´ Steel Curtain Rising: May 2010

What position(s) should be the Steelers highest priorities in the draft?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Worst Steelers Offensive Coordinator Poll Recap


Perhaps it is odd to recap a poll that closed months ago, but between the 2010 NFL draft, the Steelers Judiciary woes, and working a second job, I simply have not had time.

The poll began in February and ran for over a month, attracting over 100 votes. Bruce Arians “won” the poll is a little of a surprise, which I’ll address at the end.

For now, let’s look at the other “contenders.”

The "Bottom" Seven

Ken Whisenhunt and Tom Moore drew only a single votes, and that is one vote too many for both men.

Chan Gailey and Ron Erhardt polled three votes a piece, which is a slight surprise, given that so many fans blame Gailey for calling goal line passes that were intercepted in the 1997 AFC Championship game when he had Jerome Bettis in his backfield.

Gailey is not worthy of the “worst coordinator” ignominy, but I expected that more fans would beg to differ.

Inspector gadget, aka Mike Mularkey picked up five votes, and while Mularkey perhaps got a little too captivated with his own innovations, Pittsburgh’s offense enjoyed a lot of success during his tenure.

Kevin Gilbride was the first to break double digits with 11 votes and that is how it should be as he is the first offensive coordinator to merit serious consideration for the “worst ever title.” Bill Cowher’s hiring of Gilbride, he of run and shoot fame, mystified me from its announcement to Gilbride’s dismissal. Gilbride never seemed to “get it.”

Gilbride was bad, but he was not the worst Steelers offensive coordinator ever.

Joe Walton vs. Ray Sherman

The poll went up while the article “Walton’s Mountain, Good Night Chuck” was on Steel Curtain Rising’s home page.

So it is no surprise there that Walton took an early lead.

But the Walton article got put down and ultimately off the home page, Ray Sherman and Bruce Arians picked up support quickly.

The real debate is between Sherman and Walton.

Ray Sherman had one ill-fated season as the Steelers offensive coordinator. Picked after the 1997 season on the heels of Jerry Jones surprise decision to hire Chan Gailey as his head coach, Sherman arrived as a second tier choice.

Still, Sherman had a good track record with Brad Johnson and it was thought that he would transform Kordell Stewart into a finished product.

Instead Sherman was an unmitigated disaster.

Stewart had his own weaknesses, so perhaps it is too harsh to condemn Sherman for “ruining him,” but Ray Sherman certainly failed to foster Kordell Stewart’s development.

Under Sherman, Stewart became tentative, the long ball disappeared and Sherman was either unwilling or unable to call plays that capitalized on Stewart’s mobility. Bill Cowher took note and stripped Sherman of his play calling duties late in the season.

Sherman’s offense was predictable. I can remember a third and long situation during one late-season drubbing, where I said to my buddies at the Baltimore’s Purple Goose Saloon, “Watch, it is going to be a weakside pitch to Fred McAfee.” Sherman called just that, and to the surprise of no one, the Steelers failed to convert.

In Sherman’s defense, John Jackson’s departure had already weakened his offensive line and disintegrated further with Justin Strzelczyk’s injury. The Steelers had also lost Yancy Thigpen and neither Charles Johnson, Will Blackwell nor Jahine Arnold could pick up the slack.

Why It Is Walton

I’ve already written at length about Joe Walton (click here to read the full article) so I’ll only add a few more comments.

Walton’s offensive line had its own weaknesses and his wide receiving corps was less than stealer.

Like Sherman, Walton shares in possibly having had a hand in ruining a promising young quarterback whose raw talent mirrored his myriad flaws.

On balance, however, for me Walton was worse than Sherman because he stubbornly refused to change even when evidence mounted that his system was failing. Worse yet, the Steelers had established themselves as a team on the rise after the 1989 season, and they floundered under Walton.

A final point in Walton’s “favor.” Ray Sherman arrived in 1998, just as the Steelers defense ws beginning to decline. In 1990 however, the Steelers had the number one overall defense, an effort wasted by Walton and his offense.

About Arians

Steel Curtain Rising regulars know how I went from being an Arians’ Attacker to an Arians Agnostic, so I will not recount that journey here (you can click on the highlighted links to read more.)

One does not need to be an Arians’ Apologist to know one thing: The Steelers won Super Bowl XLIII with Arians as offensive coordinator, and Arians’ game plan played a crucial part in the Steelers victory.

