Oops, wrong Landry. Landry Clarke plays kicker slash tight end. Otherwise known as “the position Tim Tebow will play after Bill Belichick sees him in practice.” Our Landry is definitely a quarterback.
The Pittsburgh Steelers reached a deal with their final unsigned 2013 draft choice, agreeing to a four year contract with former University of Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones. Terms of the deal weren’t available but under the NFL’s blessedly streamlined rookie wage scale, his contract will almost assuredly total somewhere around $2.5 million (about $650,000 per year) with some sort of signing bonus and playing incentives thrown in.
Despite the Steelers signing all their picks in relatively short order, it was imperative they get Jones into camp as soon as possible. Granted this year is going to be a better year than most for all the Black and Gold rookies to make an immediate impact. LB Jarvis Jones and RB Le’Veon Bell are likely to see significant playing time while guys like WR Marcus Wheaton and S Shamarko Thomas will be the first guys off the bench when injuries invariably strike. However, none of those positions require the level of study and preparation as playing quarterback.
Yes, Bruce Gradkowski is back home in the ‘Burgh. And, yes, he’s proven a pretty durable player over his NFL career. Regardless, if there is one position (besides offensive line) where the team has been snakebit over the years, it’s quarterback. If the team makes it through the preseason with all three QBs healthy and ready to go, it’ll be a refreshing change.
Ben Roethlisberger is a tough dude without a doubt. He’s also north of 30 and can’t take the punishment he used to. He’s missed games in every one of the past several seasons and considering he’s already having “minor” surgery during the OTAs, there’s no reason not to think he won’t miss a game or two in 2013. I’ve always liked Gradkowski but should he get hurt or prove ineffective, it would be nice to have a capable #3 ready to step forward.
Starting a rookie QB is less than ideal and I’m definitely not ready to declare Jones is Ben’s heir apparent, I’m simply relieved the team will have some capable options if/when Ben has to sit out. Byron Leftwich was useless and Dennis Dixon never learned more than five plays in four years. While I loves me some Charlie Batch, his career met a fitting end in the season-highlight victory over the Ravens. Bring on the new blood.
I can’t believe I’m saying this but I may actually be looking forward to watching preseason games this year.
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I went a good month between updates due to literally nothing happening with the Pittsburgh Steelers. All of a sudden a new story pops up almost every single day. With the other sports teams in this town down in the dumps, I’m not exactly complaining about the welcome distraction. The timing is kind of strange, though.
The big story making the rounds yesterday was franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger getting a head start on his yearly injury drama by undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. Head coach/degenerate liar Mike Tomlin assured the press that the surgery was a minor procedure to clear out loose cartilage that was causing Big Ben discomfort during OTAs. Ben had the same operation on his left knee during the 2005 season and while he only missed one game that was eight years and about four hundred sacks ago.
Perhaps a better comparison would be James Harrison, who put off having the same surgery when he arrived at training camp last season only to go under the knife a week before the start of the season. He wound up sidelined until week four. By getting surgery out of the way early, Ben should be healed up in time to be behind center for his customary handful of snaps in the pre-season games. It still does nothing to assuage my concerns about his rapidly deteriorating body.
Roethlisberger’s bum knee is a remnant from the pounding he endured last season. There is no truth to the rumor that he got clubbed on the leg by Pittsburgh born rapper Wiz Khalifa as part of the escalating war between Pittsburgh’s beloved football team and its burgeoning rap scene.
That story was started when a second arrest was made in Saturday’s stabbing of offensive lineman Mike Adams. It turns out thug #2 was Quay Meanz, an aspiring rapper and budding protege of Wiz. In a strange bit of irony, Quay appears in the video for Wiz’s popular hit “Black and Yellow” which has sort of become the team’s unofficial theme song (or official theme song, if you go by Pepsi’s commercials). While Wiz’s spokesman declined comment, let’s be real here. In any other profession, a stabbing would be the end of your career. For a rapper, it only makes him that much more legitimate. If anything, this is probably seen as a positive career move for Meanz.
