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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Okay, technically last week was the midpoint of the NFL season. Or was it the week before that? There are 17 weeks in a season which obviously doesn’t split neatly in half. I know, declaring the midpoint before week 10 doesn’t make a ton of sense but the Pittsburgh Steelers have now completed exactly half their schedule (8 games) so it does have some logic.
Besides, Sports Illustrated just released their mid-season awards. Who am I to argue with Peter King?
If you look over SI’s mid-season All-Pro team, you’ll notice that no Steelers were selected. Two Kansas City Chiefs were chosen, I repeat two players from the worst team in the NFL were chosen, but zero members of the Black and Gold. Go figure. Although the damned thing is, it’s hard to argue about it.
The cliche about football being a team game is sometimes overused. When it comes to the Steelers, it’s a pretty apt description. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely a few players who are having outstanding seasons. Overall, though, Mike Tomlin‘s beloved catchphrase “next man up” has never been in greater evidence than this year.
Look at the offense. Every game, Ben Roethlisberger has hit somewhere between 5-8 different receivers. Heath Miller is deadly in the red zone and on third down but Antonio Brown has made bigger plays. When AB went down, Jerricho Cotchery came in they didn’t miss a beat. And do I even need to recount the RB carousel? Rashard Mendenhall came back for one game and rushed for 100 yards, Jon Dwyer had the team’s first back-to-back 100 yard games since 2008 and last week iRed wore the Giants out with a bruising 140 yard performance which may have been the most impressive of all.
Defensively, who are the standouts? Both LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison have missed time with injury. Woodley has come on the past couple weeks but it’s not like he’s been taking over games. The team as a whole hasn’t gotten many sacks and they haven’t forced many turnovers. Ike Taylor has also played very well as of late although we can’t simply forget the first month of where he was getting beat like government mule.
If I had to pick one guy who should’ve been named an SI mid-season All-Pro, it’s Ryan Clark. The dude from San Diego is a very good player but Clark has been absolutely fantastic this season. When a team loses a future HOFer like Troy Polamalu, it’s a hole that they simply cannot fill. Clark hasn’t exactly been Troy but he’s been pretty damn close. I haven’t always been Clark’s biggest fan, and I still find his off-the-field personality off-putting, but there is denying he’s come into his own. In years past, losing Troy limited the D because it’s hard to find a safety equally capable of pressuring the QB, stuffing the run, and dropping back into coverage. Clark does all three and does them extremely well.
Peter King also doles out mid-season awards, naming Falcons QB Matt Ryan his MVP. I’m pleased that King has avoided the trap most sportswriters fall into. MVP stands for most VALUABLE player. Not Best Offensive Player. It absolutely drives me nuts when I turn on the radio or momentarily glance at the Four Letter and see talking heads naming guys MVP because of their stats.
Don’t misunderstand, Ryan is having a great season. Matty Ice is 4th in the NFL in TDs and 9th in total yards. However, what’s most important is his team is undefeated. And he’s not some cog in the wheel of a well-oiled machine. The Falcons are winning in large part because of him. They’re only 19th in total defense. Even worse, their running game is ranked a miserable 25th. No, the Falcons owe their success to the play of Matt Ryan. And that’s what an MVP should be.
I think we can all agree what Ryan is to the Falcons, Big Ben is to the Steelers. His stats are a tick less impressive in nearly every category (2,200 yds vs 2,300 or 16 TDs vs 17) and the Black and Gold do have a better defense and running game so I can see why King went with Ryan. It’s still awfully hard not to include Ben in the MVP discussion, though. No QB, not even Ryan, is more efficient on third down. The Haley offense has had its ups and downs and there’s no arguing there would’ve been a lot more downs had Ben not pulled off some of those third and longs. If the Falcons fall back towards the pack (or the Pack) and the Steelers continue their upward momentum, I would hope Ben starts getting some serious consideration come the end of year.
In the meantime, let’s pick our own Steelers mid-season MVP. Since Ben is easily one of the most valuable players in the entire league and not just here in Pittsburgh, let’s leave him out of the discussion. Keeping in mind my earlier statement about the team nature of the Steelers’ success, it’s hard to point to one specific player from a statistical standpoint. My initial thought was to pick Ryan Clark and I still couldn’t argue with that choice. Although I’d like to point out a more unsung hero.
How about Max Starks?
