Big Ben Graduates While Steelers Hold Freshman Orientation

 Posted by at 5:11 am  Big Ben, NFL Draft, Roster Moves  Comments Off on Big Ben Graduates While Steelers Hold Freshman Orientation
May 072012

Ah, college graduation. That rite of passage when one chapter of your life closes and another begins. Of course, I graduated in my early twenties with about six figures worth of debt to my name. Something tells me Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t have to worry about repaying his student loans. And while he graduated this weekend some nine years after leaving Miami University (Ohio) for the NFL, it’s nice to see the big lug finally earn his degree. He even trotted out the sham wife (who, to be fair, has ditched the butch haircut and is looking much better these days. She still dresses like my grandma, though.) to keep him away from post-graduation keggers share in his special day.

While Big Ben was off accepting his bachelor’s degree in education (EDUCATION? No wonder US academic standards continue to plummet), the Steeler were busy getting acquainted with their 2012 draft class. The new CBA makes contract negotiations fairly standard in terms of length and base salary, the only quibbling point left is over bonus money. NT Alameda Ta’amu was the first draft pick to sign, with good reason as the Steelers lavished their nose tackle-of-the-future with a generous deal worth about $2.5 million. To put that in perspective, fourth round pick Ta’amu received roughly the same deal second rounder LaMarr Woodley got back in 2007. RB Chris Rainey was the second player to sign although his contract details haven’t been announced.

Regardless of contract, all our draft picks, undrafted rookies, and non-roster invitees were in town this weekend for their first off-season mini-camp. Sadly not among them was Trick Shot Quarterback Alex Tanney, who I mentioned in my recap of undrafted free agents last week. Tanney decided to sign with the Bills when he found out we also invited former Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson to camp. Johnson, who holds the honor of being the first overall pick of the 2011 United Football League draft, bounced around between the UFL, NFL, and ArenaBall last year. Johnson is a big guy (6’5 240 pounds) with a big arm who also has pretty good mobility for a guy his size. And he’s African-American, like every other quarterback on our roster not named Ben Roethlisberger. I only felt compelled to point that out because like 10% of the QBs in the league are African-American yet the Steelers are going into camp with four on the roster (not to mention Dennis Dixon is still trying to find work). Mike Tomlin must think he’s Jesse Jackson or something.

Anyway, rookie orientation begins with the assigning of jerseys which is always an interesting proposition. The Steelers don’t retire numbers, another of their strange little quirks like refusing to alter their uniform design or field a squad of big-haired Polish girls waving pom-poms. Technically, they have retired one number, #70, worn by Hall of Fame defensive end Ernie Stautner from 1950-63. It was retired in 1969 which to you Steeler historians out there will pretty well explain why his was the last number to be “officially” taken out of circulation.

Vaunted rookie guard David DeCastro has drawn countless comparisons to former Steelers All-Pro Alan Faneca since the moment his name was called by the Ginger Dictator. DeCastro initially took #61 but after second thought (or perhaps some prodding from the Steelers’ PR staff) switched to Faneca’s #66. Maybe they’re both really big Penguins fans. Fellow rookie lineman Mike Adams took freshly retired Chris Hoke‘s #76. Ta’amu picked one of the more iconic numbers, choosing to wear the #95 most frequently associated with Greg Lloyd. Lloyd’s number was actually worn by Joey Porter early in his career but he got sick of being called “the next Greg Lloyd” so he changed it to #55. It’s pretty safe to say Ta’amu won’t have to worry about those comparisons as even if he blossoms into the anchor at the middle of the Steelers D, there’s not much confusing a mouthy linebacker built like a brick house with a fatass lineman charged with the dirty work up front.

Then we have perhaps one of the more ignorant things the Steelers have done in recent years. Rookie linebacker Sean Spence asked for and received #51. Granted James Farrior may not be a Hall of Famer or even one of the top ten linebackers in Steelers history (although that’s arguable) but he was key contributor to three Super Bowl bound teams not to mention a long-time defensive captain. They couldn’t wait ONE FREAKIN’ YEAR before peddling his number out to some midget who’ll probably be cut in a year or two?? Not to mention for those hoping Farrior might be brought back at a later date, I guess now it’s clear the Steelers have turned that page.

Steelers Sign Bunch Of Guys Nobody Wanted

 Posted by at 5:37 am  NFL Draft, Not Football Players  Comments Off on Steelers Sign Bunch Of Guys Nobody Wanted
May 012012

The Pittsburgh Steelers also signed 13 undrafted free agents following the conclusion of this weekend’s NFL Draft. I’m not going to give a thorough scouting report for each one since my fingers are still sore from yesterday’s Kiper-riffic breakdown and the fact they’ll all be extreme long shots to even make team. I will highlight a handful I think may bear watching when those intolerable pre-season games begin.

First we have punter Drew Butler. Butler was the second ranked punter in this year’s draft but, thankfully, the Steelers learned from past mistakes and didn’t waste a valuable draft pick on a non-football player. Trust when I say doing so not only would’ve sent Rich Eisen into another epic meltdown but I’d likely need a new television. Butler is the son of former Bears kicker Kevin Butler, who I recall being one better kickers in the league during the late 80s/early 90s. I won’t bother with statistics since the bottom line will be who kicks better in pre-season although Jeremy Kapinos won’t have the advantage of being a mistake Kevin Colbert doesn’t want to acknowledge former draft pick ala Daniel Sepulveda so if Butler performs well, I imagine he’ll make the team. The Steelers also signed a kicker from Missouri, Grant Ressel, but he’s probably just training camp filler. Teams always bring multiple punters and kickers into camp just so the non-football players have somebody to drink coffee and hang out with while the actual athletes get into football shape. Ressel had outstanding accuracy his first couple seasons, missing only 3 FGs out of 46 attempts, but a hip injury last season caused him to go down the crapper (9 for 16) and fall off the NFL’s radar. Even though Shaun Suisham absolutely sucks, I can’t see the Steelers going with a rookie kicker unless he makes multiple 60 yarders.

