Steelers Today - A Pittsburgh Steelers blog


Blog Archives

Steelers Training Camp: Wide Receivers

August 15, 2009 By: Admin Category: training camp

August 15, 2009
By Donald Starver

This is Part 7 in a series.  If you haven’t read the previous installments, please click below:

Part 1:  Defensive linemen

Part 2:  Linebackers

Part 3:  Safeties

Part 4: Cornerbacks

Part 5: Quarterbacks

Part 6: Running backs

The wide receiver battle is probably the most intriguing story at Steelers training camp.  The Steelers have a good mix of high draft picks, veteran free agents, and undrafted free agents all battling to make the 53-man roster.  Regardless of who makes the team, I think it is safe to say that Big Ben is going to have some pretty exciting weapons at his disposal.

No other team can boast having two Super Bowl MVPs at wide receiver.  Yet that is exactly what the Steelers have in Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes.  Their contribution to the team is well-documented, and their places on the roster are guaranteed.  So we really don’t need to spend much time talking about those two.  The real question is “who will take up the other wide receiver roster slots?”

Since becoming Steelers head coach, Mike Tomlin has always carried 5 wide receivers on the Steelers’ roster.  Thus, I am going to assume that 5 is the number of wide receivers that Tomlin is looking for in training camp.

Let’s take a look at all of the wide receiver candidates and see if we can predict who will make the final roster.

Hines Ward- As we mentioned earlier, the jaw breaker’s roster spot is guaranteed.  He’s the Steelers’ all-time leading receiver.  He’s a multi-time Pro Bowl participant.  He’s the best blocking wide receiver in the NFL.  He’s clearly a leader on the team, and has the respect of his teammates.  And he probably personifies what the Pittsburgh Steelers are all about better than any other current player.

Santonio Holmes- Everybody remembers that final catch in the Super Bowl.  However, it was Santonio’s earlier catches, and his yards after the catch that put the Steelers in the position to be able to pull out a last second win.  That Super Bowl performance will define Holmes for the rest of his career.  His elevated status is already evident at Steelers training camp where the fans cheer any time Holmes makes a catch.  Like Ward, Holmes doesn’t have to worry about making the roster.

Limas Sweed- After getting few chances to make plays during the regular season, Limas Sweed blew his first big opportunity when he dropped a critical pass in the AFC Championship game against Baltimore last year.  That play, along with the fact that he faked an injury afterwards, made many Steelers fans lose faith in Sweed.

Academy award winning performance.

Academy award winning performance.

Fortunately, Sweed has used that as motivation, and has had a very impressive training camp so far.  Moreover, he had two nice catches in the Steelers’ pre-season win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Sweed is a big, fast receiver who is in the mold that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger seems to like.  Roethlisberger actively lobbied for a tall receiver, and the Steelers answered him by drafting Sweed.  At 6’4″, Sweed is an easy target for Roethlisberger.  Sweed is the favorite to win the #3 receiver position that was vacated by Nate Washington when he signed with the Tennessee Titans.

Shaun McDonald- Because they were uncertain of what they had in Limas Sweed, the Steelers brought in Shaun McDonald to add an experienced veteran to the wide receiver competition.  McDonald led the Detroit Lions with 79 receptions for 943 yards in 2007.  McDonald lost his position as the Lions’ primary receiving target when they drafted super-human receiver Calvin Johnson.  However, that doesn’t negate the fact that McDonald is a proven NFL receiver.

McDonald has looked consistent but unspectacular so far in Steelers training camp.  But isn’t that exactly what a team needs from their #3 receiver?  After all, if he were spectacular, he would be the #1 or #2 receiver.  When you add in the fact that he can also return punts, I believe that gives McDonald a good chance of making the team.

Dallas Baker- “The touchdown maker” has been anything but since joining the Steelers.  He has scored a grand total of zero touchdowns for the black and gold.  At 6’3″, Baker is a big receiver, so that is a plus.  However, he just hasn’t done anything to catapult himself onto the roster.  Baker spent 2008 on the practice squad, so that says that the Steelers’ coaches believe he has potential.  He has an outside chance of winning the #5 receiver spot, but I don’t foresee that happening.

