Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Pro Football Weekly's Nawrocki rates Steelers a "loser" in 2008 draft

Pro Football Weekly draft guru Nolan Nawrocki has graded the draft for all 32 teams based on "how well each team was able to recognize value, work the draft and come away with players who will upgrade [the] team, now or in the future." He gives the Steelers a C-minus; only the Tennessee Titans (D) received a lower grade, with the Houston Texans receiving the only other C-minus. Click here to view Nawrocki's grades/summaries for each of the 32 clubs.

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Jersey numbers for Steelers' draft picks

In case you were wondering, the Steelers will issue the following jersey numbers to this year's draft class:

2 - QB Dennis Dixon
14 - WR Limas Sweed
29 - S Ryan Mundy
34 - RB Rashard Mendenhall
53 - LB Bruce Davis
55 - LB Mike Humpal
66 - OT Tony Hills

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Steelers 2008 draft wrap-up

Guest commentary by Nick Beckwith:

Steelers' director of football operations Kevin Colbert can definitely get off his warm chair; in fact he is entitled to take a load off on a new leather barcalounger with four-way motorized shiatsu massage. But if the Steelers are to be congratulated for not chasing needs on the first day they can be fairly criticized for paying too little attention to them on the second.

As it stands now, Pittsburgh will enter the season with perilously little depth on its offensive line and at defensive end. The Steelers did get a number of tough breaks with good prospects snagged just before it was their turn to pick, but they should be congratulated for not panicking and taking advantage of opportunities in less expected directions.

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First impressions of Steelers' third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-round picks

Guest commentary by Nick Beckwith:

Third-rounder Bruce Davis (UCLA) was as good a pick as the two on the first day. “All he can do is sack the quarterback.” This is the kind of criticism one likes to hear about a player one’s team selects. Anyway, I am not inclined to question the Steelers’ judgment when it comes to linebackers. Since 1970 there have only been five years when there wasn’t at least one Steeler linebacker in the Pro Bowl.

Fourth-rounder Tony Hills (Texas) is easily the most intriguing player in this draft. At the end of his senior year in high school he damaged his peroneal nerve when he tore his LCL. Doctors told him he might never walk normally again, and he made his recruiting trip to Texas in a wheelchair! He started 24 games at left tackle during his junior and senior years, so I am optimistic. If his drop foot condition is cleared up he may be a steal. And team physicians Jim Bradley and Joseph Maroon (neurologist) have excellent reputations, which gives me some confidence.

In the fifth round the Steelers added Dennis Dixon, QB from Oregon. Let me be blunt; this was a stupid pick. Yes, the Steelers need to develop a young backup for Ben Roethlisberger, and though they say otherwise Dixon might be useful as a slash player. But he will not be any help early this season, as he is still rehabbing his knee.

Round 6: Mike Humpal (Iowa) is a solid pick who played weakside LB in Iowa’s 4-3. He’s a high motor, overachiever type who will likely contribute on special teams. As I said earlier, I am reluctant to second-guess the Steelers when it comes to linebackers.

Finally, there’s the enigma of Ryan Mundy (West Virginia), who reportedly has experience at both free safety and cornerback. Obviously the Steelers think more of him than other NFL teams and scouting services. But that is not necessarily an accurate barometer.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Steelers sign a dozen rookie free-agents

The Steelers came to terms with a dozen rookie free-agents today, including KR/WR Dorien Bryant (Purdue) and QB Mike Potts (William & Mary). In addition to the players reported in our earlier post the list also includes LB Patrick Bailey (Duke), CB Roy Lewis (Washington), DL Martavius Prince (Southern Mississippi), K Julian Rauch (Appalachian State), DL Jordan Reffett (Washington), TE Dezmond Sherrod (Mississippi State), and CB Travis Williams (East Carolina).

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Steelers add three rookie free-agents (so far)

Center Doug Legursky (Marshall), LB Donovan Woods (Oklahoma State) and WR Micah Rucker (Eastern Illinois) will be among the 10 or 11 rookie free-agents signed by the Steelers today.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Steelers' second sixth-round pick is Ryan Mundy

With its final selection in the 2008 draft the Steelers selected Ryan Mundy, safety, WVU.


