Steelers Today - A Pittsburgh Steelers blog


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 Training Camp Preview: Safeties

July 28, 2009 By: Admin Category: Draft/Free Agency, Players

July 28, 2009
By Donald Starver

Three more days until the start of training camp.  I was hoping to have this series completed before training camp began, but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen now.   Darn!

In part 1 of this series we looked at the defensive line.  In part 2 we looked at the linebackers.  In this installment, we are going to turn our attention to the safeties.

In the 2 years that Mike Tomlin has been coach, he has typically carried 4 safeties on the roster.  This number has gone as low as 3 at times due to injuries.  However, 4 seems to be his preferred number.

With that in mind, let’s assume that this year, the Steelers will come out of training camp with 4 safeties on the roster.  The Steelers will go to training camp with 5 safeties, so our task is to identify who is likely to be the odd man out when training camp ends.

Troy Polamalu - Had it not been for James Harrison’s super-human season in 2008, most Steelers fans would have been pimping Troy Polamalu for Defensive Player of the Year.  Polamalu rebounded from a sub-par, injury-riddled 2007 season with a vengeance.  In 2008 he recorded 73 tackles, 7 interceptions, and 24 passes defensed.  Those are exceptional numbers by anyone’s standards.

I think the Steelers should keep this kid.  Don’t you?


Ryan Clark - Clark has always been a competent, if unremarkable safety for the Steelers.  He does his job well and without fanfare.   However, Clark made some devastating hits last season that made fans stand up and take notice.  His hit on Patriots receiver Wes Welker particularly stands out.  That play alone probably made him a favorite of many Steelers fans, and earned him a spot on the 2009 roster.

Tyrone Carter - It is no secret that I am not a fan of Tyrone Carter.  While Carter has been adequate when called upon to play, I have always felt uneasy about his physical stature.  There just aren’t many 5’9″, 195 pound strong safeties in the NFL.  Carter is okay in a pinch, but if anything were to happen to Troy Polamalu, I wouldn’t want to depend on Carter as a long-term solution.

"Hey there little fella."

"Hey there little fella."

Carter is a 10 year veteran, so his experience counts for something.  However he is 33 years old.  That’s 79 in football years.  His time with the Steelers will not last much longer.

Ryan Mundy - Mundy lost his rookie season due to injury.  With the loss of Anthony Smith, Mundy is going to have to step up and earn his paycheck.  This is likely, since the Steelers’ coaching staff has had nothing but good things to say about Mundy since he joined the team.  I feel confident that Mundy is going to be given every opportunity to make the team.

Derrick Richardson - The free agent from New Mexico State has a real chance of making the Steelers.  He was a second team All-WAC selection his senior year.  He led the nation in tackles per game with 12.5 per game.  That was more that .5 tackles per game more than his closest competitor.  He recorded 8 games with double digit tackles, and had a 21 tackle performance against UTEP.  In 2008, no NCAA defensive player was more of a playmaker than Derrick Richardson.

Richardson is a tough, aggressive safety who is excellent in run support.  That will play well in Dick LeBeau’s defense where safeties MUST be strong in run support.  He is physical, and is always around the ball.  He is also an aggressive special teams player.

Richardson is not as strong in coverage, and has marginal ball skills.  He is not going to lead the league in interceptions.

Richardson is primarily a strong safety, so he will be going head-to-head with Tyrone Carter.  While I would like to see Richardson beat out Tyrone Carter, I just don’t see it happening.  Ryan Mundy is essentially a rookie, and I just can’t see the Steelers coming out of training camp with 2 rookies as the back-ups at safety.  That would leave the team too exposed if one of the starters suffered an injury.

Therefore, I project that Derrick Richardson will be placed on the practice squad, and Tyrone Carter will maintain his position on the 53-man roster.

