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Steelers position review - Safety

March 27, 2011 By: Admin Category: Draft/Free Agency

This is Part 2 of our Steelers position review series.  If you haven’t read Part 1, please click the link below.

Steelers position review - Cornerbacks

We started with the cornerbacks.  In this installment, we’re going to look at the other defensive back position; the safeties.

Safety is a unique position for the Steelers.  Most fans view it as a strength.  After all, Troy Polamalu plays safety.  He’s the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year.  But the reality is that safety is actually a weakness for the Steelers.  And it’s a weakness that needs to be addressed.

Just think about what the team looks like when Troy is NOT in the game.  Suddenly, the safeties look just as pathetic as the cornerbacks.  Even Ryan Clark looks terrible when Troy’s not in the game.  Troy’s presence just covers up the shortcomings of the other players.  That’s why most fans (and websites) don’t list safety as a weakness for the Steelers.  But it is.  So let’s break it down.

Ryan Clark had a career year in 2010.  He had more tackles than he’s ever had in his career.  That was partially because Troy Polamalu missed games and Clark had to pick up some of the slack.  But it was also because there were so many receivers running wild in the Steelers’ defensive backfield that the cornerbacks and safeties had to make a lot of tackles.

Clark will be 32 years old next season.  That’s definitely not a good thing.  He’s much closer to the end of his career than the beginning.  He probably has 1 or two years left.  And those will likely be years in which he’s in decline.

Ryan Clark’s backup is Ryan Mundy.  This will be Mundy’s third year with the team.  During that time, he’s started a grand total of 2 games.  When he has played, he’s often been more of a liability than an asset.  Some of that was obviously due to inexperience, but does anyone feel comfortable with the idea of Mundy as a starter?  Neither do I.

Even if Mundy did look like a potential starter, he’s a free agent this year.  He’s been primarily a special teams player during his time on the team, and I don’t know if the Steelers view signing him as a priority.  They can likely get someone just as good in free agency, and can probably find a better long-term solution in the draft.

So the free safety position is going to need retooling soon.  And it’s better to do it while Ryan Clark is still with the team.  That makes it a priority in the short-term.

The backup at strong safety is Will Allen.  Like Mundy, Allen’s primary contribution has been on special teams.   2011 will be Allen’s eighth season in the NFL.  All but one of those years has been as a backup.  So it is highly unlikely that Allen is suddenly going to develop the skills needed to be a starter in the NFL.  If he had that potential, it would have shown itself 5 years ago.

Thus, the Steelers have two backup safeties who haven’t shown the potential to be starters, and two starters who will both be 30 or older this year.  Are you starting to see why I say that safety is a need position for the Steelers?

Finally, we have Troy Polamalu.  As I menti0ned earlier, Polamalu is the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year.  He may be the best safety in the NFL.  But Troy’s playing days will come to an end someday, and the Steelers need to prepare for that day.

Safety Troy Polamalu

Troy will be 30 years old next month.  That may not sound so old, but Troy plays with reckless abandon.  The way that he throws his body around must make him age in dog years.

Troy has only managed to play a complete season once in the past 5 years.  He was on the field during the playoffs and Super Bowl this year, but Steelers fans know that he didn’t really play.  He was too injured to make a difference.  He was just out there acting as a decoy.

Will Troy be 100% healthy next year?  Maybe.  But we all know that the body doesn’t heal as quickly or as completely as we get older (just ask Aaron Smith).  So Troy may or may not be his old self in 2011.

Here’s a radical thought that I know Steelers fans are going to hate, but I’m going to throw it out there anyway.  One of the things that I respect about the New England Patriots is their willingness to trade aging veterans in order to retool for the future.  No team does it better than them.  That’s one of the reason that they always seem to have 2-3 picks in the first round of every draft.  So what would happen if the Steelers stole a page from the Patriots.  Troy is coming off of an amazing season in which he was recognized as being the best defensive player in the NFL.  When will his value ever be higher than it is now?  So what do you think the Steelers could get back in a trade for him?  Two first round picks?  Perhaps a first round pick and a top-notch veteran player?  If Troy were the bait, players who seemed out of reach for the Steelers (like Patrick Peterson) suddenly become a possibility.  Think about it.

I know that I’m going to get hate mail for even suggesting that the Steelers trade Troy.  I’ve been doing  this long enough to know that nothing stirs up the ire of Steeler Nation more than saying something negative about Troy Polamalu.  But I had to at least mention the idea.  It’s what the Patriots would do.  And I think it’s worth discussing.

So the Steelers have two aging veteran starters at safety, and two backups who are never likely to be starters in the NFL.  Oh yeah, and one of those backups is a free agent.  Now do you see why I say that safety is a position of need for the Steelers?

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Steelers extend Tomlin’s contract

July 13, 2010 By: Admin Category: Players

The Pittsburgh Steelers have extended the contract of head coach Mike Tomlin.  Coach Tomlin had one year remaining on his original contract, which was signed in 2007.

Terms of Tomlin’s new contract were not revealed.  However, the new deal reportedly will keep Tomlin with the Steelers through 2014.

