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fordfixer
02-15-2009, 03:14 PM
Steelers Team Report

http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/team/pitts ... teamreport (http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/team/pittsburgh-steelers/teamreport)

Updated: February 13, 2009, 2:40 AM EST
Inside Slant
Pittsburgh has a large group of potential unrestricted free agents, including four in their offensive line, and they will try to sign some of them before Feb. 27.

"We haven't made any definitive offers or decisions on any of our guys at this point," said director of football operations Kevin Colbert said. "But it's safe to say that we will try to keep as many of our own guys as possible, fully understanding that it may not be possible and may have to go outside, either through free agency or obviously through the draft to replace some guys we potentially could lose."
High on their list are cornerback Bryant McFadden and their offensive tackles. Marvel Smith, Max Starks and Trai Essex all can be UFAs, while Willie Colon would be an RFA. Those are their top four tackles and they have no one with experience behind them. They'd like to sign two of those three UFA tackles.

Starting left guard Chris Kemoeatu also will be a UFA after one year as a starter, replacing Alan Faneca, who left as a UFA last year.

The offensive line did not perform well in 2008 but it also was a line in transition with two starters injured most of the season, Smith and right guard Kendall Simmons, a new center in Justin Hartwig, and two new guards in Kemoeatu and Simmons' replacement, Darnell Stapleton.

Simmons will return so Kemoeatu is not a must-sign.

"It's unusual to have that many guys be hitting the market at the same time," Colbert said. "If we could, we wouldn't have that many coming into free agency at the same time but circumstances just dictated that's where it ended up this time. You don't like to have that many guys at one position so that's a little unnerving but we should be able to work through it."

The Steelers ground game ranked 23rd in 2008, their second-lowest since they joined the AFC in 1970, and they had season-long troubles scoring near the goal-line. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 46 times, second-most of any quarterback in the league.

Colbert excused the line for all of that because of injuries and Roethlisberger's style of play.

"That being said, we also have to try to continue to improve in that area," Colbert said. "I'm sure he doesn't like taking hits at the expense of making big plays that result in Super Bowl victories. But he is who he is, and it's our job to try to keep that talent around him and to keep improving it."



Notes and Quotes
--Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt never asked for permission to talk to Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler about becoming the Cardinals defensive coordinator. A radio station in Phoenix reported he had received permission.

--LB Larry Foote may be around for 2009 after all. There was speculation the Steelers might ask Foote to take a pay cut from his $2.885 million salary, but sources said he would not. It does not appear they will release him, though, the way they did Joey Porter in 2007.
"Any player who is a starter and still a contributor it would be hard to make any kind of adjustments," Kevin Colbert said.

--The Steelers are negotiating heavily with one of their players and he's not a potential UFA this year. LB James Harrison, the NFL's defensive player of the year, has one year left on a bargain-like deal he signed in 2006 as a backup. He earned $1.2 million last year and would make $1.4 million this year.

"I think the Steelers and I are on the same page," said agent Bill Parise. "We don't think there will be any issues. My goal and, I think, theirs is the same. We know what we need to do and we'll both go about the business of trying to get it done."

--The Steelers won't admit it but they made a mistake when they gave OT Max Starks the transition tag last year. It was a mistake right up until the fifth game, left tackle Marvel Smith's last because of a back problem. Starks stepped in and did a nice job all the way through the Super Bowl.

--"As it turned out we were very happy that we had Max available when he was needed," Kevin Colbert said. "We were fortunate that he was still here because it gave us an experienced guy who had played as a starter in the playoffs and in the Super Bowl."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I see five of them every day when I do go to work. I know what they look like. I'm just glad that I can do my part in terms of contributing to that trophy case." - Coach Mike Tomlin, on winning his first Lombardi Trophy.



Strategy and Personnel
TEAM NEEDS/OFFSEASON STRATEGY

The Steelers are negotiating with linebacker James Harrison, the NFL defensive player of the year, to extend his contract that has one season to go. They have not started negotiating with their free agents yet, but will do so shortly.
Among those UFAs they would like to keep are CB Bryant McFadden, WR Nate Washington, OT Max Starks, G Chris Kemoeatu, T Marvel Smith and T Trai Essex.


