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anger 82&95
06-12-2009, 05:10 PM
"Vying For A Seat On The Bus, Six Players That Will Surprise At Latrobe This Year"

http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/20 ... n-the-bus- (http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2009/6/11/906217/vying-for-a-seat-on-the-bus-)
five

Now that the rings have been put away and old stories from this past year have been re-told and put on the backburner, Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin now officially has his team where he wants it -- with all eyes forward on training camp and the 2009 season. Each year at Latrobe, there are at least 2 or 3 unsuspecting players who were afterthoughts when signed in the offseason but end up beating the odds to make the team and contribute.
We all know the Willie Parker and James Harrison stories, but other players who impressed this past year at training camp and contributed to the team's Super Bowl run included rookie free agent LBs Patrick Bailey & Donovan Woods, C/G Darnell Stapleton and RB Gary Russell (who has since been released). Two other players who impressed in last year's camp that didn't make the team but did make the practice squad were S Ryan Mundy and CB/S Roy Lewis. The saving grace for Kevin Colbert during his tenure as the Steelers' Director of Football Operations is that he has usually hit homeruns with his first round picks in the draft and that the Steelers scouting department has helped make up for his less than stellar second-day draft picks through rookie and street free agent signings.
Here are six players that people aren't talking about right now but I think they very well could be by the end of Training Camp:

