OLine doesn't necessarily require all-stars across the line, just a cohesive unit working in unison. Considering this unit is potentially the youngest in the NFL next season, they have time to grow together.

Let's just hope Big Ben has as much time.

Those are the main questions currently needing to be answered. They're the basis of what to look forward to at the end of April and into next season. Their receiving a response in the affirmative, or any answer in a couple of cases, means there could be fewer unanswered questions this time next year.


TIDBITS: The dates of the Steelers’ OTAs are: May 21-23, May 28-30, June 3-6. The Steelers will hold their minicamp on June 11-13. Complete offseason schedule is here:


Troy Polamalu believes the players should have a say in rules changes:


On Sirius XM, Will Allen threw the Steelers offense under the bus after he left for the Dallas Cowboys, saying that the unit was unsure and looking toward free agency. He alluded to the possibility of it aiding in the Steelers offense sputtering late in the season.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Catching Up On Steelers Pro Day Visits

photo courtesy of SBNation

The Pittsburgh Steelers' brain trust has been seen at various Pro Days this month, and If It Ain't Steel decided to revisits the visits. We touched on some in previous blog posts, but not all. Therefore, we decided to catch up all involved on those we know about.

To begin, each university has a Pro Day where NFL scouts are allowed to come and watch players participate in the NFL Combine events at their own school. Many believe that players feel more comfortable in familiar surroundings, and should therefore perform better. Generally, the bigger the football university and the greater the quantity of NFL prospects, the greater interest from scouts and coaches generated.

That said:

According to, and as we brought to you before, the Auburn Pro Day took place on Tuesday, March 5th, and Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler was there and oversaw Corey Lemonier's linebacker drills. -

What was Butler's assessment of the defensive end-turned-outside linebacker and third-round prospect?

"He said definitely I could play some linebacker," said Lemonier.

As reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Kent State Pro Day, also on the Wednesday, March 6th, was visited by Steelers offensive line coach Jack Bicknell, jr. He was there, along with three other teams' OLine coaches, to see Brian Winters and Josh Kline.

The 6'4", 320-pound Winters played both tackle and guard at Kent State and even made the All-MAC team. Kline is a 6'3", 310-pound left guard.

Reportedly, the Steelers sent their scouts to see the defensive backs at the Nebraska Pro Day on March 7th. They evidently also talked with safeties Daimion Stafford and P.J. Smith.

Stafford is 6'0", 211 lbs. and runs a 4.54/40. Smith is 6'1 1/2", 212-pound strong safety who runs a 4.89/40. Neither is highly touted, and will either be drafted in the last round or not at all. - /

The Steelers' brass dined with Tyler Bray of Tennessee on Tuesday night, the night before his Pro Day Wednesday, March 20. - /

At the same time, though, this could actually be little more than a smokescreen. Remember that they did the same last year with Kirk Cousins of Michigan State. Could their reason for going down have been just as much for Cordarrelle Patterson? We don't think so, but time will tell.

Mike Tomlin was at the Georgia Pro Day on Thursday, March 21. There, outside linebacker Jarvis Jones was center stage. Reportedly, though, he had an unimpressive showing with a 4.9/40. The 6'3", 240-pound Jones didn't do well in the linebacker drills, either. -

His draft stock has dropped because of the spinal stenosis with which he was diagnosed, though he has since claimed that he was misdiagnosed. Regardless, the addition of a quality outside linebacker is imperative now that, per Ed Bouchette and ESPN, the Steelers have closed the door on James Harrison's return. -

Steelers quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner was at the Miami of Ohio Pro Day last Thursday to observe quarterback Zac Dysert, who draws comparisons to fellow alumnus Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. And why shouldn't he?

"I've always looked up to Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers," the 6'4" 228-pound Dysert said at the NFL Combine. "He grew up 20 minutes from me. Ben was always a big name in our area. It would be exactly like following in his footsteps." -

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert made an appearance Monday at the Ohio State Pro Day, a private audition for third-round prospect John Simon. Colbert was among representatives from "12 teams at Simon's workout, according to a report from's Gil Brandt."

"The 6-1, 257-pound Simon starred as a defensive end for the Buckeyes but will likely have to make the transition to outside linebacker in the NFL." -

Finally, as we touched on in our previous post, the Steelers will be at Tulane's Pro Day this week to observe yet another quarterback, the 6'4", 216-pound Ryan Griffin. That's three QB Pro Days now in a little over a week for a team who supposedly isn't in the market for drafting one.

The natural athlete, though, runs a 4.38/40, threw for 9,036 yards and 56 TDs on 836-of-1,396 attempts, and owns the school record for completions, completion percentage, attempts, and ranks second in passing yards and 300-yard games. -

That's what is known to this point on the private workout visits. If It Ain't Steel will update this post, or follow it up, if the Steelers attend many more Pro Days.


UPDATE: Just hours after finishing this post, Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tweeted this: "@MarkKaboly_Trib: #Steelers player development guy Ray Jackson was at Notre Dame's Pro Day today"

Tight end Tyler Eifert? Maybe.


The Steelers were at the Texas Longhorns Pro day, presumably to observe the "Tavon Stopper"(refer to our "Playmakers" post). With the loss of free agent safety Will Allen to the DallasCowboys, drafting a quality safety (or two) is imperative since the only safeties on the roster with any real experience are Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark and Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith.


Another visit made this week was to the LSU Pro Day - the location of another safety, Eric Reid. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Offense And Roethlisberger Still Key To Steelers Eventual Success

"I think that being familiar and getting a certain amount of exposure to it, it's going to bring comfort. But we can't relax in that comfort. We have to continue to move forward as a unit. I thought we did some good things, particularly initially. I thought we waned down the stretch. I look forward to putting the pieces together and trying to be the best we can be in 2013." - Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin on Todd Haley's first season as offensive coordinator and the offense evolving this season.

As the team wades through the free agency waters and preparations continue for the 2013 NFL season, the focus for most is on whether enough will be done to rebound for a playoff appearance. Even this blog tackled this subject and declared that the Steelers are in for a rebuilding year. However, one thing is certain: if quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley continue to get into that "comfort" zone, the Steelers have a shot.

Haley's offense is predicated on two main concepts. Firstly, he wants his unit to go on sustained drives that kill the clock and, in doing so, keeps his defense and the opposing offense off of the field. When done successfully, thus inhibits the opponent's ability to score points of their own. Secondly, he wants the running game to set up the passing game.

Both of those were being accomplished early in the season. As we pointed out in a previous blog, the offense did work early on. Its failings were directly associated with injuries (especially to that of Big Ben and the offensive line), a limited running game, dropped passes, fumbles and interceptions. In the first nine games of the season, the team was 6-3, was scoring 23.0 points per game, was just -1 in turnover differential and was averaging 103.8 rushing yards per game.

The Steelers' offense was one of the most efficient in the league. By a large margin, it led the NFL in third-down conversions and in time of possession. Big Ben was leading the NFL in third-down passing and was on pace for having one of the best seasons of his career.

Then came the injury in that week nine game against the Kansas City Chiefs. He would miss three and a half games total and has admitted that, not only did he return to the field too soon, he didn't have the same confidence in himself and his game.

"Sometimes, certain passes just weren't right. I didn't trust myself to get enough zip on it to throw it out there. I tried to guide it too much instead of just throw it." -

Fast forward to March of 2013 and faces among the crowd have changed. His left tackle, running back, his big-play target and his tight end (for a while anyway) are all gone. But he hasn't let that deter his outlook.

"You never like to see anybody leave. But I'm pretty sure there's never been in the history of this sport the exact same team come back two years in a row.... I have confidence [the front office will] get guys in here who will be ready to compete and play," Big Ben said.

That being the case, the replacement of those missing faces is paramount. Because, as good as the defense was again last season, the offense steers this ship. Make no mistake, the NFL wants more scoring and its rules favor that end. Want proof?

Over the last five seasons (2008-2012) the NFL teams with the fewest yards per game allowed were the Steelers ('08: 237.2 YPG), the Jets ('09: 252.3 YPG), the Chargers ('10: 271.6 YPG), the Steelers ('11: 271.8 YPG) and the Steelers ('12: 275.8 YPG).

