Friday, May 31, 2013

Roethlisberger, Haley Open To Change And Coming Together

by Jayden and Jason

"Last year, it was Todd's offense he brought to us. This year, I'd say it's more our offense....Todd's open to change."

Those words were spoken by Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Big Ben Roethlisberger when asked if he felt he had more ownership in the offense this season. Big Ben's comments seem to not only reflect a more comfortable quarterback, but a happy one.

“We’re growing and we’re learning and we’re communicating,” Roethlisberger said. “This year, more of us know what’s going on, so we can coach each other up instead of always having questions, going to coaches to get answers.”

NFL Network reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala spoke recently with Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer, who said that Big Ben had been meeting with Haley to discuss the offense and, subsequently, Big Ben “has a lot more power” this year regarding the philosophy of the offense.

Dwyer said he sees a better relationship there, as did Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Both have alluded to the fact that a level of familiarity has bred a level comfortableness - not contempt.

"You can tell out here in practice," Pouncey said. "With Ben taking that bigger role, it's going to be a lot of help to us."

"They've grown to know each other, their families and things of that sort, so of course they've grown to get comfortable with each other," Sanders added. -

Big Ben's embracing and having a share in the direction of the offense is beneficial if not paramount. A shorter, quicker passing game, and a stronger running game, is exactly what he needs. Injuries have gotten the best of Big Ben and the Steelers the last couple of years and aided in the team's failures.

Big Ben sycophants won't want to hear this, but he is neither as fast as he used to be (not that he was ever confused with Michael Vick) nor is his body able to recover from the weekly pounding he tends to take. Far from fragile, yet no longer as formidable, either.

Point blank, Big Ben is needed on the field for the entire season. As we've written before, the road to success begins with Big Ben accepting the change. That means all phases and criteria of what Haley is trying to accomplish on offense have to be met. And according to the franchise quarterback, that's exactly what has been done.

"There has been some changes....It’s some compromise from all different position coaches, running back coaches, line and quarterback coaches. I think we’ve taken a little bit of everything and made it a lot better. You can ask anybody on offense that, including coaches, and they’ll tell you that we all like the way the offense is and where it’s going."

What could this all mean for the Steelers? Hopefully it means a happy No. 7 - the Ring, not the just quarterback.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Mike Wallace's Mouth Running Faster Than His Feet Needs To Stop

by Jayden

Well, I said we wasn't going to go there, but he pushed once too often, so now I have to go there. His comments last weekend, on top of the others he had made, pushed me to the point where I can no longer be nice. I have never bashed him and have been appreciative of the things he did for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but enough is enough. It is time for Mike Wallace to shut up.

First, he took a jab at his former quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, in saying that his new quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, has a stronger arm. Maybe so. However, I remember people raving about the great arms of Dan McGuire, Ryan Leaf and Jamarcus Russell. Remember them? Me neither. So...his point is?

Now, I'm not going to go all Terrell Owens on y'all and cry, "That's my quarterback....It's not fair." But without that inferior-armed quarterback, Wallace would not have had all those deep passes thrown to him. As a matter of fact, I do believe Wallace was overthrown a couple of times. Go fig. It was also that same QB who put up with Wallace's inconsistent route running and dropped passes, yet still gave him opportunity after opportunity. And this is how he talks about him?

But what really pushed it over the edge was what he said most recently: “Everybody has a college mentality around here. It’s a lot different than where I came from. Everybody’s hungry. Everybody wants to get better, get to where we need to be – that’s a winning record.”


Well, that was the icing on the cake for me. When he bashes a franchise that has done nothing but win and then compare them to a team that has averaged a whopping 6.5 wins a season over the last six years, that is the last straw for me. Hell, he wasn't even alive the last time the Dolphins even went to the Super Bowl. The Dolphins are all about 'getting better'? Well, no sh*t, Sherlock! What choice do they have?

Again, I have tried not bashing Wallace, but frankly I wasn’t upset when he left. Just as I wasn’t upset when Santonio Holmes was traded, and, frankly, Holmes was twice the receiver he is. At least he stepped up and proved he wanted to win in Super Bowl 43. To me, that showed the kind of receiver Holmes was, and something that Wallace never showed. Did he ever go to Big Ben and say, 'Hey I want the ball. Give me the ball and we can do this'? I highly doubt it. From your comments here it was probably more on the line of, "Hey, I need more touches to pad my stats and make Mike Wallace more bankable."

I'm not the only one who doesn't get him, either. Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wondered why Wallace continues "to disparage the Steelers, the city of Pittsburgh and Ben Roethlisberger?" -

These most recent comments tell me what I already knew: he is not about being a team player and is all about himself. He is a spoiled, enabled, self-entitled Divo who thinks that all of sudden he is the second coming since the Dolphins gave him a big contract. Well, guess what? He isn't. I'm not the only one who believes that, either. As's Adam Schein wrote back in March, Wallace is "all about the money" and doesn't 'prioritize winning'. -

Sure, under new Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin, the Green Bay Packers offense ranked in the top 10 in the NFL for points scored and total yards every year he was either the offensive line and tight ends coach and offensive coordinator, but Wallace is hardly Donald Driver or Greg Jennings and Tannehill is not even close to Aaron Rodgers.

With the Steelers he had a lot of weapons surrounding him. In Miami, that simply won't be the case, because Brian Hartline is a decent receiver but he is no Antonio Brown. Not even close. Sadly, Philbin just doesn't have the arsenal he had in Green Bay. But, hey, keep up with that "college mentality" and see how that works out, because this isn't college.

Also, all of this comes from a guy who says they are all about winning. Well, where was all of this when he was playing for the Steelers last season? (pauses for effect) Well, he knew he was leaving and didn’t care. He held out, he dropped key passes and didn’t run routes. The sad thing is that not one Steelers player has said anything negative about Wallace, in fact, they have all be singing his praises, calling him their "brother" and wishing him the best. But all that had come out of Wallace's unappreciative mouth had been shots at his former team and teammates.

I think we all remember quite well the last rumblings from a Philadelphia team that made big splashes in the offseason during the free agency. Vince Young used the words "dream team" to describe the Eagles and, eight wins later, that dream a nightmare. Could history repeat it self here?

Yet, there were rumblings last season that receivers were more concerned about their individual stats and/or free agency than about winning. Hmmm...I wonder who that was? According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review last December, he even publicly complained about the team’s new offense and his lack of touches saying that "when you don't get the ball for two-and-half quarters, you lose focus." Is someone is telling on himself a little bit?

Now, when you add the backtracking he did with the homophobic Jason Collins tweet on his Twitter feed, Wallace looks like Michael Jackson with as much moonwalking as he's done. Once more his PR people, er uh, he has apologized for running his mouth by tweeting this on Monday: "I want it to be known that I have nothing but love and respect for everybody" in the Steelers organization. He said the Steelers players "are my brothers for life beyond football so to all the people who think I take shots at them it is totally misleading."

Uh-huh... Does he really think now, though, that any fan will accept or believe that or defend him? Sadly, I know there will be some who will, but I will no longer be one of them.

So when he takes the field this year, he'd better hope he didn’t write checks his ASStounding speed can't cash. He also had better hope that Ryan Clark doesn't remember. Why? Ask Willis McGahee, or Ed Dickson, or Victor Cruz, or...

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Money Generation: Turning Steelers Young Money Into "Future Dividends"

"The culture we have now is about money. The Steelers were a team that kept that away from the organization as long as possible....Guys [coming into the NFL now] are seeing it as 'I want to play and make as much money as I possibly can.'" - Ryan Clark (brackets ours)

About three weeks ago, Clark made those comments based on words spoken by the legendary Mean Joe Greene upon his retirement. Between ESPN's First Take and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Clark made several more comments regarding the mindset of today's players and how it has finally crept into the Steelers organization. The latest, though not the first, example was Mike Wallace who took his talents to South Beach. Could the next one be Emmanuel Sanders? Maybe. After all, they were part of the "Young Money" nucleus.

"Also, these kids coming in, even when you see them sign on signing day, what do they say? 'I'm going to go to LSU, I'm going to go to Alabama for three years and then I'm going to leave and go to the NFL.' So the culture we have now is about money. They want to make money, and I will be honest, the Steelers were a team that kept that away from the organization as long as possible.

The notion of putting money first is a real and disturbing trend. But it isn't a new one. Though it is becoming more prevalent, it has actually been happening for years. Because of this and several other reasons, those who look to money first end up going broke first. Reasons delineated in this article in the National Football Post:

Greene told the Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette that "the scary thing is that players have a one-upsmanship about money; they sign a contract and they like it until someone signs a bigger one..." This first happened as soon as free agency began.

Back in late September of 1993, Emmitt Smith ended his 64-day holdout and signed a four-year, $13.6 million contract that made him the highest-paid runner in football history to that point. Smith had held out because he felt he was the best running back in the NFL at the time and said he wouldn't sign unless Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones paid him "Thurman Thomas money."

The Buffalo Bills' Thomas had been the NFL's highest-paid running back at $13.5 million over four years.

Fast forward just four months and Detroit Lions star runner Barry Sanders inks a $17.2 million contract. So again, this is nothing new.

Clark is correct in that the "Steelers were a team that kept that away from the organization as long as possible," but not in the way he presented it. Specifically with Alan Faneca.