6. Jordan Reffett, DE, 6'5, 295 -- The Steelers signed Reffett as a rookie free agent after the 2008 draft but released him before the final cut this past year. He was signed to the practice squad for a few weeks during the season but was later released. He was resigned to the squad in the offseason.
What's working in his favor: Reffett has the size the Steelers like in their 3-4 ends, is athletic and comes with a good motor. He flashed during a couple of preseason games, but didn't show enough ultimately to beat out Travis Kirschke or Nick Eason as a backup. With this being his second lap around the track, sort to speak, Reffett should better know what is expected of him in LeBeau's D as well as what he needs to show to make this team. In other words, he should be able to not think too much and just go out and play.
What's working against him: To make this squad, Reffett will have to beat out Nick Eason and 6th round pick R. Harris, and that would only happen if the Steelers keep 7 DL (which I believe that they will). There has been a lot of talk about Big Snack and B. Keisel being in the last year of their deals, but so are Eason and Kirschke. If you are the Steelers, do you begin to prepare for the future by putting Ziggy Hood and Reffett in the rotation now?
Outcome: Reffett has his work cut out him, but he only has to show more than Nick Eason to stick. I also believe that he would be a little more ready to play this year than R. Harris, who I believe will be put on the practice squad.
*****
5. Martin Nance, WR, 6'3'', 215 lbs -- Nance is most known for being Big Ben's big play man at Miami of Ohio during Ben's junior year. After being injured most of his junior year, Nance came back as a senior to put up good numbers but went undrafted and signed as a rookie free agent with the Buffalo Bills in 2006. After being cut in August of that year, he was picked up by the Vikings. He had 4 receptions for 33 yards during his rookie season and was released at the end of training camp by the Vikings in 2008. He was signed to the Steelers practice squad in September 2008 and stayed there the rest of the year. He was signed to the regular squad in the offseason.
What's working in his favor: The Steelers have an open competition for its 3, 4, & 5 WR spots and those spots won't be settled until after training camp and the preseason. Nance is a big WR that has good hands, can run the route tree and sneaky speed deep. He can also highpoint the ball, meaning he can go up and get it when in traffic. If he can show that he can play in the slot, get deep on occasion, and play special teams like a young Hines Ward, he has a chance. Also, Bruce Arians has been high on Nance since last season.
What's working against him: Nance will have to either beat out Sweed or McDonald to make this team and be active on game days. I believe that Mike Wallace will be active on game days because he is the team's top KR and could be in Nate Washington's designated role of stretching the field. Sweed is the 2nd round pick that everyone wants to see win the job and McDonald is the vet who has started in an NFL game that the coaches might feel more comfortable with if Ward or Holmes goes down.
Outcome: It's not looking good for Nance but no one has been hit yet. When the pads go on, he will have a chance to impress. Having played with Ben before shouldn't hurt his chances. If he can prove that he can do more for the Steelers on game day than Sweed or McDonald, he'll have a chance. However, he appears to be a long-shot at best.
*****
4. Roy Lewis, Safety, 5'10'', 190 lbs -- Lewis was signed as a rookie free agent by the Steelers this past year and made a favorable impression on Coach Tomlin & LeBeau with his hitting and his ability to play corner and safety. However it wasn't enough to make the regular squad. He spent most of the season on the practice squad.
What's working in his favor: The Steelers are in need of younger blood on the roster at safety. Tyrone Carter is hanging on and needs to be replaced on the roster. With Ryan Clark's injury history and the way that Troy P. plays football, the troops need to be ready to fill in at a moment's notice. The ability to play both safety positions as well as CB in a pinch will help his cause.
What's working against him: Ryan Mundy seems to be the first young safety in line to claim that 3rd safety spot behind Troy and Ryan Clark, and Carter hasn't been put out to pasture yet. Also, this could be the year that Deshea's ability to play safety be put to use. Free agent CB Keiwan Ratliff can also play safety in a pinch.
Outcome: The Steelers have a deep secondary and Ryan Mundy seems ready to take that next step as the Steelers young safety in training. The fact that the Steelers have more experienced CBs such as Ratliff and Deshea, whom can both play safety, doesn't help his cause either. Unless Lewis is the star of the camp in the secondary, he will probably begin next season on the practice squad.
*****
3. Donovan Woods, LB, 6'2'', 230 -- Woods was the surprise rookie free agent to make the team coming out of training camp this past year. Though he played OLB at the start of camp, the coaching staff had him play ILB in its nickel and dime defenses late in preseason games and Woods flashed potential at that ILB spot. However, it is the potential that he showed on special teams that allowed him to surprisingly capture one of the last available roster spot. When he pulled his hamstring early in the season, P. Bailey was promoted from the practice squad in the preseason and never let the spot go. Bailey returned to the practice squad and was resigned in the offseason.
What's working in his favor: Woods' versatility along with his special teams ability gives him a great chance to land a spot as a backup ILB on this team. With Larry Foote leaving and Timmons moving up to man that spot, K. Fox now becomes the Steelers 3rd LB in that rotation with a roster spot for a second backup at ILB. Woods and Timmons fit the mold of player that Tomlin wants in his ILBs, fast, physical and versatile. However, Woods main ticket to win that roster spot and see the field again this year will be special teams.
What's working against him: The coaching staff might still decide to sign another veteran ILB before or during training camp like Napoleon Harris. Tomlin has a history with Harris and he has already been brought in for a physical. Another competitor for the ILB spot could be Arnold Harrison, who can play both OLB and ILB as Woods can.
Outcome: Woods has a good opportunity to make this team and contribute as a backup ILB and special teams player. Even if the team signs Harris or another veteran backup ILB, they will be hardpressed to be a better special teams player than Woods or show the upside that he has. I expect Woods to not only win a roster spot and be one of the top special teams tacklers this year, but to also continue to grow as an ILB in this D.
*****
2. Jason Capizzi, 6'9'', 315 lbs -- Jason Capizzi has the type of story that most loyal fans to their ballclubs love to hear: a local boy that makes good by signing with the hometown professional sports team. After originally signing with the Steelers as a rookie free agent two years ago, Capizzi was cut before the season begin and has seen stints on the practice squads of the Chiefs and Buccaneers. When the Steelers needed an extra OT when M. Smith was placed on injured reserve this past year in the midst of their Super Bowl run, the Steelers signed Capizzi. Although he didn't dress for games or the Super Bowl, the team resigned him in the offseason.
What's working in his favor: The Steelers have a need for young OL with versatility. The team's decision to pick him up while in the midst of a Super Bowl run tells you a little about the comfort that they have in the player. Capizzi has good feet for such a large man, and has now added the ability to play RT as well as LT. If Trai Essex proves to be the Steelers best bet at RG over D. Stapleton and K. Urbik to start the season, then the Steelers will need a swing tackle to take Essex's spot. Capizzi might be the answer to that role.
What's working against him: With this being Capizzi's third year, it is clearly time for him to show that he belongs or the team will likely turn the page and look for other young lineman to develop. Tony Hills, a natural LT, has also been playing some RT in OTAs. Another rookie free agent this year that has seemed to garner some interest from the coaching staff and Steelers beat writers is Ramon Foster from Tennessee. Also, will the Steelers keep 9 OL this year or 10? That could impact his status as well.
Outcome: I believe this is the best opportunity for Capizzi to make the Steelers and that he will take hold of this opportunity. I further believe that if he gets time in the starting lineup at RT that he could be there for awhile. He has the tools, he knows the offense, can play more than one position and realizes it is now or never. If Capizzi can hold his own against Deebo and Woodley in training camp, then that could be a sign he's ready for bigger and better things.
*****
1. Patrick Bailey, LB, 6'4, 235 lbs -- Bailey first began to draw the attention of Steelers Nation on kick off returns. In a preseason game this past year against the Panthers, Bailey made 3 special teams tackles and was even talked about highly by the Panthers team announcers. However, it took an injury to Donovan Woods for Bailey to make the regular roster. When he did, he made the most of it and never looked back, becoming one of the team's best special teams' players.
What's working in his favor: The ability to run down the field with speed and angrily introduce himself to returners? Other than Deebo, he might be the best LB on the roster at doing so. He's definitely on this team. The only question is if Bailey is just a good special teams LB or does he have the potential for more?
What's not working in his favor: Bailey will be active on game days, but if he wants to see anytime in the rush packages, he has to prove that he can rush the QB and play the run. In other words, he has to prove that he is a complete OLB. With Woodley and Deebo ahead of him, there is no rush for him to play this year. He will be competing against A. Frazier, A. Harrison and Bruce Davis for time on the outside.
Outcome: Bailey will win a roster spot and his arrow is pointing up with this team. He doesn't have to win a starting spot in the D to win a spot in the hearts of Steelers coaches and fans everywhere. He just has to continue busting heads on special teams. While Cowher never seemed to get this young, hungry type of player for special teams during his tenure, Tomlin made it a priority for improving his coverage units this past year. This year's special teams, coverage and returns, could be the best the Steelers have had in a decade.
*****