Typically, the Steelers would extend former coach Bill Cowher whenever he had two years remaining on his contract.  When the Steelers didn’t do so with Tomlin, some wondered whether the Steelers were happy with Tomlin’s performance.  As silly as it may sound, I have even heard Steelers fans say that Tomlin should be fired.

Many blame Tomlin for the Steelers’ failure to defend their Super Bowl title.  Not only did the Steelers fail to defend, they didn’t even make the playoffs last season.  Despite key injuries to Troy Polamalu, Aaron Smith, and Darnell Stapleton, some fans still felt that the blame rested clearly on Tomlin’s shoulders.

I’ve heard other Steelers fans argue that Tomlin is the reason that the Steelers have abandoned the team’s traditional “smash mouth” running game.  They say that Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians wouldn’t have Ben Roethlisberger throwing the ball all over the field if Tomlin didn’t allow him to.  They say that Tomlin vowed to maintain the Steelers’ emphasis on the running game when he interviewed for the job, but then he failed to uphold that promise.  To these fans, that is ample reason for Tomlin to lose his job.

Finally, I have heard fans argue that it was Tomlin’s fault that players like Santonio Holmes, Jeff Reed, and Ben Roethlisberger were getting into trouble off the field.  They argued that Tomlin wasn’t as much of a disciplinarian as Bill Cowher was, and that Cowher never would have allowed those types of shenanigans to go on.

I have to disagree with all three of these arguments.  In my opinion, Tomlin has done a good job, and he deserved to have his contract extended.

The injuries that the Steelers suffered last year clearly hurt the team.  We all knew that Troy was important to the team, but last year made it very clear just how important he is.  But despite the injuries, the team had a chance to win just about every game that they lost.  In fact, most of their losses were by 7 points or less.  Had a play or two gone differently, the team could have easily made the playoffs.

As far as the team’s wide open offense goes, I am a fan.  There are not many teams in the NFL whose fans would complain about having a quarterback who passed for over 4,000 yards, two receivers who each had over 1,000 yards receiving, and a running back who had over 1,000 yards rushing.  Yet, that is exactly what many Steelers fans did.  They would have preferred for Roethlisberger to have 2,500 yards passing, and Rashard Mendenhall to have 1,600 yards rushing.  To them, that would have been Steelers football.  But the reality is that the NFL is now a passing league.  Last year’s Super Bowl featured Drew Brees and Peyton Manning.  Need I say more?

Finally, I disagree with those who say that Bill Cowher would have somehow kept the Steelers’ players from getting into trouble.  Just how would he have done that?  I seem to remember Joey Porter getting into trouble constantly under Cowher’s watch.  Would Cowher have traveled with Big Ben as part of his posse?  If not, how would he have prevented Ben from partying like a rock star?  Newsflash:  Ben partied like a rock star when Cowher was here.  Is there anyone who actually believes that Santonio Holmes didn’t smoke his first blunt until AFTER Mike Tomlin became coach?  I didn’t think so.

The truth of the matter is that Mike Tomlin has done a very similar job as Bill Cowher.  In their first three seasons, their records are almost exactly the same.  Cowher was 32-16, and Tomlin was 31-17.  Only one win separates them.  On the other hand, Chuck Noll was 12-30 in his first 3 seasons with the Steelers.  I guess many of today’s fans would have fired Noll before he ever led the team to their first Super Bowl.

It’s true that the Steelers did go 9-7 last season, and failed to defend their Super Bowl title.  But in Cowher’s last year, the team went 8-8, and also failed to defend their Super Bowl title.

The bottom line is that Mike Tomlin’s performance after 3 years is very similar to Bill Cowher’s.  Moreover, he has already won a Super Bowl, something Cowher didn’t do until his 14th season with the team.  Failing to extend Tomlin would have raised questions that I don’t think anyone in the Rooney family would have had a logical answer to.  The Rooney’s have been successful by standing by their coaches.  They know that continuity is a key component of success.

Congratulations on the contract extension Coach Tomlin.  You deserve it.

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4-6 game suspension for Big Ben

April 21, 2010 By: Admin Category: Players

The NFL has announced that Ben Roethlisberger is going to receive a 6-game suspension for his involvement in the recent sexual assault case in Milledgeville, GA.   With good behavior, the suspension can be reduced to 4 games.

In order for the suspension to be reduced to 4 games, Roethlisberger will have to show good behavior, as well as compliance with clinical evaluators.  Translation: Big Ben has to straighten his act out, and prove to the psychologists that he’s not a sexual predator.

Reports claim that the Steelers organization was actually anticipating an 8-game suspension.  That would help explain the sudden trade for Byron Leftwich.

A 4 game suspension would mean that Ben would miss 25% of the regular season.  A six game suspension would encompass a full 38% of the season.  That’s nothing to sneeze at.

Now that it is clear to other NFL teams how much of the season Roethlisberger will miss, they will probably start making trade offers to the Steelers.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals Preview

November 13, 2009 By: Admin Category: Pre-Game Analyses

This week’s Steelers-Bengals game is right up there with some of the other great battles in sports history; Ali vs. Frazier, Lakers vs. Celtics, Tyson vs. Holyfield’s ear, Yankees vs. Red Sox, Ike vs. Tina.  Okay, maybe not.  But it should still be a very good game.

