Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Steelers Draft Pick Shamarko Thomas: "Work Hard Until Your Hands And Your Feet Fall Off."

Over the last couple of years, the brain trust of the Pittsburgh Steelers have tried to be more proactive during Pro Days to meet with families of potential draft picks. A solid practice - it helps one to ascertain what a player's home life and upbringing may have been like, and what values may have been instilled. A solid practice indeed, though not always possible.

Strong safety Shamarko Thomas was a promising talent even early on in his football career. He attended Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he set school records for tackles, interceptions and defensive touchdowns. Thomas eventually became an All-State First-Team selection, and would also go on to win All-State track honors in the 100-meter dash and in anchoring the 4x100 relay team.

All seemed good. He had a bright future and a family who loved, encouraged and challenged him. He would go on to attend Syracuse University where he became a fixture right away, including seven starts as a true freshman in 2009. His sophomore year could only prove brighter. Or so he thought.

Thomas would go on to suffer a great loss on July 10, 2010 when he lost his father, "the man who pushed him to gridiron greatness," was killed in a motorcycle accident. Unfortunately, his pain would not end there.

Less than a year later, on April 18, 2011, his mother died of "hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the myocardium becomes too thick, making it harder for the heart to pump blood. She had unknowingly battled the condition for years; it has few symptoms and often goes undiagnosed." (italics ours)

The woman who was a true inspiration in his life, who called him her "chosen one" and who instilled within him to "work hard until your hands and your feet fall off" was now gone.

"When Thomas heard the news, he sobbed so violently that his friend in the upstairs apartment rushed to console him." (To experience the rest of his amazing journey, read the Sports Illustrated article from which the quoted material comes: http://tinyurl.com/ca9k4cs)

In the span of a year, he lost both of his parents. He had to become a man overnight. He would go on to assume responsibility for six brothers and sisters, fulfilling a promise to his mother. He told her "he would become successful in order to provide for his siblings."

Assuming responsibility for his Syracuse teammates also, becoming a leader of defense, he was able to live up to his word in full by becoming the 111th player taken in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Though Thomas wasn't as highly touted as other safeties in the draft, he was a physical presence nonetheless. He was known for his, as Steel City Insider's Jim Wexell put it, "bullet-style of playing strong safety," who has a "thirst for contact."

Thomas is a player and Orangemen team captain. As If It Ain't Steel wrote about him before the draft, at the NFL Combine he ran the fastest 40-yard dash of all the safeties at 4.42 seconds (despite falling over at the finish line - http://youtu.be/9lzuKEj6ETA), and 4.38 (4.37 on some watches) at his Pro Day. He had the most reps at the bench press, tied for the highest vertical jump and was one inch off the longest broad jump.

He's a versatile player also, as he played both cornerback and linebacker at times at Syracuse. So versatile, in fact, that he covered USC speedy wide receiver Robert Woods all over the field when they played Syracuse in 2012. Something that caught the attention of Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake.

"If you look at the USC game, when Syracuse played USC, I noticed that when I was watching film on Shamarko that he was in the nickel position covering Robert Woods, who was drafted in the second round. I said, “Well you play the nickel also.” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Well how come you were out wide playing Woods at the corner position. Did you play corner?” He said. “No, it was still the nickel, but our coaching staff just wanted me to match up wherever he went.” And I thought that was really impressive. Why would you have your strong safety covering one of the better receivers in the draft man-to-man throughout the whole game?...Sealed the deal in my opinion." - http://tinyurl.com/cbn4kur

Before the draft, Steelers GM Kevin Colbert matter-of-factly said, "I don't envision anybody coming in and having an impact year one."

As Lee Corso would say, not so fast, my friend. Shamarko Thomas has the drive, the determination and the inspiration to go along with speed, power and enough football prowess to make an impact. Then, the Steelers are providing him with quite possibly the best mentor in Troy Polamalu.

Maybe most importantly is that he has a promise to keep - to work hard until your hands and your feet fall off.

Addendum: Steeler Nation, follow Shamarko Thomas on Twitter at @Shamarko21ya and let him know mama and papa would be proud of him.


TIDBITS: Bob Labriola reported earlier that the "Steelers signed veteran punter Brian Moorman as competition for 2nd-year pro Drew Butler. WR Bert Reed waived to open a roster spot."


And since we gave you the Steelers' rookies' Twitter accounts, here is the entire rookie class and a link to the rest of the players' accounts:
@SacManJones_29 ;
@L_Bell24 ;
@twheat002 ;
@shamarko21ya ;
@LandryJones12 ;
@TerryHawthorne1 ;
@justinbrown19 ;
@JohnnyBrovo11 (Vince Williams) ;

Give Me Life

I am dead.

A moment without you takes the breath from my lungs. Takes my life force so thoroughly that the four winds could not muster a force strong enough to breathe life into my chest.

A minute without hearing your voice sours any and all sounds into cacophonous discord. The lack of your dulcet tones flowing like a stream through my ears is as robbing my body of blood.

An hour without you breaks my heart. Breaks it into so many pieces that the shards would outnumber the sands of the seashores. Into pieces so small that they'd fit well through the eye of a needle.

A day without you proves that this body is no more than a "muddy vesture of decay" whose sinews dry and wither in this barren wasteland of solitude. Truthfully, without you by my side I have no life.

I'd rather have no breath in my lungs than for you to blow one last kiss my way.

I would prefer all the sounds of the world be silenced than to hear you say goodbye.

I would rather go blind than to watch you walk out of my life.

I'd rather fall with no pulse than have you take away my rhythm.

I need you to whisper my name, look me in the eyes and touch my hand, and I'll give you the only worthy thing I have...

...my life.

to Jayden

from Jason


Monday, April 29, 2013

Steelers Get "Big Play Waiting To Happen" in Wheaton

"I think I can go 4.3." - Markus Wheaton in his introduction conference call with the Pittsburgh Steelers after being selected 79th overall in the 2013 NFL Draft Friday night.

Do you think they purposely selected a player with the initials "M.W.?" In the third round? Also with (supposed) 4.3 speed? But, I digress...

It wasn't who we at If It Ain't Steel wanted, we lobbied hard for West Virginia's Stedman Bailey, but Wheaton still was one of the ones we highlighted as a possibility. His speed was one reason - he ran a 4.45/40 at the NFL Combine, but is confident enough to tout the above - as was his penchant for the big play.

Of him in that article we wrote, "At 6'0", 182 pounds, Wheaton isn’t the biggest receiver in the draft class, but he’s a heck of a playmaker. He’s been compared to Antonio Brown for his ability to break plays open and to run the ball on reverses. Or as CBSSports.com simply puts it, "he's a big play waiting to happen." - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wY_G2PWoTMw&feature=youtu.be

The league is all about offense now, and Roethlisberger is good, but he can not do it alone. It was definitely time to get Big Ben the weapons that will fit the offense and help make this offense one of the better in the league. The big plays that will add points to the scoreboard. Wheaton adds to that. Plus, that "big play waiting to happen" is now going to be waiting at the Confluence this fall. And he believes he can play both in the slot and outside.

"I envision myself anywhere....I feel I can produce outside, Wheaton said. He emphasized that a little later by saying that he likes "being all over the place." - http://tinyurl.com/bo3rzsw

Wheaton is a track-trained deep threat who was disappointed at the NFL Combine by "only" running the time previously mentioned. And Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley says that he plays faster - runs routes and makes cuts faster - than that time. As is evidenced by 11 touchdowns in his 91 receptions in 2012 - that's one score just over every eight catches.

Quite a change from the days when true Steeler greats at wide receiver graced the Steel City. Hall of Fame wide receiver John Stallworth garnered just 45 receptions in his first three years. Wheaton had one more than twice that in one college season. Emmanuel Sanders had one fewer last season alone. This is a passing league and weapons are needed, and Wheaton is a weapon.

Per Scouts, Inc. (Gary Horton), some of his attributes include the fact that he is a "quick-twitched and sudden athlete. Fast starter that can eat up cushion. Flashes ability to burst out of break. But can be a bit tight getting in and out of cuts. Does not separate as well as he should on some intermediate routes, but does show ability to throttle quickly from top speed when running comebacks. Impressed with his head and shoulder fakes, and is doing a much better job in 2012 of changing speeds to set up routes."

And as we all know, with great talent comes great responsibility (or something like that), and he's a high-character guy who was voted team captain in 2012.

He's exciting with the ball in his hands and he's tough. He may not be our original choice for a receiver at this position, but his abilities can't be denied.


TIDBITS: "Who does Ben Roethlisberger credit with helping turn him into QB he is today? It may come as a surprise." (No, it won't.) - http://sulia.com/channel/pittsburgh-steelers/f/a96aa4d1-6d07-4747-b493-fc96d219e86e/?source=twitter


The first day of class for Steelers' rookies, as their minicamp practices commence Friday.

From Friday, May 3rd through Sunday, May 5th, the players go through non-contact drills, sort of like New England Patriots defense in 2012, as the CBA prevents players from wearing pads.

Will Le'Veon Be The Bell Cow For Steelers?

