View Full Version : Walker: Steelers unraveling, Ravens to win AFC North

07-16-2011, 06:36 PM
Are the Steelers unraveling?

July, 14, 2011
By James Walker


Getty Images, US Presswire

James Harrison, Hines Ward and Rashard Mendenhall have all contributed to the Steelers' off-field issues this offseason.

Here's a July prediction: The Baltimore Ravens will win the AFC North this season.

Yes, I said it -- and I will be sticking with that statement through January.

For months I've been going back-and-forth between Baltimore and the reigning AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Both teams are talented, but this week's events put me over the top in favor of the Ravens.

I simply don't like what I'm seeing from Pittsburgh this offseason. Whether it's Rashard Mendenhall's tweeting, Hines Ward's recent arrest or James Harrison ripping everyone -- including his own teammates -- there's too many warning signs that suggest this isn't the Steelers' year.

Keep in mind, this is not a new phenomenon in Pittsburgh. Self-implosion is what the Steelers do best following Super Bowl appearances.

James Harrison's comments in Men's Journal magazine are the latest bit of controversy for a team that has faced quite a bit as a result of on-field conduct and off-field incidents in recent years.

In 2006, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger got into a motorcycle accident and the Steelers finished 8-8. In 2009, Pittsburgh had to deal with Roethlisberger's first sexual assault allegation and Troy Polamalu's knee injury to finish 9-7. Both years they missed the playoffs.

This offseason reminds me too much of 2006 and 2009. The difference is that this year the leaks are coming from various places. Pittsburgh's controversies involve three starters who are among the most important members of the team. In addition, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and president Art Rooney II have been unable to address these issues during the NFL lockout.

What will Rooney say to Mendenhall, who is no longer a fan favorite, about questioning the events of 9/11? What will Ward -- a team captain -- say to the front office about getting busted on charges of driving under the influence this past weekend? How will Tomlin address Harrison for ripping star players in his own locker room?

And this is before the Steelers hold their first practice in training camp.

Health permitting, Pittsburgh certainly is good enough to make the playoffs. But the odds are stacked against their winning a seventh Super Bowl title this season.

The Buffalo Bills were the last runners-up to make it back to the big game (Super Bowl appearances in 1991-1994), and they lost in each trip. It takes a tremendous amount of focus, togetherness and luck. The Steelers haven't displayed any of that so far in their quest to complete one of the hardest journeys in professional sports.

Post-Super Bowl Implosion

The Steelers have not fared well lately following Super Bowls:

Year Record Playoffs
1996 10-6 Yes
2006 8-8 No
2009 9-7 No

Harrison has never been called a bad teammate. But when you do an interview as explosive as he did with Men's Journal, it has the potential to divide a locker room.

Harrison may have exposed some underlying tension between Pittsburgh's offense and defense. He crossed the line by lambasting Roethlisberger and Mendenhall. Harrison later spoke with Roethlisberger. But there is no word at this juncture if Harrison is rescinding his "fumble machine" comment toward Mendenhall.

So what happens the next time Mendenhall fumbles? Will Harrison and the defense snicker about it? When Roethlisberger throws a pick deep in Pittsburgh's territory, will the defense focus and just play football? These things happen during the course of a season, and the Steelers need to pick each other up and play like one unit, which has been their strength in previous seasons.

Last year, Pittsburgh had one distraction, which was Roethlisberger's four-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. That was easier to resolve, especially because Roethlisberger wasn't allowed around the team for the first month of the season. This year, the Steelers tripled the amount of distractions, and it will take more effort to get through each case.

The Steelers also have several personnel questions to address.

With the team expected to be more than $10 million over the salary cap, it's likely that No. 1 corner Ike Taylor won't return. He's not interested in offering a discount to stay in Pittsburgh. That leaves a major void in its secondary, which was exposed by the Green Bay Packers and several other teams last season.

The contracts of veterans Antwaan Randle El, Flozell Adams and Aaron Smith also will be up for discussion as the team tries to get under the cap. Their potential departures will hurt depth and leadership.

In contrast, the Ravens have it more together. Their biggest issue this offseason is opponents criticizing fourth-year quarterback Joe Flacco. And, if anything, that's been a rallying point that's motivated the Ravens and brought them closer together.

Baltimore has been unable to beat Pittsburgh in big games recently. But the talent is so close between these heated rivals that any additional edge can shift the balance in the AFC North.