Did you notice the trend? The yards allowed increased each year over that period. The fewest points per game allowed during that same time frame also increased, going from 13.9 PPG (the '08 Steelers) to 15.3 PPG (the '12 Seattle Seahawks). Yet, only two of those teams turned those accomplishments into Super Bowl appearances: the Steelers (twice).

So replacing the missing pieces, limiting turnovers and being more efficient in executing the offense are the conglomerate key - a key still turned by Big Ben. Which he can do, along with Haley, if he lets it happen. Something that someone familiar with Haley says he can and should do.

Kurt Warner, former NFL quarterback who played under Haley had quite a bit to say regarding the benefits that can be had by Big Ben. He said, in part, that Big Ben needs to ask himself, "‘Why are we doing this? How does this benefit me? How does this play to my strengths?' If the offense didn't play to his strengths, I think it would be tough to ever buy in. But I do believe it plays to his strengths.” -

Taking the offense and embracing it is essential. His gaining a greater understanding of the offense, and they of each other as Tomlin alluded to, will lead to success. As it is, most of the so-called tension between the two was media driven. But you still have two stubborn, A-personality individuals here, both of whom want to win - tensions, especially in a season where expectations went unfulfilled, were bound to rise.

In essence, they need to make sure that they solidify their professional relationship, straighten up and fly right and determine the direction they want to go, which one the navigator is and which one is the pilot. (Just cool down, papa Ben, don't blow your top.)

Big Ben will be playing behind potentially the youngest offensive line in the NFL next season. Warner also faced a similar situation during Haley's tenure. How did he handle it?

“When we were together, we threw the ball down the field a lot. But we complemented that with a lot of the short-passing game — and we were limited at our offensive line position," Warner also said. “It was understood, ‘Hey, we can't just drop back seven steps and try to wing the ball down the field all the time.'"

Before Big Ben's injury, he was on pace for the fewest sacks of his career (23 in 2005), and still ended up being sacked "only" 30 times. The real difference in this is that he suffered the fewest sacks per pass attempt in his career (6.3%). So the 'tweaking' of things has helped in that at least.

It needs to continue. Adding a productive run game will help facilitate that, and will help facilitate winning in general. As a comparison, including the playoff games against the Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens, the New England Patriots were 13-1 when rushing for 100 yards, yet they were 0-4 when held under 100 yards. Tom Brady's sack-per-pass-attempt ratio was also a low (4.1%). So the running game is still important. And Ray Graham of Pitt wants to feel important. -

This is still, though, a quarterback-driven league and your franchise must be protected - even from himself.

“They can eliminate hits and then they can take chances down the field, which is what Ben is so good at,” Warner said. “(The short passes) eliminate the risk factor of him having to get hit over and over again."

Not only that, but Warner summed it all up better than we could by what he said next.

"Not just the risk factor for Ben but the risk factor for the team that when Ben doesn't play, this team is a different team.”

That they are.


TIDBITS: Speaking of quarterbacks... There was the one that got away:

And the one yet to visit...Tulane QB Ryan Griffin:


With the new helmet rule, should the Steelers forget drafting a running back in the first round? -

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Addressing Steelers Free Agent Linebacker Rumors And Draft Possibilities

The annual NFL free agency period tends to bring about more rumors than a high school girls' locker room. This year has been no different. And the Pittsburgh Steelers have definitely had their share, including a couple this week that wouldn't be so bad if were they to come true.

The whispers heard were that the Steelers will meet with former Chicago Bears middle linebacker, Brian Urlacher. Supposedly, the five-time All-Pro linebacker and former University of New Mexico safety says he is to meet with the Steelers to discuss possible contract negotiations.

There haven't been any confirmations as of yet.

Of the five main free agent rumors that surfaced, Urlacher is one who would seem to be viable. The 13-year veteran is still a good player who could definitely help in the middle. Though he's had some injuries (arthritic back, broken wrist, sprained MCL and pulled hamstrings) and has missed 19 of a possible 64 games in the last four years, it isn't as if the injuries are literally piling up. In fact, 15 of those 19 games were in 2009. So he could still be a contributor to the inside if he could make the transition.

The biggest obstacles to a possible signing are his pride and also his cost vs. his value. The Steelers let go of a player for just those reasons, as was Urlacher himself released from the Bears. As ESPN reported, though, when talks with Chicago started to break down, "Urlacher countered with a one-year, $3.5 million offer with incentives that would have allowed him to make an additional $500,000..." -

In order to be signed by the Steelers, something similar would have to be penned. That would be the case, however, with whomever the Steelers may choose to sign.

IN: Elvis Dumervil (As in "in play" for him - this is the viable move, and one I could see the team make and believe they did try to make);
PROBABLE: Ahmad Bradshaw (Probably a good pick up IF he's healthy, comes with his own insurance and can be obtained at a good price);
QUESTIONABLE: Brian Urlacher (He could help in the middle, yes, but pride and cost vs. value are biggest issues here - they let go of James Harrison for those very reasons);
DOUBTFUL: Dwight Freeney (He struggled last season as a 3-4 OLB. Sure, he terrorized QBs for 10 years prior to that, but as a 4-3 DE. Very little chance of this one happening);
OUT: Beanie Wells (If you kicked the tires on this one, they'd fall right off).

But the potential is there as the Steelers have definite need for depth, if nothing else, at the position. Thus Foote's being re-signed. He knows system and he wanted to stay.

As for the others on the roster (besides Lawrence Timmons) there are Sean Spence, Stevenson Sylvester, Marshall McFadden, Kion Wilson and Brian Rolle, with only Sylvester and Rolle having real game experience.

Spence, a third-round choice in 2012, dislocated his patella, tore multiple ligaments including the ACL, and sustained peroneal nerve damage (located behind the knee leading to loss of movement or sensation in the foot and leg). The Steelers do not know whether Spence can return in 2013, or ever, because his ability to play depends on the recovery of that nerve. -

Sylvester has yet failed to show any discernible improvement and subsequently wasn't tendered. If he returns, and unless he makes a quantum leap forward, will only be a backup linebacker.

McFadden is currently under a Reserves/Futures contract. After being buried on the depth chart in training camp last season, the South Carolina State graduate only saw playing time in the preseason late in games. Played both Buck and Mack positions and also played on special teams and led the Steelers in preseason tackles with 15 total. He didn't make last season's final roster, but he was signed to practice squad. All of that should give him a solid shot at making the Steelers 53 man roster in 2013.

Wilson went undrafted out of South Florida in the 2010 NFL Draft, and was a part of the San Diego Chargers and Carolina Panthers practice squads before signing a Reserves/Futures contract with the Steelers.

Rolle spent time with the Philadelphia Eagles and, according to, "failed miserably when asked to serve as a starting weak-side linebacker. He does have some range as a nickel 'backer and is a special teams candidate." In the limited action he had in 2011 he had 40 tackles, one sack, one interception, one forced fumble and recovery and one touchdown. He could seen as a backup to Timmons.

If in fact the Steelers do look to free agency and sign a veteran inside linebacker, they won't have great need for a high draft pick at the position. If not, there are a few choices in the middle and lower rounds where good players can still be found.

Jonathan Bostic - ILB, Florida, 6'1" 245 lbs., 4.61/40
Projected Round: 4th
Bostic had 68 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions and one forced fumble in 2012. He was a core player in the Gators' tough defense, though he might need to be covered up in the 3-4 scheme and would be relegated to the Mack 'backer position.

Nico Johnson - ILB, Alabama, 6'2", 248 lbs., 4.86/40
Projected Round (2013): 4-5.
Johnson had 55 tackles and two forced fumbles, but had no sacks or interceptions. He is a good run-stuffing, but struggles in pass defense as his speed isn't stellar. However, that's also partly because of all of the talent surrounding him, causing him to have to do less. Has talent that can be coached up.

Michael Mauti - ILB, Penn State, 6'2", 243 lbs., 4.79/40
Projected Round: 5-6
Mauti suffered a knee injury late in the year. Natural leader, wrote a letter to every NFL GM about his love for the game, and would be a steal if found still around in the sixth round...if rather extensive medical information on his knee can be attained. Mauti finished 2012 with 97 tackles, four tackles for a loss, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and 2.5 sacks.

