Steelers Today - A Pittsburgh Steelers blog


Steelers win Not-So-Super Bowl.

August 14, 2009 By: Admin Category: Post-Game Reports

August 14, 2009
By Donald Starver

Thursday’s Super Bowl rematch turned out to be not so super.  While fans are always anxious for the start of a new NFL season, the early pre-season games are always rather dull.  This game proved to be no different.

The Steelers defeated the Arizona Cardinals 20 - 10.  However, the score sounds much more exciting than the game actually was.

As expected, the Steelers starters played very little.  Big Ben completed 4 of 6 passes for a whopping 33 yards.  Hines Ward caught 2 passes for 19 yards, while Santonio Holmes caught none.

But of course these games aren’t for the veterans.  After all, we already know what they can do.  Rather, the early pre-season games are an opportunity for the young players to show what they can do.  So let’s look at how the young players did.


Limas Sweed - Following an infamous dropped pass in last year’s playoffs, Limas Sweed has been heavily scrutinized by Steelers fans.  He needed a good game, and he delivered.  Sweed only caught two passes, but they both had a fairly high degree of difficulty.  Moreover, he averaged 28 yards per reception, and his longest was a 45 yard catch.

Sweed catch

Limas Sweed

Shaun McDonald - The free agent from Detroit led all receivers with 69 receiving yards.

Joe Burnett - Rookie cornerback Joe Burnett caught his first NFL interception and almost ran it back for a touchdown.

Ziggy Hood - The Steelers’ first round draft pick collected his first NFL sack.

Isaac Redman - The free agent running back made a strong statement that he should be the Steelers’ short yardage back.  He has been the most impressive in training camp, and this game proved to be no different.  Redman led all Steelers backs in rushing yards, while also scoring 2 touchdowns.

Isaac Redman scores again.

Isaac Redman scores again.

Dan Sepulveda - No more Berger.  No more Ernster.  Nope, Dan the man is back.  Sepulveda punted 6 times and averaged 49.5 yards per punt.  That’s much better than the 12 yards per punt that Mitch Berger and Paul Ernster averaged last season (okay, maybe they averaged more than 12 yards per punt, but it certainly seemed like 12 yards).


Rashard Mendenhall - Did he even play?  I see his name in the box score, but I certainly don’t remember seeing him do anything.

Joe Burnett - Yeah, he made an interception.  But he also fumbled a punt return.  He’s not going to win a job like that.

Frank Summers - Everyone is waiting for Frank “the tank” to become the next bus.  However it’s undrafted free agent rookie Isaac Redman who’s scoring all the touchdowns.

Piotr Czech - It’s going to be almost impossible to displace Jeff Reed as the Steelers’ kicker.  Czech is going to have to be perfect in order to do it.  Missing a 36 yard field goal didn’t look like perfection to me.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Steelers’ offensive line didn’t allow any sacks.  Not one (yeah, I don’t believe it either).  That’s got to count for something.  Meanwhile, the Cardinals’ offensive line allowed their quarterbacks to be sacked 4 times.  It’s too soon to draw any conclusions yet, but I’ll take any opportunity I can to compliment the Steelers’ o-line.

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Steelers Training Camp Preview: Cornerbacks

July 29, 2009 By: Admin Category: Draft/Free Agency, Players

July 29, 2009
By Donald Starver

This is Part 4 in a series.  If you haven’t read the previous installments, please click below:

Part 1:  Defensive linemen

Part 2:  Linebackers

Part 3:  Safeties

The final defensive position to look at is cornerback.

If we look at Mike Tomlin’s history as head coach, we see that he has always come out of training camp with 6 cornerbacks on the roster.  Five of those cornerbacks were usually worked into the actual defensive rotation, while  one was kept strictly as a special teams player.

In 2007, Allen Rossum was listed as a cornerback, but he never actually lined up at the position.  He was exclusively a return man on special teams.  In 2008, Anthony Madison played a similar role.  While he didn’t return punts or kickoffs, he was nevertheless relegated to special teams play only.

With that in mind, let’s assume that the Steelers will come out of this year’s training camp with 6 cornerbacks, one of whom will be primarily a special teams player.

Now that we’ve established that, let’s take a look at the candidates and determine who is likely to make the 53-man roster.

Ike Taylor - I absolutely love Ike Taylor.  I think he is possibly the most under-rated cornerback in the entire NFL.  Every week he has to face the opposition’s #1 receiver, and yet how often does he get burned?  Not very.

Last season Ike had to go against Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Plaxico Burress, Chad Johnson, Andre Johnson, Braylon Edwards, and Larry Fitzgerald.  None of those receivers came out on the winning side of that match-up.  Ike just doesn’t get beat.  Period.

The only reason that Ike isn’t a multi-time Pro Bowler is that Ike’s hands have a permanent coating of the world’s most powerful lubricant.  Ike just can’t catch.  And unfortunately, cornerbacks tend to be judged based on their interceptions, not their passes defensed.

Ike Taylor

I guess Ike will just have to be satisfied collecting Super Bowl rings rather than Pro Bowl appearances.

That’s my long-winded way of saying that Ike is going to make the team.

