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?
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Today in “Least Surprising News Ever…”
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Byron Leftwich busted his ribs in Sunday night’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Gee, you don’t say? I wonder what gave it away. Was it the obnoxious NBC commentators zooming in on his pained expression after every play? Or was it the way he kept missing wide open receivers on throws even Tino Sunseri could make?
The only person at Heinz Field who didn’t realize Lefty was hurt was Mike Tomlin.
Leftwich will almost certainly join Ben Roethlisberger on the sideline as the team once again turns to Charlie Batch in this weekend’s match-up against the feisty Cleveland Browns. If Tomlin had turned to Batch at halftime on Sunday, we probably would be talking about the Black and Gold’s rousing victory. I’m on record as saying Chaz should have been starting all along. He’s a steady competent signal caller which is really all you want in a back-up.
Plus he won’t get hurt the first time he’s asked to scramble away from pressure.
The Leftwich debacle is the latest incident on the growing ledger against the idea of Tomlin as some brilliant coach. Who thought he was a legitimate back-up quarterback? Since being cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars, Leftwich has been plagued by a constant parade of injuries to the point he probably shouldn’t even be in the league. It’s pretty embarrassing when a supposed Super Bowl contender puts their faith in a guy who severely injures himself tripping over his own feet.
What’s even more embarrassing is Tomlin’s refusal to pull him when he was obviously hurt and ineffective. Tomlin continues to be one of the worst in-game managers in the league. What’s more, his parade of lies and deceptions are starting to finally catch up to him. I’ve been pointing out what a habitual liar he was going back to when I wrote for NPC but when a clueless rah-rah cheerleader like Bob Smizik realizes your press conferences are full of B.S. you’ve really been exposed.
Anyway, with Lefty down and out and Ben still on the mend, the Steeler need to bring in a back-up back-up quarterback. Jason La Canfora at NFL.com is reporting the team invited former OSU and Patriots back-up Brian Hoyer and former Eagle Mike Kafka to work out tomorrow and will sign one of them. What, Tomlin couldn’t find another injury prone African American QB to bring in? David Garrard is right there!
In other depressing news, Jerricho Cotchery also appears to have suffered a serious rib injury from that hit that laid him out toward the end of Sunday’s game. That by itself is bad news as the Cotch Rocket is a pretty damn good receiver who would be one of the top three for most teams. But what makes the news utterly miserable are reports the Steelers are looking to bring in another receiver to take his place.
Ordinarily, losing Cotchery wouldn’t necessitate adding another wide out because the team could just play David Gilreath. However, with Gilreath already active, bringing in another wide out means that Antonio Brown isn’t coming back anytime soon. Yes, that simple seemingly innocuous looking ankle roll two weeks ago probably is going to sideline AB this weekend and perhaps even longer. He might have a broken foot for all we know although getting truthful injury updates from Tomlin is harder than getting secrets out of the CIA.
Maybe the P-G needs to hire a really attractive brunette beat reporter to write a biography…
Our old friend Plaxico Burress is coming to town for a physical and work out tomorrow. If he hasn’t gotten fat and lazy when nobody wanted him over the off-season, all indicators are the Steelers will sign him. I like Plax, I advocated bringing him back a couple season ago when he was first sprung from the clink. At this point, I’m not sure what he can bring to the table. With the Jets, he wasn’t much of a open field threat, having lost much of his speed and quickness. He still has the size so he’ll be a good red zone threat and Todd Haley‘s West Coast style offense is probably the ideal situation for him so it wouldn’t be the worst signing. It’s still not going not be enough if AB misses significant time, though.
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The phrase of the day is “trap game.” If I had a dollar for every time I heard that spoken on sports talk radio the past few days, I could probably afford season tickets to Heinz Field.
I’m not really sure Monday night’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs qualifies as a trap game. Granted, it does come on the eve of the Black and Gold’s first meeting with the hated Baltimore Ravens. And it does come on the heels of the team surging to a three game winning streak, topped by an impressive victory over the defending Super Bowl champions. Actually, maybe this is a trap game…
After losses to two of the most abysmal teams in the NFL, I’m sure the Steelers know better. There’s no way to justify losing to crap teams like the Titans and Raiders but there were mitigating circumstances. For whatever reason, the trip out to Oakland always messes up the Steelers while the Tennessee game came on a short week (Thursday) which has also proven to trip up the Black and Gold (see the Browns game a few years back).