In March 2006, Steve Hutchinson signed a seven-year, $49 million deal with the Minnesota Vikings. In 2007, a disgruntled Alan Faneca made it known he wasn't happy with his lot. On March 1, 2008, when he became a free agent, the New York Jets signed Faneca to a five-year, $40 million contract. So aside from that, Clark was essentially correct.

Now the Manny Sanders situation is upon us, and no one wants to see a repeat of the Mike Wallace drama. To his credit, Manny is saying the right things. One thing that Wallace didn't do.

"It felt good to be wanted," Manny said. "But at the end of the day, I'm still a Pittsburgh Steeler. I have one more year here, and hopefully, it can continue into a long-term deal because I want to be here."

He has reiterated that by saying: "I love the Pittsburgh Steelers," he said. "I want to be a Pittsburgh Steeler. I'm happy that I'm still a Pittsburgh Steeler. Hopefully we can work out a long-term deal, and I can be a Steeler for my entire career."

However, Manny's agent, Jordan Woy, indicated to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last month that the Steelers would have to offer a "very good deal" for Sanders to pass up unrestricted free agency. And as Ray Fittipaldo wrote in Sunday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, it seems "unlikely."

"Sanders has said that he wants to remain in Pittsburgh, but the Steelers aren’t likely to pay Sanders for what he might do in an expanded role in the offense now that Mike Wallace is in Miami," Fittipaldo wrote. "Based on what Woy said, Sanders seems equally unlikely to agree to a deal that pays him based on his production to this point in his career, which could set up a situation where a breakout year for Sanders winds up making him less likely to return to Pittsburgh in 2014."

Manny genuinely seems to want to be in Black and Gold. Wallace, on the other hand, didn't. Despite what many want to believe, he simply wanted out. His father even said in an interview with the Miami Herald that the Minnesota Vikings had offered him more money to play there, but that he took less money to play for the Dolphins because "he wanted to get out of that snow and cold weather." -

Not trying to disrespect or cast aspersions, but it is the truth and that much is at least in Manny's favor. If Manny, isn't sincere, it which would make the matching of the offer sheet a short-sighted move, then the question arises of whether or not this will be a trend. Markus Wheaton, because of the new CBA, is going to sign a four-year deal. Is this conversation going to be had again in 2017? Is it going to happen approximately every four years?

The likes of Antonio Brown don't come around as often anymore. Like Clark said, the Steelers in particular "don't have those type of people in the organization anymore because I don't think those kind of people come into the draft." Wheaton was one of many in the Steelers who showed maturity and character. While it isn't a guarantee, it is a reason to maintain faith that Wheaton could step in and help Young Money become "Future Dividends".

Wheaton will be a perfect fit for offensive coordinator Todd Haley's offense, with conventional wisdom suggesting he mainly plays the slot behind Manny and AB. And if he impresses, he can take over for Manny who would be allowed to leave as an unrestricted free agent in 2014 if a deal isn't sealed before the season begins.

Let's hope it doesn't come to that, nor that the difference between Manny's staying and leaving is the approximate equivalent of $13.6 million and $13.5 million.

The Steelers Wide Receivers: Will Emmanuel Sanders & Markus Wheaton Look To Reinvent "Young Money"?

by Jayden and Jason

"I know my talent," said Emmanuel Sanders. "I'm really good when I get the opportunity."

Ask and you shall receive.

The veteran wide receiver was a restricted free agent this offseason and was tagged with an original-round ($1.3 million) tender. He signed an offer sheet, but the Steelers matched it and, according to Sanders, there is talk of a potential long-term deal between the two camps.

“Of course, and those conversations are going on right now,” Sanders said on The Fan Morning Show last Wednesday after the day's OTA session.

Will the Steelers be able to afford him? Is a player who has never started worth what he may want? That will be covered in part 2 of this discussion. For now, we're looking only at the field of play and whether "Young Money" can become "Future Dividends."

First off, it is not a stretch to expect Manny Sanders to augment his numbers next season. Last year was his most productive as he caught 44 passes (22 in 2011) for 626 yards (288 in 2011). If he does as expected and has another solid jump in production next season, as If It Ain't Steel recently wrote, a season of 60 receptions for 800-900 yards season is completely feasible. Manny says, however, that the sights are set even higher.

"They're expecting 70 catches for 1,000 yards, and that's the same thing that I expect for myself," Manny said a couple of weeks ago.

Manny caught at least one pass in 15 out of 16 games in 2012, and demonstrated that he can make the clutch catch on third downs. So, lofty though they may be, the expectations from the Steelers are within reach. However, Manny did turn the football over twice, fumbling in back-to-back weeks against the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens. So, while his production is important, his ball security is also.

So, moving forward, Manny will most likely be the Steelers' starting split end, with rookie Markus Wheaton pushing Jerricho Cotchery for the honors of the slot position. As we said in a previous post, Wheaton will likely line up both wide and in the slot. If he lives up to his billing and college production, he should also adequately fill the role of erstwhile Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace.

Wallace is very good at what he does, and his production will be missed. But, as Pro Football Focus pointed out, the legend is a bit less ethereal and a bit more earthly when scrutinized. As they covered in a recent posting, though 'considered to be the best vertical receiving threat in the NFL, Mike Wallace simply wasn't anything close to that during his final season with the Steelers.'

"Wallace finished second-to-last in deep passing catch rate. Of the 21 eligible receivers for the stat (50 percent or more of team's total deep targets, or passes that travel 20 or more yards in the air), Wallace finished 20th."

They went on.

"Steelers quarterbacks targeted Wallace on deep passes 31 times (accounting for over a quarter of his total 2012 targets) and completed just six of those passes. Wallace dropped two of the eight catchable attempts."

Wallace finished 2012 with a total Pro Football Focus grade of -4.5, far and away his worst finish to a season in his professional career.

Wallace was obviously much better in previous years, but his steep drop off in 2012 was obviously a sign that he'd already mentally left the team.

So, can Wheaton adequately fill the vacancy left by Wallace? The immediate answer is no. In his rookie season, Wallace only had 39 receptions, not between 60 and 72 catches. The current Steelers offense also takes fewer shots down the field, so a 20-yard per catch average won't likely be seen, either.

As the season progresses, though, and as Wheaton becomes more familiar with the offense, he definitely has the ability to make defenses have to account for him. He has the requisite hands, tenacity and route-running ability to make his presence felt as soon as he sees the field regularly. He also has decent size and the willingness to give up his body to make a play.

Wheaton can be as good eventually, mainly because should play with more hunger than Wallace showed in 2012. If so, Wheaton's numbers could look similar, with some expected drop in yardage. The main issue at that point, though, is the impact of those numbers and the fear factor Wallace brought. Though, if everything else falls into place, that will come in time.

The two wide receivers are talented, to be sure, but making certain that translates onto the field in the form of production and wins is the bottom line of this ledger sheet signed by the reinvented Young Money, Inc.


TIDBITS: Speaking of Wallace: "Why does #Dolphins Mike Wallace continue to disparge the #Steelers, the city of Pittsburgh and Ben Roethlisberger?" -

As one of the subscribers to If It Ain't Steel's Facebook Page said, "His attitude is just like Burress'. Plaxico left and found that life can be great when you're a team player. Wallace will grow up or he'll burn out like 85 [Chad Johnson/OchoCinco/Johnson] and T.O."


Veteran safety Ryan Clark envisions finishing career as a member of Steelers.

“I want to be here. I would love to be a Steeler until I retire,” Clark said. “But I don't want this to be my last year. I did the ESPN thing because it's smart to do it. I didn't do it because I'm ready to stop playing football.”

As the article says, "Clark's level of play has not dropped. The 2012 season was one of the best of his career, with 74 tackles, two interceptions and an important role on what again was the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense." -

But how much time left does he have before the degree of diminishing returns is too high? I love RC25, but I know that time left is reduced.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

"Athletic" Offensive Line 'United' To Run Ball And Protect Ben Roethlisberger

by Jayden and Jason

"...Ben Roethlisberger...has only played 16 games one time in his entire nine year career. He's missed eight games in the last three years. It's hard to win without your franchise quarterback..." - ESPN's Teddy Bruschi

What Bruschi said in response to Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark's comments regarding his former quarterback is just what the coaches are thinking as well. This offseason, new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell, jr. said that the "foundation" of a successful team and season definitely begins with the offensive line, and, more pointedly, players "athletic enough and be able to move."

Those athletic players have two basic jobs: run the ball and, as Bruschi said, "protect the franchise." More on the latter in a moment.

Anymore, teams are getting away from the feature running back and moving more towards two and three-headed monsters who provide a certain level of output at the position. Having Jerome Bettis for almost a decade is great if you can get it, but even The Bus had an effective-if-not-powerful offensive line. And to get back to a powerful running game requires an "athletic" group with "unity" and an edge to their practices starting now.

"For sure,'' current left tackle Marcus Gilbert said. "I think that's what the coaches envision us having -- a highly drafted, athletic group of guys. I think the guys we have now, we're working toward good unity and everything will sort out itself."

Gilbert looks at present to be the man who will be the one to protect Big Ben's blind side. But as head coach Mike Tomlin points out, that isn't set in stone yet.

