´ Steel Curtain Rising: April 2010

Who gets the game ball for the Steelers win over the Texans?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Leftwich Enters Mini Camp First on Depth Chart

Mini-Camp is, as Mike Tomlin says, "football in shorts." Or, in otherwords, not really a good gauge of well, anything.

However, some real news did come out of the Steelers first mini-camp session.

Two weeks ago Byron Leftwich was buried on the depth chart down in Tampa. Today he is the number one quarterback on the depth chart of a team that is little more than 15 months removed from a historic 6th Super Bowl Championship.

A little dramatic? Perhaps.

But there was some spectulation as to what the Steelers would do in Roethlisberger's absence. When it looked like Ben Roethlisberger''s suspension would only last a game or two, the Steelers indicated that they'd go with Dennis Dixon as their signal caller.

Now that Ben has been suspended for six games, the Steelers are going with Leftwich, whom they traded for just before the 2010 NFL draft.

The Right Move

Dixon showed a lot of promise in his lone start against Baltimore, and does deserve a chance at the starting job. But Leftwich is a seasoned pro and, on paper at least, gives the Steelers their best chance to win while Ben remains exiled form the team.

A lot could change between now and the Steelers opener against Atlanta, but Mike Tomlin is starting things off on the right foot.

Watch Tower: Post-Gazette Got it Right On Roethlisberger Non-Trade

Less than a fortnight ago, Steelers Nation held its collective breath over rumors that Ben Roethlisberger would be traded.

The rumors surfaced when the Steelers traded for Byron Leftwich. The Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac reported that the Steelers were not actively trying to move their franchise quarterback, he also was clear that the STeeler were refusing to rule out a trade.

That was enough to get the rumor mills started.

Over the next 24 hours, all sorts of stories circulated indicating that the Steelers were trying to move Roethlisberger for a 10th round pick, that a deal with the Oakland Raiders was imminent (not that Al Davis wouldn’t simply fuel those flames for fun.)

The chat interface on PG Plus contained a non-stop stream of fans – most fretting that the Steelers were making a horrible mistake, while others endeared by the prospect that would about to put principle first.

Sound and Fury Signifying….

The Post-Gazette refused to traffic in rumors. Although it would have been nice had they issued some update earlier in the day, the Ed Bouchette’s report at mid-afternoon said it all.

Writing on PG Plus he indicated that he had just arrived at the Steelers headquarters, that the coaches were trickling in, that Kevin Colbert had just arrived, and that Art Rooney II was on his way in.

This of course showed that no trade was in the works.

This also represented a another victory for old fashioned journalism.

Just like they had during the “Bruce Arians Will He Stay or Will He Go” escapade, Ed Bouchette and Gerry Dulac stuck to the story that they could tell based on verifiable facts. They were not trying to move Roethlisberger, and the few non-Steelers GMs they consulted verified the information emanating from the South Side.

Kudos for them. This was the right thing to do but, given the magnetism that negative stories have in the age of the internet, it would have been easy for the Post Gazette to play up the trade rumors.

….Probably a Message to Roethlisberger

Roethlisberger was reportedly unhappy that the Steelers declined to disavow any trade rumors (gee, life rough Ben).

But as Bouchette indicated both before and after the non-event, Art Rooney II let the rumors hang because wanted to make Ben feel uncomfortable and hopefully to understand that he is not larger than the team.

Thanks for visiting. For more analysis of the press coverage of the Steelers click the Watch Tower tag.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Steelers 2010 Draft Class at A Glance

This was said to be one of the deeper drafts in recent NFL history, and the Steelers walked away with 10 new picks, in addition to welcoming back a familiar face in the form of Bryant McFadden.
Here’s a quick look at the men who hope to carve a role for themselves as Steelers when the team comes together for training camp at St. Vincents in Latrobe.

Pouncey is the first center drafted by the Steelers in the first round since before World War II. He started 40 games in a tough conference, and looks to immediately challenge Trai Essex for the starting guard position. A very intelligent player, Pouncey is said to have strong character, which appeals to the Steelers for the obvious reason.

Like LaMarr Woodley before him, Worilds played defensive end in college but will need to make the shift to outside linebacker. The Steelers have two Pro Bowlers at outside linebacker, but little depth after that. Jason Worilds would look to contribute immediately on special teams and he comes from a school with a strong special teams tradition.

The pick of Sanders signals that the Steelers are not counting on Limas Sweed to rebound and hold a roster spot on the team. He is small but fast, and looks to help Mike Wallace spread the field for Hines Ward, Randal El, and Health Miller.

Started 23 games at Ohio State, splitting between left and right end. Joins Jason Worilds as the second converted defensive taken in top four picks. LB coach Keith Butler said team was impressed with his improvement as 2009 season progressed.

  • Chris Scott, G/T, 5th Round from Tennessee

Scott played both tackle and guard for the Volunteers, where the Steelers also found Ramon Foster. The word is that Scott had trouble controlling his weight....

  • Crezdon Butler, CB, 5th Round from Clemson

Butler earned a starting spot as a sophomore and started 40 games for the Tigers. Nonetheless, is said to have been an inconsistent performer with strong pass coverage skills but little ability in run support.

  • Steven Sylvester, LB, 5th Round from Utah

Sylvester became a starter during his sophomore season and played all four years. He played on the outside, but it is believed the Steelers could move him inside. The Post-Gazette’s Ed Bouchette described him as, a “Productive player who is not a great athlete but gives all he has.” Who knows how he will fair in the NFL, but Steven Sylvester was the defensive MVP at Poinsetta Bowl, and no one can ever take that away from him.

  • Jonathan Dwyer, RB, 6th Round from Georgia Tech

Big, quick powerful back who is good in short yardage situations, but may have trouble reaching the perimeter. Also not much of a threat to be a receiver out of the backfield. Averaged 6 yards a carry during his final two years.

  • Antonio Brown, WR, 6th Round from Central Michigan

Brown made the team as a walk on. He excels as a special teams player winning MAC special teams player of the year honors twice while also playing as the slot receiver for CMU. Averaged 13.5 yards as a punt returner.

  • Doug Worthington, DE, 7th Round from Ohio State

Despite being a key area of needs, Worthington was the first and only defensive lineman taken in draft by Steelers. Considered as an “over achiever” by many.

Thanks for visiting. Click here to read all of Steel Curtain Rising's posts on the 2010 NFL Draft.

‘Tone’s Trade Brings Bryant McFadden’s Return

The Steelers got a cornerback in the draft. And unlike other draft picks this one is not an unknown.

Earlier this week Steel Curtain Rising speculated on if Kevin Colbert could get some real value out of the 5th round pick the Steelers got in return for Santonio Holmes.

We now know the answer, as the Steelers traded the Jets' 5th round pick to the Arizona Cardinals for former starter Bryant McFadden and Arizona’s 6th round pick.

McFadden joined the Steelers in 2005 as a second round pick and started 18 games over 4 years, after making a key pass defense in the end zone that set up Mike Vanderjets’ missed field goal against Indianapolis in the 2005 run to Super Bowl XL.