Without a doubt one of the biggest surprises of the year has been the Steelers’ offensive line. All summer I wrote about the “new look” O-line which was supposed to feature first round pick David DeCastro at RG, converted tackle Willie Colon at LG and a new LT. Well, those plans quickly went poof when DeCastro got injured and nobody looked halfway competent at LT during the preseason. Max Starks, who was coming off a serious potentially career-ending injury (the second such injury in two seasons), was pressed into duty once again. And once again, he’s performing magnificently. To be fair, the entire O-line is doing great, especially Colon, who has turned into an absolute mauler on the inside. But old Max is playing the most difficult position on the line and doing so at a Pro Bowl level.
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He may look like Private Pyle but he plays like the Terminator. And just like the T-1000, David DeCastro will be back. The only question is when. While the Pittsburgh Steelers continue to guard injury information like it’s nuclear launch codes, reports are that DeCastro’s knee injury may not be as bad as initially feared.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s bad. He’s undergoing surgery today and faces significant rehabilitation time. However, word is the team is not putting him on the Injured Reserve list, meaning they must think there’s an outside chance he’ll be ready to return before the end of the 2012 season. Once you’re placed on IR, your year is officially done. That’s why Rashard Mendenhall and Casey Hampton, two players coming off major off-season surgery who aren’t expected to be ready for the first portion of the season, aren’t on IR either.
Fans of the Steelers know this as a Woodson Situation. Rod Woodson tore his ACL in the opening game of the season back in 1995 but the team kept him on the active roster hoping he’d make it back. Rod would eventually become the first (and to my knowledge, only) player to return the same season in which he suffers a torn ACL when the Steelers dressed him for the Super Bowl. He had a pretty good game, too.
The Steelers tried to recreate the Woodson Situation a couple years ago when Aaron Smith tore his triceps tendon but vowed to return. Despite again making it all the way to the Super Bowl, Smith never recovered well enough for the coaches to put him back in. Although much of that was likely due to his replacement, Ziggy Hood, playing very well in his stead.
Obviously the drawback to keeping DeCastro off the IR is that the Steelers will basically be playing with one less sub on the bench. That wouldn’t be a huge deal since the 53rd man usually seldom sees the field anyway but the Steelers will actually be playing with three less players. As mentioned, Mendy and Big Snack are in various stages of recovery meaning that’s two more guys they’ll have to carry on the active roster who can’t play.
With DeCastro out, Ramon Foster returns to the starting job at RG. With Foster back, the line basically returns to what we had at the end of last season, the only change being Willie Colon at LG in place of the Big Legursky. Left to right, are starters will be Max Starks, Willie Colon, Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, and Marcus Gilbert. I’m not sure how I feel about this combo although Starks at LT rather than the inept Gilbert is comforting and anybody in place of Kemo at LG is an improvement.
Speaking of the 53 man roster, with the third preseason game in the books, teams had to cut their rosters down to 75 men as of Monday. No real notable names except LB Mortty Ivy, a Monroeville kid who made the team last season but was hurt this year and S Myron Rolle, the Rhodes Scholar from FSU who skipped a year to study abroad. Kicker Daniel Hrappmann was also among those let go as I try to resist the urge to yell I TOLDYA SO, I TOLDYA SO.
I hate preseason games but going on Twitter during them to watch people tweet that some third string linebacker is going to replace James Harrison because he got a sack in the fourth quarter against the a bunch of undrafted free agent OLmen does make them more tolerable. I enjoy laughing at dummies. Look, the guys who play in the second half are marginal NFLers and/or training camp fodder, nothing more. Hrappmann was never going to unseat Shaun Suisham, even though if anybody should have to earn their job it’s ‘ol Miss’em.
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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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It’s only August 15 and I’ve used the “Injury Report” tag three times already. NOT a good sign.
The Pittsburgh Steelers began training camp with a veritable Pro Bowl team on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. On the positive side of the ledger, LT Max Starks has been cleared to officially rejoin the active roster. Not a moment too soon, either, as rookie Mike Adams sprained is MCL in the pre-season opener and will be sidelined for the next couple weeks. Marcus Gilbert can now return to RT, where he’s far less likely to get Ben Roethlisberger killed, while Mad Max once again rides to the Steelers’ rescue on the left side.