For Adams, though, not so much. He was released from the hospital although, much like Ben, he won’t be likely to practice until training camp rolls around in August. The Steelers will need both in tip top playing shape if they want to avoid another disastrous campaign.
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With the Pirates struggling and the Penguins in a full-blown meltdown, Pittsburgh sports fans could use any bit of good news right about now. Rejoice, fellow yinzers, for I bring tidings of great joy. The thug who stabbed Mike Adams down in the South Side has been caught and thrown in the clink.
Also, the Pittsburgh Steelers came to terms with first round draft pick Jarvis Jones. Jones signed a four year contract valued at $8.5 million, a little more than half ($4.7 million) of which comes in the form of a signing bonus. There is also a fifth year club option at an undisclosed amount. Not that eight million clams is chump change or anything but isn’t it crazy to remember four or five years ago when a guy taken in Jones’ position would sign for twice that? The owners actually did something right for a change.
In addition to inking Jones, the Steelers also came to terms on four year deals with RB Le’Veon Bell and DE Nick Williams. Why this flurry of signings? Because the Steelers are suddenly flush with cash now that Willie Colon has come off the books. Colon was designated a post-June 1st cut meaning as of Saturday, his cap hit went from $6.5 million to a little over $1 million. Of course, the team is going to have something like $4 million in dead money next year due to the sheer insanity of giving him that contract in the first place but by then some of the other recent veteran cuts should be off the books.
Make no mistake, the Steelers are reloading with young guys. As such, it’s good that they’ve now signed eight of their nine 2013 NFL Draft picks. Only QB Landry Jones remains unsigned. If he knows what’s good for him, he’ll tell his agent to get a deal done ASAP since his future career prospects depend on him getting on the field. There’s still plenty of time to learn the playbook but every day that goes by the potential of him supplanting Bruce Gradkowski as number two diminishes a little more.
For the other draftees, their chances of making a significant contribution during the upcoming season will be better than any in recent memory. Safety Shamarko Thomas was smartly the first pick to sign and with the team almost barren at the position behind the injury-prone starters, he could see significant playing time. With a lack of depth and talent at their positions, guys like Bell and WR Markus Wheaton will also have a prime opportunity to contribute as rookies. Even Jones is expected to be used in place of starting outside linebacker Jason Worilds in obvious pass rush situations, a big departure from the days when rookies where never expected to take a year to learn the ins and outs of Dick LeBeau‘s complex defense.
Here’s hoping the youngsters are up to the task.
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Must have been a really nice truck…
Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Mike Adams was stabbed early Saturday morning in what is the latest (and certainly most bizarre) setback to befall the team’s cursed offensive line. Every year the team holds great hope for their “new look” line and every year that unit plays maybe two snaps before the Football Gods strike them down one by one. With Willie Colon gone to plague the Jets with his devastating array of false starts, I guess they needed someone new to pick on.
After questioning the Steelers drafting a guy with huge character red flags in college, I don’t want to join the conspiracy theorists who are already having a field day with this situation. I do have to admit some aspects of Adams’ story are a bit strange. First, he dropped his keys with the valet at Nakama Steakhouse on Friday night and disappeared until the service shut down at midnight. Then, Adams returned to his truck (without the keys, mind you) at around 3 a.m. when, according to his account, three men approached him. Despite one having a knife and another armed with a gun, Adams argued with the men until ultimately being stabbed.
Where did Adams go for four or five hours? If he was so concerned about his truck, wouldn’t he have picked his keys up before the valet went off duty? Speaking of which, what was he going to do with this truck if he didn’t have the keys? Maybe I missed something in the story but there is definitely a strange aspect to it. Well, the police evidently recovered a cell phone one of the thugs dropped while fleeing the scene so whatever was going on, let’s hope they get to the bottom of it.
When the story broke, Steeler Nation reacted with the predictable doom and gloom. While being stabbed in the gut is no minor thing, it does appear that Adams escaped without serious injury. The gut stick would seem to be the more serious of the blows (he was also stabbed in the left forearm). Although no major organs were damaged, the injury will probably keep him sidelined until the preseason. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be a big deal but with Max Starks out of the picture, I’m sure they wanted to take a good look at both Adams and Marcus Gilbert on the left side. In my last update, I mentioned the loss of Mad Max might come back to bite the Black and Gold sooner or later. Never did I expect “sooner” to arrive in such a bizarre fashion.