Some looked at McFadden’s inability to start until his fifth year in Pittsburgh as a knock on him – you do expect a second round pick to become a full time starter sooner – but his delay in starting had as much to do with Desha Townshend’s ability to stay ahead of father time well into his 30’s as it did with McFadden's development.

The Steelers wanted to sign McFadden after Super Bowl XLIII, but he chose to head to Pittsburgh West, aka, the Arizona Cardinals.

Things obviously did not go well for McFadden in Arizona as either he or the Cardinals expected, and it is said he struggled badly in the playoffs. The stat sheet on Pro Football Reference says he started sixteen games and, although he failed to intercept a single ball, he did defense 16 passes.

Excellent Move By Kevin Colbert

Steel Curtain Rising’s analysis of Kevin Colbert’s 5th round selections concluded that his history there gave no hope that he was capable of using the 5th round pick to get a player of equal worth to Santonio Holmes. The site's alter ego, la Toalla Terrible, even joked that the Steelers had already decided to draft a quarterback in the 5th.

Byrant McFadden might not be equal to Santonio Holmes, but he is a known commodity, and rejoins the Steelers as a starter capable cornerback, something the team desperately needs.

Excellent value for a 5th round pick.

Steelers Draft Sanders, Gibson in 3rd, 4th Rounds

The Steelers selected SMU wide out Emmanuel Sanders in the third round of the NFL Draft.

A slot receiver, Sanders stands 5-11, weighs in at 185. He has been clocked at 4.44 in the 40 and caught just shy of 100 passes in a pass happy run and shoot offense. He also has solid kick return skills, having a healthy 13.8 kick return average.

If a pick of a wide out was a surprise in the third round, the Steelers fourth round pick amounted to a shock, as they chose Thaddeus Gibson who made 23 starts at defensive end for Ohio State.

Gibson weighs in at 242 pounds and is 6-2, meaning that the Steelers will convert him to an outside linebacker. With their pick of Jason Worilds in the second round, this makes the second outside linebacker the Steelers have taken in their first four picks.

Puzzling Picks?

The Steelers entered the draft with an urgent need at defensive back, and thus far they have not addressed that.

That is not necessarily a bad thing. Defensive backs went off of the board quickly in the second and third rounds, and reaching for need is a long term recipe for disaster.

The pick of Sanders is somewhat understandable, in that while the Steelers have a still have a strong wide receiving corps, Hines Ward cannot play forever, and Randal El is also on the wrong side of 30. The Steelers clearly are not counting on the development of Limas Sweed.

The decision to pick Gibson is more of a head scratcher.

Shoring up depth and providing security at outside linebacker was wise in the second? But to use two of our first four premium picks?

The Steelers need starter caliber players in the secondary and have greater need for depth at running back and defensive line. If Gibson truly was heads and shoulders above the players at those positions when it came time for the Steelers to pick, by all means Colbert and Tomlin were right to pick him.

But could Sanders have really been so much better than the best defesive lineman, best defensive back, and best running back still on the board late in the 4th round? It is hard to believe that was the case.

As mentioned before, living in Buenos Aires does not afford me any opportunity to watch college football. So Steel Curtain Rising asks any readers are familiar with Gibson and Sanders to leave a comment and share your thoughts.

To read Steel Curtain Rising's complete coverage of the 2010 NFL draft, click here.

Steelers Take Jason Worilds in Second Round

The second round of the 2010 NFL draft has come and gone for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and they certainly did not draft for need in this round.

They chose Virginia Tech linebacker Jason Worilds, who stands at 6’1 and weighs in at 257 pounds. Like his predecessors at the position, Worilds did not play linebacker in college, but rather defensive end.

But the Steelers have a long tradition of drafting undersized defensive college ends and turning them into outside linebackers in their 3-4 system.

Forsaking Need?

After offensive line, defensive back is the Steelers greatest area of need and many expected them to go for a corner in the second round. However, four defensive backs were taken when the Steelers turn came to select, including Virgina Corner Chris Cook, whom Ed Bouchette suggested the Steeler were targeting in PG Plus.

Minnesota traded up all the way to the second slot in the second round to pick Cook, a player with great potential but who was plagued by injury and academic problems as a Cavalier.

Best Player Available?

Given the Steelers needs in other areas, one can only assume that they picked Jason Worilids because they felt he was the best player available. And that is not a bad strategy, as long as you get the right man.

In the 2007 draft the Steelers took Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley in the first and second rounds, even though they did not have an apparent need at linebacker and had more pressing needs elsewhere.

Woodley is of course on track to be an All Pro, and while Timmons has been less consistent, he has shown the ability to make plays.

Depth Also A “Need”

While picking a DB would have been ideal, the Steelers have no depth behind Woodley and James Harrison – an injury to either one would force Lawrence Timmons back to the outside. Timmons can play on the outside, but this move give them flexibility and security – provided Worilds can play.

Thanks for visiting. To follow all coverage of the 2010 NFL draft, click here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Steelers Draft Maurkice Pouncey in the First Round

The Steelers used their first round draft pick on Florida center Maurkice Pouncey. Pouncey was the 18th player taken and becomes the first center drafted by the Steelers in the first round since 1941.

Pouncey is 6-4 1/2 306 pounds, and logged 39 starts playing for a major college program in a tough conference. As regular readers know, Steel Curtain Rising is written out of Buenos Aires, Argentina, where not surprisingly few college games are broadcast.

Therefore I can offer little in the way of qualitative assessment.

However, the Steelers most urgent need going into the draft was at offensive line, and they potentially killed two birds with one stone with this move.

It has been widely speculated that should the Steelers draft Pouncey, they would allow him to serve a one-year apprenticeship a guard before transitioning him over to center. If that sounds familiar, it should, because this is exactly what they did with Dermonti Dawson after taking him in the second round of the 1988 draft.

That move paid handsome dividends, as Dawson went on to have a Hall of Fame career.

While the hope is that Pouncey will follow suit, the move could help the team right away, Trai Essex play a guard was adequate at best.

Bragging Rights for Bouchette

Hat’s off to the Post Gazette’s Ed Bouchette, who called this pick correctly. Post-Gazette Gerry Dulac picked up on the Steelers interest in Pouncey early on, indicating that he was a probable first round selection for Pittsburgh at the NFL scouting combine.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Steelers 2010 Draft Need Matrix

By now you’ve probably seen a million breakdowns of the Steelers draft needs at quarterback and wide receiver, running back and tight end, offensive and defensive line, and at linebacker and defensive line.

Assuming the Steelers do not do something inanely stupid dumb like trade Ben Roethlisberger their draft needs bread down along three tiers.

Steelers First Tier Draft Needs

The first, most important tier contains in order of priority offensive line, defensive back, and defensive line.

This is to say that when the Steelers turn comes to pick at number 18, the Steelers should take the best available athlete who falls into one of the three position groups. That means that, for example, if the best nose tackle has fallen to number 18, the Steelers should pick him instead of reaching at either DB or offensive line.