"One of the things that we learned through the trials of the 2012 season is that both of those young men are capable of playing both spots," [Mike] Tomlin said last month. "We will use the spring and the summer to sort out where we play those two at." -

But what may ultimately be even more important is the quarterback and the protecting of the left side, which Gilbert said "is more important, the quarterback has to have trust in you."

It is a sentiment that Bruschi echoed when, continuing from earlier, he said that quarterbacks are "of the utmost importance and they need to stay alive, and stay healthy, and be there through the entire regular season, and the entire postseason."

Staying healthy throughout it all, though, starts with a healthy offensive line. A point which left guard Ramon Foster understands all too well.

“Just pray that everybody stays healthy,” he said, before adding: “We’ve got guys in our clip right now. Kelvin Beachum is ready. John Malecki played in games last year. Guy Whimper has played on a Super Bowl team. We’ve got some guys. We’ve got some guys who’ve got to mature really fast. If worse comes to worse, I believe guys will be ready.” -

He does admit, however, that, considering that those five men need to be as close knit as possible, they are striving for that much-needed "chemistry."

“We’ve been tight this whole off-season. We’ve been here the entire time. I think our chemistry is there. It’s just about putting it on the field.”

There's no way to tell as of yet whether those words from the different linemen will translate onto the field, but this young and athletic group looks to be on its way to bringing back a forward-moving running back and an upright quarterback to the Steel City.


TIDBITS: Per Jim Wexell's Twitter (@jimwexell) account: "[Kelvin] Beachum working at Center and [Al] Woods working at NT (for 2nd year) only serves to expand versatility, not a slight of [John] Malecki and/or [Alameda] Ta'amu."

"More interesting is amount of practice time seen by undrafted rookie DE Brian Arnfelt." (Northwestern)

"@jimwexell: Cap expert @IanWhetstone says loss of [Max] Starks should equal 5th-round compensation. [Mike] Wallace whole 'nother deal."
(Brackets ours)


Steelers have best punter of last decade, Brian Moorman, on their roster and did not even have to use a 4th-round pick for him:

What We Can Take From The First Round Of Steelers OTAs

by Jayden and Jason

With the first session of OTAs behind us, there were a few things and players that stood out and are worth noting. The schemes being run and players we've brought to your attention before made themselves more manifest this week. While they provide a glimpse into the near future, they're still not completely indicative of the how the season will go or of the 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers roster. After all, as head coach Mike Tomlin says, it is just "football in shorts."

One of the things that became evident during the OTAs was that the Pittsburgh Steelers absolutely will be running a zone-blocking scheme in 2013. If It Ain't Steel will cover the offensive line and some of its linemen in our next article, but, as we wrote in a previous post, they have always used various inside zone, lead draw, some toss and power schemes. They're just adding the outside zone to the mix. -

In that article, we pointed out that Kelvin Beachum would have his playing time increased and that he would substitute at key positions, something which he proved at OTAs by working at second-team center and even at center with the first team.

As for the scheme and its implementation, the Steelers new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell, jr. is on record as saying that his players should be "athletic enough and be able to move" in order to adequately run his system. The off tackle power was their fundamental run play, but the outside zone and the stretch plays will be new and will require the aforementioned athleticism. A newness that was on display at OTAs and that left guard Ramon Foster said they're "embracing."

“It’s going to be new, but we’re embracing it,” Foster said. “If you look at our run tape last year, teams stacked the box on us. We were running inside zone, inside zone, inside zone, and we never really had an outside threat. But Coach [Todd] Haley’s stressing it this year; Coach Bicknell is stressing it. That’s something we want to do: soften the defense up and be able to run it outside just as well as we do inside.”

Running back Isaac Redman put it more succinctly when he said, "We are going to be dedicated to the zone."

Speaking of Redman, he's another who made his presence known. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Mark Kaboly, Redman lost 10 pounds this offseason, his playing weight was listed as 230 pounds, and is hoping to lose five more by the start of Training Camp.

Cornerback Isaiah Green made his presence felt as well. We said recently that the 23-year old, 5'10", 180-pound second-year man wants to be more than just a Training Camp body. Green has a nose for the ball, is athletic and runs a 4.29/40. Simply put, he has all the requisite physical skills to continue to make his presence felt.

Will Johnson did his best to show why he should remain the team's starting fullback, defensive tackle Al Woods played well, though he has little competition and should make the team by default, and If It Ain't Steel favorite outside linebacker Adrian Robinson picked up where he left off last preseason in his bid to speed rush his way onto the 53-man roster this season.

There were several other names and stories that brought headlines this past week, but the one that caught our attention the most was Troy Polamalu supposedly being in his 'best shape since college', and that he's been fighting a calf injury for four years.

Ok, so maybe he isn't exactly at his college fighting weight, he still showed up in pretty good shape for the first OTA session. When interviewed, however, Polamalu was asked if there is anything that he can do for the calf injury moving forward. His response was textbook bland.

"Yeah, I've done quite a few different things this off-season," said Polamalu. "So, yeah, for sure there is. A lot of different rehab and training."

When he was pushed for a further explanation, it was then that the veteran safety revealed that the calf has bothered him for years.

"When you have an injury that's bothered you for the last four years, there gets to be just so much scar tissue in there," he said. "If you don't attack the problem scar tissue, then you're just going to continue to have problems. So this year I really focused on that and found a great physical therapist and obliviously continue to keep working with my trainer. So everything has evolved there and evolved nicely."

Polamalu then explained his kinesiological and rehabilitation process.

"Not to get too deep into muscular biomechanics, you can break down scar tissue, but the problem is your body has to continue to learn how to readapt with broken scar tissue," Polamalu said. "These are all things that I've learned. So hopefully all of this make these problems obsolete."

What's next for Polamalu and his injury?

"Listen, if I knew the future, I would be playing that Powerball," he joked. "Only time will tell."

Only time will tell for the rest of the Steelers offseason regimen as well.


TIDBITS: Heath Miller spoke with the media when showing up at OTAs. He spoke on his injury, saying that he's improving, but is still cautious.

"I'm just trying to get better every day, and I'm doing what I've been asked to do," Miller said Wednesday. "And I'm listening to my body, so I'll just progress that way."

Miller tore his anterior cruciate ligament, injured the medial collateral ligament and also the posterior collateral ligament.

"That's the big thing now, the main thing, because after surgery you lose a lot of strength," Miller said. "And then there's some atrophy. So, I want to get it back to where it's as strong as my other leg." -


“I think pretty much all of the veteran guys understand that there is gonna be a point in time when we’re gonna have to rely on these young guys....They are gonna have to step up ASAP.” - Ike Taylor


Per Mark Kaboly: “From what I've observed over the first 3 days of #Steelers OTAs, Reggie Dunn catches a punt just fine.” (As we've said, Dunn makes the team.)

“Shamarko (Thomas) is gonna be a good one. Will do well in special teams immediately.” (Keeping a promise to his dearly departed mother.)

“Nik Emberate has potential. Need to see him up at camp before willing to say he has legit chance.” (For an undrafted free agent, that still sounds pretty good.)

Monday, May 20, 2013

It's Time To Trade Ben Roethlisberger

AP photos

In the 2013 version of its annual NFL Top 100 Players, the NFL Network listed Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at No. 61. The same signal caller was at No. 30 last season. Since he's obviously in decline, it's time to trade him while he still has value.

You read that correctly. Trade Ben Roethlisberger. The time couldn't be better. The talking heads have spoken. Why keep a player past the point of his usefulness when his skills must so obviously be eroding? They must be eroding or else the man wouldn't be plummeting down NFL Network's list. In fact, check again to see if he's fallen any further. No? Ok, then we'll go ahead and continue with this piece.

But really, though, we should've seen this coming. Wasn't it just back in February that future first-ballot Hall of Famer and erudite Donovan McNabb rated Big Ben as only the eighth best quarterback in the NFL? Wasn't that even generous on his part considering his choice at No. 9 beat Big Ben in 2012? -

After all, what has he done anyway? In the first nine games of the season before his injury, he only led the Steelers to 6-3 record. Who cares that his offense was one of the most efficient in the league by a large margin, leading the NFL in third-down conversions and time of possession? Or that Big Ben was leading the NFL in third-down passing and was on pace for having one of the best seasons of his career.

And it wasn't as if he did anything before that. He only has a paltry .690 winning percentage, which isn't even best in the league. He's second for goodness sake! He's also second among active quarterbacks in playoff victories with 10, second in Super Bowl appearances with three, and second in Super Bowl wins with two. And as we all know, second is just the first loser. And the Steelers don't like losers!

Besides, the NFL Network says he's in the lower half of the NFL, so it must be true. Their polls are absolutely and completely scientific, therefore infallible. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette agrees and explains the process involved.

"Pay no attention to these rankings," wrote Bouchette. "They're silly, a gimmick and merely to help the NFL Network boost some of its meager off-season ratings. They also don't really poll that many players because players won't take the time to do it."

Sounds like solid empirical data to me! Bouchette drives the nail further into Big Ben's proverbial coffin when comparing other such polls.

"Sports Illustrated does its 'player' polls too. I saw how they do it. They'd send an intern to Steelers camp and she would interview a dozen or so of their players, many of them undrafted rookies who would never play in the league and ask questions like 'Who is the worst ref in the NFL?'" -

Doesn't seem like anything more is needed. With evidence obviously showing that Big Ben has been on a precipitous decline the last few years, the NFL Network conducting an objectively precise poll and Bouchette verifying their methodical approach, what else is there to say?

