Daily Archives: February 15, 2012

With the 24th Pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, The Steelers Select… an Inside Linebacker


You may be saying: why on earth would anyone think the Steelers should draft an ILB in the first round?

I’m glad you asked that question. But before I defend my position, let me say I understand that the Steelers are always going to draft the “Best Player Available” at their slot. The Steelers are well aware that the Kendall Simmons‘s of the world are going to come back to bite you in the backside (not literally, I hope). And naturally there may be different ways of looking at who the Best Player Available is, depending on what positions need to be addressed the most. But no matter how badly the Steelers might need a nose tackle or an offensive lineman, if in their assessment a given available nose tackle or offensive lineman doesn’t represent a good value at No. 24, the available nose tackle or whatever will stay right on the board.

Note that I said “their assessment.” Many people, including some of the draft gurus, thought that Maurkice Pouncey was a bit of a reach at Pick 18, and those people were proven wrong by the end of training camp. Where the Steelers rank someone and where that person is ranked by the masses aren’t necessarily going to look quite the same.

So on to my premise—that the Steelers should look to draft an ILB high in 2012.

First, let’s argue from the standpoint of need.

The current ILBs on the roster are James Farrior – age 37, possible age and/or cap casualty; Larry Foote – age 31, possible cap casualty; Chris Carter – 2011 rookie (5th round) that ended the season on IR because of a hammie that kept him off the field for eight games; Stevenson Sylvester – third-year vet (the third of three 5th round picks in 2010) whose transition from special teams to the defensive unit was not impressive; and Mortty Ivy – former UDFA who played the State Fair circuit (NC, MIA, and StL) before bouncing on and off the Steelers’ practice squad. They’ve just signed Marshall McFadden, a 25-year-old FA who has not yet played in the NFL. Oh, and they have Lawrence Timmons, a pretty dang good ILB if he ever gets to stay there. And this brings me to my point.

The depth at ILB isn’t deep enough. Potentially, both Farrior and Foote could be gone if the Steelers are struggling with the salary cap. And Farrior, as much as I love him, is 37 years old. Assuming that both Farrior and Foote are gone, this would leave the ILB position to be staffed by one stud (assuming that he doesn’t have to move outside again and doesn’t get injured) and a bunch of kids with less than a full season’s game experience between them. The position they would be attempting to fill is arguably one of the most critical positions in the defense run by defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau.

Timmons will presumably move to mack in the absence of both Farrior and Foote (and here is a link to an article by our own Michael Bean arguing this is his natural position), but in this scenario you would need another excellent ILB to plug in. One of the aforementioned young ‘uns might be that player, but it’s quite a risk.

We saw what happened to the sack numbers in 2011 when the middle of the defense was compromised. Although the pass rush was greatly improved, due to the newly awesome secondary, the run defense was nothing like it was in 2010. This is not solely a function of the lack of depth at ILB, but it was definitely part of the problem.

How about value?

The two positions that most people seem likely to push for in this draft are NT and OG, and I certainly see the reasons for that. Without getting into specific players (which is pointless this long before the draft), we can look at the current rankings. When we do, an interesting fact emerges: the class for OG and particularly for NT seems at this point to be quite deep. There are 11 NTs currently projected by ESPN to go in the first 100 picks. The 12th player is still given a grade of 67 (out of 100). There are seven OGs projected to go in the top 100, and the 8th player is graded at 68. There are only four ILBs even projected to go in the top 100, and the 5th player is graded at 65. In the case of the ILBs, there is a big drop-off between player #3 in the ranking and the rest of the class. Player #4 just makes it into the top 25%. By contrast, nine of the NTs grade at 75 or above, and the 10th one grades at 74. OGs are not quite as numerous in quality, but there are still five players grading at 75 or above.

It seems to me that the Steelers are going to have a lot more good players to choose from in the 2nd and 3rd round at both of those positions, and none of the OGs or NTs are ranked in the top half of the first round anyhow (editor’s note: with the possible exception of David DeCastro). I believe both of those positions can be addressed well in the 2nd and 3rd rounds, but if they are going to get an ILB that is going to see the field next season, they are going to have to pull the trigger on one of the top prospects.

