The city of Pittsburgh is understandably preoccupied. Between the streaking Penguins and resurgent Pirates, nobody is thinking about the Pittsburgh Steelers right now. Which is why I haven’t been posting much as of late. It’s also why seemingly irrelevant news can pass right under the radar like it did a couple days ago. News which, in about four months or so, we may be looking back on with quite a bit of consternation.
Longtime Steelers left tackle Max Starks is now a member of the San Diego Chargers.
Thus ends a long strange odyssey for Mad Max. The starting right tackle on the Super XL winning team, Max would lose his job to Willie Colon two seasons later. After a career ending injury to Marvel Smith, Starks moved to the left side where he would start for the team’s next Super Bowl winning team. After being transition tagged two years in a row, the Steelers finally signed him to a lucrative four year $28 million contract in 2009.
Naturally, he would suffer a severe neck injury one year later which prevented him from playing in his third Super Bowl. The injury was significant enough that free agent Jonathan Scott was penciled in as his heir apparent at LT in 2011. Scott was a disaster and with rookie Marcus Gilbert equally ineffective the Steelers literally plucked Starks off the street to once again anchor the left side. He played well but ended up tearing his ACL in the season ending loss to the Fighting Tebows which left him once again out of the Steelers plans. Nevertheless, the Steelers brought Max back last season and while he struggled mightily at times, he was the only member of the line to start all 16 games.
There is no question age is catching up with Mad Max. There is also no question that the Steelers have been preparing to replace him. They drafted Gilbert two years ago and last year invested a second round pick in Mike Adams. While both guys have shown flashes of ability, neither has proven they can be counted on to be a dependable left tackle. New offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. is said to favor younger, more athletic tackles which no doubt explains the team’s lack of urgency in keeping Starks. Let’s just hope when it comes time to kick off the 2013 season that their decision doesn’t come back to bite them.
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Perhaps the most shocking information to emerge in the wake of Sunday’s debacle against Cleveland is the fact that if the season were to end today, the Pittsburgh Steelers would still be in the playoffs. Despite losing two straight games in ugly fashion and being hampered by injuries and miscues, the Steelers are still holding on to the AFC’s second Wild Card spot. Of course, that’s only because they beat the Bengals in their lone match-up this season so if Cincy were to even the score a few weeks from now, the Bungles would leapfrog us by virtue of a superior conference record. While it’s hard to quibble with a playoff berth, I think our current ranking speaks more to the relative mediocrity of the AFC than the strength of the conference.
Later this afternoon, Mike Tomlin will conduct his weekly misinformation session where he answers a bunch of questions with empty platitudes while saying nothing of substance. An ESPN report saying Ben Roethlisberger may return this Sunday in time for a huge showdown with Baltimore Ravens will surely be addressed. I have a feeling we’re not going to like the answer but I’ll wait until tomorrow to address that.
While the sinking Steelers prepare for a head-on collision with the Iceberg Baltimore, they’ve already started re-arranging some of the deck chairs. First round pick RG David DeCastro has been activated off the injured reserve as it appears he’ll be making his first NFL start on Sunday. The offensive line wasn’t good against the Browns with Doug Legursky playing absolutely retched in place of Willie Colon. I never much liked Colon but the move to LG has been nothing short of a career changer as he’s an absolute beast at run blocking. His absence was a big factor in our pitiful run game in Cleveland.
If Colon is healthy, DeCastro will start at RG (where he was expected to play all season) while current RG Ramon Foster can slide over to tackle if RT Mike Adams can’t play due to the high ankle sprain which knocked him out of Sunday’s game. If Colon can’t play, I expect Foster to move to LG while DeCastro stays slotted on the right side. However, if Adams is hurt, I think they’d rather play Legursky at LG and go ahead with moving Foster to RT instead of playing rookie Kelvin Beachum. We know Marcus Gilbert won’t be in the mix because he’s been placed on IR, ending his season. To think, the Steelers braintrust actually went into this year thinking that scrub would be the team’s starting left tackle.
Thank goodness for Max Starks.