Steelers Second Tier Draft Needs

The second tier of the Steelers draft needs is also pretty straight forward: running back, linebacker, and wide receiver.

There’s only a hairs difference between the three categories, and one could easily reverse the order. The Steelers do need help in all three areas, but in each area the issue is more about building depth, grooming future starters and/or hedging bets on the development of younger players like Limas Sweed or Frank “the Tank” Summers.

Steelers Third Tier Draft Needs

Again, assuming the Steelers do not delve into the idiotic and trade Roethlisberger their third tier of trade needs should consist of tight ends and quarterbacks, (la toalla terrible’s ranting about the Steelers 5th round tendencies notwithstanding.)

Thanks for visiting. For Steel Curtain Risings, complete, but very vanilla 2010 NFL draft coverage, click here.

Steelers Announce 5th Round Selection in Advance of the Draft

The NFL draft is only hours away, but the Toalla Terrible has already learned who the Steelers will pick, at least in one round.

Forget about the
Byron Leftwich trade, forget about the rumors surrounding Roethlisberger, in an exclusive interview with Steelers Director of football operations Cevin Kolbert informed the Toalla Terrible that the Steelers will select a quarterback in the 5th round.

As Kolbert explains, "Let me say this in no uncertain terms, come hell or high water the Pittsburgh Steelers will select a quarterback in the 5th round of this week's draft. We have a precedent to maintain."

Since Kolbert arrived in Pittsburgh in 2000 the Steelers have used their fifth round pick to select a quarterback in 2000, 2003, 2006, and 2008.

"When I got here we picked Tee Martin, then when he washed out in NFL Europe, we drafted Brian [St. Pierre] in 2003, and man was he a scout team stud. When the 2006 draft came it dawned upon us that was imperative that we begin grooming a replacement as St. Pierre was going to be a free agent soon."

That would-be heir apparent was none other than Omar Jacobs, whom the Steelers drafted in the fifth round of the 2006 draft. But Jacobs couldn't cut it.

"You know the clipboard looked good in Jacobs' hands, but when it came down to it, he didn't carry it with the same authority as Brian did."

St. Pierre left as a free agent for Pittsburgh West, aka the Arizona Cardinals, creating a gapping hole in Kolbert's depth chart. But with every crisis comes opportunity, opines Kolbert.

"It was tough to see Brian go, but you know how it is. But by the same token that meant that when the fifth round arrived, we knew what to do. I mean, to be honest, last year it felt kind of, funny, not drafting a quarterback in the fifth round."

Ah, but thanks to the
Santonio Holmes trade, the Steelers have not one, but two fifth round picks. Could they use both picks or, if not, which pick will they use on a quarterback their's or the Jets?

Only Kolbert knows, but he certainly isn't saying, when the Toalla Terrible asked him, he clammed up and stormed off in a huff exclaiming:

"What! Do you expect me to just GIVE you my entire draft board? This interview is over!"

The Toalla Terrible (that's Spanish for Terrible Towel) takes a zany the Steelers. Click here to read more of his writings (ravings?)

Steelers Draft Needs Linebacker and Defensive Back

Perhaps no area came under more scrutinty during the Steelers 2009 season than its linebacking corps and secondary.

As fate would have it, time is running short, and Steel Curtain Rising will give these areas the least attention. So be it.

The Steelers Situation at Linebacker

The return of Larry Foote gives the Steelers three starter capable linebackers on the inside, and three at the outside. (Timmons can play inside and outside, and Keyron Fox has not gotten his just due.)

How the Steelers Should Address Linebacker During the Draft:

The problem is that once you get past Larry Foote and Keryon Fox, the quality of the Steelers depth drops. Like a rock. Maybe Patrick Bailey can develop into solid backup material. Who even remembers who they have on their roster after that.

James Harrison is over 30 and James Farrior is closer to 40 than he is thirty. The Steelers need depth and they need to start grooming future starters. While this is an important need that the team must address early, linebacker takes a back seat to the offensive lien and the secondary.

The Steelers Situation at Secondary

The fact that Tory Polamalu played so little yet led Steelers DB’s in interceptions is disturbing. Pick you metaphor, but the Steelers secondary got shredded, torched and scorched.

This is bad, and secondary is still a serious need, but perhaps the good news is that the bad news isn’t so bad.

While the team is right to party ways with Tyrone Carter, the Steelers can expect almost every member of its secondary to play better next year, regardless of Troy Polamalu’s health. By the end of the year the unit was so thoroughly shell shocked and playing with zero confidence.

Ike Taylor and Ryan Clark will certainly have better years. And the Steelers have two young corners who look to contribute this year.

Even if that’s true, this secondary has holes.

How the Steelers Should Address the Secondary in the Draft

William Gay remains a huge question mark. He exceeded expectations in 2008 only to fall flat on his face in 2010. Is he a legit starter, or is he better suited as a nickel/third cornerback?

Either way, if the Steelers get a shot at a true shut down corner they should take him, as Ike Taylor is getting older and heading into the final year of his contract.

The Steelers also have needs at safety. Ryan Mundy might show some promise, but they need someone else who can step in at a moments notice.

And they need to begin grooming replacements for both Clark and Polamalu. Defensive back is an area the Steelers must be ready to hit multiple times during the draft. And they need to do it earlier than later.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Steelers Draft Needs Offensive and Defensive Lines

Two years ago Mike Tomlin inaugurated the off season with the edict that the Steelers needed to get "younger and stronger on both lines." As Steel Curtain Rising has indicated in the time since then the Steelers, with help from father time, have indeed embraced a youth movement on both lines.

But how much younger and stronger have they gotten, and how should that affect their draft plans?

The Steelers Situation at Offensive Line

Gone are Alan Fanaca, Marvel Smith, Kendall Simmons, and Sean Mahan. As Yoda might say, "Younger, at offensive line the Steelers have become."

But have they become stronger?

The answer is, "not much, if any." Max Starks, Willie Colon and Chris Kemoantu give the Steelers three solid starters, although non one is comparing them to John Jackson, Leon Searcy, and Will Wolford yet. Justin Hartwig is and upgrade from Mahan, but is aging, and Trai Essex is perhaps a very good sixth lineman.

Behind these men the Steelers have no depth. 2008 and 2009 draft picks Tony Hills, tackle, and Kraig Urbik, guard, are behind unrestricted rookie free agents on the depth chart.

What the Steelers Must Do At Offensive Line

Time was that the Steelers seemed to have an unofficial policy of using a premium pick on a lineman every year. Some of those did not work (Jermaine Stephens, Paul Wiggins, Chris Conrad and Kris Farris ring bells?).

But it was a good policy, and one the Steelers need to revive.

The Steelers need help at all three positions on the offensive line, and they must get it early in this draft.

The Steelers Situation at Defensive Line

In contrast to their counterparts on offense, the Steelers still have the same starting defensive line they had when Mike Tomlin arrived. In fact, two of those men have signed contract extensions in the last year.

Nonetheless, the unit counts on two back ups, Ziggy Hood and Sunny Harris, taken respectively at the top and bottom of the Steelers 2009 draft.