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The city of Pittsburgh is understandably preoccupied. Between the streaking Penguins and resurgent Pirates, nobody is thinking about the Pittsburgh Steelers right now. Which is why I haven’t been posting much as of late. It’s also why seemingly irrelevant news can pass right under the radar like it did a couple days ago. News which, in about four months or so, we may be looking back on with quite a bit of consternation.
Longtime Steelers left tackle Max Starks is now a member of the San Diego Chargers.
Thus ends a long strange odyssey for Mad Max. The starting right tackle on the Super XL winning team, Max would lose his job to Willie Colon two seasons later. After a career ending injury to Marvel Smith, Starks moved to the left side where he would start for the team’s next Super Bowl winning team. After being transition tagged two years in a row, the Steelers finally signed him to a lucrative four year $28 million contract in 2009.
Naturally, he would suffer a severe neck injury one year later which prevented him from playing in his third Super Bowl. The injury was significant enough that free agent Jonathan Scott was penciled in as his heir apparent at LT in 2011. Scott was a disaster and with rookie Marcus Gilbert equally ineffective the Steelers literally plucked Starks off the street to once again anchor the left side. He played well but ended up tearing his ACL in the season ending loss to the Fighting Tebows which left him once again out of the Steelers plans. Nevertheless, the Steelers brought Max back last season and while he struggled mightily at times, he was the only member of the line to start all 16 games.
There is no question age is catching up with Mad Max. There is also no question that the Steelers have been preparing to replace him. They drafted Gilbert two years ago and last year invested a second round pick in Mike Adams. While both guys have shown flashes of ability, neither has proven they can be counted on to be a dependable left tackle. New offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. is said to favor younger, more athletic tackles which no doubt explains the team’s lack of urgency in keeping Starks. Let’s just hope when it comes time to kick off the 2013 season that their decision doesn’t come back to bite them.
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Steeler Nation lost one of their all-time greats this past Saturday when Hall of Fame defensive back Jack Butler passed away at age 85. In what has to be classified as tragic irony, Mr. Butler’s cause of death is being listed as complications from a staph infection in his artificial knee. A knee replacement that became necessary when he suffered a severe injury which ultimately ended his playing career decades earlier.
I wrote about Mr. Butler’s illustrious career as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers when he was elected to Canton last year. On a personal note, Mr. Butler’s story is one of the fondest memories to come out of my blogging career. I first became aware of Jack Butler when I ran NicePickCowher (back when it was readable). One day, Mr. Butler’s son emailed to ask if I would run a piece on his career as part of their ongoing efforts to bring their father to the attention of the HOF Veteran’s Committee. I’m extremely pleased that he and his family were able to share in his enshrinement before his untimely passing.
Deepest condolences to the Butler family.
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The heir to all-time Pittsburgh Steelers great Aaron Smith’s #91 has already been discussed in greater detail here. Cliff Notes version: a pure pass rusher who gets off the ball quick and relentlessly hunts down quarterbacks. After leading the nation in sacks against elite SEC competition was widely expected to be a top ten pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Two red flags emerged during the evaluation process; a worrisome medical history and a horrible 40 time (4.9). The spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spine) led him to transfer to Georgia after USC doctors wouldn’t clear him to play. Played last season without incident and Steelers said they were comfortable with the medical reports they received. The speed issue raises questions whether he’ll ever be a three down linebacker. Will definitely need to improve in pass coverage and work at beating big strong NFL offensive lineman with something other than his quickness off the edge if he hopes to truly replace James Harrison as a mainstay at outside linebacker.l_bell24
Listed at 230 but dropped 15 pounds before the Combine in hopes of improving his 40 time. It didn’t work as he still ran a disappointing 4.6. The lack of breakaway speed and one move and go running style will prevent him from being a big play threat. Has the size, strength, and ability to break tackles to potentially be a pretty good power back, though. Coach Todd Haley also raved about his hands, calling him a “three down player.” Former Rams All-Pro Steven Jackson said Bell was the college player who most reminded him of himself and, really, that’s basically the ideal scenario for what the Steelers hope he develops into. Worst case, he’s another Michael Turner, a productive downhill runner who doesn’t wow anybody but gets the job done.twheat002
Another receiver in the AB/Manny Sanders mold. A smallish guy with good speed and good hands who runs good routes. Lack of elite speed (4.45 40) means he’ll be another YAC receiver rather than the type of field stretching playmaker we lost in Mike Wallace. Isn’t afraid to go over the middle or play in traffic so he should see time in the slot almost immediately. Has little experience returning kicks so probably won’t contribute in that area. Struggled against bigger physical corners. Athletic guy who gets open and makes things happen with the ball in his hands who should be a good slot receiver but will need to prove he can beat a jam if he hopes to move outside and move from a #3 to a #2.
