Now that the bye week is over, its time for the Pittsburgh Steelers to turn their attention to this Sunday’s game against the shockingly competitive New York Jets. With no Mike Tomlin press conference last week and a CBA mandated four day break from practice during the bye, there was precious little info out of Steeler camp about those potential line-up changes Tomlin promised. And we all know Tomlin wouldn’t promise something without intending to follow through.
The most change looks to be coming to the team’s beleaguered offense line. It’s amazing to think after blowing two second round picks on Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams that the team is already resigned to tossing them in the garbage heap but that appears to be where things are headed. The bye may mean newly acquired LT Levi Brown isn’t completely up to speed in time for Sunday although we saw Fernando Velasco walk in off the street and start at center in a week’s time. Word is the Steelers are eager to throw Kelvin Beachum into the starting mix – he’s been sharing first team snaps at LT with Brown – which means he’ll start at LT if Brown isn’t ready or at RT if he is.
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Since head coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t think it’s “time to press the panic button,” I don’t expect to see significant changes to the line-up when the Pittsburgh Steelers meet the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night. To paraphrase Trib columnist Dejan Kovacevic, he seems content to keep banging his head against the wall. Too bad when Tomlin was busy looking up big fancy words to use incorrectly during his press conference, he didn’t bother taking a look at the definition of insanity.
in·san·i·ty [inˈsanitē/] – doing the same thing over and over but hoping for a different result
Maybe the Steeler don’t need to push the panic button. But they for damn sure need to make some changes. Every week, fantasy football gurus do some version of a Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em column where they list various players and describe why or why not you should start them on your team. In that spirit, I’ll list a handful of Steelers and explain why they should or shouldn’t see more playing time going forward.
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“There’s a certain amount of misery with the position that we’re in. We’ll wear it. We don’t like it. We’ll wear it.” - Mike Tomlin
If the Pittsburgh Steelers 20-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals was an article of clothing, it’d be a pair of bowling shoes. Stinky ugly bowling shoes. Coach T was gracious about crediting Cincy for playing well during his post-game cliche-fest. All I’ll say is that if the Bengals are the class of the AFC North, then our division has quickly become the Big East of the NFL.
In my game preview, I mentioned this being the year quarterback Andy Dalton needed to take his game to the next level. The Ginger Rifle responded by playing a hideous game. Overthrows, underthrows, missing wide open receivers, Dalton did his best to keep the Steelers in the game. Unfortunately, the Black and Gold were in an even more charitable mood.
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Pop Quiz: What’s worse than an NFL preseason game?
Answer: An NFL preseason game that goes into overtime.
The Pittsburgh Steelers remained O for the preseason on Saturday, falling to the Kansas City Chiefs 26-20 in overtime. Seriously, overtime? They couldn’t just agree to shake hands and call it a tie? Screw the degenerate gamblers who bet on exhibition games.
While nobody wants to go winless at anything, one ray of sunshine coming out of Saturday’s performance was that it was much improved over the first two debacles. Considering the third preseason game is a dress rehearsal for the regular season with starters playing a full half (or more), that’s obviously a really good thing. The other positive development was that the Steelers emerged from the game more or less unscathed.
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Keep repeating: “It’s only the preseason. It’s only the preseason.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers played their second preseason game last night, losing to the Washington
Redskins 24-13. The final score isn’t as important as how the team performed. In their first preseason game, the Black and Gold looked sloppy and undisciplined. If nothing else, I was hoping to see the team’s level of play improve across the board.
Talk about one step forward, two steps back. Where to begin with last night’s debacle?
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Here come the injuries…
After a blissfully quiet start to training camp, the Pittsburgh Steelers have joined the NFL wide injury parade. In the aftermath of the team’s first preseason game on Saturday, ultra-secretive head coach Mike Tomlin revealed that tight end Matt Spaeth underwent surgery for his foot injury. Yesterday, wide receiver Plaxico Burress also went under the knife, undergoing surgery for the torn rotator cuff he suffered during practice.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers fell to the New York Giants 18-13 in Saturday night’s preseason debut. I note the score because I love being on Twitter during these meaningless games and watching Steeler Nation freak out over such minute details. I guess such passion even for games featuring a bunch of guys who’ll be selling car insurance two weeks from now goes hand in hand with having the best fan base in all of football. Remember, people, the Detroit Lions went undefeated in the preseason before taking an O-fer the entire regular season.