Touchdown maker?

Touchdown maker?

Martin Nance- At 6’3″, Martin Nance is another big receiver.  He was Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite receiver at Miami of Ohio, so that relationship is probably why he is in Steelers training camp in the first place.  Nance has been very inconsistent in my opinion, and has dropped far too many passes at training camp.  While he is big, he is not particularly fast, and doesn’t get good separation.  He will not make the team.

Steven Black- Going into Steelers training camp I had never heard of the rookie wide receiver from Memphis.  He is 6’3″ and is another big target.  He has caught my attention a few times at training camp.  He has good hands, and is willing to dive for the ball.  However, with all of the competition at WR this year, he has little chance of making the team.

Brandon Williams- Williams is another experienced receiver that the Steelers brought into training camp.  The 3rd year player has been with both the St. Louis Rams and the San Francisco 49ers.  He has never caught a pass in the NFL, and unless an asteroid falls to Earth and kills all of the other wide receivers in training camp, he won’t be catching any for the Steelers this year either.

Tyler Grisham - This kid caught my eyes on the second day of training camp.  I first noticed him because he was so small compared to the other receivers.  But by the end of camp, I was asking “who is that little white guy who keeps diving all over the field catching everything that comes his way?”  When he started putting hard blocks on people, he really caught my eyes.  Some people have said that he reminds them of Wes Welker, but he reminds me of another wide receiver who isn’t big enough, or fast enough, but who is willing to block and manages to catch everything that’s thrown his way.  Has anyone ever heard of a guy named Hines Ward?

Grisham won’t make the team, but this rookie from Clemson has done himself proud in his time at Steelers training camp.  I won’t be the least bit surprised if he makes the Steelers’ practice squad.

Mike Wallace - You probably thought that I forgot about the 3rd round pick out of Mississippi.  Nope, I just saved him for last.  This kid has impressed me more than any other receiver in Steelers training camp.  First of all, he is FAST.  I don’t mean “Santonio Holmes fast”.  Nope, I mean “Willie Parker fast”.  He ran the second fastest time at last year’s NFL combine.  Not only is Wallace fast, but he also has good hands.  I’ve seen him make sliding catches and diving catches at training camp.

Mike Wallace

There is seldom a day at training camp where Wallace doesn’t beat a defensive back…..badly.  He even burns Ike Taylor.  Not many receivers can do that.  I keep having dreams of Big Ben firing long bombs to Wallace.  Each time I have this dream, I wake up with a big smile on my face.

There is a very good chance that this kid could actually come out of training camp as the #3 receiver.  That’s right, I said it.  Mike Wallace might actually win the #3 receiver position.  He’s THAT good.  Even if he doesn’t, he is very likely to become the primary kick returner.  This kid is going to make the team.  No doubt.

Stefan Logans- Logans is primarily a kick returner, but the Steelers have been working him with the wide receivers, so I’ll mention him here.  Logans has NO CHANCE of making the team as a wide receiver.  He will either win a spot as a punt returner, or he will not be wearing black and gold.

So in summary, I believe the 5 receivers who will make the Steelers’ roster will be Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Limas Sweed, Shaun McDonald, and Mike Wallace.

I’ll leave you with one final thought about the Steelers’ wide receivers.  Just picture how exciting the Steelers are going to be in 2-3 years when the starting wide receivers are Santonio Holmes, Limas Sweed, and Mike Wallace.  Yeah, the idea puts a big smile on my face too.

(If you enjoyed this article, please consider leaving a comment below. Also, please subscribe to our blog by pressing the orange button below. Thanks.)