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On day two of the 2013 NFL draft, Dick LeBeau and Keith Butler had plenty of time to get to know first round pick Jarvis Jones, who was in town to meet with the media yesterday. They definitely weren’t needed in Pittsburgh Steelers draft headquarters as yesterday was the Todd Haley Show. Coming off one of their worst offensive showings in years and faced with several notable losses via free agency, the Black and Gold began the process of rebuilding the offense with both their second and third round picks. They also signed their first notable free agent.
In round 2, the Steelers selected Michigan State running back Le’veon Bell. To be completely honest, I find myself less than thrilled about this pick. Bell was only the second back taken so saying the Steelers had their choice of the RB crop is hardly an exaggeration. They chose a guy not radically different than two of the guys already on the roster. Bell is a big (6’1 230, although he played at 245 in college) physical back who projects as a straight ahead downhill runner. Granted he’s probably more athletic than Isaac Redman and won’t have to run to the sideline after every three carries like Jon Dwyer but his running style doesn’t seem markedly different from either of them.
Todd Haley likened him to Eddie George although George had the shiftiness and breakaway speed to break off big runs. The big knock on Bell is his relatively plodding 4.6 40. When you consider he dropped 15 pounds prior to the Combine in hopes of improving his speed, one shudders to think what he’d run at his natural playing weight. Naturally the comparisons to Jerome Bettis have already begun which is a fool’s errand that has trapped the Steelers with a sub-par running game for years now. His game highlights actually remind me more of Michael Turner, who enjoyed a solid if unspectacular career with the Falcons.
In round 3, the Steelers tapped Oregon State wide receiver Markus Wheaton. In a nice bit of serendipity, Wheaton’s NFL.com scouting report lists his closest NFL comparison as Antonio Brown. At 5’11 189 and running an acceptable 4.45 40, he certainly fits the AB/Manny Sanders mold of small quick guy with good hands who runs good routes. Haley is already talking him up as a weapon out of the slot where he played a lot in college. I’m sure part of the thinking with this pick is having a potential replacement for Sanders already in the system should he leave after the season. Again, like the Bell pick, there are no glaring negatives with Wheaton other than he doesn’t really bring anything to the team that they don’t already have. He’s not a field stretching speed burner like Mike Wallace nor is he a big target like Plax.
Finally, the Steelers rounded out their running back corps by signing ex Pitt Panther LaRod Stephens-Howling, formerly of
Pittsburgh West the Arizona Cardinals. Wait, we can sign former Cardinals? Next thing you know they’ll be calling us Arizona East!
Stephens-Howling had the misfortune of attending Pitt at the same time as Shady McCoy so he never got a chance to play as much as he should have. He ended up carving out a nice niche for himself as a third down back and excellent kick returner with the Cardinals. He’s basically filling the role vacated by Chris Rainey except he’s a little more versatile in terms of being able to run the ball out of traditional sets. Considering every other back on the roster is a lumbering oaf, it’s nice to have at least one speed guy in the backfield.
With LaRod and Le’veon in the mix, the Steelers have five backs in the mix for next season. Looks like they’ll spend the remainder of the draft trying to fill holes at other positions. I’ll be back on Monday with a complete Steelers draft recap and analysis complete with pictures!