UPDATE: And just like that, Dumervil is off the table as he has signed with the Baltimore Ravens.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Do Recent Pro Day Visits Indicate Who Steelers Will Draft?

by Jayden and Jason

No matter how you say it -- "Be more efficient on offense" ... "Move the football better" ... "Take advantage of opportunities presented" ... "Get more playmakers!" -- it all still means the same thing: score more points.

At various points in the 2012 season, all of those were challenges. Failing those challenges, and now facing the exodus of some key players, puts the team in a unique position: to rebuild rather than to reload. Certain recent pro day visits may just shed some light on where the Pittsburgh Steelers may be looking in 2013 NFL Draft. And despite the contention of previous posts from this blog, those looks might just be toward offense.

Regardless of the losses sustained in the recent week, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said at the NFL's annual spring meetings that they won't knee jerk themselves into feeling must replace needs. "I don't like to use the word 'need,'" said Colbert. "I never did. I never will. It's going to be 'wants.' We don't know yet. We don't know until we get through free agency. We're going to continue to monitor every guy who's available."

Those "wants" were hinted at via visits to Michigan State and West Virginia respectively.

The inability to find a stable running back amongst the stable of running backs last season was a pet peeve for both Steelers fans and head coach Mike Tomlin. He said as much while answering media questions in Phoenix at aforementioned NFL meetings.

When asked about the running back situation, the loss of Rashard Mendenhall and tendered RBs Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman, Tomlin said, "Obviously, we need to add to the pool of talent we have at that position." -

Could their visit to East Lansing last week be an indicator as from where the 'adding to that pool of talent' might come? Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell hopes so.

Hopefully they pull the trigger," said Bell, who used Wednesday's pro day 'to show off his hands and route-running abilities in receiving drills.' The Steelers were well represented at the pro day, with Tomlin, Colbert, running backs coach Kirby Wilson, and tight ends coach James Daniel being in attendance. Tomlin had even taken Bell dining the previous night, possibly being a further sign of the team's interest in him. -

If so, the Steelers would be getting a strong 6'1", 230-pound back with quick feet, very good balance and knows how to run low to the ground through contact. Deceptively light on his feet, yet tough to bring down. A smooth accelerator and downhill runner, he ran a 4.6/40 at the NFL Combine (though, he's also been clocked at as low as 4.52).

He seems to like the number three - 3,346 career rushing yards and 33 touchdowns in three years at Michigan St. and will likely be found in the third round - and isn't lacking in confidence when recounting his abilities.

"I feel like I can do everything," Bell said. "I can be in the game on third-and-1, I can be in the game on third-and-10 or I can be in the game on first-and-10. I can be a punt returner and a kick returner, I'm great in pass protection and get a consistent 5 yards every carry. I just feel like I'm one of the more complete backs."

Bell wasn't the only one wined...well, just dined that Tuesday night. As was stated, tight ends coach James Daniel was in attendance at the pro day and as the previously quoted article pointed out, the 6'5" 280-pound Sims would seem to be an option "for a team that plays a hard-nosed, physical style like the Spartans do."

Sims' possibility of being drafted by the Steelers dropped dramatically with the re-signing of Matt Spaeth. But the addition of the sixth-round compensatory pick in this year's draft allows that possibility to remain, however small it may be.

As we've said before, speed can be replaced. As awesome as Mike Wallace's numbers and accomplishments were, there was a bit of a 'Reggie Jackson effect' involved with him: along with the home-run bombs, there were also the strikeouts - dropped passes, fumbles, subpar route-running ability and an overall attitude.

The former, speed, can be found in the draft, the latter they can do without. We've already highlighted several who would be viable choices. Wide receivers highlighted to this point have been Cordarrelle Patterson, Robert Woods and Ryan Swope (, as well as Marquis Goodwin and Tavon Austin (

Being West Virginia Mountaineers football fans at If It Ain't Steel, we know those players very well. We've actually written more than once on first-round prospect Tavon Austin and his 1,289 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns, 643 rushing yards and three touchdowns and 978 return yards and two touchdowns. Or in other words, Tavon Awesome. Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider and Steelers Digest hasn't exactly been reticent on Austin, either. -

But on his "Young Soon-To-Be Money" teammate, Stedman Bailey, we've been negligent. Though the first choice of one half of If It Ain't Steel (Jason) was Bailey, the better half (Jayden) preferred Austin from the beginning. Well, it's time to shed light STUDman's way.

Bailey, who projects as a third rounder, had 114 receptions and led the country with 25 touchdowns in 2012 (39 total in his career). WVU's most reliable and productive receiver the past two years, Bailey combines precise route running, above-average blocking, great eye-to-hand tracking of the ball and durability in a 5'10", 193-pound package that puts one in the mind of a young Hines Ward.

Bailey's speed isn't world class, but he's steadily increased it from a reported 4.57/40 in college, to a 4.52 at the NFL Combine, to a 4.48 at the other pro day being considered in this article. -

Colbert and Tomlin spent a good amount of time with both Austin and Bailey, and the latter could be a choice in the third round if the former is gone by pick No. 17 in April. But don't just take our word for it, John Harris of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. -

Either player would be a great fit for the Steelers. Austin being ideal for the West Coast-style offense, turning a four-yard hitch into a 40-yard gain, or taking a GO pattern to the house: "I'm a smart runner, whenever I touch the ball I turn into a running back....I'm the best all-around player in the draft. -

Going deep with Bailey would be different as he doesn't quite have the explosive, break-away speed that Austin has. What he does have, though, is the ability to track the ball as well as anyone, and to go up and fight for it and catch it with his hands. Thus allowing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to improve on the 8-37 and 317 passing yards in splash plays (21+ yards) from 2012.

So whether it's Austin (Jim Wexell: "Whoever passes on that kid is going to regret it. Don't care if he's 4-8"), Bailey (Dave-Te' Thomas of Scouting Services, Inc.: "Bailey is the best value pick in the draft, and the best route runner"), or Bell (Todd McShay: "He's a guy that - even though he's bigger, and a physical back - that you can flex him out in the slot"), expect the Steelers to draft one of them.

All three wouldn't be bad, either.


TIDBITS: Tomlin tells critics "See you in the Fall." We won't see Max Starks or Casey Hampton, though. -


Tomlin also isn't afraid to say that the Steelers are a team in transition...despite what Colbert attests. -

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Steelers Free Agency Decisions Creating Due And Undue Criticism

“I don’t view it as dramatically different than other years,” Rooney told Steelers reporters on Thursday and as reported by Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “The recent history is, we face decisions like this almost every year in terms of making decisions on players who made key contributions. I always say, every year is a new jigsaw puzzle and you have to put together the pieces the best way you can and shaping contracts is a big part of that."

There are a few pieces missing to that puzzle. Several key free agents have decided to leave the friendly confines of Heinz Field for greener pastures, or at least what they think will be greener, prompting the head coach of his team, Mike Tomlin, to say recently, "I'm concerned about a myriad of things." As he should be. This very well could be a watershed year for the triumvirate of Rooney, Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert. Now, add to that, one more player may be leaving.

“I have NOT been offered anything. Balls out of my court. All I can do is continue to grind and trust the {Man} above. He has the plan for me...," restricted free agent Emmanuel Sanders said on his Facebook account. “If they do offer then I will have a HUGE decision to make. But that's not the case right now. The Pats are interested and it's just that at this point.” (Brackets ours)

Sanders isn't yet a part of the Pittsburgh Steelers free agency sieve, an exodus that has seen playmakers on both sides of the ball depart for other locales, but he still could be. In other words, New England is weighing options regarding their wide receiver (Brandon Lloyd) and draft picks (five) issues. By placing a $1.323 million tender on Sanders, the Steelers have the right to match any offer from the Patriots. The Steelers would also get their 2013 third-round draft pick (91) as compensation if they lose him.

If Sanders does go to New England, the Steelers would be left with Antonio Brown as the only remaining member of the "Young Money Crew" that was supposed to do so much. Instead, the only wide receivers on the roster with game experience would be Plaxico Burress, who will be 36 next season, and Jerricho Cotchery, who has been underutilized (just 33 receptions) in two seasons with the Steelers. That just wouldn't be enough.