Also, trap games usually occur when you’re playing a scrappy opponent. The Chiefs are circling the drain right now. They’re shuffling quarterbacks in and out. Romeo Crennel, who replaced Todd Haley as head coach last season, just recused himself as defensive coordinator. The team is in utter disarray. If anybody is motivated this week, it’s Boss Todd, who surely wants to make KC pay for making his life a living hell.
STEELERS DEFENSE vs CHIEFS OFFENSE
For whatever inexplicable reason, the Chiefs think they have something in Brady Quinn. Perhaps it has something do with Crennel being the same coach who made the mistake of drafting him in the first round when he was the head coach of the Browns. Whatever the logic, KC has all but given up on the Matt Cassel experiment. With the frail and effeminate Quinn nursing a concussion, Monday night may very well be Cassel’s final shot as a starter.
When Patriots GM Scott Pioli moved over to KC in 2009, he brought Cassel with him to be his QB. Cassel was coming off the season where he led the Patriots to 11 wins after Tom Brady was lost for the year. He got off to a rocky start, throwing 16 TDs and 16 INTs but rebounded in 2010 to toss 27 TDs against only 7 INTs. It’s been all downhill since then. Injuries marred his 2011 campaign and Haley’s insistence on starting former Pitt Panther Tyler Palko in place of Kyle Orton after Cassel was placed on season ending IR eventually led to his ouster.
Cassel has struggled this season, leading one of the league’s most anemic offenses (29th in points scored) and throwing a ton (11) of picks in the process. Chiefs fans had gotten so fed up that they cheered when Cassel was knocked out of a game a few weeks back, drawing scorn from one of their own players. I would’ve said something about it at the time but Pittsburgh is the city that cheered when Terry Bradshaw got knocked out so we don’t really have room to talk.
The bottom line is Cassel has struggled mightily this season. On paper, the Chiefs have the weapons to be a decent offense. WR Dwayne Bowe is a big time playmaker. Former Pitt standout Jon Baldwin is lazy but talented. And the Chiefs have one of the most dangerous weapons in the league in RB Jamaal Charles. Charles is among the league’s rushing leaders and is also a force out of the backfield.
If the Steelers can keep Charles under wraps, they should have a pretty evening. Early in the year, the D was getting gashed on the reg. They’ve tightened that up as of late so let’s hope the pattern continue. The secondary was also victimized by big plays but Ike Taylor has shaken off his early season malaise and returned to the shut down Ike of old. As long as they don’t Charles move the sticks on the ground or Bowe get loose for a big hitter in the secondary, I don’t see Cassel being able to make enough plays to hang in.
STEELERS OFFENSE vs CHIEFS DEFENSE
Ben Roethlisberger has already told reporters that Boss Todd is almost salivating at the opportunity to put the screws to his former team. Some NFL coaches play by a set of unwritten rules which dictate respect for the game and their opponent. Then there are the assholes like Todd Haley. I’m sure Mike Tomlin would rein Haley in if he looked to run up the score but then again Tomlin has no control over his players, why should he try to control his coaches?
The Chiefs have a couple decent linebackers in Tambla Hall and Justin Houston. They inexplicably cut a pretty good corner in Standford Routt so a secondary that was a nominal strength may not be any longer. They’re in the bottom third of the league against the run although they have forced a surprising number of turnovers (6 INTs and 12 fumbles).
If Big Ben and the offense can avoid shooting themselves in the foot, they should have a pretty good game. The revolving door at RB continues as Jonathan Dwyer returns with Rashard Mendenhall said to be another week away from reclaiming his starting job. Isaac Redman will start but unlike last week will probably have to share some carries with the Minibus.
Antonio Brown is probably going to sit out after suffering a dreaded high ankle sprain last Sunday. High ankles only heal with rest so I suspect we may not see him for a couple weeks. Luckily the Steelers are extremely deep at WR with Jerricho Cotchery, who could probably start for most teams, ready to slide in the slot. Manny Sanders, who’s quietly putting together a nice season, will start. For those who remember back, Sanders actually played a ton as a rookie while AB didn’t come on until the playoffs. Sanders has been set back by injuries but now is his time to shine in front of a national audience.
In fact, it’s time for the entire team to introduce themselves to the nation. After getting off to a slow start this season, the Steelers have quietly crept back into the playoff conversation. If the season were to end tomorrow, they would be one of the AFC’s two Wild Cards. For the Black and Gold to firmly establish themselves as Super Bowl contenders, they need to string together wins. A victory on Monday night and a four game win streak going into a showdown with Baltimore would be a nice place to start.
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Maybe they should skip hotels from now on.
