Big Ben Will Do “Whatever It Takes” To Remain A Steeler

 Posted by at 9:48 am  Big Ben, Tomlinisms  Comments Off on Big Ben Will Do “Whatever It Takes” To Remain A Steeler
Nov 212013
 

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Due to circumstances beyond my control, there will be no recap of the Mike Tomlin press conference this week. Believe me, I’m just as disappointed as all of you. Evidently at one point, Tomlin quoted Iron Maiden by saying, “If you’re gonna die, you die with your boots on.” If he works a Poison reference into his next presser, I may have to scrap my usual snarkiness and write a 1,000 word opus on how freakin’ cool Coach T can be.

In the meantime, there has been another development in the other big subplot to this Pittsburgh Steelers season. It’s been nearly two weeks since NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport came out with his fictitious story that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would ask to be traded this off-season. Last Thursday, NFL Network decided to double down on the lunacy by not only bringing Rapoport back to repeat his nonsense but add in unverified unattributed reports that the team felt Ben “wasn’t Peyton Manning” in terms of studying the playbook and GM Kevin Colbert was at the Clemson game to scout his eventual replacement, Tajh Boyd.  Continue reading »

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.

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 Fiddle While NFL Burns…

 Posted by at 8:07 am  Free Agency, Mike Wallace  Comments Off on Steelers Fiddle While NFL Burns…
Mar 152012
 

…through all their money.

Sometimes I wonder what it’d be like to be a fan of another team. Does anybody else do that? Not often but every once in awhile, I’ll sit there in my Roethlisberger jersey after the Pittsburgh Steelers clinch yet another playoff spot or suffer a heartbreaking loss and wonder what it must feel like for rabid fans of other teams. Can you imagine what a Clevelander must think when they wake on game day only to be greeted by Brady Quinn’s #10 hanging in their closet? Or what a Lions fan must feel now that their team is a legitimate playoff contender when their last playoff appearance featured a fella by the name of Chaz Batch playing quarterback for them?

I guess I’m in a reflective mood because frankly that’s all there is for Steeler fans to do during the first month or so of free agency. For the past week, the fans of other teams probably spent half their workday on their computer or smartphone obsessively refreshing the ProFootballTalk website for the latest free agent news. I can picture ‘Skins fans doing their best impression of the Micro Machines guy; “Vincent Jackson…Vincent Jackson….C’mon Vincent…D’OH…Pierre Garcon?…C’mon Pierre Garcon…Pierre…YEAH!”

For about 30 teams, this is the time of year when your team goes out and spends a bunch of money in an effort to become a contender. This is the time of year when you start thinking your front office and ownership truly want to win and are doing all the right things to ensure you’re still playing in January. For Steeler fans, this is the time of year we become Penguin fans. Anybody hear about this Sidney Crosby character coming back tonight or something?
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Steelers Benefit From Salary Cap Incomptence

 Posted by at 5:08 am  Free Agency, Ginger Dictator, Mike Wallace, Offensive Line, Redzone Redman  Comments Off on Steelers Benefit From Salary Cap Incomptence
Mar 132012
 

An already crazy NFL off-season is about to get even crazier. When the clock strikes four this afternoon, the league’s 2012 free agency period officially begins. There really wasn’t much free agent activity last year due to the lock-out and teams being reluctant to bring in new faces who wouldn’t have the benefit of an entire off-season to learn a new playbook. Prepare for free agency to return with a vengeance.

Speaking of which, the Pittsburgh Steelers got an itty bit of salary cap relief thanks to of all people Commissioner Roger Goodell. Over the weekend, the salary cap was set at $120 million, a negligible increase over last year’s cap. Considering the lock-out was fought over the players wanting 53% of the revenue while the owners tried shrink their share to 47%, it’s pretty clear who won last year’s showdown. Good job bending over for the league, Dee Smith.

Anyway, the league announced two teams, the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins were being docked cap space for front loading contracts during the uncapped year. In other words, the Ginger Dictator is penalizing those teams ($10 and $31 million respectively) for violating the salary cap in a year in which no cap existed. And I thought suspending players for playing football set a new bar for insane rulings. Gotta love that monomaniacal douchebag.
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Clock Ticking On Mike Wallace

 Posted by at 8:41 am  Mike Wallace, Young Money  Comments Off on Clock Ticking On Mike Wallace
Mar 072012
 

Tick-Tock. Tick-Tock.

Sorry for opening with such a corny line but in this case it’s particularly apt. The Pittsburgh Steelers followed through on their vow not to use their Franchise tag on All Pro receiver Mike Wallace. Instead they tendered him an offer, making him a restricted free agent. What this means is one of three things will happen when the NFL’s free agency period kicks off at 4:00 ET next Tuesday.