A Sanders departure would mean losing a more-than-solid slot man who caught 44 passes and led the Steelers with a 14.2 yards-per-catch average. According to, Sanders was tied for 17th in the league last year with a '70.5 Clutch Reception Percentage (minimum 40 Total Receptions).' He's an above average blocker and route runner.

Unfortunately, as Neil McCauley said, "there's a flip side to that coin." Sanders has had problems staying healthy. After leaving Super Bowl XLV against the Packers early with a foot injury, he followed that up by having surgery on both feet to repair fractures. Sanders also suffered from fumbling issues in 2012. His was one of the eight fumbles in the Steelers' piss-poor performance in the eight-turnover Cleveland Browns game at Cleveland 20-14 loss. He fumbled twice overall last season and lost both of them.

Regardless, another loss of a playmaker could ultimately be crippling for the Steelers next season. They're in a strong AFC North division that just so happens to have the NFL champions. The margin for error in this draft infinitesimal. There will be no grading on a curve. Only 21 (22 if Sanders stays) out of the last 59 players drafted, spanning the Bill Cowher and Tomlin eras, are still with the team, and none from the 2008 draft class. So the need for playmakers and core players is prodigious.

Ones who would replace such game-changing players as Mike Wallace and Sanders, James Harrison and Keenan Lewis. (UPDATE: One who could provide such help is former Denver Broncos OLB and free agent Elvis Dumervil. With the Steelers having approximately $8 million space under the Salary Cap, this is at least feasible. There is also interest in former Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw. But the Steelers already have one AB, and Bradshaw's injury history dictates he should only be signed at the veteran minimum and if he comes with his own insurance policy.)

Lewis had a fairly lockdown-like season where he had 71 tackles, 23 passes defended and only allowed three touchdown passes. I personally have been enamored of Lewis since all of the buzz in Training Camp his rookie season. He finally showed what his potential could be in 2011 when playing as a Nickel defensive back.

Lewis then emerged in 2012 and was a great compliment to Ike Taylor. To show how much faith the coaches had in Lewis, they allowed then-starter William Gay to leave, cementing Lewis as the starter. Also, Taylor used to take the opponent's No. 1 receiver. The emergence of Lewis, however, allowed him to roam the right side most of the season.

Whether you feel that Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert and company were wrong in letting Lewis go or not, the Steelers definitely took a step back and made a mistake not even offering a contract, to listen to Lewis tell it, to four-year veteran: "I will miss my steelers fans, but they didn't offer me a deal. Sean Payton believe in me. I love him as a coach. Made me feel comfortable. I love that man. He is a king. I respect him so much!" -

Not even making an offer to him means they like what they see in second-year cornerback Cortez Allen, who locked down Patriots' tight end Rob Gronkowski in 2011 (his rookie season), and forced six turnovers in three games at thw end of 2012 (his second season). Fine, but the loss of Lewis also means the loss of a quality Nickel/slot defensive back. Unless you count William Gay. Regardless, his value hasn't gone unnoticed, neither by the coaches nor the national media as Pro Football Focus has Allen ranked as the second-most undervalued player the Steelers have. -

Regardless, the quartet of Curtis Brown, DeMarcus Van Dyke, Josh Victorian, Justin King and Robert Golden (who could be moved to safety) are all put on notice and their learning curve just shortened greatly. While it wasn't by any means an embarrassment of riches, it is most definitely an unknown commodity now.

So, whether you stand on the side of Lewis being an 'emerging star' or a 'one-hit wonder', his loss hurts the Steelers secondary, and as Kevin Colbert said, 'players who once looked unavailable in free agency, unaffordable, suddenly become available.'

The loss of Harrison, though, doesn't in opponents won't get hurt as much when playing the Steelers. Harrison put out more lights than The Clapper and put more men to sleep than Ambien. The Steelers will miss his ferocity, toughness and playmaking. The depth behind him being suspect at best.

The one that the Steelers would miss the least is Sanders.

Sure, from a depth standpoint it's a major loss, especially when coupled with Wallace taking his talents to South Beach. However, with Sanders never completely living up to the potential expected, it is entirely possible the Steelers don't match the Patriots' offer. After all, it would result in a third-round pick and the erstwhile "Young Money Crew" were all taken in the third round or later: Wallace and Sanders were both third-rounders and Brown went in the sixth.

The Steelers' brass has certainly had to make some difficult, albeit bewildering at times, decisions this offseason. I have faith in them, but it isn't blind faith. When the last of Chuck Noll's players finally left, Cowher had losing seasons - is the same coming for Tomlin? Though I don't believe that to be the case, reverse several turnovers or get more of their own and 8-8 could have been 11-5, it is still a possibility.

Usually the seeds they plant are in fine soil, but this offseason has yet to yield any fine fruit. If much more is allowed to happen, if any more players are cut or are allowed to walk, Steeler Nation all may end up drinking the bitter wine of sour grapes.



Larry Foote - ILB = three years ($5.5 million, $2.5 million guaranteed)

Plaxico Burress - WR = one year veteran-minimum deal ($940,000)

Greg Warren - LS = one year veteran-minimum deal ($840,000)

Bruce Gradkowski - QB = three years (details yet unrevealed)

David Johnson - TE = one year (details yet unrevealed)

William Gay - CB = three years ($4.5 million)

Isaac Redman - RB = RFA tender ($1.323 million)

Jonathan Dwyer - RB = RFA tender ($1.323 million)

Baron Batch - RB = ERFA tender ($555,000)

DeMarcus Van Dyke - CB = ERFA tender ($555,000)

Ramon Foster - OL = three years ($6 million)

Matt Spaeth - TE = Mark Kaboly reports the Steelers' third-round pick in 2007 appears set to rejoin the organization if he passes a physical Monday.



Mike Wallace - WR = UFA, New team: Miami Dolphins - five-year deal ($60 million)

Keenan Lewis - CB = UFA, New team: New Orleans Saints - five-year deal ($26 million)

Rashard Mendenhall - RB = UFA, New team: Arizona Cardinals - one-year deal ($2.5 million)

Ryan Mundy - S = UFA (New York Giants)

Willie Colon - OL = June 1st release designation; New York Jets - one-year deal ($1.2 million deal)

James Harrison - OLB = No team yet; Cap savings of $5.1 million

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

An Honest Opinion on Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown; Free Agent Updates

by Jayden Matthews

The free agency circus has started and, as expected one, the free agency signing period has Steelers Nation at each other’s throats. Mike Wallace signed with the Miami Dolphins yesterday as expected and got the big contract he wanted: five years, $65 million with $30 guaranteed. Congrats to you Mikey, hope it all works out for you. I am not going to be bitter towards Wallace that is not my style, never has been, but I will be honest.

The reason Steelers fans are tearing at each other is there are some that believe this will cripple the Steelers offense. There are some who feel that this was a good move by the front office to let him go. But I have even also been seeing that others hope the Steelers "stink" this season because of letting Wallace go to free agency. Time will tell on that whether it was a good move or not so good of a move.

The reason a lot of fans are up in arms was the way Wallace and his agent handled the whole situation going into last season. He wasn’t the first and will surely not be the last. Then the ones that wanted Wallace to stay are up in arms because Antonio Brown was signed. I have been seeing this was a bad move. Well, is it actually? I've seen that Brown wasn’t as productive as Wallace was last season and had more drops and missed passes than Wallace. Did he? Well the numbers say otherwise.

Per stats:

Mike Wallace: 64 receptions to 119 targets, 836 yards, eight touchdowns, 53.8% reception percentage, averaged 13.1 yards per catch, 33 receiving first downs, two fumbles (losing one).

Antonio Brown: 66 receptions to 105 targets, 787 yards, five touchdowns, 62.8% reception percentage, averaged 11.9 yards, 43 receiving first downs, two fumbles (losing one).

Just for good measure, I will throw in the production of Emmanuel Sanders who will move up from the 3rd wide receiver spot to the 2nd spot. Some people have said that he was a waste too. But, again, his numbers say otherwise:

Emmanuel Sanders: 44 catches to 74 targets, 626 yards, one touchdown, 59.5% reception percentage, averaged 14.2 yards per catch, 31 receiving first downs, two fumbles (losing both).