Now let’s talk some  real football players, the Steelers also signed Marquis Maze (WR Alabama), Desmond Stapleton (G Rutgers, and, yes, he’s Darnell’s younger brother), Ryan Lee (G Furman), Ike Igbinosun (DT South Connecticut State), Jake Stoller (DL Yale), Adrian Robinson (OLB Temple), Robert Golden (CB/S Arizona) and Terry Carter (CB Louisiana Tech). Of local interest, they also signed wide receiver Connor Dixon from my dad’s alma mater Duquesne and Brandon Lindsey from Pitt.  Dixon is a big (6’4 200 pounds) target who originally went to Michigan State as a QB. Lindsey was a fairly productive DE for the Panthers but he’ll be converted to OLB ala LaMarr Woodley in the Steelers scheme. Our depth chart is littered with young linebackers so it’ll be a uphill climb for Lindsey although remember James Harrison was once on the practice squad. As far as the non-locals, Maze and Golden seem to be the most likely to open eyes in camp. Maze is really tiny (5’8 186) which is probably why he wasn’t drafted but he’s considered something of a return specialist (think Stefan Logan). Golden bounced between corner and safety at Arizona but at 5’11 210 pounds and a natural hitter, he’ll be a safety in the pros. The Steelers don’t have much depth at safety besides the mediocre Ryan Mundy so if Golden plays well and contributes on special teams, I can see him making the squad out of camp.

Perhaps the most interesting signee was a young quarterback from Division III Monmouth named Alex Tanney. Tanney is most known for the above trick shot video he posted on youtube. He has no chance to make the main roster with Charlie Batch, Troy Smith and newly re-signed Byron Leftwich in camp but I’ll be rooting for the kid to at least make the practice squad. He may be raw and those tricks may have nothing to do with football but, man, he has a cannon for an arm. If JaMarcus Russell can fool the Raiders into picking him first overall because he could throw the ball 50 yards from his knees, Tanney should at least earn a spot on the practice squad. He may not be polished as the vets or even fellow camp invitee Jerrod Johnson but he already throws a better deep ball than Big Ben.

Pittsburgh Steelers Complete Draft Recap

 Posted by at 5:15 am  Legal Trouble, NFL Draft  Comments Off on Pittsburgh Steelers Complete Draft Recap
Apr 302012
David DeCastro
Offensive Guard
6’5  320 pounds

What more can I say about this pick? Just look at this dude. How can you not be excited by the NFL version of Private Pyle from Full Metal Jacket? The scouting report on DeCastro is filled with superlatives like “extremely polished,” “stout at the point of attack,” and “nasty, aggressive demeanor.” He’ll be expected to start on day one and the question isn’t whether he can handle playing in the NFL but how long it’ll take him to reach his first Pro Bowl (if the Pro Bowl still exists next year). The sky is truly the limit with this pick. Why did he fall to the Steelers at #24? The only answer I’ve heard is he’s a guard, which tend to hold less value than tackles, who have to be a little better athletically since they work in space.. That said, DeCastro is a tremendous athlete by guard standards as evidenced by his superior pull blocking ability. The bottom line the Steelers got a well-rounded, blue-collar blocker who solidifies one of their guard spots for the next decade.

Mike Adams
Offensive Tackle
Ohio State
6’7  325 pounds

Adams was considered one of the top five tackles in the draft who fell to the mid-second round due to character concerns stemming from several incidents while at Ohio State and a failed drug test at the NFL Combine. He grew up a Steeler fan in Farrell, PA, and evidently was very hopeful the Steelers would draft him. Time will tell whether he can straighten his life out or if he’ll be just another low character guy the team failed to control. Sticking to the football side of the equation, Adams has the kind of size and quickness to be a top notch left tackle. He has some injury concerns (season ending foot injury in 2008, season ending knee injury in 2009) but rebounded to be named 1st Team Big Ten in 2010 and 2nd Team last season. Boom or Bust type with all the physical gifts in the world but needs a little polish and a lot of attitude adjustment in order to maximize his immense potential.

Sean Spence
Inside Linebacker
5’11  230 pounds

Excellent athlete with a non-stop motor. Tackling machine who has no problem covering sideline-to-sideline. Played several different linebacker positions in college but Mike Tomlin has already stated they’re looking at Spence to back-up Lawrence Timmons at ILB with Stevenson Sylvester in the mix to replace James Farrior at the other ILB. The downside with Spence is at 5’11 and 230 pounds, he’s way undersized for the Steelers’ style of defense. Dick LeBeau depends on his inside ‘backers to be stout against the run and drop into coverage. Timmons got pushed around his first couple seasons as an undersized ILB and he was 6’1 240. Spence is going to get run over like an annoying little gnat. What’s more, he ran a disappointing 4.7 second 40 at the combine so not only is Spence half a foot shorter than most TEs, he’s quite a bit slower, too. Perhaps he’ll give the Steelers some nice special teams play during his brief NFL career but it’s highly unlikely he’ll ever see significant playing time as a member of the defense.

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