TOP THREE TEAM NEEDS

1. Offensive linemen: They have five free agents in their line, four UFAs and one RFA, including their top four tackles. And the line was not good to begin with.

2. Defensive linemen: Their starting three are strong, but they're all over 30, as are five of their top six defensive linemen. They need some youth.

3. Defensive backs: Depth at safety and cornerback are an issue, and they could use someone to push for a starting job at corner, especially if they lose Bryant McFadden to free agency.

MEDICAL WATCH: WR Hines Ward had shoulder "clean-up" surgery this week and should be ready for 2009.

--Other possible surgeries are pending. RB Rashard Mendenhall's broken shoulder has healed and he's in the process of adding weights to his lifting routing. G Kendall Simmons (Achilles tendon tear) and punter Daniel Sepulveda (ACL tear) are rehabbing.

--QB Charlie Batch (broken collarbone) long ago healed.


FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--QB Charlie Batch wants to return as Ben Roethlisberger's backup. The team wants him back.

--P Mitch Berger was terrible and will not receive an offer because Daniel Sepulveda will return from injury.

--CB Fernando Bryant was signed for depth during the season, his 10th, and likely will not re-sign.

--OT Trai Essex served as the top backup at tackle and guard and could start if he stays and Max Starks and Marvel Smith leave.

--LB Keyaron Fox was a valuable special teams player they would like to re-sign.

--LB Andre Frazier played mostly on special teams and would be a low priority.

--G Chris Kemoeatu was so-so in his first season as a starter. They would like to keep him but won't break the bank.

--QB Byron Leftwich did a nice job and is now ready to compete somewhere else to start.

--CB Bryant McFadden started on the left side. One of their top priorities to re-sign but his price might be too steep.

--OT Marvel Smith, their longtime starter on the left side, played only the first five games and then had his second back surgery in one calendar year. He should receive an offer before FA begins.

--DE Orpheus Roye completed his 13th season by mainly being inactive on game day and he likely will not be re-signed.

--OT Max Starks replaced Smith and did a nice job. Former two-year starter on the right. He'll receive a decent offer but may look elsewhere.

--WR Nate Washington was their main deep threat during the season and No. 3 receiver who would be hard to replace.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--OT Willie Colon, their starter on the right the past two seasons will receive a high tender.

--LB Arnold Harrison was on injured reserve with a torn ACL, and also is a low priority but might re-sign.

--CB Anthony Madison was one of their best special teams players and they will issue him a tender.

--FB Sean McHugh, listed as a tight end, became more valuable as a blocker in the backfield as the season proceeded.

--S Anthony Smith was inactive for the post-season but could receive low tender as a third-round pick.


EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

--TE Jon Dekker was on injured reserve.

--OT Jason Capizzi was on 53-man roster late in the season and will be kept.

--G Jeremy Parquet was a backup who played little. He might not be tendered.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: None.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

--RB Stefan Logan: FA CFL; terms unknown.

--WR Brandon Williams: FA; terms unknown.

PLAYERS LOST: None.

Herewegosteelers!
02-15-2009, 03:34 PM
I wouldn't say that Mitch Berger was terrible even thought he did have a couple of bad games. He wasn't great but he had a decent Super Bowl.

Mister Pittsburgh
02-15-2009, 04:40 PM
Not thrilled to see that they want to bring Batch back. If he had to play more than one half of a game I fear he would be broken in half.

buckeyehoppy
02-15-2009, 06:45 PM
High on their list are cornerback Bryant McFadden and their offensive tackles. Marvel Smith, Max Starks and Trai Essex all can be UFAs, while Willie Colon would be an RFA. Those are their top four tackles and they have no one with experience behind them. They'd like to sign two of those three UFA tackles.

History sez that skill position players shouldn't break the bank unless they have been in the Pro Bowl. That doesn't apply to BMac. I'm sure he will want more than the Steelers will want to give him and he will likely get his wished for $$$ from someone. Bye-bye, BMac!

A good strategic move for the Steelers would be to see if Marvel checks out medically first. If he does, sign him and let Max sweat it out. I doubt there will be much competition for Marvel, so you won't have to break the bank on him and you can...drumroll, please...draft the understudy IN THIS DRAFT for his job.

