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Hey Guys -

No, I haven’t been canned by yet another webmaster (not yet, anyway). Nor was I out in Las Vegas serving as my best friend’s groomsman only to wake up with Mike Tyson’s pet tiger in the bathroom and our buddy, the groom, gone without a trace. Hey, that sounds like it’d make a pretty good movie. What happened is my computer decided to have a thermonuclear meltdown on Sunday and I’ve spent the better part of the last 48 hours alternately swearing at whomever is nearby and getting absolutely no help from the same Indian dude who refuses to send Lou Holtz his brand new MasterCard.

Fear not, I believe I’ve gotten the problems straightened out. I just wanted to let everyone know I’m still out here in cyberspace and I will be posting again soon. Hopefully later today, our evil computer overlords willing.

Thanks for your patience and sorry for the delay.  Hey, at least it happened during the Steelers bye week. What would all you out-of-staters do without my breathtaking blow-by-blow recaps? Why, you’d be forced to venture over to the Four Letter or some other “real” news site. The horrors!

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The Pittsburgh Steelers concluded two weeks of nearly constant contract renegotiations by locking linebacker [intlink id="70" type="category"]LaMarr Woodley[/intlink] in to a six year $61.5 million deal.  This is the fifteenth player who was part of last year’s Super Bowl runners-up to either sign a new deal or rework their existing one since the lock out ended.  Thanks, new CBA.  I wonder if the players have realized yet how badly they got hosed.

Anyway, Mister Woodley was by far the biggest fish left to be fried.  The Steelers tagged him as their Franchise player so he wasn’t going anywhere this season.   However, the $10 million salary associated with that designation put an uncomfortably large dent in the cap.  While you math geniuses may notice he’s still making an average of $10 million per season, $22.5 million of his new contract is being doled out as a signing bonus.  As I’ve mentioned before, this is a clever trick teams do to lower the amount per year a contract counts against the cap.
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The Nevada State Supreme Court has ruled the [intlink id="14" type="category"]Ben Roethlisberger[/intlink] sexual assault trial will go forward in Reno as originally filed.  Wait, what?  They’re just now figuring out where to HOLD the trial?  I realize the wheels of justice grind slowly but this is ridiculous.

For those who may have forgotten, a Lake Tahoe resort hostess, Andrea McNulty, originally accused Ben of trapping her in his hotel room and raping her way back in 2008.  Considering the implications to the Tahoe case,  it’s understandable they’d put the trial on hold when the mess down in Milledgeville came about.  But that investigation concluded faster than the drunk bimbo could sober up.  What’s the delay?
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The first couple years of the Mike Tomlin regime saw training camps so punishing and intense, many veterans blamed them for the injuries which seemed to plague the Pittsburgh Steelers during the regular season.  Last year, Tomlin acknowledged their grumbling by holding practices so light that Latrobe became known as “Camp Cupcake.”  With the new CBA forbidding two-a-days and limiting how many full contact drills can be held per week, the choice of what kind of camp to run has effectively been taken out of Tomlin’s hands.

Yet as we approach the first full week of training camp, it seems like half the roster are among the walking wounded.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers must be in compliance with the 2011 salary cap by Thursday.  As of this morning, they were still approximately $10 million over the target of $120 million plus three $1 million exceptions.  This coupled with a rash of last minute re-signings set off a round of renegotiations with players already under long term contract.

Ben Roethlisberger and James Harrison were the big ticket items who agreed to alter their deals.  Although let’s be clear, neither Big Ben nor Silverback are taking a pay cut.  The Steelers simply employed an accounting trick to help alleviate some of the cap pressure.  Signing bonuses are divided evenly over the term of the contract and that number in addition to the base salary are what count against the cap.  By lowering the annual salary and paying a larger portion of the contract as a signing bonus, you can effectively lower your cap hit without changing the total value of the contract.
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Plaxico Burress decided to return to the city where he experienced his greatest success.  Of course, it’s also the city where he almost blew his dick off at a nightclub, then spent two years in the clink as penance for his abject stupidity.  As the New York Jets discovered, three million dollars goes a long way toward erasing bad memories.

With one stroke of the pen, Plax went from the chain gang to Gang Green.  You gotta hand it to Rex Ryan.  He assembled one of the NFL’s finest collections of thugs and criminals over in Baltimore and is now doing his damnedest to remake his Jets in their image.  Burress will team with another Steeler cast-off, Santonio Holmes, in trying to make Mark Sanchez look like a legitimate championship caliber quarterback.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers wooing of free agent ex-con Plaxico Burress kicked in to high gear earlier today.  Evidently, he’s a really cheap date.  First, Burress joined Mike Tomlin, Kevin Colbert, and Art Rooney for breakfast at the Saint Vincent College cafeteria.  I bet they don’t even serve Mimosas.

A short time later, he joined Ben Roethlisberger, James Farrior and Hines Ward at the cool kids table for the team’s afternoon lunch.  No doubt Big Ben repeated his oft-stated desire to have a big target for the passing game while Limas Sweed rocked back and forth weeping softly in the corner.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers completed deals with their last two unsigned draft picks this afternoon.  Most notably, first rounder [intlink id="39" type="category"]Cameron \”Ironhead Jr.\” Heyward [/intlink]agreed to a four year $6.7 million contract with $3.3 million in guaranteed money.

To give you an idea of how rookies have taken it up the ass under the new CBA, our top pick following our last Super Bowl appearance, Ziggy Hood, signed a five year deal for $8.7 million which included a $6 million signing bonus in addition to another $2.7 million in salary that could double based on various performance incentives.  Not that I would object to being abused to the tune of $3.3 million, mind you.
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Another day, another move along the offensive line.

The Pittsburgh Steelers released veteran Flozell Adams after he refused to renegotiate his contract.  He signed a two year deal last year which was to pay him approximately $5 million for the upcoming campaign.  The Steelers, already feeling a salary cap crunch, wanted him back at a lower number.  This move leaves an already questionable offensive line dangerously thin at almost every position.
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As players began their annual pilgrimage to Latrobe for training camp, the Pittsburgh Steelers made a few interesting announcements which may hold great importance as we watch the 2011 season unfold.

First, they agreed to terms with draft picks OT Marcus Gilbert, CB Cortez Allen, LB Chris Carter, OG Keith Williams and RB Baron Batch.  This leaves only third round pick CB Curtis Brown and first rounder DT Cameron “IronHead Jr.” Heyward unsigned.  With Will.i.am Gay and Anthony Madison unrestricted free agents and absolutely no proof Keenan Lewis deserves a hat on Sunday, Brown is a complete idiot if he doesn’t sign soon.  Rookies practically never play for this team but the nickel back job would seem to be wide open.

They also placed two players on the Physically Unable to Perform list.  Chris Kemoeatu is experiencing some pain and swelling in his knee which is understandable considering he didn’t have OTAs keeping him away from the buffet table.  The other player on the list is [intlink id="34" type="category"]Hines Ward.[/intlink]
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