It's time to trade Big Ben now while the Steelers can still get value for him, even if it only nets a seventh rounder (7 for 7?), and usher in the John Parker Wilson era.

(For those who haven't yet realized it, this is satire. which we thought was abundantly evident. C'mon, people! If nothing else alerted you..."the John Parker Wilson era"??? smdh)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Training Camp Battles On Offense Take On Different Look

"History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats." - B. C. Forbes (Yes, that Forbes.)

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 season ended abruptly at home at the hands of one of their division rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals. Something that absolutely chafed the Steelers leaders, one in particular speaking out about it.

“It‘s amazing to me how much little things really matter, the personnel and the personality of the team, how much all that matters in camp and what you put in in the offseason,” Polamalu said, adding, “(It‘s) how you treat your teammates in the offseason, how you prepare them.”

Fast forward to the 2013 post-draft offseason and, according to another Steelers veteran leader, inside linebacker Larry Foote, in an interview with on Wednesday, the Steelers are still a chafed bunch who are now chomping at the bit.

“We’re pissed off we didn’t make the playoffs. On top of that, our rival won the Super Bowl. I know guys are taking it personally. It’s just a whole different mindset to the off-season. I know guys are ready to get back where we need to be.”

That "whole different mindset" likely also reflects Polamalu's calling it "a humbling process" for many players on the team. However, Polamalu and Foote were by no means the only players who were unhappy. Wide receiver Antonio Brown has also spoken up about leadership and responsibility this offseason and what it will take in Training Camp and beyond to make this a winning team again.

“We gotta do what we gotta do,” Brown told KDKA-TV Sports back before the NFL Draft. “Guys like myself gotta step up.”

The point of convergence here, though, is how the other players, principally the other receivers and running backs, will "step up" in Camp and after to make up the five or six WRs, the three or four tight ends (depending on Heath Miller's status) and the four or five running backs (including a fullback).

In the battle for the available WRs spots, the chance for there to be six this season may begin higher than some think. The WRs currently on the Steelers' roster, after Brown, are Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, Plaxico Burress, Markus Wheaton, Justin Brown, Reggie Dunn, David Gilreath, Derek Moye and Kashif Moore. So, assuming the first four spots are set, the last two could easily be Wheaton and, not Justin Brown but, Dunn.

First off, let's just forward the résumé's of Moore and Moye to MetLife Insurance and the Cedar Rapids Titans respectively, and then concentrate on those who actually have a chance at making the team. With that done, we then face the fact that Gilreath has little chance of making the list of 53. Unless Justin Brown falls flat on his face, Gilreath is headed for the practice squad. If that.

That leaves Markus Wheaton to battle for the fifth spot in the rotation. In truth, he has the requisite talent, speed and "position flexibility" to move quickly up the depth chart with a strong Camp. If he's as good as we believe him to be, he could even challenge Cotchery for the third spot. With Cotch and Plax being on the wrong side of 30, Wheaton could eventually be used interchangeably this season with Sanders in the slot and outside positions.

Then Dunn gets our nod for a sixth spot courtesy of a correspondence between Behind The Steel Curtain. Dunn was a brilliant, if not scary, kick returner at Utah. We wrote recently about his prowess, but acknowledged that his chances were affected by only excelling at one thing. That's now changed.

In an article written last week, BTSC caught up with Utah University's Block U website on the attributes of one Reggie Dunn, and whether he can be used at WR also. The answers were very encouraging. -

"Dunn is a talent and, with a competent offense and quarterback, I anticipate he can be utilized." Considering the sixth WR spot would mainly just be special teams anyway, the chances for him making the roster just jumped.

Plus, considering the speed of the other WRs - AB: 4.5; Manny: 4.41; MW: a "disappointing" 4.44; and Dunn: 4.22 - a 4.62 Justin Brown is probably headed for the practice squad his first season, only to take over the spot of the red zone target next season from a then-retired Plax.

The tight end position rests upon the rehabilitation of Miller. If he's ready at season's beginning, he would lead David Paulson and Matt Spaeth as the three ends. If he isn't ready and is PUP Listed, the Steelers might keep David Johnson as effectively the fourth tight end until Miller is removed from the PUP.

The other possibility is to combine his worth with the fullback spot as the H-Back. That move is not popular with If It Ain't Steel as we're not overly fond of DJ and it would mean losing Will Johnson who proved to be a very good fullback. It would also, though, mean having keeping just four running backs. Outside of Le'Veon Bell, the next three are uncertain considering that one, likely Jonathan Dwyer, might be traded before the season begins.

If so, your four RBs would then be Bell, Isaac Redman, LaRod Stephens-Howling and Baron Batch. It would be a sensible stable of RBs with Bell being the feature back, Redman being the short-yardage and red zone option, LSH being the receiver out of the backfield and third-down option and Baron Batch receiving a hat on game day to carry out the latter two sets of duties.

And since last season's running game SNAFU begs to be remedied, that, along with the other ills of the offense, would seemingly be enough of 'history demonstrating heartbreaking obstacles'. Now, triumph, in position battles and into the season, must come by 'refusing to become discouraged by those defeats'.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Adrian Robinson And Several Others Face Do-Or-Die Training Camp

Winners, I am convinced, imagine their dreams first. They want it with all their heart and expect it to come true. - Joe Montana

The draft class has now experienced their first minicamp and are now starting to be signed. Shamarko Thomas signed his four-year deal and we can project that the Steelers will start to sign more of the lower-round picks soon. With the $5.5 million Salary Cap space freed up by the release of Willie Colon set to kick in June 2nd, the Steelers will need about $1.63 million in Cap space to sign them.

There are players already on the team, though, that will need to state their cases very loudly at Latrobe in late July. Both the offense and defense carry several players who will make for a competitive Training Camp. And competition breeds contempt - just ask Antonio Brown and Ike Taylor.

Competition also will help the cream to rise to the top. This Training Camp will provide many such opportunities as there are several players who will be battling for positions. Primarily positions at linebacker and in the defensive backfield.

One name that is resurfacing this offseason is that of Adrian Robinson. The 6'1", 250-pound defensive end-turned-outside linebacker out of Temple University, who went undrafted last year, caught the attention of Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler last offseason. We said of him then that he would look to make the transition to standing up as an outside linebacker in the Steelers' 3-4 system, which is always a tough adjustment - learning the technique and learning to play the position without his hand(s) on the ground.

So, what applied then applies now, for Robinson to make the 53-man roster he would have to outplay Chris Carter on special teams and show that he has more long-term upside than Carter as an outside linebacker.

Three qualities, however, that Robinson has in favor are his motor, his desire to compete and is character. Just what his college head coach at Temple, Steve Addazio, said about him last year.

"Adrian plays relentless," Addazio said. "He flushes the quarterback out of the pocket and chases him around like a crazy man....Without a doubt, Adrian Robinson is truly one of the finest young men I have ever had the pleasure to coach. Adrian has been the quintessential role model for our program and has set the standard for which all players should follow." -

Simply put, the qualities of a winner. Qualities that could very well earn him a roster spot this August.

As for the others on the roster who will be fighting for spots, there are Sean Spence, Stevenson Sylvester, Marshall McFadden, Kion Wilson and Brian Rolle, with only Sylvester and Rolle having real game experience. Although, McFadden has a good chance to make the roster because he can play either the Buck or the Mack position.

The Spence situation is a curious one to figure out, though, because of his injury. The latest word on his rehabilitation was delivered by Steelers GM Kevin Colbert.

"Sean is progressing. When you have as serious a knee injury as he unfortunately had, it sometimes is a very long process. Sometimes it takes over a year to fully rehabilitate," Colbert said. "But the good thing is we are seeing signs of progress, albeit small steps. But it is progress. Sean's attitude is off the charts. He wants to rehab. He wants to be a great player. He is working hard to get there. He is making small progress, and as long as he is making progress, we will be patient with him and hopefully get him back at full speed at some point."

As for Sylvester, he should not only have pushed incumbent starter Larry Foote for the position, but should actually be the one who starts next season. As is stands, newly drafted Vince Williams has already shown that he will be pushing both Sylvester and Foote. In fact, Williams could push Sylvester right out of town.

The defensive backs competition is also going to be interesting. Shamarko Thomas could very well quickly pass Robert Golden and Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith as the first safety off of the bench. That's almost a given, though. The real competition is among the cornerbacks.

The last three cornerback positions, if the Steelers do decide to keep six, will undoubtedly be a heated battle. With Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen slotted as your starters and William Gay as the Nickel/slot guy, Curtis Brown would seem to lead the list of those who will be the Big Nickel and Dime positions.

In a previous blog, we focused attention on Isaiah Green and his desire to secure a roster spot. There are also Justin King and Ross Ventrone who are currently on the roster, but those two are just camp bodies. Terry Hawthorne is most likely your fourth cornerback and one of the next two should fill the last cornerback spots.

DeMarcus Van Dyke was drafted in 2011 by the Oakland Raiders and waived by them in 2012, and at that point came to the Steelers just before the season started. Head coach Mike Tomlin said when he was signed that he had been on their radar and that he has real potential.

"He’s got big-time upside, he’s an extremely fast guy," Tomlin said. "It was an opportunity for us to put a young cornerback in the mix and continue to work with him and develop his skill and see if maybe he can help us at some point."

