#Steelers sources expect Big Ben to ask them to explore trade options after 2013. They fielded offers for him last offseason. Could again
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 10, 2013
On the NFL’s Sunday morning pre-game show, so-called “insider” Ian Rapoport reported on the above posted tweet. Who is Ian Rapoport? I have no idea. He’s certainly never broken any notable scoops like ESPN or Fox NFL “insiders.” Whoever he is, he certainly did his job by “breaking” a story that even got ongoing updates from the crew covering the Bills-Steelers game.
Before we go into the analysis and denials, we should start with Rapoport’s tweet. He’d later whine he was being misquoted or that the Pittsburgh Steelers were denying things he never said. Rapoport’s scoop actually is two scoops in one. First, he alleges Ben Roethlisberger is going to ask to be traded this off-season. Secondly, he alleges the Steelers already contemplated parting ways with Ben by soliciting trade offers last spring.
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Tuning into local sports talk the day after the Pittsburgh Steelers dropped to 0-3 for the first time in 27 years, I expected to hear plenty of complaints. Ben Roethlisberger making like Santa and gift-wrapping touchdowns to our opponents. The running game failing to produce a 100 yard rusher for the 85th straight week. A defense which hasn’t forced a turnover since Dick LeBeau‘s hair was chestnut brown.
And what was one of the burning topics on the minds of yinzers?
Mila Kunis allegedly photobombing Dan Rooney.
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When the season ended for the Pittsburgh Steelers a couple months back, I wrote that it appeared we were in for an off-season filled with upheaval. I said that because with something like a dozen unrestricted free agents, a half dozen restricted free agents and a number of overpaid veterans, it seemed a pretty safe bet the roster was going to see significant changes. I never thought those changes would extend to the coaching staff as well. Looking back, change was probably inevitable coming off such a massively disappointing season.
We knew the Steelers were losing offensive line coach Sean Kugler since he announced during the season he was leaving to become head coach at his alma mater (UTEP) at year’s end. Kugler might be the most significant loss as he’s done a tremendous job with the Black and Gold’s offensive line since replacing the awful Larry Zierlein in 2010. Every year we talk about the team’s “new look” line and every year one player goes down almost immediately with several more falling as the campaign marches on. Last year, the team used a different starting O-line combination nearly every week. The line didn’t exactly remain steady no matter who they plugged in – the run blocking, for example, fell apart when Willie Colon was lost – but the fact they could throw an untested undrafted rookie like Kelvin Beachum out there and watch him hold his own speaks well of Kugler’s coaching ability.
Kugler is being replaced by Jack Bicknell Jr. That name probably means more to college football fans than those of us who follow the NFL. Bicknell is the son of longtime Boston College head coach Jack Bicknell. Bicknell Jr. was a starting O-lineman for his dad during the Doug Flutie years before moving into coaching himself. He’s been a career OL coach with the exception of a seven year head coaching stint at Terry Bradshaw‘s alma mater, Louisiana Tech. In recent years, Bicknell Jr. was an assistant OL coach for the Giants for a few seasons before moving on to the Chiefs last season. I don’t pay attention to KC but the G-Men have had some really good lines so let’s hope he was a big part of that.
The Steelers most recent loss was wide receivers coach Scottie Montgomery. The official story is Montgomery left to become offensive coordinator at Duke. However, Uncle Eddy Bouchette at the P-G in his role of unofficial PR man has floated the story (no doubt fed to him by team officials) that the team actually booted him out the door. It sounds a lot like the Bruce Arians story where instead of straight out firing BA, they encouraged him to “retire.” And like the Arians situation, word is the reason Montgomery fell out of favor with Steelers brass as they saw him as too buddy-buddy with the Young Money crew. I’m not enamored with Art Rooney II‘s idea that coaches should be hard on their players but those idiots definitely need someone who will put boots to asses.