What the Steelers Must do at Defensive Line in the Draft

Hood came on strong late in the year, and his presence will only help elevate the play of the other three. We’ve seen less of Harris, but he got good reviews in training camp and since his return from his stint on Carolina’s practice squad.

Still, the Steelers need depth on the defensive line, particularly at nose tackle. While this also needs to be a top, early round priority, it nonetheless takes a back seat to needs on the offensive line and secondary.

Goodell Suspends Roethlisberger for 4-6 Games

Everyone knew a suspension was coming, the only question was for how long and from who.

Today NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Ben Roethlisberger for 4 to 6 games. The length of the suspension will vary depending on Ben’s cooperation with a “medical” evaluation.

Trade or No Trade

The announcement came on a day when trade rumors flew fast and furious. Several media outlets reported that the Steelers were alternatively shopping Ben around and/or were in close talks.

Such news sent Steelers Nation into an uproar, as entries appeared on the “Sound Off Blog” on PG Plus at a furious pace, with many fans sounding as if a deal had been consummated.

Risings’ Read

Both Ed Bouchette and Gerry Dulac weighed in on the issue before the day’s end. Both men reported that the Steelers were not actively trying to trade Ben Roethlisberger, but that they were getting offers.

Based on what their sources are telling them, both men still seemed to think it was unlikely that Roethlisberger would be dealt, but were clear that a trade might be possible.

Let's hope Ed and Gerry are right and that these trade rumors are bogus....

Steelers Get Byron Leftwich Back for a 7th Round Pick

In a shocking development, the Steelers traded their 7th round pick in 2010 NFL Draft for quarterback Byron Leftwich, who served as their back up during their 2008 Super Bowl season.

The move carries numerous implications although no clear conclusions are evident at the moment.

Change of Heart?

The move is so surprising because when the Ben Roethlisberger sexual assault story broke Art Rooney II said indicated that the Steelers needed to make no immediate moves because “they had the luxury of time.”

Rooney’s meaning was quite clear: The Steelers would not be considering bringing in another quarterback until they knew about Roethlisberger’s availability.

Of course now that they have made the move, what does that tell us?

Are the Steelers Pulling a Lucy with Charlie Bro.. er a Batch?

A few weeks ago the Steelers resigned Charlie Batch and many, including this site, took that as a sign that they expected to have Ben available.

Resigning Batch amounted to a very minor surprise, because Batch has everything you want in a back up quarterback, except durability. Perhaps they’ve simply reached the conclusion that Batch cannot be counted on for a significant enough stretch of games to keep him a the third quarterback.

The Steelers have only undergone a few days of OTA’s and while it is possible that they have seen something in Batch to effect a change of heart, it is not probable. Which suggests two other possibilities…

The Steelers have Word the Roethsliberger’s Suspension Will Be Longer Than Expected...

The Steelers are close to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and he is close to them. So it is unlikely that the Steelers management will be surprised by whatever suspension Ben gets.

The conventional thinking is that the suspension will be no less than 2 games and no more than four.

A decision to bring in Leftwich could signal that the Steelers have gotten word that they’re going to miss Ben for more than a handful of games. Given Batch’s past history of injury, the Steelers would be foolish to embark on a lengthy stretch of games with only Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch available to play.

This is both possible and plausible, but the Steelers could also be signaling something more permanent about Ben’s future as a Steeler….

Ben Roethsliberger’s Days as a Steeler Are Over

The other conclusion is that the Steelers plan to trade Ben Roethlisberger.

As soon as the news broke both Bob Smizik and Blitzburgh of Behind the Steel Curtain speculated that a trade would be possible.

Now Gerry Dulac of the Post-Gazette has confirmed that:

…the Steelers have received trade feelers from other teams and have not ruled out the possibility of dealing their two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, the Post-Gazette has learned.

Gerry Dulac makes it clear that the Steeler have no interest in dumping Roethlsiberger for a fire sale price the way they did with Santonio Holmes. However, he does add that:

Nonetheless, the possibility Roethlisberger could be traded, provided the price is right, is not being discounted by the team.

What a revelation which goes against all of the reporting done by both the Pittsburgh and national press.

The logic is sound. Up until a few days ago the conventional wisdom was that the NFL would wait to suspend Roethlisberger until after the draft, so as to make the draft the sole focus of NFL coverage.

However, if the Rooneys have decided, perhaps based on their own investigation of Roethlisberger’s activities, it is entirely possible that they asked the league to move up the suspension announcement.

Clarifying the terms of suspension would most likely enhance Roethlisberger’s trade value, as potential suitors would not need to speculate about his immediate availability and the Steelers would be in position to get immediate value for Roethlisberger (without out a Collective Bargaining Agreement, officially there is no draft after 2011, which means a team cannot trade its 2012 picks.)

So if the Steelers were to consider dealing Roethlisberger, it would seem his trade value is at its highest now.

What Happens Next?

The interesting thing about this is that, while reporting the Bryon Leftwich trade, at the moment national outlets like ESPN and SI-CNN are not reporting the trade news. The Neither is the Tribune-Review reporting that the Steelers are open to a trade.

Gerry Dulac also provides us with a little nugget:

Steelers president Art Rooney II said in a press conference last Thursday that the Steelers will work with Goodell to determine the punishment and that no further discipline would be administered.

Rooney said Roethlisberger is prepared to accept the "consequences."

At the time of the press conference, the Steelers were unaware of the details of the alleged incident that were contained in a police report that was made public Friday.
[Emphasis added.]

This reference to the “police report” was the first one made by Dulac in his article. One can only assume that he is referring to the hundreds of pages made public by the Georgia DA.

As Neal Coolong of Behind the Steel Curtain pointed out, that report contained at least one other unsubstantiated report of sexual misconduct on the part of Ben Roethlisberger. It is important to say that no compliant to the police was ever made.

The Steelers have almost undoubtedly been doing their own investigations into Ben’s off the field activities.

A report from the Georgia DA that substantiates something the Steelers own investigations have uncovered and/or if this shows that Ben has been less than truthful with the Steelers with respect to other skeletons he might have in his closet, could easily force the Steelers to reconsider their decision not to trade Roethlisberger.

That is all speculation, but it seems like the possibility of the Steelers trading Ben Roethlisberger is something Steelers Nation now must consider.

Thanks for visiting Steel Curtain Rising.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Steelers Draft Needs: Running Backs and Tight Ends

The Steelers Situation at Running Back

A little over a year ago, the Steelers seemed to be set or almost set at this position.

Willie Parker was the starter, Rasshard Mendenhall was the up and coming first round pick, Mewelde Moore the unheralded backup who nonetheless went out there and got it done, and then you had Gary Russell who, if he didn't have Barry Foster-like power that he'd flashed, was at least blossoming into a excellent short-down yardage back.

In the last year: Mendenhall seized the starting, Moore, though still reliable, has perhaps revealed his limits, Parker has signed with the Redskins, and Gary Russell got himself cut.

