Thursday, July 26, 2007

Preseason Power Rankings

Yesterday, Pro Football Weekly released its preseason power rankings, rating the Steelers as the 14th-best team in the NFL. For what its worth, Baltimore opens the year at #8, Cincinnati at #9, and Cleveland at #31. New England is currently #1, with Indianapolis and San Diego #2 and #3, respectively.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

John Mitchell Promoted to Assistant Head Coach

On Monday the Steelers quietly promoted longtime defensive line coach John Mitchell to Assistant Head Coach, giving him the title of "assistant head coach/defensive line." Now in his 14th year with the team, Mitchell is credited with playing a major role in the development of linemen like Aaron Smith and Chris Hoke.

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Return to Pu Corner

Yesterday the Steelers signed safety Troy Polamalu to a four-year extension; the new five-year contract will pay him approximately $33 million, including $15.375 million in guaranteed money. The contract is comparable to that of Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed, who signed a six-year $40 million deal in 2006.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Steelers Sign Timmons

On Sunday the Steelers signed first-round draft pick Lawrence Timmons to a five-year contract. As a result, the team has all its 2007 draft choices under contract in time for training camp. According to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the contract "is worth slightly less than $12 million in base salary and could be worth as much as $15 million with the incentives."

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Steelers Come to Terms with Spaeth

Today, the Steelers came to terms with third-round pick Matt Spaeth, agreeing to a three-year contract worth a total of $1.679 million. Spaeth will receive a signing bonus of $564,000.


Outtakes From Tomlin Interview

Pro Football Weekly's Eric Edholm has posted outtakes from his recent interview with Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin on PFW's "Around the NFL" blog. Click here to read the post, which is entitled "Tomlin has made a believer out of me." By the way, the interview was conducted for an upcoming feature on Tomlin, which is slated to appear in PFW in mid-August.


Porter Fined $141,176

According to, the NFL has fined former Steelers LB Joey Porter $141,176 (the equivalent of three game checks) for his role in the Levi Jones incident, which occurred this past March in Las Vegas. According to Len Pasquarelli's article, the fine, "first reported by and confirmed by league sources, is one of the biggest in NFL history." Click here to read the full story.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Steelers Sign LaMarr Woodley

Today, the Steelers agreed on a contract with second-round draft choice LaMarr Woodley. That's the good news. The bad news is that it's a four-year contract, which in my estimation, isn't ideal. Click here to find out why.

By the way, Woodley got a $1.865 million signing bonus, along with base salaries of $285,000, $370,000, $460,000 and $550,000.


Unhappy Camper?

Today, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that LG Alan Faneca plans to report to training camp on time and promises not to create a distraction for the team. Steelers fans should expect no less. After all, Faneca has a contract, one that pays him rather well, I might note. As I previously opined on this blog, Faneca should not expect sympathy from fans just because the front office doesn't feel it's in the team's best interest to give a 30-something guard a $50 million extension. If you disagree, feel free to post a comment below.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Steelers Ink "The Touchdown Maker"

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review the Steelers have signed seventh-round draft choice Dallas Baker to a three-year contract, one that includes a signing bonus of $39,750 and base salaries of $285,000, 370,000 and $460,000.

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Steelers' Offensive Line Considered 'Average'

Every so often QB Ben Roethlisberger sings the praises of his offensive line, referring to them as the 'best line in the NFL' (or something to that effect). But Steelers fans know nothing could be further from the truth, and a new "O-Line Ranking" in Pro Football Weekly—ranking the NFL's offensive lines 1-32—would seem to confirm this. For what it's worth, the Steelers are rated as the NFL's 14th-best line. In case you're wondering, the Bengals are 10th, the Ravens 12th, and the Browns 24th. Click here to view the entire list.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Fantasy Draft Board "Mis-Underestimates" Steelers?

Today, Pro Football Weekly (PFW) unveiled its offseason fantasy draft board, ranking quarterbacks, running backs, tight ends, placekickers and defenses. With the exception of Willie Parker (#8 at RB and #9 overall) the fantasy talent evaluators at PFW don't think highly of the Steelers' offensive players. Ben Roethlisberger and Charlie Batch are ranked 17th and 54th, respectively, at the QB position. Najeh Davenport and Kevan Barlow are 60th and 89th on the RB board. And Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Cedrick Wilson and Nate Washington are 18th, 41st, 83rd and 93rd, respectively, at wide receiver. Meanwhile, PFW has Heath Miller rated #22 among tight ends and PK Jeff Reed ranked 22nd among kickers. The Steelers are listed as the seventh-best fantasy defense, however.

