Monday, March 30, 2009

Super Bowl rematch, already?

The Steelers have announced their 2009 preseason schedule, which opens on Aug. 13 with a game against the Arizona Cardinals on ESPN. This game is 'payback' for the Steelers agreeing to travel to Phoenix to open the Cardinals' new stadium a few years back. In week two the Steelers travel to Washington to play the Redskins, and then come home for a game against the Buffalo Bills (as the Bills return the favor for the Steelers agreeing to travel to Toronto for a preseason tilt last summer). Finally, Pittsburgh will close out the 2009 preason with a game at Carolina, the preseason matchup against the Panthers seemingly an annual ritual, thanks to the teams' owners being best friends and all.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Marvel Smith signs with 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers replaced one oft-injured tackle (Jonas Jennings) with another yesterday, signing Marvel Smith to a laden-incentive two-year contract. Smith is expected to play right tackle for the 49ers - that is, if his back allows him to play at all.

Meanwhile, the Steelers are well on their way to being awarded multiple compensatory picks in 2010, having lost Bryant McFadden, Nate Washington, and now Smith in free agency.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Rush Limbaugh on Kurt Warner, Steelers' fans

In the category of WTF, Rush Limbaugh has again compared hoping Obama fails to a Steelers' fan wanting Arizona Cardinals' QB Kurt Warner to fail in the Super Bowl. Is Limbaugh on drugs? Oh wait, he is.

Limbaugh should know to keep his mouth shut in regards to football, especially NFL QB's. After all, the last time he invoked the name of a QB it got him fired from NFL Sunday Countdown.


And why drag Steelers' fans into a discussion about Limbaugh rooting for Obama to fail. Doesn't he know that Steelers' owner Dan Rooney (a Republican, no less) is tight with the president, having recently been named the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland.

Wish I had Jim Derych's ear today. I'm curious what he'd have to say about Limbaugh's various rants on Obama and failure.

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The 5th-round compensation pick explained

Earlier this week the Steelers were awarded a compensatory fifth-round pick as compensation for losing Alan Faneca to the New York Jets in free agency. Steelers' fans were shocked that such a loss did not bring back a third-round choice, or at least a fourth-rounder. Apparently, the NFL has a rule that compensation for a ten-year veteran cannot be anything better than a fifth-rounder. So, by being awarded the first compensatory pick in the fifth round the Steelers got the most substantial compensation for Faneca that the rule allows.

On the plus side, we now know a little more about the NFL's mysterious formula for determining compensatory picks (which the league has never revealed publicly, as far as I know).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Steelers awarded compensatory 5th-round pick

Yesterday, the NFL awarded the Steelers a compensatory 5th-round pick (No. 169 overall). It's shocking that the Steelers didn't receive more substantial compensation, considering that the team lost OG Alan Faneca (who received a blockbuster long-term contract from the New York Jets and made the Pro Bowl this past season), as well as LB Clark Haggans, who signed with the Arizona Cardinals. Meanwhile, the only free-agent addition was RB Mewelde Moore, who signed a modest three-year contract to become the team's third-down back. (Center (Justin Hartwig was added in free-agency, but only after being cut by his former team), so presumably he shouldn't figure in to the equation.

It has been reported that the Steelers were privately expecting to receive a third-round compensatory pick this year, which could have allowed for a significant addition to the team. The last time the Steelers were awarded a compensatory pick in the third round they selected RB Amos Zereoue. And in 1998 a compensatory third rounder yielded WR Hines Ward. In 1997? LB Mike Vrabel, who experienced modest success in Pittsburgh, but flourished in New England after leaving via free agency.

Don't expect to Steelers to unearth a gem with a compensatory fifth-rounder, however. In 2006 such a pick yielded TE Charles Davis, in 2000 QB Tee Martin, and in 1999 WR Malcolm Johnson.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Steelers v. Titans at Heinz Field, Sep. 10

It's confirmed. A few minutes ago the NFL announced that the Steelers will host the AFC South champion Tennessee Titans on Thursday Sep. 10 at 8:30 p.m. (ET).

Steelers likely to open season vs. Titans

The Steelers will be opening at home this season, a Thursday night game that will kick off the 2009 regular season. What is not yet known is the opponent. But it's a good bet that the league will schedule the Tennessee Titans, owing to the fact that 1) The Titans are a good team, 2) The Titans have a ongoing rivalry with the Steelers, and 3) The Titans disrespected the Terrible Towel after last season's emotionally-charged win over the Steelers in Tennessee, which is one more little thing for fans to talk about.