Subscribe in a reader

Add to Technorati Favorites

Top NFL Fan Sites

Pittsburgh Steelers training camp update: 8/7/09

August 07, 2009 By: Admin Category: training camp

By Donald Starver

Yesterday was a fairly uneventful day on the field at Latrobe.  The biggest news of the day actually happened off the field.  The Steelers finally announced that injured guard Darnell Stapleton will have arthroscopic surgery on his knee today.  Prior to this announcement, the Steelers and coach Tomlin had essentially avoided answering any questions about Stapleton’s status.

Darnell Stapleton

Darnell Stapleton

With center Justin Hartwig already missing practice due to a toe injury, Stapleton had moved into the starting center position at training camp. Now with both Hartwig and Stapleton out, Doug Legursky has moved into the center position with the first unit, while rookie A.Q. Shipley moves into the second unit.

Back-up tackle Trai Essex has moved into the right guard position that Stapleton filled for the final 15 games of last season.  The injuries to Hartwig and Stapleton leave the Steelers a bit short on offensive linemen at camp.

Other news from yesterday’s practice included the return of Hines Ward. Ward had been held out of practice since Saturday. Ward is not injured, but coach Tomlin has allowed him to skip practice to preserve Ward’s veteran legs, as well as to give the young receivers more reps at practice. While Ward was dressed for practice, he hardly did any practicing. I don’t think I actually saw him run any plays after warm-ups.

Troy Polamalu and Deshea Townsend were still sidelined nursing hamstring injuries. That may or may not be a problem. Last year, Polamalu missed almost all of training camp nursing a hamstring injury, and he ended up having possibly the best season of his pro career.

The Steelers’ quarterbacks and wide receivers continue to spend most of their time practicing short outlet passes. They have worked on these plays everyday of training camp. Perhaps the Steelers are finally acknowledging how well the New England Patriots utilize these short passes to Wes Welker. These short passes often serve as a de facto running game in the Patriots’ offense. Or perhaps the Steelers are using them as a bailout option when QB Ben Roethlisberger feels the rush coming. Either way, the amount of time being devoted to it says that we are going to be seeing more of these short passes than we’ve seen in the past.

Finally, the plays of the day were both turned in by rookie wide receiver Mike Wallace. On one play, Wallace had fellow rookie Keenan Lewis beat on a long pass play. The ball was under-thrown, and Lewis ran into Wallace and was called for pass interference on the play.

On a separate play near the end of practice, Wallace leaped high and came down with an acrobatic catch in the corner of the endzone on a pass from Dennis Dixon in the 2-minute drill. Wallace kept both feet in bounds and the crowd erupted in a thunderous roar. It was a perfect way to end practice.

(If you enjoyed this article, please consider leaving a comment below. Also, please subscribe to our blog by pressing the orange button below. Thanks.)

Subscribe in a reader

Top NFL Fan Sites

Pittsburgh Steelers training camp day #4

August 04, 2009 By: Admin Category: training camp

August 3, 2009
By Donald Starver

Today marked the fourth day of the Steelers 2009 training camp.  The crowd was blessed with great weather, and things are starting to get heated on the field.

The competition between the offense and the defense is starting to show, and several fights broke out today.  There was also some non-fight related contact that was harder than necessary.

A couple of players are starting to stand out to me.  They are:

Mike Wallace - This kid is a player.  He has caught passes along the sideline, made sliding catches, and beaten everybody deep (more than once).  Unless the sun explodes, he is going to make the team.  He may even shock the world and win the #3 receiver position.

Keenan Lewis - He has made nice plays everyday.  He always seems to be near the ball.  He has made a few interceptions, and deflected quite a few passes.

Tyler Grisham - I was the first one to write about this kid.  He probably won’t make the team, but if he keeps playing like he is, he may be kept on the practice squad.

#19 rookie WR Tyler Grisham

#19 rookie WR Tyler Grisham

David Johnson - Can’t catch very well, but he seems to be the most powerful blocker  among the tight ends.

Guys who have played poorly so far include:

Martin Nance - Drops too many passes.  He is in last place among the wide receivers.

Tony Hills - It’s hard to believe that this guy was an All-American in college.  He gets dominated far too often.  My new name for him is “Neo”.  You’ll see why later.