Consider the Ravens the new favorites in the division in 2011. The Steelers are too busy dealing with self-inflicted wounds.

http://espn.go.com/blog/afcnorth/post/_ ... ling-apart (http://espn.go.com/blog/afcnorth/post/_/id/29295/are-the-steelers-falling-apart)

Discipline of Steel
07-16-2011, 07:57 PM
They were saying the same things last year after Ben and Stonio...

07-16-2011, 10:45 PM
They were saying the same things last year after Ben and Stonio...

That's what I was thinking. Those seemed to be bigger deals to me. They lost two of the previous years starters for the first four games and had to replace Santonio altogether. They actually had to have a QB controversy and manage the pre-season snaps in ways that were new to the NFL.

This stuff is mostly just talk. These are men of action so hopefully they handle it better than a bunch of catty high school chicks.

07-16-2011, 11:17 PM
Yeah, count out the Steelers. They're done. The Ravens are the new dynasty. We heard that last year too when they got Anquan Bolden, all of a sudden they were the favorites to win the AFC, along with The Patsies, and Bolts. Flacco was entering his third year and predictions were that his time had arrived. We saw how all of that turned out. Weren't we even predicted to go 6-10 and of course miss the playoffs last year?

Go ahead, count out the Steelers. That's usually when they are at their best, when they have something to prove. Thanks Mr Walker. BTW, you missed the facts that Harrison, Polamalu, Smith, and Starks are coming off of injuries. And Ben's getting married so he will probably be really distracted and get fat and lazy. On the other hand, Flacco getting married will only make him more focussed. Oh, and meanwhile the living legend, Ray Ray, only gets better with age. Heck next year he might be up to #2 or #3 on the top 100.

07-17-2011, 02:00 AM
Nothing to see here....

Give me a break.

GO STEELERS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :Beer :Steel

07-17-2011, 10:49 AM
Nothing to see here....

Give me a break.

GO STEELERS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

07-17-2011, 11:49 AM
when i see articles like this i know the steelers are going to have a very good year. when they are the underdog and have a lot of contreversey around them they always seem to play better. maybe they do this crap on purpose just so they can play with a chip on their shoulder. i doubt it, but they seem to play better when they are not the favorites

07-19-2011, 12:08 AM
+1 to all the above. These "sports writers" write the same thing every year. Haven't we been picked to be third in the AFCN for the last 2 or three years, heck even with the Browns picked ahead of us in the not too remote past!

07-19-2011, 09:33 AM
its up the steelers, I thought the same thing about the experts who said we would have a super bowl hangover in 2009, I thought they were crazy, but they were right, the steelers will be ready, they are going to baltimore in a few weeks (yea a few weeks) to get ready for the long season, it is up to them, they will be ready

07-26-2011, 11:26 PM
Steelers Like Position as Vet-laden Team

By The Sports Xchange
Posted Jul 26, 2011


The lack of offseason work shouldn't hurt a veteran-laden Steelers team that played into February -- as long as they settle their uncertainty at CB and RT.

The long lockout might have benefited the Pittsburgh Steelers more than it did most teams. They have a veteran coaching staff, a veteran lineup including quarterback and few open spots, particularly in the starting lineup -- and they were one of two teams that played football into February.

"I think having a veteran team can be an advantage in a lot of different circumstances," said Art Rooney II, the Steelers' president. "But it's hard to predict."

They are not without a few problems and other potential issues, but as such things go the Steelers' troubles are minor compared to even others in their division. The Cleveland Browns have a new coaching staff and the Cincinnati Bengals may have a new starting quarterback.

"We're a veteran team so a lot of guys didn't participate that much in offseason workouts," linebacker Larry Foote said regarding the practices many players organized during the lockout on other teams. "This is the weekend we were supposed to start training camp anyway. Thank God it all worked out with the lockout. There was a lot of anxiety. We had an extra month and a half more than other teams besides Green Bay, so I think we're ahead of a lot of teams right now."

The Steelers have two big moves to make: sign their best cornerback, Ike Taylor, to a new contract so he does not flee as a free agent; and decide what to do at right tackle.

Flozell Adams started every game at right tackle last season and at 36 he believes he's capable of doing it again. He might because it did not seem as though they Steelers were going to make a big pitch to bring back previous starter, Willie Colon, a free agent who missed last season with a torn Achilles. Adams has a $5 million salary due this season.

"Obviously, my heart is in Pittsburgh," said Colon. "I want to be here, but things happen, the business side takes over and we'll have to wait."

Colon was the team's starting right tackle in 2007, 2008 and 2009. He was set to start his fourth consecutive season when his Achilles tendon tore in June 2010.

It's not likely the Steelers will go outside to sign many free agents for several reasons: They rarely sign many, especially the bigger names; they have few holes to fill, and they prefer to sign their own, especially with the limited amount of time available to assimilate new players into their offense or defense.

There's also the matter of the $120 million salary cap. The Steelers, as currently constituted, would be far over.

"Being prepared to get under the cap is something we've been through before," Rooney said. "Again, the challenge this time around is to handle that business in such a short period of time. Our guys are back there riht now trying to work on how we will get there and trying to piece together the roster. It's not that different other than doing it in such a compressed time frame."


-- Steelers president Art Rooney II said he plans to discuss with Roger Goodell and the NFL office two situations that developed over the past several weeks involving two marquee Steelers. One is the DUI arrest of wide receiver Hines Ward in Atlanta. The other involved the well-publicized comments in a magazine made by All-Pro linebacker James Harrison, who called the commissioner a crook, the devil, stupid, a puppet, a dictator and used a gay slur to describe him.

"I think obviously these things will be under review by the commissioner's office in due time," Rooney said, "and we will be communicating about these things."

-- The first post-lockout activity at Heinz Field will take place Tuesday night. It's a U2 concert that has been sold out for months.

-- At least one teammate who attended Ben Roethlisberger's epic wedding in Pittsburgh Saturday estimated its cost at $1 million. Roethlisberger and his bride Ashley held their reception at the Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh for 700 guests.

-- Dan Rooney, the former Steelers president and chairman and now the US Ambassador to Ireland, is in Pittsburgh and plans to spend the next few weeks here, which usually means a daily trip to training camp in Latrobe, 45 miles away. The second-generation Pro Football Hall of Famer in his family, Rooney also plans to attend the ceremonies in Canton Aug. 6.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I am relieved that we got it down in time that allows us to have a training camp and a full season." -- Steelers President Art Rooney II.


PERSONNEL PRIORITY: The Steelers have 66 players under contract, counting their seven drafted rookies. They have 14 unrestricted free agents and two restricted free agents. It means they have 24 players to sign to reach a 90-man roster; 15 or more will likely be undrafted rookies.

Among those they will pursue from their own roster: cornerbacks Ike Taylor and William Gay, offensive linemen Willie Colon, Trai Essex and Jonathan Scott, nose tackle Chris Hoke, and kicker Shaun Suisham. They also will make offers to their two RFAs, quarterback Dennis Dixon and tackle Tony Hills.

Colon started for three seasons before a ruptured Achilles tendon eliminated 2010 for him. He'd love to return to his spot at right tackle and expects to hear from the Steelers this week.

"I think I'll get a call, but a lot of things have to get worked out," Colon said.

There have been reports they will try to sign running back Tiki Barber, but that is unlikely. The Steelers won't go after wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who played with the team before he spent several seasons with the Giants.

It's unlikely the Steelers will pursue top-grade free agents. They will more likely follow the same path they have through the years when free agency began in March, waiting things out and seeing if there are any middle-of-the road free agents ready to start.

Without a doubt, however, Taylor is the No. 1 priority. They have felt confident all along that they would be able to re-sign him, despite reports that several teams have targeted Taylor themselves. The Steelers have not had a Pro Bowl cornerback since Rod Woodson 15 years ago but Taylor is the closest thing to one since then. They were weak at the other corner, on the left side with Bryant McFadden last season. If Taylor were to leave, they would be forced to either start both of those or promote one of their young corners (Keenan Lewis or Crezdon Butler) or one of their two rookie draft picks.

MEDICAL WATCH: LB James Harrison, who had two offseason back surgeries, is "80-85 percent" according to his agent.


-- LB LaMarr Woodley (re-signed).



-- OT Willie Colon was their starting right tackle until an Achilles injury a year ago wiped out his 2010 season. It's assumed he will sign elsewhere.

-- DE Nick Eason has been a solid backup, but with the addition of first-round pick Cam Heyward, a defensive end, and Ziggy Hood, there will be no big offer here.

-- G/T Trai Essex lost his starting job at mid-season at guard, but is a versatile guard/tackle they'd like to have back.

-- LB Keyaron Fox served mainly as a special teams player (captain) whose time may be up in Pittsburgh.