Wallace may sign the one year offer for $2.75 million. Or another team may offer him a bigger contract, which the Steelers have an option to match. If they decide to match, the Steelers keep Wallace and the other team is S.O.L. If the Steelers decline to match, Wallace goes to that team with Pittsburgh receiving their first round draft pick as compensation.

Wallace isn’t going to sign that tender until free agency is over. He no doubt feels he’s worth more than what the Steelers have offered and he’s right. To give you a rough idea where the bar is for a young up-and-coming wide receiver, let’s look at the Buffalo Bills. They recently re-signed Stevie Johnson to a five year $36 million deal. NFL fans know Johnson as the dude who writes silly messages on his undershirt with a sharpie. Steeler Nation remembers him as the putz who dropped the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime, then blamed God for his butterfingers. In either case, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t view Wallace as the far better receiver.
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Where Do Steelers Go From Here?

 Posted by at 8:26 am  NFL Draft, Roster Moves  Comments Off on Where Do Steelers Go From Here?
Mar 052012
 

The Post-Gazette is calling it the March Massacre. Being a rabid fan of the television series “Lost,” I prefer to refer to it as the Purge. In a span of three days, the Pittsburgh Steelers cut four veterans who combined had logged over forty seasons in the Black & Gold. Going back a little less than a month, the Steelers cut a total of six players, five of whom at one time or another had been mainstays in the starting line-up.

The latest veteran to get the axe is in some ways the most significant. Linebacker James Farrior was rumored to be on the chopping block since his age (37) and salary ($3.25 million) didn’t appear to fit with the team’s current youth movement. Still, Potsie’s exit comes as a mild surprise because even though his play had obviously declined, he remained a key member of the defense. Farrior’s helmet bore the Mr. Yuck sticker signifying that he alone was Dick LeBeau‘s on-field game general. Of the six players released during the Purge, Farrior is the only one who was still a regular starter at the end of 2011.
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Big Ben Alters Deal, Steelers Inch Closer To Salary Cap

 Posted by at 6:33 am  Big Ben  Comments Off on Big Ben Alters Deal, Steelers Inch Closer To Salary Cap
Feb 242012
 

Omar Khan is a freakin’ genius. With all due respect to Kevin Colbert, if I owned the Pittsburgh Steelers I’d send an armored car to his house and tell them to throw bags of money on his front lawn. The Black and Gold are damn lucky he pulled himself out of consideration to be the next GM of the Rams. I mean, it’s entirely possible he’d have Matt Millen-like success at evaluating free agents and drafting players (okay, nobody could be that bad) but as far as managing the salary cap goes, nobody is better.

Ben Roethlisberger has become the latest and by far most important veteran to rework his contract. Get this, his new deal reduces his cap hit next season by $8 million dollars. EIGHT MILLION DOLLARS. I thought only politicians and corrupt Wall Street scumbags could make that much money disappear overnight?

With the big contract extension he signed back in ’08 about to kick in this year, Big Ben’s salary was due to jump to $11.6 million in 2012. Khan was able to drop that number by once again working the loophole in the NFL’s cap rules which allow a team to spread a player’s signing bonus over the length of the contract. The upside for the player is bonus money is guaranteed, regardless of whether he’s still on the team.

By lopping another $8 million of salary of the books, the Steelers should now be right at the projected 2012 cap. The Steelers had to be under the cap by the start of the new league year on March 8th or they would’ve been thrown in NFL jail. And if you thought the warden on Oz was harsh, you definitely don’t want to mess with the Ginger Dictator.

The Steelers still have to clear some cap space for rookie contracts, contract extensions and possibly bringing in a free agent or two. Hines Ward has already said he’d be willing to re-do his deal so I’m sure the team will take him up on that. Why Aaron Smith and Chris Kemoeatu remain on this team is beyond me. Smith is by all accounts a great guy but not only is he old and injury-prone, the team doesn’t need him. You could argue they need Kemo, what with being paper thin along the offensive line, even though paying him roughly half a million bucks per false start ($3.5 million) feels like jabbing a pencil in my eye.

Those questions can wait for another day. At least by reworking all these contracts, the Steelers can shift their focus from worrying about salary cap compliance to evaluating their roster and targeting areas to be addressed through the draft/free agency. Make no mistake, this team still has a lot of work to do. The core is still strong but they need to address some of their age and depth issues if they hope to avoid a repeat of last year’s ignominious campaign.