There is another important aspect of this which may not have occurred to many of you: the Steelers have the largest female fan base in the league. They are proud of this fact and do a lot to cultivate it. They hold women-only events, which are greatly appreciated and enjoyed, as I can testify personally. They eschew cheerleaders, thus not unduly messing with the body image of their female fans or forcing them to clean up the drool off the floor in front of their husbands.

But most importantly, they appear to bear this need in mind on about a 34 percent basis, which is, I believe, the percentage of Steeler fans that are female. They will move up to take a snuggly safety like Troy Polamalu, or draft captivating corners like Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen, or bring in winsome wide receivers like Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, and Antonio Brown. And the truth is that while there are exceptions (Maurkice Pouncey comes to mind,) the big boys in the middle aren’t generally the lookers in the draft. Au contraire, as the French would say.

And I’m happy to say a little research has indeed confirmed that the current top three ILBs are fine looking men. (Luke Kuechly is top in every class, being a looker, a great player, and a very high character guy, but he is unlikely to make it to 24.) There’s a little road rage issue with Burfict, but I trust the Steelers to do due diligence and make the determination about the guy. So for what it’s worth, make mine an ILB.

This is the third in a collaborative effort from the editorial staff at BTSC, providing some arguments behind possible positional directions the Steelers may go with their first round pick – currently scheduled for the 24th overall. These will be posted each day this week, and will not be distributed based on order of preference.

Part I – Wide Receiver

Part II – Trading Up

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

With the 24th Pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, The Steelers… Trade Down


It’s simply about numbers: having more picks gives you more opportunities to draft talented players.

As The Gambler says, “you got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em”. Know when to walk away, and know when not to draft Troy Edwards (run).

The largely underscored message the Steelers should be considering with the 24th overall pick is the (eye-popping) stat that in 10 consecutive drafts, teams have traded up or back into the first round to select a quarterback 14 times.

And of those 14 times, five of them have come within three picks of No. 24. History is on the side of Trade-Down Enthusiasts.

2011 – Jacksonville traded up with Washington for the 10th pick and took QB Blaine Gabbert.
2010 – Denver traded up with Baltimore for the 25th pick to select QB Tim Tebow.
2009 – The Browns traded the 5th overall pick to the Jets, who selected QB Mark Sanchez.
2009 – The Browns then traded the 17th pick they got from the Jets to Tampa Bay, who drafted Josh Freeman.
2008 – Baltimore traded up with Houston for the 18th overall pick, and selected QB Joe Flacco.
2007 – Cleveland traded up with Dallas for the 27th pick, and took QB Brady Quinn
2006 – Denver traded up with St. Louis for the 10th pick, and selected QB Jay Cutler
2005 – Washington traded up with Denver for the 25th pick, and took QB Jason Campbell
2004 – The Giants traded up with San Diego for the 1st pick, and took QB Eli Manning
2004 – Buffalo traded up with Dallas for the 22nd pick, and selected QB J.P. Losman
2003 – Baltimore traded up with New England for the 19th pick and took QB Kyle Boller
2003 – Chicago traded up with the Jets for the 22nd pick, and selected QB Rex Grossman
2002 – Washington traded up with New England for the 32nd pick, and selected QB Patrick Ramsey
2001 – Atlanta traded up with San Diego for the 1st pick, and selected QB Michael Vick

It seems clear that Cleveland does not have a good, working grasp of drafting/managing 1st round quarterbacks – the Browns traded out of 1st round picks that were used to take Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman because they’d previously traded up to get Brady Quinn and were still invested in him, only to turn around and ship Quinn to Denver less than a year later (in exchange for Peyton Hillis, a 6th round pick, and a pick that’s yet to be determined in this coming draft). You could also say that Denver’s (or maybe just Josh McDaniels’) grasp of those concepts isn’t much better either – the Broncos had traded up to get Jay Cutler and he showed good growth in his first three seasons, then they pissed him off by shopping him in a 3-way deal reportedly looking to replace Cutler (who’d made the Pro Bowl that year) with Matt Cassel. Cutler then forced his way out, Kyle Orton was an effective bridge to the long-term solution but not the solution himself, then McDaniels traded back into the 1st to take Tim Tebow when no one else wanted him that badly.

Aside from those two possible judgments, it seems that in recent years, there is often a prospect out there who proves tantalizing enough for someone to target and trade into the bottom half of the 1st round to select.

The Steelers are in prime real estate for such a trade, and the bait could very well be laid at the Steelers feet: Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill, Arizona State QB Brock Osweiler, Arizona QB Nick Foles and Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weedon.

Tannehill is big (6-foot-4), has a decent arm, and is a good athlete (played wide receiver his first two years at A&M, earning All Big 12 Honorable Mention his sophomore year). He could be the kind of player a team would want to develop for a little bit, since there are clear drawbacks such as limited experience and a less-than-elite arm (sure-fire way to go in the bottom of the 1st round instead of the top).

Weedon is a former New York Yankees second-round pick that enrolled at OSU after four years in the minors. He’s got a great arm, and his age and experience could be seen to give him an advantage in terms of mental make-up. He’s an intriguing prospect who could turn into an NFL starter if he gets the right situation.

Tim Tebow was an intriguing prospect that everyone knew needed to land in the right situation.

The gargantuan Osweiler is similar to Tannehill in some ways. The former Gonzaga basketball recruit stands just a shade under 6-foot-8, and has the foot quickness of a successful power forward. He’s noted to be a leader and a hard worker; but with a good-but-not-elite arm, Osweiler isn’t seen as a sure-fire first-round candidate.

Then again, neither was Tim Tebow.

Foles is said to be a natural leader and is Arizona’s all-time passing leader, but neither of those things brought him many wins as a starter. He’s got Roethlisbergean dimensions of 6-foot-5, 240 pounds with a good not great arm. His feet look a bit heavy, and probably isn’t a first round prospect.

Then again, neither was… (you know the drill).

With several teams unable to claim that their quarterback of their future is currently on their roster, and very slim chances of trading up for Griffin (zero chance for Luck), those mid-range teams may be eager enough to keep a 10-year tradition alive by throwing some extra picks at a team in the 20s for the rights to a quarterback.

Washington is a prime candidate for this. Drafting sixth overall, they aren’t likely to land Griffin without a substantially expensive trade up to No. 2 overall with St. Louis. While Cleveland may have been able to pull off a deal last year that moved them from six to 27 (and in return, took the collective draft soul of the Atlanta Falcons for 2011-12), this year doesn’t have a prospect that’s highly desirable at that spot.

If Washington wants a first-round QB such as Tannehill, it will likely have to trade back into the top 32 picks somewhere. They have a second (38th overall) and third round pick in this draft, along with two fourths and two sixths.

Miami is in a similar position as Washington, and if efforts to trade up for Griffin fail, they may look to toss a combo platter of second-to-fifth round picks to get back into the first round. It seems less likely, the way the draft order is today, that a team drafting behind the Steelers would trade up for a quarterback. But there are always prospects who fall a bit further than they’re expected to go. Quality teams have depth, and perhaps they feel they’re really just a player or two away from drafting 32nd next year.

The Steelers have never traded out of the first round under GM Kevin Colbert, but with such a deep draft and holes to fill, this may not be a bad year to explore the option.

This is the fourth in a collaborative effort from the editorial staff at BTSC, providing some arguments behind possible positional directions the Steelers may go with their first round pick – currently scheduled for the 24th overall. These will be posted each day this week, and will not be distributed based on order of preference.

Part I – Wide Receiver

Part II – Trading Up

Part III – Inside Linebacker

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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Agree to Disagree – Offseason I

The debate covers bringing back Hines Ward for another year, adding a running back as a hedge against Rashard Mendenhall’s ACL surgery, and whether using the franchise tag on Mike Wallace is the way to go.

Source: Pittsburgh Steelers : Videos

Roethlisberger getting ready for prime time

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Ben Roethlisberger already has adjusted his game, and it has nothing to do with old or new coordinators, old or new offenses, things Art Rooney did or did not say. It has plenty to do with his 30th birthday March 2.

Source: post-gazette.com – Steelers/NFL

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Irsay laterals decision

According to Colts owner Jim Irsay, Peyton Manning will decide whether he plays another game for Indianapolis.