Flasteel
06-12-2009, 07:47 PM
While Cowher never seemed to get this young, hungry type of player for special teams during his tenure, Tomlin made it a priority for improving his coverage units this past year. This year's special teams, coverage and returns, could be the best the Steelers have had in a decade.
*****

I thought that last sentence said a mouthful and was dead-on. We've got some players who are playing lights-out on special teams that I have a hard time recalling under Cowher. Most of us also were BBQing Ligashesky after his first year when our special teams sucked so bad. I guess it goes to show you the difference that drive can make in a man's effort.

Nice article Anger...thanks for posting.

stlrz d
06-12-2009, 11:33 PM
At 6' 9" shouldn't Capizzi be heavier than 315?????

Oracle
06-13-2009, 05:23 AM
i'm really hoping to see some improvement from reffert. kirshke is old and eason will never be a starter. the back-up de position is there for the taking.

Oviedo
06-13-2009, 09:47 AM
While Cowher never seemed to get this young, hungry type of player for special teams during his tenure, Tomlin made it a priority for improving his coverage units this past year. This year's special teams, coverage and returns, could be the best the Steelers have had in a decade.
*****

I thought that last sentence said a mouthful and was dead-on. We've got some players who are playing lights-out on special teams that I have a hard time recalling under Cowher. Most of us also were BBQing Ligashesky after his first year when our special teams sucked so bad. I guess it goes to show you the difference that drive can make in a man's effort.

Nice article Anger...thanks for posting.

I think that is the biggest difference between Tomlin and Cowher. Cowher never wanted to trust rookies or young players. That is why we held on to veterans who were never going to get any better or help the team.

Tomlin seems to have the attitude that if they are collecting a check they had better contribute.

Oviedo
06-13-2009, 09:49 AM
i'm really hoping to see some improvement from reffert. kirshke is old and eason will never be a starter. the back-up de position is there for the taking.

More importantly Reffert costs a lot less. When you are only playing 5-10 downs per game that is big. The question is what if someone goes down with an injury? Can he step in for 2-3 games? Also can he play specials teams. If he is athletic enough to be a wedge buster on kick offs that may be his ticket.

RuthlessBurgher
06-13-2009, 11:36 AM
i'm really hoping to see some improvement from reffert. kirshke is old and eason will never be a starter. the back-up de position is there for the taking.

More importantly Reffert costs a lot less. When you are only playing 5-10 downs per game that is big. The question is what if someone goes down with an injury? Can he step in for 2-3 games? Also can he play specials teams. If he is athletic enough to be a wedge buster on kick offs that may be his ticket.

The wedge has been rendered illegal on kick-offs. It was one of the new rules they passed along with the Hines Ward rule and the Tom Brady rule.

NorthCoast
06-14-2009, 08:54 PM
Would love to see Bailey tested as inside LB. He's got the physicality and sure tackling we need to stuff runs up the middle. With the Browns drafting Mack, look for them to test the middle early and often. Hampton isn't getting any younger, so it will be interesting to see how this battle in the middle shapes up. If it's a stalemate, we win with good LB play. I really want to see more of Timmons against the run, we already know he can drop and make plays deep.