Hopefully, for his sake, that is this season. He may have great speed (4.28/40), but he must eliminate the mistakes. On five occasions last season he was flagged for holding and for running out of bounds while covering punts. If he cleans that up, he may have a chance to make the final 53. If not, he would be on the street without any longer having practice squad eligibility.

The other is Josh Victorian, whom Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake spoke highly of at his press conference to introduce draft pick Illinois cornerback Terry Hawthorne. Lake's attention turned briefly to Victorian in describing how he came to be with the team.

"Josh really was a surprise for us," Lake said. "We needed some bodies really to work the look team for our offense and we brought Josh in specifically for that. He was on a developmental team and because of the amount of injuries we had, Josh was it. He was our starter by default.

"Like I said before, I had probably two weeks with him to get him ready and his first start was against Dallas in Dallas. I have to give my hat off to him for coming in and really concentrating and getting ready specifically because we didn’t have much time with him before that."

Victorian has an honest chance at making the Steelers 53-man roster out of training camp this year. If not, he, unlike DVD, still has practice squad eligibility.

While the competition doesn't necessarily mean we'll see fights in Training Camp like we did last year (twice) between AB and Ike, we can safely say that those who make the final cuts will have run the gauntlet and will have proven that they want to be winners.


TIDBITS: The 2013 version of the NFL Network's annual Top 100 Players revealed that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wound up all the way down at No. 61 spot this year. He was No. 30 last year. A joke both times.


The offseason program that officially began on April 15th set the stage for the OTAs, the dates of which are: May 21-23, May 28-30 and June 3-6. Minicamp will be held on June 11-13, and after that the dates for Training Camp will announced.


The $5.5 million Willie Colon money will be freed June 1st and officially available June 2nd. I have a feeling I know how the Steelers will use some of that money: OL depth.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Thanks, Mean Joe Greene - Paying Homage To A True Steelers Legend

(Disclaimer: If It Ain't Steel waited to pay homage to Mean Joe Greene because the general thought last week was that he was referring to an erstwhile Steelers wide receiver when he spoke of an "attitude change" that he didn't like. We will not be pointing fingers anyone's way, though, but will rather simply wish the best for any and all who have left.)

Charles Edward "Joe" Greene was born on September 24, 1946.

"Mean Joe" Greene, and ostensibly the Pittsburgh Steelers, was born on January 28, 1969.

A week ago, Tuesday, May 7, 2013, after 27 years with the organization as a player, assistant coach and special scout, Joe Greene retired. He was the single greatest player in the history of the Steelers, was rated the No. 13th greatest player in NFL history by, a five-time first-team All Pro, two-time Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year, a 1987 Hall of Fame inductee and t.v. commercial legend.

Mean Joe was born in Elgin, Texas, and raised in Temple, Texas. His mother Cleo Thomas was his only family as his father abandoned the family when he was young.

 Mean Joe was always big, even in high school. At segregated Dunbar High where he started his life in football, he was already a man among boys at 6’3”, 225 pounds before he graduated. He would go on to attend the University of North Texas, (then North Texas State University), home of the "Mean Green" defense where his nickname originated. Though, entirely by mistake.

The Pittsburgh fan base assumed that the team nickname of "Mean Green" was Joe Greene's nickname; however, it was actually North Texas' head coach Rod Rust's wife who wanted to give a nickname to the team's outstanding defense. A defense that, per one source, "held the opposition to 2,507 yards gained on 1,276 rushes." Since green is the school's main color, she gave the defense the name "Mean Green". Though, the North Texan Online gives a slightly different version of it:

But it stuck nonetheless...especially considering he lived up to it. After the 1968 consensus All-American was drafted, the headline in Pittsburgh the next day read, "JOE WHO?" The Steel City soon found out. If you listen to former Steelers linebacker Andy Russell, Mean Joe was a fight waiting to happen.

Russell, in his fondness for storytelling, has oft related, as has been chronicled by NFL Films, that Mean Joe once took Dick Butkus by the face mask and spit in his face...without retaliation from the Chicago son. Russell also has related a story about a Philadelphia game where he angrily threw an Eagles' helmet into the stands (which I swear that I remember seeing happen on an NFL Films presentation).

But a verifiable and detailed quote from Andy Russell about Mean Joe can be found in The Steelers Reader. Of a 1970 Eagles game, Russell related the following:

"Our offense had played very well with Frenchy Fuqua about to set the Steeler all-time rushing record for a single game, 218 yards. Despite his success running the ball, our defense, except for Joe who had four sacks, had played terribly and the Eagles were up by a couple of touchdowns and were about to score another when I heard Joe, in his deep, resonant baritone calmly tell the man playing across from him, "Man, if you hold me one more time, I'm going to have to hurt you."

Well, he made the courageous choice and chose to hold Joe. I heard a loud thump and a whooshing noise, as the guard lost all the air from his lungs. The player was lying there on the ground, writhing in pain with Joe, standing above him, quietly telling him, "Man, I told you not to hold me again."

The officials, missing the infraction, had a stretcher brought on the field to carry the injured player off. Moments later, the Eagles put in his backup, a third-year man, not exactly relishing his "opportunity." Before the first play, I heard Joe again explain the consequences of holding.

The backup, apparently deciding he'd rather be hurt than humiliated, also chose to grab Joe. Again I heard the cry of pain and there he was, lying on the field, clutching his stomach. Soon the second teamer also had been helped off the field and they sent in a rookie, also not particularly thrilled by his big chance to show his stuff.

I heard Joe say, "Hey, Home. Good to see you, man. How you been?"

Realizing the rookie was from North Texas State, Joe's alma mater, where they had been teammates together, I listened as Joe continued, "Now, don't you be holding me like those other dudes. You know how I hate that."

Almost from the moment the 6-4, 275-pounder stepped on the field in Black and Gold, he exhibited the talents that would establish him as one of the best all time. He was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1969 when he received the first of his 10 Pro Bowl invitations.

He had a career-high 11 sacks in 1972, the year the Steelers began recording sacks as a stat - 10 years before the NFL would officially do so, when he was named the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year, his first of two.

It was also the year the Steelers reached the playoffs for only the second time ever (first being in 1947). In a must-win game against the Houston Oilers, Mean Joe recorded five sacks (a Steelers record) and a fumble recovery that effectively sealed the victory. The legend was born.

A defining year for Mean Joe and the Steelers was 1974. He has said his most memorable moment with the Steelers came when they beat the Raiders in Oakland in the AFC championship game that year to advance to their first Super Bowl.

"That was always the highlight for me, going from 1-13 my rookie season to all the years we worked hard and really didn't get to the game ... That was just the best moment, and then we kept stacking moments on top of that, but that was the one for me.

"Winning the Super bowl was obviously a great one but the joy I felt of going to the Super Bowl, it was what I felt about the Pittsburgh Steelers and where we came from, the history of us to that point." -

Also that season, Mean Joe "developed the new tactic of lining up at a sharp angle between the guard and center to disrupt the opposition's blocking assignments. Against both Oakland in the AFC title game and Minnesota in Super Bowl IX, Greene was virtually unstoppable."

In NFL Network's America's Game series, the 1974 team is highlighted, and in it there is one excerpt of Mean Joe talking about "The Zone." It is presented here in six parts, but it is worth another look: \ \ \ \

From 1969 to 1979, Mean Joe was either an All Pro, earned All-Conference recognition and/or was elected to the Pro Bowl. He would record 78.5 sacks in his playing career, second all time for the Steelers (Jason Gildon leads with 80). He retired in 1981 being the bearer of four Super Bowl rings.

Football may have been Mean Joe’s life, but he also made several TV and movie appearances. But his most famous thespian excursion aired in October of 1979. -

That Coca-Cola commercial, in which a child gives him a Coke and in response “Mean Joe" smiles and gives the kid his game jersey, became so popular that it spawned a 1981 t.v. movie called "The Steeler and the Pittsburgh Kid," starring Mean Joe and teammate Franco Harris as themselves, the Dallas Cowboys' Harvey Martin and Henry Thomas, of E.T.: the Extra Terrestrial "Eliot" fame, as "the kid." It also became a part of pop culture.

After some time away from football, he returned to the team in 1987 as the defensive line coach under Chuck Noll and stayed at the position for five years. Mean Joe would go on to have stints with the Miami Dolphins (1992-95) and Arizona Cardinals (1996-2003) and briefly as an analyst for CBS Sports. He would return in 2004 when Steelers' general manager Kevin Colbert hired him as his special assistant for player personnel. In Mean Joe's 27 years working for the Steelers, he earned six Super Bowl rings, second most of any coach or front office person.

We will miss you, Mean Joe. We will always remember that you fondly and will never forget that you were the cornerstone of the bulwark known as the Steel Curtain, and of the dynasty known as the Pittsburgh Steelers. Thanks, Mean Joe.

(Sources: The Steelers Reader, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pro Football Hall of Fame and Janelle R. Smolko)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Youth Being Infused Into Steelers Defense

As the 2013 offseason progresses and more information about the Pittsburgh Steelers and their draft class is disseminated, two things come into focus fairly quickly: the defense will be younger and the draft class has, well, class.