Notice that Sanders had only two fewer first down receptions while playing many fewer snaps and getting many fewer touches. Pretty good I would say for a third-string wideout/slot man. Wouldn't you say so?

What I am seeing here and what a lot of fans do not want to see, outside of three more TDs and a few more yards, is that Brown was just as consistent. So, that is why I cannot understand: is all the Brown hate because Wallace wanted to leave? This was his choice. They say that Brown got Wallace’s contract, but that is not the case, either. The same contract that was offered to Wallace and he chose to play his tender out and test the free agency waters. It paid off for him, and the Steelers knew they needed to keep at least one of them. They couldn't let both of them walk, could they?

I will be the first to admit that Wallace did stretch the field, as he is the owner of 19 TDs for 30 or more yards, the most of any NFL wideout since 2009. That is very impressive. Brown has been just as clutch, though. Though he may not have as many TDs Wallace, he has come up with play-after-play when they were needed. It’s funny how some forget the "boombox catch" that sent the Ravens packing in 2010 playoffs. Remember that? I bet you won’t admit it, though.

The only issue that I had with Wallace was that he did not fight for the ball. That is one thing that all receivers should do. That is something I have seen Brown do on several occasions. Yes, with the loss of Wallace, Brown will now draw the double coverages. This will be again the tale of the tape as to whether his contract was a mistake or not. If he proves that he wasn’t the wrong one to sign, will the negative Nancy’s or Ned’s admit they were wrong? I doubt it.

Last season, none of the wide receivers had anything to brag about. They were neither prolific nor overly consistent. They all had their issues with missed opportunities, fumbles and dropped passes. The only consistent receiver the Steelers had was Heath Miller, who will miss games this season. That, to me, is truly something to worry about, not the hub-bub that has been going on the past couple of days.

I know this post will offend some but, like others, I am entitled to my opinion. I feel that it wasn’t a mistake to sign Brown. I think it is too early to make that call. Just like it is too soon to say whether the Steelers made a mistake not signing Wallace (not that they had the money this offseason to do it in the first place). He may go to Miami and light it up, we don’t know yet. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Brown may go on a roll themselves and start lighting it up. Again, time will tell.

Just giving my honest opinion on why I don’t think it will hurt us as bad as some think, and we didn’t make as big of a mistake as some want to think in signing Brown. But again they are entitled to their opinion and I respect that, as I hope they respect mine. I know they say speed can’t be taught, but I also know it can be replaced.

With the signings from the Steelers Front office, they are quietly showing that they are making the necessary moves to get this team back on track. Do I think we will be a contender? Probably not, but I think we are headed in the right the direction.


TIDBITS: Buck linebacker Larry Foote was signed to a three-year contract Tuesday. The complete terms weren't disclosed, but he will receive $2.5 million as a signing bonus. This makes sense considering he won't see the completion of this contract. But it needed to happen in order to get someone in to be groomed for the position before his departure.

Plaxico Burress was re-signed by the Steelers on Tuesday to a one-year veteran minimum deal, which should be approximately $940,000 for a player of his tenure.

The Steelers restructured the contract of LaMarr Woodley on Tuesday to save $5 million in Salary Cap space. If It Ain't Steel suggested before that the Steelers may wait to restructure after seeing whether he came back in shape or not. Though they go ahead and restructure, they still only did so for less than what could have. Keep an eye on this one...this will be a proving year for him.

In addition to Wallace, Rashard Mendenhall signed a one-year deal with (who else?) the Arizona Cardinals for $2.5 million.

Steelers officially release offensive lineman Willie Colon. It is a June 1st designated cut, so the $5.5 million saved won't take affect until then. However, it brings with it a dead money hit of $4.9 million in 2014, and his salary will be split over the next two seasons. The Hofstra product was a fourth-round draft pick in 2006. In three of his seven years he was on the injured-reserve list.

The Steelers signed free agent QB Bruce Gradkowski Wednesday morning to a three-year deal, terms undisclosed. Gradkowski, who beat the Steelers 27-24 in 2009 while with the Oakland Raiders, has a career 6-14 record. The 30-year-old QB will likely be the backup going forward with Uncle Charlie Batch playing third-string if he is indeed brought back.

The Steelers signed tight end/H-back/fullback David Johnson to a one-year deal. With Heath Miller being surely PUP listed for the first six games, DJ will likely return to TE allowing Will Johnson to be left at fullback.

Dan Connor, former inside linebacker of the Dallas Cowboys, visited the Steelers. Indianapolis Colts free agent inside linebacker Moise Fokou will also visit the Steelers this week. Originally drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, the 27-year old Fokou had 43 total tackles, one sack and one forced fumble last season. Bringing in a second inside linebacker this week is an indication of lack of complete faith in the LBs behind Foote and Lawrence Timmons, as well as a desire to get younger at the Buck position.

Exclusive Rights free agent DeMarcus Van Dyke signed his tender on Tuesday. ERFAs have no choice but to sign their tenders or they simply won't play at all, for anyone else, that season. The ERFA tender this season is $550,000.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Who Will Replace James Harrison?

First off, let us be honest by stating that no one this season will actually replace James Harrison. Whomever the Pittsburgh Steelers' starting right outside linebacker will be, the idea of replacing Harrison is a stretch. He won't be replaced, only succeeded.

That said, it's a close to a foregone conclusion that the player to get the starting nod will fourth-year man, Jason Worilds. Because no rookie linebacker in defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's system would start right away, he is the only viable solution. By a long shot.

Fellow Steelers linebacker Chris Carter was ineffective and unimpressive in the time he was on the field, garnering just eight tackles and no sacks. Undrafted rookie Adrian Robinson showed real promise in Training Camp and into preseason, but the raw outside linebacker rarely saw field action. Stevenson Sylvester, who was used both inside and outside during the preseason, was also ineffective. The only player who made anyone believe he was ready to take over was Worilds. Not that it has been anything close to an easy ride.

Steelers beat writer Mark Kaboly made some very salient points on Sunday regarding him when he tweeted that "Steelers LB Jason Worilds {has} yet to have a true and full offseason (2010 rookie year, 2011 lockout, 2012 wrist injury)." And if we take that and run with it, it could be sound reason for not considering Worilds as a risk. Reason that Kaboly backed up with another fact. (brackets ours)

"Steelers LB Jason Worilds played 999 snaps in 3 seasons or equivalent of one full season and has 10 career sacks," Kaboly said. Now, this extrapolation doesn't automatically mean that he'll produce that way next season, but it's definitely a point in the right direction.

As Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette pointed out in a recent article: "There may be reasons why Worilds has made little impact in his three seasons, including a {previously mentioned} wrist injury last year and playing behind Pro Bowl players Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. But, in the normal course of events, the Steelers would let Harrison go and turn to Worilds, just as they let Joey Porter go in 2007 and turned to Harrison." (brackets ours)

Also, just as they turned to Porter after (another) Jason Gildon was leaving. So, this was unfortunately business as usual. Because, though the Steelers suffer a cap penalty "dead money" hit of $4.93 million dollars, the move saved $5.105 million dollars against this year's Salary Cap, and all $9.04 million against the 2014 Cap. Bill Parise, the Silverback's agent, says the 'door isn't necessarily closed.' -

Getting back to Worilds, as Kaboly and Pro Football Focus further point out, "Worilds finished the season with five sacks despite only rushing the passer 175 times. By comparison, {LaMarr} Woodley {had} four sacks in 245 pass rushes." All encouraging statistics that seem to be the groundwork for Worilds' taking Harrison's spot. (brackets ours)

All except for two things: Worilds plays decidedly better on the left side - Woodley's side - and there is no depth behind them.

Does that mean that Worilds won't be effective at all on the right side? Does it mean that maybe Woodley could/would possibly move over to the right side to accommodate? Fellow Steelers blog site explored this possibility and provides reasoning for an affirmative on the latter question. -

As for depth, there is none. Aside from the linebackers mentioned above, the other linebackers on the roster are all inside: Lawrence Timmons, Larry Foote, Marshall McFadden, Brian Rolle and Kion Wilson. So, from where will eventual depth come? April's NFL Draft.

