Steelers Today - A Pittsburgh Steelers blog


Steelers sign undrafted free agents

April 26, 2010 By: Admin Category: Draft/Free Agency

As is always the case the day after the NFL Draft ends, all of the teams scramble to sign undrafted free agents. 

The Steelers are no different, and they signed 7 undrafted free agents to add to the players that they acquired in the draft.

The team added 3 offensive linemen, 2 safeties, 1 defensive tackle, and 1 fullback.

The seven undrafted rookies were offensive guard Dorian Brooks, safety Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith, offensive tackle Kyle Jolly, fullback Demetrius Taylor, defensive tackle Cordarrow Thompson, safety Justin Thornton and center/guard A.J. Trump.

Fans are probably happy to see the Steelers grab two safeties, since the team essentially ignored that position in the draft.

Steelers sign Larry Foote

March 15, 2010 By: Admin Category: Draft/Free Agency

It’s like deja vu all over again.  First the Steelers re-signed former Steelers wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, and now they’ve re-signed former Steelers linebacker Larry Foote.  I guess next they’ll sign Jerome Bettis…….or Lynn Swann. 

Lynn Swann

Despite my jokes, this is actually a good move for the Steelers.  Foote is a seasoned veteran who is already familiar with the Steelers’ defense.  He will add depth at the inside linebacker position (where James Farrior is slowing noticeably).

Foote spent last season with the Detroit Lions after asking the Steelers to release him following the 2008 season.

There was some question as to whether Foote would sign with the Steelers.  He had stated publicly that he wanted to sign with the Arizona Cardinals.  But sign he did.  Foote agreed to a 3-year, $9.3 million contract.

Welcome back, Larry. 

Hey, is that Rocky Bleier going into Kevin Colbert’s office?

Steelers make moves

March 09, 2010 By: Admin Category: Draft/Free Agency

The Steelers were unusually active early in free agency on Monday.  Ordinarily, the Steelers sit out the first several weeks of free agency, and then after the dust settles, they come in and scoop up a few of the leftovers.

But that was not the Steelers’ approach yesterday.  Instead, the team made some early moves that probably surprised most fans.

The most important of those moves was re-signing safety Ryan Clark.  This was a move that I have been calling for, so I was very happy to see it happen.

The team gave Clark a new 4-year, $14 million dollar contract.  Clark had visited with the Miami Dolphins, but after a few days of free agency, I guess his agent determined that the offer that the Steelers had on the table was a fair one.

Steelers safety Ryan Clark

Even more surprising than the Clark signing was the announcement that the team has reached an agreement with former Steelers receiver and return man Antwaan Randle El.  I certainly didn’t see that one coming.

Randle El was the Redskins’ second leading receiver last year, but he never lived up to the contract they gave him.  He was one of the best return men in recent Steelers history.  However, with the season that Stefan Logan had, combined with the fact that Joe Burnett and Mike Wallace were both very good return men in college, i never expected to see the team bring him back.

But bring him back they did.  Randle El is scheduled to be in Pittsburgh today to sign what is reported to be a 3-year deal.

In addition to players who have previously worn the black and gold, the Steelers also signed two newcomers.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Will Allen and San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Arnaz Battle were also signed to 3-year contracts on Monday.  Both players will strengthen special teams, as well as add depth at their respective positions.

Apparently, the Steelers still aren’t done.  Former Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Jonathan Scott is scheduled to be in Pittsburgh today, and it is believed that he is also prepared to join the Steelers.  If he signs with the Steelers, he will be re-united with Sean Kugler, his position coach from the Buffalo Bills.

As if all of that activity weren’t enough, the Steelers have also contacted former Steelers linebacker Larry Foote about rejoining the team.  Foote voluntarily left the team after the 2008 season because he wanted an opportunity to be a starter.  But after playing one year in Detroit, he may be willing to reconsider that stance.

Monday was definitely the single busiest day of free agent signings that I can remember in Steelers history.  And they many not be done yet.  I guess missing the playoffs was the wake up call that the Steelers needed.


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The Steelers’ challenges (part 1)

March 05, 2010 By: Admin Category: Draft/Free Agency

Well, the NFL Combine has started, and free agency officially began at midnight on Thursday.  So draft season has officially begun.  It’s time to take a look at exactly what the Steelers need, and who is out there to help them meet those needs.

We are going to start out with the Steelers’ defensive backs, and work our way through all of the positions on the team.

First up, the safeties.

This past season was one that the Steelers would like to forget.  And the defensive backs would probably like to forget it more than any other group of players.  Oh wait, I forgot about the special teams guys.  Scratch that last comment.

Okay, so BESIDES the special teams players, the defensive backs probably want to forget this past season more than any other group.  I’ll talk about the cornerbacks in the next installment in this series, but today, I want to focus on the Safeties.

I hear many fans saying that without Troy Polamalu, the rest of the Steelers defensive backs got exposed as the sub-par players that they really are.  I don’t agree with that assessment.

More than any other unit except perhaps the offensive line, the defensive backs live and die as a unit.  When one part is out of whack, the rest of the unit suffers.  This is what happened when Troy Polamalu went down with his injury.

Troy is one of the best safeties in the NFL.  Losing him is not easy to recover from.  Tyrone Carter tries his best, and he is a competent backup, but he is not Troy Polamalu.

All indications are that Troy is recovering nicely from his injury, and will be ready to go next season.  I hope that’s true, but the reality is that Troy has missed 30% of the Steelers’ games over the past 4 seasons.  2008 was the only season out of the past 4 that Troy was able to play all 16 regular season games.