The new WR coach is Aliquippa native Richard Mann. Mann is a 30 year veteran of the NFL coaching ranks although he has been out of the league the past three years, working as a consultant who prepares college guys for the draft. Mann prior job was as the WR coach/assistant head coach for the Tampa Bay Bucs under Raheem Morris. Mann spent 8 seasons in Tampa, several of which saw him coaching on the same staff as Mike Tomlin. During his tenure, the Bucs won a Super Bowl and had at least one 1,000 yard receiver every year except the last. He’s known as a very detail oriented guy so let’s hope he can bring some discipline to that group of underachievers.
Now, I’ve saved the best for last. The Steelers special teams were an absolute joke last season yet ST coach Amos Jones was inexplicably brought to Arizona by his old buddy Bruce Arians as the ST coordinator down there. I don’t think a single member of Steeler Nation lost sleep over that development. After reaching out to a number of candidates, the Black and Gold finally hired Washington Redskins ST coach Danny Smith. Smith, who started his coaching career at Central Catholic, has bounced around the league since then, coaching ST for the Eagles, Bills and Skins while also enjoying short stints as TE coach for the Lions and DB coach for Philly.
Interestingly, Smith was the team’s first choice back in 2010 but Washington wouldn’t let him go so we ultimately settled on Al Everest. Also, as this comprehensive look at Smith’s eight year stint in Washington mentions, he was the man in charge when Shaun Suisham endured one of his notable meltdowns. Suisham has revitalized his career here in Pittsburgh so it’ll be interesting to see if his resurgence continues under the man who oversaw one of his biggest failures. To be honest, I’d almost be willing to trade a slight drop-off in accuracy if it means a kickoff unit that doesn’t get flagged for holding on every return.
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And so is Dan Rooney. Less than a month after stepping down as Ambassador to Ireland, the patriarch of the Pittsburgh Steelers has resumed his role as team chairman. Perhaps not coincidentally, the first major incident to occur since his return was met with swift and decisive action. Perhaps the culture of arrogance and assholery which has festered under the reign of his son, Art Rooney II, is finally going to be addressed.
Running back Chris Rainey was arrested yesterday morning after pimp slapping his girlfriend in front of witnesses. Later that very same afternoon, the Steelers announced they cut the promising rookie. I realize no NFL team is going to be made up of 53 choir boys. However, it’s nice to see the Steelers brass paying a little more attention to weeding out the bad apples instead of worrying about firing offensive coordinators.
Rainey f-ing up isn’t exactly shocking. While in college, he was suspended for several games after threatening to kill an ex-girlfriend via text message. Earlier this season, he got into a scuffle at a casino. The only reason the Steelers drafted this headcase was because he lived with the Pouncey family during high school and Maurkice vouched for him. Considering Pouncey is one of the more arrogant and self-absorbed members of the team, it’s not surprising he’s a lousy judge of character.
Some people are crying hypocrisy over the team releasing Rainey after his first offense. Well, I’m sure there was a secret deal between the Steelers and Rainey much like the one they made with Mike Adams on draft day. Adams, you may recall, got popped for drug use at the combine which led to most teams, including the Steelers, taking him off their draft boards. Adams sent a heartfelt letter to the Rooneys apologizing for the mistake and vowing to walk the straight and narrow. After taking him in the second round, Steelers GM Kevin Colbert made it clear that Adams was in a strict one strike and you’re out situation.
Now, it is hard to justify cutting Rainey when the team still has NT Alameda Ta’amu on the roster. Ta’amu went on a drunken rampage through the South Side which resulted in 18 separate charges, several of which are listed as felonies. If you or I did what Ta’amu did, we’d still be sitting in jail or the hospital after the cops went all Rodney King on our ass. Oh the Steelers released the moron after the incident but quietly re-signed him the practice squad a week later then just as quietly re-signed him to the main roster when the season ended.
At the same time, it’s hard to argue Rainey was released because he was less important than Ta’amu. While Ta’amu plays NT, a much harder position to fill than RB, there has been zero evidence that he has any future here. He didn’t play at all last season so penciling him in to replace Casey Hampton is premature at best. Meanwhile, Rainey saw quite a bit of action, returning 39 kickoffs for 1,035 yards while rushing for 102 yards and catching another 60 worth of passes.