With the 48th pick of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select...well, let's allow Merril Hoge to announce it: http://tinyurl.com/ctjnvja

Le'Veon Bell, the 6'1", 230-pound running back, is likely to be the bell cow for the Steelers to start the 2013 season (and f he isn't, it'll be another wasted second-round draft pick). As Mike Griffith of the Lansing State Journal wrote, at 6'1" and 230 lbs., Bell isn't actually a 'power back,' but "has great vision [and] lateral cutting ability." A style that works well with a zone-blocking system.

That vision and cutting ability were points, as seen and heard in the video link posted above, that were addressed by Mike Mayock as the pick was made.

"My concern with him was I thought he ran more east and west than a 244-pound back should,'' NFL.com analyst Mike Mayock said referring to Bell's being heavier in college, but losing weight by his Pro Day to be faster. "However, that's easily correctable. He's got really good feet for a big back, and he fits exactly what the Pittsburgh Steelers are. So, once he gets those shoulders turned and comes downhill, he's a bear, and it's a great fit."

According to Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, the Steelers agree.

"Le'Veon is a guy for all situations,'' said Tomlin. "He ran for 1,700 yards, but he has really soft hands and the way they utilized him in the passing game was really impressive. He's got both youth and experience, but he's still only 21-years old....We're really excited about acquiring Le'Veon."

Offensive coordinator Todd Haley said some telling things about why Bell was chosen over Eddie Lacy, the running back most expected to come off of the board first. Aside from pointing out that they think Bell is "a big back, number one, a three-down back - which is a big thing for us," Haley also talked about his pass-catching ability and maturity. - http://tinyurl.com/cqzufhp

Haley said that 'he's a young kid who doesn't have a lot of tread on his tires'. Not true. With the fact being that he had 749 touches, 671 rushes, in three years at Michigan State, the opposite is true. But, as Tomlin stated, he had over 1,700 rushing yards (1,793 to be exact) and averaged 4.7 yards per carry, including 5.0 YPC for his career.

He's simply a football player. A physical, yet elusive presence who should fit in well with the Steelers. Not that Lacy isn't a baller, but he ran behind an offensive line that was essentially NFL-lite, routinely opening gaping holes for him. Bell? Well, let's just say that Michigan State's OLine was more akin to the Steelers' of late.

One reason the Steelers passed on Eddie Lacy, per Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette, is a toe injury. He said that "one team source said the Steelers would not touch Lacy because his big toe had been fused." But, as Bouchette further said, there was another reason for the Steelers, as well as other 30 other teams, to bypass him.

"There has been concern about injuries to Lacy’s hamstring and what has been reported as turf toe, but nothing’s been reported about a fusion. Either way, teams did stay away from Lacy – considered by many the best talent at halfback in the draft -- until Green Bay made him the fourth back drafted with the 29th pick in the second round."

Speaking of the OLine also, however, according to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in an interview he did on 93.7 The Fan the week before the NFL Draft, the Big Uglies should be a prettier sight next season.

After calling them "young, athletic and talented," Big Ben offered that "if they stay healthy, they could be, you know, something that could really carry us through the season."

A 21-year old running back and an OLine that could be the youngest in the NFL getting endorsement from your star quarterback? To paraphrase Bogie, it sounds like the beginning of a beautiful relationship.


TIDBITS: According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, former Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Winston Justice met with the Steelers Tuesday. Justice is a good player who is entering his eighth year in the league, and the Steelers could use additional offensive line depth there.


The Steelers tried to trade running back Jonathan Dwyer over the draft weekend after signing former Arizona Cardinals halfback LaRod Stephens-Howling. LSH (as we will be referring to him) was signed to a one-year qualifying contract for $715,000, with a $65,000 signing bonus.

Per the NFL's new CBA, a "qualifying contract," is one in which a player is paid in cash at the minimum level but their Salary Cap charge is only that of a player with two years of experience (thus LSH's Cap charge only being approximately $625,000). The contract must be "no longer than one season, contain the minimum salary, a guarantee not to exceed the minimum salary of a player with 2 years experience, and additional bonus money not to exceed $65,000, a number that rises by $15,000 every three years with the next raise coming in 2015," in order to qualify.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Steelers Select Jarvis Jones In The First Round, What Now?

by Jayden and Jason

Ok, so it wasn't safeties Kenny Vaccaro or Eric Reid. If It Ain't Steel never hid the fact that we felt safety should have been the first pick, but outside linebacker was also a true need. So, Georgia product Jarvis Jones it is. Welcome, Mr. Jones.

The only reasons we weren't originally high on him is because the Steelers need help now, this year, and no linebacker has ever started as a rookie in defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's system. Also because of the medical condition, Spinal Stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal column that causes pressure on the spinal cord, or narrowing of the neural foramina where spinal nerves leave the spinal column), being a potential problem. Not because of a bad Pro Day showing where he ran a 4.9 in the 40-yard dash.

The Steelers medical staff cleared Jones and therefore weren't deterred when it came to zeroing in on him.

"There was no problem," said Steelers GM Kevin Colbert about Jones' medical reports. "The kid has played two seasons without an issue at the University of Georgia. Of course, he has to go through a physical (at the Combine), and just to be sure we made another check when he came in (for his predraft visit). Certainly we're very comfortable with his medical status, or we wouldn't have made that pick. - http://tinyurl.com/d7g86k9

The Pro Day results didn't deter them, either. In fact, it encouraged them and, when the time came, the Steelers virtually ran to the podium to select Jones at No. 17. They were elated that Jones dropped that far partially because of both of those concerns.

"When he ran the 4.9, we were happy," Colbert stated. "We knew we had a chance. We didn't even talk to Jarvis at the combine because we didn't think we had a chance."

However, per Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac, another one of the main reasons they were targeting the 6'2 1/2" 245-pound Jones was because "they knew there was a big dropoff in edge rushers after him."

"This kid, when you watch him play, I don't care what he runs," Colbert continued. "He's a football player in every phase of the game, and that's what was really exciting." - http://tinyurl.com/blzzb9n

Jones himself is seemingly happy to be in the Steel City and stated so with a succinct tweet:

He also said that he isn't coming in to replace departed OLB James Harrison, whom he called "a beast," saying that "I've got a long work to get to James Harrison."

He compares himself to Harrison, though, in that he's also 'relentless, passionate and a playmaker.' He also called Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor a "mentor" and said that they trained together.

"Ike is one of my best mentors and we train together," said Jones. "He just talked about how great the program is and what their defense means up there. It means a whole lot. They take pride in what they do." - http://tinyurl.com/d9rhzah

That means he's a client of Tom Shaw at his World Wide Sports Complex in Florida. As is well known, Ike and fellow cornerback William Gay work with Shaw every offseason, and CB Cortez Allen is now a client as well.

So Jones is in good company and is starting off on a good foot.

Now that the first round is out of the way, it’s time to look at rounds two and three. Think wide receiver and safety tonight. We're not sold that they "absolutely must draft a running back before today ends," as Steelers beat writer Ed Bouchette put it. A quality back can be gotten in round four as well. Texas A&M's Christine Michael and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin very well could be available. The only way it becomes necessary is if, as Bouchette also pointed out, "since none was taken in the first round....There also likely will be a run on them, so they will go fast."

If so, then go ahead and take one today. The Steelers backfield is in need of an every-down back. The only way they don't go after one at all is if they're still interested in free agent runner Ahmad Bradshaw who has now been fully medically cleared. - http://tinyurl.com/cladrza

They have to get a safety, there is absolutely no depth or viable experience behind Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark, and wide receiver is high on the priority list also. Safety first, because there only a few high-quality players remaining, whereas there are several wide receivers still available.

Below is Mike Mayock’s top 20 remaining available players:
1. Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
2. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
3. Jonathan Cyprien, FS, Florida International
4. Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State
5. Tank Carradine, DE, Florida State
6. Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse
7. Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
8. Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State
9. Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
10. Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
11. Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
12. Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
13. Keenan Allen, WR, California
14. D.J. Swearinger, SS, South Carolina
15. Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
16. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
17. Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
18. Cornelius Washington, OLB, Georgia
19. Terron Armstead, OT, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
20. Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina

While several of those will still be around when the Steelers pick in the second round, the italicized players are those that we want or think that the Steelers might target. That doesn't include players they brought in for pre-draft visits or whose Pro Day's were attended, such as Oregon State wide receiver Markus Wheaton, Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell, USC wide receiver Robert Woods, Georgia free safety Bacarri Rambo and West Virginia wide receiver Stedman Bailey.

Both ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper and Scouts Inc. project the Steelers to select strong safety D.J. Swearinger next. The only concern is that he doesn't have ideal speed, 4.67/40 at the NFL Combine, but Swearinger is intimidating and fits the Steelers' mold of safety.

We'll see very soon as the draft weekend continues.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wide Receiver, Safety Or Linebacker - Which Will Be The Steelers First Pick?

by Jason and Jayden

They're called mock drafts for a reason...because they're meant to be mocked. Most of them bear no resemblance to what actually transpires, or at best get sporadic selections correct.