In the meantime, Hills and Capizzi should continue to develop. Perhaps Hills will overcome everything that chunked him down the draft and will become what he was projected to be: a second-round or late first-round caliber OL. Essex is a career backup as well, so keep him shouldn't be that expensive. If he can somehow progress to a starter, then so much the better.


Starting left guard Chris Kemoeatu also will be a UFA after one year as a starter, replacing Alan Faneca, who left as a UFA last year.

The offensive line did not perform well in 2008 but it also was a line in transition with two starters injured most of the season, Smith and right guard Kendall Simmons, a new center in Justin Hartwig, and two new guards in Kemoeatu and Simmons' replacement, Darnell Stapleton.

Simmons will return so Kemoeatu is not a must-sign.

I think Kemo is a goner since Simmons will be back. Darnell filled in admirably, but there are still questions with him. His experience was valuable this season. But I see Darnell starting next season on the bench, spelling both Kendall and Hartwig.

That leaves LG. If the Steelers like Colon enough to keep him, they should only consider him to be a G. Since we need a LG, Colon should be considered the front runner there if the team plans on keeping him.

The priorities on the OL in the draft boil down to a good pass protecting T and a G/C who is versatile enough to play the entire interior line and will help open up the run game in the middle.


LB Larry Foote may be around for 2009 after all. There was speculation the Steelers might ask Foote to take a pay cut from his $2.885 million salary, but sources said he would not. It does not appear they will release him, though, the way they did Joey Porter in 2007.

No worries here. If they can use Larry as a bargaining chip in a potential deal, so be it. But having his depth at the position if he isn't starting in a 3-4 wouldn't be a bad thing if someone goes down with an injury.


The Steelers are negotiating heavily with one of their players and he's not a potential UFA this year. LB James Harrison, the NFL's defensive player of the year, has one year left on a bargain-like deal he signed in 2006 as a backup. He earned $1.2 million last year and would make $1.4 million this year.

No discussion here...get this deal done...NOW!!!


The Steelers won't admit it but they made a mistake when they gave OT Max Starks the transition tag last year. It was a mistake right up until the fifth game, left tackle Marvel Smith's last because of a back problem. Starks stepped in and did a nice job all the way through the Super Bowl.

Gee, it's nice that Max filled in so admirably when Marvel went down. What was his excuse before the injury?

The Steelers CANNOT break the bank with this guy and if he thinks he is one of the elite Ts in the league he has another guess coming. Pinch hitting the last four months of his career does not a career or a large Pittsburgh Steelers contract make.

The Steelers should be looking at EVERY viable option regarding filling LT for next season.


"I see five of them every day when I do go to work. I know what they look like. I'm just glad that I can do my part in terms of contributing to that trophy case." - Coach Mike Tomlin, on winning his first Lombardi Trophy.

THAT"S $$$$$$$!!!!!!!


Offensive linemen: They have five free agents in their line, four UFAs and one RFA, including their top four tackles. And the line was not good to begin with.

This is why probably around half of next years OL will be flush it new personnel.


Defensive linemen: Their starting three are strong, but they're all over 30, as are five of their top six defensive linemen. They need some youth.

The time to address this area is now. If the FO has learned anything from ignoring the OL the last few years, then this area of need will warrant a high pick and one in the middle rounds.


Defensive backs: Depth at safety and cornerback are an issue, and they could use someone to push for a starting job at corner, especially if they lose Bryant McFadden to free agency.

Since they probably are looking at BMac's exodus, this area will be particularly important to get someone in the first three rounds.


WR Hines Ward had shoulder "clean-up" surgery this week and should be ready for 2009.

Other possible surgeries are pending. RB Rashard Mendenhall's broken shoulder has healed and he's in the process of adding weights to his lifting routing. G Kendall Simmons (Achilles tendon tear) and punter Daniel Sepulveda (ACL tear) are rehabbing.

QB Charlie Batch (broken collarbone) long ago healed.

The Steelers really need Simmons to be 100% when he comes to camp. The OL situation will be in enough flux as it is.

At least Mendy's injury wasn't lower body. But it is still a concern where he will need to learn technique to protect his shoulder while developing a style which makes him elusive and a tough tackle.

Sepulveda is a no-brainer and The Steelers should be able to trust Batch for at least next season if not one or two more while Dixon develops.