Arians may not be the Steelers best offensive coordinator, but he certainly is not the worst.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Roethlisberger to Rejoin Steeler OTAs

Pittsburgh Steelers OTA (that is NFL parlance for "Organized Team Activities" or football in shorts) will be getting a familiar face back.

The Post-Gazette and Tribune Review are both reporting that the NFL has cleared Ben Roethlisberger to return to practices with the team.

In imposing his six game suspension, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell barred Ben from participating in the Steelers spring workouts and/or training game.

The news release by the NFL indicates Roethlisberger's suspension remains at six games for the time being.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Steelers OTA's - Pouncey Injured

The Pittsburgh Tribune Review is reporting that Pittsburgh Steelers first round draft pick Maurkice Pouncey was injured during the team's spring OTA's (organized team activities.)

The injury does not appear to be serious, but injuries during spring drills are never welcome news, and Pouncey's was not the first, after beleaguered wide receiver Limas Sweed was lost to an Achilles tendon injury a few weeks ago.

Interestingly enough, the Steelers do have an unfortunate precedent of seeing first round picks injured during spring practices and/or non-contact drills.

In 1998, 1997 first round pick Chad Scott was lost for the year when he tore his ACL during spring practices. Likewise, in the early days of his rookie training camp the 1991 draft round Huey Richardson managed to break his nose during non-contact drills. Huey Richardson, who recorded token apperances in five games with the Steelers as a rookie before being traded to the Redskins, went on to become on of the NFL's "greatest" all time draft busts.

...Based on today's news -- Ed Bouchette reported in PG Plus that Pouncy finished practice -- it seems that Pouncy is following different footsteps, and Steelers Nation can be thankful if that is the case.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Overlooking the Steelers Game that Set the Tone for the Last Decade

The Steelers Digest, like the Tribune-Review, and the Post Gazette finished out the decade with lists ranking the Steelers top games of the last decade. By now most fans have understandably enjoyed, digested and forgotten those lists.

One simple fact prevents me, however, from moving on:

  • All of the lists missed something.

Included of course were games such as the final victory against the (should be rival) Redskins at Three Rivers Stadium, the paper champions victory over Tampa Bay in 2001, the 2008 Comeback against the Cowboys, and the 2009 shoot out against Green Bay.

No argument there.

But there is one game that has been consistently overlooked.

It is the Steelers 24-13 road victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in the year 2000.

Why?

Why should a victory from Bill Cowher’s third consecutive non-playoff season be counted among the Pittsburgh’s greatest games of the decade?

Look back at the context, and you’ll find one very compelling reason.

The Dark Days of 1998

1998 marked Bill Cowher’s first losing campaign. Trouble signs abounded in uninspiring victories over Chicago and Baltimore, and ugly losses to Cincinnati, Miami, and Tennessee. Kordell Stewart’s sudden unwillingness to throw, let alone his inability to complete a pass of longer the 15 yards was troublesome.

But, as Cowher explained afterward, “we were 7-5 and in the thick of the division race.” It is true, and 7-5 included impressive victories over contenders like Green Bay and Jacksonville.

But then came Phil Luckett and the Thanksgiving Day coin toss in a game that should have NEVER gone to OT.

The Steelers lost their next 5 games with Kordell crying in the rain, the Steelers refusing to accept gift wrapping on a victory that the New England Patriots begged them to take, and getting swept by Cincinnati for the first time since 1990.

All of this paled compared to one bitter truth.

The Steelers quit on Cowher.

The Darker Days of 1999

The Steelers did not panic after 1998. Responding to press forecasting hard times, Tom Donahoe cheerfully declared something like, “I don’t think we’re as far off from being contenders again as you seem to think. No offense, but I love proving you wrong.”

This was the same Tom Donahoe who a year earlier wrote off Rod Woodson’s entireties to rejoin the Steelers with the “we’re not in the Salvation Army” remark.

The 1999 Steelers started 5-3, but had beaten no one and had dropped painful losses to Jacksonville and Seattle. On his worst day, Woodson, it was clear, the better of any man in Pittsburgh’s 1999 secondary.

But it was good to be 5-3, until the embarrassing home loss to the expansion Browns. The Steelers would lose 6 of their next 7. Worse, the team yet again quit on Cowher.