So while many fans are saying that the Steelers need to draft a safety to replace Ryan Clark, who may leave in free agency, I think they need to draft a safety to backup (and potentially replace) Troy Polamalu.

Don’t get me wrong.  If Troy is healthy, then I definitely want him in the Steelers lineup.  But I’m just not sure that it’s a safe bet to assume that he will be healthy.  Recent history shows that he won’t be healthy 30% of the time.  In 2009 he was unhealthy 70% of the time.

I’ve had numerous conversations this past year with Steelers fans who disagree with me.  They think that Ryan Clark played terribly this past season, and that the Steelers need to let him walk in free agency.  What they don’t understand is that they are wrong.  The Steelers need to be concerned about every safety on their roster EXCEPT for Ryan Clark.

Ryan Clark quietly had the best season of his career in 2009.  He had career highs in tackles and passes defensed.  He also tied his career high in interceptions (but had his highest total as a Steeler).  He was tied for the team lead in interceptions, and was second on the team in total tackles.

So why do so many Steelers fans think that Clark had a terrible season?  Moreover, why are they anxious to see him leave?

Meanwhile, Tyrone Carter will be 34 years old next season.  Carter has been a capable backup, but surely the team could find a younger player to fill the same role.

Ryan Mundy is a young safety, but he has never started a game.  In his two years with the Steelers, he has accumulated 25 tackles and 1 pass defensed.  That’s not enough to make me feel confident that he is the safety of the future.

So the only Steelers safety that I feel completely confident in is the one who may be leaving in free agency.

Looking at the available free agents, Ryan Clark is the 2nd best safety available.  Only Darren Sharper is more talented than Clark.  So Clark very likely will receive offers from other teams.

What should the Steelers do?

The Steelers have too much uncertainty at the safety position.  They need to do everything in their power to sign Ryan Clark.  In fact, they should have done so before the free agency period began.

The Steelers never participate in the initial free agency period.  Moreover, they never sign high profile free agents.  So there is little chance that they will pursue Darren Sharper or Antrelle Rolle.  They are the only two free agent safeties who are in Clark’s class.  Any other free agent safety will be a step down.

So if the Steelers lose Ryan Clark, they will be left with Troy Polamalu and little else at safety.

This year’s draft has quite a few talented safeties that the Steelers could be interested in.

Eric Berry is the best safety in this year’s draft.  But he will be gone long before the Steelers’ selection comes around.  So there is no need discuss him.

Earl Thomas out of Texas is a very real possibility for the Steelers.  He is a natural free safety, and he has the versatility to play some  cornerback in a pinch.  Thomas would look great in black and gold, and he should be available  at the 18th pick.

Taylor Mays is another name that is often mentioned by Steelers fans as someone that they’d like to see the Steelers select.  I don’t agree with that opinion.  Taylor Mays is a freakish athlete.  But he’s not a very good safety.  He reminds me a bit of the late Sean Taylor.  Like Sean Taylor, Mays is huge for a safety, and looks more like a small linebacker.  But also like Sean Taylor, Taylor Mays is lacking in his coverage skills.  Moreover, Taylor Mays is a natural strong safety.  That’s Troy Polamalu’s position.  The Steelers greatest need is for a free safety to fill the void that may be left by Ryan Clark.

In Taylor Mays, the Steelers would get a player who hits like James Harrison, covers like William Gay, and catches the ball like Ike Taylor.  Only one of those three things is good.


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Steelers sign Hampton, tag Reed

February 25, 2010 By: Admin Category: Draft/Free Agency

First I want to thank all of my readers for being patient while I was on hiatus.  Writing this blog takes a lot of time, so I usually take a vacation from the end of the season until the start of the NFL Scouting Combine.  The Combine starts today, so Steelers Today will officially start our 2010 coverage.

The most important news coming out of the Steelers organization is the signing of Casey Hampton.  I was certain the Steelers would use the franchise tag on Hampton.  After all, Hampton will be 33 years old this coming season, and he has struggled with physical conditioning at times.  Because of this, I thought the Steelers would place the franchise tag on Hampton to get one more year out of him.  In the meantime, I thought that they would draft a nose tackle to become Hampton’s long-term replacement.

But instead of doing what I anticipated, the Steelers have signed Hampton to a 3-year contract that is worth more than $21 million.   ChaChing!

Nose tackle Casey Hampton

By signing Hampton, the Steelers were left with the option of using the franchise tag on Ryan Clark or Jeff Reed.  The team chose Jeff Reed.

Reed’s agent was probably looking for a huge payday for his client, since the Oakland Raiders reset the price of kickers when they gave Sebastian Janikowski a ridiculous four-year, $16 million contract with $9 million guaranteed.  That’s waaaaaaaaaaaay too much to pay a kicker.

By franchising Reed, the Steelers will have to give him a one-year contract at the average of the highest 5 salaries at his position for 2009.  That will be much cheaper than matching the Janikowski dollars that will now become the asking price for decent kickers.

By making Reed the franchise player, the Steelers get a first-refusal right to match any offer sheet given to Reed by another team.  If the Steelers choose not to match the offer, they would receive two first-round draft choices as compensation.

With Hampton and Reed both locked up, Ryan Clark becomes the only veteran free agent still to be signed.  Word is that the Steelers have not even started negotiations with Clark’s agent.  This may be an indication that they may be considering taking a safety in this year’s draft.


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