Dec 102013
 

pol2

I made the mistake of tuning into the Monday Night Football countdown show last night. Usually I do my best to avoid Stabby McStabberson and the rest of the merry pranksters who populate the Four Letter. However, I happened to tune in just in time to hear them discuss the Pittsburgh Steelers season ending loss to the Miami Dolphins. As usual, they only bother discussing the Black and Gold when they have something negative to say.

Anyway, what surprised me was the focus of their discussion. I expected them to touch on Ben Roethlisberger‘s seething hatred of Todd Haley – which was evidently on full display in the locker room after the game – and they did mention it. However, what I didn’t expect was much of their discussion focusing on Pro Bowl safety and future Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu. The goofs on the panel placed a great deal of the blame for the defeat on Troy, even speculating this may be his final season in Pittsburgh.

Which at first seemed absurd but after thinking it over, is this the end of the line for Troy Polamalu? Continue reading »

Ginger Dictator Fines Tomlin, Draft Pick Loss Pending

 Posted by at 5:37 am  Ginger Dictator, Mike Tomlin, NFL Draft  Comments Off on Ginger Dictator Fines Tomlin, Draft Pick Loss Pending
Dec 052013
 

Tomlin smirking tripping

Nearly a week since Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin executed the Two Step Heard ‘Round The World, Steeler Nation has been bracing for the inevitable consequences. Yesterday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell finally deigned to step down from Mount Olympus and pass down punishment for The Blunder. As usual when the Ginger Dictator deals with the Black and Gold, his punishments were both harsh and potentially very damaging. At least he’s consistent.

The first – and least – important part of Ginger’s ruling was a cool $100,000 fine for Tomlin. That may sound like big money to you or I but to a head coach making $5 million, it’s not much different than an average worker getting docked $150. As an aside, can anybody else believe that goof Tomlin gets paid five MILLION dollars to lie his ass off at press conferences and embarrass the franchise on national television? Meanwhile, a truly great head coach like Bill Cowher was sent into retirement because the team didn’t feel he was worth a top salary. Continue reading »

Jun 142013
 

 

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Oops, wrong Landry. Landry Clarke plays kicker slash tight end. Otherwise known as “the position Tim Tebow will play after Bill Belichick sees him in practice.” Our Landry is definitely a quarterback.

The Pittsburgh Steelers reached a deal with their final unsigned 2013 draft choice, agreeing to a four year contract with former University of Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones. Terms of the deal weren’t available but under the NFL’s blessedly streamlined rookie wage scale, his contract will almost assuredly total somewhere around $2.5 million (about $650,000 per year) with some sort of signing bonus and playing incentives thrown in.

Despite the Steelers signing all their picks in relatively short order, it was imperative they get Jones into camp as soon as possible. Granted this year is going to be a better year than most for all the Black and Gold rookies to make an immediate impact. LB Jarvis Jones and RB Le’Veon Bell are likely to see significant playing time while guys like WR Marcus Wheaton and S Shamarko Thomas will be the first guys off the bench when injuries invariably strike. However, none of those positions require the level of study and preparation as playing quarterback.

Yes, Bruce Gradkowski is back home in the ‘Burgh. And, yes, he’s proven a pretty durable player over his NFL career. Regardless, if there is one position (besides offensive line) where the team has been snakebit over the years, it’s quarterback. If the team makes it through the preseason with all three QBs healthy and ready to go, it’ll be a refreshing change.

Ben Roethlisberger is a tough dude without a doubt. He’s also north of 30 and can’t take the punishment he used to. He’s missed games in every one of the past several seasons and considering he’s already having “minor” surgery during the OTAs, there’s no reason not to think he won’t miss a game or two in 2013. I’ve always liked Gradkowski but should he get hurt or prove ineffective, it would be nice to have a capable #3 ready to step forward.

Starting a rookie QB is less than ideal and I’m definitely not ready to declare Jones is Ben’s heir apparent, I’m simply relieved the team will have some capable options if/when Ben has to sit out. Byron Leftwich was useless and Dennis Dixon never learned more than five plays in four years. While I loves me some Charlie Batch, his career met a fitting end in the season-highlight victory over the Ravens. Bring on the new blood.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but I may actually be looking forward to watching preseason games this year.