What’s more, Rainey was the only running back currently under contract for next season. Issac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and Rashard Mendenhall are all free agents. While it was pretty clear that Rainey was way too tiny to be a featured back, he did show promise as a returner and third down threat out of the backfield. Considering the Steelers have had four backs see significant playing time the past couple seasons, it looks like the backfield is in for a pretty big overhaul with at least two new faces added to the mix.
We knew this off-season was going to be one of upheaval. Of course, I didn’t expect it to begin with the elimination of every running back on our roster. Although in this case I have to commend the Steelers for doing the right thing. Let’s hope this zero tolerance policy becomes the norm rather than the exception.
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The ongoing soap opera that is the 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers took yet another turn yesterday. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told reporters that he apologized to Mike Tomlin, the Rooneys, and offensive coordinator Todd Haley for seemingly throwing Haley under the bus following the team’s disappointing loss to Dallas. “I came in (Monday), and I apologized to Todd, I apologized to Mike (Tomlin), and I apologized to Mr. (Dan) Rooney because I let my frustrations jump out after a game,” Ben told a group of reporters.
Why was Ben apologizing? I mean, sure, he came across as a whiner for bitching about play calling when his poor execution of said plays was the primary problem but it’s still strange he felt the need for mea culpas. Rashard Mendenhall didn’t apologize to anybody even though he was suspended for “conduct detrimental to the team.” I suppose creating this semi-controversy on the heels of the most pivotal game of the season wasn’t the best example of leadership from our starting quarterback. At the same time, are Tomlin and Haley so thin-skinned that they can’t stem even the slightest bit of criticism?
What is even odder is he apologized to the Rooneys, specifically Dan Rooney. I’ve heard plenty of players apologize to the Rooney family although it’s almost always following an arrest or some sort legal entanglement. This is the first time I can recall a player apologizing to them for some sort of on-field controversy. It’s also some what interesting that he specifically mentioned Dan, who is reportedly stepping down from his Ambassodorship and coming back to take a more active role with the team. Where this leaves the team president, his meddlesome son Art II, remains to be seen.
As for his relationship with Haley, Ben went on to say of course they don’t always see eye-to-eye. “I‘m sure it‘s that way with every position player and their coach. That doesn‘t mean anything.” Which is exactly what I said yesterday.
It still doesn’t change the fact this bizarre season keeps getting weirder. And it all started when the Steelers experienced a shocking loss to the Denver Broncos followed by the
retirement dismissal of Bruce Arians which led to the hiring of Todd Haley. Hopefully when we close out the year, it won’t be on the heels of another heartbreaking loss and more coordinator controversy.
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Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse for the Pittsburgh Steelers…
The Steelers had a nice ten day break after losing to the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night. Most players used that time to rest injuries and gear up for next Sunday night’s pivotal game against the Bengals. Rookie NT Alameda Ta’amu decided to use his down time to play Grand Theft Auto. Except in real life.
This story is incredible even by dipshit athlete standards. Ta’amu faces 15 felony and misdemeanor charges after going on what can charitably be described as a drunken rampage late Saturday night. I like to think of myself as a creative guy but I couldn’t begin to come up with some of this stuff. You can read the Yahoo story by clicking here or go to a detailed account from the Post-Gazette here.
A thumbnail sketch of Ta’amu’s night sounds like the plot of Hangover 3. Ta’amu was driving drunk when police officers ordered him to pull over. Instead of complying, he fled by swerving into the oncoming lane, almost running over three police officers in the process. He then crashed into a parked car with a woman inside. What was she doing in a parked car at three in the morning? I don’t know but sounds like my kind of girl.
Wait, it gets better.
