Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Steelers' pre-season schedule

The Steelers' pre-season schedule will be as follows:

Aug 12: Pittsburgh at Arizona
Aug 19: Minnesota at Pittsburgh
Aug 25: Pittsburgh at Philadelphia (ESPN)
Aug 31: Carolina at Pittsburgh

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Compensatory draft choices; Bill Cowher

Today the NFL announced that the Steelers have been awarded three compensatory draft choices in the 2006 NFL draft: Two fourth-round picks (#'s 131 and 133), plus a fifth-round pick (#167). These picks serve as compensation for losing four unrestricted free agents last offseason (including Plaxico Burress, Kendrell Bell and Oliver Ross), while adding only one (Cedrick Wilson).

Meanwhile, speculation has been running rampant regarding Bill Cowher 's future since it was revealed that he purchased a new "retirement" home in North Carolina. Personally, I think it's much ado about nothing. I can't imagine Cowher quitting or changing jobs anytime soon. Why? Ben Roethlisberger. For the first time in his head-coaching career Cowher finally has a legitimate franchise quarterback - one that is now entering the prime of his career, no less. Cowher won a lot of regular season games with the likes of Kordell Stewart and Neil O'Donnell. But Roethlisberger gives him a chance to win championships, and cement his legacy as a Hall of Fame coach.

Plus, with a Super Bowl title on his resume, Cowher now stands to command more money than ever, probably in excess of five million dollars per year.

Steelers to open Arizona Cardinals' new stadium

Today, the Steelers announced that they will help the Arizona Cardinals open their new stadium in Glendale, AZ, in a pre-season game on August 12. That's awfully far to go to play a pre-season contest, but it virtually assures the Cards that the game will be a sellout.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Quincy Morgan and Shaun Nua re-signed

Today the Steelers re-signed unrestricted free agent wide receiver Quincy Morgan and exclusive rights free agent defensive end Shaun Nua (one of the team's seventh-round selections in the 2005 draft).

Steelers' season-opener

Back in February I predicted that the Steelers would host the Denver Broncos at Heinz Field in the season-opening game on Thursday, September 7. I was wrong. Today the NFL announced that the Steelers will host the Miami Dolphins on September 7 at 8:30 pm (EST) on NBC.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Steelers re-sign Lee Mays

Today, the Steelers signed wide receiver Lee Mays to a one-year contract. The Steelers' hierarchy at wide receiver would now appear to be as follows:
#1 Hines Ward
#2 Cedrick Wilson
#3 Quincy Morgan
#4 Nate Washington
#5 Lee Mays
#6 Sean Morey

Of course, Wilson will temporarily be filling the number 2 role until the Steelers find a permanent replacement for Plaxico Burress.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Deshea Townsend, Rodney Bailey

Continuing to focus on filling holes on defense the Steelers have re-signed unrestricted free-agent CB Deshea Townsend to a multi-year contract. The team has also signed veteran DE Rodney Bailey to a one-year deal. Bailey is expected to serve as a backup to Brett Keisel at right defensive end.

Expect the Steelers to focus on the offensive side of the ball in the upcoming draft. It's almost a lock that the team will select a wide receiver with one of its first three selections.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Titans acquire Chris Hope

Yesterday, the Tennessee Titans signed free safety Chris Hope away from the Steelers, inking the four-year pro to a six-year contract. I'm somewhat surprised that Pittsburgh let him go in favor of Ryan Clark, as Hope is a bigger, stronger, faster player. The only explanation is that Hope was asking for more money than the Steelers were willing to commit to a free safety. Sure, Hope didn't make many plays in Pittsburgh, but that may be attributed to the Steelers' defensive scheme, which required Hope to play conservatively while wildman Troy Polamalu roamed the field.

In a somewhat ominous development several teams (including the notoriously free spending Redskins) are showing interest in CB/KR Ike Taylor, in spite of his restricted free agent status. Should another club sign Taylor to an offer sheet and the Steelers decline to match the offer, Pittsburgh would receive a first-round draft choice as compensation. Incidentally, the Redskins currently hold the 22nd pick in the first round.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Brett Keisel, Ryan Clark, and more

Yesterday the Steelers re-signed unrestricted free agent Brett Keisel to a four-year $13.1 million contract with a $3.29 million signing bonus. Expect Keisel to take over the starting job at the defensive end position formerly held by 35-year-old Kimo von Oelhoffen, who was signed to a surpringly lucrative 3-year contract by the New York Jets.

The Steelers also added safety Ryan Clark, signing the unrestricted free agent (Washington Redskins) to a four-year contract worth $7 million ($1.65 million signing bonus).

Today, the team re-signed backup tight end Jerame Tuman (three years, $4.2 million, $900,000 signing bonus) and offensive tackle Barrett Brooks (one year, $465,000), and restructured the contract of Pro Bowl center Jeff Hartings, who inked a one-year extension through 2007.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Steelers re-sign Charlie Batch

Today, the Steelers filled their void at backup quarterback by re-signing nine-year veteran Charlie Batch to a three-year contract worth $4.2 million (including an $800,000 signing bonus).

Monday, March 13, 2006

Washington Redskins sign Randle El

Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder has done it again, overpaying for yet another free-agent player. The Redskins just signed former Steelers wide receiver Antwaan Randle El to a seven-year contract worth up to $31 million (with $11.5 million in guaranteed money). The Chicago Bears were reportedly offering Randle El a six-year deal worth $18 million with an $8 million signing bonus, a much more sensible offer.

No doubt Pittsburgh will miss Randle El's punt return skills and his ability to pass the ball on trick plays, but from a receiving standpoint the Steelers won't be losing much. Expect Pittsburgh to draft a wide receiver with one of its first-day draft choices.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Lynn Swann's "Steeler bounce"

There's a new article in the April 2006 issue of The Atlantic Monthly magazine (Jock Itch), about Lynn Swann's campaign for governor of Pennsylvania. As we all know, Swann was a Hall of Fame wide receiver for the Steelers and MVP of Super Bowl X. Unfortunately, I can't ever recall seeing a candidate less qualified for political office than Swann. He has no platform, and apparently, no demonstrated knowledge of the issues facing the state of Pennsylvania. Yet, he's doing remarkably well in the political polls, thanks to Pittsburgh's Super Bowl victory last month, which has provided him with the proverbial "Steeler bounce." Let's hope that Pennsylvania voters don't get infatuated with Swann's star power and elect him for all the wrong reasons.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Steelers cut Tommy Maddox

Today the Steelers released QB Tommy Maddox, despite the fact that Maddox had three years remaining on his contract. While his release comes as no surprise (Maddox had a falling out with head coach Bill Cowher after a disastrous performance against Jacksonville this past season), the team's backup quarterback cupboard is now uncomfortably bare, save for starter Ben Roethlisberger. Unless one considers Rod Rutherford anything more than a fourth-stringer (I don't), the Steelers will need to add two more quarterbacks to the roster prior to training camp. One of those QB's could be Charlie Batch, who may be re-signed in free agency. But if Batch goes elsewhere the team will need to look hard for an experienced backup, as Big Ben appears to be a far cry from the second coming of Brett Favre (durability-wise). As I alluded to in an earlier post, the Steelers' third quarterback job is likely to be held by a rookie, probably a second-day draft choice.

In other news, the Steelers also released S Russell Stuvaints and CB Willie Williams. Meanwhile, the team offered a one-year $1.55 million tender to restricted free-agent/starting CB Ike Taylor and restructured the contract of backup RB Duce Staley.