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The first round 2013 NFL Draft couldn’t have unfolded any better for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the last 48 hours or so before the draft, it became more and more certain that the 17th overall pick would come down to one of a handful of players. When the Black and Gold came on the clock, pretty much all of them were still there for the taking. That they wasted hardly any time handing their pick in to Roger Goodell (BOOOOOOO!) seemingly indicates the final decision wasn’t very hard at all.
Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones is your newest member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. According to post-draft comments by GM Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin, Jones was a player they identified early in the process as guy they would love to have. Jones had an extremely productive junior season, leading the nation in sacks (14.5) while playing against elite SEC competition. At 6’2 245 pounds, he projects as a prototypical 3-4 outside linebacker who should push Jason Worilds next season and eventually replace him as heir apparent to James Harrison. What’s more, Jarvis is considered a high character guy who overcame a ton of adversity as you can read in this excerpt from a recent Sports Illustrated story. While he may be a nice guy off the field, it’s evident from his highlight film and Twitter handle that he enjoys getting after the quarterback with reckless intent.
Going into the off-season, Jones was widely viewed as one of the Draft’s top two pass rushing linebackers and a sure fire top ten pick. However, skipping the Combine and not performing well in his pre-draft workouts raised some red flags which led to his drop. The most notable of which was the glacially slow 4.9 40 time Jones posted at his pro day. While Tomlin and Colbert were all giggles over it, an edge rusher who posts a 40 time a shade less than many offensive and defensive linemen is worrisome. Granted game speed and track speed can be wholly different things and the list of “workout warriors” that wowed scouts at the Combine only to fizzle once they actually had to take the field longer is like a who’s who of greatest Draft Busts in NFL history but it is something to be aware of when he finally suits up for the Black and Gold.
Then there’s Jones medical history. He began his career at USC but transferred to Georgia when the Trojans’ team doctors refused to clear him due to spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal cord which can put an athlete at greater risk for career ending injury. I don’t know of any pro football players who have this condition but I do remember that WWE wrestler Edge was diagnosed with the condition and it immediately ended his career. Doctors advised him that one poorly executed fall could leave him paralyzed which speaks to the seriousness of the matter. I’m sure the Steelers medical staff did a thorough evaluation although I do find it slightly ironic they ditched one OLB with a history of back/neck issues (Deebo) for a rookie with an elevated risk of them.
At the end of the day, it was the right choice. Going by the reactions on twitter, Steeler Nation was generally pleased with the pick although there were a few hoping the team would address their offensive woes by taking an elite skill player like TE Tyler Eifert (who went to the Bengals, what an offense they’re going to have…) or one of the WRs. I can understand that argument but with Harrison gone and LaMarr Woodley trapped at the All-U-Can Eat Buffet, the Steelers had to find an elite pass rusher. Judging by the rest of the first round where only one QB, two WRs and zero RBs were taken, the league wide consensus seems to be that there is plenty of depth at the skill positions available in later rounds. The Steelers need somebody capable of making an impact. Let’s hope Jarvis Jones makes one on opposing quarterbacks for many years to come.
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I have no f*#king idea.
I’m sure many of you are thinking, “That’s the kind of insightful analysis we’ve come to expect from TotalSteelers.” While the less sarcastic amongst you may be thinking, “Well, duh, nobody does.” Unfortunately, I’m finding the 2013 NFL Draft particularly vexing to try and analyze. Judging by the mock drafts I’ve been seeing around the interwebz, I’m not the only one.
I don’t waste time doing mocks because the draft is like a game of dominoes, move one piece to another place and the whole thing falls in a different direction. At the same time, we’ve always had a pretty good idea of the what if not the who. Few may have predicted the Pittsburgh Steelers drafting David DeCastro or Cam Heyward but it wasn’t hard to foresee them taking a guard or defensive lineman.