Steelers' first sixth-round pick is Mike Humpal

With the first of two sixth-round picks (acquired in a trade with the New York Giants) the Steelers added Mike Humpal, LB, Iowa. Pro Football Weekly's draft preview describes him as a "high-effort overachiever with few distinguishable traits. Ideal backup who could contribute on special teams and bring some versatility."


Steelers' fifth-round pick is Dennis Dixon

In round five Pittsburgh selected Oregon QB Dennis Dixon, hardly a surprise since the Steelers need to begin thinking about developing Ben Roethlisberger's future backup. Pro Football Weekly's draft preview describes Dixon as a "raw passer who will require patience and considerable grooming to adapt to a pro-style offense.... Has enough tools to develop if he continues to work at his craft."

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Steelers' fourth-round pick is Tony Hills

After trading down in the fourth-round (with the New York Giants) the Steelers selected a left tackle prospect, Tony Hills, from the University of Texas. Hills has the size and athleticism to succeed at OLT in the NFL, but injuries are a major concern, as according to Pro Football Weekly, he "had a career-threatening drop foot condition in high school that nearly ended his career, and lingering effects still show up in his play. Does not have full motor skills in his left foot, and at times when he sets and plants ... his foot cannot withstand the pressure placed upon it and will go dead."

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Steelers' third-round pick is Bruce Davis

In the third round the Steelers selected college DE Bruce Davis, UCLA, who projects as an OLB in Pittsburgh's defensive scheme. In Pro Football Weekly's draft preview Davis' "negatives" outweigh his "positives" and he's summarized as follows: "One-trick pony who worked out well at the Combine and looked athletic enough to bring value as a 3-4 outside linebacker."


Steelers: First impressions of Pittsburgh's first- and second-round picks

Guest commentary by Nick Beckwith:

Since the NFL free agency system was instituted the NFL mantra of drafting “the best player available” has been largely a myth. After losing a key player teams almost reflexively draft a college player at the same position, regardless of whether the new player’s talent warrants the spot he is being taken. This is not to suggest that need should not be part of the scouting calculus, it must be. But in recent years it had begun to overwhelm all other considerations. Last year veteran NFL personnel man and former GM Floyd Reese, noting teams’ tendency to “reach” for positions of need lamented “the lost art of scouting.” Yesterday the Pittsburgh Steelers rediscovered that art. And they did it under what must have been trying circumstances.

Round 1
The Steelers' two greatest positions of need were on the lines – offensive and defensive. Offensive line looked like the position to take, with five prospects worthy of the first round ... and certainly five offensive lineman would not be selected before the Steelers picked at number 23. Five weren’t – six were, with another going later in the round. Rather than panic and select an offensive lineman of insufficient talent just to fill a need, the Steelers turned this near crisis into an opportunity. They drafted Rashard Mendenhall and came away with one of the best bargains of the first round.

Round 2
If Mendenhall was a bargain, Limas Sweed was an absolute steal. This is an extraordinary value pick. Despite missing most of his senior season with a wrist injury, some analysts still considered him the best overall wide receiver in the entire draft. And refreshingly, he is not a diva. Think Hines Ward and Marvin Harrison, not Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson.

It is hard to see how the Steelers could have done better yesterday; they skillfully turned a draft that was breaking against them to their favor.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Steelers' second-round pick is Limas Sweed

Another player the team didn't expect to be available this late in the draft.... In round two the Steelers added Limas Sweed, WR, Texas. Obviously, wide receiver is a huge area of need as going into this weekend Pittsburgh had no proven NFL caliber wideouts on its roster after Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes and Nate Washington, leaving at least two spots open. In Pro Football Weekly's draft preview Sweed's bio concludes: "If he continues to make strides in the pros like he did in college he could be a legitimate No. 1 receiver."