Source: post-gazette.com – Steelers/NFL

No decision yet on Ward’s future

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Despite what was making the rounds on Twitter over the weekend, General Manager Kevin Colbert said definitively on Monday that the Steelers have not made any decisions regarding Hines Ward. They ha…

Source: Pittsburgh Steelers : News

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Roethlisberger and Harrison Next Up to Restructure Their Deals

Seems that a lot of the higher priced Steelers are or have already redone their deals to help the team with their salary cap situation.

Now, two more Steelers are apparently willing to help.

The Trib Review is reporting that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and linebacker James Harrison will be next up to restructure their contracts before March 13th when the new NFL year kicks off.

The Steelers don’t expect the ceiling to increase much from the $ 120.375 million that clubs were allowed to spend on player salaries in 2011. They entered the offseason roughly $ 25 million over the salary cap.

The Steelers have trimmed a little more than $ 14 million off that number by restructuring the contracts of linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons, and cornerback Ike Taylor. They saved another $ 3.5 million by releasing cornerback Bryant McFadden and wide receiver Arnaz Battle.

“Certainly we’d be very willing to help,” said Bill Parise, who represents Harrison.

Right now Harrison is about to enter the 3rd year of his six-year, $ 51.175 million dollar deal, while Ben inked an eight-year, $ 102 million deal in 2008. Both players restructured their contracts last year to help the Steelers manage the salary cap.

Source: Steelers Gab

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NFL Network’s La Canfora Backs Ward Comments

PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – Jason La Canfora of the NFL Network and NFL.com caused quite a stir in Pittsburgh over the weekend by saying that Hines Ward would not be back next year for the Steelers. He joined the Fan Morning Show on Tuesday explain.

Jason backed his statement, calling Hines, “A player, who at this point in his career, is not part of [their] long-term plans.”

For the entire interview, click below:

Filed under: Football, Heard on The Fan, Sports, Steelers, Watch + Listen Tagged: FAN Morning Show, Hines Ward, NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers, Steelers

Source: CBS Pittsburgh » Steelers

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Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall Has Tougher Offseason Than Most

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There’s never a good time for an ACL tear.

In the case of Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall, it was especially bad. A week before the playoffs, Mendenhall’s leg gave out from under him on a run at Cleveland in an eventual 13-9 victory.

And with it, he mentally began preparing for a long and grueling rehabilitation, commonly as long as nine months to a year from the injury. It came before the playoffs, before the Steelers hired a new offensive coordinator and before the last year in Mendenhall’s contract.

All of those things make a bad injury even worse.

Steelers GM Kevin Colbert told reporters Monday Mendenhall could start the season on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list, meaning he would hold an exemption against the Steelers’ 53-man roster.

It would also mean he’s not 100 percent ready to play, and he would watch the carries he used to get go to the talented and much less expensive Isaac Redman. He’d also have to watch two younger backs, Jonathan Dwyer and John Clay (both of whom had carries this season), continue to develop.

Perhaps worst of all, he may have to watch the Steelers re-sign veteran Mewelde Moore as insurance to Mendenhall’s knee. Moore, a shifty back with good receiving skills, could get a boost in production from new offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s offense. With the Chiefs, Haley used his running backs as multi-purpose weapons – a role in which Mendenhall would likely thrive as well – and without those early training camp reps, Mendenhall may find himself behind the 8-ball in a season he needs to produce to justify an extension.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility for the Steelers to draft a running back fitting that description, either. Dwyer and Clay are bigger, between-the-tackles kinds of runners. They have league experience, which always helps, but investing in a quick back with good hands may not cost them a high pick.

Those thoughts are probably circling Mendenhall’s mind during his rehabilitation. Can’t help but think if he was going to tear an ACL, he would have much rather done it in Week 4 than Week 17.

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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Report: Roethlisberger & Harrison Ready To Restructure Contracts To Help With Salary Cap

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is reporting early Wednesday morning that that the agents of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and linebacker James Harrison have both said that their clients are agreeable to restructuring their contracts before the start of the NFL’s new year to help the team get in compliance with the salary cap. March 13th is the magic date that the Steelers need to be in compliance with the cap and it has long been speculated that both Roethlisberger and Harrison would be potential restructure candidates. Both restructured their contracts prior to the start of Read more […]

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