Below are a list of prospective picks for the OLB position who can be gotten approximately from rounds one through four. If It Ain't Steel has already highlighted some, so you'll recognize those names. Where applicable, we've also provided the link to the write-up where we featured them:

EZEKIEL ANSAH - BYU: 1st round -- A raw, but intelligent and impressive physical specimen. At 6’7″ 270 lbs., Ziggy can play either OLB position, as well as defensive end at the next level. He ran an an equally impressive 4.62/40 at the 2013 NFL Combine. -

DION JORDAN - Oregon: 1st round -- Jordan ran a 3-way tie for the best 40-yard dash time among defensive linemen at the NFL Combine. A lingering shoulder injury kept him out of the weight room much of the season, but the 6'6" 245 pounder ran a 4.53/40. The surgery and rehab needed to repair the torn labrum carries with it a timetable of “three to four months,” according to Jordan. He played DE and OLB in college, rushing the passer and dropping back, and has received a lot of attention from 3-4 defensive NFL teams.

BARKEVIOUS MINGO - LSU: 1st round -- The 6'5" 240-pound DE/OLB had 15 quarterback hurries and five sacks last season. He also was the second part of the three-way tie at the Combine with a 4.53/40.

JAMIE COLLINS - Southern Mississippi: 2-3 round -- With an 11'7" broad jump at the Combine, Collins literally leaped onto this list as a potential prospect. The 6-3, 250-pound OLB also had a 41.5-inch vertical. And per, "an NFL source {they} talked to said it's hard to find guys who are 6-2-plus and 240 who can really play, adding that "the size paradigm for NFL LBs is changing because it forces the personnel folks and coaches to project college DEs to be stand-up off the ball LBs." Collins, though, sure looked like he could be one of those guys.

COREY LEMONIER (pronounced Lemon-wah) - Auburn: 3-4 round -- The 6'3" 255-pound DE/OLB was the third in the tie to run a 4.53/40 at his position. He was visited at the Auburn Pro Day on March 5th by Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler. Butler offered encouraging feedback, saying that Lemonier "could play some linebacker." -

GERALD HODGES - PENN STATE: 4th round -- Per, the 6'1" 243 pounder was "a starter in all 25 games the past two years," and "was No. 4 in the Big Ten with 109 tackles....he led the team with seven pass breakups and was tied for second on the squad with two interceptions. He also ranked third with 8.5 tackles for loss, while adding one forced fumble and one sack."

SIO MOORE - UCONN: 5-6 round -- Per, "Moore notched 72 tackles (15.5 for loss), 7.5 sacks, and 11 pass breakups....Disciplined linebacker who follows through on his assignments and maintains his gap responsibilities prevent cutbacks. Also a solid tackler, able to break down and securely wrap the ballcarrier’s torso or leg for minimal yards after the catch." Also, with a 4.62/40 at the Combine for Moore, keep this 6'1" 245-pound stud on your radar.

One good thing about all of these players is that either "athletic," "nasty," or "mean" is used to describe each of them. Which are qualities that Harrison possessed in spades and therefore something else that the Steelers will have to replace.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Steelers Sign Dwyer and Foster, Addresses Tender and Need

Adam Schefter tweeted this Monday night, but I don't know if I'd refer to it as an upset. Some Pittsburgh Steelers fans might, but the Pittsburgh Steelers running back, who was scheduled to become a restricted free agent on Tuesday, avoided any such issues and signed his one-year tender Monday night. Instead of being all about money like Mike Wallace, he decided to listen to Antonio Brown and prove he can be a team player. Well, that and he wasn't going to have many options. Realistically, the Steelers were probably his best option.

Dwyer took part in 13 games last season and made six starts along. He carried the ball 156 times for 623 yards and two touchdowns.

He wasn't the only signing of the day as Ramon Foster agreed Tuesday to a three-year contract with the Steelers. Foster, a better run blocker than pass blocker, could've become an unrestricted free agent Tuesday, but was cajoled into staying. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, though it can probably be assumed that it's for around $6-7 million. Maybe $550,000-$700,000 this year with $2 million signing bonus.

This most likely spells doom for Willie Colon whose Salary Cap hit is $1.2 million. If they wait until June 1 they save roughly $5 million. The Steelers could designate Colon a June 1st cut now so that he could sign somewhere else, but no Cap advantage is gained.

David Todd of ESPN 970 tweeted from his personal Twitter (@DavidMTodd) account a salient point shortly after the news came through regarding the matter of waiting: "KEY POINT: #Steelers have created cap room. If put June 1 designation on Colon, pushes $4M of dead money into '14. Can't see that happening."

Neither can I. I'd be surprised if Colon isn't cut tomorrow. If the Steelers do release him now, that and the James Harrison release, subtracting these signings, should create about $4 million in Cap space.

Will the free agent tenders affect what further may be done? Like, for instance, the possible signing of free agent running back Steven Jackson. No, it won't because THEY WON'T SIGN HIM.

Jackson is on the wrong side of 30, he'll want a longer multi-year deal than the Steelers are prepared to give, and he'll want much more than they'll be able to offer. So don't ask.

Here, though, is a recap of the Steelers' restricted free agents:

RB Jonathan Dwyer: Original round - now signed
P Jeremy Kapinos: No tender
NT Steve McLendon: Right of first refusal (no compensation, which is surprising)
RB Isaac Redman: Right of first refusal (no compensation)
LB Stevenson Sylvester: No tender - letting him dangle and test free agency
WR Emmanuel Sanders: Original round (third round - mainly because foot issues slowed progress, will need to prove himself)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

James Harrison Says Goodbye To Steelers, Fans

~ "How do I say goodbye to what we had?
The good times that made us laugh
Outweigh the bad."

That tweet was sent out by one Mr. James Harrison this morning as he wanted to be the first to say goodbye to his fans in Steelers Nation. It's the end of an era. One that Pittsburgh Steelers fans are mourning. One that comes all too often in this business.

But the business side will wait for now. Let's first reflect on the all-too-brief career of the man who went by many epithets. He was Deebo. As in, "(Red!) You got knocked the fu** out!" He was 'one of the scariest men in the NFL' in a poll taken one year. He was also 'one of the dirtiest players in the NFL' according to another poll.

To me, though, he will always be the Silverback. The man who made his debut when Joey Porter, another in a long line of scary Steelers linebackers, was ejected from a November, 2004 Cleveland Browns game an hour prior to its start. In that game, Harrison recorded his first career sack and had six tackles. After the game, one of the Browns' coaches went up to then-coach Bill Cowher and asked him who 'that No. 92 was,' saying that they 'couldn't do anything against him.' It was a sign of things to come and they and the rest of the NFL would soon find out who No. 92 was.

Harrison first signed with the Steelers as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2002 out of Kent State. He played one game that season while wearing No. 93, as No. 92 was still worn by outside linebacker Jason Gildon. He was cut after that season and spent time with the Baltimore Ravens and also with NFL Europe.

Once back with the team in 2004 he would fight to get playing time behind Porter and Clark Haggans. 2007 is when he finally did, as it was first year as a full-time starter with Porter being cut. His coming out party came on Monday Night Football against the Ravens, when he had nine tackles, three and a half sacks, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovered, and one interception. The Silverback was born.

Harrison has been quoted as saying that, if he had not gotten signed, he would have retired from the game to pursue his dream of becoming a veterinarian. Instead of healing animals, he would go on to hurt and make sick dawgs, tigers and ravens for years to come.

Harrison would start for six years (2007-2012) and would record 64 sacks in the regular season, 29 forced fumbles and enjoyed a 62-33 record. All told, Deebo started 95 of 131 games. He also played in 12 postseason games, notching 23 tackles and six and a half sacks, including three Super Bowls and two victories. He mainly played special teams in Super Bowl XL, but had a slightly bigger impact in Super Bowl XLIII:

That 100-yard interception return for a touchdown vs. the Arizona Cardinals was the longest play from scrimmage in Super Bowl history. And it is a play no Steelers fan ever gets tired of seeing.

~ "I thought we'd get to see forever
But forever's gone away...
I don't know where this road
Is going to lead
All I know is where we've been
And what we've been through."