What the Steelers Should at Running Back in the Draft:
If both men stay healthy, the Steelers could probably manage the entire season with Mendenhall and Moore. But that possibility remains unrealistic.

Behind them, Frank "The Tank" Summers and Isaac "Redzone" Redman offer some potential and some catchy nicknames, but neither has a carry in the NFL regular season.

Art Rooney II has dictated that the Steelers must run better which means that they Steelers need to find a reliable back up running back in the 2010 draft and/or a true full back.

Given the Steelers needs at wideout, defensive back, and on the lines, running back probably does not merit a first or second pick (unless of course another Mendenhall falls in their lap), but picking up a running back or fullback in the third round pick would not be too early.

The Steelers Situation at Tight End

In Health Miller the Steelers have what is perhaps one of the NFL's best-kept secrets.

Behind Miller there is Matt Spaeth, who after three years largely remains a mystery -- he cannot block yet they ask him to, however, Spaeth can catch but they have a Chuck Nollish refusal to throw to him.

After that you have 2009 7th round pick David Johnson, whom the coaches are high on, and Sean McHugh coming off of IR, both of whom seem to be more regarded as hybrid FB/TE's.

What the Steelers Should Do at Tight End:

Arguably, this is the only position that the Steelers can afford to ignore in the early and middle rounds. A real bruising, blocking tight end would be a welcome addition, but perhaps David Johnson could fill that role.

Thanks for visiting. Disclaimer - college football gets little air time down here in Buenos Aires, but you can click here to read all of Steel Curtain Rising's coverage of the 2010 NFL draft.

Steelers Draft Needs: Quarterback & Wide Receiver

The Steelers Situation at Quarterback:

Just over a month ago the only question here was whether Charlie Batch could and should return for another year. Now the Steelers face two complex questions.

Can their incumbent starting quarterback made a dramatic change in his life?

And if not, is Dennis Dixon the next man to lead the Steelers?

How the Steelers Should Treat Quarterback in the Draft:

The Steelers seem intent on giving it a go with Dixon if their current starter forces them to part ways with him. That means that the Steelers will not use a top pick on a signal caller. But if a promising prospect should fall to the mid rounds, they’d be wise to consider taking him.

The Steelers Situation at Wide Receiver:

Again, one month ago the only question was whether 2008 second round pick Limas Sweed could show the Steelers enough to force them to find a place on the roster.

Dealing Santonio Holmes has completely scrambled the picture. The Steelers no longer have a mix of proven veterans, players in their prime, and rising youth.

How the Steelers Should Treat Wide Receiver in the Draft:

The Steelers worked out a lot of wide receivers prior to the draft. The Steelers history of using number one picks on Wide Receivers goes like this:

Lynn Swann (’74), Louis Lipps (’84), Charles Johnson (’94), Troy Edwards (’99), Plaxico Burress (’00) and Santonio Holmes.

Although they got good value on both ends, Lipps was the last wide out to get a second contract. So, if “the best available athlete” on the board in the first round is a wide out, some gun shyness on the part of the Steelers brain trust can be forgiven.

Nonethless, if they see a playmaker that can help them, they should grab him.

Thanks for visiting. Steel Curtain Rising makes no claim to offer Mel Kipperesque draft analysis (they don’t show much college football down here in Buenos Aires), but click here to read all our articles on the 2010 NFL Draft….

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Colbert Record: What (Can) the Steelers Get for Santonio Holmes?

A trade of a Super Bowl MVP for a 5th round pick might seem lopsided. But as Steel Curtain Rising asserted in Part I of this article, it is not when you draft but who you draft.

Which is to say that there are quality starters, if not Pro Bowlers, available in every round. Part I reviewed the Steelers history with fifth round picks, detailing some of the steals they made during the Chuck Noll era, and some of the good value picks Pittsburgh made in the 5th under Tom Donahoe and Bill Cowher.

All of that history is nice, but it tells us little about the immediate future.

To that, this latest edition of The Colbert Record examines his record fifth round.

Kevin Colbert and the Fifth Round

Never an addition to the Steelers linebacker legacy like Lloyd, Lambert, or Woodley, but a four year starter who saw his sacks come in bunches, peaking at 9 in the 2005 Super Bowl Season. Colbert’s best 5th Round Choice.

The first of four quarterbacks taken by Colbert in the 5th round, he beat out Anthony Wright, although Martin only remained with the team for the 2000 and 2001 seasons.

Drafted to be Jeff Hartings eventual replacement, Okobbi started five games in six years and played on special teams, but never became the heir apparent. Colbert could have done better.

Saw Action in 61 games over six years, proving himself to be a good backup and a versatile player out of the backfield. Good value for a fifth round pick.

Third string quarterback from 2003 to 2007 and, beyond a single incompletion in 2004, he did nothing more than hold a clipboard, but he held it well.

  • 2004 – Nathaniel Adibi, LB

Pittsburgh passed on Marcus Turner because Bill Cowher wanted to pad the training camp roster to keep veterans fresh. Adibi never saw an NFL roster. Clearly a costly late round mistake for Colbert.

Saw action in 16 games over two years and even recorded a pick six, but if memory serves he got hurt in training camp in 2007 and was never seen again.

  • 2006 – Omar Jacobs, QB

Neither made the Steelers nor any other NFL roster. What more can we say?

  • 2006 – Charles Davis, TE

Who? I asked the same question. Colbert probably wishes he had this one back.

  • 2007 – Cameron Stephenson, G

Hung around on the practice squad for a while, but never cracked the roster.

Gay exceeded expectations in 2008 only to fall flat on his face in 2009. Perhaps his natural role is that of 3rd corner, which isn’t bad for a 5th round pick.

If the incumbent starter continues to fail to keep his pants on, Dennis Dixon could quickly find himself as the next starting quarterback of the Steelers. Steel Curtain Rising lambasted Pittsburgh for the move, but this pick might make Colbert look very, very smart.

Burnett dropped a game sealing INT, but then again, who in the secondary didn’t? He’ll get his shot to shine in Latrobe in 2010.

Summers rushing is what kept Isaac Redman off the roster, but Summers was woefully unprepared to be a lead blocker and then he disappeared on IR. With Willie Parker gone, Steelers Nation figures to find out just what Frank “the Tank” can do.

Summing Up Colbert’s 5th Round Picks

Measured against his predecessors Colbert stacks up pretty well against Tom Donahoe but not as well as he does against Chuck Noll, Dick Haley, and Art Rooney Jr.

Kevin Colbert started off with some pretty strong 5th round picks, then cratered pretty badly in the middle part of the last decade.

The good news is that with the arrival of Mike Tomlin’s voice in the draft board room the quality of Colbert’s picks on seems to be on the upswing.

The bad news is that nothing in ten years of draft history indicates that Colbert is capable of using the 5th round pick to replace a player of Santonio Holmes’ quality.

Thanks for visiting Steel Curtain Rising.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Steelers 5th Round Draft History: The Noll and Donahoe-Cowher Eras

“What! They gave him to New York for a 5th?” was almost the universal reaction to Steelers decision to trade Santonio Holmes. A 5th round pick for a Super Bowl MVP certainly is a fire sale price, but as with any draft, it is not “when you pick, but who you pick.”

