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Archive for February, 2009

Steelers free agency recap

February 28, 2009 By: Admin Category: Draft/Free Agency

So far, the Steelers have gone according to their usual script during the free agency period.  The Steelers typically seek first to re-sign their own players.  Then, once the big spenders have left the pool, the Steelers will usually make a free agent signing or two that cause little splash.  The Steelers never sign big name free agents, but the ones that they sign often make a big contribution.

Recent Steelers free agent signings include Justin Hartwig, Keyaron Fox, and Ryan Clark.  James Farrior may be the best free agent acquisition currently on the Steelers’ roster.  He was signed for next to nothing when the New York Jets gave up on him.  The Steelers then plugged him in, and he’s been a critical component of the Steelers D ever since.  He’s a defensive captain, and a multi-time Pro Bowl player.

Instead of chasing big name free agents, the Steelers believe in taking care of their own players.  The Steelers understand that the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side.  They know what their own players can do.  More importantly, they know about the problems that their own players may bring to the table.  What effect a player like Albert Haynesworth will have on the Redskins locker room is anybody’s guess.

So for the most part, the Steelers’ 2009 roster will look much like the one that recently won the Super Bowl.  Max Starks has been re-signed.  So has Willie Colon.  Chris Kemoeatu as well.  That insures that the entire starting offensive line will be back next year.

Some fans may be thinking, “The offensive line was terrible.  Why would we want to keep them intact?”  There are a couple of answers to that question.  First, the offensive line wasn’t as bad as Ben Roethlisberger’s sack total made it seem.  Big Ben holds the ball too long.  Sometimes that results in a great play, and sometimes it results in a sack.  Roethlisberger has said that he doesn’t plan to change his gunslinger style, so Steelers fans will just have to live with lots of sacks. 

The second thing to keep in mind about the offensive line is that this was their first year playing together.  Remember, Max Starks didn’t start off the year as the starting left tackle.  Chris Kemoeatu was playing his first year as a starter at left guard.  Justin Hartwig was in his first year as the Steelers’ center.  Darnell Stapleton was in his first year as a starting right guard.  And Willie Colon was in his second year as the Steelers right tackle.  That is not a lot of time spent together as a unit.  Yet, they won the Super Bowl.  With more time together, the O-line should get better, not worse.

It appears that the Steelers have made the decision that they can no longer tie up money on players who might be health risks.  Both Marvel Smith and Kendall Simmons cost the Steelers a lot of money last season while making almost no contribution on the field.  Both players might make a complete comeback and become Pro Bowl players.  That would make the Steelers decision to cut ties with them seem foolish.  However, the Steelers were willing to take that risk in order to eliminate the downside of continued health problems.

The greatest potential losses for the Steelers are still unanswered.  Cornerback Bryant McFadden is the highest rated CB in free agency.  He will likely get a much higher offer than the Steelers can afford to match. 

The Oakland Raiders recently signed their free agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha to a three year, $45.3 million contract.  Asomugha is guaranteed $28.5 million in the first two years of the contract. The Raiders have an option for a third year in 2011, which would be worth either $16.8 million or the amount of the quarterback franchise tag, whichever is greater.  That’s a lot of money.  Sure, Asomugha is a much better cornerback than Bryant McFadden.  But try telling McFadden’s agent that.  McFadden’s agent knows that his clients’ asking price just went up.

The fact that the Washington Redskins just signed CB DeAngelo Hall to a 6-year, $54 million deal with $22 million in guaranteed money was probably the last nail in Bryant McFadden’s Steeler coffin.  The market for cornerbacks is just too high.  The Steelers know that William Gay is ready to play, and Deshea Townsend is still around for insurance.  Expect the Steelers to draft a cornerback in the 3rd or 4th round of the draft, and to let McFadden sign a contract that is much richer than the Steelers would have offered.

Nate Washington is the other Steelers free agent that is likely to be gone come training camp.  Washington is one of the better (and faster) wide receivers available in free agency.  There will definitely be a market for his services.

Washington has always been fast, and he can get good separation from his defender.  However, his hands have not always been sure.  Whether Washington was going to hold onto the ball has always been a 50/50 proposition.  The Steelers have an exact clone of that already on the roster.  His name is Limas Sweed.

Personally, I’m not quite comfortable with Sweed as a starter just yet.  But I think he is going to be a quality wide receiver in the NFL.  In his limited time on the field, Sweed was getting excellent separation from his defenders.  He just couldn’t hold onto the ball.  It took Washington a few years to develop, and Sweed may need similar development time.  I won’t be surprised if the Steelers sign a low priced free agent wide receiver to help solidify the WR position until Sweed is ready to start.