Flying in the morning of the game proved a minor distraction for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who rose above travel issues, crooked referees, and mounting injuries to defeat the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants 24-20. One of the great things about NFL football is every season is like a summer blockbuster. Sixteen games don’t seem like a lot but it’s still long enough to pack a year’s worth of ups and downs into four months.
Not too long ago, we were wondering if this was going to be another lost year for the Black and Gold. The team was 2-3 with division rival Cincy, the Redskins and their Ultimate Weapon (TM) at QB and the defending champs looming on deck. Here we are on the other side of that slate riding a three game winning streak to up our record to 5-3 with the worst team in football up next on Monday Night.
And that’s not even the most amazing part. What’s even more remarkable is how the Steelers are getting it done.
Jonathan Dwyer had back-to-back 100 yard games but was sidelined by an sore calf. Nominal starter Rashard Mendenhall joined him on the pine for the third straight week. This left Isaac Redman next man up. All he did was rumble for 147 yards against a tough Giants defense.
Then there was the much-maligned return game. For the first time all season, long returns weren’t wiped out by yellow hankies (probably because Mike Tomlin has finally started benching the repeat offenders). Antonio Brown has been the Steelers punt returner for a couple years now, making the Pro Bowl last year thanks to his special teams play. Early in the game, AB left with a sprained ankle so Emmanuel Sanders took his place on punts. All he did was bust one 63 yards which didn’t lead to a score but flipped field position contributing greatly to the eventual game winning drive.
Antonio Brown is undoubtedly the Steelers top receiver. With him out, the offense barely missed a beat. Seeing his first significant playing time this year, Jerricho Cotchery made 4 catches, several on key third downs. Sanders only caught two balls but they were both huge receptions, one a beautiful catch in the back of the end zone for the Steelers’ first TD and the other a 16 yarder on third down to effectively ice the game with two minutes left.
The turning point of the game came early in the fourth quarter. Down 10, Mike Wallace took a short slant and outran the entire Big Blue D for a 51 TD. Other than the deep bomb against the Titans, it was Wallace’s first real game-changing play this year. The catch-and-run was, dare I say, Fitzgerald-esque.
After a three and out by the Giants, Sanders ripped off his 63 yarder to set the Steelers up at the NY 13. After going nowhere fast, they lined up for a short field goal. Rookie Drew Butler flipped the ball over his shoulder but Stonecold Shaun Suisham couldn’t elude an unblocked defender for the 1st down. The suddenly resurgent Steelers defense forced a three and out and the resulting great field position set up a sweet drive with some big catches from Heath and the Cotch Rocket that eventually culminated in iRed’s game-winning 1 yard TD.
People are going to say this is the latest example of Tomlin’s reckless decision-making but I liked the fake FG try. It showed faith in the defense. Given how they’ve played the past few weeks, there is no reason not to have faith in that unit.
Going back to our early season worries, nothing concerned us more than the state of the Steelers D. They looked, to use a cliche, old, slow, and done. Since then, they’ve seemingly risen from the ashes. They still don’t generate enough Splash Plays, which is obviously a concern, although Ike Taylor did come down with an early INT to set up their first TD and they just missed two more picks and a late fumble recovery by James Harrison. Regardless of the sacks and turnovers, though, they just smother teams with a fast hard-hitting style that is getting better by the week.
The scoreboard gives the Giants 20 points but only 6 of those belong to the Steelers’ D. NY’s first score came after the refs basically did everything in their power to give them a TD. First, they called a horrible 40+ yard pass interference on Keenan Lewis when he barely touched the receiver. Then, after the Steelers made three great stops at the goal line, they called a ridiculous personal foul on Ryan Clark. The Ike Taylor Mystery Pass Interference was our frontrunner for Horrible Call of the Year but this game gave us TWO legit candidates for that title. The Clark hit was one, as he struck the receiver in the ribs with his shoulder pads a split second after the ball was thrown. Nothing illegal whatsoever.
Our other contender was an even more monumentally stupid call which put the Giants ahead before halftime. Ben Roethlisberger dropped back to pass and was hit as his arm was moving forward. The ball was clearly in his hand and the ball was clearly going forward, yet the corrupt zebras called it a fumble which was returned for a TD. At worst they should have called Tuck Rule since the ball was still in the cocked position when it came out. But instead they made a call so bad the Lingerie Football ref was probably sitting at home laughing.
Despite playing two opponents, the Giants and the refs, the Steelers D still managed to put together a tremendous defensive effort. They completely shut down the Giants in the second half, allowing only two measly field goals, one of which came after a Big Ben INT deep in his own end.