Greg Lloyd and Tom Brady were 6th round picks. Terrell Davis was also a 6th round pick and Merril Hoge was a 10th round pick -- Future Pro Bowlers are available in every round.

A fifth round pick can pay large of dividends, if you use it right. With that, let’s take quick look at how the fifth round as treated the Pittsburgh Steelers:

Chuck Noll’s Fifths

Art Rooney Jr., Dick Haley and Chuck Noll had a sharp eyes for talent and their history of fifth round picks proves it.

Mike Webster, taken 5th, the gold standard at center for two generations. But the 1974 was not the only time this trio found struck pay dirt in the 5th, picking players like:

  • Larry Brown, TE/OT ’71,
  • Steve Furness , DE ’72, S
  • Steve Courson, OT ’77,
  • Craig Wolfley, G ’80,
  • Hardy Nickerson, ILB, ’87, and
  • Barry Foster, FB ’90.

A Hall of Famer. Several Pro Bowlers or Pro Bowl caliber players. Certainly there were plenty of marginal players and out right busts interspersed, but The Emperor and Company did well for itself during the fifth round.

Their record would look even better had they kept Brent Jones, their 1986 fifth round pick, whose sin was to be a pass catching tight end during an era when Noll refused to throw to the tight end. Jones of course went onto to win fame, and Super Bowls, with the San Francisco 49ers.

Tom Donahoe and Bill Cowher’s Fifth Round Picks

As Director of Football Operations from 1992 to 1999 Tom Donahoe won a reputation for doing more with less. And part of that came from his ability to find late round draft gems.

Donahoe did not match his predecessors’ record in the 5th round but he did find some good players there.

  • In 1994, the Steelers took Myron Bell a hard-hitting safety whose play allowed Carnell Lake to move to corner, paving the way for the Steelers appearance in Super Bowl XXX.

Bill Cowher made the same switch with Bell and Lake in 1997 and wound up in the AFC Title game.

  • In 1995 they picked Lee Flowers in the 5th. No one will ever confuse Flowers with great Steeler safeties such as Troy Polamalu, Lake, or Donnie Shell. But Flowers was hard hitting, outspoken, and blossomed into a five year starter – excellent value for a fifth round pick.

In 1999, Donahoe’s last draft with the Steelers, he took tight end Jerame Tuman, who had a nine year career with the Steelers as a solid blocking tight end and occasional starter. Again, a good value pick.

All of this history is interesting and instructive, to a point.

The relevant question is what has Kevin Colbert done with his fifth round picks, and what does that tell us about what he might do this year?

For that, stay tuned for the next edition of “The Colbert Record” which will profile his fifth round picks.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Willie Parker’s Departure: What No One Asks

The Steelers were in the news on Easter Sunday, and for a welcome change the news had nothing to do with the judicial branch of government.

Nonetheless, the news was far from happy, as Steelers Nation learned that Willie Parker had signed a one year deal with the should be rival Washington Redskins. Parker’s departure was not surprise, although must be considered a little disappointing on several fronts.

Parker’s story is the stuff that Steelers Nation, of the “how dare you over look us” chip on our collective shoulders, love. Didn’t get to play in college. Didn’t get drafted. Buried on the depth chart behind Jerome Bettis, Duce Stanley and, yes, even Verron Hayes during his rookie year.

Yet Parker capped of his sophomore season with the longest run from scrimmage in Super Bowl history during Super Bowl XL in Detroit.

Before we say adieu, let’s pay that moment its proper homage.

Steelers to Face Life Without Willie Parker

Many believe that the clock began ticking toward Willie’s departure the day the Steelers drafted Rasshard Mendenhall. Parker never let such talk get him down, vowing to take the rookie under his wing.

For a while it looked as if Parker had nothing to worry about, as Mendenhall was injured in his first start against Baltimore, and then disappeared from the Steelers South Side complex. Mendenhall of course got off to a very bad start in 2010, finding himself benched for the Cincinnati game.

But Parker had the misfortune to get injured in that game, and Mendenhall exploded in his place against San Diego.

Neither Mendenhall, nor the Steelers looked back, as he wracked up over 1,100 yards rushing along with 25 catches for 261 yards.

As a player who started the season with questions about his attitude and commitment, the incredible heart Mendenhall displayed in the disastrous loss to Kansas City remains the Steelers lone bright spot from that day.

No one questions that the Steelers need a solid backup for Mendenhall.

Mike Tomlin has suggested that Mewelde Moore is up to the task. Moore’s play in 2008 certainly suggests that, but his performance dropped a level in 2009.

Others have suggested that Frank “The Tank” Summers and/or Isaac “Redzone” Redman might be up to the task. Or the Steelers might look to the draft as early as the second round.

All of the above are getting their just discussion in both the press and the blogesphere. But there’s one issue everyone seems to miss.

The Unasked Question

Mendenhall, while still not yet a complete runner, has all the tools to be a high caliber NFL powerback.

But can he hold on to the ball?

According to Pro Football Reference, Mendenhall only coughed up the ball 3 times in 2009. My how the memory can play tricks, as it seems like a lot more. Perhaps that’s because he seemed to cough it up in critical situations.

And this did not begin in 2009, as fumbles plagued Mendenhall during his rookie preseason campaign.

One of the reason’s why Mendenhall’s fumble total did not climb higher was that Mike Tomlin took him out whenever the Steelers needed to salt one away.

And that is where we’ll miss Willie Parker.

Steel Curtain Rising has been a Mewelede Moore backer from the get go. But if Moore exceeded the expectations of most in 2008, he seemed to reveal his limits in 2009.

With the quarterback hurting and the Steelers desperately needing to run out the clock against Miami, Mike Tomlin turned to Willie Parker.

Afterwards, Ed Bouchette speculated that Tomlin was making a last ditch attempt to show Parker he was wanted. Maybe he was.

But it seemed to me that Tomlin probably entrusting the close to Parker’s hands.

What a good set of hands they were. Steelers Nation will miss those.

Critics have argued that a big part of Mendenhall’s fumbling problem is tied to his ball handling technique, and by inference, he can be coached to improve.

But can he?

The importance of that answer being “yes” takes on new signifigance with Willie Parker’s departure.

Thanks for visting. To follow all of the Steelers Free Agent news, click on the Steelers Free Agent Focus 2010 tag.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bradshaw Calls Out Ben – Will Roethlisberger Listen?

As most of Steelers Nation knows, Terry Bradshaw, the NFL Hall of Famer who delivered four Lombardi Trophies to Pittsburgh spoke out on Ben Roethlisberger’s situation.

This is what he had to say:

To this, Steel Curtain Rising has this to say to Ben:

Forget about the Steelers.

Forget about the City of Pittsburgh.

Forget about Steelers Nation.

Forget about the NFL, Roger Goodell and the entire sport of football.

  • Ben, for you own sake, sit up, pay attention, and listen to the one Steelers quarterback who has more Super Bowl rings than you do.