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The 3-4 and the Steelers’ draft (part 5)

April 05, 2009 By: Admin Category: Draft/Free Agency

April 5, 2009
By Donald Starver

Note:  This is part 5 in a series.  If you haven’t already read the previous chapters, please click the appropriate link below:

Part 1 (3-4 basics) 

Part 2 (The nose tackle)

Part 3 (The 3-4 defensive end)

Part 4 (The 3-4 linebackers)

In part 5 of our series on the 3-4 defense and how it affects the Steelers’ draft, we will talk about the final component of the 3-4 defense; the secondary.

The secondary consists of 4 positions; the right and left cornerbacks, the strong safety and the free safety.  These positions are known collectively as defensive backs.

The role of the defensive backs in a 3-4 and a 4-3 are basically the same.  Their jobs are to defend against pass plays, and to tackle any runners who might get past the defensive linemen and linebackers.

Based on the situation, the team may bring in a fifth defensive back (the nickel back ).  In other situations, they may bring in a 6th defensive back (the dime back).  There are even situations when a team might bring seven or even eight defensive backs onto the field (like a game-ending ”hail Mary” pass play).  However, these situations are unusual.

Depending on the scheme, the roles of the defensive backs may vary.  For example, some teams play their cornerbacks in primarily man-to-man coverage.  Others may mix in some zone coverage.  Some defenses require their cornerbacks to line up close to the line and jam the receivers as they start their routes.  Others, like the Steelers, tend to play off the line and give receivers lots of cussion.

The Steelers require their defensive backs to play a more integral role in run support than most teams do.  In fact, a cornerback who is not strong in run support probably won’t fare well in Dick LeBeau’s system.

The cornerback is the player who is primarily responsible for guarding the wide receiver.  He has to be able to run stride-for-stride with the fastest receivers, and therefore, they are usually the fastest players on the defense.

The typical cornerback is about 5’10″ tall.  However, as more tall receivers like Randy Moss, Calvin Johnson, and Plaxico Burress emerge, as well as receivers with incredible leaping ability like Larry Fitzgerald, teams will need to find taller cornerbacks to defend them.  The Steelers’ Ike Taylor may be the new prototype, as he has the height, speed, and leaping ability to guard almost any wide receiver in the NFL.

The strong safety usually plays on the tight end’s side of the offensive formation (the “strong” side).  That is why he is called a “strong” safety.  The strong safety is usually the bigger and stronger of the two safeties.  He is also often the slower of the two.  He is often charged with guarding the tight end or any running  back who may leave the backfield.

A good strong safety will often be like a small linebacker on the field.  He will be excellent in run support, and is often known for delivering vicious hits.

The free safety is usually smaller and faster than the strong safety.  He typically lines up further back from the line of scrimmage than the strong safety.  He is usually the last line of defense in the defensive backfield.  He must have the speed and instincts to read long pass plays, and to quickly close the gap between himself and the receiver.  The free safety must also be able to play man-to-man on a wide receiver if the opponent utilizes a third wide receiver.

Interestingly, when you look at what is required of the free safety versus the strong safety, one might argue that former Steeler Anthony Smith was more of a strong safety than a free safety.  However, with Troy Polamalu entrenched at the strong safety position, the Steelers were forced to use Smith as a free safety.  He repeatedly failed to be the “last line of defense” against the New England Patriots, and that ultimately cost him his job.

Looking at this year’s draft class, there are a number of good cornerbacks in the draft, but few top notch safeties.  In fact, safety may be the weakest position in the draft.  There are no elite safeties in this draft, and there may be no safeties taken in the first round.


Malcolm Jenkins (6’0″, 194 lbs.), Ohio State.  Jenkins it probably the top cornerback in the draft.  He has good size, plays a very physical game, and is good in both pass coverage and run support.  He has Pro Bowl potential.

Alphonso Smith (5′ 8 7/8″, 193 lbs.), Wake Forest.  Smith probably has the best coverage skills in the draft.  He has great hands, and rarely gets beat.  However, Smith’s small stature may prevent him from ever being a #1 corner. 

Vontae Davis (6’0″, 205 lbs.), Illinois.  Incredible physical specimen.  Has size, strength, and speed that few cornerbacks can match.  However, Davis’ mental attitude has been questioned.  He has had problems with coaches, and talks non-stop trash.