More importantly, there isn't another particularly intruiging non-division opponent on Pittsburgh's home schedule. Both NFC teams - Green Bay and Minnesota - are unappealing. And while the Steelers have a tremendous historical rivalry with the Oakland Raiders (and opened at home vs. Oakland not too many years back), it's doubtful the league will put Al Davis' team in such a marque spot. That leaves San Diego, which is probably the league's second-most likely choice, and Baltimore - though the league probably will look to save the two Ravens' games for later in the year.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

LB a low priority for Steelers in the 2009 draft

Don’t expect the Steelers to draft any linebackers in the 2009 draft. That’s the message that comes with the re-signing of Andre Frazier to a two-year contract, as well as the one-year deal recently awarded to Arnold Harrison. At the moment the team is in excellent shape at the position – both inside and outside. With James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley the Steelers have the best outside tandem in the league, and second-year player Bruce Davis is waiting in the wings. (Hopefully, Davis will be a player; we just don’t know yet.) On the inside, James Farrior and former first-rounder Lawrence Timmons figure to be the starters this season, but I’d be surprised if the team releases or trades Larry Foote (as many prognosticators suggest), because he provides insurance at the position at a relatively reasonable cost.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Will the Steelers pursue Torry Holt?

Today the St. Louis Rams released veteran wide receiver Torry Holt, 32, a seven-time pro bowler whose contract was due to count $8 million against the salary cap in 2009. One wonders if he might be a good fit for the Steelers as a #3 wide receiver, provided he's willing to play for a reasonable salary. Keep in mind that Pittsburgh was highly interested in drafting Holt with its first-round draft choice back in 1999, only to have the Rams select him sixth overall, forcing the Steelers to settle for Troy Edwards at #13. And we all know that adding a veteran wide receiver is definitely on the Steelers' offseason to-do list.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Eagles fire disabled game-day employee for Facebook comments

After longtime Philadelphia Eagles safety Brian Dawkins signed a multi-year contract with the Denver Broncos last week, one of the team's game-day employees, Dan Leone, posted a message on his Facebook page reading: “Dan is [expletive] devastated about Dawkins signing with Denver. . .Dam [sic] Eagles R [sic] Retarted [sic]!!” Presumably, Leone meant "retarded," a strange word choice considering that Leone has a neurological disorder called transverse myelitis that "causes muscle fatigue and limits the range of motion in his limbs."

Regardless, the Eagles probably overreacted in dismissing the six-year employee (this incident is destined to be a Failure of the Day entry in Failure magazine), who served as the west gate chief at Lincoln Financial Field. If Leone had been a full-time employee his termination would have been warranted - for sure - but being a seasonal worker it would have been prudent for the Eagles to "let it go." Now the local media in Philly is portraying the Eagles as "thin-skinned" and overly sensitive to criticism, and popular sentiment seems to be on Leone's side as well.

Nevermind that the Eagles probably did the right thing in letting Dawkins leave, as $17 million over five years seems like too much money for Dawkins at this stage of his career. (Incidentally, the Eagles are now in the market for game day staffers at the Linc, as the following help wanted ad indicates.)

Anyone care to speculate how the Steelers would have handled such a situation?

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Monday, March 09, 2009

McFadden signs with Cardinals

Yesterday, Pittsburgh suffered its first truly significant free agent loss when veteran CB Bryant McFadden signed a two-year $10 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals. Pittsburgh has now lost three unrestricted free agents: McFadden; WR Nate Washington (Tennessee); and S Anthony Smith (Green Bay). The loss of McFadden likely makes cornerback a priority in April's draft, as former fifth-round pick William Gay has never served as a full-time starter and 12-year veteran Deshea Townsend is nearing the end of his career.

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Packers sign Anthony Smith

As far as I know, the Pittsburgh newspapers haven't reported this yet, but the Green Bay Packers have signed free-agent safety Anthony Smith to a multi-year contract. Smith will be coached by former Steelers' safety Darren Perry, who I believe coached Smith when he was a rookie in Pittsburgh. In an earlier post, I wrote that Smith was one of the most underachieving Steelers' players in memory.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Big Ben Bash still online

The Arizona Cardinals' Fan Zone still has its "Big Ben Bash" available online, encouraging "heartbroken" Cards fans to "take it out on Ben Roethlisberger." Shame on them.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Mr. Washington Goes to Tennessee

Former No. 3 wide receiver Nate Washington is now a member of the Tennessee Titans, having signed a six-year $27 million contract to play in Nashville. This strikes me as a lot of money to be paying Washington, and certainly a lot more than the Steelers would ever have considered spending on him.

But now the Steelers really lack depth at wide receiver, and will almost certainly use a high draft choice on a wideout in the coming draft, most likely on a player who can also return kicks. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if the Steelers draft two wide receivers in the upcoming draft - one high and one in the later rounds - as the Steelers have nothing behind Limas Sweed, who now moves up to become the team's No. 3 wideout.