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Archive for June, 2009

Steelers veterans at risk

June 15, 2009 By: Admin Category: Players

June 15, 2009
By Donald Starver

Recently, one of our readers asked us “which Steelers veteran is likely to lose his job in 2009?”.  I answered the question in the comments section of one of our articles, but I thought the question was interesting enough to expound upon further.

The Steelers will convene for training camp on July 31, and competition will begin for roster spots.  The Steelers brought in some veteran free agents, and they had an exceptional draft.  Both factors mean that the roster is likely to undergo some changes.

As we look ahead to what is likely to happen in training camp, a couple of names come to mind who may be at risk.

The first name that comes to mind is Carey Davis.  Davis has managed to maintain a roster position since 2007.  However, going into 2009, the numbers may not work in Davis’ favor.  Davis finds himself behind Willie Parker, Mewelde Moore, and Rashard Mendenhall on the depth chart.  The Steelers drafted Frank Summers from UNLV, and he appears to be the Steelers’ short yardage back of the future.

To further compound Davis’ problems, he is officially listed as a fullback, and Steelers’ offensive coordinator Bruce Arians doesn’t really use the fullback position in his offensive scheme.  Arians prefers to utilize an H-back as the primary blocker in the backfield.  He has returning veteran Sean McHugh at that position, and has added promising rookie David Johnson from Arkansas State in the draft.

When you compare all of the players vying for time in the Steelers’ backfield, Carey Davis seems to be last in the pecking order.  When the music stops, Davis is likely to find himself without a chair.

RB Carey Davis

RB Carey Davis

The next Steelers player in the crosshairs is probably Trai Essex.  Essex was drafted by the Steelers back in 2005.  Former Steelers offensive line coach Russ Grimm seemed to have a lot of confidence in Essex.  Essex never broke into the starting lineup, but he made himself valuable by learning to play multiple positions along the offensive line.  “Position flexibility” is something that current Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin clearly values.  However, how long will the Steelers remain patient with a player who has not been able to break into the starting lineup despite playing for an offensive line that is often criticized for lacking talent?

In my opinion, the fact that Essex was not able to win Kendall Simmons’ starting position at right guard when Simmons went down with an injury, may have been the final nail in Essex’ coffin.  Instead of winning Simmons’ position, Essex was beat out by undrafted free agent Darnell Stapleton.

With the addition of young talent like Kraig Urbik and A.Q. Shipley to the Steelers’ offensive line competition, Essex may finally find himself on the outside looking in.

Another Steeler player who may find himself on the endangered species list is Charlie Batch.

Batch is a quality backup quarterback who seems to embrace the backup role.  Unlike Byron Leftwich, who openly proclaimed that he wanted to compete for a starting position, Batch seems content to be a backup.  The fact that Batch is from the Pittsburgh area probably enhances his contentment.


Unfortunately, Batch has a young lion named Dennis Dixon challenging him for the #2 position.  Dixon is a very talented young quarterback who might have won the Heisman Trophy had he not suffered a season-ending injury during his final year at Oregon.

If Dixon can show that he has mastered the playbook, he is likely to overtake Batch on the Steelers’ depth chart.  If that happens, Batch’s career will likely be over.  As a 12 year veteran, Batch doesn’t have much gas left in his tank.  He makes too much money to be a viable #3 quarterback, so rather than retain him as the third quarterback on the roster, the Steelers would probably release him and develop Kevin McCabe or Mike Reilly to be #3.

Hopefully, Batch realizes that his future is completely in Dennis Dixon’s hands.

Another player who may find himself at risk is Tyrone Carter.  Carter has always been small for the safety position.  There are plenty of 5’9″ cornerbacks in the NFL, but you don’t find many safeties that size.  Moreover, you don’t find many strong safeties who only weigh 195 lbs.  Tyrone Carter falls into both categories.  That can’t be a good thing.

Two factors may make Carter expendable.  The first is the development (or lack thereof) of Ryan Mundy.  Mundy is younger, taller, and heavier than Carter.  If Mundy shows his potential in training camp, Carter will be sweating bullets.

The second factor that may make Carter expendable is Deshea Townsend’s ability to pick up the safety position.  I have often said that Townsend would make a great free safety, and that moving to the position would help extend his career.  Townsend is one of the most intelligent players on the Steelers’ roster.  He has never been the fastest player on the field, or the most talented.  However, Townsend is rarely out of position.  That is the primary requirement of a free safety.  Just ask Anthony Smith.