William Gay - Bryant McFadden departed after the Super Bowl to play for the Steelers West.  However, the impact of his departure will barely be felt due to the presence of William Gay. Gay was already splitting time with McFadden, so replacing him full-time should be relatively easy.

Gay’s place on the roster is assured.  Nevertheless, I still haven’t forgiven him for wearing Arizona Cardinals colors and a NY Yankees cap to the Steelers’ Super Bowl victory parade.  What was up with that?

Deshea Townsend - If memory serves me correctly, when Deshea Townsend joined the Steelers, Mel Blount, Donnie Shell, and J.T. Thomas were still on the team.  I could be wrong, but it certainly seems like he has been on the team that long.

Now 34 years old, and in his 12th year in the NFL, Townsend is almost guaranteed to emerge from training camp as no worse than the #4 cornerback on the roster.

If Townsend were to learn to play the free safety position, he could make himself even more valuable to the Steelers and extend his career even more.  I’ve always said that Deshea’s skills were perfect for playing free safety.

Keenan Lewis - The third round pick out of Oregon State is almost a mirror image of Ike Taylor.  While he doesn’t have Taylor’s superhuman athleticism,  he does have his long, lean build.

Lewis’ skills are going to need honing, but with wide receivers getting bigger and bigger, his size is a valuable asset.  If he can show a grasp of Dick LeBeau’s playbook, and prove that he is a willing participant in run support, he should be able to snag a spot on the roster.

Keiwan Ratliff - Ratliff was signed this off-season as a free agent from the Indianapolis Colts.  Ratliff brings experience to a team that can use another dependable veteran in the defensive backfield.

While Ratliff has return skills, I believe that Joe Burnett, Mike Wallace, and Stefan Logans are going to be given first crack at winning the return positions.  Thus, Ratliff is going to have to make the team based purely on his skills as a cornerback.  I’m betting that he is going to do exactly that.

Roy Lewis - After spending 2008 on the practice squad, Lewis should be ready to compete for a roster spot in 2009.  Unfortunately, I don’t believe that his knowledge of the Steelers’ playbook is going to be enough to offset his height disadvantage versus Keenan Lewis, his experience disadvantage versus Keiwan Ratliff, or the return capabilities of Joe Burnett.  Sorry Roy.  It was nice knowing you.

Anthony Madison - Madison always enters Steelers training camp as an underdog.  Yet somehow he always seems to stick around.  He will enter training camp as an underdog again this year.  Unfortunately, I don’t think he is going to be able to hold off newcomer Keiwan Ratliff.  Ratliff is bigger and more experienced than Madison.

Madison has been used almost exclusively on special teams.  That was fine, because Coach Tomlin always carries a cornerback on the roster exclusively for special teams.  However, this year that position is going to go to……..

Joe Burnett - The fifth round pick out of Central Florida is going to be the 6th cornerback on the Steelers’ 2009 roster.  Burnett is an absolutely electrifying punt returner.  He will add a dimension to the Steelers’ return game that has been missing for a very long time.

While Burnett’s greatest impact will be as a punt returner, he can also return kicks, and has surprisingly good ball skills as a cornerback.  He is UCF’s all-time leader in interceptions.  He is not as physical as the Steelers like their cornerbacks to be, but once he gets sees the priority that Dick LeBeau places on run support, he will have to become more physical.

So there you have it.  I believe that Ike Taylor, William Gay, Keiwan Ratliff, Deshea Townsend, and Keenan Lewis will be the Steelers 5 cornerbacks, and Joe Burnett will earn the 6th position as a punt returner.

So what do you fans think?  Agree?  Disagree?  Your comments are welcome.  Tell me what you agree with or where you think the flaws in my argument are.  Who do you think will be the Steelers’ 6 cornerbacks coming out of training camp?

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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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Pick #168: Steelers select Joe Burnett

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

April 26, 2009
By Donald Starver

With their first pick in the 5th round, the Steelers selected Joe Burnett.  Burnett is a cornerback from Central Florida.  He stands 5’10″, and weighs 185 lbs.


Burnett was a record breaking cornerback and return man for UCF.  He was a first team All-American his senior year, and helped UCF to its first two bowl berths (2007 & 2008), and its first conference championship (2007) in school history.

Earned eight Conference USA All-Conference honors, including four straight first team punt returner awards.  Named Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Year his senior year.  Finished in 19th place for career punt return yards in NCAA history with 1,304.  Was the only player in the nation to be in the top 20 in both kickoff returns and punt returns.

Set the UCF career record with 16 interceptions.  Tied record for most career punt return touchdowns (3).


Is considered to be a bit small to play cornerback in the NFL.  However, he has good technique, and is stronger than you’d expect for his size.  He is never out of place, and plays with discipline.

Because of his size, he struggles to get off blocks.  He also tends to give too much cushion to receivers.

He can bring pressure as a blitzer, but he doesn’t finish off the quarterback.  He is more of a cut tackler, and doesn’t wrap up with his arms.

Burnett probably isn’t going to make an immediate impact on the Steelers defense, but he should have an immediate impact on special teams.   Earlier pick Mike Wallace is primarily a kickoff returner, while Joe Burnett will upgrade the punt return game.

To read about the Steelers’ previous pick, click here.

To read about the Steelers’ next pick, click here.

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