Click here to view the draft board.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Steelers' (Golf Scores) at the American Century Championship

Final results are in from the 2007 American Century Championship at Lake Tahoe. Former NFL QB Chris Chandler won the celebrity tournament, with former Steelers QB Tommy Maddox finishing in a tie for seventh place (rounds of 72, 76 and 71). Meanwhile, current starting QB Ben Roethlisberger finished 47th (82, 82, 88), and former RB Jerome Bettis tied for 63rd (98, 89, 87).

For what it's worth, Ravens backup QB Kyle Boller finished 32nd, with Bengals starter Carson Palmer tying for 33rd.

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Another Publication Predicts Losing Season

As noted by The FanHouse, yet another national sports publication (The Sporting News) has predicted a losing season (7-9) for the Steelers in 2007. I don't understand why all the preseason prognosticators are so pessimistic.

The naysayers point to Mike Tomlin's inexperience and changes in scheme as reasons for concern, but I don't necessarily believe this will be a "transition year." Recall that Bill Cowher inherited a 7-9 team, yet in Cowher's first season the Steelers started 3-0 ("Cowher Power!"), finished 11-5, and earned the #1 seed in the AFC playoffs.

I'm not suggesting that the Steelers will win 11 games or win the AFC North in 2007, but without a doubt, Tomlin inherits a better team than Cowher did. And when it comes to head coaches, "experience" is overrated. In fact, head coaching changes often spark a team; just look at the New York Jets' experience with Eric Mangini. Finally, as The Steelyard noted in a widely circulated post (May/07), the presence of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau gives Tomlin a very good chance to succeed.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Handicapper's Preview, AFC North

The latest online edition of Pro Football Weekly includes a "handicapper's preview" of the AFC North. For the most part, I agree with Mike Wilkening's conclusions regarding all four teams, although I would take issue with the statement that "QB Ben Roethlisberger is turnover-prone and given to fits of just awful play." Looking at Big Ben's career as a whole, that is not an accurate description. Second, I'm not sure the Steelers' defense faces a "transition period." Finally, I don't believe that "Pittsburgh's roster is among the most talented in the game." I'm more inclined to think that the coaches have done a good job maximizing the talent at their disposal.

Click here to read the preview.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Steelers Sit Out Supplemental Draft; Ravens Select Gaither

As expected (see post below) the Steelers did not exercise a pick in the Supplemental Draft. However, the Baltimore Ravens selected mammoth OT Jared Gaither (Maryland) in round five. According to, "Gaither (6-9, 350) started 17 of Maryland's past 21 games at either left or right tackle. As a freshman in 2005, [Gaither] did not allow a sack from his left tackle position."

The San Diego Chargers were the only other team to add a player, choosing CB Paul Oliver (Georgia) in the fourth round.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Last Time the Steelers Drafted 15th Overall...

Prior to this past April, the last time the Steelers selected 15th in the first round of the NFL draft was in 1991, Chuck Noll's last year as head coach. And, as in 2007, the team selected a linebacker from the state of Florida—a youngster named Huey Richardson (University of Florida)—who arguably remains the worst draft choice in the organization's history. Richardson was credited with, oh, maybe two tackles during his rookie year, and the following summer was jettisoned by rookie head coach Bill Cowher (traded to Washington for a late-round draft choice), a remarkably short tenture for a first-round selection.

In fairness to the Steelers, the 1991 first round didn't yield many quality players, Herman Moore (Detroit, #10) and Ted Washington (San Francisco, #25) being two notable examples. In fact, the 1991 first round was filled with players who failed to live up to expectations, including QB's Dan McGwire (Seattle, #16) and Todd Marinovich (L.A. Raiders, #24), not to mention uber project Eric Swann (Phoenix, #6).

Let's hope Lawrence Timmons fares considerably better than Richardson did.

Steelers Unlikely to Participate in Supplemental Draft

Although the Steelers have been linked to at least one player available in Thursday's supplemental draft (Chris Patrick, OL, Nebraska), it's highly unlikely that the team will select Patrick or any other prospect. As far as I know, the Steelers have never exercised a pick in the supplemental draft. And it's doubtful that Pittsburgh would forfeit a 2008 draft pick for Patrick, who, at best, might eventually develop into a backup offensive guard. Click here to read scouting reports on 11 of the available players.


Monday, July 09, 2007

Low Expectations For Timmons and Woodley?

In "The Way We Hear It" section of the new issue of Pro Football Weekly, the PFW editors question whether Steelers' first-round pick Lawrence Timmons or second-round pick LaMarr Woodley can be impact players as rookies. Steelers fans don't have particularly high hopes for Timmons, because he's young, inexperienced, and suffered a serious groin injury at the outset of minicamp, which makes everyone wonder if he was in shape when he arrived at camp. Fans seem more optimistic about Woodley, but the PFW blurb notes that "at least one source close to the [Steelers] observed that Woodley’s reaction time was a little slower than it needed to be in some of the workouts."

