Saturday, February 25, 2006

Antwaan Randle El

Rumor has it that the Steelers have offered WR Antwaan Randle El a new contract, but that he wants to test the market in free agency and hopes to be paid like a #1 receiver. If any team is willing to pay Randle El #1-type money they are making a huge mistake. He lacks the size, hands, and consistency to be a team's first option in the passing game. (How many times have Steelers fans watched a ball go through Randle El's hands and into the arms of a nearby defensive back?) I'd sooner sign Plaxico Burress to be my #1 receiver. Incidentally, Burress played surprisingly well in his first season with the New York Giants, even getting yards after the catch on occasion. But as Steelers fans know, Burress often looks unstoppable when the team's offense is hitting on all cylinders. But unlike Hines Ward, he isn't the type of receiver who can lift an offense out of the doldrums when things are going poorly. When the offense is struggling he completely disappears, as the Giants found out the hard way during their playoff game, when Burress failed to catch a single pass in a shutout loss.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Steelers' cap situation

Pro Football Weekly reports that as of today the Steelers are approximately $4.5 million OVER the projected 2006 salary cap. The teams in the worst cap shape are the Oakland Raiders ($27 million over) and the New York Jets ($26 million over). The teams in the best shape? The Cleveland Browns ($25 million under) and Arizona Cardinals ($24.5 million under).

See the complete list of salary cap estimates at Pro Football Weekly

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Steelers' free agents: Part IV (unrestricted FA's, defense)

DE Brett Keisel is in line to become a starting defensive end, provided the Steelers are able to re-sign him. If Keisel comes back then 35-year-old DE Kimo von Oelhoffen becomes expendable, although a one-year contract for Oelhoffen isn't out of the realm of possibility.

LB Clint Kriewaldt is the defensive version of Sean Morey, not quite an NFL-quality position player but valuable on special teams. Kriewaldt will likely be back for somewhere near the minimum veteran salary.

CB Deshea Townsend has always played well for the Steelers, but last year's second-round pick, Bryant McFadden, is on track to be a starter in 2006, so the team won't offer Townsend more than a third cornerback's salary.

Finally, FS Chris Hope will be a priority in free agency, as the Steelers prefer to avoid breaking up the young safety tandem of Hope and Troy Polamalu (who we affectionately refer to as "Pu," mostly due to Troy's Pooh-like play during his rookie season).

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Steelers' free agents: Part III (Unrestricted FA's, offense)

The Steelers would like to keep WR/PR Antwaan Randle El but only at a reasonable price. To be sure, Randle El excels at passing the ball on trick plays and he's an excellent punt returner, but as a receiver he's nothing more than "a #3" (and the Steelers have a third receiver in Cedrick Wilson). The team will miss Randle El's big plays, but they won't miss the turnovers that result from his lack of size/height and average hands.

Meanwhile, the team is likely to make a serious effort to re-sign QB Charlie Batch. It's imperative that the Steelers employ a capable veteran backup as Ben Roethlisberger has proven to be injury prone (in spite of his size and youth). If Batch is retained the club may trade or cut former starter Tommy Maddox and draft a developmental prospect.

RB Verron Haynes has long been a good fit as a third-down back and warrants an offer.

Don't expect TE Jerame Tuman to be back. Last year's first-round pick Heath Miller has already established himself as the starting tight end, a job he should hold for years to come. Tuman figures to sign with a team that can offer him more playing time.

If the price is right the Steelers will re-sign WR Quincy Morgan to be the fourth receiver.

Finally, OT Barrett Brooks will most likely be replaced by a rookie draft choice as the Steelers attempt to upgrade their depth at offensive tackle.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Steelers' free agents: Part II (Restricted FA's)

Expect the Steelers to tender offers to both of their restricted free agents, WR Sean Morey and CB/KR Ike Taylor. Morey isn't an NFL-quality wide receiver, but he's made his mark contributing on special teams.

As for Taylor, it wouldn't be a surprise if tbe team offered him more than the minimum one-year tender - perhaps even the maximum - owing to his value as an up-and-coming starting corner and the possibility that a CB-needy team may make him an offer. Ultimately, the Steelers will work towards negotiating a long-term contract extension with Taylor, which would keep him from becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2007.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What is "Pu" going to do with that hair?

For all of us watching media day, you had to be impressed by Troy Polamalu's response to an interviewer's question: "All the girls want to know what you are going to do with your hair?" Troy shyly pointed to his wedding ring and replied, "It's up to this girl." Well, apparently Pu is being courted by the non profit organization Locks of Love to cut his hair for charity. Locks of Love provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss. It seems like a fitting next chapter for one of the coolest athletes in the NFL.

Steelers' free agents: Part I (Exclusive Rights FA's)

The Steelers have just two exclusive rights free agents this season: LB James Harrison and RB Willie Parker. Expect the Steelers to offer one-year contracts to both. Harrison has proven to be a solid backup linebacker/special teams player, and will always be fondly remembered for body slamming a Browns fan to the turf during last season's game at Cleveland. Of course, Parker is the starting tailback, and an especially important player in light of Jerome Bettis' retirement, Verron Haynes' impending free agency, and the uncertain health of Duce Staley.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Joey Porter and the "strongest man" competition

Joey Porter managed to bench press 225 lbs. 35 times at the Pro Bowl's "strongest man" competition earlier this week, good enough for him to finish in a tie for second place. Not too shabby for a linebacker. Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Larry Allen won the event with ease, doing a whopping 43 reps!

Scheduling prediction

The NFL will schedule Denver at Pittsburgh as the season opening game on Thursday, September 7, 2006.

Sunday, February 5

Seattle Seahawks 10
Pittsburgh Steelers 21