-- CB William Gay, a one-year starter in 2009, played nickel last season and with the addition of two more corners in the draft, might not return.

-- DL Chris Hoke has long been their valuable backup nose tackle and is prized for his ability to fill in and start if Casey Hampton is hurt. He is likely to re-sign.

-- CB Anthony Madison has long provided excellent special teams play but they likely will go with a younger player in that role in 2011.

-- RB Mewelde Moore is a versatile back who can block, catch and, in a pinch, start and the Steelers would like him back.

-- T Jonathan Scott bailed the team out at left tackle after mid-season neck surgery to Max Starks and he could compete to start at right tackle if he stays and Flozell Adams does not.

-- P Daniel Sepulveda has missed way too much time with injuries and coming off another ACL, he could be replaced.

-- TE Matt Spaeth is No. 2 and has not been much of a target, but the Steelers like his blocking. He won't be a high priority.

-- K Shaun Suisham had a good season right up until the Super Bowl. They will bring him back, but not at a high number.

-- CB Ike Taylor is their priority in free agency, a good corner who has never made the Pro Bowl. They are confident he will re-sign.

-- LS Greg Warren has been excellent and they will try to bring him back at a reasonable number.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offer)

-- S Tuff Harris (not tendered as RFA).


-- QB Dennis Dixon (tendered at $1.2M with fifth-round pick as compensation) started two games during Ben Roethlisberger's suspension, but is slated to be No. 3 this season.

-- OT Tony Hills (tendered at $1.2M with fourth-round pick as compensation) has been a disappointment through his first three years and while they will bring him back, he may not make the 53-man roster.



-- LB LaMarr Woodley: FFA: 1 yr, terms unknown.


Iron Shiek
07-26-2011, 11:38 PM
Idiot. I typically like Walker's articles, but this is illogical thinking.

He waffles back and forth based on actual on-field evidence, but lets words by a couple of individuals during a time when absolutely nothing to do with football is happening ultimately determine his prediction of one team over another. Non-sensical.

I will stop reading his blog.

07-26-2011, 11:44 PM
Are the Chargers going to win the SB again this year???

07-26-2011, 11:55 PM
Are the Chargers going to win the SB again this year???
Don't they always :roll: :lol:

Discipline of Steel
07-27-2011, 06:54 AM
Im glad to see it, even though it sounds ridiculous. The AFC North Preseason Paper Champion always drops like a stone during the regular season.

07-27-2011, 08:00 AM
Idiot. I typically like Walker's articles, but this is illogical thinking.

He waffles back and forth based on actual on-field evidence, but lets words by a couple of individuals during a time when absolutely nothing to do with football is happening ultimately determine his prediction of one team over another. Non-sensical.

I will stop reading his blog.

His blog has never been particularly insightful.

This is a typical ESPN hype type view. Whatever.

07-27-2011, 08:05 AM
Idiot. I typically like Walker's articles, but this is illogical thinking.

He waffles back and forth based on actual on-field evidence, but lets words by a couple of individuals during a time when absolutely nothing to do with football is happening ultimately determine his prediction of one team over another. Non-sensical.

I will stop reading his blog.

Walker writes what gets attention and he know Steelers fans read his stuff and will react to this. He is just stirring the pot.

07-27-2011, 07:00 PM
Ravens just lost a very good CB... :ratsuck

Josh Wilson heads slightly south to Redskins

Posted by Gregg Rosenthal on July 27, 2011, 6:39 PM EDT


The Redskins didnít pilfer guard Marshall Yanda from the Ravens as planned, but they will take one of the Ravensí cornerbacks.

Jamison Hensley of the Baltimore Sun reports that Josh Wilson will join the Redskins on a deal averaging $4.5-$5 million. We were impressed with Wilson last year; he was probably Baltimoreís best cornerback down the stretch in 2011. He ostensibly replaces Carlos Rogers in Washington.

The mid-level cornerback market is starting to thin out slightly with Drayton Florence and Wilson off the board. This is a strong sign the Redskins wonít go after any of the big cornerback names on the market.

The Ravens may up their efforts to re-sign Chris Carr now . . . assuming they arenít getting into the Asomugha business.

UPDATE: Wilsonís deal is for $13.5 million over three years, with $6 million guaranteed according to Adam Schefter.

http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/20 ... -redskins/ (http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/07/27/josh-wilson-heads-slightly-south-to-redskins/)