After the first month the season, we had a lot of questions. Questions about the offensive line. Questions about the defense. Questions about Todd Haley‘s offense. Here we are at the mid-point of the season and those questions don’t seem so pressing any more. The O-line is mauling people, protecting Ben while gashing people on the ground. The defense is shutting down good offenses for long stretches. And the Haley O is ruthlessly efficient with Ben hitting a bunch of different receivers and a new hero stepping up seemingly every drive. I don’t know where the season is going to end up but 5-3 and clicking in all three phases?
I’ll take it.
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About a month ago, news surfaced that Mike Wallace was not pleased with the Pittsburgh Steelers one year tender offer. Word was he was prepared to sit out “until he has to” come back, whatever that means. Thus far his posturing hasn’t been a big deal because there was no football for him to miss. However, the Steelers have two full-roster OTA sessions scheduled this month and it appears Wallace will not be attendance for either.
Which is logical considering the greedy bastard still hasn’t signed his tender.
I have no idea what Wallace is thinking. Does he think the Steelers have forgotten about him? General Manager Kevin Colbert has said repeatedly he wants to keep him here for a very long time. Does he think sitting out will force the Steelers hand? I guess he’s never heard the saying it’s hard to miss you when you’re not here.
Seriously, what exactly is his play here? He has ZERO leverage. The restricted free agency period has passed so he can’t negotiate with other teams. Not that any teams were interested in his insane Larry Fitz-level asking price. He HAS to play for the Steelers this season for the $3 million they tendered him. This isn’t even up for discussion.
Wallace needs to play at least eight games in order to qualify for unrestricted free agency next season. Even if he does fulfill the obligation, the Steelers can tag him and keep him under a one year contract in perpetuity. This is how the NFL works. This is the deal his union agreed to. I can’t stand when players whine and complain and hold out when they’re tendered and/or tagged. THE NFLPA AGREED TO THESE CONDITIONS. If you don’t like it, take it up with Dee Smith and the other boneheads who run your union. You’re not Curt Flood.
So instead of signing his tender, reporting to OTAs and playing out his contractual obligations to the Steelers, he’s sitting home pouting because they aren’t giving him the long-term deal wants. Oh boo hoo. First off, the Steelers are NEVER going to give you Larry Fitz money because you’re not Larry Fitz. Larry Fitz doesn’t have zero 100 yard receiving games the entire second half of the season then catch 3 balls for 23 pathetic yards in the playoff loss to Denver. The Steelers will give Wallace a fair contract if he comes back to reality but first they have other worries like signing their first round draft pick. The Steelers are still right up against the salary cap so they may not even be able to negotiate a long-term contract extension right now.
Holding out is pretty much the worst option available. By holding out, Wallace only shows he’s self-centered pain in the ass. Putting yourself ahead of the team is only going to piss off Steeler management, who hate dealing with diva receivers as it is. If Wallace takes this to Defcon-4 by refusing to report to training camp, well, I wouldn’t blame the Steelers if they followed the path the Chargers took with Vincent Jackson last season and put him on the roster exempt list thereby suspending him for three games when he finally does sign his tender. I’m not really worried about Wallace picking up Todd Haley’s new offense because it’s not terribly complicated to run in a straight line as fast as you can.
Whatever scenario comes to pass, it’s getting harder and harder to imagine Mike Wallace will still be wearing the Black and Gold in 2013.
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I hate to sound like a broken record but…
With the 2012 NFL Draft three days away, the Pittsburgh Steelers have something else to worry about. Reports have surfaced that restricted free agent wide receiver Mike Wallace has told people within the organization that he doesn’t plan to sign his tender offer “until he has to.” As I predicted last week, it’s looking more and more like Wallace is going to be a major pain in the ass until he gets the big money long term contract he covets.
The Steelers have historically not responded well to threats, however vague. Seriously, could Wallace be any more cryptic with his words? “Until he has to” can mean any one of several different things. Some of them are only slightly more annoying than a child pouting because his mom won’t buy him a brand new toy while others could have significant consequences for both Wallace and the team going forward. Worst case scenario has us facing another Vincent Jackson situation, which all but wrecked the Chargers last year. At first I thought that possibility fairly remote but it’s becoming increasingly clear that Wallace is every bit as selfish and lacking in character as V-Jax.