Which is why this year’s draft is so perplexing. The Steelers need practically everything. And the few positions you don’t immediately identify as a need feature prospects that may ultimately prove too good to pass up. It’s the kind of draft where there are a whole bunch of good players but very few special can’t miss types. So we’re left with a draft that can shake out about fifty different ways, any one of which greatly affects who the Steelers take with the 17th pick on Thursday.
To get some idea how confusing this draft is, take a look at some of the mocks people with far too much time on their hands have done. I’ve seen at least twenty mocks on various fan and pro sites with fifteen different names being attributed to the Steelers covering at least a half dozen different positions. For example, ProFootBallTalk recently made the case for us taking Georgia LB Jarvis Jones while Mel Kiper had us taking Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert in his latest mock.
Which points out the dilemma the Steelers themselves will face on draft day. They have a lot of positions where they don’t necessarily NEED an upgrade but aren’t necessarily happy with what they have either. For example, they could take an OLB to replace the departed James Harrison, however, Jason Worilds is going to start next year regardless. So if a more attractive player is on the board perhaps they feel they can put off drafting a new pass rushing OLB until round 2 or 3.
In that light, Kiper’s pick of Eifert is not as ridiculous as it seems. Heath Miller is coming off a devastating knee injury. He’s also one of the team’s more highly paid players. Many scouts view the 6’6 Eifert as the next Gronk. The Steelers could definitely use more weapons in the passing game. Perhaps they pick up Eifert with an eye towards replacing Heath come 2014.
Of course, the Steelers could use their pick to address an actual need. Pretty much the only areas you can safely say they’re set is at quarterback and offensive line. Granted the OL is a work in progress but after addressing it with two firsts and two seconds the past few years, I think it’s time to move on to other areas of concern.
Linebacker is certainly a need. Both inside and outside are possibilities although this draft seems to be heavier in pass rushing OLB/converted DE types. If they look inside, where they could certainly do better than Larry Foote, Alec Ogletree and Alec Brown could be possibilities (particularly if the team trades back). As long as the don’t take noted Catfisher Manti Te’o. Outside LB presents a number of prospects, from the aforementioned Jones to Corey Lemonier and Barkevious Mingo (who would have to fall for us to get him).
Or perhaps the team will address the offense. Again, they evidently feel comfortable going into the season with Antonio Brown and Manny Sanders 1-2 at wide out and the unholy two-headed monster of Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman sharing duties at RB but neither of those units are beyond an infusion of fresh talent. Several drafts have Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson coming to Pittsburgh. He’s not the first round equivalent of Mike Wallace – that would be WVU’s Tavon Austin, a small guy who ran the fastest 40 at the combine and is expected to be the first WR off the board – he’s a bigger receiver who can run but is more of YAC guy than a field stretcher.
Several other drafts have the Steelers taking Alabama’s Eddie Lacy, who is expected to be the only RB taken in the first round. The Steelers will be tempted for sure although I think they’ve learned from the Rashard Mendenhall debacle that unless a RB projects as a workhorse featured back, don’t waste a first on him. There are plenty of intriguing backs who had big time college careers like Montee Ball, Leveon Bell, and Marcus Lattimore who will still be around in rounds 3 and 4.
Of course, the team can still go any number of other directions. I’ve seen more than one mock that projects the Steelers taking yet another defensive lineman, this time a big ass nose tackle like Sylvester Williams or Sheldon Richardson. Or they could really throw us a curve and take someone like Texas S Kenny Vaccaro. Troy Polamalu is a sure fire Hall of Famer but he’s highly paid and injury prone. Some scouts peg Vaccaro as the next Ed Reed. Maybe we take him and groom him for a year before asking him to take Troy’s place. That’s the kind of forward thinking roster overhaul the Black and Gold need if they ever want to escape from the Salary Cap Hell they’ve put themselves in.
One thing is for certain, they Steelers NEED a good draft this year more than ever. In season’s past, they missed on a fair number or picks which was okay because we had veterans in place who weren’t going to be unseated anyway. For the first time in a long time, the Steelers roster is in overhaul. In order to successfully complete that overhaul, General Manager Kevin Colbert and company can’t afford another draft which yields one starter and a couple special teamers. The Steelers have chosen to rebuild through the draft. Time to get that process started.