In the season finale loss to Tennessee, with Levon Kirkland getting out muscled by Neil O’Donnell, and Bobby Shaw flashing a Superman T-Shirt after a garbage time touchdown, the Steelers resembled more a circus act than a football team.

The Year 2000 – The Steelers Begin a New Decade

The fallout from the 1999 season is well documented. Bill Cowher and Tom Donahoe who had begun the decade working so well together, now could hardly occupy the same room.

Dan Rooney made a choice, Donahoe was out, and Kevin Colbert was in.

Doubts about Cowher, however, persisted. Many in the press figured he’d be gone by mid-season.

And for a while, it looked like Cowher was on course to prove the pundits right.

The Steelers opened the 21st century by getting their teeth kicked in 16-0 by the Baltimore Ravens – at Three Rivers Stadium.

Getting shut out at home by a division rival is never pleasant, but perhaps the most damming element of the loss occurred after the game had ended.

Reflecting on a late game drive that saw the Steelers march to the goal line only to have Kordell Stewart fumble the snap to negate Pittsburgh’s sole scoring opportunity, Rod Woodson said this: “We can't give up a drive that goes the length late in the game against a good team.”

Woodson, like the rest of the NFL, no longer regarded the Steelers as a good team.

Things only got worse.

Week 2 took the Steelers to Cleveland, where the Steelers blew a fourth quarter lead, on the heels of secondary breakdowns that made Tim Couch look worthy of his first overall draft status.
Still, the Steelers almost tied it late, but a sack suffered by Kent Graham prevented the Steelers from getting their field goal unit into the game and time expired.

Once projected to start the season 1-5, the Steelers looked destined for 0-6, as next up were the defending AFC Champion Tennessee Titans.

Everyone expected a route, but the Steelers went toe to toe, claiming the lead late in the 4th on a 5 yard Jerome Bettis touchdown. Things only appeared to improve for the Steelers, as Jason Gildon slammed Neil Donnell to the turf seemingly dooming the Titan’s rally.

Three Rivers Stadium erupted.

But a bloodied Neil O’Donnell yielded the field to Steve McNair. And as Steel Curtain Rising chronicled the day he died, McNair only needed 2 runs and three throws to pull the Titans ahead and secure victory.

Crushed, Cowher appeared on the verge of tears. The oxygen had been sucked out of the 2000 Pittsburgh Steelers. And there were 13 games left to go.

Going Down to Jacksonville with Their Backs

Just when things couldn’t get worse they did. Late Friday afternoon word spread that Steelers starting quarterback Kent Graham had been injured in practice and unable to play that Sunday.

That meant that Kordell Stewart, the man whom so many had heaped so much blame upon for the disasters of 1998 and 1999, would start.

Oh, and...

  • The Jacksonville Jaguars entered 2000 as Super Bowl favorites.
  • And the Steelers had never won in Jacksonville…

The first series served as a microcosm for all that had plagued them in the previous two seasons.
What followed established the precedent for the rest of the decade.

The Steelers got the opening kick off, which promptly led to a three and out and the first blocked punt of Josh Miller’s career. Jacksonville took over at first and goal at Pittsburgh’s four…

…and the Steelers defense refused to yield, forcing Jacksonville to settle for a field goal.

That was the last time the Jaguars led or threatened to lead the game.

The Steelers had posted larger margins of victory than they did that day against Jacksonville, but it is safe to say they’d never laid into the Jaguars with more ferocity.

Led by Jerome Bettis, Kordell Stewart, and Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala the Steelers rushed for 209 yards. They held All-Pro Jacksonville Jaguars Jimmy Smith to two catches for 20 yards catching.

The defense dominated, limiting the Jaguars to a then season-low 26 yards rushing, and they tossed Mark Brunell around like a rag doll, sacking him seven times.

Those numbers impress. But one only look at who made them to understand their significance:

  • Second year corner Deshea Townshend led the Steelers with six tackles, including a sack.
  • Aaron Smith surprised coaches by winning a starting job during training camp, and this was the day that he began opening eyes around the NFL with a two sack performance.
  • Joey Porter also got his first sack as a starter.

The 2000 Steelers went down to Jacksonville as the NFL’s afterthought, and emerged as a team that once again could be counted on to up end a contender.

The Steelers rallied behind their coach and sent the NFL a message in the process:

  • Count us out when our backs are up against a wall at your peril.

And that is why the Steelers road victory in 2000 against the Jacksonville Jaguars should have earned a place on any “Top Ten Games of the Decade” ranking.