Perhaps learning from past mistakes, the Steelers will actually carry eight o-lineman this weekend instead of the usual seven. The team optioned WR David Gilreath back to the practice squad so they could activate T John Malecki. This is also a good sign for Antonio Brown. Unless they plan on using Chris Rainey or Heath Miller as a wide out, the Steelers need at least four active WRs which they wouldn’t have if AB were expected to miss another game with the bum ankle. Ditching Gilreath reunites the Young Money trio with Plaxico Burress assuming the veteran fourth receiver role previously held by the Jerricho Cotchery.
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Now it’s time to panic.
The Tennessee Titans defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 26-23 on Thursday Night Football. I repeat, the 1-3 Titans starting a 37 year old backup QB defeated the Steelers. Where do I begin?
I suppose I’ll start by saying this is a total team loss. Anybody pointing to one specific area as “the reason they lost” has no idea what they’re talking about. The defense, for all their struggles, only gave up one legit TD with the other being a gimme from the 1 yard line after a blocked punt. The offense, despite a 363 yard passing day from Ben Roethlisberger to move ahead of Terry Bradshaw as the team’s all-time yardage leader, made some plays but they also missed a lot of chances. And the special teams, well, the blocked punt was just the latest miscue in a season full of them. Maybe Mike Tomlin shouldn’t have ousted Al Everest so he could give his buddy the job.
Regarding the special teams, Stonecold Shaun Suisham is one guy who can leave Tennessee with his head held high. Nobody has been more critical of him than I so trust me when I say making every field goal up through a 52 yarder early in the 4th quarter is all anybody can ask of him. It would’ve been nice for him to hit the 54 yarder at the end but that’s hardly a kick you automatically expect ANY kicker to make.
Right here is one of the problems with the Steelers. I’m talking about field goals instead of touchdowns. Once again, the offense moved in fits and starts, sputtering around for large stretches and failing to put the game away by scoring TOUCHDOWNS instead of settling for field goals. Twice the Steelers got inside the 15 and twice they came away with 3 instead of 6. You let teams hang around, even bad teams like the Titans, and bad things happen.
The receiving star was Isaac Redman. Wait, WHAT? Yes, for all we talk about Young Money and the best receiving corps in the NFL, it was our running back that caught 4 passes for 105 yards. Our TE, Heath Miller, chipped in with 6 catches for 67 yards. Antonio Brown? A measly 20 yards. Manny Sanders? A whopping 43.
Then we have Mike Wallace. Wallace had 94 yards and a TD on two, count’em two, catches. He scored doing pretty much the only thing he knows how to do: run fast straight down the field. I don’t want to hear any more bullshit about how Wallace is “a complete receiver.” Complete receivers catch many balls on a variety of patterns. Wallace is the ultimate all or nothing guy.
Unlike last week when the receivers dropped a ton of passes, this week much of the blame rests with Ben. He makes some great throws, like the bomb to Wallace, but then he’ll turn around and miss plays he needs to make. Suisham’s 52 yarder only happened because Ben made a terrible throw when he had Sanders wide open down the seam. Earlier in the game, he had Heath in the end zone and threw it behind him. Then there was a costly pick as time was running out in the half which probably cost the Steelers at least a field goal.
Like it or not, Ben needs a running game. When they run, they win. When they don’t, they lose. And last night, they couldn’t run at all. Much was due to having no running backs. Rashard Mendenhall played a couple series before leaving the game with what habitual liar Tomlin described as “some sort of Achilles problem.” Then iRed, who wasn’t carrying the ball well but has emerged as a great screen guy, left the game after taking a helmet to the knee. With Jon Dwyer in the doghouse, Baron Batch did his best in relief, even scoring his first career TD, but he’s not a starting caliber running back.
The other problem with the running game was the offensive line. As if losing our top two RBs wasn’t enough, we also lost 2/5 of our line. I think Maurkice Pouncey is way overrated but there is one huge difference between him and Doug Legursky. They’re about the same in pass protection but Pouncey is a much better run blocker. Ditto with Marcus Gilbert, who was replaced by rookie Mike Adams. Adams is fine at pass pro, perhaps even better than Gilbert, but he doesn’t run block very well.