Despite many fans being up in arms over the re-signing of Buck linebacker Larry Foote to a three-year contract (only two of which he'll see), or the keeping of oft-injured Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Mark Kaboly pointed out that the age of the Steelers defense is steadily dropping.

"[T]he Steelers have progressively gotten younger while keeping the core of their No. 1-ranked defense intact," Kaboly wrote, "which isn’t very easy to do."

"In fact," he continued, "the 'old' Steelers defense has been able to knock off a year every season and, if projections hold true for this year and into next, the Steelers will have gone from 31.1 years of age to 28.2 within a span of three offseasons without any glaring holes in the lineup and reduce their 30-year-olds on defense to as few as two in 2014 … or even less." -

One of the younger members of the defense who has been vilified by many over the last year or so because of his weight issues and work ethic is LaMarr Woodley. After being injured and out of shape much of the last two seasons, he has been called out by his position coach -- "Don’t come to camp weighing 290" -- and by an anonymous teammate -- "He was awful. He tells us he works out, but we didn't see it. He wasn't in shape. That has to be a reason why he was always hurt."

But just a few weeks ago, Woodley let his critics know that he is ready to "get after it," saying that his "offseason is going great."

"I'm looking forward to getting back with the team in a few weeks," Woodley said per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I've been training since the middle of February ...It was a disappointing season being 8-8 and not making the playoffs. It was disappointing at the end of the day....I said this offseason I'd be determined to get after it."

Others who look to be determined are cornerbacks Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen who, as If It Ain't Steel related a couple of weeks ago, are working together with To Shaw down at Wide World of Sports complex in Florida. Per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Allen has had some praiseworthy words for Taylor who is becoming a mentor.

"Ike is one of the hardest workers I've met," said Allen. "Seeing the way he does things is something that I would one day like to model. I'm getting a close-up view of what it takes to play 10 years in this league."

"We know what's required in the scheme of what we do," he continued. "We know how to push one another. We have to coach each other. We're making one another and the team better as a whole."

With Allen slated to get his chance to start next season opposite Taylor, joining him in this training and mentoring is ideal for 'making one another...better.'

Another who is actually in battle for a roster spot is inside linebacker Marshall McFadden, about whom Mark Kaboly effervesced when speaking of his "power and potential." Because of some CBA technicality, 2012 wasn't an accrued season for McFadden, so he was given with an opportunity to participate in the team's rookie Minicamp, which he called a "refresher."

"When I came in last year during rookie minicamp I was struggling to understand things because it was all so new to me," said McFadden. "Coming in this year and taking that step again, it was an introduction again. It was great for me because I got a better understanding because I had a year to develop. My mind is clear enough to understand it this year. It was a great refresher for me."

"I am classified as someone that has to take a big step this year," McFadden continued. "Once the OTAs start, it can do nothing but help me by knowing what to do, playing faster, knowing where to be, where to go. This was perfect for it."

McFadden, who led the Steelers last preseason in total tackles, spent most of the 2012 on the practice squad, although he did see time on the active roster late in the year due to injuries. Don't count him out for 2013.

Then there is 23-year old, 5'10", 180-pound cornerback Isaiah Green, the second-year man out of Fresno State. Per Behind The Steel Curtain, he wants to be more than just a Training Camp body. In the article they wrote about him, and according to his Fresno State bio, Green has a "nose for the ball" all the requisite physical skills, making him another to watch in Latrobe:

"...a fast and athletic player who will is expected to see action in the secondary and on special teams ... penciled in as a starting cornerback heading into fall camp ... one of the fastest players on the team with a 4.29 40-yard dash." -

Last but not least there is outside linebacker Adrian Robinson, the speed rusher from last season. We'll be focising on him in an upcoming piece.

As for the rookies, it's easy to get excited about this year's draft class. Not only because of what they will bring to the field, but also because they seem to exude what the 2012 class was bereft of: common sense and maturity.

First, there is Jarvis Jones, the southern gentleman. Shamarko Thomas, as we told you recently, will 'work hard until his hands and his feet fall off.' Plus, two others who could end up being steals and contributors this season: the Black Cat and The Destroyer.

When Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake speaks of rookie Terry Hawthorne, he tends to mention one thing fairly often: "He is fast." 4.31/40 fast.

"What I like about Terry," Lake said, "is that he has a lot of upside potential that I see in him. I think he has all the physical tools. He is big. He is fast. He doesn't mind tackling, and he can play press coverage well, kind of in the same way as an Ike Taylor."

Hawthorne himself is saying all the right things, such as his proclamation that he'll 'do whatever he can to help the team' and to turn the corner.

"I'm just trying to get my technique down," Hawthorne said. "They've been correcting me on my technique. I had bad technique. As I'm getting my technique better, they're starting to get a little more comfortable with me....It gives me a great advantage for them to correct my technique now." -

Another to keep your eye on is inside linebacker Vince Williams. When Steelers Digest's Bob Labriola was on the Steelers Live show this past Tuesday and was asked if any other player had caught his eye over the minicamp weekend, Williams was his focus.

"The one guy that I kind of noticed was Vince Williams," Labriola said. "He would be the second pick in the sixth round, an inside linebacker from Florida State. Vince Williams, a couple of the things that I liked about him, were first of all, it wasn't very long into the on field sessions when Vince Williams was instructing teammates about where they needed to be, and shifting and those kind of things.

"Vince Williams did a lot of the defensive play calling during his college career and it seems like he has a very high football IQ and it seemed to me," he continued, "watching from the side, that that was a little bit on display right from the beginning."

Labriola continued by expounding on the main factor that's going to get him a spot on this roster, that "he's going to make special teams coordinator Danny Smith a very happy person."

"One of the main concepts, basic concepts of playing special teams, covering kicks, is find the guy with the ball, get the guy with the ball on the ground....This is a guy who will be able to find the guy with the ball and get him on the ground on special teams plays, and that alone could make him a very valuable part of the 2013 Steelers."

Despite head coach Mike Tomlin's disputing linebacker coach Keith Butler regarding Sean Spence as to whether he'll ever return or not, between McFadden and Williams, the question as to Spence's replacement may have been answered.


TIDBITS: This doesn't feel right as a "tidbit," but Jack Butler, the great NFL Hall of Famer and former Pittsburgh Steeler, died Saturday morning. He was 85. Here is the statement by the Steelers:

Butler was just inducted into the Hall of Fame back in August and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette said that he had never seen him so happy. About a year before he was finally recognized by the Hall, If It Ain't Steel had written about the travesty of not having this great man donning a mustard-colored jacket. We leave you with the piece written at that time as it chronicles all of his accomplishments. RIP, Mr. Butler. -


Steelers hire two in the family as scouts -- Dan Colbert, Kevin's son, and Mike Butler, son of deceased HOFer Jack Butler.
The Steelers also promote Phil Kreidler to college scouting coordinator to replace Ron Highes, who stays as an adviser. Mark Bruener was also promoted and had been a BLESTO scout for a couple of years.

Undrafted Reggie Dunn Could Be Steal Of Draft For Steelers

Offense isn't the only area where the Pittsburgh Steelers had trouble scoring last season. Special teams wasn't exactly special, plus, now two of the three men who have been the Steelers kick and punt returners, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, are the No. 1 and No. 2 receivers. Then, the third, Chris Rainey decided he liked gambling more than playing football. So, there is a vacuum at the position. But football, like nature, abhors a vacuum and an undrafted player could end up being the true steal of the draft: Reggie Dunn.

In a previous blog we told you the two rules associated with Reggie Dunn. The first rule is you don't kick it to Reggie Dunn. The second rule is you do NOT kick it to Reggie Dunn. (Word of caution: don't blink when watching his video highlights or you will miss him.) -

The 5'10, 180 pounder may strictly be a special teams ace, but it's hard to ignore a 4.22 time in the 40-yard dash. As are the four touchdown returns of 100 yards or only 10 attempts.

Iowa State was the first to learn the two rules back in 2010 as he returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and averaged 29.6 yards per return. He didn't house anyone in 2011, but he still averaged 23.6 yards per return.

The All-Pac 12 first teamer had everyone exactly where he wanted them.

After nearly every opposing special teams coach on the early part of Utah's schedule instructed their teams to...well, to adhere to the two rules, the University of Cal decided to tempt the hand of fate. Bad idea. He housed them twice...each for 100 yards or more.

Then a week after returning those two touchdowns against Cal in the eighth game of the season, he had a 100-yard kickoff return against Washington State, and then had another 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Colorado.

Dunn also holds the NCAA record for 100+ yard kickoff returns for touchdowns in a career with five, and had a gaudy 30.875 yards per return average for his career. He is a special player who is more than just speed. He flows like water through would-be tacklers and often looks like a human joystick out there. But Dunn is an Xbox 360 and all other are just Atari. -

Tomlin likes players who are "position flexible," but, again, it's hard to ignore "Oh, sh*t" speed. Because, to paraphrase The Greatest, 'your feet can't catch what your eyes can't see'. Come September, it may just be the Steelers sideline where you'll hear, "Who they came to see?!?"

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Youth, Versatility Define Kelvin Beachum And Steelers Offensive Line

When Jack Bicknell, jr. was introduced as the Pittsburgh Steelers new offensive line coach back on January 29, 2013, one of the things all the pseudo-intellectual writers said was that the team was going to switch to a zone-blocking scheme. Well, two things about that: the Steelers have already been running behind some zone blocking the last few years, and they'd have to have the right personnel already in place to make a wholesale change.