However, since we all know the saying about opinions, If It Ain't Steel will poke its nose into this and tell you whom we see as as viable picks, focusing in on the first one at No. 17 in Thursday's draft. We'll readdress players already already covered, via either description or link, and cover one or two players each that could also be skipped over 16 times.

We covered this position fairly extensively in a recent blog post, going over all who are possibilities. - http://ifitaintsteel.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-steelers-options-for-wide-receivers.html

Now, though, we'll focus on the first round alone, and with the most polarizing player at the position:

Cordarrelle Patterson, in his only college football season in 2012, caught 46 balls for 778 yards and five touchdowns. He rushed the ball 25 times for 308 yards and another three scores, and also returned kickoff and punt return for touchdowns. But I offer as a comparative "so what" the numbers of Tavon Austin who had 114 receptions for 1,289 yards for 12 TDs, rushed 72 times for 643 yards and three scores, and also returned a kick and a punt for touchdowns. Plus, Austin has been doing it for four years, not just one.

Patterson simply lacks polish, especially in his route running. He tips his hand by his feet - showing where the route is going - or by body language. He is very raw, catches the ball with his body too much, seems to get lost at times, doesn't always play to his competition (feasted on weak opponents and was pedestrian against stronger ones) and doesn't always play up to his 6'2" frame.

Don't take our word for it, though. Read what Jim Wexell, writer for Steel City Insider and contributor for Steelers Digest had to say about him: "The only reason I can see the Steelers drafting this receiver – whose Wonderlic score of 11 was surprisingly high to me – is because he’s a dynamic kick returner. With the signing of Emmanuel Sanders, the Steelers can also give Patterson a year to learn a rudimentary offensive package. Otherwise, this is not a Kevin Colbert type. Listen to an interview of Robert Woods and then listen to Patterson and you’ll understand what I’m trying to say. But, Patterson gets the short odds because the Pittsburgh public is in love with him." - http://pit.scout.com/2/1285245.html

Come to think of it, he sounds a lot like Mike Wallace. no wonder "the Pittsburgh public" wants him. Definitely talented, just not first-round talented.

Steelers choose: Tavon Austin, DeAndre Hopkins or trade down.

Troy Polamalu missed nine games with a calf injury in 2012 and 11 in 2009 with a knee injury. At 31 years old with 10 seasons in the NFL, you'd think this is the beginning of the end for the former defensive player of the year.

Don't tell that to defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.

"He has a lot of tremendous football talent still in him," LeBeau told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "Once he got back on the field, I couldn't see any difference in his play than when he was winning the Defensive Player of the Year Award.

"I know Troy will do everything he can to get himself physically ready to compete for a 16-game season. And we'll have to wait and see (if he can)."

When he came back, as LeBeau alluded to, Polamalu had an interception, a sack and most of his tackles in the last three games. Regardless, with free safety Ryan Clark now 33, the Steelers have to start thinking about the future now. And with Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert saying that they believe there are only about six to eight "special players" in draft, getting depth and (a) future starter(s) at the position is key. - http://tinyurl.com/bapga52

We've covered several safeties whom we think would fit well with the Steelers. We've highlighted Kenny Vaccaro especially, as well as Matt Elam, Eric Reid, Jonathan Cyprien and Bacarri Rambo. - http://ifitaintsteel.blogspot.com/2013/01/fixing-steelers-starts-with-drafting.html ~/~ http://ifitaintsteel.blogspot.com/2013/02/whether-offense-or-defense-steelers.html

We also went over USC's T.J. McDonald and Syracuse's Sharmarko Thomas briefly. McDonald has the distinction of having pedigree - his father is former USC and NFL safety, Pro Bowler, All Pro and Super Bowl champion Tim McDonald.

Steelers' defensive backs coach Carnell Lake, worked out USC's cornerbacks and safety and called him "an explosive athlete who is quickly able to take what we were asking him to do and apply it to the field. He's so explosive out of his cuts and covers such ground."

But the 6'3" 213-pound prospect won't make it into the first round. Syracuse's Shamarko Thomas, who ran the fastest 40-yard dash of all the safeties at 4.38 seconds (despite falling over at the finish line), had the most reps at the bench press, tied for the highest vertical jump and was one inch off the longest broad jump, is worth drafting high. That said, Thomas may not be considered one of the top safety prospects, but those numbers should do wonders for his draft stock.

Steelers choose: Kenny Vaccaro, Eric Reid or Matt Elam.

This is where thoughts amongst pundits and fans differ. Jim Wexell, mentioned earlier, leans toward inside linebacker and Kansas State product Arthur Brown, saying that "Brown strikes me as a Mike Tomlin type with his quick-twitch muscle fiber, his suddenness, and his leadership skills." - http://pit.scout.com/2/1286477.html

NFL.com analyst Mike Mayock has predicted the Steelers will take fan favorite Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, saying "I don't care as much about the potential medical issues, I don't care that he ran 4.9. This kid plays football. He's explosive....I just think he fits what Pittsburgh does." - http://www.nfl.com/draft/2013/mock-drafts/mike-mayock/171006

Then Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac says someone even different in projecting Florida State defensive end/outside linebacker Bjoern Werner as the pick. Of him, Dulac says he is "one of the best 4-3 defensive ends....He is rangy at 6-3, 261, and can pressure off the edge – something the Steelers have been lacking since the middle of the 2011 season." - http://tinyurl.com/ao23fts

We covered our thoughts for the outside linebacker pick a few times, but most notably when James Harrison was released from the Steelers for refusing to take a pay cut (only to take a bigger one when he recently signed with the Cincinnati Bengals). His ferocity and intensity needs to be replaced. The players we covered all bring that. - http://ifitaintsteel.blogspot.com/2013/03/who-will-replace-james-harrison.html

Steelers choose: Jarvis Jones or trade down.

However, there is only one No. 1 pick. So who will be the selection?

This draft is top heavy with high-level wide receivers and safeties. A solid, hardcore OLB, though, could be found in the fourth or even fifth round. That narrows things a bit. Then consider that since Sanders was signed, they don't have to go for a WR in the first. The possibility exists that they could even double dip at the position.

That leaves us to gamble at the safety position and prognosticate that either Vaccaro, Reid or Elam will be the pick. And since Eric Reid resembles another LSU safety already on the Steelers roster...

House Of Lords or House Of Commons: The Current State of the Pittsburgh Steelers

by Jason and Jayden

In her essay "Child’s Play ...or is it?
Political meaning in 18th Century nursery rhymes (part one)," Lucinda Brant wrote that the (original) nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty wasn't about an egg (Lewis Carroll added that), not even about the Parliamentary cannon as is also commonly understood.

"The rhyme wasn’t published until 1810 in Gammar Gurton’s Garland, where there is no mention of the King’s men or his horses:

'Humpty Dumpty sate [sic] on a wall,
Humpti Dumpti [sic] had a great fall;
Threescore men and threescore more,
Cannot place Humpty dumpty as he was before.'"

This first published version leads to the "more obscure theory...that Humpty Dumpty is not a cannon at all but a specific person. I believe it refers to King George the Third and that the rhyme is about his mental illness."

Now, you're probably wondering what place this has in a sports blog (though, if you're a regular reader, you know that Shakespeare, the Bible, The Godfather and other pop culture references have been made several times). Well, as the title indicates, the Pittsburgh Steelers organization is going through a transition. A transition that some think may lead to a great fall.

From 1933 to 1971 (not counting the Steagles and the Card-Pitts years), the Steelers wallowed around in the virtual basement of the NFL, compiling a total of 168 wins. Then things changed.

The NFL Draft became the Steelers own personal orchard where it seemed that they didn't just pick from the bountiful selections, but that talent actually fell ripe from the branch. Suddenly, they were Humpty Dumpty sitting on a wall. And like King George III in our analogy, they were "higher than anyone else, alluding to [their] kingly status." In just over 17 seasons, the Steelers eclipsed the number of victories they had accumulated in the previous 37 - less than half the time.

"There was no one higher in England’s Georgian society than the King," and there was no one higher in the NFL than the Steelers. The records they have accrued are legion and too many to number here. In part, they have the most Super Bowl wins, most AFC Super Bowl representations, most Conference Championship games (15) played in [AFC or NFC]; most NFL Conference Championship games hosted (11); most Division Titles won by any AFC team in NFL history (20); most overall post-merger wins [regular season & playoffs] (416); most regular post-merger wins (384); most playoff games won by any NFL team (33); highest post-merger winning percentage [regular season & playoffs] (61.1%)...and the list goes on.

But this is no longer acceptable. After 14 appearances in the last 21 seasons (1992-2012), four more Super Bowls and two more Super Bowl wins, to a now-spoiled fan base, recent events have caused an uproar. King George, the regnal king who is our object comparison, had several bouts of mental illness. The current sentiment amongst many Steelers' fans is that the third in line for directing the Steelers organization himself has taken leave of his senses.

Art Rooney, The Chief, sired the team and the organization from day one back in 1933. Led them through the lean times and into the times of bounty. Always the head of the organization, always the father figure, always The Chief.