The game set the tone for the decade for the Steelers.

Thanks for visiting Steel Curtain Rising.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bryant McFadden in 2009 What Went Wrong?

Steelers Nation regarded Bryant McFadden’s defection to the Arizona Cardinals after Super Bowl XLIII with mixed feelings.

Some saw it difficult to see the 2005 second round pick depart just when it seemed like he’d finally developed into a quality starter.

Others took a different view, holding a player who truly merited second round pick status should have become a full-time starter before his first year.

Regardless, there was always William Gay, whose play in relief of McFadden in 2008 impressed even Dick LeBeau.

Gay and McFadden in 2009

William Gay, of course failed to meet expectations in 2009. He struggled so badly that Mike Tomlin publicly entertained the notion of replacing him, although that only amounted to Joe Burnett getting a few snaps here and there during the Cleveland debacle and the other remaining games of the season.

Bryant McFadden is more difficult to discern.

Writing on PG Plus, Gerry Dulac commented on his poor performance in the playoffs, but beyond that McFadden's play in Arizona drew little attention in Pittsburgh.

So McFadden’s return along with a sixth round pick on day three of the 2010 NFL draft, at the cost of a third round pick, drew cheers from Steelers Nation and Steel Curtain Rising was part of the chorus.

None of the cheering obviated the question, “why was Arizona so willing to let him go for so little?”

For that, I can offer no explanation. Steelers secondary coach Ray Horton asserted to reporters that the Steelers remained confident that McFadden could contribute in the Steelers system.

Horton reassured, but offered little in the way of analysis.

Fortunately Behind the Steel Curtain has done that for us. Their writer, “Johnny_S” posted an thorough, in depth analysis of McFadden’s abilities as a corner relative to the Steelers and Cardinals’ respective defensive systems.

Steel Curtain Rising’s policy is to grant the work of others the glory they earn, and we will do so here. But I highly recommend you invest the time to read what Johnny_S has to say as he has put a lot of thought, time and research into this and he’s also humble enough to acknowledge the limits of his own analysis. (Click here to read.)

What About the Pros?

This is not the first time, and certainly will not be the last time that Steel Curtain Rising has recognized Behind the Steel Curtain. I am amazed that the depth and breath of the articles they publish.

Which begs the question, why haven’t we seen this from the professional writers?

Regular readers know that Steel Curtain Rising’s Watch Tower praises the Post-Gazette and Tribune-Review writers as often (or almost as often) as it has criticized them.

But ealier this week on PG Plus Ed Bouchette lamented, perhaps tongue and cheek, about the difficulties of writing a football blog in May.

On balance, Bouchette has been providing good value and thus far PG Plus has been worth the four dollar (or sixteen Argentine pesos in my case) subscription fee

True, writing about football in May does have its challenges. But articles like Johnny_S’s show that there are interesting Steelers stories out there waiting to be told, and a writer like Bouchette has time and access to sources that no fan could ever hope to have.

Just a thought.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sweed Out, Roethlisberger Evaluations Complete, Steelers Sign Isaiah Williams...

The news that the Steelers placed Limas Sweed on the injured reserve list came as no surprise after the unlucky wide receiver had injured his Achilles tendon a few weeks back during spring practice.

By placing him on IR, the Steelers were making Sweed ineligible to play for the duration of the 2010 season. Sweed most likely will want to attempt a comeback, but the beleaguered former second round pick from the 2008 draft faces an uphill battle.

To take Sweed’s spot on the off season roster, the Steelers signed former Baltimore Ravens free agent rookie Isaiah Williams. Williams was signed by the Ravens following the 2009 NFL draft, but was cut before opening day.

Roethlisberger Evaluations Complete, For Now...

The NFL has reported that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has completed the medical and psychological evaluations ordered by the NFL. He has still not been given permission to return to the team.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell could allow the Ben resuming activities with the team in advance of his 6 game suspension, or he could order more tests. The Post-Gazette report indicated that Roethsliberger’s team felt he would rejoin the team soon.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Watch Tower: Inaccuracies Plague Roethlisberger Coverage

Lest anyone be mistaken by the headline, this article offers no defense of Ben Roethlisberger.

Nor is this thread intended to decry the “one-sided” treatment that Ben has gotten in the press. I am not terribly sympathetic to that argument, but I concede that the article referenced makes some valid points.