Now let’s talk about the defense. Specifically, Ike Taylor. The Steelers only had 4 flags thrown on them yesterday, two of them went against Ike for pass interference (he had a third which was declined). When he wasn’t getting flagged, he was letting receivers run past, through, and around him. The Titans’ first FG was set up by a penalty on Ike. Their game tying drive was prolonged by a third down penalty on Ike. Their game tying TD was scored on Ike. Hasselbeck threw for 290 yards (and would’ve thrown for about 50 more if his receivers could catch the ball), about 50% of which was on Ike alone.
In summation, Ike sucks. Instead of making pornographic rap songs, he needs to start figuring out why he sucked against Denver and why he’s sucked ever since.
Keenan Lewis…KEENAN LEWIS is now our best corner. And yes, people are going to point out he dropped a crucial interception late in the 4th that could’ve altered the game. How many of those has Ike dropped? At least Lewis is actually covering people and making plays. Cortez Allen, pressed into duty as a safety when Will Allen got hurt, did his best although messed up several times. Ryan Clark led the team in tackles as he continues to be our defensive MVP. Lawrence Timmons continued his strong play, coming up with a big interception on a play that was positively Polamalu-esque.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the D held strong for three quarters, holding Tennessee to only 9 points (as I said, the blocked punt TD shouldn’t be held against them) while the offense dicked around. Then they totally collapsed in the 4th. Why Tomlin made the insane decision to try a 54 FG instead of punting and playing for overtime, I don’t know. Dick LeBeau making the asinine call of asking James “Missed the first month of the season because of a bum knee” Harrison to drop back in pass coverage instead of, oh say, SUPER SPEEDY LAWRENCE TIMMONS was equally perplexing.
I’ve avoided dire predictions and grand statements thus far this season. Well, that time is done. The Steelers, with about 12 starters on the disabled list, get 10 days off before facing the Bengals. That has now become a MUST WIN game. I don’t care if it’s still early in the season, I don’t care that neither Cincy nor the Ratbirds are setting the world on fire, you can’t start 2-4 and expect to go anywhere. It’s time to sink or swim.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 Revenge Tour continues this weekend against the New York Jets. Last week, it was a return date with the team that knocked them out of last year’s playoffs. On Sunday, they face the quarterback who engineered what is destined to go down as one of the most shocking losses in Black and Gold history. Let’s hope the second time’s a charm.
It’s a marquee match-up between two marquee franchises who will take the field minus some marquee names. Read on.
STEELERS DEFENSE vs JETS OFFENSE
The QB being referenced in my intro is of course Tim Tebow, who was traded from the Broncos to the Jets over the off-season. And while he’s listed as a QB, Tebow isn’t the Jets current QB. That dubious honor is still held by Mark Sanchez. Thus far in 2012, St. Timmy hasn’t done any actual quarterbacking, instead being used to run the ball out of the option and occasionally lining up at split end.
Sanchez enters his fourth NFL season at a critical point in his career. He led the Jets to the AFC Championship game his first two years before ultimately falling short against the Colts and Steelers. The team regressed last year, falling to 8-8 and missing the playoffs. Despite having his best year so far, statistically speaking, veteran receivers Derrick Mason, Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes pointed to his lousy work ethic and penchant for making drive killing mistakes as the reasons the offense struggled.
Jets management evidently disagreed with that assessment, ditching Mason and Plax (and probably would’ve cut ‘Tone as well except they signed him to a lucrative 5 year deal prior to the 2011 season) and giving Sanchez a contract extension. Instead, offensive coordinator Brian Shottenheimer was made the scapegoat for a disappointing season. The team brought in former Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano, whose experience at calling plays is limited to one year under Bill Parcells with the Dallas Cowboys.
After neither Sanchez or Tebow led a single TD drive during the preseason, the Jets exploded for 48 points last week against the Buffalo Bills. As it’s early in the season, it’s hard to say if the Jets offense is that good or the Bills’ D is just that bad. What we do know is the Jets featured a balanced attack with RB Shonn Greene rushing 27 times for 94 yards while Sanchez threw 27 times, completing 19 for 266. Rookie Stephen Hill, a big (6’4) quick kid out of Georgia Tech caught two of Sanchez’s three TDs.