Your life will be better for it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ben Dodges Bullet But Did He Learn?

As the world knows, Ben Roethlisberger will not face charges in Georgia that he sexually assaulted a young woman in the bathroom of the VIP section of a bar.

He could be facing trial for a crime that carries a 25 year in prison minimum sentence.

Instead he is facing a suspension and fine from either the NFL and/or the Steelers.

Being docked for a couple of million dollars seems like peanuts in comparison.

And that is the problem, is this enough for Ben to learn. At his statement yesterday at the Steelers complex in the South Side, Ben said most of the right things, but he did not give off a good impression.

Of course, how good of an impression can you give when, for the second time in less than a year, you’re reading a statement prepared by your lawyer in response to a sexual assault claim?

In Ben Roethlisberger the Steelers have one of the top five or six quarterbacks in the league. When the game is on the line, Ben’s play elevates him to the status of the NFL’s top three or top two.

Ben knows this, and he carries a certain swagger on the field. And so he should.

But does he know that off of the field he should, no, he must follow the same rules and be held to the same standards as everyone else?

Thus far, Ben has told us with his behavior that he either doesn't know this or does know it but doesn't care.

And the impression he gave with his statement yesterday leaves doubts as to whether he has learned that.

Let’s hope that impression is an incorrect one.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Steelers Trade Santonio Holmes to Jets for 5th Round Pick

Art Rooney II has apparently had enough.

Just over a month ago the Ben Roethlisberger sexual assault allegation story broke, followed in rapid succession by another assault allegation (this one also taking place in a VIP club) against Santoino Holmes in a story that seemed to get stranger and stranger.

Publicly, the Steelers brass has said all of the right things, about “concern” and “gathering information” and “waiting for the facts to come in.” But in his PG Plus blog Ed Bouchette has made it clear that off the record, Steelers officials have made it quite clear that they’re tired of Steelers Judiciary related stories being the lead on ESPN every night.

Now they have taken action.

The rumor all along had been that the Steelers would simply have Holmes to play out the rest of his contract and then allow him to go his own way.

The course of action is not decisive enough apparently.

ESPN.com and the Associated Press are reporting that the Steelers have traded former first round draft pick and Super Bowl XLIII MVP to the New York Jets for a fifth round draft pick in the 2010 draft.

A Fifth Round Pick?

Behind the Steel Curtain was one of the first fan sites to break the news that Holmes was facing a four year suspension. In the ensuring comment stream several fans suggested that Holmes be traded for a high or several high round picks.

Moderator Neal Coolong stepped in and injected some sanity into the debate pointing out that this is a guy with a long track record with the law facing another new allegation and a quarter season suspension. Coolong suggested that a third rounder might be more in order.

Steel Curtain Rising concurs.

In pure football terms, a fifth round pick is too little to get for someone like Holmes. But one must consider that only a few weeks ago the Eagles traded Donovan McNabb, a franchise quarterback, to the Redskins for what could amount to a second and a fourth round pick.

Viewed solely from an X’s and O’s perspective, the Steelers might have paid too high a price to move a Super Bowl MVP.

Rooney, Colbert, and Tomlin Make a Statement

But Steelers management knows what it is doing. They see a team that is getting a lot of bad press. A championship team whose players, at least on the outside, appear to be running wild.

This is not the image the Rooneys want for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

And now they have done something about it.

Art Rooney II has sent a message.

Let’s hope the rest of the Steelers locker room, including Ben Roethlisberger, has gotten it.

Thanks for visiting Steel Curtain Rising.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

More College Wide Receivers Visit Pittsburgh

Believe it or not, some football-related news has actually broken in Pittsburgh over the last three days.

The Steelers hosted three more college players on Friday including two more wide receivers.

Wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders of Southern Methodist and Rejus Benn of Illinois visisted the Steelers South Side complex. In the last week alone five wide recivers have journied to Pittsburgh, which perhaps is not surprising given Santonio Holmes seeming perpetual off the field problems.

Earl Thomas, as safety out of Texas also worked out for the Steelers at the UPMC training facility off of Carson Street. Thus far the Steelers have had 28 players pay visits, which means that they can entertain two more draft-eligible college players before next Wednesday.

Holmes’ Legal Strategy Effective?

Whether it’s a possible drug suspension or his on going assault case, Santonio Holmes continues to make headlines. Take a quick gander at the Post-Gazette’s home page and you’ll see that each day Holmes’ lawyer has fed the press a story.

Thursday the claim was that his client was innocent, Friday we learned that the authorities had been sent exonerating evidence, and Saturday and Sunday brought stories about a third party claiming on audio tape that he, and not Holmes, threw the drink at the woman.

Madness Behind the Method?

Holmes’ lawyer’s strategy seems clear: To win the battle in the court of public opinion. Each day he is feeding the press information that he hopes will lead the press to cast his client in a more favorable light.

This is understandable, but each successive wave of stories serves to remind the public that Holmes is involved in yet another off the field scuffle with the judiciary.

And those are not headlines that please Steelers President Art Rooney II, particularly when these stories run in tandem with stories about a possible drug suspension for Holmes....

News of Holmes Supposed Suspension Spreading, Slowly

It has been just under 24 hours since Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio ran a story claiming that multiple sources had indicated to him that Santonio Holmes was facing a four game suspension for violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

Thus far, neither the Post Gazette nor the Tribune Review are running stories about this, and neither is ESPN or CNN-SI. However, a quick Google search reveals that WPIX and KDKA have links on their websites relating to the story, although they appear to relate to Mike Florio’s story, and do not report any new news.

Thanks for visiting Steel Curtain Rising.

Santonio Holmes Facing Four Game Suspension?

NBC's site Pro Football talk is reporting that Steelers wide out Santonio Holmes is facing a four game suspension for a violiation of the league's substance abuse policy.

Thus far they are the only outlet to report this news, although Behind the Steel Curtain has a post relating to it, as does Yahoo Sports.

Neither ESPN, nor the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, nor the Pittsburgh Tribune Review are carrying stories about this possible suspension as of 12:15 am, Sunday.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bright to Announce Roethlisberger Decision Monday

Ocmulgee Judicial Court district attorney Frederic D. Bright has called a press conference for Monday afternoon at 2:00 pm where he will announce his decision on the investigations into whether Ben Roethlisberger sexually assaulted a young woman in a Georgia nightclub.

Bright has three choices:

  • Issue an arrest warrant for Roethlisberger and prosecute
  • Turning the case over to a Grand Jury
  • Announce he will not charge Roethlisberger

Upon hearing that a decision had been reached but that the announcement was delayed, my immediate reaction was “this means he is going to prosecute.”

Many if not most on the internet share that reaction.

Why call a press conference for what amounts to an non-action? There seems no plausible reason.

However, if Bright has decided to take action the logic of waiting is clear.

  • As a DA, he gets the full spot light
  • He also has time to get all of his pre-trial motions in order

This is the general consensus of opinion on the net.

Alternative Explanation in the Tribune-Review

However, Carl Prine of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has provided Steelers Nation with an alternative explanation. Carl Prine does excellent work and always investigates stories thoroughly.