In the same vein, others have already pondered the significance of Roger Goodell's suspension of someone who neither failed a drug test, nor was arrested nor charged with a crime.

Roethlisberger richly deserves the criticism the media vultures are heaping on him. Roethlisberger has granted the press every right to question is locker room presence and leadership skills and rip into to his reputation.

But open season on Roethlisberger does come with one caveat.

  • All criticism of Roethlisberger must be constrained by the facts.

Unfortunately for some, that seems to be a problem.

A Trail of Tears Perhaps, but Not Police Reports

ESPN.com’s Gene Wojciechowski is an excellent writer and his analysis of the NFC Central is always worth the read.

He recently lit into Roethlisberger, going as far as to suggest that Dan Rooney, if forced to confess, would admit to regretting not trading for Donovan McNabb.

A stretch? Perhaps. Plausible? Certainly.

But in building up his argument, Wojciechowski takes a little license with the facts.



“Forget, if you can, that Roethlisberger has left a trail of police reports from Lake Tahoe to Milledgeville, Ga.” [Emphasis added.]

Ah, the power of two words. If Wojciechowski had only written “…Roethlisberger has left a trail of sexual assault allegations from Lake Tahoe to Milledgeville” his prose would have been just as lyrically compelling, just as damming. He only would have had to add an extra word.

And he would have had the virtue of being factually correct.

Alas, Wojciechowski’s word choice of “police reports” takes him outside the facts.

One undisputable fact behind the Lake Tahoe allegation is that the woman in question never, ever went to the police.

While the Georgia incident rightly casts the Lake Tahoe allegation in a new light, it changes none of the objective facts on the ground in Nevada.

The woman never called the police, boasted to coworkers about what she had done with Roethlisberger, and even opined that she hoped for a “little Ben.”

Legally there is a world of difference between an accusation in a civil suit and a criminal complaint.

Wojciechowski undoubtedly knows this, but his article brazenly ignores this.

Why?

We can only speculate because Steel Curtain Rising has contacted Wojciechowski via email inviting him to comment, and a week later has received no response.

“Let’s Go to the Video Tape” (Or Not)

ESPN’s Adam Schefter

A day or so after Fred Bright announced his decision not to prosecute Ben Roethlisberger, ESPN’s Adam Schefter issued a scathing video commentary on the Steelers quarterback.

Steel Curtain Rising takes no issue with the tone or tenor of Schefter’s remarks.

However, when Schefter offered that that Roethlisberger’s off the field behavior was disrupting the team, he commented that this was not the first incident, reminding everyone of his motorcycle accident and the Nevada affair.

To emphasize how much of a disruption Ben had become for the team, Schefter said that Ben had caused off the field distractions “three straight off seasons,” referencing the motorcycle accident, the Lake Tahoe allegation, and the Georgia allegation.

Later, before concluding his video segment, to drive his point home Schefter again made the “three straight off seasons” remark.

A curious remark to say the least. When told of it my Argentine wife, who knows very little of American football, exclaimed, “but the motorcycle accident happened years ago, didn't it?”

Almost four years to be exact.

Which of course means that Schefter conveniently simply forgot or ignored the fact that, at least as far as the public has knowledge, Ben’s off the field behavior did nothing to disrupt the Steelers during the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

The interesting thing about this, is that the video segment is no longer available on ESPN.com. Nor can you find it on YouTube. Perhaps some editor decided to take it off line realizing that, for whatever problems the Nevada and Georgia incidents are causing the Steelers, they were separated by two full years from the motorcycle accident.

Even if this is the case, no mention of Schefter’s error can be found on ESPN's corrections page nor by the site’s ombudsman. No email address for Schefter is present on the site, so he could not be reached directly.

Riding Off Into the Sun Set

Liberality with the facts is not confined to ESPN, but also extends to the New York Times, one of the United States’ most respected publications.

Arguing that the NFL has not been sufficiently harsh with Roethlisberger in the past, Times columnist William C. Rhoden chides the league for its lax response to Ben’s 2006 motorcycle accident.

Some may regard Rhoden’s position as overzealous, but his logic is sound. If only the same could be said of the facts he marshals to support it:

“Really? A high-profile quarterback riding without a helmet and without a valid motorcycle license nearly kills himself and then says during the mending process that he would ride again — without a helmet. Sure sounds like a cry for help.” [Emphasis added.]