The good news is it appears the Jets will be without one of Sanchez’s favorite targets, TE Dustin Keller. The bad news is it appears the Steelers will be without two former Defensive Players of the Year. As usual, Mike Tomlin was full of BS on Tuesday when he claimed both Troy Polamalu and James Harrison should be ready on Sunday. Neither practiced on Friday which pretty much guarantees neither will see the field this weekend.
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Rule number one of the preseason is don’t get injured. Rule number two is don’t get injured. Rule #3 is see rule number one.
I hate the preseason. I’m sure I’ve made that abundantly clear since I mention it in every one of these damn recaps. But it bears repeating because literally nothing good comes from preseason games. Honestly, outside of a Super Bowl or a AFC Championship game, the only time I’m truly a nervous wreck watching Pittsburgh Steelers football is during the preseason. Injuries can happen at any time but they’re a hundred times more galling when they occur before the season actually starts.
Luckily, coaches have figured out what a deathtrap exhibition games are so they play their starters sparingly. Unless you’ve brought in an entirely new coaching staff or starting a rookie quarterback, starters usually only play a handful of series in the first two games. It’s the third game that’s the tricky one as that’s where coaches usually give the starters an entire half to work off the rust picked up during the off-season. If something bad is gonna happen, it usually happens in that third preseason game.
Guess what? Something bad happened.
Shortly into Saturday night’s game against the Buffalo Bills, Marcus Gilbert, who spends more time on the turf than a groundskeeper, got thrown to the ground as usual. In falling, he took out round draft pick David DeCastro, who was actually blocking his man. The cameras soon spotted DD on the turf clutching his leg in agony. A few minutes later he was loaded into the Cart of Shame and left to assess the damage. After the game, Mike Tomlin would only offer that his injury “was severe.” While the Steelers still haven’t released any specifics, word from ESPN’s Adam Schefter (toldya the national guys are way more wired in than the local media) is that DeCastro tore his MCL, dislocated his knee cap, and damaged his patella tendon.
It appears DeCastro avoided the dreaded Double Whammy of an ACL/MCL tear. Which is sort of like being happy you got herpes but didn’t knock up your girlfriend when your condom broke. Although make no mistake, avoiding the Double Whammy is indeed a big positive. Despite conflicting reports from NFL.com and no official MRI report from the Steelers, reporters seem fiarly sure DeCastro’s ACL is okay.
For whatever reason (I’m not a doctor), an ACL tear is the worst injury imaginable. An MCL injury, while also serious, seems to be less dire. In any case, DeCastro will likely need surgery and I’m fairly certain he’s not going to be back this season. Lineman sometimes gut through knee injuries so depending on the severity of the damage, I suppose it could be possible for him to return late in the year but I have no idea why the Steelers would want to rush him back. We’ll see when the team releases an official medical report but until we hear different, I’d just assume he’s lost.
As DeCastro departs, the Steelers welcomed back Max Starks on Saturday. Mad Max looked good at LT. He had a few hiccups early but once he found his groove he looked just like the Max of old. Pretty sad that this team invests pick after pick on OTs yet keep turning to that old warhorse to bail them out every season. The new new look O-line will be (left to right) Starks, Colon, Pouncey, Ramon Foster and Marcus Gilbert.
DeCastro wasn’t the only casualty on Saturday. DE Brett Keisel was also helped off the field in some pain. Thankfully, it appears he only suffered an ankle sprain and should be okay by the opener. Of course, we know the Steelers love to lie about these things so who knows. If he has the dreaded high ankle sprain, that’s the kind of injury which lingers all year.
The good news was second year man Cam Heyward played in Keisel’s stead and did well. Remember Ziggy Hood languished on the bench for a couple years before the light bulb came on so perhaps Cam is a quick learner. The Steelers D looked terrific against Buffalo, generating a ton of pressure on Buffalo QBs which lead to several turnovers. I’m still not sure about the secondary but if the line and linebackers can dominate scrimmage like they did on Saturday, that’ll really cover for a lot of shortcomings.