Tom Brady & Tyrone Carter

Tom Brady & Tyrone Carter

Two factors may save Carter.  Firstly, Townsend is two years older than him.  So age is on Carter’s side.  The second is the fact that the Steelers just don’t have many safeties on the roster.  Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, and Tyrone Carter are the only  safeties on the Steelers’ roster with NFL experience.  Thus, Tyrone Carter may be saved by the lack of viable competition.

The final veteran who may find himself at risk is Travis Kirschke.  Kirschke is the oldest player on the Steelers’ roster.  Despite not getting much playing time, Kirschke usually performs well when given the opportunity.  He knows the defense, and does his job when called upon.  Unfortunately, time waits for no man.  The Steelers need to get younger at the defensive line positions.  Kirschke will be 35 years old next season, and finding a young replacement for him will help the Steelers in the future.

So who do you fans think will NOT be on the Steelers’ roster when the season starts?  Do you agree with our assessment?  If not, why not?  We’d love to hear your comments.

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Pens Win Stanley Cup!!!!!!!

June 13, 2009 By: Admin Category: Uncategorized

June 12, 2009
By Donald Starver

Steelers Today is a Pittsburgh Steelers blog.  We focus exclusively on NFL football.  We don’t talk about golf, or baseball.  We don’t talk about beer or babes.  Nope, we talk about the Steelers.

But today, for the first time, I am going to break that rule.  Today, we are going to talk about hockey.  That’s right, hockey.  Along with all other Pittsburghers, we at Steelers Today are celebrating the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Stanley Cup championship.

The Steelers are Super Bowl champs, and the Penguins are Stanley Cup champs.  What could be better?  The city of Pittsburgh has regained its title of “City of Champions”.  Now if only the Pirates could……….  Okay, maybe not.  But 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

I’ll be honest with you.  I don’t know much about hockey.  I never played the game.  I can’t name all of the positions.  I don’t understand why most of the players speak french.  But I know that the world champs wear black and gold, so that’s good enough for me.

Since I don’t know much about hockey, I am going to write about the game in the only way I know how; like the football blogger that I am.  Here goes.

Sidney Crosby is the quarterback, or whatever the hockey equivalent of that is.  He led the AFC champion Penguins against the reigning world champion Detroit Red Wings.  Unfortunately, Crosby got hurt on a roughing the passer play by the Red Wings.  Somebody named Max Talbot came in to replace Crosby, and he proceeded to score a safety for the Penguins.

The Penguins took their 2-0 lead into the third quarter, only to see the Red Wings score a PAT.  I’m not sure how they managed to do that without actually scoring a touchdown, but somehow they managed to do so.  The Pens lead was cut to 2-1.

For reasons that I don’t quite understand, they only play 3 quarters in Hockey rather than 4.   But that’s a mystery for another time.  Suffice it to say that as the 3rd quarter wound down, the Red Wings were surging and it looked like they might tie the game.  But the Penguins went into their prevent defense and held on to the win the game.  Black and gold are champs again.

Here we go Penguins.  Here we go!

Oh yeah, before I forget; #@%^$! you, Marian Hossa!!!!!!

Okay, that ends our hockey digression.  Congratulations Penguins.  Next time you hear from us, we’ll be back to our regular Steelers talk.

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AFC North Review: Pittsburgh Steelers

June 07, 2009 By: Admin Category: Draft/Free Agency

June 7, 2009
By Donald Starver

This is part 4 of our AFC North review.  On Thursday,  Joe Barnes from the Baltimore Ravens blog  The Ebony Bird started things off with a review of the Baltimore Ravens’ off-season.  On Friday, Adam Kiefaber from the Cincinnati Bengals Blog Bengal Stripes gave us his review of the Bengals’ off-season.  On Saturday, Don Delco from the Cleveland Browns blog No Logo Needed shared his perspective on the Browns’ off-season moves.   Now it’s my turn to share my views on the Steelers’ off-season thus far.

AFC North Offseason Review: Pittsburgh Steelers

2008 overall record:  12-4  
AFC North record:  6-0
Key losses:  CB Bryant McFadden, WR Nate Washington, ILB Larry Foote, QB Byron Leftwich, S Anthony Smith
Key Free Agent Signings/Trades:  CB Keiwan Ratliff, WR Shaun McDonald, P Dirk Johnson
Key Draft Selections: Round 1 - DT Ziggy Hood (Missouri); round 3A - OG Kraig Urbik (Wisconsin); round 3B - WR Mike Wallace (Mississippi); round 3C - CB Keenan Lewis (Oregon State); round 5A - CB Joe Burnett (Central Florida); round 5B - RB Frank Summers (UNLV); round 6 - DT Ra’Shon Harris (Oregon); round 7A - C A. Q. Shipley (Penn State); round 7B - TE David Johnson (Arkansas State).