Like Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin brought out regarding the subject when addressing members of the media at the NFL owner's meetings in mid March, the team will not commit itself to a philosophy it does not have the means to implement. He did point out, however, that the team will be looking into it throughout Training Camp and will look to use elements of it in their 2013 game plans.

That's to be expected since, top to bottom, the Steelers have very athletic offensive linemen, ones who have the ability to run this kind of scheme, despite not necessarily looking to run one scheme completely.

Once you get past potentially the youngest NFL starting five of Marcus Gilbert (as that seems to be the way the Steelers lean at left tackle), Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Mike Adams, your backups are Kelvin Beachum, John Malecki and new signee Guy Whimper. -

Beachum should see most of his snaps on the right side at guard and tackle, which we'll explore deeper presently.

Malecki can play guard as well as center and would be third in line behind Pouncey and Doug Legursky if he were to come back.

The newly acquired revolving door known as Whimper, 30 years old in the 2013 season, provides depth behind Adams and Gilbert at tackle and, should he make the Steelers’ roster, could be the first lineman off of the bench. Whimper, however, is ideally a right tackle and would only likely get a look on the left side in a desperate situation.

He was signed instead of Max Starks, who remains unsigned. The reason Starks wasn't initially brought back last offseason was that he didn't want to be a backup, only to start. The same most likely occurred this offseason. The Steelers could conceivably bring him back, though, if injuries were to strike and he remains unsigned. -

With respect to Dick Van Patten, eight is not enough, so behind them are a few players who have an outside shot at a roster spot, but more likely a practice squad designation. They will be listed in the TIDBITS section following the main body of the article.

However, the focus for the remainder of this will be on Beachum. There's a lot to like about Beachum. He's very smart and versatile enough to backup five spots. At 6'3", he's going to have to end up being above 300 lbs.(muscle weight), though, in order to do so on a regular basis.

But the coaches (should) know their personnel and will not ask them to stray too far from their own strengths, so don't expect Beachum to play the left side. He showed real promise last season on the right and they will be eager to see his progression.

Beachum is currently listed as the backup at two positions on the Steelers depth chart, he had experience in college at long snapper and believes he can backup the center position as well. But as was said earlier, he shows most promise on the right side as was evidenced last season against the Baltimore Ravens.

Beachum is decidedly better against the pass, but showed the ability to block the run also. He only gave up one sack against the Ravens, and that was in the fourth quarter. It was also one of the few instances when he showed his inexperience as he simply looked unaware of his protection assignment.

Otherwise, he more than held his own against Ravens linebackers Terrell Suggs and Paul Kruger in the Steelers 23-20 win. He played every offensive snap, only giving up the one sack. Not too shabby.

As an example, in the fourth quarter, he took on Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, allowing lead blocker Will Johnson to create a hole for running back Isaac Redman that resulted in a 24-yard gain.

At one point, Beachum turns Ngata just enough to allow space for Redman. He then forces Ngata backwards, and Redman is gone. (Photos courtesy of Andrea Hangst of Pro Football Focus)

If this truly is a sign of things to come, then Beachum could be a real integral part of the Steelers offensive line and team, and the offensive line itself could once again be a team strength.

(Addendum: Steelers depth chart has since changed and Bell nor, for some reason, Gilbert are any longer mentioned.)

TIDBITS: The men who have a chance to stick with the team:

Joe Madsen - Center, 6'4" 310 lbs. -
In four years at West Virginia, Madsen started 38 straight games, except for two bowl games for which he was academically ineligible. Three-year starter. Only 25 reps of the 225-pound bench press at the NFL Combine, so he needs to improve his strength, but he does have quick lateral movement. -

Mike Golic, jr. - G/C, 6'4", 300 lbs. -
Listed among the best undrafted players, National Football Post says of him, "he may be a long shot, but his competiveness and toughness will serve him well in camp." At the Steelers minicamp last week, Golic played right tackle.

The Notre Dame product has pedigree on his side as both his father, most recently of ESPN's Mike & Mike fame, and his uncle, Bob Golic, played in the NFL. Therefore, he knows first hand that there will be competition.

"Anywhere you go, there’s going to be competition," said Golic. -

Nik Embernate - Guard, 6'4" 300 lbs.
Embernate, as If It Ain't Steel informed its readers, payed a pre-draft visit to the Steelers. He was so impressed with the South Side that he is quoted as saying, "I love this place." He now wants to be the one to make an impression. -

There was another quote from him, though, that caught our attention. No manufactured ado needed, just read what he said about playing football.

“If I hear a quarterback call [a run] play in the huddle,” Embernate said, “I've already got in my mind that I'm going to take that dude and slam him into the dirt, and as he's trying to get up, just not let him get up. Try to inflict a lot of pain on him.

“That's what this game is all about — not to the aspect where you want to hurt somebody, but you're going to try to knock somebody out. You've got to play physical.”

I'm sold.

Le'Veon Bell Could Be A Running And Receiving Threat For Steelers

A quarterback's best friend is a good running game.

The Pittsburgh Steelers only ranked 26th in the NFL in rushing last season, while running the ball on only 40.3% of their plays. That was the lowest in franchise history. They only averaged only 3.83 yards per carry from their main three running backs (Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall), and only 3.7 YPC as a team. It's a far cry from the likes of John Henry Johnson, Franco Harris, Jerome Bettis or even Willie Parker.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is like any other NFL QB in that he would benefit from a solid and productive running game. To put a fine point on it, when the Steelers rush for 4.5 or more yards per rush in a game, Big Ben and the Steelers have a record of 40-12. Running the ball efficiently is what offensive coordinator Todd Haley would like to see the Steelers return to doing, as well as throwing to them out of the backfield.

"I like to have the running backs involved in the passing game other than just blocking," Haley said recently on ESPN 970. "So I think going into last year, the way that you looked at the backs around here was, can they pick up the blitz, period, when it came to passing situations. Now we're starting to make a movement more to getting them out, free releasing them, keeping other people in at times for protection, and letting the backs get out and create matchups on linebackers, which are ideal matchups a lot of times if you get the right ones."

Enter Le'Veon Bell.

"He's a big back, No. 1, and a three-down back, which is a big thing for us," Haley said of Bell after the draft. "He has very good hands and catches the ball very well out of the backfield."

The 6'1", 230-pound Bell is the product of a Michigan State Spartans' system that will help his transition to the next level, a point which Haley verified.

"He's coming from a pro-style offense," Haley said. "A lot of the (Steelers’) runs will be very similar to the runs that he was running."

Bell is more than capable of winning the Steelers’ No. 1 spot at running back and toting/catching the rock 20-25 times per game. The recent release of the Steelers depth chart shows him already listed ahead of Dwyer and Redman, though that means about as much in May as a preseason Top 25 college football ranking does. But, according to Steelers GM Kevin Colbert, who joined Ken Laird and Guy Junker on, from the very start they saw Bell as "an NFL back."

"He had 1,700 yards last year, and close to 900 of those yards were yards after contact, which indicates an ability to make NFL runs, because the holes in the NFL aren't going to be the same as they are in college. You saw him make a lot of what we thought were NFL-type runs. Even if he only had a one-yard hole that was blocked, once he made contact, he always seemed to fall forward for four more." -

Whether falling "forward for four more" or catching the ball and running for several, the Steelers are obviously hoping Bell can bring life back to what was an abysmal running attack last season. Remember the 3.7 YPC the Steelers had last season? Bell ran for 4.7 YPC his senior year - also more than the 4.5 YPC needed to attain the 77% winning percentage spoken of earlier.

Bell's ability to be a pass catcher is one of the things the Steelers brass loves about him. In 2012, Dwyer and Redman combined 37 receptions. His senior year in college, Bell had 32 himself. Behind The Steel Curtain further breaks down the ways in which Bell can help in the passing game based on formations in their piece on the subject:

One of the best ways to help get the ball out of Big Ben's hands quicker next season is to have a running back with soft hands who is used to making something out if nothing.

Also, as alluded to at the outset, Bell could end up being Big Ben's best friend.

(Addendum: The Steelers depth chart has since changed and Bell nor, for some reason, Gilbert are any longer even mentioned.)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Will Jarvis Jones Start This Season For The Steelers?

"I think it's a daunting task for rookies to start in any system and play and perform well," Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said when speaking of first-round draft pick, outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. "Obviously it is difficult when you have established veteran players like we have with a lot of continuity. We are not going to close the door on him or anyone else on earning an opportunity, and that is what this is about -- people taking advantage of opportunities. So he'll be given that."

When linebackers coach Kevin Butler first spoke to Sean Spence at the 2012 NFL combine, he told him that “no rookie linebacker comes in and starts. They work their way in on special teams.” Butler reiterated that recently when speaking of Jones.

"He's been very productive. He's going to come in and compete, but he's not going to be given the position," Butler said.

Mainly because of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's complex system, it is true that linebackers as a rule don't start as a rookie for the Blitzburgh Steelers. But both Tomlin and Butler say that Jones will be given the opportunity to compete, which is the way it should be. If the player is ready, play him. As a for instance, it was apparent that LaMarr Woodley should've started from about midseason on in his rookie year of 2007.