Why is the status of the rookies so important? One could argue that aside from the health of QB Ben Roethlisberger and the performance of the offensive line, the most important factor in determining the success of the 2007 Steelers will be the play of the rookie class. Last season Pittsburgh got virtually nothing—nothing positive, at least—out if its rookies during the early part of the season. Only after first-rounder Santonio Holmes and third-rounder Anthony Smith began to make plays did the Steelers begin winning games. And other than punter Daniel Sepulveda, Timmons and Woodley would seem to be the most likely rookies to make an instant impact. Click here to read the PFW piece.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Pittsburgh Sweeps Cleveland, Again

Doing their best imitation of the 2002 Steelers, last night the Pittsburgh Passion women's football team clobbered the Cleveland Fusion, 49-15, completing a three-game season sweep (two regular season games and a playoff game) of their arch-rivals. Steelers fans will recall that five years ago the Steelers beat the Cleveland Browns 16-13 (OT) in Pittsburgh, 23-20 in Cleveland, and then pulled out a thrilling 36-33 victory in the AFC Wild Card game, with Tommy Maddox throwing for 367 yards.

On July 21 the Passion will play in the league championship game versus either the Columbus Comets or Oklahoma City Lightning.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Unhappy Returns?

Yesterday, the Steelers claimed KR Dan Sheldon off waivers, a day after having been cut by the Atlanta Falcons. Both the Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles put in a claim for the former Cologne Centurion (NFL Europe), but Sheldon went to Pittsburgh because the Eagles posted a better record than the Steelers in 2006.

The claim might indicate that Pittsburgh is concerned ith the state of its return game, or the team might simply be looking for a player who can raise the level of competition in training camp. Another possibility is that the coaches wanted an extra body to take reps in camp and return kicks during the club's five preseason games, thereby preserving the limited options the team has at kick returner. After all, Sheldon has never played in a regular-season NFL game (and may have injury concerns of his own), so he's probably a longshot to make the team.

Ideally, second-year WR Willie Reid will be the Steelers' primary kickoff and punt returner in 2007, but foot injuries threaten to derail Reid's career before it even gets started. Fellow wideout Santonio Holmes could excel as a returner, but as the #2 wide receiver the coaches would probably prefer not to expose him to injury on special teams. That leaves backup RB Najeh Davenport as the next best option on kickoff returns (21.5 yards per return in 2006), with veteran receiver Cedrick Wilson a possible stopgap option on either punts or kickoffs. But if Reid can't play the Steelers may be forced to make a trade to bring in a veteran return man.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Heath Miller Poised for Breakout Season?

In a new column at, columnist Jeffri Chadiha predicts Pittsburgh's third-year TE Heath Miller (1st round, 30th overall, 2005) will be a "breakout player" this coming season. It's difficult to believe that Chadiha couldn't think of another offensive player in the entire NFL more likely to have a breakout season in 2007. We've all heard how new offensive coordinator Bruce Arians plans to utilize the team's tight ends more often and how Miller has Pro Bowl potential, but it's doubtful that Miller will dramatically improve on last year's performance (37 catches, 393 yards, five touchdowns). One reason is that Ben Roethlisberger isn't a dink-and-dunk/safety valve-type QB; at best, Miller is a third or fourth option, as WR's Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes are significantly more enticing targets for a big play passer like Big Ben. However, I will concede that Miller's stats are likely to improve if QB Charlie Batch plays extensively, as Batch seems inclined to look for Miller more frequently. Recall that Batch was responsible for Miller's biggest play last season, an 87-yard touchdown catch in the season opener versus Miami.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Cowher: Next

In today's edition of Steelers Xtra Chris Kucharski speculates about "the most likely destinations for Cowher after the 2007 season."

I agree that Washington is the most likely destination as current head coach Joe Gibbs will probably have a nervous breakdown if he doesn't have success this season, and owner Daniel Snyder would likely be willing to pay Cowher $10 million a year.

Cleveland is a reasonable second most likely destination, as Cowher played for and coached the Browns in the 1980s, and it's easy to envision Romeo Crennel getting fired after this season.

After that I disagree with Kucharski. As I see it, Carolina is the third-most likely possibility, as Cowher might take less money if it allows him to live in North Carolina year-round.

The New York Giants are a fourth option, as Tom Coughlin is likely to be fired after the 2007 season. Dallas is a close fifth, thanks to Jerry Jones' checkbook, the soon-to-be new stadium, and Jones' love of the high-profile deal.

At the moment, I don't see Baltimore or Tampa Bay as possibilities.

In fact, despite being on the west coast, I believe that San Diego is the top dark-horse candidate, in part due to fourth-year QB Philip Rivers. Recall that Cowher wanted to draft Rivers in 2004. And after plugging away for twelve years without a star quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger showed Cowher how much easier it is to be a head coach when one has a young franchise quarterback. So don't underestimate the importance of a candidate's quarterback situation.