Dan Rooney continued in his father's footsteps and led the team through the resurgence, to more Super Bowls and gained the respect around the league that The Chief had. The apple didn't fall far from the tree and Uncle Dan was even given the honor of being the ambassador to Ireland by President Barack Obama.

Now Art Rooney II, more Gordon Gekko than than Jimmie Johnson, has Steeler nation comparing him to Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder because of his "interfering" with the team's affairs. The general sentiment is that he should "let the ones he pays to make decisions make the decisions on how the team is run." There is a sentiment that he likes the camera and microphone too much, and that he needs to stay in the front office and off of the field.

It is essentially true. Think back to the Super Bowl loss after the 2010 season to the Green Bay Packers: was there panic in the streets? Were people blatantly calling for heads? Not amongst civil, level-headed fans, no. It was six points that came down to one final drive. The culprits were viewed as being on the field, not on the sidelines or in the office.

Fast forward to 2011 and there were happy fans again because the team was winning again. Sure, certain things were less-than-perfect, but they were a veteran team that knew what was needed to win. If not for an inept play by safety Ryan Clark in the rematch against the hated Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers would've been division winners with a bye or a home game in the first round of the playoffs.

Then it began.

The Steelers lost in overtime in the wild-card round of the playoffs at the underdog Denver Broncos by allowing Tim Tebow of all quarterbacks to throw for 316 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 pass completions. That isn't even the bad part.

In his season-ending news conference, head coach Mike Tomlin tells the media that he expects his coaching staff to return for the 2012 season and, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac, tells offensive coordinator Bruce Arians more than once that he wants him back.

Then team president Art Rooney II tells the Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette that he thinks quarterback Ben Roethlisberger needs to "tweak" his game a bit in order to take fewer hits and sacks and, in effect, lengthen his career in Pittsburgh.

This is where we see the beginnings of "a great fall," because in a thinly veiled attempt at deception, the Steelers announce that Arians is retiring, citing health issues. He later said he was pushed out, obviously by Rooney against Tomlin's wishes. Later, Rooney came as close as he may ever about the situation with Steelers.com, saying it was "time for a change."

Arians? He made a miraculous recovery and was hired post-haste as the offensive coordinator of the Indianapolis Colts. Because of head coach Chuck Pagano missing the majority of the season due to cancer, Arians was named the NFL's 2012 Coach of the Year.

Though Big Ben has come out more than once and said that there is no friction between him and new offensive coordinator Todd Haley, that it was mainly media-driven, the reality is that things could've been done very differently. - http://tinyurl.com/a8b48lh

"Oh! What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive."

Though If It Ain't Steel wasn't exactly Bruce Arians' biggest fan, a piece was still written on how it was likely premature to have fired Arians. Not tooting our own horn, but...well, we don't have to, now do we?

As Ms. Brant states in her essay, "life will never be the same again, for King George or his subjects." Nor will they for the Steelers organization, specifically General Manager Kevin Colbert and Tomlin, if Rooney II continues his meddling. It affects the performance of the aforementioned Tomlin, making him look like a figure head rather than a head coach. Basically emasculating him.

When Tomlin first arrived, he had a no-nonsense approach to things. Training Camp was more like Boot Camp, and he was Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. Who could argue his approach? It led to a Super Bowl win in his second year after all. Though, at the behest of some of his veteran players, it was toned down some in the next couple of years, it didn't seem to have a major effect. They did reach the big game again two years later. But, then Rooney II spoke up.

Now Tomlin has come under fire as not having complete control of the team. It has been suggested, and said outright, that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has more control over the team than Tomlin.

As my partner-in-verse says "Omar" (i.e. Tomlin's look-a-like Omar Epps), needs to get back to the "buttkicking," he was doing when he first got here. He "needs to stop being their buddy and be their coach. When he first came here he said he didn't care who he made mad, he wasn't there to be their friends."

In other words, he needs to be H.N.I.C. Period. End of sentence.

Yes, Big Ben needs to be a team leader - a presence in the huddle, on the sidelines and in the locker room - but when Tomlin speaks the players need to know that it's time to shut up and listen. They need the fear of God put back into them. Rooney II's interference hinders that. The Chief never undermined Chuck Noll. Uncle Dan never undermined Bill Cowher.

Especially since Tomlin now is in what are essentially unfamiliar waters as he faces a level of adversity that truly tests the skills and character of any NFL head coach: he has never built, nor totally re-built a football team. He needs their support more than ever. Non-interference should be the Rooneys' prime directive.

Now, Steelers legend Mean Joe Greene, after 27 years of service with the organization, has retired citing an "attitude change" that hit the Steelers that he does not like.

“It’s an attitude change. In all my years of being with Pittsburgh, I never encountered a player taking a contract dispute into the season and letting that dispute affect the way he played. That’s a bad thing.” - http://t.co/Tz7xIWoBoe

Non-interference can be achieved, though, and thankfully the Rooneys are patient, as evidenced by sticking with Cowher after three straight losing seasons. But, make no mistake, the organization belongs to the Rooneys. The Steelers are at a crossroad and are in transition. The core of players Mike Tomlin inherited and coached to two Super Bowl appearances is being dismantled. Can he maintain? Cowher couldn't.

The point about Tomlin being too buddy-buddy is still valid, though, and does need to be rectified. I know the new CBA rules put certain restrictions on Camp (and all practices), but while Training Camp doesn't have to be the Junction Boys, it doesn't have to be Camp North Star, either.

The third in the triad of those responsible for the quality on the field is the one who is mainly in charge of drafting, he being Colbert. As has been well publicized, only 22 of the last 59 players he has drafted are still with the team, and none from the 2008 draft.

Is he slipping? Did he and Cowher have a symbiotic relationship that was mortally wounded when Cowher retired? Some of the draft woes do reach back to Cowher's era, but they did have greater overall success in those years. These are definitely things to consider, because the dearth of talent is obvious. And if it is all on Colbert, is he facing his Waterloo? - http://tinyurl.com/bh7eytc

"Threescore men and threescore more,
Cannot place Humpty dumpty as he was before."

As Brant again writes, "this line suggests that it made no difference to the King’s condition how many men were called to attend on him, they cannot place Humpty as he was before—the King’s mental illness cannot be cured and thus he can no longer rule as king."

To be certain, as a team and organization, the Pittsburgh Steelers are in need of a panacea. They aren't completely broken, but all the king's horses are on alert.

Colbert says, "I don't see any players we draft coming in and having an immediate impact." That means this draft, even the first pick, will produce more depth that starters in 2013. One draft class won't do it, but it starts there. The evaluation and development of young players players is paramount. The veterans also need to lead in word and in deed. Like linebacker Larry Foote said, they'd "better be pissed off" at their current state. - http://tinyurl.com/ab2qmbt

While the reputation of the Rooneys has few rivals, they don't get a free pass. There will no pom-pom waving from anyone here - the triad has work to do. Starting with Rooney II and his communication skills. He needs to do a better job communicating with Tomlin. The way Arians' departure was handled was an embarrassment. Nothing like that can happen again.

Tomlin himself needs to run practice and run the team as he knows he can do; Colbert needs to run the organization and the handle the bank account better than in recent years; and Rooney should remain approachable - like his father and grandfather before him, he should want to have a relationship with his players.

But each one should do so with the understanding that, as evidenced by our object lesson, "Humpty Dumpty," a House of Lords can become a House of Commons can become a house of cards all too quickly.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Steelers Pre-draft Visits Show That Defense Is Still A Priority

As the NFL's pre-draft visit period comes to a close, the total tally of the players entertained by the Pittsburgh Steelers tells a familiar tale. Back on January 8th, If It Ain't Steel wrote an article that said the fixing of the Steelers starts with defense. Apparently the Steelers themselves agree.

Each NFL team is allowed 30 pre-draft visits. The Steelers total of 24 is more heavily represented by the defensive side (17) of the ball than the offensive side (7) of it. While there are holes over the entirety of the roster, the defensive side of the ball is...(ahem) more experienced and mature. Three of the four starters in the defensive backfield alone carry an average age of 33 as of the 2013 season.

Aside from the array of pass rushers brought in (and I am a firm believer in the theory that you can't have too many players who can rush the passer), two things stand out when looking at the visiting players. The first being that the cornerbacks brought in indicate where the Steelers will be looking for that much needed youth and depth.

It is of interest that of the cornerbacks making visits - Florida State's Xavier Rhodes, Utah State's Will Davis (whose interesting story is linked here: http://tinyurl.com/cjh26ad), UConn's Blidi Wreh-Wilson (pictured above), LSU's Tharold Simon and William & Mary's B.J. Webb - all but one are mid-round prospects. Are the third through the fifth rounds where they will look to pull the trigger on the position?

The Steelers let unrestricted free agent CB Keenan Lewis walk via free agency, so that leaves Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen and William Gay as the only three who could be considered locks to make the 53-man roster next season. Bringing up the rear, as it were, behind them are Curtis Brown, DeMarcus Van Dyke, Josh Victorian, Isaiah Green and Justin King. Conventional wisdom dictates that only one or two of those five players make it onto the 53 man roster, and the odds favor only one if the Steelers invest a mid-round pick on another cornerback.