Perhaps the Steelers biggest question mark during this free agency period concerns a player who isn’t even a free agent.  Albert Haynesworth’s $100 million dollar deal has certainly increased the price of retaining Steelers LB, team MVP, and NFL defensive player of the year, James Harrison. 

Harrison has one more year remaining on his contract.  However, the Steelers have been working hard to extend Harrison’s contract before next season when he could become a free agent.    Despite the fact that they play different positions, Haynesworth’s contract will affect Harrison’s negotiation. 

We’ve already mentioned that Nnamdi Asomugha got a $45.3 million contract with $28.5 million guaranteed, and that DeAngelo Hall got $54 million deal with $22 million in guaranteed money.  Now Haynesworth’s deal has to also be added into the mix.  Haynesworth got $100 million with an NFL-record $41 million in guarantees.  

Last off-season Minnesota gave defensive end Jared Allen a six-year deal worth $74 million with just over $31 million guaranteed, and the year before that the Colts handed defensive end Dwight Freeney a six-year, $72 million deal.

Joey Porter’s 5-year, $32 million contract, with $20 million in guaranteed money now seems rather small.  It is probably the cellar of James Harrison’s negotiations.

  Based on the above figures, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for Harrison to seek a contract in the neighborhood of six years, $70-$80 million with at least $30 million guaranteed.  I don’t think the length of the deal will be nearly as important to Harrison as the amount of guaranteed money.

“I was hoping we’d get $100,” Harrison’s agent, Bill Parise, recently said.  Yeah, right.  One thing is for certain.   Harrison will not be playing for the $1.8 million next year that his contract calls for.

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Colbert takes advice from Steelers Today

February 26, 2009 By: Admin Category: Draft/Free Agency

I hate to blow my own horn, but I’m going to do it anyway.  I wrote a 3-part series called “If I were Kevin Colbert”, that predicted everything that has happened during the Steelers’ free agency period.  If you haven’t already read that series, please go back and do so.    Part 1 can be found here, and Part 2 can be found here.

In that series, I predicted that the Steelers would sign Max Starks to a whopping contract for the second year in a row.  I predicted that they would let Marvel Smith go.  I predicted that they would make an offer to Willie Colon, but that they wouldn’t do the same for Chris Kemoeatu.  I predicted that Anthony Smith would be let go.  Mitch Berger too.  I even predicted that they would let Arnold Harrison go, while resigning Anthony Madison and Sean McHugh to modest contracts.

A couple of things that I predicted have not yet happened.  I said that Bryant McFadden and Nate Washington would both receive offers that were too rich for the Steelers’ tastes, and they’d both be with new teams next year.  That hasn’t happened yet, but it will.

The one thing that surprised me is that the Steelers released Kendall Simmons.  He still has time left on his contract, so they didn’t have to make a move with him yet.  Either their doctors are telling them something that we don’t know, or they just don’t think he’s worth what he’s making. 

To be honest, even BEFORE Simmons hurt his ACL this past year, he was a revolving door on the offensive line.  He may as well have layed out a welcome mat for defensive linemen, he was so accomodating to their needs.  And 2007 was an even worse year for him.  He sucked.  He looked more like a matador than an offensive lineman.  Mike Tomlin obviously noticed that too.  Oh well.  See ya later, Kendall.

The bottom line is that Steelers’ Director of Football Operations, Kevin Colbert, obviously reads Steelers Today.  He did everything that we said that he should do, and we couldn’t be any happier.

By the way, Mr. Colbert, our consulting bill is in the mail.  Please pay promptly.

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Steelers 2008: The Year in Pictures (Part 2)

February 25, 2009 By: Admin Category: Uncategorized

Tune in tomorrow for Steelers 2008: The Year in Pictures (Part 3)

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Steelers 2008: The Year in Pictures (Part 1)

February 25, 2009 By: Admin Category: Uncategorized

I know that most NFL bloggers are now focusing their attention on the NFL Combine, and the upcoming draft.  I’ll start talking about those things soon enough, but right now, I still want to hold onto the joy of the Steelers’ spectacular 2008 season.

Over the next several days, I will be presenting one final look at the season that was.  From the highs to the lows, and everything in between.   From the 2008 NFL draft, to training camp, the regular season, the playoffs, and the Super Bowl, we’ll revisit all of it.

Steelers Today presents the 2008 season in pictures.