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Steelers' first-round pick is Rashard Mendenhall

With the 23rd pick in the first round the Steelers selected Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois, a player they probably didn't expect to be available that late in the round. Pro Football Weekly's draft preview says, "Scouts have compared him to Herschel Walker because of his straight-linish running style and very impressive physical condition. Has sheer strength and speed and looks like an absolute phenom, but must prove that he wants to be great."

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Draft prospects who met with the Steelers

It should be interesting to see if the Steelers select one or more of these players during the draft....

Branden Albert, G/T, Virginia; Cliff Avril, DE/LB, Purdue; Joseph "Red" Bryant, DT, Texas A&M; Jehuu Caulcrick, RB, Michigan State; Gosder Cherilus, OT, Boston College; Shawn Crable, DE/OLB, Michigan; Dennis Dixon, QB, Oregon; Keilen Dykes, DE, West Virginia; Charles Godfrey, CB, Iowa; Quentin Groves, DE/LB, Auburn; James Hardy, WR, Indiana; Mike Jenkins, CB, South Florida; Chris Johnson, RB, East Carolina; Jason Jones, DE, Eastern Michigan; Malcolm Kelly, WR, Oklahoma; Kendall Langford, DE, Hampton; Jerod Mayo, LB, Tennessee; Brandon McAnderson, FB, Kansas; Dre Moore, DT, Maryland; Orlando Scandrick, CB, Boise State; Jerome Simpson, WR, Coastal Carolina; Matthew Slater, KR, UCLA; Jonathan Stewart, RB, Oregon; Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas; Ryan Torain, RB, Arizona State; Mario Urrutia, WR, Lousville; Philip Wheeler, LB, Georgia Tech.

The team may also have met with "local" players Jeff Otah, OT, Pittsburgh; Mike McGlynn, OG, Pittsburgh; and Darrell Strong, TE, Pittsburgh; as well as Ryan Mundy, S, West Virginia.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

With the 23rd pick the Pittsburgh Steelers select . . .

... to trade down. This is an attractive scenario in view of the Steelers’ need for depth, but it is unlikely to happen. If the Steelers remain at #23 the most likely pick is:

OT Gosder Cherilus, Boston College, 6’ 6”, 314lbs, 5.19. Analysis: Very powerful, can lock on and maul as well as any O-lineman in this draft with the possible exception of first overall pick Jake Long (Miami Dolphins). Can blow up defensive ends and linebackers firing out flat-backed on run blocks and although he is reportedly a gentle giant off the field he plays with a hell of a mean streak. His only substantive flaw is that he will always be a right tackle; his lateral footwork is unlikely to ever be good enough to stop elite blindside pass rushers.

Guest prediction courtesy of Nick Beckwith.

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Should Colbert be on the hot seat?

Guest contribution courtesy of Nick Beckwith ...

Pittsburgh’s recent first round successes — Troy Polamalu (2003), Ben Roethlisberger (2004), Heath Miller (2005) and Santonio Holmes (2006) — have masked a problem, namely relatively poor drafting in later rounds. Over the last five years the team has drafted only six starters, and Brett Keisel (7th round) is one of the few late round players to blossom into a significant contributor. Therefore, if director of football operations Kevin Colbert is not on the hot seat, his chair should at least be a bit warm.

It is easy to criticize the man in front of the big board; it is more difficult to offer solutions. But I have, if not a solution, at least a new approach, which is simply the re-emphasis of an old approach. Pittsburgh must draft Steelers — players of high character and a strong work ethic who also display a love of hitting. I advocate drafting players whose idea of “going clubbing” is spending four hours in the free-weight section of Gold’s Gym.

Chuck Noll was of the opinion that his job was not to motivate players, but to teach motivated young men to be better players. I’m not saying the Steelers should ignore ‘triangle numbers’ (height, weight, 40-yard dash time) or the results of the various athletic tests of the Combine. I’m saying that football is a team game, and a united warrior attitude is the most important among many determinants of wins and championships. While so-called project players of great potential should not be eschewed, on-field production should be the defining characteristic of most of the players acquired in this (or any) Pittsburgh Steelers draft.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Richardson, Worley on list of biggest busts in NFL draft history

In's new ranking of the Top 50 biggest busts in NFL draft history, former Steelers' first-round pick Huey Richardson (1991) comes in at #15. Running back Tim Worley (1989) is at #25. Click here to read the complete list.