Steelers Sign Jarvis Jones, Draft Nearly Complete

 Posted by at 5:48 am  NFL Draft, Roster Moves  Comments Off on Steelers Sign Jarvis Jones, Draft Nearly Complete
Jun 042013
 

With the Pirates struggling and the Penguins in a full-blown meltdown, Pittsburgh sports fans could use any bit of good news right about now. Rejoice, fellow yinzers, for I bring tidings of great joy. The thug who stabbed Mike Adams down in the South Side has been caught and thrown in the clink.

Also, the Pittsburgh Steelers came to terms with first round draft pick Jarvis Jones. Jones signed a four year contract valued at $8.5 million, a little more than half ($4.7 million) of which comes in the form of a signing bonus. There is also a fifth year club option at an undisclosed amount. Not that eight million clams is chump change or anything but isn’t it crazy to remember four or five years ago when a guy taken in Jones’ position would sign for twice that? The owners actually did something right for a change.

In addition to inking Jones, the Steelers also came to terms on four year deals with RB Le’Veon Bell and DE Nick Williams. Why this flurry of signings? Because the Steelers are suddenly flush with cash now that Willie Colon has come off the books. Colon was designated a post-June 1st cut meaning as of Saturday, his cap hit went from $6.5 million to a little over $1 million. Of course, the team is going to have something like $4 million in dead money next year due to the sheer insanity of giving him that contract in the first place but by then some of the other recent veteran cuts should be off the books.

Make no mistake, the Steelers are reloading with young guys. As such, it’s good that they’ve now signed eight of their nine 2013 NFL Draft picks. Only QB Landry Jones remains unsigned. If he knows what’s good for him, he’ll tell his agent to get a deal done ASAP since his future career prospects depend on him getting on the field. There’s still plenty of time to learn the playbook but every day that goes by the potential of him supplanting Bruce Gradkowski as number two diminishes a little more.

For the other draftees, their chances of making a significant contribution during the upcoming season will be better than any in recent memory. Safety Shamarko Thomas was smartly the first pick to sign and with the team almost barren at the position behind the injury-prone starters, he could see significant playing time. With a lack of depth and talent at their positions, guys like Bell and WR Markus Wheaton will also have a prime opportunity to contribute as rookies. Even Jones is expected to be used in place of starting outside linebacker Jason Worilds in obvious pass rush situations, a big departure from the days when rookies where never expected to take a year to learn the ins and outs of Dick LeBeau‘s complex defense.

Here’s hoping the youngsters are up to the task.

Pittsburgh Steelers Complete Draft Recap

 Posted by at 5:14 am  NFL Draft  Comments Off on Pittsburgh Steelers Complete Draft Recap
Apr 292013
 

Jarvis Jones
OLB Georgia
6’2  248
SacManJones_29
 

The heir to all-time Pittsburgh Steelers great Aaron Smith’s #91 has already been discussed in greater detail here. Cliff Notes version: a pure pass rusher who gets off the ball quick and relentlessly hunts down quarterbacks. After leading the nation in sacks against elite SEC competition was widely expected to be a top ten pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Two red flags emerged during the evaluation process; a worrisome medical history and a horrible 40 time (4.9). The spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spine) led him to transfer to Georgia after USC doctors wouldn’t clear him to play. Played last season without incident and Steelers said they were comfortable with the medical reports they received. The speed issue raises questions whether he’ll ever be a three down linebacker. Will definitely need to improve in pass coverage and work at beating big strong NFL offensive lineman with something other than his quickness off the edge if he hopes to truly replace James Harrison as a mainstay at outside linebacker.

Le’Veon Bell
RB Michigan State
6’1  230
l_bell24
 

Listed at 230 but dropped 15 pounds before the Combine in hopes of improving his 40 time. It didn’t work as he still ran a disappointing 4.6. The lack of breakaway speed and one move and go running style will prevent him from being a big play threat. Has the size, strength, and ability to break tackles to potentially be a pretty good power back, though. Coach Todd Haley also raved about his hands, calling him a “three down player.” Former Rams All-Pro Steven Jackson said Bell was the college player who most reminded him of himself and, really, that’s basically the ideal scenario for what the Steelers hope he develops into. Worst case, he’s another Michael Turner, a productive downhill runner who doesn’t wow anybody but gets the job done.

