´ Steel Curtain Rising

Screwed by Bloggers Polling, Again

Folks, it looks like Blogger's polling has decided to stop working. We had a good poll on the Steelers draft which suddenly got dropped to zero.

Guess you get what you pay for on these free platforms. Thanks to all those who voted.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Richardson, Blanchflower and Moye Headline Steelers Practice Squad Signings

One day after cutting their roster down to the NFL-mandated limit of 53, the Pittsburgh Steelers filled out their preliminary practice squad.

Returning draftees are cornerback Shaquille Richardson and tight end Rob Blanchflower. These moves mean that all nine players taken in the 2014 NFL Draft return to the Steelers, with rookie linebacker Jordan Zumwalt having been placed on injured reserve last week.



The rest of the practice squad consists of defensive ends Josh Mauro and Nick Williams, wide receivers Derek Moye and C.J. Goodwin, outside linebacker Howard Jones, safety Ross Ventrone, running back Josh Harris and offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva.

Return for Arnflet and So'oto Not in the Cards

When the Steelers made their initial roster cuts, Brian Arnfelt and  Vic So'oto were among the surprises. Brian Arnfelt had spent 14 games on the Steelers 2013 practice squad until getting activated for the final contests vs. Green Bay and Cleveland. Vic So'oto had surprised and impressed in training camp and preseason.
  • There was speculation that the Steelers cut both men early to give them a better shot at sticking on with another team, and if not bring them back via the practice squad.
However, as of yet, neither has been signed by another NFL club, and the Steelers did not invite either back to the practice squad.

Additional Roster, Practice Squad Moves Possible

While the Steelers 2014 53 man roster is complete along with the practice squad, the compesition of both groups is almost certain to change.

First the Steelers will likely make their injured reserve designation, with 4th round pick Matvias Bryant the likely candidate. That would open one roster spot which the team could fill with someone on the practice squad and/or with another player.

It is also highly possible if not likely that the Steelers will seek to upgrade at punter, where Brad Wing displayed good hang time and little else during preseason. Landry Jones also failed to impress during preseason, and could find himself unemployed if the Steelers decide to add a new third string quarterback.

In addition, the Steelers depth at outside linebacker is terribly thin, while the offensive line has little proven depth.


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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Chris Carter, Guy Whimper, Headline Steelers Cuts

The Pittsburgh Steelers cut 22 players today to get down to the NFL-mandated 53 man roster limit. The move included veteran Chris Carter whom the Steelers picked in the 2011 NFL Draft joined the team in 2011. Gerry Dulac had once touted Chris Carter as the steal of the 2011 draft. Alas, that never materialized.



Other names worthy of an eyebrow raise are Guy Whimper, who’d been rumored to be contending with Mike Adams for the 3rd tackle spot, Derek Moye, who held a roster spot during 2013, tight end David Paulson who started 2013 as the Steelers number two tight end.
  • Isaiah Green, who spent much of 2013 getting cut, signed to the practice squad, and cut again, was also released.
Draft Picks Saquille Richardson, Rob Blanchflower also got visits from The Turk, as did 2013’s 7th round pick Nick Williams and 2014 training camp stand outs linebacker Howard Jones and Josh Mauro.

Beyond that, the NFL dream ended (or at least got put on hold) for these other players:

Tight end Bryce Davis, defensive backs Dayonne Nunley, and Ross Ventrone, running backs Josh Harris and Stephen Houston. Defensive linemen Ethan Hemer and Roy Philon, linebacker Dan Molls. Wide receiver Lanear Sampson. Offensive linemen Will Simmons, and Graham Pocic. The Steelers also cut quarterback Brendon Kay.

Brown, Jones Make the Grade

Contrary to popular speculation, the Steelers did not decide to cut second year quarterback Landry Jones, although Jones struggled mightly through his second preseason. Justin Brown, a fellow member of the Steelers 2013 Draft Class, also made the team.

More Moves to Come

At the moment the Steelers are keeping Brad Wing as their punter, although Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert could very well be watching the wavier wire in search of a better option. The Steelers decision to sign B.W. Webb shows they’re ready to make other moves.

And the team must now fill out its practice squad, which it can do once all of the release players clear waivers.

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James Harrison Retires from Football, Steelers Nation Wishes Him Well

Former Pittsburgh Steelers All Pro Linebacker James Harrison has decided to call it a career and begin his life’s work.
No one serves as a better poster boy for Colbert’s ability to find diamonds in the discarded and unwanted than James Harrison, who first joined the Steelers in 2002 and survived numerous cuts. He only made the regular season roster in 2004, but made an impact immediately with his body slam of a drunken Cleveland Browns fan.