The other thing that stood out was the lack of true five-technique defensive linemen to make their way to the South Side. Although Steelers.com says Utah’s Star Lotulelei, Florida’s Sharrif Floyd, BYU’s Ziggy Ansah (who himself could also play OLB) and Florida State’s Bjoern Werner are the top defensive line prospects in this month's NFL Draft (and players the Steelers could potentially select), none of those were brought in. In fact, none of the defensive linemen brought in were true defensive lineman. - http://tinyurl.com/cywjc8r

Though Clemson's DE Malliciah Goodman was a pre-draft visitor, and though Georgia's DE Cornelius Washington has been linked to the Steelers as high as the second round and as low as the fifth round, the signing of Steve McLendon was likely an indication that any such pick would be in the lower rounds for depth and special teams purposes.

One such player to consider might be Utah's Joe Kruger who declared early for the draft following his junior season.

Per Gil Brandt of NFL.com, "Kruger - the younger brother of Paul Kruger, who was a member of the Super Bowl XLVII-champion Baltimore Ravens and just signed a lucrative free-agent contract with the Cleveland Browns - stood on all of his numbers from the combine. Kruger looked very good in the positional workouts." - http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/players/1749704/joe-kruger

"Paul ran me through what this was like for him, what the experience was like, how to calm myself down when things get tense," Joe Kruger said. "Things are going well. I'm prepared for it. I've met a lot of good people."

Kruger, who led the team with six sacks, had two forced fumbles, an interception for a touchdown and blocked a field goal, has good size (6'6 3/8" 261 lbs.), quickness, and arm length. Has received plaudits for his effort and ability to bull-rush offensive linemen and he says he can play "all four positions on the defensive line."

The pre-draft visits on the whole were:
DE/OLB John Simon (3rd round prospect) - Ohio State;
RB Christine Michael (4th rd pros.) - Texas A&M;
ILB Vince Williams (7th rd pros.) - Florida State;
OLB Jarvis Jones (1st rd pros.) - Georgia;
OLB Jamie Collins (2-3 rd pros.) - Southern Mississippi;
OLB Khaseem Greene (2-3 rd pros.) - Rutgers;
SS Jonathan Meeks (7-FA rd pros.) - Clemson;
S Phillip Thomas (2-3 rd pros.) - Fresno State;
ILB Michael Mauti (5th rd pros.) - Penn State;
DE Malliciah Goodman (4th rd pros.) - Clemson;
WR Josh Boyce (2-3 rd pros.) - Texas Christian;
RB Johnathan Franklin (2nd rd pros.) - UCLA;
SS Shamarko Thomas (3rd rd pros.) - Syracuse;
CB Will Davis (5th rd pros.) - Utah State;
G Nic Embernate (6-7 rd pros.) - San Diego State;
CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson (3rd rd pros.) - Connecticut;
CB Xavier Rhodes (1st rd pros.) - FSU;
LB Sio Moore (4th rd pros.) - Connecticut.
CB Tharold Simon (4-5 rd pros.) - LSU;
CB B.W. Webb (4-5 rd pros.) - William & Mary;
SS Duke Williams (5-6 rd pros.) - UNR;
RB Eddie Lacy (1-2 rd pros.) - Alabama;
WR Justin Brown (7-FA pros.) - Oklahoma;
and WR Tavarres King (4-5 rd pros.) - Georgia.

(This list will be updated if any more pre-draft visits occur on Monday or Tuesday.)


TIDBITS: "Heath (Miller) is working out and he looks great," Ben Roethlisberger said during an appearance on 102.5 WDVE. "He's walking without a limp. From what I saw I think he looked good." - http://www.sbnation.com/nfl/2013/4/17/4235778/heath-miller-injury-update-looks-great


Antonio Brown is grateful to have Emmanuel Sanders back. - http://tinyurl.com/c5uusqc


In "the most unkindest cut of all," Ex-Steeler Harrison signs with the Cincinnati Bengals. Here's a photo of him with a Bengals teammate in their uniforms, and a link to the article detailing the signing.
- http://triblive.com/sports/steelers/3876184-74/harrison-contract-bengals#axzz2QwWOZoyt

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Steelers Options For Wide Receivers Are Wide Open

Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers have Emmanuel Sanders and Steve McLendon signed to contracts (see TIDBITS for McLendon's contract and his impact), they've secured depth at both the wide receiver and defensive line positions, but the move also likely impacted the team’s draft plans.

Without Sanders, the Steelers would have been bereft at wideout with only Antonio Brown, Jerricho Cotchery and Plaxico Burress, a lineup that wouldn't scare anyone. So the drafting of a wide receiver early is essential.

With Sanders, the Steelers are a better team, yes. Production, however, must now increase. Per Pro Football Focus, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's passer rating when throwing at Sanders in 2012 was just 79.6, below Brown, Mike Wallace and Cotchery. A season of 60 receptions, 800 yards and four touchdowns isn't setting the bar too high.

The other wide receivers currently listed on the roster are David Gilreath, Kashif Moore, Derek Moye and Bert Reed. But those names aren't going to scare anyone, either. As it stands, Brown is the team's No. 1, Sanders would be the No. 2 and Cotchery would be the No. 3 receiver. Even with Burress as your No. 4, it still leaves room for the drafting of one or possibly even two WRs to push, challenge and maybe surprise.

There are a baker's dozen or so who would fit what the Steelers are looking to do in their offense. Either a multi-threat WR/KR guy, or a red zone threat who can also take the top off of the defense. We list 10 below whom we feel are some of the Steelers' best options and ones who could have an impact in their first season:

(ASIDE: We've written ad nauseum about the West Virginia product, the four-year starter, the "they call me Mr. Austin in Oklahoma" wide receiver known as Tavon Austin, so we won't tarry here. We'll simply provide a link to a previous piece we wrote on him that contains a breakdown of "the Awesome one." - http://ifitaintsteel.blogspot.com/2013/03/do-recent-pro-day-visits-indicate-who.html)

Ignore his Pro Day times, he was still nursing a PCL injury that affected his performance. Per Allen himself via CBSSports.com, he was "only about 85% back." He's a true football player who goes and gets the ball with conviction. Also per NFL.com analyst Mike Mayock, who timed Allen at 4.71 and 4.75, Allen shouldn't be judged on that and the talk of safeties repeatedly running him down from behind.

"Let me preface the whole 40-yard conversation with this," Mayock told NFL Network's "Path to the Draft." "Three months ago, I said -- if you watch this kid on tape -- if you like him, he's Anquan Boldin. If you don't like him, he's speed-deficient. So I don't really care what he runs in the 40. On tape, to me, he's a 4.55 guy all day long." - http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/players/1737096

As If It Ain't Steel said before of Woods, "he definitely has his upside, but there are also concerns."

Woods underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right ankle in December 2011, though he 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. Despite this, he's still climbing the draft boards.

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. 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? - http://youtu.be/IVMbjxKZyK8

Though he may currently be on Hotel.com's most wanted list, he's still one of the best wideouts at the top of the draft.

Hopkins is so creative in how he's able to deceive defensive backs with head fakes, then he combines his solid route-running ability with his length, fluidity, quickness and flexibility to avoid corners in zone or to gain separation. "Nuuuk" is smooth. - http://youtu.be/13cTixvMEos

Tall and fluid, Hunter locates the ball well and makes sure he gets it. He completely believes every ball is should be his. He has big, strong hands and knows how to catch the ball away from his body. At the Tennessee Pro Day, Hunter measured in at an eyelash under 6'4", weighed 200 pounds and had a very impressive 40.5" vertical jump. - http://tinyurl.com/cz6hhct

At 6-0, 182 pounds, Wheaton isn’t the biggest receiver in the draft class, but he’s a heck of a playmaker. He’s been compared to Antonio Brown for his ability to break plays open and to run the ball on reverses. Or as CBSSports.com simply puts it, "he's a big play waiting to happen." - http://tinyurl.com/ctz3fjf

Fast. Goodwin only had 33 touches on offense all season for Texas, including 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. - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Je7sPrc4RnQ

Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider said of him that he's "a steal" if he drops below the 3rd 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. And, also like Ward, he's fearless over the middle and he always gets up smiling. - http://youtu.be/howDumVCmfU

A three-year starter, Bailey caught 114 passes for 1,622 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2012. Yet, despite his college success, despite better numbers than teammate Tavon Austin and despite being clocked at 4.48 and 4.46 in the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, Bailey is still projected as a third rounder. - http://ifitaintsteel.blogspot.com/2013/04/making-case-for-tavon-austin-and.html

Make no mistake, Bailey is the real deal. Get out the game film and watch him consistently get open. He opens up shop 10-to-20 yards down the field and works his craft against all defensive looks. Bailey is a good and quick route runner who knows how to get himself open. He has great body control and goes and gets the majority of the balls thrown his way. And when he doesn't get it, he knows how to play the defender role. - http://tinyurl.com/bpnda5o

If Steady B is still available at pick No. 79, his blue and gold could turn to Black and Gold.