Ta’amu, whose SUV must be built like a tank, carried on, hitting several more cars before coming to a stop. Did he surrender? Hell no, he continued fleeing on foot, first stopping to remove his shirt because when you’re running from the cops, you certainly don’t want fabric providing any wind resistance. Anyway, if you saw Ta’amu’s Combine workout, it probably comes as no surprise that the cops quickly caught up with him. Being 6’3 and a taco under 350 pounds, it took several officers and two pairs of handcuffs to eventually subdue him.
“We are disappointed to hear about the situation regarding Alameda Ta’amu. We will gather more facts before providing any further comment.” said see-no-evil/hear-no-evil Steelers GM Kevin Colbert in a press release.
Ta’amu was a fourth round pick in this year’s draft. Most Steeler fans, myself included, were excited by the choice, viewing Ta’amu as Casey Hampton‘s eventual heir apparent at nose tackle. Ta’amu hasn’t played this season and after the Ginger Dictator gets a whiff of what happened, I don’t like his chances of playing at all this year. That is if the Steelers even keep this idiot around.
Before Ta’amu decided to be the latest Steeler to sully the reputation of a once proud franchise, the biggest news over the weekend was the team’s decision to cut ties with second year tight end Weslye Saunders. Saunders was suspended the first month of the season after testing positive for PEDs. It was expected he’d rejoin the team after serving his time since the Steelers were reportedly very high on him. His playing time steadily increased last season to the point many were viewing him as the Aaron Hernandez to Heath Miller’s Rob Gronkowski.
Saunders was probably a 2nd or 3rd round pick coming out of South Carolina until he was suspended his senior year for “violating team rules.” He ended up going undrafted and the Steelers snapped him up. Saunders displayed a world of potential, what with being a 6’5 270 pound tight end with excellent hands in a league that’s suddenly decided big pass catching tight ends are all the rage. Honestly, I thought he could possibly be the second coming of Eric Green.
Turns out I was right in all the wrong ways. Just like Green’s career was derailed by his being a self-destructive goof, it looks like Saunders suffers from the same mental deficiency. Mike Tomlin might say the team is high on 2012 draft pick David Paulson but neither he nor Todd Haley gofer Leonard Pope have anywhere near Saunders’ potential. The only reason the Steelers would’ve cut Saunders is that they looked at his history at SC and getting popped one year into his career and figured he was too much of a character risk going forward.
Failing a PED test and nearly committing multiple acts of vehicular homicide are two totally different things, however. Not to mention Saunders showed something in his first year here, Ta’amu has shown exactly bupkiss. Okay, 350 pound humans who play NT don’t grow on trees so I’m sure the Steelers will think long and hard about cutting Ta’amu but if Saunders was considered a bad apple, Ta’amu is a candy apple with a razor blade inside. Colbert can gather all the fact he wants, I don’t see how you justify turning the South Side into GTA: Steel City.
I’ve said this before and I’ll repeat it for newer readers. I love the Steelers. I’m proud to be a Steeler fan. I wouldn’t be doing a blog if I didn’t bleed Black and Gold. While I love my team, I don’t particularly like a lot their players. Don’t get me wrong, there are many good guys on the team, many who do charity work and are good members of the community but there are quite a few who are entitled assholes or cocky idiots.
And every day, it seems more and more like the good guys are being outnumbered by the bad ones. Instead of Art Rooney II worrying about bringing back Stiller Football by running 45 times per game, perhaps he should worry about something else. Namely, bringing back the Steeler Way when it comes to off the field behavior. Because I’m getting sick of seeing the Steelers turn into the Bengals.
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Once upon a time, the prospect of playing the boys from the Mile High City was met with the same level of disdain Steeler Nation now reserves for the Ratbirds or Patriots. After last night’s game, I think it’s safe to say while the Denver Broncos may not be full-fledged members of the Circle of Hate, they’re definitely vying for a spot. For the second straight game dating back to last season’s Wild Card debacle, the Broncos defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in groan-worthy fashion, 31-19.
Where to start with this disaster.