Best free agent signing and impact:

As usual, the Steelers were not active in free agency.  Rather than participating in the free agent bidding wars, the Steelers sat on the sidelines and picked up a few leftovers when the bidding had subsided.  Keiwan Ratliff will provide another veteran defensive back, where the Steelers are woefully short-handed.  However, the greatest impact will probably be from WR Shaun McDonald.  McDonald is a solid veteran receiver who played for a very bad Detroit Lions team.  He was the Lions’ leading receiver in 2007 before losing the title to superstar Calvin Johnson in 2008.  McDonald will make a great #3 receiver, although he will be pushed by 2nd year player Limas Sweed and rookie Mike Wallace

Biggest Loss and Impact:

The Steelers suffered 3 key losses during the off-season.  Wide receiver Nate Washington signed with the Tennessee Titans, cornerback Bryant McFadden signed with the Arizona Cardinals, and LB Larry Foote signed with the Detroit Lions.  None of these players constitute a major loss, and all should be easily replaced.  Washington was the Steelers #3 receiver.  He will be much easier to replace than a #1 or #2 receiver would be.  McFadden was a starting cornerback, but he was splitting time with William Gay.  Gay will step in and replace McFadden full-time just like he did last year on a part-time basis.  Like McFadden, Foote was splitting time with former 1st round pick Lawrence Timmons.  Timmons is younger, faster, and more talented than Foote.  Despite the 3 losses, the Steelers should actually emerge as a stronger team because of them.

What is your reaction to the Steelers’ draft?  I really like the players the Steelers selected.  Ziggy Hood adds much needed youth to the Steelers defensive line.  Kraig Urbik should be able to win a starting position at right guard by mid-season.  Mike Wallace has amazing speed, and is a star receiver of the future.   Keenan Lewis should see some playing time if he can learn the playbook.  Frank Summers is the short yardage back that the Steelers have lacked since Jerome Bettis retired.  And getting a center in the 7th round who won the Rimington Trophy in 2008 was the icing on the cake.  The Steelers addressed most of their needs, got much stronger in their return game, and added pieces for the future.  Overall, an excellent draft.

Was the Steelers’ biggest need addressed?  Yes and no.  Some fans would say that the Steelers should have taken offensive linemen in all 7 rounds.  The fact that they only took 2 offensive linemen will be viewed as a failure by some.  After all, $100 million quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 4 billion times over the last two seasons (okay, maybe not that many time, but he’s been sacked a lot).  I think the offensive line will be much better next year.  But of course, I said the same thing after the 2007 season.

What storylines will you follow in camp? 1) Will the sophomores finally make an impact.  Rashard Mendenhall, Limas Sweed, Tony Hills, and Bruce Davis need to make their presence felt this year.  They were all MIA last year, and that will have to change if they want to hold onto their roster spots.  2)  How is Lawrence Timmons adjusting to being a starter?  I think he’ll do fine, but I’d like to see it on the field.   3) Can the Steelers’ offensive line finally figure out how to keep QB Ben Roethlisberger off his back?  Let’s face it.  Big Ben gets sacked way too often.  If he is going to last in this league, he is going to have to get better protection.  4)  Can Joe Burnett and Mike Wallace make an impact on the return game?  The Steelers didn’t have many weak spots last year.  Their return game was one of the few.

So, that is my review of the Steelers’ off-season so far.  I really like what they’ve done.  I don’t think we’re going to miss any of the players who left, and I think the rookies are going to be solid.  We won the Super Bowl last year, despite having the toughest schedule in the NFL.  The road to the Super Bowl will be much easier this time around.

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AFC North Review: Cleveland Browns

June 05, 2009 By: Admin Category: Uncategorized

June 6, 2009
By Donald Starver

This is part 3 of our AFC North review.  On Thursday,  Joe Barnes from the Baltimore Ravens blog  The Ebony Bird started things off with a review of the Baltimore Ravens’ off-season.  On Friday, Adam Kiefaber from the Cincinnati Bengals Blog Bengal Stripes gave us his review of the Bengals’ off-season.  Today we will have Don Delco from the Cleveland Browns blog No Logo Needed sharing his perspective on the Browns’ off-season moves.   And finally, I will finish up tomorrow with my review of the Steelers’ off-season.

Take it away, Don.

AFC North Offseason Review: Cleveland Browns

2008 Record: 4-12 (AFC North: 1-5)

Key Losses:  MLB Andra Davis, S Sean Jones, TE Kellen Winslow, Jr., WR Joe Jurevicius.