Still, Harrison had to work behind Joey Porter and Clark Haggans, and did not get his chance to start until Bill Cowher made way for Mike Tomlin.
That was only the beginning for Harrison, who followed up that 2007 season by winning Defensive Player of the year in 2008, and authored what is perhaps the most remarkable play in Super Bowl history during the Steelers victory in Super Bowl XLIII.

james harrison super bowl touchdown pick six steelers cardinals
James Harrison, Super Bowl XLIII

Harrison struggled with a series of injuries following 2008, but he remained one of the league’s dominant outside linebackers during the rest of his time in Pittsburgh. Following the 2012 season, Harrison rebuffed the Steelers attempt to renegotiate his contract and the Steelers cut him, and played one final year in Cincinnati for Marv Lewis.

As a free agent this spring, Harrison openly spoke about wanting to return to Pittsburgh for a final year, and Kevin Colbert appeared to open that door. But nothing materialized as the Steelers instead opted to make a commitment to youth on defense.
  • Harrison did flirt with the idea of playing for Bruce Arians in Pittsburgh West aka the Arizona Cardinals, but he instead chose retirement citing a desire to be close to his family.
As Steel Curtain Rising has mentioned before, Harrison didn’t simply live up to the Steelers Linebacker Legacy, he added his own contribution to it. And for that, Steelers Nation will forever be in his debt.

Thank you James. Good luck and God Speed as you begin your Life’s Work.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Steelers Place Zumwalt on IR; Sign B.W. Webb

It’s Less than 24 hours before the all NFL teams must trim their roster to the mandatory 53 man but the Pittsburgh Steelers are already making moves, including one surprise.

First, the Steelers placed rookie linebacker Jordan Zumwalt on injured reserve, ending his season before it started. The Steelers drafted Zumwalt in the 6th round of the 2014 NFL Draft and was expected to push veteran Chris Carter for a roster spot. However, Zumwalt got injured early in camp and never got a fair chance to compete.



The Steelers next move was a surprise when they signed former Dallas Cowboys corner B.W. Webb. Webb was a former 2013 fourth round pick by the Cowboys. Webb appeared in 15 games as a rookie, but was eventually benched and ultimately cut by Dallas.

The move clearly signals that the Steelers are concerned about their depth at cornerback. Behind Ike Taylor, William Gay, and Cortez Allen, the Steelers only have  Brice McCain and Antwon Blake in addition to rookie Shaquille Richardson who the Steelers drafted in the 5th round.

Either McCain or Blake’s roster spots could be in jeporady, or the move could signal Richardson is to be released and/or put on injured reserve.

Contract for Cortez or No…?

During training camp and preseason, the Steelers have been rumored to be interested in signing Cortez Allen to a long-term deal. Steelers President Art Rooney II indicated the Steelers are interested in coming to terms with players before the season starts, but is not sure there is time.

Since 1993 the Steelers have had a regular season contract negotiation black out, so if no deal is reached, Allen will play out the final year of his rookie contract. The Steelers selected Allen in the 4th round of the 2011 draft.

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Steelers Lose 10-0 to Carolina; Finish Preseason @ 1-3

Last year the Steelers turned in their first winless preseason effort since 2006 and followed that effort by going 0-4 and then 2-6 in the regular season. The Steelers of course turned it around in the second half of 2013 with a 6-2 record giving fans hope for 2014.

Since then the Steelers have had their most active free agency period in history and a draft where they departed from the “script” many had ordained for them. A 10-0 loss to the Carolina Panthers has left them at 1-3 during the preseason, their second losing preseason effort under Mike Tomlin.
  • 2013 4th round pick Landry Jones started for two and a half quarters, and while he completed 14 of 18 passes, he failed to lead the team to a score. Fourth string quarterback Brendon Kay could do no better. 
The Steelers played the entire game without the benefit of starters Ben Roethlisberger, Cameron Heyward, Antonio Brown, Troy Polamalu, Cortez Allen, Maurkice Pouncey, Jason Worilds and Heath Miller.

History of Past 1-3 Steelers Preseasons Yield Mixed Reading

As a rule, preseason results are meaningless, and little can be taken from the outcomes of games; this fact is truer now than ever, as starters play less and less with each passing season. However, the Steelers last 1-3 effort in 2003 foreshadowed a 6-10 season just has it had in 1999.

However, in 1994 the Steelers finished 1-3 in the preseason an finished one errant Neil O'Donnell pass to Eric Greene away from the Super Bowl.
  • Likewise the Steelers began their 1995 effort with an 1-3 campaign, and finished two O’Donnell interceptions  away from an upset in Super Bowl XXX (not that we’re pointing fingers, folks.)
For the record, Chuck Noll’s last two 1-3 preseason efforts were followed by mediocre seasons in 1985 and 1986.

Next Step, Cut Rosters to 53

The Steelers next step will be to trim their rosters to 53. A number of minor injures from the Panther game may force the Steelers to do some juggling, but no major surprises are expected (which of course makes no sense, as if we expected it, it wouldn’t be a surprise!)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Are Mike Mitchell's "Growing Pains" a Cause for Concern?