How about new offensive coordinator Todd Haley? Some people view Twitter as a sign of the apocalypse (Follow me @totalsteelers) but I enjoy it because instead of waiting hours or even minutes to gauge reaction, you have it in seconds. It took roughly one quarter before the armchair offensive coordinators started calling for Haley’s head. His crime?
He was running the ball too much!
Yes, the same group who called into Pittsburgh sports talk shows whining about Bruce Arians and his Flying Circus offense for the past three years were moaning because Haley gave them what they asked for. More importantly, he gave Art Rooney II exactly what he wanted, a return to Stiller Football. And how did Stiller Football fare? Isaac Redman gained 20 yards on 11 carries while Jon Dwyer, one of the game’s lone offensive stars, chipped in 43 yards on only 9 carries with one big 17 yard gain wiped out due to a dubious holding call on Mike Wallace.
On the bright side, we totally dominated time of possession!
Seeing this offense try to relive the glory days of Franco and the Bus was PAINFUL to watch. Several times we had first and 15s and Haley elected to run on two successive downs. Only Ben Roethlisberger completing some big third down throws kept the chains moving. This team has one of the deepest and most talented group of wide receivers in the NFL. They shouldn’t be running to set up the pass, they should be passing to set up the run.
FORGET YINZERBALL AND PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS.
Ben is going to catch some flak for his performance last night, as he should. When your rep is being the best clutch player in football, you don’t throw a pick-six down six with 3 minutes left. Ben certainly had a Jekyll/Hyde game, making some great throws where he literally threaded a needle but he also made several incredibly dangerous throws which could’ve easily gotten intercepted. He also missed several big plays such as botching a sure TD to Heath Miller (who was open all day) and never seeing Wallace left wide open on a crucial fourth quarter drive. While I think it’d be totally unfair to pin this loss on him, Ben needs to play a helluva lot better if this team is going to win.
Especially if the defense is going to play like they played last night. Last year, Warren Sapp derided them as old, slow and done. This season, it appears they’re young, eager and over their heads. Despite obnoxious Cris Collinsworth occasionally getting up off his knees to proclaim “Peyton Manning is doing this to the league’s #1 ranked defense!” this is not the league’s top ranked defense. That was last year’s team with James Harrison and Ryan Clark and a healthier Casey Hampton and William Gay opposite Ike Taylor. Last night’s defense had none of those things and the results showed.
Manning was only sacked twice and one of those, by Jason Worilds, was a clean shot thanks to Manning mixing up the protection call. Other than a first quarter sack by Larry Foote, who was one of the few bright spots on defense, they generated almost zero pressure. Surely the altitude played a part but it doesn’t excuse anything. The bottom line is the Steelers offense held the ball for a whopping 10 minutes (35 to 25) longer yet the “exhausted” Broncos D held them to 19 points while the “rested” Steelers D allowed Pey-Pey to march right down the field on them.
Foote forced an early fumble although it was more luck than skill as he got thrown into the back and happened to knock the ball loose. That was it as far as highlights go. The D-line got pushed around on passing plays and couldn’t stop the run when it counted. The linebackers effort can be summed up by watching Peyton OUTRUN supposedly super-athlete Lawrence Timmons to the sticks for a 7 yard gain. Then we have the secondary. Youngsters Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen did their best B-Mac impressions, allowing generous 5 yard cushions on every pass play. And then we have Demaryius Thomas, who once again abused Ike Taylor to the tune of 5 catches for 110 yards.
Perhaps no play summed up last night’s debacle like the third quarter turning point when Thomas took a little slant and ran away from like half the defense on his way to a 71 yard TD. Of course the scab refs missed a hold on Ryan Mundy on the play but it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway.
What would have mattered was the facemask on Ben they missed on the Steelers’ previous drive which ended with a Shaun Suisham field goal. The game was an absolute fiasco from an officiating standpoint, with the scab refs saving their worst for prime time and most of their incompetence going against the Steelers. The lone time we got a call, on yet another boneheaded Mike Tomlin challenge which came in after a play had been run, it would’ve been better if they hadn’t. Meanwhile, Wallace’s hold wiping out a big Dwyer run and a crucial pass interference on Lewis late in the 4th were the definition of ticky-tacky especially after not calling worse against the Broncos. Evidently they did read the Illegal Formations portion of the rule book on the can before the game because that was one thing they called on both teams at least a good half dozen times.