D.J. Moore (5’10″, 182 lbs.), Vanderbilt.  Moore has great ball skills, but he is slight of build.  Does not play physical, and needs to improve his tackling.  Will probably be more of a #2 corner.  Probably not a good fit for the Steelers’ system, where physicality and run support are mandatory.

Sean Smith (6’2″, 215 lbs.), Utah.  Rare size with long arms.  He lacks top end speed, but has the height to match up against bigger receivers.  He is a converted wide receiver who is still somewhat raw at the CB position.  Teams will fall in love with his size, but his skills need development.

Darius Butler (5’10″, 178 lbs.), Connecticut.  Outstanding athlete who was very impressive at the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine.  He has a thin frame, and struggles to break free from blocks.  He failed to get a single interception his senior year, and that will make some teams wary.  He has the ability to return kicks.  That will work in his favor.


As we mentioned earlier, there are no elite safeties in this draft.  However, here are some of the best that are available.

Louis Delmas (5’11″, 196 lbs.), Western Michigan.  Aggressive hitter with all the skills necessary to cover tight ends or running backs.  Plays much faster than his timed speed.  Played against questionable competition, but a good showing at the Senior Bowl may have made him the first safety to come off the board during the draft.

Rashad Johnson (5’11″, 195 lbs.), Alabama.  Played well in college, but lacks the ideal size for a safety.  Looks more like a cornerback.  Is a smart player who was a leader on his team. 

William Moore (6’0″, 223 lbs.), Missouri.  A big, physical playmaker who is great in run support.  Lacks top level speed, which will probably work against him.  He bites on fakes far too often.  He will need coaching at the next level.

The Steelers’ primary need is for a #2 cornerback to replace Bryant McFadden.  William Gay is already on the roster, but finding an upgrade to him won’t be difficult.    Vontae Davis would look good in black and gold, but his character issues will probably make the Steelers reject him if he is available.  Sean Smith has great physical tools, and would benefit greatly from Mike Tomlin’s DB teaching skills.

At the safety position, the Steelers need to find a replacement for Ryan Clark, who is getting older.   Louis Delmas is likely to be available at #32, but probably won’t last to #64.

To read the other installments in this series, click below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

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If I were Steelers’ GM Kevin Colbert (Part 3)

February 12, 2009 By: Admin Category: Draft/Free Agency, Players

February 11, 2009
By Donald Starver

Note: This is the third installment in a three-part series.  If you haven’t already read the first part, please click here.  If you haven’t read the second part, please click here.

The toughest decisions that Kevin Colbert will make this offseason will have nothing to do with this year’s free agents.  Instead, the hardest decisions that he will have to make will pertain to the players that will be free agents next year.

The Steelers have quite a few key players who have only one year remaining on their contracts.  So next year, all of them will be free to test the open market (and potentially leave) unless the Steelers lock them up now by extending their contracts.  This has typically been how the Steelers have managed situations with players that they want to keep.  However, I can’t ever remember this many key players’ contracts ending at the same time.

The players with one year remaining on their contracts include James Harrison, Hines Ward, Heath Miller, Ryan Clark, Deshea Townsend, Brett Keisel, Casey Hampton, Larry Foote, Justin Hartwig, and Jeff Reed.  Every one of those players was a key contributor to the Steelers’ Super Bowl season.  In an ideal world, the Steelers would probably want to keep every one of them.  But this is not an ideal world.  This is the world of free agency, where players’ are basically available to the highest bidder.

The first priority will be two-time Steelers MVP, and NFL Defensive Player of the Year, James Harrison.  Harrison has proven himself to be a more-than-capable replacement for Joey Porter.  We all thought that Harrison would be good, but nobody expected him to be this good.

Silverback has been one of the best values in the NFL over the past 2 years.  He earned $1.1 million in 2007, and $1.2 million in 2008.  Compare that to the $6.8 million that the Steelers paid Max Starks.