 

Hines Ward Still A Steeler (For Now)

 Posted by at 1:03 pm  Art Rooney II, Hines Ward, Roster Moves  Comments Off on Hines Ward Still A Steeler (For Now)
Feb 132012
 

Awesome video, as usual, provided  by Benstonium. Nice choice of music, bro.

Hines Ward is still a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. For the time being, anyway. Reports over the weekend surfaced that Hines had been cut in the Black and Gold’s ongoing efforts to get under the salary cap by the official start of the 2012 season in early March. Both the Steelers and Hines himself have issued statements insisting nothing has yet been decided.

Here’s the bottom line: Hines has two more years left on his deal, calling for about $4 million per year. That’s way too much money for a player who is in the twilight of his career. The Steelers need to cut salary and starting with an overpaid number four receiver would seem a natural place. To his credit, Hines realizes his current situation and has repeatedly said  he is willing to throw out his contract and re-sign for the league minimum in order to remain with the Steelers.

With the emergence of Antonio Brown and Manny Sanders as complements to Mike Wallace, Hines has seen his playing time cut back drastically. Sanders battled injury the majority of the season so the Steelers turned to free agent pick-up Jerricho Cotchery rather than Hines when the team went to three wide sets. Cotchery is a free agent, however, and will likely go to a team where he sees more playing time. So the Steelers do need some depth at the position since you can never count on your top three receivers playing the entire season without missing any snaps. The question from the Steelers end is, is Hines acceptable depth?

Scuttlebutt around town is Mike Tomlin, who is pretty merciless when it comes to veterans,  feels Hines is done and wants the team to wash their hands of him. Art Rooney II, however, acknowledges Hines’ status as a Steeler legend and wants to see the team keep him in a token veteran back-up role ala Jerome Bettis. As we’ve already seen this off-season, it appears the Deuce is taking a much more active role in his team’s affairs so it’ll be interesting to see how this situations shakes out. Ordinarily I’m against meddlesome ownership but if Tomlin is truly such a cold-hearted bastard that he can’t appreciate what Hines brings to the table, I’m glad somebody is going over his head.

As I’ve written about previously, I think bringing back Hines would be the right move. I don’t have any illusions about his ability to play. It’s pretty obvious Hines has lost about three gears and simply can’t move well enough to create space and get open consistently. The reason I want him back, though, is for the intangibles. When you watch our young receivers play, they already hustle downfield and throw blocks better than 2/3 of the receivers in the league. That’s Hines’ influence. What’s more, from Terrell Owens to Desean Jackson, we’ve seen prima donna wide receivers wreck offenses time and time again. I’m not comparing Wallace or Sanders to either of those punks but I did get the feeling at times last season that certain players on offense, particularly Wallace, didn’t exactly give maximum effort. Hines Ward provides the kind of veteran leadership and an appreciation for what it means to wear the Black and Gold that some of these young guys need.

One of my earliest Steelers memories is of Franco Harris being traded to the Seattle Seahawks. Of course, you’d never know Franco left town in bitter fashion from the way he shows up at each and every Steeler-related photo op. Thankfully, Steeler Nation was spared a similar indignity when the Bus was running on fumes towards the end of his career. Despite playing a token role, Bettis was the heart and soul of a team that eventually went on to bring home Lombardi Trophy number five. Let’s hope the Steelers learn from the past and do the right thing by bringing back Hines Ward.

Jan 182012
 

While four teams still remain in the NFL playoffs, the rest of the league is turning their attention toward next season. In yesterday’s Post-Gazette, team president Art Rooney mentioned that the Pittsburgh Steelers will be facing “tough decisions” this off-season. Translation:  We brought back the old slow veterans for one more go ’round the track but since they failed, it’s off to the glue factory for some of them.

Peter King, of all people, pointed out the Steelers future salary cap woes before the season began and it bears examining now that we’re faced with the consequences. Next year’s cap is projected to be in the neighborhood of $125 million, which the current roster currently exceeds by somewhere between $20-25 million. That’s money already committed, to say nothing about money needed to sign draft picks, re-sign Mike Wallace, Issac Redman and other pending free agents, and perhaps *gasp* even spending a buck or two on the FA market to bring a decent lineman in here so our franchise QB doesn’t get broken in two halfway through the season.

Steeler Nation has been somewhat spoiled by management that’s stayed one step ahead of the game when dealing with the salary cap. The team has been clever about restructuring deals and/or adding bonus money or years in order to lower the cap hit. Problem is, adding years to guys already pushing their mid-30s is completely idiotic. And if Indianapolis is seriously considering cutting Peyton Manning, the man who made their sad little franchise relevant, in order to avoid paying him a roster bonus (and the accompanying cap hit), there’s nobody on the Steelers who should be untouchable.
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