Joe Burnett - He is going to have to show something as a punt returner, because he keeps getting beat and dropping interceptions as a cornerback.

With that said, here are my notes from today’s practice.

-Hines Ward is in street clothes again.

Imported Photos 00055

-Team is doing casual drills in their respective units.

3:20PM - Horn sounds and the whole team comes together for team stretching and running.

-Casey Hampton walks through all of the running drills.  He takes a knee and talks during the stretches.  He doesn’t even get down with the other players and pretend to be stretching.  He just sat on his knees talking to the coaches.  I think he was afraid that if he layed down to stretch, he wouldn’t be able to get back up.

Imported Photos 00051

Don't work too hard, big fella.

-Big Snack is not the only one who coasts during running and stretching drills.  Big Ben also walks while the other players are running/jogging.  However, he starts before the whistle blows each time, so he always finishes first.

3:31PM - Horn blows.  Team breaks up into offense and defense.  All units split up to work on drills.

-Quarterbacks and wide receivers have been working on LOTS of short outlet passes.  I think they are going to be a much more important part of the offense this year.  They’ve worked on them everyday so far.

-Dennis Dixon and Mike Reilly both have a very nice spin on their passes.  They throw a tight spiral.

-Big Ben actually throws the wobbliest spiral of any of the quarterbacks.  It’s a good thing he has a strong arm.

-Stefan Logan had been on the PUP list, but he is out there practicing today.

-Martin Nance drops his first pass.

-Once again, I’m impressed by WR Steven Black.  He has good size and good hands.

3:52PM - Defense and offense come together again.

-Dallas Baker beats William Gay for a nice reception across the middle.

-Mike Wallace beats Ike Taylor for a 20 yard reception and the crowd cheers.

-Tyler Grisham beats Ryan Mundy for a catch along the sideline.

-Shaun McDonald beats Ike Taylor across the middle, and Taylor pushes him to the ground HARD.  I don’t think Taylor liked getting beat.

-Mike Wallace beats Roy Lewis and Joe Burnett for a long pass.  He has 4 steps on both of them, and he would have had more if the ball hadn’t been under-thrown.

-Mike Reilly over-throws Limas Sweed on a long pass.  Limas could have had it, but he didn’t even put his hands up.

-Another wide open catch by Mike Wallace.  Is he THAT fast, or are the DBs that slow?

-Limas Sweed catches a pass from Big Ben and the crowd breathes a sigh of relief.

4:02 PM - Horn blows and offense & defense meet at the 20 yard line.

-1st team offense and 1st team defense take the field.

-Limas Sweed catches first pass.  A short out pass outlet pass from Big Ben.

-Dezmond Sherrod dives for a pass but drops it.

-Big Ben throws a pass that is almost intercepted by Anthony Madison.  The WR must have run the wrong route, because there was no WR in the area.

-Charlie Batch takes over and completes first pass to Martin Nance.

-Brandon Williams catches a short pass, but then puts a nice spin move on Joe Burnett that gains him an extra 10 yards.

-Keenan Lewis deflects a pass along the sidelines.

-Mike Wallace makes a nice sliding catch.

-Ryan Clark intercepts Charlie Batch’s pass across the middle.

-The Horn blows.

-Keiwan Ratliff, Joe Burnett, Shaun McDonald, Stefan Logan, Mewelde Moore and Santonio Holmes field punts.

-Isaac Redman wrestles Lawrence Timmons to the ground in a blocking drill.

-Andrew Schantz gets beat badly on a special teams blocking drill and gets yelled at by coaches.

-Tyler Grisham delivers a hard blow on Roy Lewis in a blocking drill.  Lewis meets him after the play and pats him on the butt.

-4:25 PM - 1st team offense and defense take the field again.

-James Farrior is in Ben Roethlisberger‘s face in a nanosecond.  If this were full contact, it would have been a sack.

-Willie Parker beats Lawrence Timmons on an out pattern and actually catches the ball.  The crowd goes wild.  (Note to those of you who are unaware: Willie Parker can’t catch).