As Max returns, it appears James Harrison‘s stay on the PUP list will be longer than initially thought. Harrison hasn’t practiced since the team arrived in Latrobe and now word from his agent is he may need to get his knee scoped before the season begins. That’s not a major operation, players get scoped during the season all the time and usually only miss 3-4 weeks. What is troubling is that Silverback’s game is predicated largely on speed so who knows how effective he’ll be playing on a bad wheel.
In lesser news, the Steelers shuffled their roster after losing both RB John Clay and FB David Johnson to season-ending leg injuries. Both players were cut (that’s cold) yesterday although DJ is expected to be re-signed and placed on IR so the Steelers can supervise his rehab. The Steelers signed RB Jason Ford, who was waived by the Texans a couple weeks back, to carry the ball during the second half of Sunday’s pre-season game against the Colts before being cut in two weeks.
Meanwhile, with only one FB left on the roster (undrafted rookie Will Johnson), the Steelers signed journeyman Justin Peelle to provide some depth. Peelle has played for five different teams during his ten year NFL career, mostly as a tight end but also playing some fullback. He spent 2011 with the 49ers where he served as a FB/TE hybrid similar to how Bruce Arians’ used DJ. Peelle is supposedly a pretty good receiver out of the backfield but the Steelers have a two great receiving TEs and a great third down receiving back (Chris Rainey) so I would guess whoever does a better job lead blocking will win the job.
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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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Look, ma, the Pittsburgh Steelers can negotiate contracts after all!
While the Mike Wallace saga continues to drag on, the Steelers finally completed one successful negotiation. First round draft pick David DeCastro will officially sign with the Black and Gold on Thursday, the final member of the team’s 2012 draft class to reach an agreement. With a wage scale slotting system a part of the last CBA, there wasn’t much for the two sides to quibble about in regards to money. However, there was some hassle over whether his guaranteed contract would run three or four years. When the 25th pick (Dont’a Hightower) and the 23rd pick (Riley Rieff) recently completed their deals with only three years guaranteed, it became readily apparent DeCastro would get three and like it.
The contract, as per the CBA, calls for DeCastro to make $7.8 million over three years, most if not all of which I assume is guaranteed. The Steelers also hold options for a fourth and even a fifth year with some piddling workout and roster bonuses guaranteed in year four. If this kid is as good as advertised, and many draftniks were calling him the best offensive guard prospect in the past several years, he won’t have to worry about those options being picked up. Perhaps the best part of this deal getting done well in advance of training camp is now DeCastro will have the benefit of a full camp which he probably needs after missing almost all of mini-camp finishing up his classes at Stanford.
The Steelers have high hopes for DeCastro, already penciling him in as one of the starting guards for this upcoming season. After cutting useless Chris Kemoeatu, the pickins’ are slim with Doug Legursky and Ramon Foster currently the only players on the roster with starting experience at guard. The team is planning to experiment with moving Willie Colon to guard although who knows if that’s still in the cards. The team has equally high hopes for 2nd round pick Mike Adams but he’s said to be a little raw which is probably why they recently re-signed Max Starks. At this point, the only certainty on the O-line is that Maurkice Pouncey will be the starting center. Besides Pouncer, we’re pretty much assured DeCastro and 2nd year tackle Marcus Gilbert will start although their play and the play of others will determine who starts with them and whether they play the right or left sides.
While this level of uncertainty may sound a bit pessimistic, it actually is not. As anybody who has witnessed Ben Roethlisberger running for his life over the past several years can attest, almost any combination will be better than what we’ve had. And with DeCastro officially in the fold, perhaps we can even dare to hope for so much more.
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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 mood in Pittsburgh is not good. How seriously do we take our Steelers football? The day after each of our two Super Bowl losses, a figurative dark cloud hangs over the city. I currently live in the ‘burbs but I was still going to CMU when
Neil O’Donnell threw we lost Super Bowl XXX. Taking a bus through town from my off-campus apartment, I had never seen more somber expressions in my life. It was positively funereal.
Now that we’ve had a few days to digest what has to be the most devastating non-Super Bowl loss in Black and Gold history, it’s time to focus on the off-season. Before closing the book on the 2011 campaign, though, here are a few quick tidbits that surfaced over the past couple days.
– Pittsburgh’s esteemed Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, made good on his bet with the mayor of Denver by Tebowing for the local news media. Everybody knows the Boy Wonder is a diehard fan so I’m not surprised he made a city-to-city bet on a Wild Card game. I am a bit surprised by the stakes. What if the Steelers had won? Would Denver’s mayor have to break his foot, then do body shots with a skanky coed?