While the source he cites is not connected to the case nor does this person claim special knowledge. But he is top criminal lawyer, who is familiar with Georgia law. Steel Curtain Rising generally tries to avoid stealing the thunder of journalists who’ve worked hard to get a good story.

So we will offer no further details here, other than to recommend you check out Prine’s story.

ESPN Report

ESPN.com is also running a story where they report that they have confirmed through sources that Ben Roethlisberger will not be charged.

Leaks are the life blood of journalism, and it is quite possible that the story is legit.

But there has also been a lot of misinformation circulating, so prudence would strongly caution against counting chickens.

Long Weekend for Ben, Steelers

Who knows how Ben Roethlisberger will spend the weekend. But regardless of the ESPN report you can wager your mortgage payment or your child’s college tuition that he will not be frequenting any bars with VIP clubs during the weekend.

This is also going to be a tense time for the Steelers brain trust. But the Steelers are fortunate that the will have some decision and some clarity before the draft.

If Ben is not charged, they’ve clearly got some issues to work out with their 100 million dollar signal caller. But by the same token, if he is not charged, Ben will be standing under center for them in 2010.

But if he is charged or if the case is turned over to a Grand Jury, the can be sure that Roethlisberger will miss part or more likely all of the 2010 season. This will allow them to operate accordingly, which could even include how they approach the draft….

Friday, April 9, 2010

Iupati, Pouncey Pay Steelers Pre-Draft Visits

The Steelers yesterday hosted six more college draft prospects at the South Side yesterday, with Idaho guard Mike Iupati leading he way.

The Post-Gazette’s Ed Bouchette, along with many others, have projected the 6’5” 331 Iupati, as the Steelers first-round draft pick in many mock drafts. Maurkice Pouncey of Florida, rated the best center in the draft, Clifton Geathers who is a defensive lineman out of South Carolina and Linval Joseph, another defensive lineman from East Carolina, were also on hand.

]South Florida wide receiver Carlton Mitchel and Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski rounded out the group of college prospects. The Steelers have so far brought in 25 players for workouts, and can bring in up to five more before next Wednesday.

Steelers Resign Nick Eason

The Steelers announced that they had come to terms with back up defensive end Nick Eason. No terms of the deal were announced other than the two sides had agreed to a one year deal.

Eason joined the Steelers in 2007 after playing his first three years in Cleveland, and at age 30 a veritable spring chicken on a “mature” defensive line. With 2009 first round pick Ziggy Hood, and 2009 seventh round pick Sunny Harris waiting in the wings, many have wondered if Eason would be brought back.

Given that no signing bonus information was reported, one must assume that Eason’s signing bonus was minimal, or else his agent would have made sure the press knew the terms of the deal. Little or no signing bonus makes Eason more less expendable, so this move should have no impact on the team’s plans for the upcoming draft.

Click here to read all articles in Steel Curtain Rising’s Steelers 2010 Free Agent Focus.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Dez Bryant, Golden Tate, LaGarrette Blount & Others Visit Steelers

Five more college players passed the Steelers South Side Reviewing Stand yesterday, and unlike previous parades, this one turned some heads.

Dez Bryant and LaGarrette Blount, Okalahoma State wide out and Oregon running back respectively, were both suspended during the preceding collegiate season. Bryant was implicated in an agent-related violation of NCAA rules, while Blount punched an opponent from Boise state.

Notre Dame’s Golden Tate, considered one of the better wide receivers in the draft and a likely first round pick, also visited. Prior to Santonio Holmes’ current legal troubles, the Steelers had not considered wide receiver as a top priority. However, there is a lot of speculation that Holmes, who is in the last year of his contract, may not be resigned.

A decision by the Steelers to draft a wide receiver in the first or perhaps second round likely signals the beginning of the end, if not the end, of Homles’ time as a Steeler.

Linebackers Koa Misi of Utah and Adrian Tracy of William & Mary, Mike Tomlin’s alma mater, also paid visits. So far 19 players have auditioned for the Steelers over the last two weeks. The team is permitted to have up to 30 visits prior to April 14th.

Fredric Bright to Decide Roethlisberger’s Fate

The Milledgeville police have finished their investigation into the sexual assuault accusations that a young woman has made against f Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

The case is now in the hands of Ocmulgee Judicial Court district attorney Frederic D. Bright.

Bright can decide investigate more, dismiss the case, or press chargers against Roethlisberger.

If Bright decides to press charges he would need to present his case to a Grand Jury, which means that the process could continue for months.

However, a Grand Jury investigation would not bode well for Roethlisberger, as lawyers are fond of saying that a any prosecutor with a pulse should be able to secure an Grand Jury indictment on a ham sandwich.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bryan Bulaga Visits Steelers Ahead of Draft

Bryan Bulaga, a starting left tackle at Iowa last year, was the 14th collegiate player to darken doors at the Steeler’s complex on the South Side yesterday.

At 6 feet 5, 314 pounds, it is not hard to understand why Bulaga is projected as a first round pick in the 2010 NFL draft which is two weeks away.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Roethlisberger Investigation to End Soon?

Ben Roethlisberger’s tortuously time as a sexual assault suspect could be coming to an end, one way or another. ESPN.com is reporting that the Milledgeville police chief has announce that “We’re getting close to the end.”

The report indicated that things could be wrapped up by Friday.

However, the investigation will likely end without the police getting a second interview with Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger talked with police on the night of the alleged incident, and was allow to leave the scene without being arrested.

When Ben was initially accused of the crime, reports indicated that he would speak with police. However, Roethlisberger has since retained All Star defense lawyer Ed Garland, who has declined to make his client available to investigators.

‘Tone to be Charged?

Art Rooney II has got to be wishing that he will wake up and discover that this is all just some bad dream because the reality is pretty disquieting.

Alas, it is no dream, and the Steelers President will celebrate Easter Sunday with the knowledge that both of the prime stars from the miracle final drive of Super Bowl XLIII could face criminal charges.

The Santonio Holmes case took a turn for the worse, as the plaintiff in the civil suit against him has changed her mind and is deciding to press charges. As a result, the Orlando police have reopened the investigation.

Holmes attorney is vigorously disputing the charges.

As mentioned earlier on Steel Curtain Rising, the facts of the Holmes case are far from clear. But what seemed like a significant annoyance a few days ago, now has the potential to become a far, far more serious both for Santonio and the Steelers.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Collegiate Corners Visit Steelers

The Steelers entertained seven more players from the collegiate ranks to close out the week with a heavy dose of defensive back.

Nolan Carroll of Maryland, Kareem Jackson of Alabama, Kyle Wilson of Boise State and Brandon Ghee of Wake Forest are all cornerbacks. Joe Webb, wide receiver from Alabama-Birmingham and linebackers Albert McClellan of Marshall and Eric Norwood of South Carolina also visited.

Thus far 13 players have darkened doorways in the South Side, as the Steelers are permitted to bring in as many as 30 up prior to the 2010 NFL draft, which begins on April 22nd.