-Rashard Mendenhall breaks a long run and the crowd cheers.

-Rookie safety Derrick Richardson dives to break up a pass to Martin Nance.  The crowd cheers.

-Dennis Dixon goes right back to Nance for a completion.

-Martin Nance drops a short pass from Dixon.

4:33 PM -  Horn blows.  Field goal team practices hurry-up drills.

-Jeff Reed boots a 48 yard field goal in 8-second drill.

-Reed boots a 56 yard field goal right throught the uprights.

4:40 PM - Offense and defense take the field again.

-Ben completes passes to Sweed, Holmes, and Mendenhall.

-Dallas Baker misses a long sideline pass from Roethlisberger.

-Joe Burnett makes a beautiful juggling interception off of Roethlisberger.  I believe that is Burnett’s first interception of training camp.

-Shaun McDonald beats Joe Burnett for a short reception.

-Chris Hoke has Tony Hills bent back so far in a blocking drill that it looks like Hills is doing the limbo dance.  The technique is actually effective.  Hoke is so surprised to be dominating a blocker this badly that he falls down.  Coaches take Hills aside and talk to him.

Tony Hill's blocking technique.

Tony Hills' blocking technique.

Or perhaps Hills was practicing his bullet dodging technique like Neo in The Matrix.

Tony Hills dodges Chris Hoke.

Tony Hills dodges Chris Hoke.

-Tyrone Carter puts a hard hit on rookie WR Mike Wallace, but Wallace holds onto the ball and the crowd cheers.

4:51 PM - Dennis Dixon takes over.  Dixon completes first pass to Tyler Grisham.  Dixon and Grisham are becoming quite a duo.

-Mike Reilly throws 2 incomplete passes.  He is 0-2.

4:54 PM - Offense and defense take field for 11-on-11 drills.

-Charlie Batch over-throws Shaun McDonald on a long pass.

-Tony Hills gets into a fight with a defender.  I can’t see who it is.  Mr. Smith maybe?

I'll get you Tony Hills!!

I'll get you, Tony Hills!!

-Charlie Batch over-throws Brandon Williams on a long pass.

That is pretty much all that happened in camp today.  If you want to hear about a particular player, leave a comment and let me know.

If you haven’t read my recap of Day 2 click here.

If you haven’t read my recap of Day 3 click here.

See you guys tomorrow.

(If you enjoyed this article, please consider leaving a comment below. Also, please subscribe to our blog by pressing the orange button below. Thanks.)

Subscribe in a reader

Buzz up!

Top NFL Fan Sites

10 observations from Steelers training camp Day 3

August 02, 2009 By: Admin Category: training camp

Today’s practice started out with a big crowd, but most left when the skies opened up and it started raining cats and dogs.

Since it was raining so much, I didn’t get to take as many notes as I normally would (my notebook got soaked).  I couldn’t take as many pictures either.  But here are my top 10 observations from Day 3 (Sunday August 2, 2009).

1)  Hines Ward did not practice today.  I don’t know if he was injured or if coach Tomlin is just giving him a rest.  However, he wasn’t in pads.  He just had on shorts and a t-shirt.  He was wearing a baseball cap turned backwards.

2)  If you ever wondered if the Steelers practice in the rain, the answer is “yes”.  It started raining really hard in the middle of practice.  A few of the players started to leave the field.  Someone on the field yelled that they saw lightning.  Coach Mike Tomlin yelled back “We play games in the rain in the NFL”, and that was that.  Nobody left the field, and practice proceeded as usual.

Imported Photos 00012

I don’t know about anyone else, but I absolutely love the control that Mike Tomlin exercises over his team.  He absolutely will not let them lose focus.  It definitely inspires confidence in me as a fan that the Steelers will not become distracted for any reason.

Imported Photos 00013

3)  Dan Sepulveda is back!!!! If there were any question about how Dan Sepulveda is healing from his injury/surgery from last season, let me put your mind at rest.  Sepulveda is back 100%!!!!!!  I actually asked Sepulveda how he was feeling yesterday, and he told me 100%.  However, I needed to see it myself.