That season, Woodley played in 13 games, mainly on special teams, with zero starts. Still, he managed to collect 14 solo tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble. The linebacker ahead of him at the time was Clark Haggans. In over three times as many snaps, Haggans had 15 solo tackles (36 total), four sacks and no forced fumbles. So the precedent could be said to have been set that season. A precedent that would seem to be in Jones' favor.

Much has been spoken and written on this subject, whether or not Jones should start. The problem is that, as Butler further said, there's someone who might have something to say about that.

"Jason Worilds is here," Butler reaffirmed. "He's the next guy up since [James Harrison] has left, and I expect Jason to be better than he ever has been."

"Better than he ever has been" is a singular and, at the same time, bold statement. As was pointed out in a previous article where we quoted Steelers beat writer Mark Kaboly, 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 Butler's statement as prognostication. Reason that Kaboly backed up with another fact.

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

So what does this mean for all parties involved? Can Worilds play the right side as effectively as he does the left side? If Woodley redoubles his efforts and truly dedicates himself this offseason in order to return to the form of a few years ago, that keeps Worilds on the right side. It also keeps this a two-man race. Or would Jones would simply back up both sides? Regardless, the one who has the greatest say as to whether or not Jones steps in this season is Jones.

As far as an heir apparent, Jones is the anti-Harrison. Where Harrison was the Silverback - so powerful and disruptive, Jones is the Black Panther - so sleek and sudden. Where Harrison was the massive Deebo from the movie Friday, Jones is the leaner and more angular (though not as slightly built) Williams from Enter The Dragon.

As Kaboly wrote in his minicamp observations blog, he admits that he's "used to seeing mammoths like LaMarr Woodley and Ziggy Hood, so that’s to be expected. But still, first-round pick Jarvis Jones looked tremendously undersized especially compared to Woodley and Jason Worilds."

That and the adjustment he'll need to make to the size and speed of the NFL are what will keep him from making a major impact this season. Just as senior analyst Gil Brandt said of him, "I don't think he can be a 3-4 'backer that can drop into space and be effective," Brandt said. "When you see him come from one side and try to chase down a play, he doesn't have that speed that you really need to have to play that position when he's chasing a guy." -

Add to that, he was blocked by tight ends in college as often as he was by tackles. So, like Brandt also said further, at this point he's "a one-position player...a guy that's going to play with his hand on the ground..." The Steelers already had that. His name is Adrian Robinson.

Bottom line, to achieve and maintain the level of linebacker and overall defensive excellence they've so long been known for requires a certain level of intelligence, versatility, aptitude and, finally, communication. Therefore, all four linebackers must be able to peel and scrape, to understand their assignments in the base defenses and in the various underneath coverages in LeBeau's zone-blitzes.

Right now, all Jones has is the ability to simply pin his ears back and rush the passer or get to the running back. So while he may have given the chance to push for the starting position, he doesn't yet possess what will be needed to usurp it.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Steelers 2013 Draft Class And Minicamp Observations

As we finish up our covering of the 2013 NFL Draft class, we turn our attention now to the remaining four draft choices. The final draft quartet from rounds five through seven was Terry Hawthorne, cornerback from Illinois; Justin Brown, wide receiver from Oklahoma; Vince Williams, inside linebacker from Florida State; and Nicholas Williams, defensive tackle from Samford.

We provided full breakdowns and/or commentaries on the first five picks in the draft, starting with Jarvis Jones, outside linebacker out of Georgia. Jones said recently that while he respects his game, he wants to be the first Jarvis Jones, not the next James Harrison.

“I don’t compare myself in no way to James Harrison,” Jones said at the Steelers’ rookie minicamp today. “He’s a great player. Respect him. Never met him. But I love his game. I wouldn’t mind being an impact player like James Harrison.”

The Steelers are the preeminent authorities on 3-4 rush linebackers, and as an outside linebacker in a pro-style 3-4 scheme, Jones led the nation in sacks the last two seasons with 28. -

Round two brought running back Le’Veon Bell from Michigan State, whose Pro Day the Steelers attended and whom they worked out privately. Bell weighed 230 lbs. at the NFL Combine, but the Steelers list him at 244 lbs. Haley's influence? You be the judge: Bell was the top performer at running back in the three-cone drill. The top performer in 2012 in that category? Chris Rainey. -

The Steelers went back to the future and drafted a lightning-fast wide receiver with the initials M.W. in the third round -

We told you why Shamarko Thomas, strong safety out of Syracuse, why he will 'work hard until his hands and his feet fall off.' -

Most recently we examined the possibilities of Oklahoma product Landry Jones being Ben Roethlisberger's successor. -

Now we come to the final picks.

Selected in the fifth round was Illinois cornerback Terry Hawthorne, who ran a 4.44/40 at the NFL Combine and a blazing 4.31/40 at the Illinois Pro Day. He made a pre-draft visit to the Steelers.

Hawthorne started all four years, but also dealt with injuries each year. So durability may be a question, but is a physical and aggressive who can play both outside and in the slot. He has upside, is fast and will tackle. Can play press like Ike Taylor or Cortez Allen. -

At 5'11 and 195 lbs., Hawthorne does need to bulk up a little (lithe and lanky build) and get stronger for the position. He may be raw, but he has good transition in his hips. He can be "susceptible to fakes and too easily bites in coverage, needing to show better discipline," but you can't argue with 4.31 speed. In addition to playing cornerback, he also can return punts and kicks, and was even originally recruited as a wide receiver. -

Hawthorne recorded six interceptions, two being returned for touchdowns, 138 total tackles and 22 passes defended. He has shutdown-cornerback ability that will make it hard not to have him on the Steelers roster come August.

With the sixth pick, the Steelers chose wide receiver Antonio...*ahem*...sorry, Justin Brown out of Oklahoma. Brown was a pre-draft visitor to the Steelers facilities, but was not an invitee to the NFL Combine. Brown spent last season with the Sooners after transferring from Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, and joins Oklahoma teammate Landry Jones with the Steelers.

The 6'3", 210-pound Brown caught 73 passes for 879 yards and five touchdowns in 2012. He seems to know how to use his size against defenders when going up for the ball, but he let's the ball hit his body a little too much. A problem If It Ain't Steel pointed out that a certain former Steelers wide receiver had.

Brown's route running will need to be tightened up as he tends to round his cuts. Plus, since he isn't very fast (4.60/40) or quick, he isn't able to create separation very well. This allows the defensive backs to stay on their coverage. Still, you can't teach size, and he uses that size to go and make the tough catches. When he does catch with his hands first, he does have dependable ones. He also knows how to use his size off of jam coverage to get open in short yardage. Can also be used as a return man. -

The Steelers compensatory pick was the 206th and it was used on an inside linebacker they call "The Destroyer" - Vince Williams. At 5'11" and 233 lbs., he packs a wallop. -

The things that stick out when watching the tape on Williams:
1) he HITS; tackles well
2) he has good closing speed
3) he doesn't get bogged down in traffic and wards off blockers well

1) he can be slow to read/react
2) he doesn't have a very quick change of direction
3) he can take bad angles

But linebackers coach Keith Butler knows all of this. He knows that Williams is a two-down linebacker, but that he is physical and has raw ability that they will coach up. -

"Obviously if he is not going to be a three-down football player in college," Butler said, "then he is not going to all of a sudden step to the National Football League and be a three-down player. That is something we have to determine in training camp." -

The Steelers final selection in the draft was Nicholas Williams, a 6’4” 320-pound defensive tackle. And although he's a "project," defensive line coach John Mitchell admits to liking his potential.

"I like this guy. He didn’t dominate right there in Samford. He only started two years there, but I think his football is ahead of him rather than behind him." -

Definite practice squad player, but, as the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Mark Kaboly said of Williams at Friday's minicamp, he was the "most physically mature guy out there."


Speaking of minicamp, the rookies and invited undrafted free agents are ready for their close up. Well, at least a few of them are.

"Out of the 41 players at Steelers rookie minicamp, I predict 7 will make the 53-man roster."

One of those to make an impact was safety Shamarko Thomas. Several made praiseworthy comments about him, including Kaboly again who called him a "stud."

What Steel City Insider's Jim Wexell said of Thomas, though, is easily the quote of the day: "It was only the first workout in shells for Steelers rookies, but to me the most impressive was Shamarko Thomas. A brick shithouse. Sudden."

Another who should make himself noticed is Reggie Dunn, the Utah University return man who had four kick returns for touchdowns and averaged over 45 yards per return in 2012 and tops out at a world class 4.22/40 time.

Allow us to put it this way - the first rule of Reggie Dunn Club is you do not kick it to Reggie Dunn:

The second rule of Reggie Dunn Club is you do NOT kick it to Reggie Dunn:

For the rest of Friday's highlights and observations, read Mark Kaboly's piece from The Steel Mill:

Kaboly's The Steel Mill Blog: Steelers rookie minicamp observations (Saturday, Day 2):


TIDBITS: According to ESPN's John Clayton, the Steelers are anxious to spend the Salary Cap space money that will be cleared when Willie Colon's contract officially comes off the books. Clayton says the Steelers will sign wide receiver Steve Breaston in the next few weeks.

Breaston visited the Steelers a few weeks ago and, considering the Steelers don't actually have enough money right now, he will likely sign a deal once Colon's money clears after June 2nd. And if he is signed, it could spell the end of Plaxico Burress' second stint in the Black and Gold.