Harrison’s agent knows that if his client is ever going to get a big payday, this is the time to do it.  Harrison will be 31 years old when next season begins, so this will be his last big contract.  Several factors will be working against the Steelers.  Firstly, Harrison will probably feel that the Steelers need to repay him for working so cheaply for the past two years.  Afterall, how many NFL teams’ MVP makes just over $1 million per year?  Oh yeah, and he made the Pro Bowl both of those years.  James Harrison has been a steal, and the Steelers know it.

Harrison’s predecessor, Joey Porter, will also play a role his negotiation with the Steelers.  Harrison knows that Porter got a 5 year, $32 million dollar deal with $12 million guaranteed.  The first defensive player drafted in last year’s draft, Chris Long, got a 6 year, $56.5 million dollar deal with $29 million guaranteed, and he had never even played a down in the NFL, much less won the DPOY award.

Lastly, this year’s defensive free agents Terrell Suggs, DeMarcus Ware, and Albert Haynesworth will play a key role in setting the market price for top defensive talent.  I’m sure the Steelers wish those guys weren’t hitting the free market at the same time that they are trying to extend Harrison.

Last year, the Vikings gave free agent defensive end Jared Allen a six year deal at $12.2 million per year, with $32 million guaranteed.  Harrison is not a defensive end, but I’m sure his agent will be quoting those numbers early and often.

Suffice it to say that James Harrison is going to feel like a Powerball winner when this thing is done.  I won’t attempt to guess what the figures on Harrison’s contract will be, but I know that I wouldn’t want to be Kevin Colbert right now.

Obviously, every penny that the Steelers spend on James Harrison is a penny that they can’t spend on their other players that need to be extended.

In my opinion, the next guy the Steelers should focus on is Hines Ward.  Sure, Hines will be 51 at the beginning of next season (actually he’ll be 33).  But he still has some good years left in him.  Hines is definitely one of the leaders in the Steelers clubhouse.  This year was his best season since 2003.  He had 81 receptions and over 1,000 yards.  But Hines isn’t just about statistics.  Possibly more than any other player, Hines Ward embodies the Steelers toughness.  Hines Ward was born to be a Steeler.

Despite his advancing age, Ward is not likely to see his skills decline like some players do.  The reason for this is that Hines Ward has never relied on physical gifts to succeed in the NFL.  Hines Ward is short, he’s slow, and he can’t jump.  But he compensates for that by being fearless, running great routes, and having hands like a black hole (nothing ever escapes them).  These are traits that don’t diminish with time.

The Steelers will probably offer Ward an opportunity to end his career with the team if he takes a reduced salary.  They may have to give him a year or two more on his contract than they’d like to, but I think the Steelers can get Ward to agree to a deal that will keep him in Pittsburgh until he retires.

Next up is Heath Miller.  In my opinion, Heath Miller is one of the best (and most under-utilized) tight ends in the NFL.  After Hines Ward, Miller is Big Ben’s most reliable target.  In the red zone, he may be at the top of that list.  The Steelers have to keep him.

Everyone knows that Bruce Arians is obsessed with tight ends.  If he could run an 11 tight end offense, I think he’d do it.  Heath Miller is Arians’ best tight end.  So Miller is probably assured of getting his contract extended.

In my opinion, the first salary cap casualty among this list will be Casey Hampton.  “Big Snack” just isn’t the dominant player that he once was.    He’s only 31 years old, but Hampton seems to be aging in dog years.

Did anyone notice any drop off in production when Chris Hoke came into the game for Hampton this year?  Neither did I.  Sorry Hamp, but you won’t be seeing another contract from the Steelers.

Brett Keisel presents a bit of a dilemma for the team.  He hasn’t played great, but he has played well enough that the Steelers can’t afford to lose him.  We just speculated that Casey Hampton will be leaving after his contract is over.  Fellow defensive lineman Aaron Smith is also probably playing out his final contract as well.  With that in mind, the Steelers probably need to maintain continuity by keeping the youngest member of their front 3, Brett Keisel.