Today Sepulveda punted for the first time at open practice.  He boomed punts that all seemed to hang in the air for 6 seconds (no exaggeration).  He probably made 10 punts.  The shortest one went 47 yards in the air.  The longest one went 67 yards in the air.  There was a slight wind at his back, but still, 67 yards is awesome.  By the way, did I mention that it was 67 yards in the rain?

4)  Mike Wallace is fast.  He got behind the entire defense for a long reception from Big Ben.  He beat the defenders so badly that it looked like Tom Brady to Randy Moss.

5)  Don’t ignore Piotr Czech.  Jeff Reed is an amazing kicker, and I hope the Steelers sign him to an extension.  However, today at practice Piotr Czech got to kick field goals.  He started with an extra point, and then moved back 5 yards on each successive kick.  He never missed.  The coaches stopped the drill after he hit a 55 yarder.  Frankly, I wanted to see him attempt a 60 yarder.

6)  Ziggy Hood beat Kraig Urbick twice in a row in one-on-one drills.  He looked like he totally outclassed Urbick.  However, Urbick stopped him cold on the third try, and the crowd erupted in cheers.

7)  Martin Nance drops too many catchable balls.  I know that he was Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite receiver at Miami of Ohio, but I just can’t see him making this team.

8)  Limas Sweed is showing good signs.  Limas made several pretty catches, including a nice diving catch by the sidelines that made the crowd go wild.  However, Limas also had some drops that drew a few jeers from the crowd.

9)  I like the way Mike Tomlin lets his assistants do their job.  Each Assistant runs practice for their particular unit.  Tomlin then circulates through the units and watches what they’re doing.  At each unit, he singles out a player and shouts encouragement to him.  When he got to the tight ends, he yelled out “C’mon DJ, show me something.  Show me what you got, DJ”.  He was referring to rookie tight end David Johnson.

Imported Photos 00003

I noticed that when Tomlin is watching a particular unit, the players go at it just a little bit harder.  The wide receivers in particular tend to dive for balls that they would have let fall to the ground if Tomlin weren’t watching.  The running backs also seem to hit the holes harder when Tomlin is watching.

10)  Frank “the tank” Summers is already a fan favorite.  Practice ended today when Summers had a violent (and loud) collision with a defender on a running play.  Summers didn’t win this one.  He got knocked on his back.  I couldn’t see who the defender was, but those around me said that his number ended in a “5″.  They thought it was either Patrick Bailey (#55) or Donovan Woods (#95).  The play drew ooohs and ahhhs from both fans and other players on the field.  It looked like a fight was going to break out, and I saw coaches jump in.  Tempers cooled, and practice ended.

#44 Frank "the tank" Summers

#44 Frank "the tank" Summers

Note: I was wrong about the hit on Frank Summers yesterday.  According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, it was Willie Gay who put the big hit on Summers.  In fact, he knocked Summers down with the hit.  Read about it here.

If you haven’t already read our coverage of Day #2, please click below:

Notes from Steelers training camp Day 2

Also see our coverage of Day 4 by clicking here.

Today’s Featured Item:  Steelers Black-White 6-Time Super Bowl Champion Varsity Jacket

Buy the best Steelers gear right here at Steelers Today.  We search for the coolest Steelers gear that we can find, and then we present it to our fellow Steelers fans.  Check out this great 6-time Super Bowl Champion varsity jacket.  Feel proud knowing you are letting all of those Ravens, Browns, and Cowboys fans know which team is REALLY king of the hill.  Click below to purchase.


Click here to buy

(If you enjoyed this article, please consider leaving a comment below. Also, please subscribe to our blog by pressing the orange button below. Thanks.)

Subscribe in a reader

Top NFL Fan Sites

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.

(If you enjoyed this article, please consider leaving a comment below. Also, please subscribe to our blog by pressing the orange button below. Thanks.)

Subscribe in a reader

Top NFL Fan Sites