On a more positive note, the Steelers also have six draft picks among's Top 50 all-time greatest draft steals: L.C. Greenwood (1969) is at #8; John Stallworth (1974) #16; Mike Webster (1974) #22; Hardy Nickerson (1987) #27; Hines Ward (1998) #33; and Greg Lloyd (1987) #37. Click here to view the complete list.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Steelers' 2008 regular season schedule

Sunday, Sept. 7 vs. Texans 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sunday, Sept 14 @ Browns 8:15 p.m. (NBC)
Sunday, Sept. 21 @ Eagles 4:15 p.m. (CBS)
Monday, Sept. 29 vs. Ravens 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Sunday, Oct. 5 @ Jaguars 8:15 p.m. (NBC)
Sunday, Oct. 12 Bye Week
Sunday, Oct. 19 @ Bengals 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sunday, Oct. 26 vs. Giants 4:15 p.m. (FOX)
Monday, Nov. 3 @ Redskins 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Sunday, Nov. 9 vs. Colts 4:15 p.m. (CBS)
Sunday, Nov. 16 vs. Chargers * 4:15 p.m. (CBS)
Thursday, Nov. 20 vs. Bengals 8:15 p.m. (NFL Network)
Sunday, Nov. 30 @ Patriots * 4:15 p.m. (CBS)
Sunday, Dec. 7 vs. Cowboys * 4:15 p.m. (FOX)
Sunday, Dec. 14 @ Ravens * 1 p.m .(CBS)
Sunday, Dec. 21 @ Titans * 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sunday, Dec. 28 vs. Browns * 1 p.m. (CBS)

Steelers' owner endorses Barack Obama

I can't recall Steelers' owner/chairman Dan Rooney ever endorsing a presidential candidate, but he has come out in support of Barack Obama in an open letter to fellow Pennsylvanians. Whatever one thinks of Obama it's hard to find fault in Mr. Rooney's logic. With Hillary Clinton and John McCain looking increasingly like "more of the same"-type candidates, Obama appears to be the only one with the potential to bring about "real change" for our country.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

2008 NFL schedule

The 2008 NFL schedule will be released by the NFL tomorrow. Presumably, the schedule will be announced first on the NFL Network, before any other media outlets have a chance to publish it. Stay tuned....

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

The other Big Ben turns 150 today

Happy birthday, Big Ben ... the other Big Ben. The 15-ton bell, which resides in St. Stephens' Tower in London, remains the largest bell ever made at Whitechapel Bell Foundry (est. 1570). Click here to read the AP article commemorating the bell's birthday.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Steelers' mascot gets blitzed, sacked

One of two actors who dresses as Pittsburgh Steelers' mascot Steely McBeam has been charged with drunken driving and has been fired by the team.

Kenneth C. Hahey, 24, was arrested after he failed field sobriety tests during a traffic stop on January 6 in Pittsburgh.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Hahey's blood alcohol level was as high as 0.173, more than twice the limit at which a driver is considered too drunk to drive.

Let us remind you that the Steelers required applicants to go through an extensive and invasive application process when considering candidates interested in wearing Steely's hard hat.

Maybe Hahey just couldn't handle the pressure of being a high-profile mascot. It might not seem like it, but being a professional sports mascot is a dangerous job, and McBeam isn't the first pro mascot to get into trouble with the law.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Steelers' preseason schedule released

Game 1: (Date and time TBD) vs. Philadelphia
Game 2: Thursday, Aug. 14 vs. Buffalo (at Toronto)
Game 3: Saturday, Aug. 23 at Minnesota
Game 4: Thursday Aug. 28 vs. Carolina

Unfortunately, the only nationally-televised contest will be the game at Minnesota (CBS).