The Steelers and Bengals find themselves tied at the top of the AFC North with identical 6-2 records.  However, the Bengals have the advantage in the tie-breakers so far.  The Bengals defeated the Steelers in their first meeting this season.  The Bengals also have a better record within the division (4-0), having swept the Baltimore Ravens already, while the Steelers (1-1) have not faced the Ravens yet.

With that in mind, Sunday’s game becomes a must-win for the Steelers.

Personally, I have no doubt that the Steelers are going to beat the Bengals.  Call me a doubter, but I just don’t think the Bengals are in the Steelers’ class, despite their earlier win.


If you’ll recall the Steelers game against the Bengals earlier this season, you’ll remember that it took a 4th quarter miracle by the Bengals (actually, it was a 4th quarter meltdown by the Steelers) to win the game.

The Steelers dominated the Bengals in every way in that game.  They held Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer to a mere 183 yards passing.  Meanwhile, Big Ben threw for almost 300 yards and completed passes to 8 different receivers, including 102 yards to rookie receiver Mike Wallace.

Willie Parker rushed for 93 yards on 25 carries, as Rashard Mendenhall sat out due to being unprepared in practice.

The Steelers held the bengals to a mere 9 points through 3 quarters before surrendering 2 late touchdowns during a 4th quarter meltdown.

The Steelers domination was so complete that they held the ball a full 10 minutes more than the Bengals did during the course of the game.

Yet, a missed field goal by Jeff Reed combined with a dropped TD pass by Limas Sweed resulted in a 3 point loss in a game that the Steelers should have won.

Both teams remember what happened in the first game.  The Bengals know that they got beat like a drum, despite what the final scoreboard said.  The Steelers know that they lost a game that was within their grasp.

But that was then, and this is now.  In this game, the Bengals are going to find that they are facing a much improved Steelers team.

The Steelers are on a roll, having won 5 games in a row.  Troy Polamalu is back, having missed the first game against the Bengals due to injury.  Polamalu’s return seems to have ended the Steelers string of 4th quarter meltdowns.  The Steelers defense is now playing like the unit that we all know and love.

But perhaps the biggest difference in this game will be the Steelers’ running back.  The Bengals faced Willie Parker in the first game, and he almost gained 100 yards on them.  This time, the Bengals will be facing Rashard Mendenhall.  They’ve never faced Mendenhall, but I think they are going to find that he’s a much greater challenge than Parker is.

Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall

Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall

Surely the Bengals watched Mendenhall run for 155 yards on Monday Night Football.  They know that they are in for a tough game.

They also know that the rookie wide receiver who torched them for over 100 yards the first time they faced him has gotten even better.  Their defensive backs can’t be looking forward to facing Mike Wallace again.

Those are some of the reasons why I am sure that the Steelers are going to win this game.  If the Bengals were honest, they’d admit that those are exactly the same reasons why they know that they are going to lose.


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Steelers vs. Browns game day

October 18, 2009 By: Admin Category: Pre-Game Analyses

It’s game day.  The Steelers will face the Cleveland Browns today at 1:00 PM at Heinz Field.

Perhaps it is just my imagination, but there seems to be very little buzz about today’s game.  I guess that is an indication of how far the Browns as an organization, and the Steelers-Browns rivalry, have fallen.

I once wrote an article about Steelers vs. Browns day that talked about what a big occasion it is whenever the Steelers play the Browns.  However, those days seem like a distant memory.

These days, the game comes with little excitement, little anticipation, little buzz.


There is obviously great anticipation over the return of Troy Polamalu.  The Steelers defense just hasn’t been the same without Troy.  Unfortunately, the team will be playing its first game without defensive end Aaron Smith who will miss the rest of the season with a rotator cuff injury.

Perhaps the most interesting storyline of today’s game will be drama in the Steelers’ own backfield.  Willie Parker is returning from a turf toe injury.  While he was out, Rashard Mendenhall turned in two very respectable performances.  It will be interesting to see how the team integrates the two into the lineup.  Will Parker start?  Will Mendenhall get the majority of the carries?  That storyline is far more interesting than any pertaining to the Browns.

Let’s take a look around the web to see if any other Steelers sites are excited about today’s game.  Here are some articles that I thought you might enjoy:

“Know thy enemy: Cleve Brownies” - Nice Pick, Cowher

“Going for the Brownie Dozen” - D.C. Steeler Nation

“Beat the Browns” - Steelergurl

“Who I like; Mendenhall will start” - NFL From the Sidelines

“Cleveland vs Steelers: The weekly matchup” - Pittsburgh Steelers Fanatic

Nice reads, but like I said, there is very little excitement out there over this game. 

Browns QB Derek Anderson completed two passes for 23 yards and 1 interception.  No, you didn’t read that wrong.  He only completed 2 passes.  The Browns are obviously not an offensive juggernaut.  So regardless of how we might try to manufacture excitement over this game, it will probably end up being a blowout.

My prediction:  Steelers 31- Browns 6.


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