Harrison was a workout warrior, was fearless and was truly fearsome. As ESPN's Jamison Hensley wrote, "let's be honest: No one is going to replace Harrison's toughness, mean streak and steely-eyed stare that struck fear into anyone lining up across from him. Harrison was more than a pass-rusher. He was a quarterback crusher." The Silverback, despite what many tried to purport, was not a dirty player, either. He just played as it was meant to be played: hard and viciously, yet within the rules (except when a certain commissioner decided to change interpretations of rules in mid-season). Playing the game the way another Kent State linebacker said it should be played.

"I believe the game is designed to reward the ones who hit the hardest. If you can't take it, you shouldn't play." - Jack Lambert.

No one hit harder than Deebo. He made no apologies for being who he was, which was a block of granite-like freak of nature. If I were to use a movie reference, I'd paraphrase the Terminator: "He doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And he absolutely will not stop!"

Well, there was one time when he felt remorse. He expressed remorse over the plight of the opposing team's player and quarterback.

"I don't want to hurt nobody. I don't want to step on nobody's foot or hurt their toe," Harrison said at Media Day of Super Bowl XLV. "I don't want to have no dirt or none of this rubber on this field fly into their eye and make their eye hurt. I just want to tackle them softly on the ground, and if you all can, we'll lay a pillow down where I'm going to tackle them, so they don't hit the ground too hard....Mr. Goodell."

That bit of tongue-in-cheekery was in response to all of the attention he'd gotten from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to the tune of four fines for illegal hits against quarterbacks, fined twice for unnecessary roughness and was suspended once for basically being a 'repeat offender.' Most of which was undeserved. (BREAKING NEWS: Goodell fines Harrison for hitting free agency!)

Now, though, we're having to accept that the much-maligned linebacker won't any longer be around. The Silverback will wear Black and Gold no more.

- courtesy of Matt Vargo

~ "If we get to see tomorrow
I hope it's worth all the wait..."

In six years of being a starter, Harrison missed nine starts - four games for a broken orbital bone, three games because of knee surgery, one game because of suspension, and he sat a Week 17 game in 2008. Unfortunately, seven of those that were due to injury or surgery have come in the last two seasons.

The business of the NFL has reared it's unforgiving head once again, causing the Steelers and Harrison to part ways. Harrison didn't feel he should take a pay cut, and the Steelers didn't feel he was quite the same player anymore, at least not one warranting the $10.035 million Salary Cap hit. To be exact, the Steelers just couldn't afford the combination of salary, injury and age. If It Ain't Steel said last summer that this would most likely happen. -

Per Pro Football Talk, the Steelers offered Harrison a reduction of approximately 30% of his $6.57 million base salary and an opportunity to earn it back via incentives. -

Per Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Harrison told Bob Pompeani, KDKA TV Sports Director, that "he has 2-3-4 more years left in him.” So with Harrison believing that and deciding to wade out into the free agent waters, Steelers fans are left with their memories. Memories of his two 1st-team All-Pro selections, of his five Pro Bowls and of his countless bone-jarring hits.

It's hard to let go of the players that mean that much to us. We get emotionally involved, making it hard to say goodbye. And, to finish the lyrics that were the running theme of this piece, "it's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday" ... and to the Silverback.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Steelers Will Miss Heath Miller More Than Some May Think

by Jayden Matthews

With free agency set to start on Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Steelers have several players who could be leaving. Wide receiver Mike Wallace is looking to get a huge payday in this market and some Steelers fans believe this will hurt the team's offense. While it may, we at If it Ain’t Steel have said more than once that "speed kills," but the fact of the matter is that it can also be replaced. What a lot of people are overlooking is that there is something and someone not so easily replaced, considering that the Steelers may be without unsung hero on offense, that being tight end Heath Miller.

Miller sustained a season-ending knee injury in the fourth quarter of the Bengals game in week 16. My heart was in my throat as I watched him being helped off the field, and I knew the season was done. With Mr. Dependable done for the season, I knew the offense would suffer. As expected, the Steelers lost the game and then missed the playoffs finishing with an 8-8 record. Miller isn’t on pace to return by the start of the season and will start out on the Reserve PUP list, because his injury is worse than the typical. In fact, it is one of the worst a football player can have, as he tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments and damaged the posterior cruciate ligament (the ACL, MCL and PCL). The PCL, being that it must heal on its own, will take longer. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert somewhat confirmed our initial fears when he said that it was "uncertain" when Miller will return. This will be a larger blow, in my opinion, than the loss of Wallace.

Miller was named to the Pro Bowl this season and was voted the team’s MVP, and rightfully so. With all the issues of dropped passes and fumbles, he was the only offensive player with significant playing time who did not have a fumble. He led the team in receptions with 71 (out of 101 targets), seven more than Wallace (out of 119 targets). He also tied Wallace for the lead in touchdowns with eight. Again, though, with no fumbles. He was the only true consistent piece on an offense that was three games without its starting quarterback, a less-than-effective running back-by-committee and receivers that frankly didn’t produce to their potential. Before Ben Roethlisberger's injury, he and Miller were on a roll, and when Big Ben did get injured, Miller was the one constant that could bail out Uncle Charlie Batch.

Since Miller doesn’t put up Madden-like numbers, many overlook him and what he does for the team. He and his intangibles will surely be missed. When the line was riddled with injuries yet again this past season, Miller provided that extra block that was needed to free the running backs. He was also the bail out for Big Ben in the passing game, or the block needed to help protect him. No, he isn’t going to burn you down the field with blazing speed, but when he gets open and gets the ball in his hands he moves the chains in his own way.

He is very under appreciated as he isn’t considered by enough as one of the best tight ends in the NFL. He isn’t compared to the Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates or Rob Gronkowski types, but, then, he does more than just catch the ball. He is one of the best "true", or "all around", tight ends in the NFL and what he does for the Steelers offense will be missed. They will suffer from the loss of his blocking ability, quiet leadership and being open in those clutch moments. Even if he is only gone those first six games, they will feel the loss. You can’t just pull a guy off the streets and plug him in expecting him to give the team what Miller does. If that was the case, this wouldn’t even be a discussion. I don’t think there is a tight end out there that can do it.

Miller is a quiet guy and he doesn’t showboat on the field, but you know he has impacted a game when you hear the resounding roar of “HEEEEAAATTTHHHH!!!" Steelers fans love this guy for what he does for the team. Even fans sitting at home watching on t.v. do it. Admit it, you do the Heath cheer, don't you? I know I do. He rarely does interviews, but when he does, he never is an all about "me", he’s all about the team. He doesn’t care about stats or what records he breaks with the Steelers, he just plays the game and plays it well. That is why I call him the unsung hero. He never gets the praise he rightfully deserves.

His being voted team MVP was very well deserved, and, as stated earlier, he was the only consistent player on the Steelers offense. He was also finally named to the Pro Bowl after eight seasons. The ironic thing being the timing - because of the injury he was forced had to miss it.

I am hopeful that he will return this season. The Steelers offense should be able to manage to hold it together in his absence and win some games. Even without Wallace, I believe they can weather the storm of Miller's absence. Then, when he is able to return, this could be one of those stories for the ages: The Unsung Hero returns and the Steelers offense go on a roll.

I am realistic in that they need some other pieces and I believe they will address them this offseason. I, unlike other Steelers fans, am not throwing in the towel on this season. I am well aware its going to be tough and hard road but if any team can do it this team can. They have to do it, and make it worth his returning.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Does The Steelers Signing Of William Gay Mean The End Of Keenan Lewis?

William Gay has officially signed with the Steelers again. According to the tweet from beat writer Gerry Dulac above, it is a three-year deal, though the exact terms were not disclosed. It has been intimated, however, that the terms do benefit the team. Gay will be no more than a Nickel/Dime defensive back and will probably see special teams duty, so there's no need to question the team's ardor toward signing free agent Keenan Lewis. Or is there?