Key Free Agent Signings:  MLB Eric Barton, OLB David Bowens, DE Kenyon Coleman, S Abram Elam, WR Mike Furrey, CB Rod Hood ,TE Robert Royal.
Key Draft Selections:   First Round: C Alex Mack (California); Second Round: WR Brian Robiskie (Ohio State), WR Mohamed Massaquoi (Georgia), DL David Vekiune (Hawaii); Fourth Round: Kaluka Maiava (USC); Sixth Round: RB James Davis (Clemson).
Best Free Agent Signing and Impact:  The Browns targeted Abram Elam, a restricted free agent, and signed him to an offer sheet.  The Jets matched that offer sheet with hours to spare.  On draft day, the Browns traded their No. 5 pick to the Jets and among the players the Browns got in return was Elam.

Biggest Loss and Impact:  S Sean Jones and TE Kellen Winslow.  Jones is a key loss because he was a starter.  At the time, the Browns had nobody to replace him.  Mike Adams was being projected as the starter, but after the trade on draft day that netted Cleveland Elam, they now look to be in good shape moving forward at safety.  Winslow was a different situation.  Is he a big loss?  Yes.  Would they be a better team with him in a Browns uniform?  No.  Winslow was a perfect example of the old adage “addition by subtraction.”  Although Winslow will be missed in the passing game, his attitude and lack of desire to run block will not be.  This was the biggest indicator of where Mangini wants to take this team.  Run the ball and control the clock.  You can’t do either effectively with a tight end that doesn’t block anyone.

What is your reaction to the Browns’ draft?:   Two wide receivers in the second round?  Doesn’t seem like a logical choice, except for the Detroit Lions.  The best thing about the draft was the Browns did not pick at No. 5.  There was not a clear-cut player that could help Cleveland in 2009 and that selection would have demanded a lot of money.  By trading out of that spot and picking up a center in Alex Mack, it only continues to bolster an already above average offensive line.

Was the Browns’ biggest need addressed?:  No.  In the 3-4 defense that the Browns run, linebackers are critical.  The Browns still do not have above average linebackers.  Former Jets players Eric Barton (MLB) and David Bowens (OLB) will help, but the position is still a big weakness especially since the Browns employ the 3-4 scheme.

What storylines will you follow in camp?:  (1): Quarterback.  Duh.  Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson?  Who ya got?  Most are leaning toward Quinn, but Anderson has a chance and that frightens most.  (2): Who will emerge as the four to start in the linebacking corps and is it enough to help this defense improve?  (3): Currently the Browns have 10 wide receivers and 10 defensive backs.  Something has to give.  (4): How is the team adjusting to new head coach Eric Mangini, new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, and new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan?  (5): Does RB Jamal Lewis have enough left in the tank to solidify the Browns running game, a Mangini staple?

Thanks Don.  That was an excellent review.  I must tell you that I am very jealous that the Browns got Alex Mack.  I thought he would look great in black and gold.

I agree with you that losing Kellen Winslow Jr. is actually a positive for the Browns.  Despite all of his talent, KW2 just didn’t seem to have the right mental attitude to reach his full potential.  His focus seems to be more on himself than on his team.  I have never really liked him as a player.  I’ll take a blue collar, selfless tight end like the Steelers’ Heath Miller anyday.

So that ends our Cleveland Browns review.  Tomorrow, I will be discussing my views on the Steelers’ off-season moves.  See ya then.

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AFC North Review: Cincinnati Bengals

June 04, 2009 By: Admin Category: Draft/Free Agency

June 5, 2009
By Donald Starver

Today we will be continuing our AFC North review.  As I explained yesterday, I have recruited 3 fellow AFC North bloggers to help me with the review.  Joe Barnes from the Baltimore Ravens blog  The Ebony Bird started things off yesterday.  Today we will continue with blogger Adam Kiefaber from the Cincinnati Bengals Blog Bengal Stripes giving us his review of the Bengals off-season.  On Saturday we will have Don Delco from the Cleveland Browns blog No Logo Needed.  And finally, I will finish up on Sunday with my review of the Steelers’ off-season.

You have the floor, Adam.