As a way of an honorable mention, Tavarres King of Georgia and Josh Boyce of TCU have been to the the Steelers South Side facilities on pre-draft visits. King is a fluid WR with very good hands and Boyce has good speed and is a natural playmaker.


TIDBITS: Steelers nose tackle Steve McLendon signed a 3-year $7.25M deal with a $1.67M signing bonus. Per Ian Rapoport, the Steelers had $743K cap room before McLendon deal. But his RFA counted $1.323M. Now, he'll count about $1.4M with his new deal (leaving the Steelers with approximately $600,000 in Salary Cap space).

His signing was fortuitous also. Without McLendon, the trio of Alameda Ta'amu, Al Woods and Hebron Fangupo represent a not ready for primetime group at nose tackle, with the only one starter capable being Ta'amu. Drafting a defensive tackle/end could certainly still figure in to the plan, but even that player would need at least a year of grooming. So the signing was not only fortuitous, but prodigious.


The Steelers schedule is out: http://tinyurl.com/czuo25k


Isaac Redman signs tender to remain with Steelers http://tinyurl.com/cjgxawm

Monday, April 15, 2013

With Sanders In Place, There Are 7 Musts For Steelers In 2013

The Pittsburgh Steelers have retained the services of Emmanuel Sanders for at least one more season after matching the offer sheet he signed with the New England Patriots less than a week ago. The team will now have to make a move of some sort, a restructure or a release/re-sign as they are at approximately $740,000 under the Salary Cap now with Rule of 51 compliance.

As Manny said in the above tweet, that's the business side of it. Not all of it, though. As Sports Illustrated's Peter King said, "Steelers tried to steal him at low tender. When it failed, they still got a bargain--a starting deep threat for one year for 2.5m."

Really? The Steelers may have gotten "a bargain" to spend needed Salary Cap money to keep Manny, but a second-round tender would've paid him $2.02 million. So, it ends up costing a little less than a half-million more to secure their investment. Plus, while matching the tender does buy them some time, Manny could still leave after this season.

Manny's agent, Jordan Woy, told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the Steelers are going to have to make Sanders a very lucrative offer if they’re going to lock him up for the long term before the start of the 2013 season.

“We are also open to him playing the year out. It would have to be a very good deal for us to sign a multi-year agreement,” Woy said. - http://tinyurl.com/csevgll

So, there are pros and cons to this: Manny has good upside, he's a very good route runner and blocker (this blog has referred to him in the past as "the future Hines Ward") and does have 4.4/40 (4.41 to be exact) speed. But if he leaves next offseason as an unrestricted free agent, the Steelers will have been left no compensation, and they could put the extra draft pick and Cap money to good use. So, to quote Glengarry Glen Ross, getting him to "sign on the line that is dotted" is paramount.

Now it's back to the gridiron itself and what the team must do to have some modicum of success in 2013. And while the latest version of the NFL Draft fast approaches, there are players already in place on the team that must take the next step forward in their maturation processes to help the Steelers return to respectability.

With wide receiver Antonio Brown and Sanders in place, they are both directly under the spotlight and the microscope. The remnants of Young Money is considered spare change by a few too many in Steeler Nation. The belief is that erstwhile Steelers wideout Mike Wallace was Daddy Warbucks and the other two are just Annie and Sandy.

Well, AB has been very vocal this offseason, speaking on how he wants to be a Steeler for life and that he feels he needs to step up and be a leader. Not all of what he's said has been well received, but all of it points to his meaning what he says. That being the case, it's time for him to put his money where his mouth is.

If It Ain't Steel is on record as saying that we believe the greater overall upside belongs to Brown, and that he has the better hands and is the better route runner. People like to point to Wallace's touchdowns as a reason for him being better. However, that is somewhat of an erroneous argument considering that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger often chose Wallace over AB despite him being open.

Columnist and Pro Football Focus contributor Andrea Hangst brilliantly made this clear in an article she wrote not long ago. In it she makes many of the same points that we did, but also provides examples along with photographic evidence. - http://tinyurl.com/c7bawqd

While both AB and Manny will have to step up, AB has been the vocal leader and must become the vocational leader also. In other words, time to talk and walk. As for Manny, and if he stays, he mainly just needs to live up to his jersey number.

Though we thought it was a mistake not offering cornerback Keenan Lewis a contract, the Steelers brass obviously liked enough if what they saw in third-year man out of The Citadel, Cortez Allen.

What did they see? As a rookie, on October 30, 2011, he was responsible for shadowing New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. In doing so he limited Gronk to just seven ineffective receptions and no touchdowns in the Steelers 25-17 victory. In 15 games of an expanded role in 2012, Tez had 55 tackles, 10 passes defended and six forced turnovers.

But it was his three starts at the end of the season that raised the most eyebrows when all of those six forced turnover occurred. He himself had two interceptions and three forced fumbles, but he also tipped another pass that allowed fellow cornerback Josh Victorian to pick it off. For a team thirsting for turnovers, Tez was like a tall glass of sweet tea on a sweltering Mississippi summer day. Now the question is, can he do it for an entire season?

Fullback Will Johnson proved he could be a good pass receiver with the physicality to bull over would-be tacklers and the toughness to bully opposing defenders and rushers as a blocker. Baron Batch has untapped talent that manifests itself especially when catching passes out of the backfield.

Honestly, though, it comes down to who wants to step up and be the man and tote the rock 320 times a year. Roethlisberger is 40-12 when the Steelers rush for 4.5 or more yards per rush in a game. So the return to a healthy running game is importunate.

Dwyer has shown pop, power, ability and promise, but he also has been oft injured.

Redman has been "Redzone" and his power is unmistakeable (just ask the New York Giants), but he has also fumbled seven times in his last three seasons (three times against the Cleveland Browns).

Bradshaw, if that ends up being an option, has a laudable career 4.6 yard per carry average, but he also had multiple foot/ankle problems and is still healing from his most recent surgery.

And then there is that ultimate crowd favorite, Draft Pick, who could be college football's version of Rashaan Salaam or the NFL's version of Rashaan Salaam.

A three-headed monster can work, just ask the Giants and the Carolina Panthers, but not the way the Steelers did it last season and not without one head taking the lead.

We thought of saying LaMarr Woodley here, but being a has-been is better than a never-was. Worilds 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. The questions, though, are can he do it over 16 games and can he do it on the right side? Early outside linebacker draft pick or not, it starts with Worilds.

With Heath Miller to be PUP listed while he recovers from his knee injury, the Steelers will need to replace his production.

Paulson is the best candidate to win that job. Matt Spaeth is a very good blocker and is good in the red zone, and David Johnson plays the hybrid H-Back role, but Paulson is the one who is more of a Heath clone and can make a real difference.

I don't care if you hold, trip, fishhook, bite, whatever...just keep my quarterback upright! ... I'm sorry, I had a flashback to actually watching a game.

Truth be told, the interior of the offensive line is set and is strong, it's the edge that is in a bit of flux and unproven. I'm of the mind that Adams should be on the left because he's played there for so long already - it's more natural for him.

Gilbert, though, has been lobbying for the blindside position. He has less experience at the position, but more experience in the league. However, both will be new to the zone-blocking system Jack Bicknell, jr. will be instituting, though the system isn't completely new to the Steelers on the whole.

Which will be better at the right or left? Nice Pick, Cowher does a surprisingly good job of breaking down the subject. - http://tinyurl.com/cbnrqeu

Lastly, the 2011 first-round draft pick will see a lot more playing time in 2013 and could overtake Brett Keisel as the starter by as early as training camp or at least by some point during the season. Considering the Steelers Cap issues, a release and resign of Keisel, owed $2,825,000 while carrying a $4,500,000 Cap hit, to a veteran minimum so as to facilitate and promote the Heyward move may not be out of the question.

If those seven things come to fruition, the Steelers actually have a chance to land on their feet in 2013.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Steelers Pre-Draft Visits And Defensive Prospect Brandon Williams Profile

With the Pittsburgh Steelers continuing to host pre-draft visitors through Thursday, one thing has become very clear: they will be focusing on defense in the 2013 NFL Draft.

The age of their defense has come into question before, but now it is a front-and-center topic. There were eight starters last season, including both safeties Troy Polamalu and Will Allen, who have at least eight years experience, with the average age of the starters being 30.55 years old. What's worse is that one of the young starters, cornerback Keenan Lewis, left for New Orleans.

The players brought in for pre-draft visits, like the Pro Day visits the Steelers made, were defensive heavy and were:

OLB John Simon (3rd round prospect) - Ohio State;
RB Christine Michael (4th rd pros.) - Texas A&M;
ILB Vince Williams (7th rd pros.) - Florida State;
OLB Jarvis Jones (1st rd pros.) - Georgia;
OLB Jamie Collins (2-3 rd pros.) - Southern Mississippi;
OLB Khaseem Greene (2-3 rd pros.) - Rutgers;
SS Jonathan Meeks (7-FA rd pros.) - Clemson;
S Phillip Thomas (2-3 rd pros.) - Fresno State;
ILB Michael Mauti (5th rd pros.) - Penn State;
OLB Malliciah Goodman (4th rd pros.) - Clemson;
WR Josh Boyce (2-3 rd pros.) - Texas Christian;
RB Johnathan Franklin (2nd rd pros.) - UCLA;
SS Shamarko Thomas (3rd rd pros.) - Syracuse;
CB Will Davis (5th rd pros.) - Utah State;
G Nic Embernate (6-7 rd pros.) - San Diego State;
CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson (3rd rd pros.) - Connecticut;
CB Xavier Rhodes (1st rd pros.) - FSU;
and LB Sio Moore (4th rd pros.) - Connecticut.