Offensively, we got our first prolonged look at the Haley offense. Things started a little rough as the wide outs had a ton of drops which repeatedly stymied their drives. Manny Sanders, in particular, got open for a long gain but Sweed’d a perfect pass from Ben. The best action came late in the half with the Steelers backed up to their 1. Ben got them out of trouble by throwing a 30 yard bomb to Jonathan Dwyer…yes, Jon Dwyer. Isaac Redman finished up their previous drive with a tough 2 yard TD run so between iRed and Dwyer, the Steelers look to have a pretty impressive running back tandem. Early in the second half, Lefty came in after a pick by Troy and tossed another 40 yard bomb to AB.
Who says they have no deep game without Mike Wallace?
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The Pittsburgh Steelers played their first pre-season game last Thursday. During the course of the evening, the worst thing that can possibly happen in an exhibition game happened: somebody was injured. Over the weekend, another player was carted off the field during practice. All this is in addition to the Steelers already having a veritable Pro Bowl team on the PUP list.
And the season hasn’t even started yet.
Here’s a rundown of the various injuries and where the Steelers stand at that position:
- In my recap of Thursday’s game, I mentioned Jon Dwyer ripped off two great runs before disappearing. Well, he didn’t disappear, he suffered a shoulder sprain which knocked him out of the game. The good news is x-rays were negative so all he needs is a little rest before getting back into the mix. Good thing, too, since Dwyer appears slotted as Redzone Redman’s primary back-up.
Elsewhere, John Clay was the guy carted off the field over the weekend. Later reports where that he has some sort of hip/groin injury which really tells us nothing. A hip pointer is painful but not season threatening. A groin tear is indescribably painful. I’d describe it for you but I’m not sure how many of you out there have groins. Point is, we don’t know where Clay stands although it appears he was headed back to the practice squad anyway.
- If you watched Thursday’s game hoping to catch a glimpse of Todd Haley‘s new look offense, well, you were probably more disappointed than the Canadian Olympic team. However, one big change was readily apparent. When the Steelers lined up to run, there was a player lined up in the backfield between the QB and RB. We never saw this during the era of Bruce Arians’ Flying Circus but I am assured it is legal to have a guy standing there.
In fact, the position even has a name: Fullback.
David Johnson was notified over the winter that his days as mediocre TE/FB hybrid were over and he would be moving permanently to FB. He lasted about a quarter against the Iggles before being carted off the field. Word came down over the weekend that it was indeed as bad as it looked. Johnson suffered the dreaded ACL/MCL double whammy and is lost for the season.
That leaves the Black and Gold with but a lone fullback on the roster. Will Johnson, who played his college ball for the hoople-heads of WVU, is now the de facto starter. The problem isn’t that Johnson has never started in the pros, he never even started in college. In fact, he was such a non-factor for the Mountaineers, he wasn’t even drafted when he graduated back in 2011.
Yes, you read that right. Not only wasn’t he drafted, he wasn’t even in football last year. What did he do? He probably planted trees, moved furniture or made Big Macs, you know, your typical post-graduation careers for WVU alums. While he evidently impressed Steelers scouts at his pro day (he talked his school into letting him come out), I’m not sure he’s ready for prime time.
- After Mike Adams horrid showing at LT, it was later revealed that he had sprained his MCL in the course of chasing after the speed rushers who ran right by him. Adams hasn’t been practicing this week and is expected to sit for a couple weeks while he recovers. This has caused some reshuffling of the O-line as the Steelers hope to hit on a combo that doesn’t get Big Ben killed before November. Let’s pray they succeed.
Marcus Gilbert, who didn’t look particularly hot at RT, has shifted over to LT in Adams’ absence. Raise your hand if you think he’s going to be there come the second week in October. The local media has such little faith in Gilbert, understandably so for those who witnessed the debacle in Indy last season, that they’re already writing up Max Starks as the savior at LT. Max is still on the PUP list but I have to think as soon as he gets cleared, he’s probably going to be the default starter at LT until he proves unable.