JUST-PLAIN-NASTY
06-16-2009, 10:24 AM
6. Jordan Reffett, DE, 6'5, 295 -- I'm always a fan of the undrafted players who could make this squad but I really didn't see enough from Reffett last year to notice him. He has nice measurables and could become something but for now he just looks like PS material.
5. Martin Nance, WR, 6'3'', 215 lbs -- I actually think Nance has passed Baker on this team. Still doesn't mean anything if the Steelers carry 5 WR. McDonald will be hard to overtake but it is possible. From what I'm hearing, don't count out Brandon Williams. He shows explosiveness off the line and gets out of his cuts quickly. If he could do the same with pads on there will be a battle for the #5. Homes, Ward, Sweed, & Wallace are locks so I wouldn't be surprised if the Steelers carry six. However, that means one less somewhere else.
4. Roy Lewis, Safety, 5'10'', 190 lbs -- I agree he is a player to watch. The door is being held open for him because there is an aged & slowing Carter sitting in front of him. If Mundy shows he could back-up the SS spot it will help Lewis's chances at taking Carter's roster spot.
3. Donovan Woods, LB, 6'2'', 230 -- I agree here too. Woods did impress inside during the pre-season last year and his ST play allows him to stick around as a project. The former college QB/S has good athleticism and surprising instincts that make him an interesting prospect. If he could add some bulk to hiS frame without giving up too much athleticism...He could follow the steps of James Harrison. A player who develops at a position and excels at STs until his time comes to "sit at the table"!
2. Jason Capizzi, 6'9'', 315 lbs -- Also agree here. The door is being held open for Capizzi too. All the tools you need to be a RT in this league. With Smith's departure, there is definately room for a OT swingman now that Starks is in the starting line-up. Since Colon is only on his tender and will probably look for Kemo money...Capizzi could set a foundation for his future with a good camp. I expect the Steelers to go heavy at OL on the roster this year and this might dictate the 5 WRs. Don't forget guys...3 of the starting OL are playing on 1 year deals or the last year of their contract.
1. Patrick Bailey, LB, 6'4, 235 lbs -- Also agree here. A terrific ST player especially on kick-off coverage. Reminds me of a young Vrabel minus the draft status. Another project player who will be given the opportunity to develop at a position because of his ST play. However, because Bailey & Woods both fit in that role and play in the same general position...The need to show progress in position skills to continue to stick around. If another LB (Example...Davis) Shows he is ready to contribute in the rotation and fill a role on STs...One of the Bailey / Woods roater spots will be inactive gameday. When that happens, your roster spot becomes the "fill-in" spot for injuries. I think they are safe this year barring injuries but they need to develop at there positions to warrant a spot in the future.


I agree with most of these players but I would order it the same way except delete Reffett and add a new #1.

1. Doug Legursky, C - With a year under his belt and Hartwig in his final year, Legursky could come to the front of the future C battle. Stapleton looked better at the point of attack last year with the added bulk but still needs to gain more strength to make the transition to NFL C. Stapleton has played C in college but might not be anything more than a back-up C at this level. Could continue to develop into a solid G but might not be able to play well with much more added bulk. Legursky can anchor well at the point of attack and is stout in the run. A little stiff because of his mass but that could be hidden tucked inside at C. Legursky has the tenacity you like for an interior OL. Shipley also has the tenacity you like and is better at the 2nd level & in space than Legursky. However, he too will need some time to add bulk. This means Legursky can make his mark for the future with a solid camp & pre-season. I'n not making a prediction here but I think this will be the most important position to watch. Shipley may be the future but he has allot of work ahead of him before he sees the field as a starter. Legursky is being pushed & pulled to succeed. Is he up to the challenge? He must impress because I feel the Steelers will be forced to keep Shipley on the 53 in fear of someone else taking him off the PS. A strong camp by Legursky could earn him a year to battle Shipley next year for the starting spot. This is one of the reasons I think the Steelers will have to go heavy at OL on the 53.

Starks (Will Starks play like a franchise LT???)

Kemo (Kemo is a dominate run blocker...Will his pass blocking & recognition improve???)

Hartwig (Will Legursky or Shipley take the back-up role???)

Urbik (How long before Urbik takes the starting job? Talent sees the field once the mental part is realized!!!)

Colon (Playing under his tender. Contract year brings out the best.)

Stapleton (Has Stapleton continued to add bulk and how long can he hold off Urbik???)

Essex (Will someone push Essex off the roster???)

Hills (Is Hills ready for the back-up spot at OT???)

Capizzi-Foster (One, Both, or None ??? Raw talent on crowded roster!!!)

Legursky-Shipley (One, Both, or None ??? Raw talent on crowded roster!!!)

Clearly the OL battles will be interesting. There could be some surprising decisions made here based more on the future of this OL rather than pure production through camp & preseason. I would have to put the OL battles ahead of the WR & DB roster battles going into camp. Of course...I'm bias! :wink: