Friday, March 30, 2007

Browns Fans Blue About Green?

If I were a Cleveland fan I'd be distraught at the news that the Browns are exploring the possibility of acquiring QB Trent Green from the Kansas City Chiefs. Three years ago the Browns were in a similar position--without a quality starting QB and holding the sixth overall pick in the draft. The team chose to sign an aging veteran (Trent Dilfer, I believe) as a stopgap measure, and draft a tight end. In the process the Cleveland passed on QB Ben Roethlisberger--a local hero, no less--who, as we all know, is now starring for the Steelers.

This year the Browns hold the third pick in the draft and still need a quarterback. Wouldn't it make sense to take a chance and make every effort to use that high first-round pick on a QB? Sure, it's a risk, but it's one worth taking. In order to compete in a division that already features two young franchise quarterbacks, Cleveland needs to draft and develop a franchise QB of its own. An aging veteran like Green hardly seems like the answer.

Anyway, money shouldn't be a factor in the decision, regardless of what the "experts" say. Whoever the Browns draft at #3 will be expensive to sign, regardless of which position he plays. Never mind the fact that Green's salary is in the neighborhood of $7 million per year.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Steelers Awarded Two Compensatory Draft Picks

Today the NFL announced that the Steelers have been awarded compensatory picks at the end of the fourth round (132nd overall) and fifth round (170) of the upcoming NFL draft (April 28-29), giving Pittsburgh nine selections. A total of thirty-two compensatory picks were distributed based on a formula involving free-agent signings and losses from last year. Fans will recall that the Steelers signed FS Ryan Clark but lost FS Chris Hope, WR Antwaan Randle El and DE Kimo von Oelhoffen.

Meanwhile, the 2007 schedule has not yet been released, but the Steelers will NOT be appearing in any of the opening weekend's prime-time games. Nor will the Steelers be playing in any of the three games scheduled on Thanksgiving Day. The Steelers' opener will not be against a divisional opponent, unless it is versus Cleveland.

Finally, Pittsburgh solidified its depth at safety on Monday by re-signing Tyrone Carter to a three-year contract worth $2.4 million.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Cowher Feels the Need for Speed

Sure he can do anything he wants now that he's retired but... Former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher will be starring in an ABC-TV NASCAR reality show called Fast Cars and Superstars: Gillette Young Guns Celebrity Race, that is set to air in June.

Cowher will compete against John Elway, Tony Hawk, William Shatner, Laird Hamilton, Gabby Reese, Serena Williams, and Jewel among others. Participants will compete in driving from zero to 100 mph, braking, and pit crew skills.

Among those who will watch with more than a mild interest will be Ben "no helmet" Roethlisberger, and the rest of his Steelers' teammates. What's next Bill, Dancing With the Stars?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Jeremy Staat Deployed to Iraq

Lance Cpl. Jeremy Staat, a former second-round draft choice of the Steelers, has been deployed to Iraq as part of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. Steelers fans will recall that Staat played college football at Arizona State University, the same program that produced Pat Tillman (Arizona Cardinals), who was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in April 2004. In fact, Staat and Tillman were roomates at ASU, and Staat claims that Tillman inspired him to enlist in the Marines. Most recently, Staat had been playing football with the Los Angeles Avengers of the Arena Football League.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Porter Punches AFC North Rival

Former Steelers LB Joey Porter may have departed for Miami, but he apparently can't let bygones be bygones and make peace with with his old AFC North rivals. Yesterday, Porter was cited for misdemeanor battery in Las Vegas after he punched Cincinnati Bengals OT Levi Jones in the face outside the Palms in Las Vegas. In the process, he managed the drag yet another Bengals player into a high-profile, off-the-field incident.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Steelers Retain Chidi Iwuoma

The Steelers have re-signed CB Chidi Iwuoma to a one-year contract. Losing Sean Morey to Arizona was insignificant but retaining Iwuoma will make a difference. Steelers fans will recall that the team--in a somewhat surprising move--cut him just before the start of last season, and his absence was a factor in a noticeable drop-off on special teams.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Sean Morey signs three-year contract with Arizona

Wide receiver Sean Morey signed a three-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday. Hardly a big loss. Sure, he was a capable special teams player, but he also committed some very costly penalties. As a wide receiver . . . well, all Steelers fans know he is not an NFL-quality wide receiver.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Whisenhunt buys $1.85 million home

The Arizona Republic is reporting that new Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt has purchased a $1.85 million lakeside home in south Chandler, AZ, a short distance from the Cardinals' practice facility in Tempe. To read more about the purchase and Whisenhunt's new neighbors, click here.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Steelers Should Wait-and-See With Faneca, Polamalu

As most Steelers' fans know, both G Alan Faneca and S Troy Polamalu have just one year remaining on their respective contracts. Most likely this will be Faneca's last year with the team. While the organization and its fans would no doubt like to see Faneca finish his career with the Steelers, his contract demands may preclude that possibility. If Faneca is looking for $8 million a year or so(!) and an eight-figure signing bonus, that would be a non-starter; it's simply too much salary cap space to commit to a guard, especially one who is on the downside of his career.

As for Polamalu--at The Steelyard we refer to him as "Pu," as in Winnie the Pooh--the Steelers will almost certainly take a wait-and-see approach. If it's true that Pu's agent is asking for more money than the Baltimore Ravens are paying Ed Reed--well, that would be a problem. First, Reed is a better and more consistent player. Sure, Polamalu makes more than his share of spectacular plays, but he's also prone to major mistakes and costly penalties. Another factor is whether new head coach Mike Tomlin plans to transition to a cover 2 scheme, which would seem ill-suited to Polamalu's strengths and might further expose his weaknesses. Finally, if the Steelers want to retain Pu beyond this season, they don't necessarily have to give him a long-term contract. The team could designate him as its "franchise player" and pay him the average of the top 5 safeties in the league. That would amount to less money than Reed earns, and would probably be manageable under the salary cap, as safeties are not valued as highly as most other position players.

Steelers Ink Mahan

Pittsburgh signed its first UFA today, agreeing to terms with offensive lineman Sean Mahan (guard/center) who signed a five-year, $17 million contract with a relatively modest $4 million signing bonus.

Friday, March 09, 2007

UFA Sean Mahan to meet with Steelers today

Unrestricted free agent OL Sean Mahan is scheduled to meet with the Steelers today. Mahan, a four-year veteran, started 26 games over the last two seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It appears that the team is targeting offensive linemen in free agency, which makes sense insofar as linemen take time develop, and it's unlikely a rookie would come in and make an immediate impact. Last year, Pittsburgh spent its high draft picks on positions that typically require a long learning curve (WR, safety, OL), and received little in the way of positive contributions from its rookie class until the end of the season. In the 2007 draft, expect the team to target players at positions where immediate contributions are more realistic (RB, DE, LB).

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Two UFA's visit with Steelers

The Steelers hosted two unrestricted free agents at their facility on Thursday: Well-traveled WR Alex Bannister and OL Floyd Womack. Womack is arguably the more intriguing of the two. He started nine games at guard for the Seattle Seahawks in 2006, and could provide OL depth at several positions.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

A cornerback in round one?

NFL Network analyst Jamie Dukes predicts that Pittsburgh will use its first-round pick on Aaron Ross, a cornerback from the University of Texas. Dukes' blurb about Ross happens to contain an embarrassing typo (see if you can spot it).

Meanwhile, senior analyst Gil Brandt expects that the Steelers' first-round selection will be Chris Houston, a cornerback from the University of Arkansas. Read Brandt's predictions by clicking here.

Salaries for franchise and transition players (2007)

For those of you who are interested, Pro Football Weekly just published the salaries that will be paid to franchise and transition players during the upcoming season. The list is itemized by position, and includes salary figures for each of the past 10 years. To see the list click here.