Markus Wheaton
WR Oregon State
5’11  189
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Another receiver in the AB/Manny Sanders mold. A smallish guy with good speed and good hands who runs good routes. Lack of elite speed (4.45 40) means he’ll be another YAC receiver rather than the type of field stretching playmaker we lost in Mike Wallace. Isn’t afraid to go over the middle or play in traffic so he should see time in the slot almost immediately. Has little experience returning kicks so probably won’t contribute in that area. Struggled against bigger physical corners. Athletic guy who gets open and makes things happen with the ball in his hands who should be a good slot receiver but will need to prove he can beat a jam if he hopes to move outside and move from a #3 to a #2.
Continue reading »

Steelers Upgrade Offense In Rounds 2 and 3

 Posted by at 4:45 am  NFL Draft, Pitt Panthers, Roster Moves  Comments Off on Steelers Upgrade Offense In Rounds 2 and 3
Apr 272013
 

On day two of the 2013 NFL draft, Dick LeBeau and Keith Butler had plenty of time to get to know first round pick Jarvis Jones, who was in town to meet with the media yesterday. They definitely weren’t needed in Pittsburgh Steelers draft headquarters as yesterday was the Todd Haley Show. Coming off one of their worst offensive showings in years and faced with several notable losses via free agency, the Black and Gold began the process of rebuilding the offense with both their second and third round picks. They also signed their first notable free agent.

In round 2, the Steelers selected Michigan State running back Le’veon Bell. To be completely honest, I find myself less than thrilled about this pick. Bell was only the second back taken so saying the Steelers had their choice of the RB crop is hardly an exaggeration. They chose a guy not radically different than two of the guys already on the roster. Bell is a big (6’1 230, although he played at 245 in college) physical back who projects as a straight ahead downhill runner. Granted he’s probably more athletic than Isaac Redman and won’t have to run to the sideline after every three carries like Jon Dwyer but his running style doesn’t seem markedly different from either of them.

Todd Haley likened him to Eddie George although George had the shiftiness and breakaway speed to break off big runs. The big knock on Bell is his relatively plodding 4.6 40. When you consider he dropped 15 pounds prior to the Combine in hopes of improving his speed, one shudders to think what he’d run at his natural playing weight. Naturally the comparisons to Jerome Bettis have already begun which is a fool’s errand that has trapped the Steelers with a sub-par running game for years now. His game highlights actually remind me more of Michael Turner, who enjoyed a solid if unspectacular career with the Falcons.

In round 3, the Steelers tapped Oregon State wide receiver Markus Wheaton. In a nice bit of serendipity, Wheaton’s NFL.com scouting report lists his closest NFL comparison as Antonio Brown. At 5’11 189 and running an acceptable 4.45 40, he certainly fits the AB/Manny Sanders mold of small quick guy with good hands who runs good routes. Haley is already talking him up as a weapon out of the slot where he played a lot in college. I’m sure part of the thinking with this pick is having a potential replacement for Sanders already in the system should he leave after the season. Again, like the Bell pick, there are no glaring negatives with Wheaton other than he doesn’t really bring anything to the team that they don’t already have. He’s not a field stretching speed burner like Mike Wallace nor is he a big target like Plax.

Finally, the Steelers rounded out their running back corps by signing ex Pitt Panther LaRod Stephens-Howling, formerly of Pittsburgh West the Arizona Cardinals. Wait, we can sign former Cardinals? Next thing you know they’ll be calling us Arizona East!

Stephens-Howling had the misfortune of attending Pitt at the same time as Shady McCoy so he never got a chance to play as much as he should have. He ended up carving out a nice niche for himself as a third down back and excellent kick returner with the Cardinals. He’s basically filling the role vacated by Chris Rainey except he’s a little more versatile in terms of being able to run the ball out of traditional sets. Considering every other back on the roster is a lumbering oaf, it’s nice to have at least one speed guy in the backfield.

With LaRod and Le’veon in the mix, the Steelers have five backs in the mix for next season. Looks like they’ll spend the remainder of the draft trying to fill holes at other positions. I’ll be back on Monday with a complete Steelers draft recap and analysis complete with pictures!