While the NFL of today undoubtedly favors the offense and is still a quarterback-driven league, it doesn’t mean that it will add up to a championship. With the New England Patriots’ 28-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the 2012 AFC Championship game, the team with the third-highest point total in NFL history (557) wasn’t in the Super Bowl. That means, per profootballguru.com, "seven times in league annals a team has scored at least 540 points and none of them have walked away with an NFL title."

Defense, even in commissioner Roger Goodell's vision of an Arena-league scoring NFL, still matters. Even if it's merely by forcing massive turnovers in a bend-but-don't-break defense, it still translates.

As far as any other possible pre-draft visits or potential defensive draft picks, keep an out for Brandon Williams of Missouri Southern State. The 6'1", 333-pound nose tackle/defensive tackle was a three-time NCAA Division II All-American who pressed an impressive 38 reps on the 225-pound bench with a 29 ½-inch vertical jump at the NFL Combine. His power notwithstanding, he is surprisingly quick for a big man and has good balance.

Per Scott Bischoff of Bleacher Report (I know, I know...), "Williams had an incredible senior season. He had 68 total tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, two pass breakups, eight quarterback hurries, five forced fumbles and a safety. Williams plays as a nose tackle, but is versatile enough to play any position from a 0-technique (lined up directly over the center), to a 5-technique (lined up on the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle)." - http://tinyurl.com/d9janen

Bischoff also mentioned his ability to one- and two-gap against the run, and to push the pocket up the middle on a consistent basis against the pass - something a good 3-4 nose tackle should do. But, as was mentioned, he can slide out to the end in the 3-4 alignment as well. Considering the age of Brett Keisel, the inconsistent play of Ziggy Hood and the unknown commodity in Alameda Ta'amu, drafting someone who can challenge and even potentially contribute on that defensive line would be advantageous.

Missouri Southern also held a pro day for Williams. The standout defensive tackle was looked at by scouts of the Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, Saints, Ravens, Seattle Seahawks and most importantly the Steelers.

His stock is on the rise and could be found in round three...right where the Steelers just may find themselves with an extra pick if they decide not to match the New England Patriots' offer sheet that was signed by wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Something his quarterback doesn't want to see happen. - http://tinyurl.com/d7mlnbe

Hopefully, the Steelers decide to retain Manny, but they should ONLY do so if they think they can get an extension done with him by preseason.

In summation of the pre-draft visits, NFL teams are allowed 30 and the Steelers have had 18 confirmed. There are two others unconfirmed and more to be determined - at least three of which are supposedly defensive players also.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Making The Case For Tavon Austin And Stedman Bailey In The 2013 NFL Draft

photo by J. Meric/Getty Images
by Jayden Matthews

When the news broke Wednesday that Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders signed a $2.5 million one-year tender with the New England Patriots, it divided a nation. Sanders is a restricted free agent and if the Steelers decide to not match the Patriots offer, then they would receive their 3rd-round pick in the 2013 draft. It has not been determined yet what the Steelers are going to do, but the uproar from fans on social media has been divided. Some fans say let him go and take the pick, while others are clamoring for the the Steelers to match the offer saying that otherwise this will kill the team. There have been rumblings that the Steelers are not taking care of their franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, by first letting wide receiver Mike Wallace walk, and now by only tendering Manny at his original draft round instead of using the high-round tender like they did last season with Wallace. But, the one question asked often and loudly is 'how do you replace their production?' Well, I am here to enlighten because that's what I do.

Can the production of Wallace and Manny be replaced? It's a good question because, in their time with the Steelers, these two receivers accounted for a total of 5,332 yards and 37 touchdowns, with Wallace accounting for 32 of those in his four years. So again can it be replaced? You bet your sweet backside it can be. Both the speed that Wallace brought and the overall production and skills from both he and Manny.

The Steelers were most likely going to draft a wide receiver this April, but if they do not match the Patriots offer to Manny, then they most likely will need to draft two, and there are several options for the Steelers to look at in this draft. There is Robert Woods from USC who could be taken in the third round and Keenan Allen from the University of Cal. Woods is a Wallace clone and should be available in the second or third round. And after a poor performance at his Pro Day, Allen could be possibly fall to the second round and would be a “steel” at that point. But there is a tandem that stands out to me who, like Wallace and Manny, have also played together for three years, but whose production is off the charts. They are the real deal - TDs, speed, route-running ability, can play in the slot or outside, good hands, running the ball and punt/kick returning.

That two-headed monster is none other than Tavon Austin (aka Tavon Awesome) and Stedman Bailey (aka STUDman Bailey) out of West Virginia. This tandem was responsible for 6,631 receiving yards and 70 TDs, and for 7,675 and 76 TDs from scrimmage in the three years they played together.

A lot of people knock Austin for his size...fine, let them. Because if you think that this kid can’t change a game in a hurry, then you are fooling yourself. If he isn’t changing games for the Black and Gold on Sundays next season, he will for some other team. Austin is also a great kick and punt returner (and with AB being the No. 1 WR now the Steelers need a guy like that). He returned 97 kicks for 2,407 yards for a 24.8 yard average and four TDs, and 34 punts for 433 yards for a 12.7 average and one TD in his four years. He also had 1,031 rushing yards and six career rushing TDs to his credit. Yes, he can the ball too. Don’t believe me? Go take a look at his highlights. Hell, watch the highlights from the game against Oklahoma alone. The Big 12 is known for its defenses, but Austin made them look mediocre at best that night. And as Fox Sports analyst Charles Davis said, they had no answer for the “Awesome One.” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3_UNFZHSQU

Austin himself accounted for 572 total yards, including 344 rushing yards, and 2 TDs against Oklahoma, and Bailey accounted for 205 receiving yards and 4 TDs. So again, the production of Wallace and Manny can’t be replaced? Um...yeah, it can. So if Manny does leave, then the Steelers will need players like these two that can help a team right away. The extra third-round pick would potentially allow them to get both players, and their familiarity with one another also means won’t have to learn to work together because they have been doing so for so long now. It would be a win-win situation.

Austin is projected to go in the first round, with several mocks having him going at No. 16 to the Rams. Even though they are are projected to take him, it does not mean they will. Jeff Fisher likes his tall receivers after all. He may go earlier, like possibly to the New York Jets with the 9th pick. But they are a hot mess on offense and in general, so who knows? The New Orleans Saints may take him with the 15th pick, which is also rumored, but if he is sitting there at No. 17 when the Steelers pick they absolutely should pull the trigger. With all the questions the Steelers now have on offense, and knowing that they always take the best player available, well...you do the math. Some fans may not like that pick and will complain, but once Austin takes the field and does his thing, he will silence his critics.

Just imagine all that talent and then you throw Antonio Brown in there to boot. An offense that is pretty well dead-in-the-water and has Big Ben pulling his hair out, with those two would go from dead to deadly. If WVU QB Geno Smith could do all that damage with those two, just imagine the damage that Big Ben could do. (And that is by no means a knock on Geno, because I love me some Geno, but truth is truth.)

Even if they don’t nab Austin, I am still optimistic that they will take Bailey, who is projected as a late second-to-third rounder. It has also been said that he will transfer well from college to the pros. His numbers do not lie, and drops were rarely an issue. His style of play (both, actually) is in line with the style offensive coordinator Todd Haley has brought to Steelers offense, i.e. short passes that produce yards and control the clock - Bailey had over 300 yards and five TDs against Baylor from an array of catches lineups - and the occasional deep pass to keep the defense honest - he averaged 15.3 yards per reception in his three-year career. You get both with Bailey. - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TWLXrlF8SE

Look, I know this is a bit of a pipe dream, especially with both of them. In the last 162 draft picks, approximately 20 years, the Steelers have drafted exactly two WVU players: running back Amos Zereoue and safety Ryan Mundy. But I am hoping that things line up and that this little dream can become a reality. Big Ben would be happy, Haley would be happy and some Steelers fans may not be happy at first, but they'd come around. But it would end the question once and for of whether or not Wallace and Manny can they be replaced.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What Patriots Signing Steelers' Emmanuel Sanders To Offer Could Mean

Three little Bugatti Boys walking in the zoo;
A dolphin sprayed one and then there were two.

Two little Bugatti Boys sitting in the sun;
One was covered by a patriot's shade and then there was one. - paraphrased from Ten Little Indians

The New England Patriots have signed Pittsburgh Steelers restricted free agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to a one-year offer sheet, according to Steelers.com and other sources. Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, the amount of the contract "shouldn't scare the Steelers," meaning that it is within the range that for them to be able to match it, which they have to do by Sunday. This was confirmed by fellow ESPN reporter, Ed Werder.

