I haven’t been writing as much as I usually do during Steelers Training Camp because for the first time in 4 years, I am not at training camp. Ordinarily, I would be at St. Vincent College giving daily updates on who looks good and who looks bad. But with the uncertainty due to the lockout, I didn’t make plans to attend training camp this year.
I will be at Training Camp next week, so I’ll be providing more detailed updates then. But in the meantime, it’s time to update what’s happened so far, and provide my thoughts on each move.
The two biggest signings that the Steelers have made have been Ike Taylor and LaMarr Woodley.
Signing Ike was absolutely necessary. We all saw what happened in Super Bowl XLV. Aaron Rodgers picked the Steelers’ secondary apart. And Rodgers wasn’t the first quarterback to do it. The Steelers’ cornerbacks got picked on all year. Bryant McFadden was a liability, and opposing quarterbacks knew that. William Gay wasn’t much better. Ike Taylor was really the only dependable cornerback the Steelers had. So had the Steelers let him get away, Bryant McFadden and William Gay would have been at the top of the Steelers’ cornerback depth chart. If that duo had been the starters, the Steelers probably would have lost most of their games by 40 points, and opposing quarterbacks would have averaged 400 yards passing per game.
Surprisingly, the response on our Facebook page to the Ike Taylor signing was overwhelmingly negative. Fans didn’t seem to be happy to have Ike back. Frankly, I don’t understand that reaction. Ike has been our best cornerback for years, and he’ll likely be the best this year. Without him, the Steelers would have been in trouble.
LaMarr Woodley’s signing was a no-brainer. “Wood” outplayed his rookie contract. He has been one of the best bargains in the NFL since he became a starter. He’s had double digit sacks for each of the last 3 years. Woodley and James Harrison make up the best linebacker duo in the NFL. So I had no doubt that Woodley was going to be signed to a long-term contract.
Aside from the two key defensive signings, the Steelers also made several other signings.
Willie Colon was signed. The Steelers have often said that Willie Colon was their best offensive lineman (prior to the addition of Maurkice Pouncey). I’ve never agreed with that. Colon has been too prone to mental errors in my opinion. Frankly, I thought that Flozell Adams played just as well as Willie Colon while Colon was out with his injury.
Chris Hoke was also resigned to a 1-year deal. Hoke has quietly been a very dependable back-up nose tackle for years now. I’m glad that Hoke is back, but I hope to see the young undrafted nose tackle that the Steelers have in camp give Hoke some competition. In fact, the Steelers need to get younger, so I hope he wins the position from Hoke.
Mewelde Moore was also signed. Like Hoke, I hope Moore loses his job. Baron Batch has been making some noise in training camp, and it would be great to see the young guy beat out the veteran.
Dennis Dixon also signed after announcing that he wanted to be traded. Bad move. Dennis is going to have to have a great camp. He isn’t good enough to endure being in Mike Tomlin’s doghouse.
I was surprised to see the Steelers sign Dan Sepulveda to a new deal. Sepulveda has been injury prone, and I didn’t think the Steelers would give him another chance. However, when Sepulveda is healthy, he is a very accurate punter. He can get it inside the 10 yard line almost any time he wants to.
I was surprised to see the Steelers release tackles Flozell Adams and Max Starks. That’s a lot of beef.
Starks was said to be out of shape, and Adams refused to accept a smaller contract, so he was released for salary cap reasons. Rumor has it that the Steelers would like to bring Adams back if he’ll accept a reduced contract.
Players on the hot seat
There are a few guys who find themselves on the hot seat at training camp. No, I’m not talking about William Gay and Bryant McFadden. Despite their shortcomings, both of their positions are probably secure.
Several players need to make an impact in training camp, or their time with the Steelers may be up. The first is Limas Sweed. Sweed is supposed to be healthy and in a good state mentally. He’d better show something, or his days are numbered.
Tony Hills is also in a make-or-break situation. How often do you hear Hills’ name mentioned? That’s a problem for a guy who has been on the team for as long as Hills has. The Steelers have some young offensive linemen who are likely to supplant Hills on the depth chart.
Sunny Harris is the defensive version of Tony Hills. Need I say more?
Sadly, I also have to add Keenan Lewis to this list. I love Lewis’ size and athleticism, but he just hasn’t been able to put it all together. We’ve already talked about how badly Gay and McFadden have played at times. Yet, Lewis hasn’t beaten either of them out for playing time. That’ a problem.
Even though this is only his second year, Jonathan Dwyer is also on the hot seat. Dwyer came into camp fat and out of shape. I’ve heard that he looks like his off-season workout consisted of eating donuts and drinking beer. Moreover, I’ve heard that he doesn’t look like he’s giving a solid effort in camp. I liked what Dwyer showed in preseason last year, but there’s no excuse for being out of shape. Unless something changes, Dwyer’s days are likely numbered.
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