Linebacker Jarvis Jones Is Steelers First Round Pick

 Posted by at 4:47 am  NFL Draft  Comments Off on Linebacker Jarvis Jones Is Steelers First Round Pick
Apr 262013
 

The first round 2013 NFL Draft couldn’t have unfolded any better for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the last 48 hours or so before the draft, it became more and more certain that the 17th overall pick would come down to one of a handful of players. When the Black and Gold came on the clock, pretty much all of them were still there for the taking. That they wasted hardly any time handing their pick in to Roger Goodell (BOOOOOOO!) seemingly indicates the final decision wasn’t very hard at all.

Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones is your newest member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. According to post-draft comments by GM Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin, Jones was a player they identified early in the process as guy they would love to have. Jones had an extremely productive junior season, leading the nation in sacks (14.5) while playing against elite SEC competition. At 6’2 245 pounds, he projects as a prototypical 3-4 outside linebacker who should push Jason Worilds next season and eventually replace him as heir apparent to James Harrison. What’s more, Jarvis is considered a high character guy who overcame a ton of adversity as you can read in this excerpt from a recent Sports Illustrated story. While he may be a nice guy off the field, it’s evident from his highlight film and Twitter handle that he enjoys getting after the quarterback with reckless intent.

Going into the off-season, Jones was widely viewed as one of the Draft’s top two pass rushing linebackers and a sure fire top ten pick. However, skipping the Combine and not performing well in his pre-draft workouts raised some red flags which led to his drop. The most notable of which was the glacially slow 4.9 40 time Jones posted at his pro day. While Tomlin and Colbert were all giggles over it, an edge rusher who posts a 40 time a shade less than many offensive and defensive linemen is worrisome. Granted game speed and track speed can be wholly different things and the list of “workout warriors” that wowed scouts at the Combine only to fizzle once they actually had to take the field longer is like a who’s who of greatest Draft Busts in NFL history but it is something to be aware of when he finally suits up for the Black and Gold.

Then there’s Jones medical history. He began his career at USC but transferred to Georgia when the Trojans’ team doctors refused to clear him due to spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal cord which can put an athlete at greater risk for career ending injury. I don’t know of any pro football players who have this condition but I do remember that WWE wrestler Edge was diagnosed with the condition and it immediately ended his career. Doctors advised him that one poorly executed fall could leave him paralyzed which speaks to the seriousness of the matter. I’m sure the Steelers medical staff did a thorough evaluation although I do find it slightly ironic they ditched one OLB with a history of back/neck issues (Deebo) for a rookie with an elevated risk of them.

At the end of the day, it was the right choice. Going by the reactions on twitter, Steeler Nation was generally pleased with the pick although there were a few hoping the team would address their offensive woes by taking an elite skill player like TE Tyler Eifert (who went to the Bengals, what an offense they’re going to have…) or one of the WRs. I can understand that argument but with Harrison gone and LaMarr Woodley trapped at the All-U-Can Eat Buffet, the Steelers had to find an elite pass rusher. Judging by the rest of the first round where only one QB, two WRs and zero RBs were taken, the league wide consensus seems to be that there is plenty of depth at the skill positions available in later rounds. The Steelers need somebody capable of making an impact. Let’s hope Jarvis Jones makes one on opposing quarterbacks for many years to come.

Who Will The Steelers Take In NFL Draft?

 Posted by at 6:01 am  NFL Draft  Comments Off on Who Will The Steelers Take In NFL Draft?
Apr 242013
 

I have no f*#king idea.

I’m sure many of you are thinking, “That’s the kind of insightful analysis we’ve come to expect from TotalSteelers.” While the less sarcastic amongst you may be thinking, “Well, duh, nobody does.” Unfortunately, I’m finding the 2013 NFL Draft particularly vexing to try and analyze. Judging by the mock drafts I’ve been seeing around the interwebz, I’m not the only one.

I don’t waste time doing mocks because the draft is like a game of dominoes, move one piece to another place and the whole thing falls in a different direction. At the same time, we’ve always had a pretty good idea of the what if not the who. Few may have predicted the Pittsburgh Steelers drafting David DeCastro or Cam Heyward but it wasn’t hard to foresee them taking a guard or defensive lineman.

Which is why this year’s draft is so perplexing. The Steelers need practically everything. And the few positions you don’t immediately identify as a need feature prospects that may ultimately prove too good to pass up. It’s the kind of draft where there are a whole bunch of good players but very few special can’t miss types. So we’re left with a draft that can shake out about fifty different ways, any one of which greatly affects who the Steelers take with the 17th pick on Thursday.