Meanwhile, Willie Colon didn’t play Thursday because he was hurt, SHOCKER, but it appears he’s finally gotten his fat ass out of the ice tub. He’s been starting at LG over the weekend as the Steelers seem hellbent on keeping David DeCastro on the right side for the time being. Given what I’ve seen of DeCastro, they probably should throw the rookie into the fire because I don’t trust Colon as far as I can throw him.
For those keeping score, the new new look line is (left to right) Gilbert, Colon, Pouncer, DeCastro, and Ramon Foster (who does this guy have incriminating photos of?). I guess they don’t want to confuse Colon by switching him back and forth because one would’ve assumed he would move to RT in a pinch over the horrid Foster. I’m not going to lie, that entire line-up looks absolutely frightening. Get well soon, Max!
- Finally, I neglected to mention the non-football players in my recap because I don’t care about them. Plus, you know it’s a meaningless game when Shaun Suisham booms a 46 yard FG. No way Miss’em Suisham does that in an actual NFL contest. He only excels when the pressure is off.
Besides, the Steelers aren’t going to enter the season with a rookie kicker. Just ain’t gonna do it. Danny Hrapmann can boot a 75 yarder and he’d still be cut in two weeks. So while it was nice to see the kid knock through a 43 yarder with plenty to spare, he’s not beating out Miss’em.
On the flip side, rookie Drew Butler might have a shot. Thanks to an injury to incumbent Jeremy Kapinos, Butler got the spotlight to all to himself on Thursday and may have Lou Gehrig’d himself into a job. Butler averaged an impressive 50 yards per punt with one traveling a whopping 61 yards. Kapinos averaged around 45 yards last season but his career average is around 40 yards, which explains why he’s been cut so many times. Since Kapinos isn’t a Colbert draft pick, I don’t think the Steelers really care if they keep him or Butler. If the kid continues launching moon shots, he’ll win himself a spot on the roster.
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Veteran offensive tackle Max Starks has re-signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Shocking, I know. Any fan rabid enough to own either a Starks or Charlie Batch jersey has made the safest investment outside of buying stock in Apple. No matter who the Steelers draft, no matter who the Steelers sign, no matter what injury should befall their man during the season, you can safely rest assured Mad Max and Chaz will be on the roster come the following year. It’s right up there with death and taxes.
I won’t bother recapping Max’s long strange journey, suffice it to say much like Michael Corleone, every time you think he’s out, the Black and Gold pull him back in. Max lost his starting RT job way back in 2007 only to reinvent himself as a LT later that year. The Steelers tagged him two consecutive years in a row before finally inking him to four year deal in 2009. He suffered what was feared to be a career-ending neck injury in 2011, leading to his release. Despite ballooning to well over 400 pounds during the off-season, Max managed to work himself back into shape in time to ride to the Steelers rescue at LT in 2012. He played quite well but ended up blowing out his ACL in the Steelers Wild Card loss to Denver leading to yet more questions about his future. Evidently rehab has gone well because the Steelers are bringing him to Latrobe in August.
This was supposed to be a transition year for the offensive line. The Steelers invested their first two 2012 draft picks in OG David DeCastro and LT Mike Adams and are expecting oft-injured RT Willie Colon back in the lineup (for about two weeks anyway). Colon is being moved to guard which left Jonathan Scott and second year man Marcus Gilbert to compete with Adams for the two tackle spots. Now with Max back in the mix, one has to wonder if the Steelers weren’t a little concerned by what they saw from those large-boned gentlemen during mini-camp.
I’ve been saying all along, I’m not totally sold on this new look o-line. Gilbert had a brief try-out at LT last season and did his best impression of a traffic cone. Scott was similarly abused during his short and ignominious tenure at LT. Rookies starting on the line isn’t that unusual but Adams was said to be a bit raw so counting on him to step in and start immediately was always a dicey proposition. The thought was if Adams wasn’t ready, perhaps Gilbert had matured enough to play LT but all the experience in the world won’t make up for slow feet. If Gilbert can’t handle the move and Adams isn’t ready, Big Ben’s blind side all of a sudden became a real danger zone.
Or it was before Mad Max returned to the fold. Welcome back, big guy. It’s like you never left.