AFC North Offseason Review: Cincinnati Bengals

2008 Record: 4-11-1 (AFC North: 1-5)

Key Losses:

OT Stacy Andrew (signed w/ PHI)
WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh (signed w/ SEA)
OT Levi Jones (cut)
C Eric Ghiaciuc (signed w/ KC)
DT Orien Harris (traded to STL)
WR Glenn Holt (signed w/ MIN)
S Dexter Jackson (cut)

Key Free Agent Signings:

WR Laveranues Coles
S Roy Williams
DT Tank Johnson
RB Brian Leonard (trade w/ STL)
QB J.T. O’Sullivan
FB Jeremi Johnson

Key Draft Selections:

OT Andre Smith (No. 6 overall) - Alabama
LB Rey Maualuga (No. 38 overall) - USC
DE Michael Johnson (No. 70 overall) - Georgia Tech
TE Chase Coffman (No. 98 overall) - Missouri
C Jonathan Luigs (No. 106 overall) - Arkansas
P Kevin Huber (No. 142 overall) - Cincinnati

Best Free Agent Signing and Impact:

The best free-agent signing in 2009 has to be Laveranues Coles.  The top reason that he is the best signing is because the team had lost its third-down go-to receiver in T.J. Houshmandzadeh in free agency. While fans in the Nati were bummed to see one of their favorites sign elsewhere, the signing of Coles is believed to be an upgrade over Housh in some keg lines of Bengals fans.  Coles may open up the vertical passing attack and still be able to catch those clutch short over-the-middle passes that Housh was so great at.  That being said, the upgrades on defense through free agency could provide the Bengals with a big boost.  While Coles should be the best signing, I wouldn’t be surprised if either DT Tank Johnson or S Roy Williams have great seasons.

Biggest Loss and Impact:

The biggest name lost has to be Houshmandzadeh, and I wasn’t referring to how many letters are in his name.  However, the Bengals could lose the most from its tackle spots.  The team let Stacy Andrews walk and made Levi Jones take a hike, leaving the Bengals without its two OT starters from a year ago.  Personally, I wasn’t a fan of Andrews.  I thought he was just a project who never emerged into the  superstar that everyone was hoping for.  However the Eagles decided to pay him like he is a superstar.

Then there is Jones, who has been awful for the past couple of seasons. Cincinnati is projected to start ’09 first-rounder Andre Smith at right tackle and Andrew Whitworth (started at left guard in ’08) at left tackle.  Both players could struggle against speed rushers, but I am certain that they cannot be worse than what Andrews and Jones did in ’08.  Or can they?

What is your reaction to the Bengals’ draft?:

Before the draft began most Bengals fans didn’t like their chances to compete in the AFC North in 2009.  However, after the draft, those expectations changed.  The Bengals second-round pick Rey Maualuga really had fans excited.  The additions of Michael Johnson, Chase Coffman, Jonathan Luigs and Kevin Huber had fans shaking their heads and saying to each other, “could this draft have gone any better!”   Surely, the hype may not produce a winner right away, but even from an outsider’s perspective, the Bengals improved themselves immensely in the draft.

Was the Bengals’ biggest need addressed?:

The biggest need appeared to be offensive tackle and running back. The Bengals must have known that they were going to get a starter at OT in the draft, because they were set on acquiring a starting running back.  Cincinnati seemed to focused on former New York Giant Derrick Ward, but eventually made the right decision to re-sign Cedric Benson.  Both Smith and Benson need to have good seasons for the Bengals to have a chance of competing in 2009.

What storylines will you follow in camp?:

An easier question will be which ones won’t I be following.  There is always the Curious Case of Ochocinco, the attitude of Andre Smith, the role that Rey Maualuga will play, if Tank Johnson or Chris Henry shoot anybody, if Roy Williams is as close to being as good as he was in Dallas, how Coles will turn out, and there is so much more.  The obvious storyline that everyone better watch for is the offensive line.  Only one starter from 2008 is back at his spot in right guard Bobbie Williams.  The rest of the line better play well or Carson Palmer might not make it through the season.

Thanks Adam.  That was a very good review.  Personally, I agree with most of your opinions.  The Bengals have a lot of question marks this season.  I am anxious to see how Carson Palmer looks in his return.  I always wonder what Carson Palmer’s career would have been like if he had remained healthy (and played for a better team than the Bengals).

I agree with you on the question marks on the Bengals’ offensive line.  The Bengals’ line is even more suspect than the Steelers’, and that is a scary thought.

On the positive side, the Bengals probably had the best draft in the AFC North.  Andre Smith should be a stud.  Rey Maualuga was a steal where the Bengals took him.  Michael Johnson is going to be good, and Jonathan Luigs was yet another steal.

When you combine a great draft with all of the players that the Bengals signed in free agency, and the return of Carson Palmer, it becomes clear that the Bengals will be much improved and will definitely contend for…….last place in the AFC North.

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