The Pittsburgh Steelers continue to try and remake their fatally flawed roster through cast-offs and dumpster diving. Good luck with that. At this point, it’s growing increasingly obvious the powers-that-be didn’t have a Plan B on top of an already shaky Plan A. What a mess.
Anyway, there was a shuffling of the linebacker position with veteran Kion Wilson being released. The Steelers re-signed Stevenson Sylvester to fill his vacated spot at inside linebacker. Sylvester was a fifth rounder back in 2010 who they hoped would blossom into an eventual starter or quality back-up at ILB but did exactly bupkiss in this three years here. He was one of the final cuts when the team had to get down to the final 53 man roster. He also has a first name for a last name and a last name for a first name which makes me dislike him immediately.
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With rosters set and the regular season looming, the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to sign eight recently cut players to their practice squad. I make a lot of jokes about “practice squad fodder” but in today’s injury-filled NFL, the practice squad has become increasingly important. With no disabled lists or reserve rosters, the practice squad is now football’s version of AAA as the place teams can turn to when they need to call up a replacement. At least two practice squaders have been added to the main roster and seen playing time in each of the past two seasons.
Introducing the 2013 Steelers practice squad *drum roll*…
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The Pittsburgh Pirates are the talk of the baseball world. Their rise from hapless laughingstocks to legitimate playoff contenders is something Pittsburgh sports fans have been waiting for for twenty years. Some attribute their success to a mixture of blossoming draft picks and shrewd trades. However, smart fans know the Bucs owe their success to one man in particular:
With the Pittsburgh Steelers suddenly the second most talked about sports team in the ‘Burgh, drastic steps needed to be taken. On the eve of what most experts expect to be another average season, the Black and Gold needed some of the Bucs’ mojo. So they did the only thing they could do. They signed Zoltan.
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I didn’t see this one coming…
And, no, I’m not talking about the Patriots cutting Tim Tebow. Can anybody believe we lost a playoff game to that guy?
The Pittsburgh Steelers were one of the first teams to cut down to 75 men. When it came time to set their final 53 man roster, though, they were one of the last. As I waited and waited on Saturday, I immediately grew suspicious. The longer it takes, the more likely it is the team is debating cutting somebody nobody thought would be cut.
Jonathan Dwyer, come on down. Don’t forget to bring your playbook with you.
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According to NFL rules, teams have until this afternoon to whittle their roster down to 75 men. The Pittsburgh Steelers decided to do things on their own timetable. Yesterday afternoon, a bunch of future insurance agents and used car salesmen got the dreaded news that they had been cut.
About a dozen players got a visit from the Turk. A few more were stashed away on injured reserve. Sean Spence, who hasn’t had a single healthy moment since being drafted last year yet continues to be on the team’s radar, was placed on the PUP list with the option of being activated after week 6. I’m not sure exactly how the new PUP rule works, I know one and only one player per season may be return after being placed on it, but I’m not sure if you have to designate which guy that is beforehand. If you do and they wasted it on Spence, then both Heath Miller and Le’Veon Bell will take up space on the active 53 man roster despite the fact neither one is expected to be ready for awhile.
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I jinxed them.
On Monday, I remarked how fortunate the Pittsburgh Steelers have been on the injury front as we approach their first full week of training camp. For my insolence, the Football Gods have decided to smite down several members of the Black and Gold’s new look secondary. The injury situation has gotten serious enough for the team to make a roster move, signing CB Ryan Steed for insurance. Steed was an undrafted rookie who went to training camp with the Jets last season before spending the remainder of the year on the Saints’ practice squad. He has never appeared in an NFL game.
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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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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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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 New England Patriots aren’t satisfied with stealing AFC Championship games from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now they’re out to steal our players. After cutting ties with Wes Welker earlier this off-season, the Fighting Belicheats have been looking everywhere for weapons to add to Tom Brady‘s arsenal. Evidently they found one in wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
New England signed Manny to one year $2.5 million offer sheet yesterday afternoon. Since Sanders is a restricted free agent, the Steelers now have five days to match their offer or else Sanders becomes Patriots’ property in exchange for their third round pick in the upcoming draft. Since the Steelers have already tendered him $1.3 million, they actually only need to offer another $1.2 million to keep him. Early word from ESPN No-Nothing Ed Werder is the Steelers are expected to match.
At this point, it seems like the Steelers are in a lose-lose situation either way.
If they don’t match, Antonio Brown will be the last member of Young Money left standing. While breaking up that group of underachieving punks isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does leave the team’s wide receiving corps dangerously thin. Subtract Manny and our current depth chart looks like this: AB and Jerricho Cotchery starting with Plaxico Burress playing the slot. Sure Sanders had his problems last season but that’s the kind of line-up nightmares are made of. If we lose Sanders, the Steelers will have to use one of their first two picks in the upcoming draft on a wide out.
If they do match, well, they still need to take a wide receiver. But before they can sign any of this year’s draft picks, they’ll have some work to do to get under the salary cap. According to ProFootballTalk, the Steelers are currently a measly $2.5 million under the cap. Giving Sanders another million plus means they’ll need to clear another chunk of space in order to sign their picks.
$2.5 million under the cap. Seriously, I can’t get over that number. Where the bloody blue hell is all their money going? Don’t say Ben because the Patriots have Tom Brady and they’re still a whopping $10 million under the cap. We haven’t signed a single name free agent. We let Rashard Mendenhall and Mike Wallace walk away. We cut James Harrison and re-worked a bunch of other high priced contracts. I could see if this was a team coming off a Super Bowl victory but the Steelers got Tebow’d out of the playoffs two years ago and went 8-8 last year. Why are they paying a bunch of mediocre shitbums all of this money?
What the f*%k is this team doing?