If Hines is healthy, then he'll be OK. But the Steelers will need to look to his replacement after next season. Signing Nate will help alleviate that concern.


QB Charlie Batch wants to return as Ben Roethlisberger's backup. The team wants him back.

He has to be club-friendly...or get used to Dixon spelling Benjamin perhaps before his time.


P Mitch Berger was terrible and will not receive an offer because Daniel Sepulveda will return from injury.

DE Orpheus Roye completed his 13th season by mainly being inactive on game day and he likely will not be re-signed.

CB Fernando Bryant was signed for depth during the season, his 10th, and likely will not re-sign.

These three are still here?


OT Trai Essex served as the top backup at tackle and guard and could start if he stays and Max Starks and Marvel Smith leave.

He only really has a chance to start if BOTH leave. He is valuable for depth, but is he ever going to show enough to warrant a look as a starter?


LB Keyaron Fox was a valuable special teams player they would like to re-sign.

The ST player of the year. He should be signed for that reason alone. If he can be a reliable backup LB and get some action on D, so much the better.


LB Andre Frazier played mostly on special teams and would be a low priority.

Not quite in the same league as Kiki talent-wise and he hasn't shown that he is a fabulous relief option at LB.


G Chris Kemoeatu was so-so in his first season as a starter. They would like to keep him but won't break the bank.

Did he show enough to warrant giving him a raise? Not really...C-Ya Kemo.


QB Byron Leftwich did a nice job and is now ready to compete somewhere else to start.

He was a big help here and leaves with a ring. Deserves a shot to start and should get one.


CB Bryant McFadden started on the left side. One of their top priorities to re-sign but his price might be too steep.

It probably will be too steep for a player who never wrested a full-time starting slot. They could use him, but the Steelers will only sign him to a club-friendly deal.


OT Marvel Smith, their longtime starter on the left side, played only the first five games and then had his second back surgery in one calendar year. He should receive an offer before FA begins.

Like I said before, I don't think there will be much competition for his services if any at all. If he can check out physically, his playing ability has spoken for itself and deserves yet another deal.


OT Max Starks replaced Smith and did a nice job. Former two-year starter on the right. He'll receive a decent offer but may look elsewhere.

If someone wants to overpay him, that someone shouldn't be the Steelers. Especially if the FO wants to sign Marvel as a trump card. His body of work, as a whole, has NOT warranted an extended, multi-million $ deal.


WR Nate Washington was their main deep threat during the season and No. 3 receiver who would be hard to replace.

He may want a lot, but he has improved every year since entering the league. Give Nate a deal that will prove to be not a budget buster and will insure that if anything happens with Hines that there will still be two dependable WRs.


OT Willie Colon, their starter on the right the past two seasons will receive a high tender.

Will be better for inside depth and should be signed with the understanding that he will ONLY be playing inside for now on.


LB Arnold Harrison was on injured reserve with a torn ACL, and also is a low priority but might re-sign.

Was never fabulous to begin with. Arnold will probably be better off going someplace else to get a chance to play.


CB Anthony Madison was one of their best special teams players and they will issue him a tender.

Agreed...and he is also not embarrassing as depth in the DB corps.


FB Sean McHugh, listed as a tight end, became more valuable as a blocker in the backfield as the season proceeded.

He will be signed and will be the starting FB next season.


S Anthony Smith was inactive for the post-season but could receive low tender as a third-round pick.

If the Steelers didn't need his depth, they could thumb their noses at him. But, if he will come cheap, why not? Someone better just slap this guy with a clue-by-four and tell him that he needs to play his way into his own braggadocio.


TE Jon Dekker was on injured reserve.

OT Jason Capizzi was on 53-man roster late in the season and will be kept.

G Jeremy Parquet was a backup who played little. He might not be tendered.

Agreed...only Capizzi is retained out of this group, as his ability to play both T positions will make him a valuable depth player.


RB Stefan Logan: FA CFL; terms unknown.

WR Brandon Williams: FA; terms unknown.

Logan sounds like an intriguing prospect. If he pans out to be an ace return spec. that will be like $$$ in the bank. Don't know much about Williams, but if he can show that he has more than Dallas Baker, then so be it.