With that in mind, there were some interesting storylines coming out of the game:
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On the eve of their first preseason game, the Pittsburgh Steelers may have suffered their first significant loss of the year. Wide receiver Plaxico Burress was carted off the field yesterday after hitting the ground hard while trying to make a catch. He was later seen with his right arm in a sling. This morning, unnamed league sources are saying it’s feared he has a torn rotator cuff. While we’ve yet to get an official diagnosis, if the rumors are indeed true then it would appear Plax’s season is over before it had a chance to begin.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers rescued wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders from the nefarious clutches of the New England Patriots by matching their offer sheet late Sunday night. By tendering Sanders an additional $1.2 million on top of the $1.3 they already offered, the Black and Gold avoid losing what is expected to be their #2 receiver to a hated conference rival. They also roll the dice in the sense that had they let Sanders go, they would’ve received the Patriots’ third round pick in this year’s draft. Manny will be an unrestricted free agent after this season and with his agent already making noise about wanting a decent chunk of change in order to sign a long term deal, it’s entirely possible the Steelers will lose him next winter and get next to nothing in return.
The Sanders Saga has been one of the more mystifying developments of this off-season. There has been an inordinate amount of discussion devoted to a player 90% of football fans have probably never heard of, most of it driven by muckraker Mike Florio over at ProFootballTalk. Florio is a noted Steeler hater so it’s not surprising he gleefully chronicles their every move looking for barbs to throw but over the past week he’s followed the Sanders Saga like it’s Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. While I get that the Patriots and Steelers are two of the most popular fanbases and popularity = clicks, no less than seven posts on a guy who’s caught a grand total of five touchdowns seems ludicrous.
By the way, I have a correction to make on my original Sanders post from a few days ago. The $2.5 million in cap room PFT listed the Steelers having left was as of the current date. It doesn’t take into account the $5 million in space they’ll get when Willie Colon‘s salary comes off the books on June 1st. So while giving another million to Sanders hurts their ability to add an Ahmad Bradshaw or linebacker depth, they should be in good shape to sign all their draft picks.
Of course the burning question is did the Steelers do right by retaining Sanders? I was torn a few days ago but the more I think about it, it was the right move to make. I’m amazed a whopping 57% of fair-weather yinzers voted in a P-G poll to let him go. I’m even more amazed by the people calling into talk radio bemoaning Kevin Colbert turning down a third round pick in exchange for him. Since when did third round picks turn into precious gold?
Do the names Willie Reid or Dallas Baker ring any bells? How about Limas Sweed? Sweed should be familiar if only because Sanders had a couple Sweed-like moments last season when he dropped a pass then feigned injury to cover for his blunder. However my point is, a third round pick (91st overall) is not exactly a can’t miss prospect. For comparison purposes, last year’s 91st pick was an OT who didn’t see the field last year. Two years ago, it was a linebacker who has started 13 games in two season and has yet to record a sack. With the 91st pick last year, the Steelers could’ve gotten a fine young receiver like the Colts’ TY Hilton (taken one pick later) or they could’ve gotten a guy like Carolina’s Joe Adams (taken nine picks later) who made one whole catch all season.
Point is, the NFL draft isn’t an exact science. The Steelers could’ve found a receiver every bit the equal of Sanders. They also could’ve wasted the pick on yet another shitbum. Furthermore, this team has a number of holes that need filled at OLB, ILB, CB, RB and WR. Subtract Sanders and you almost have to draft at least two wide receivers, burning a pick that might be better spent addressing another position. They might still take two young wide outs but at least now there is some flexibility.
Whether Sanders gets his act together and fulfills some of the potential we saw his rookie year when people forget he looked like the emerging star until Antonio Brown broke through during the post-season remains to be seen. At this point, it’s a gamble the Steelers had to take.
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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?