"Expect Steelers to match Patriots offer sheet and retain WR Emmanual Sanders," wrote Werder. He's vital after loss of Mike Wallace and offer easy to match."

It has since been confirmed that the amount of the deal is for $2.5 million, which, being that the Steelers Salary Cap numbers include his tender, they can match. So, as Schefter said, the Steelers shouldn't be scared to match it. However, money may not only be the issue.

If they choose not to match it, the Steelers would receive the Patriots third-round pick. Sanders was given an original round tender offer in free agency, worth $1.33 million. The Steelers have a little less than $2 million in cap room available, and the decision could simply be made based on that.

They also, though, need to consider what their not-many-years-left-in-his-prime franchise quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, must feel about this. No Rashard Mendenhall, no Mike Wallace, whom Big Ben said the Steelers would miss, and now potentially no Manny?

They offered Manny an original-round tender instead of a first-round tender. If they truly wanted him that much, they would have given him the higher tender like they did Wallace last season. Are they willing to do a tabula rasa, take the Patriot's 91st pick and draft from the admittedly deep wide receiver class? They haven't exactly been stellar in that category of late. Only 21 (22 if Manny stays) out of the last 59 players Kevin Colbert has drafted, spanning the Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin eras, are still with the team, and none from the 2008 draft class.

I, for one, am a believer in known commodities over unknown ones and would prefer to keep him. It means having a player whose attributes you're familiar with, who already knows the system and is already comfortable with the receiver on the other side and with the aforementioned franchise quarterback.

Like the orchestrator of this offer sheet himself, Bill Belichick said at March's annual meetings: "It’s a lot easier to watch a guy in the NFL perform and translate his skills for your team than watch a guy in college perform because of the discrepancy in the passing game."

At the same time, though, it is only a one-year deal, and Manny is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year anyway. Since he has actually signed the offer sheet, that means he has seriously entertained the idea of leaving. That means that there is no guarantee he will be back after next season, unless a long-term deal is signed after June 1st when the Salary Cap money from the release of Willie Colon kicks in. So the Steelers could assure themselves of some return on their investment by not matching the offer.

Like Albert Breer of NFL.com tweeted earlier, "If Pitt is gonna match, they'd likely figure whether Sanders is just in for '13 or long-term. Third-rounder under their control for 4 yrs." So, is the Manny cup half full or half empty?

There is more to come on this and If It Ain't Steel will be offering more on this regarding the draft side of things and what keeping Manny could mean.


TIDBITS: Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was named to the NFL Competition Committee on Tuesday. Will it cause Steelers' players to complain a little less? (No) - http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/04/09/mike-tomlin-joins-competition-committee/


Steelers nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu was sentenced Thursday to 18 months of probation and will spend four days in a program that's an alternative to jail. He still, though, may get further attention from the NFL. - http://www.postbulletin.com/sports/national/college/steelers-ta-amu-gets-probation-in-drunken-crashes/article_0c56e603-29d9-5cb0-806d-153facf714a3.html


The Steelers worked out two running backs recently: UCLA's Jonathan Franklin and one we've highlighted before, Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell.

In four years, the 5'10" and 205-pound Franklin rushed for 4,403 yards on 788 carries and had 31 touchdowns. He ran 4.46/40 at the NFL Combine and also showed good leg strength with a 31.5" vertical and a 9'07" broad jump.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that that the Steelers were one of five teams to put Bell through a private pre draft workout.

The 6'1 1/2" and 230-pound Bell, ran a 4.6/40, and showed good overall strength at the Combine by posting a 32 ½-inch vertical jump, 9’3” broad jump and bench pressed 225 pounds 24 times.

He rushed for 3,346 yards and 33 touchdowns on 671 carries at Michigan State. For our complete breakdown of him, read here: http://ifitaintsteel.blogspot.com/2013/03/do-recent-pro-day-visits-indicate-who.html

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Taking A Look At The Steelers Pre-Draft Visits

"Draft visits: OLB Jarvis Jones, Ga; OLB Jamie Collins, S. Miss; LB Khaseem Greene, Rutgers; S Jonathan Meeks, Clem; S Phillip Thomas, FresSt" - Tweet from Bob Labriola from his Twitter feed.

Labriola revealed Tuesday morning the draft visits the Steelers have welcomed, including Jarvis Jones of the University of Georgia.

Mike Tomlin was at the Georgia Pro Day on March 21, with Jarvis Jones being center stage. Reportedly, 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. If so, good for now. - http://tinyurl.com/cpetcqy

But even if not, NFL.com senior analyst Gil Brandt says he has glaring weaknesses. - http://tinyurl.com/bvjvuja

As for the other college players who'll be wandering around the South Side on Tuesday, all were defensive players and some of whom were ones If It Ain't Steel has highlighted before. Let's run them down.

6'4", 250 lbs., 4.64/40-yard dash (best unofficial time being 4.59) and bench pressed 225 pounds 19 times. Collins has good flexibility when rushing the edge, and turns hips well when changing direction in pass coverage. Knows how to use his length to his advantage. - http://tinyurl.com/c9a9645

6'1", 241 lbs., 4.71/40-yard dash, and bench pressed 225 pounds 17 times. The safety-turned-wheel outside linebacker has had 25 tackles for a loss, including nine sacks, in his last two seasons. - http://tinyurl.com/d3ap2jf

6'1", 210 lbs., 4.55/40-yard dash and bench pressed 225 pounds 23 times. The strong safety had 62 tackles, one tackle for loss, two interceptions (one for a touchdown) and five passes defended. - http://tinyurl.com/cu9tnuz

6'1", 215 lbs., 4.53/40-yard dash and bench pressed 225 pounds 14 times. Thomas would be a great pick up in the third round and is a walking triple threat: he is a good blitzer who had 12 tackles for losses and four sacks, a hard hitter who forced four fumbles, and a ballhawk who had eight interceptions.

He has his drawbacks too, though. He needs to learn read offenses better, misses tackles at times because he sometimes takes bad angles and doesn't have the best instincts in coverage - all of which can be learned with the right teacher. - http://www.nfl.com/draft/2013/profiles/phillip-thomas?id=2539667


Wednesday arrived and so did more players, both free agents and draft hopefuls. According to several beat writers, UFA visitors were guard Antoine Caldwell, inside linebacker Tavares Gooden and running back LaRod Stephens-Howling.

"@McClain_on_NFL: Texans G Antoine Caldwell is visiting the Steelers." - John McClain of the Houston Chronicle had reported this information on Tuesday.

Caldwell has played in 39 games since drafted in 2009, and has started 19 of them. He can play both guard and center, and the Steelers need depth on the offensive line at both positions if guard/center Doug Legursky leaves as an unrestricted free agent.

Gooden, entering his sixth season, was originally drafted by the Baltimore Ravens and played his last two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. The 6'1" 240-pound ILB is a special teamer and reserve linebacker who could fill a vital role for the Steelers. It is less likely now, though, since Stevenson Sylvester was just signed Wednesday morning to a minimal contract.

Stephens-Howling is a 5'7" 185-pound running back who provides a pop and spark the running game needs. While the Steelers are still interested in Ahmad Bradshaw, he's still healing from his surgery and the team is doing their free agent doe diligence. Last season, Stephens-Howling accumulated 405 yards on kickoff returns, ran for 357 yards on 111 carries as a running back and also caught 17 balls for 106 yards. LSH would be a good fit in the Black and Gold. - http://tinyurl.com/cm683bp

Malliciah Goodman - DE/OLB
6'4", 273 lbs., 4.70/40-yard dash and bench pressed 225 pounds 26 times. The defensive end/outside linebacker out of Clemson, according to CBSSports.com "isn't the quickest or most explosive rusher off the edge, but he works hard to the pocket and has the strength to handle blockers in one-on-one situations." - http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/players/1664260

Another who is visiting the Steelers Wednesday is Penn State inside linebacker Michael Mauti. Mauti was on 93.7 The Fan on Sunday and talked about what he's doing and what he'd like to see happen.

"I've been in a different city every weekend for the last five or six weekends, he said. "It's been hectic, but you only go through this process once. I'm just rehabbing and getting my leg right after that surgery. It's been going well. I'm ahead of schedule right now. I went to the Combine and did that process, and now I'm visiting with some teams."

Which teams?

"I think I would look great in a Pittsburgh Steelers uniform," Mauti said. - http://tinyurl.com/col7fv9

Because of multiple knee surgeries, the Steelers would have to be careful when considering Mauti. If his rehabilitation is completely successful and he is able to perform near to where he was, the Steelers would have a steal in the fifth or sixth round and would have found their Buck linebacker to be groomed by and to replace Larry Foote.


TIDBITS: STEELERS NUMBER CHANGES: DVD changes from #30 to #23;
Matt Spaeth takes #87;
Bruce Gradkowski will wear #5; and
John Parker Wilson gets #3.


RT @BobLabriola: Draft visitors {Thursday}: UCLA RB Johnathan Franklin; TCU WR Josh Boyce