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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: Baltimore Ravens

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

June 4, 2009
By Donald Starver

I’m Baaaaack!  After taking the month of May off to rest, I am back and ready to get the party started again here on Steelers Today.

May was a quiet month, so I really didn’t miss much.  The Steelers went to the White House.  James Harrison stayed home.  Harrison’s kid got bit by his dog.  That’s about it.  See, we’re all caught up.

To kick things off here at Steelers Today, we are going to start with a review of what each team in the AFC North has done during the off-season.  Rather than give the update myself, I am going to have a blogger from each AFC North team provide the update on what his team has done during the offseason.  First up is Joe Barnes from the Baltimore Ravens blog The Ebony Bird.  Tomorrow we will feature Adam Kiefaber from the Cincinnati Bengals Blog Bengal Stripes.  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.

Take it away, Joe.

AFC North Offseason Review: Baltimore Ravens

2008 Record: 11-5 (AFC North: 4-2)

Key Losses: LB Bart Scott, S Jim Leohnard, K Matt Stover, C Jason Brown, CB Chris McAllister, FB Lorenzo Neal

Key Free Agent Signings: CB Dominique Foxworth, C Matt Birk, TE L.J. Smith, QB John Beck, CB Chris Carr

Key Draft Selections: 1st Round: OT Michael Oher (Ole Miss), 2nd Round: DE Paul Kruger (Utah), 3rd Round: CB Lardarius Webb (Nicholls St.), 6th Round: RB Cedric Peerman (Virginia)

Best Free Agent Signing and Impact: The best signing would have to be that of cornerback Dominique Foxworth.  While he may not be as established as Pro Bowl center Matt Birk, Foxworth adds a young, solid talent in the secondary that can mature in the Ravens defense with emerging star Fabian Washington.

Biggest Loss and Impact: Lorenzo Neal’s departure hasn’t been talked about as much as that of Bart Scott or Chris McAllister, but Neal was a huge reason for Joe Flacco’s success last season.  Neal was an incredible pass blocker, but was .even better blocking in the run game.  The emergence of both Le’Ron McClain and Ray Rice was in part due to Neal’s blocking.  Moreover, Joe Flacco was put at ease by the success of the running game.

The defense, especially the linebacking corps, always manages to replace their players very well.  Bart Scott was once one of these “replacement backers”, but the offense has never been good at replacing its main contributors.

What is your reaction to the Ravens’ draft?: The Ravens managed to pull in a draft that took the best players available in their slots, while still addressing team depth.  They managed to get stud lineman Michael Oher at the #24 slot, and got FCS 2-time All-American cornerback/safety Lardarius Webb in the third.  Without drafting players that were household names in college, it will take more than just a month or so to judge this draft, but as of now, it looks like a classic Ozzie Newsome success.

Was the Ravens’ biggest need addressed?: This question has varying opinions among Ravens fans.  Many feel that cornerback was the most pressing need, especially after losing McAllister.  But the team signed Foxworth and Carr, as well as drafting Webb to replace him.  That leaves wide receiver, where the team flirted with the option of trading for Anquan Boldin, but never pulled the trigger.  The only player they acquired at the position was Kelley Washington, who was added more for depth than for impact.  There could still be time for the team to trade for a guy like Chad Johnson or another second-tier receiver.

What storylines will you follow in camp?: There are multiple things to look for going into training camp this July:  (1) Who will emerge as the starting kicker?   (2) Can Joe Flacco build on his success?  (3) How will the team deal with the loss of 6 starters?  (4)  How will Greg Mattison replace Rex Ryan as defensive coordinator?

Well, there you have it, Steelers fans.  That is Joe’s review of the Ravens’ off-season.  I noticed he didn’t mention how they plan on addressing the 3 losses they suffered at the hands of the 6-time Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.  I’ll have to ask him that question next time I talk to him.

Personally, I think the Purple Dragon‘s power will be somewhat diminished this year.  The biggest loss, in my opinion, isn’t even on the field.  It’s the loss of defensive coordinator Rex Ryan.  Buddy’s son was an important component of that team.  Just imagine losing Dick LeBeau.  That’s how the loss of Ryan is going to affect the Ravens.

Chris McAllister and Bart Scott are important losses, but the Ravens will get over them.  I really like the addition of Michael Oher.  I watched him throughout his college career, and I really like him as a player and as a person.  Paul Kruger  is also a nice pick.

Ray Lewis has to start showing the effects of age soon.  But even if he slows down on the field, he is still one of the best leaders in the game (you don’t know how much it hurts for me to openly admit that).  His presence will keep the Baltimore “D” near the top of the NFL.

So what do you guys think of Joe’s review of the Ravens?  Do you like their draft choices?  Think Joe Flacco will be even better this year?  Can the Ravens challenge the Steelers for AFC North dominance?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  After a month of vacation, I am can’t wait to start talking about the Steelers again.

Also, since we still have quite a bit of time until training camp starts, are there any subjects that you’d like to see me cover?  I definitely take requests.  If there is something you’d like me to write about, just let me know.

Once again, I’m happy to be back, and I can’t wait to start talking Steeler football with all of you.

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Mike Tomlin’s off-season “to do” list

February 18, 2009 By: Admin Category: Lists

February 18, 2009
By Donald Starver

Here at Steelers Today, we are not content to sit back and speculate on what the Steelers are going to do during the off-season.  Instead, we prefer to take a more proactive approach.

We’ve hacked into Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin’s PDA, and we were able to locate his “to do” list.   Here it is, exclusively on Steelers Today.

Mike Tomlin’s “to do” list

  1. Convince Dick LeBeau that it’s not appropriate for me to call him “dad”.
  2. Find more ways to use the word “men” at press conferences.
  3. Sucker Ken Whisenhunt into signing Chris Kemoeatu.
  4. Make James Harrison run more 100 yard dashes.
  5. Convince Bruce Arians that “fullback” is not a bad word.
  6. Send Terrell Owens a free agent contract on April Fool’s Day.
  7. Pretend to respect the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals.
  8. Sucker Ken Whisenhunt into signing Willie Colon.
  9. Teach Ben Roethlisberger the difference between a broken toenail and a broken leg.
  10. Send 50 cases of rice cakes to Casey Hampton’s house.
  11. Explain to Limas Sweed that wide receivers are supposed to CATCH the ball.
  12. Place Jeff Reed under house arrest to avoid more “incidents”.
  13. Mandatory drug tests for Santonio.
  14. Get fitted for ring.
  15. Sign contract extension.

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