According to Adam Schefter at the Four Letter, the Steelers believe Wallace’s words mean he will hold out through the off-season and all of training camp. This presents an interesting dynamic for the Steelers. As reader Jeff reminded me in a previous column, the CBA states that if a player doesn’t sign his tender by June 15th, the team can rip it up and offer him 110% of his previous year’s salary instead. Which means if the Steelers truly want to dick over with their disgruntled wide out, they can snatch the $2.67 million offer from Wallace’s greedy little hands and replace it with a contract for a measly $600,000.
Of course, Wallace could then escalate this game of Thermonuclear War by sitting out during the regular season. He only needs half a year of service to qualify for unrestricted free agency. Which means, like Jackson before him, he could sit at home until well into the 2012 campaign. If he does that, however, the Steelers could still Franchise tag him after the season. As you can see, there are nearly infinite number of moves and counter moves, all of which lead to nothing but confusion, chaos, and bad feelings from both sides.
I don’t profess to be able to read the minds of the Steelers’ brain-trust but going by their history, I can’t see them putting up with Wallace if he continues to be a hassle. Nor do I see them being held hostage by a one-trick pony wideout. They’ve cut ties in the past with star receivers (Santonio Holmes) and high draft picks (Plaxico Burress) without a second thought so I can’t imagine them bending over backwards to placate Mike Wallace, no matter how valuable the arrogant jackass thinks he is. The offense could easily go forward with Antonio Brown and Manny Sanders in the starting line-up, both of whom have shown plenty of ability as COMPLETE wide receivers, in addition to veteran Jerricho Cotchery.
If Wallace plans to miss one day of the regular season, I would hope the Steelers have already made phone calls to gauge what kind of draft pick(s) they could get for him. Setting aside whether or not you agree Wallace deserves LarryFitz money, Pittsburgh simply doesn’t need that kind of distraction. If they allow Wallace to hold them hostage, what’s to stop the next player or the next one to employ similar tactics? It’s a slippy slope to anarchy, one the Steelers have traditionally managed to avoid.
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Who didn’t see this coming?
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace is refusing to sign his tender offer. That news broke a few days ago and I didn’t pay it much mind because it’s not totally unexpected. Once Wallace signs his tender, he can’t negotiate with any other team. I didn’t expect him to sign until the restricted free agency period ends on April 20th. However, after that date, I also expected Wallace to man up, respect his team and the rules of the CBA, and carry on like the professional he supposedly is.
Now comes word that Wallace may not sign his tender even after the RFA period ends. In fact, it is being reported he may sit out all of the Steelers off-season mini-camps until he gets a brand new long-term contract. Sorry, Mike, that’s not how things work. If nobody offers you a deal, you sign your tender, show up for practice, and honor your contract.
Word around town is negotiations between Wallace and the Steelers are not going well. The Steelers are trying to lock him in to a multi-year deal but evidently the rumors that he’s looking for Matrix money aren’t just a bargaining tactic. He truly believes he should be paid in the same league as Megatron and LarryFitz. Well, sorry, never in a million years do I see the Steelers giving him $10-12 million per year for multiple years. Ain’t gonna happen.
Everybody knows this isn’t going to happen which is why teams have recently contacted the Steelers about trading for Wallace. Why trade for him when they can simply sign him outright? Well, there may be teams willing to pay him that exorbitant amount. They’re just not willing to surrender a first round pick for the privilege to do so.
Wide receivers have been notorious pains in the ass in recent years. Vincent Jackson was a RFA last off-season, decided he didn’t like the Chargers tender offer, and sat out all of training camp. The Chargers suspended him which resulted in the NFLPA stepping in to try and arrange a trade. No trade was forthcoming so Jackson reluctantly returned although he couldn’t get out of town fast enough once he played out his year. Wes Welker also didn’t like his RFA tender and let it be known he might sit out the year, forcing the Dolphins to trade him to New England for the bargain basement price of a 2nd and 7th round pick.
Of course, the Santonio Holmes situation is also still fresh in teams’ minds. The Steelers gave him away for a 5th round pick because he was an impending free agent whom they had no intention of re-signing. Granted Holmes’ situation was light years different than Wallace’s. ‘Tone was a thug, a malcontent the team wanted rid of for character reasons more than anything. By all accounts Wallace is a perfectly good guy, perhaps a little arrogant, but nothing so bad the team should be willing to give him away.
In fact, the ball is totally in the Steelers’ court. Wallace needs four years of service before he becomes an unrestricted free agent so he’s not going to sit out the year. He can be a pain in the ass and a distraction, which the Steelers have always tried to avoid, but he can’t force them to do anything. After the season, they can still Franchise tag him so he can conceivably be here for two more years without getting his precious guaranteed multi-year deal unless he comes off his ridiculous salary demands. They certainly don’t have to trade him.