To get some idea how confusing this draft is, take a look at some of the mocks people with far too much time on their hands have done. I’ve seen at least twenty mocks on various fan and pro sites with fifteen different names being attributed to the Steelers covering at least a half dozen different positions. For example, ProFootBallTalk recently made the case for us taking Georgia LB Jarvis Jones while Mel Kiper had us taking Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert in his latest mock.

Which points out the dilemma the Steelers themselves will face on draft day. They have a lot of positions where they don’t necessarily NEED an upgrade but aren’t necessarily happy with what they have either. For example, they could take an OLB to replace the departed James Harrison, however, Jason Worilds is going to start next year regardless. So if a more attractive player is on the board perhaps they feel they can put off drafting a new pass rushing OLB until round 2 or 3.

In that light, Kiper’s pick of Eifert is not as ridiculous as it seems. Heath Miller is coming off a devastating knee injury. He’s also one of the team’s more highly paid players. Many scouts view the 6’6 Eifert as the next Gronk. The Steelers could definitely use more weapons in the passing game. Perhaps they pick up Eifert with an eye towards replacing Heath come 2014.

Of course, the Steelers could use their pick to address an actual need. Pretty much the only areas you can safely say they’re set is at quarterback and offensive line. Granted the OL is a work in progress but after addressing it with two firsts and two seconds the past few years, I think it’s time to move on to other areas of concern.

Linebacker is certainly a need. Both inside and outside are possibilities although this draft seems to be heavier in pass rushing OLB/converted DE types. If they look inside, where they could certainly do better than Larry Foote, Alec Ogletree and Alec Brown could be possibilities (particularly if the team trades back). As long as the don’t take noted Catfisher Manti Te’o. Outside LB presents a number of prospects, from the aforementioned Jones to Corey Lemonier and Barkevious Mingo (who would have to fall for us to get him).

Or perhaps the team will address the offense. Again, they evidently feel comfortable going into the season with Antonio Brown and Manny Sanders 1-2 at wide out and the unholy two-headed monster of Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman sharing duties at RB but neither of those units are beyond an infusion of fresh talent. Several drafts have Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson coming to Pittsburgh. He’s not the first round equivalent of Mike Wallace – that would be WVU’s Tavon Austin, a small guy who ran the fastest 40 at the combine and is expected to be the first WR off the board – he’s a bigger receiver who can run but is more of YAC guy than a field stretcher.

Several other drafts have the Steelers taking Alabama’s Eddie Lacy, who is expected to be the only RB taken in the first round. The Steelers will be tempted for sure although I think they’ve learned from the Rashard Mendenhall debacle that unless a RB projects as a workhorse featured back, don’t waste a first on him. There are plenty of intriguing backs who had big time college careers like Montee Ball, Leveon Bell, and Marcus Lattimore who will still be around in rounds 3 and 4.

Of course, the team can still go any number of other directions. I’ve seen more than one mock that projects the Steelers taking yet another defensive lineman, this time a big ass nose tackle like Sylvester Williams or Sheldon Richardson. Or they could really throw us a curve and take someone like Texas S Kenny Vaccaro. Troy Polamalu is a sure fire Hall of Famer but he’s highly paid and injury prone. Some scouts peg Vaccaro as the next Ed Reed. Maybe we take him and groom him for a year before asking him to take Troy’s place. That’s the kind of forward thinking roster overhaul the Black and Gold need if they ever want to escape from the Salary Cap Hell they’ve put themselves in.

One thing is for certain, they Steelers NEED a good draft this year more than ever. In season’s past, they missed on a fair number or picks which was okay because we had veterans in place who weren’t going to be unseated anyway. For the first time in a long time, the Steelers roster is in overhaul. In order to successfully complete that overhaul, General Manager Kevin Colbert and company can’t afford another draft which yields one starter and a couple special teamers. The Steelers have chosen to rebuild through the draft. Time to get that process started.

 

Steelers Retain Emmanuel Sanders

 Posted by at 5:00 am  Wide Receivers, Young Money  Comments Off on Steelers Retain Emmanuel Sanders
Apr 162013
 

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.

Steelers Finally Sign David DeCastro

 Posted by at 5:09 am  NFL Draft, Offensive Line  Comments Off on Steelers Finally Sign David DeCastro
Jul 242012
 

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.