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I love the new collective bargaining agreement. Granted, the NFL players took a golden shower on the deal but those meatheads picked their leadership so they get what they deserve. I love it because I remember back when the days following the NFL Draft were filled with strife and turmoil as scumbag agents tried to wring every last nickle they could for their clients. Revisionist history says Troy Polamalu didn’t play much as a rookie due to Dick LeBeau‘s complicated defense – which is at least partially true although I think a lot of more of his slow start is owed to the fact he missed a large part of training camp holding out.
Those days are long over. With the new CBA and its built-in contract slotting and rookie salary cap, guys get picked, signed, and into camp with little fuss. Here we are slightly less than two weeks since the draft and the Pittsburgh Steelers have already signed six of their nine picks. Nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu and RB Chris Rainey both signed over the weekend while TE David Paulson, CB Terence Frederick and big WR Toney Clemons made deals in the past 48 hours.
Then there’s second rounder Mike Adams, who became the Steelers’ highest pick to agree to terms when he inked a deal yesterday. Adams, you may remember, was so bummed when he heard the Steelers took him off their board for testing positive for pot at the Combine that he wrote them a groveling letter wherein he offered to defer his signing bonus for 18 months during which time he’d prove he could stay clean. According to Uncle Eddy Bouchette behind the P-G’s obnoxious pay wall, the Steelers did not take him up on the offer. So if Adams decides to wake and bake in the near future, they’ll have nobody to blame but themselves.
I’m honestly rooting for the guy, though. I admit, it’s for selfish reasons. I like watching Ben Roethlisberger play and he can’t continue to do that if he gets the hell beat out him behind a paper mache offensive line. Adams has potential first round talent as a tackle, a position where the Steelers can surely use all the help they can get. Now that he’s signed, hopefully Adams will spend more time in the weight room than rolling doobies and OLine coach Sean Kugler will have him up to speed by training camp.
The team’s current plan at O-line would seem to be (left to right) Marcus Gilbert, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Willie Colon. My worry there is Gilbert looked like a human traffic cone during his brief stint at LT last season and Colon has always been an injury prone turnstile. There are rumblings that Max Starks may be brought in at some point depending on how fast he heals up from major off-season surgery but I think that’s a pretty remote possibility. I think the Steelers know they have an issue at LT and rolled the dice on Adams because if he straightens out, he can easily be the team’s LT-of-the-future.
The good news is Pouncer started as a rookie two years ago and Gilbert started as a rookie last year so it’s not impossible or unlikely for that to happen. Would the Steelers be willing to field an O-line that features two rookies, possibly even manning the entire left side (DeCastro projects as a natural LG)? I’d imagine Mike Tomlin never relishes starting rookies. But I’d also imagine Tomlin would like his Franchise quarterback to survive the season without becoming a one man injury report. And getting Adams signed and in the fold in a timely fashion goes a long way to accomplishing that goal.
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The last two times the Pittsburgh Steelers have gone to the Super Bowl, they failed to make the playoffs the following year. I’m inclined to give Bill Cowher a pass for 2006 considering his franchise quarterback nearly died during the off-season and was a mere shadow of his former self during the regular season. There is absolutely no excuse for what happened to Mike Tomlin‘s squad in 2009, however. The defending Super Bowl champions featured a nucleus near or in their prime while boasting a roster with no significant changes from the year before.
The most frustrating aspect of the 2009 season wasn’t that the team kept losing, it was who they lost to. Every week we’d look at the schedule, see an opponent who record-wise and talent-wise didn’t nearly match up with the Steelers, then watch in horror as they’d go out on Sunday and seemingly find a way to lose. The five game death spiral which tanked the season featured losses to two teams that would go 5-11 and one that would finish 4-12.
Which brings us to this week’s opponent, the Seattle Seahawks. Yes, technically the Seahawks were a playoff team last year although it’s hard to take that credential seriously when you win your division with a record of 7-9. They did acquit themselves well in the playoffs, highlighted by Marshawn Lynch going into BEAST MODE against the defending champion Saints. Regardless, Seattle is clearly not in the Steelers’ league. If the Black and Gold want to quiet all talk of a “Super Bowl Hangover,” they can start by winning a game they should win.