Although if Wallace is going to continue to be unreasonable, perhaps a trade will be in order. A team like the Rams could surely use a wideout of Wallace’s caliber but no way would they surrender the sixth overall pick for him. But would they surrender their second rounder? Rumors were New England was interested in Wallace and had they signed him the Steelers would’ve received the 31st overall pick. The Rams second rounder is 38th overall which is basically a wash. As I said, the Steelers don’t HAVE to do anything but I can’t see them dicking around with this guy for multiple off-seasons nor do I think they want to see him go without getting something in return.
Ordinarily I’d dismiss any notion of trading Wallace as idle off-season conjecture. But the recent signing of Jerricho Cotchery to a two year deal makes me wonder. With all three members of Young Money healthy, Cotch would be a fourth option. However, if Wallace were to go, Manny Sanders and Antonio Brown would be your nominal starters with the Cotch Rocket serving as the slot man. Make no mistake, I have no desire to lose Wallace but is he really the kind of game-changer the offense can’t do without?
I guess we’ll find out in the comings weeks if the Steelers think he is.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers are nothing if not predictable. Every year, fans of other teams anxiously count down the minutes until the start of the NFL’s free agency period. And for the first week or two, there is frantic activity as those teams battle each other for the right to throw untold millions at players somebody else didn’t want. All the while, the Steelers sit back, relax, maybe take in a hockey game and basically do nothing.
Then, when the smoke has cleared, they make like a grey-haired old lady visiting a yard sale and sift through the leftovers in hopes of finding some bonafide bargains amongst the creepy garden gnomes and tacky Elvis clocks.
Yesterday, the Black and Gold signed tight end Leonard Pope to a one year deal. Today, they locked up wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery with a two year contract. Both signings may have come late but both are quality players. In fact, Cotchery had a number of teams pursuing his services before ultimately deciding to return to Pittsburgh.
Cotchery, a Jets draft pick back in 2004, was a starter for New York the majority of his time there. He posted his first 1,000 yard season in 2007 and just missed another the following year (960 yards). With the arrival of Santonio Homes and Braylon Edwards in 2010, Cotchery saw his playing time drastically reduced. Going into 2011, Cotchery was told his role would continue to diminish so he asked to be released. The Jets granted his request and the Steelers picked him up as a stop-gap while Emmanuel Sanders recovered from a pre-season knee injury.
Jerricho was an afterthought early on but halfway through the season Mike Tomlin finally realized Hines Ward was washed up and moved the Cotch Rocket into his role as the team’s slot receiver. It paid immediate dividends as Cotchery caught three passes for 44 yards against the Ravens, then caught a key touchdown the next week against the Bengals. He should’ve had two TDs that day as one was later wiped off the board thanks to a holding penalty. Cotchery also caught a TD in the season-ending debacle in Denver.
When the Steelers signed Cotch, I described him as a Poor Man’s Hines. That description proved fairly accurate. He doesn’t have blazing speed and he’s not a big play threat but he’s got sure hands and isn’t afraid to catch the ball in traffic. Word was he was looking to sign with a team that would give him more playing time which makes his re-signing with the Steelers curious. I don’t see him playing ahead of Manny Sanders although Sanders hasn’t had much lucky staying healthy. Perhaps they’ll rotate the two in the slot with Cotchery getting more snaps in the red zone, where his catch-and-run ability has proven valuable.
Regardless, I’m glad to see Cotchery return to the Black and Gold next season. Between him and the Young Money crew, not to mention three excellent pass catching tight ends, the Steelers’ aerial attack is loaded with talent. Hopefully somebody in that group will prove adept at finding the end zone in 2012.
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For members of Steeler Nation living outside of Western Pennsylvania, tonight is your first opportunity to see your Pittsburgh Steelers when they face off against the Philadelphia Eagles on Fox. Despite the Black and Gold coming off a glorious Super Bowl run, prepare yourself for almost non-stop praise for the Iggles. Philly, you see, is this year’s Greatest Team Ever Assembled. On paper.
Sure, they pulled off the biggest move in free agency by signing Nnamdi Asomugha. Then they traded Kevin Kolb to Arizona for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. TWO ALL-PRO CORNERBACKS! ON THE SAME TEAM! YOU CAN’T POSSIBLY LOSE WITH THAT 1-2 PUNCH!
Ask the Jets.