Tune in tomorrow for Steelers 2008: The Year in Pictures (Part 2)

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So glad I’m not a Dallas Cowboys fan

February 22, 2009 By: Admin Category: Uncategorized

February 22, 2009
By Donald Starver

This week I was reminded once again why we, as Steelers fans, are a very fortunate bunch.

The Steelers have been one of the most successful organizations in the NFL for the past 40 years.  They have won more Super Bowls than any other team.  Moreover, even when they don’t win the Super Bowl, they are almost always in the playoffs.

Sure, we’ve had down years (e.g. the Cliff Stoudt years), but for the most part, the Steelers are almost always competitive.  Even when they don’t make the playoffs or win their division, the Steelers rarely embarrass their fans.  And unlike teams like the Cincinnati Bengals (Bungles), Detroit Lions, and Oakland Raiders, the Steelers are NEVER the butt of jokes.

Contrast that with the other team that vies for the title of “most popular team in the NFL”, the Dallas Cowboys.  The Cowboys (along with the 49ers) have won the next most Super Bowls in NFL history (5 Super Bowl championships).  They were once given the title “America’s team”.  Yet, in their recent history, the Cowboys have given their fans little to be proud of. America’s team? Many Cowboys fans wish they weren’t Dallas’ team.

The Cowboys may be the biggest band of underachievers in the NFL.  Each of the past two years, the Cowboys have had twice as many Pro Bowl players as the Steelers.  In 2008, the Cowboys had 12 of their players in the Pro Bowl, while the Steelers had only 6.  This year, the Cowboys had 6 Pro Bowl players compared to the Steelers’ 3.  Yet despite their star-studded roster, the Cowboys have achieved little.  They haven’t won a playoff game in over a decade (since December 28, 1996).  They failed to even qualify for the playoffs this year. Meanwhile, this year’s Steelers team, which had the toughest schedule in the NFL and included only 3 Pro Bowl players, managed to win the Super Bowl.

Since 1990, the Cowboys have had six different coaches (Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer, Chan Gailey, Dave Campo, Bill Parcells, and Wade Phillips.  None of them lasted more than 4 years.  The Steelers have had two coaches during that same period.

The Cowboys are known for signing troubled players.  Terrell Owens, Pacman Jones, and Tank Johnson were all welcomed with open arms by Cowboy’s owner Jerry Jones.  None of those players would have been welcomed by the Steelers, where character is just as important as talent.

The Cowboys are like a soap opera.  The most important news stories about them usually stem from their off-field exploits.  Terrell Owens doesn’t think he’s getting the ball enough (surprise, surprise).   Pacman Jones gets into trouble at a strip club.  Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson are breaking up.    Terrell Owens doesn’t like his coaches.  Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson are back together.  Jerry Jones calls Marion Barber “soft”.  Pacman Jones gets into trouble at a strip club.  Business as usual with the Dallas Cowboys.

Now, Jerry Jones has added another storyline to the Cowboys’ soap opera.  Jones has placed a gag order on his coaches.  They are not allowed to talk about Cowboys affairs to the media.  Only Jones himself is allowed to make public statements pertaining to the Cowboys.


Can you imagine that?  The head coach is not allowed to talk about the team.  Totally bizarre.

When reporters in Indianapolis for the scouting combine approached Cowboys’ head coach Wade Phillips on Thursday, he said, “Can’t talk. Against the rules.”

Jones says that the reason for his new mandate is that too much inaccurate information about the Cowboys was being written.

“Where I’m coming from here, I just want to make sure you’re not getting bits and pieces of information,” Jones said. “That’s not doing anybody any good and you’re not making accurate reports.”

Jones doesn’t think that he is undermining the authority of his head coach, Wade Phillips, by not allowing him to talk to the media, even though all NFL coaches speak to the media while at the Combine.

“It’s well known that relative to our personnel decisions who makes that decision,” said Jones, who has had final say on personnel matter since purchasing the team 20 years ago. “All I’m trying to say is basically that’s where you need to go to see where the status of that decision is. That’s where you need to go. That’s what we’re trying to avoid. What’s happened this off-season, there’s been a lot of misinformation.”

The ironic part of this whole story is that Jones has only placed the gag order on his coaches.  He has not issued a gag order for his players.  So big-mouthed players like Terrell Owens can continue to say whatever they want, and divide the Cowboys’ locker room, with no negative repercussions.  This story would almost be funny, if it weren’t so sad.

Can you imagine Dan Rooney putting a gag order on Mike Tomlin or Kevin Colbert, and telling the media that they needed to talk to him if they wanted information about the Steelers?  Neither can I.

But the Rooneys aren’t Jerry Jones.  The Steelers aren’t the Cowboys.  And I am extraordinarily grateful for that.

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