To be clear, Keisel is not a kid himself.  He’s 30 years old.  But Hampton and Smith are older, so that will benefit Keisel.  We’ve seen what too many changes have done to the Steelers’ offensive line.  They can’t allow their defensive line to suffer a similar fate.  So Keisel may get extended by default.  Lucky guy.

I never realized just how important Ryan Clark was to the Steelers until he had spleen and gall bladder problems last year.  Anthony Smith started in place of Clark and proved Ryan Clark’s true value.  If that weren’t enough to cement a spot on the team for Clark, his hits on Wes Welker and Willis McGahee surely earned him an extension.  Pay the man, Mr. Colbert.  PLEASE pay the man.

Justin Hartwig was a big improvement over Sean Mahan (which wasn’t hard to do).  However, his play has not been stellar.  If the Steelers take center Max Unger from Oregon or center Alex Mack from California in the upcoming NFL draft, then Hartwig won’t even be starting next year.

Hartwig’s presence probably saved Ben Roethlisberger from getting an additional 5-10 sacks that he would have gotten had Sean Mahan still been the Steelers’ starting center.  For that, Big Ben will forever be grateful.  However, the Steelers have a history of having Pro Bowl caliber centers like Mike Webster, Dermonti Dawson, and Jeff Hartings.  Harwig just isn’t in that category, nor will he ever be.  Both Mack and Unger have the potential to be.

Even if they don’t take a center early in this year’s draft, I think it is doubtful that the Steelers will extend Justin Hartwig’s contract during the offseason.  It is much more probable that they will maintain Hartwig as the starter through next season, and then let him leave when his contract expires.

Deshea Townsend is already 33 years old.  He’ll be 34 when his current contract expires.  The Steelers have gotten some great years out of Townsend.  Townsend was never super fast, he’s not particularly tall, and he doesn’t hit like a freight train.  But he’s always gotten all that he could out of his abilities.  He has made up for his physical shortcomings by being a smart player who understands Dick LeBeau’s defense.  In fact, I’ve always viewed him as a player that the Steelers could convert to safety to extend his career a bit if they wanted to.  He is the type of smart, dependable defensive backfield player that Anthony Smith needs to become.  But despite this potential, the Steelers will not have a 35 year old defensive back on their team.  So this is Townsend’s last contract.  Thanks for your service over all of these years, Deshea.  Unfortunately, time catches up to all of us eventually.

Larry Foote is an interesting situation.  He is the least talented of the Steelers’ four starting linebackers.  Moreover, he has physical freak and former #1 draft pick Lawrence Timmons breathing down his neck for playing time.  Timmons got so much playing time this year that he may as well have been a starter.  He actually had more tackles and more sacks than Foote, despite not being a starter.

Foote has been a solid, but not spectacular starter for the Steelers.  He knows Dick LeBeau’s defense.  Moreover, he will only be 29 years old when his contract expires.  That’s younger than all of the players that we’ve just discussed are RIGHT NOW except for Heath Miller.  So age is not really a problem for Foote.  His problem is Timmons.

Foote will not be able to hold off Timmons next year.  That’s for sure.  But he could still be a very valuable backup player.  If the Steelers could keep him at a reasonable price, they would probably be wise to do so.  Foote is not important enough to extend this offseason.  So you probably won’t be hearing his name in any press releases in the coming months.  Nevertheless, if Foote wants to remain a Steeler (at a reduced price, of course) when his contract ends, I think that is something that the Steelers should consider.

Lastly, we have Jeff Reed.  Reed is an interesting character.  He is probably the Steelers’ player who is most likely to get in a bar fight, get an under-aged girl pregnant, or get arrested for a DUI.  Reed is a wild and crazy guy.  But he’s OUR wild and crazy guy.  More importantly, he’s one of the best kickers in the NFL.  How many other kickers could be as successful playing in muddy, windy Heinz Field?  Not many.

As strange as this may sound, Reed may be one of the most important players for the Steelers to keep.  Give this guy an extension before he discovers that they have much better bars in Miami.

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