Jerome Bettis rushing debt with the Pittsburgh Steelers amounted to all of 57 yards. In all fairness to Bettis, the should be Hall of Famer:
  • His average was good and the Steelers spent the day playing from behind…
  • AND the Jim Miller experiment as a starter had last all of 2 quarters…
  • AND Greg Lloyd had just been lost for the season…
  • AND injuries to the linebacking corps were so severe that coaches were talking 4-3 for week 2.
To understand the last factoid in its full context, consider that the Steelers had kept 10 linebackers on their opening day roster. Suffice to say, by the chaos generated during one awful afternoon in Jacksonville certainly muted any cries of “Bettis is a bust.”

This entire preamble is necessary to establish that 3 preseason is woefully insufficient to make any sweeping pronouncements on the success or failure of a free agent.
  • But with that said, Michael Mitchell’s play does warrant a few caution flags.
The Steelers 2014 off season free agent signing spree notwithstanding, Pittsburgh has always been a quality not quantity free agent player. They don’t make many moves often, but when they do, they do it with a bang. Think Kevin Greene. Think John L. Williams. Think Will Wolford. Think Wayne Gandy (NOT!) Think Kimo von Oelhoffen. Think the man Mitchell replaces, Ryan Clark.


So when Kevin Colbert broke character and made a day one, big money free agency signing with Mike Mitchell, fans can be forgiven for assuming an automatic upgrade was in place.
  • And Mitchell may prove to be an upgrade.
Except that one of the first plays yours truly observed in the Steelers preseason loss to the Eagles was Mike Mitchell making a sloppy effort and missing a tackle (to be fair, he wasn’t the only one.) And the numbers show that in preseason the Steelers run defense is even worse than it was in 2013.
  • Of course you don’t normally point fingers at the safeties when run defense falters.
They are, as the position title suggests, the last line of defense. But the Steelers have given up long runs in bunches, and a big part of a free safety’s responsibility is to prevent that. How did that work out vs. Philadelphia?
  • The Eagles have five running backs make at least one run of 15 yards or longer.
Transparency demands that I confess that the second half of the Steelers-Eagles preseason game is the only preseason action I’ve observed. But others have picked up on Mitchell’s struggles. ESPN’s Scott Brown observed that Mitchell has been “shaky.”

Ralph Paulk of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review quoted fellow safety Will Allen Mitchell as going through as “growing pains” in the 4-3 to 3-4 transition. Mitchell denied that he and Troy Polamalu were having difficulty getting on the same page.

Although Paulk says that Mitchell has delivered a “mix bag of good, bad and indifference,” Mitchell attitude is in the right place. Discussing his play vs. Philadelphia, he offered:
It's a bitter taste in your mouth because you don't want to play like that. It was a great learning experience for us. You don't learn a lot about yourself when you win, but you learn a lot when you lose.
That’s exactly what we need to hear from Mitchell. While Ryan Clark made news for the headlines he made off the field, the truth is that he was the Steelers most consistent defender from 2010 to 2012, and his slowing a step hurt the defense immensely in 2013.

It is unfair to expect him to do everything Clark did, but Mike Mitchell is one free agent acquisition the Steelers need to work out.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Brian Arnfelt, Vic So'oto, Eric Waters Lead Steelers 1st Cuts

The Pittsburgh Steelers trimmed down their roster today to 75 players per NFL regulations, and the cuts included some surprises.
  • The Turk made two rounds at the South Side today. 
During the first wave he visited outside linebacker Vic So'oto, tight end Eric Waters, defensive backs Jordan Dangerfield, Lew Toler and Devin Smith, wide receivers C.J. Goodwin and Kashif Moore, and running backs Miguel Maysonet and Jordan Hall.
  • That left six more players for the Steelers to cut.
Before the day was over, the Turk darkened the doors of offensive lineman Chris Elkins, Emmanuel McCray, nose tackle Hebron Fangupo, defensive end Brian Arnfelt, long snapper Luke Ingram and running back Tauren Poole.

Luke Ingram's release is a possible sign that the Steelers anticipate having the services of Greg Warren for their season opener vs. Cleveland. Warren tore his meniscus during training camp, and his status for the beginning of the regular season has been in doubt.

The biggest surprises were Eric Waters, who was hampered by his inability to stay healthy, and Vic So’oto who forced two fumbles in the preseason opener.



Arnfelt represents another surprise, as he did a full year on the Steelers practice squad until getting activated at season’s end. Steelers Digest Editor Bob Labriola even went as far as to compare Arnfelt to a young Chris Hoke.
The Steelers will play their final preseason game vs. Carolina on Thursday, and must trip their rosters down to 53 by August 31st.

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