ESPN brought out today that, though he started fewer than half of the 80 games he played while in Black and Gold, Gay has played in 96 consecutive regular-season games since being drafted, the longest active streak among cornerbacks. And when Gay left before last season, we expressed the fact that Gay's leaving was a loss:

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

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

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

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

Now that he's been brought back, one would think he's still in the position of the third or fourth option, putting Curtis Brown, DeMarcus Van Dyke and Josh Victorian on notice. Unfortunately, though, two sources say that it may be the end for Keenan Lewis after all. As Steelers beat writer Dale Lolley put it in his post regarding the signing: "Gay was solid in the slot for the Steelers in 2011 before leaving for Arizona, and that's likely where he'll be asked to play in 2013. That means Cortez Allen will move into the starting lineup on the outside opposite Ike Taylor, though the Steelers will likely call it an open battle between Allen, Gay and Curtis Brown heading to training camp....It also means that the Steelers will now likely let Keenan Lewis walk..." -

The general consensus of those covering the team is that this sounds Lewis' death knell, as Jim Wexell tweeted here:

It's the classic "cognoscenti vs. Intelligentsia" debate, because If It Ain't Steel believes that all efforts to keep Lewis should be made. If he leaves of his own volition, so be it. It's his decision. Do, however, make any and all attempts to retain the man who was one of the two best defensive players on the team last season. A secondary of he and Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen in the slot, and then having Tez take over for Ike after he leaves next season, would seem to be ideal. Silly me, I thought depth was a good thing. Gay said that Taylor personally called general manager Kevin Colbert urging him to bring Gay back. Hopefully someone else will call Colbert and urge him to find a way to keep Lewis.

UPDATE: Behind The Steel Curtain is reporting the deal Gay signed is supposedly around $4.5 million with an approximate $500,000 signing bonus.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Is William Gay Coming Back To The Steelers?

That was the tweet sent by former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback William Gay Sunday evening. A tweet that caused an immediate stir and mixed emotions amongst Steelers fans. Does it mean, though, that he's returning to the Black and Gold?

According to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Jerrold Colton, Gay's agent, said that there is interest in the Steelers but would not say whether Gay has come to contract terms with the team yet." -

According to Gay, he will be in Pittsburgh on Monday, most likely meaning that he'll be at the team's South Side facility. One of his next tweets confirmed this:

Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review made a good point on his Twitter (@MarkKaboly_Trib) account when he tweeted this: "It's not like #Steelers aren't interested in bringing back Keenan Lewis now, but they sure are covering bases just in case Lewis does leave."

Gay, 28, does know the defense and is referred to by head coach Mike Tomlin as "big play Willie Gay." He recorded 60 tackles, six passes defensed, and two interceptions for the Arizona Cardinals last season, but still graded out as one of the worst corners in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.

If Gay does come back, whether unrestricted free agent Keenan Lewis is signed or not, he would only be used in Nickel and Dime packages on the slot receivers. Gay would be inexpensive and he didn't have a bad season his final year with the Steelers. Also, if brought back, it'd provide a bonus for the Steelers in that they should receive a compensatory pick, most likely a seventh-round pick, for him after his departure in 2011. posted their projections a month ago regarding the NFL's compensatory picks. -

Despite popular belief, the NFL does define its basis for compensatory picks. explains them this way:
"Under the rules for compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks.

"The number of picks a team receives equals the net loss of compensatory free agents up to a maximum of four. Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors. Not every free agent lost or signed by a club is covered by this formula.

So, despite our previously predicting he'd wind up in Cleveland, the possibility of his being signed by the Steelers does exist. It's the probability that is up in the air.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Possibility Of Keeping Keenan Lewis; Roethlisberger Takes Control Of Team

This is arguably the most critical offseason the Pittsburgh Steelers may have faced under general manager Kevin Colbert. Several contract/Salary Cap issues, free agent issues, age issues and questions of leadership. How things are handled in the coming weeks will determine the direction of the team.

One of those issues that will be coming to a head as of March 12th centers around starting left cornerback Keenan Lewis. Lewis started all 16 games last season and showed that he has the ability to be a top-level cornerback in the league. His taking on the opponent's top receiver after right cornerback Ike Taylor broke his right ankle in Week 13, helped to prove that.

Lewis' 2011 campaign was heady enough to allow the coaches to part ways with veterans Bryant McFadden and William Gay. He then shined last season as a starter for the Steelers, recording 71 tackles, forcing a fumble and was second amongst cornerbacks with 23 passed defended. A season that garnered the attention of his peers as well:

This helps to make the unrestricted free agent highly sought after if and when he's allowed to test the free agency waters. Lewis has said, though, that he's "hoping" to be back with the Steelers after excelling last season, per Gerry Dulac, who also said last month that the team "almost certainly" plans to re-sign the 26-year old four-year pro.

What are the possible numbers of Lewis' eventual contract? Taking some data from last season's top free agent cornerbacks and projections from this offseason and we can formulate an idea.

Since Richard Sherman said that Lewis was one of the top three cornerbacks this season, let's look at the top three 2012 free agency CB signings:

Lardarius Webb (Ravens) - six years, $52.74 million, $10 million signing bonus;

Cortland Finnegan (Rams) - five years, $50 million, $27 million guaranteed, $5 million signing bonus;

Brandon Carr (Cowboys) - five years, $50 million, $25.5 million guaranteed, $10 million signing bonus.

If we only go by those numbers, an asking price of five years, $50 million and a $10 million signing bonus wouldn't be out of the question. Fortunately, a rich CB free agent market headed by names like Sean Smith, Charles Woodson, Aqib Talib and Derek Cox keeps Lewis' price down and allows us to surmise a contract possibly anywhere from $35 to $45 million. -

The recently increased salary cap for the upcoming season, which will add an extra $2.4 million per team taking it to $123 million, aids the Steelers in being able to work a deal with impending free agent.

Does this solidify the chances of signing Lewis, though. No. As Colbert stated after the season ended, all free agents would be allowed to test the waters. With Lewis gaining the attention he has, let's hope those waters don't flow out off the three rivers.


Locker room schism? What locker room schism? Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took control of the situation Thursday and told us that no disunity exists with the team.

"For anybody to say there are locker room issues or leadership issues are completely off base. I believe that's the frustration. I believe that it's frustration of last year, I honestly do," the 31-year old QB said.

"Obviously, last year was frustrating for all of us, and when you're frustrated and the season doesn't go the way you want it to and things don't go the way you want them to, things are said. I know all too well, after the Dallas game I was frustrated and said some things."

He's correct there. Is this team in "total disarray" if they take care of business against the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns or the very Cowboys Big Ben mentioned? Take care of just two of those and they would've been a 10-6 team in the playoffs.

Big Ben continued, saying "The important thing to know is, there are no issues in our locker room. There are no issues with LaMarr. There are no issues on our team.

"The big thing for us is to move forward. Last year was last year, it was 8-8. We're not happy about it. There are frustrations, but you know what? We're done with it. We're moving forward and we're moving into this year...with whoever's here, we're looking to move forward. And we know Woodley's going to be here and we know Woodley's going to be ready to go as we all are going to be."

Ok, Ben, Sr. just proved himself the leader of this team. -


TIDBITS: As a related point in the Keenan Lewis part of the discussion, the aforementioned William Gay was released from the Arizona Cardinals on Friday. and that release caused some to question whether the Steelers may bring him back to add depth behind Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown. Most likely not.

Gay was an unrestricted free agent last offseason and looked to greener pastures when he signed a two-year, $4.9 million contract with the Cardinals. Their defensive coordinator last season was former Steelers defensive backs coach Ray Horton, who is now the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns.

Though anything is possible with him knowing the Steelers coaches and system, the more likely landing spot for Gay would be the Browns.


As a non-related point to the Big Ben part of the discussion, quarterback Charlie Batch evidently doesn't listen to LL Cool J, because he said he wants to "come back."

"My plan is to come back, and I haven't heard anything differently from the organization," Uncle Charlie said. "And I think when you leave out of there at the end-of-the-year meetings, you know one way or the other. And they didn't tell me that they didn't want me back. So I think that's a good sign."

So James Todd was right, don't call it a comeback. You've been here for years. And since the Steelers only have two QBs under contract, Big Ben and recent signee John Parker Wilson, Uncle Charlie might just might be on the sidelines again as the QB coach-in-waiting.

Will the team bring Jerrod Johnson and Byron Leftwich back to camp to compete for spots also? They had four QBs last season before Johnson was finally let go. The same could happen this summer. Just which four, though?