Let’s not blame the scab refs on this fiasco. The Steelers played a terrible game last night. If Ben had Superman’d up and pulled out a last-second victory, it only would’ve been a Band-Aid on a gaping chest wound. The Steelers clearly have some fundamental issues they need to address on both sides of the ball. And they need to start by figuring out what kind of offense they want to run. Because what we saw last night isn’t going to get it done, not against Peyton Manning, not against Tim Tebow, not against anybody.
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Friday was a crazy day for Pittsburgh sports fans. While the Pittsburgh Pirates continued their improbable run at first place in the NL Central by defeating the Detroit Tigers, the Penguins were hosting the 2012 NHL Draft over at Consol Energy Center. Naturally, the Pens dropped the biggest bomb of the evening by trading budding superstar Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes for a solid if unspectacular young center and a couple of prospects. The loss of beloved player like Staal was met with much sadness as I haven’t seen teenage girls this upset since pictures of Justin Bieber kissing Selena Gomez hit the internet.
The men in the audience greeted the news with a sense of resignation as the Penguins really had no choice in the matter. Staal is entering the final year of his contract and just 24 hours earlier had rejected a ten year offer from the team that would have paid him a couple million per year less than he could get on the open market in exchange for a long-term commitment. It was the best the Penguins could do in a league where teams with an abundance of star power are hamstrung by the NHL’s salary cap. Having rejected Pittsburgh’s best offer, the Pens were faced with the prospect of Staal departing via free agency with nothing in return so they chose the lesser of two evils.
Any of this sound familiar?
The situation the Pens found themselves in with Staal is very similar to the one the Pittsburgh Steelers are currently facing with disgruntled wide receiver Mike Wallace. Both teams play for leagues where a salary cap forces them to prioritize how they spend their money. And both teams are blessed with an abundance of talent which may sound like the sports version of #WhitePeopleProblems (follow me on Twitter!) but is indeed an issue because you can’t pay everybody. The net result is both teams are faced with making very difficult decisions when it comes to handing out contracts.
Admittedly this isn’t a perfect analogy. There are some key differences between the NHL and NFL, not the least of which is the players. Staal would’ve showed up on Day 1 on training camp and played every shift as hard as he played when he was a wet behind the ears rookie until the Pens’ season ended. He wouldn’t of held out or spent the year bitching and moaning about his contract like NFL players are known to do. Hockey players honor their contracts which can’t be said of guys like Mike Wallace, who continues to hold out, most recently missing last week’s mandatory mini-camp. Even Steelers President Art Rooney II is growing a bit frustrated with Wallace’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge the reality of his situation.
On the flip side, if the NHL operated under NFL rules, perhaps Staal would still be a Penguin. There is one key difference between leagues and it’s a pretty big one. Wallace, like Staal, will be an unrestricted free agent next year. Unlike Staal, however, Wallace can be Franchised tagged by the Steelers, basically tying him to his current team for an additional season. Now the Steelers tagging their young speedster would create a massive cap hit (about $9 million) which is the hold-up in signing a new contract in the first place – well, that and Wallace’s ridiculous notion that he’s worth LarryFitz money – but it does provide a bit of a safety net that the Penguins simply didn’t have.
Differences aside, I still can’t help but look at the Penguins proactive response to dealing with one of their stars’ impending free agency and wonder if the Steelers haven’t bungled a similar situation. They theoretically could still deal Wallace if he continues to be a monumental pain the ass but the time to get anything close to fair value in return has passed. At this point, it seems the Steelers are stuck with either reaching a deal or riding out a tumultuous season with a disgruntled Wallace providing a constant distraction. Conventional wisdom is you never truly win when you trade away a star player but I think the Penguins did their best to mitigate the damage. Have the Steelers?