Upon reading this, my first reaction was, “didn’t Ben say just the opposite in this first interviews following the accident….?”

Some quick Google searching confirmed my memory.

Roethlisberger told Good Morning America in the spring/summer of 2006 that he was not sure if he would ride again.


And he told ESPN, in an interview that the Post-Gazette’s Patricia Sheridan cited, that “was not sure if he’d ride again, but if he did it would be with a helmet.”

Steel Curtain Rising asked Mr. Rhoden why he attributed such a statement to Ben Roethlisberger. Inviting him to share an interview where Ben contradicted himself about riding again (with or without helmets) or some other sourced report that confirmed the statement he attributed to Roethlisberger.

Unfortunately, Mr. Rhoden did not respond to an email message.

...Ah But What about the SI Article?

As everyone in Steelers Nation knows, Sports Illustrated just published a cover story on Ben Roethlisberger, and the portrait they painted was not pretty.

But about the only new information they unearthed was to report that Ben has been riding his motorbike without a helmet since the accident.

One report is from an a neighbor who refuses to give his name, and another from an unnamed source at KDKA who says that they filmed Ben riding without a helmet but declined to run the footage, a claim KDKA has denied.

This is an explosive charge which will and should blacken Ben’s image even more if true.

But it changes nothing about Rhoden’s article because:

  • Rohden wrote his article weeks before the SI story
  • He offered no sources to back up his claim, a claim which directly contradicted statements Ben had made to numerous media outlets

And if he had sources, he owed it to his readers to share that with them.

Ben Deserves What His Critics are Calling For…

Ben Roethlisberger only has himself has to blame for the trashing of his image is taking.

Even if the young woman voluntarily entered the bathroom and even if what happened inside was consensual, Ben bought the battering he now suffers lock-stock-and-barrel the moment he shut that door.

It is hard to know what led these established journalists to produce material that contained statements which were factually incorrect. Absent their response, at best one can only presume that it was a lack of inclination to verify key facts, at worst it was a conscious corner cutting with an eye toward spicing up the story.

Either way this is a cause for shame.

It is ironic too. Ben’s critics claim that the public is entitled to know the facts.

They are right of course. The public does deserve the facts

But so does Ben.

Thanks for visiting. Click here for more of the Watch Tower's analysis of the Steelers press coverage.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Limas Sweed Injures Achilles Tendon

Perhaps some things are just not meant to be.

Limas Sweed entered the 2008 draft as a potential first round pick, only to fall to the bottom of the second round because of injury concerns. The Pittsburgh Steelers wasted no time in snapping Sweed up when it came their turn to pick in the second round.

Sweed made it onto the field late in 2008, earning a reputation for burning past coverage only to drop perfectly thrown balls, has now suffered another set back. More of the same continued in 2009, including a drop that arguably cost the Steelers the first Cincinnati game.

The Steelers placed Sweed on the non-football injury list, and it is largely believed that this was due to psychological issues that Sweed had as a result of his on the field failures.

The Steelers, clearly did not count on Sweed making a rebound, resigning Antwaan Randle El and drafting Emmanuel Sanders in the 2010 draft’s third round.

Undeterred, Sweed started a new, switched numbers, and prepared to fight for a starting job.

Unfortunately disaster, it appears, has struck again for Sweed, as both the Post-Gazette and ESPN.com are reporting that Sweed injured his Achilles tendon during the Steelers 2010 mini-camp.

An Achilles tendon injury is one of the most serious injuries that an athlete can face, particularly a wide receiver. The severity of the injury is not yet known, but he did leave the Steelers complex on the South Side on crutches.

Anything other than a mild injury would certainly end Sweed’s year and could easily jeopardize his career.

Steelers Sign Detemetrius Taylor, Other Rookie Free Agents

It happened almost a week ago, but the Steelers completed their off season roster by signing the 2010 group of rookie free agents who will vie with draft picks and veterans for roster spots at St. Vincents.

The 2010 undrafted rookie free agent class includes:

Dorrian Brooks, Guard, James Madison University, 6’2”, 306 lbs
Justin Thornton, Safety, Kansas, 6’1”, 213 lbs
Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith, Safety, UTEP, 6’2”, 210
Kyle Jolly, Offensive Tackle, North Carolina, 6’6”, 300
Lindsey Witten, Defensive End, Connecticut, 6’4”, 249 lbs.
Cordarrow Thompson, Defensive Tackle, Virginia Tech, , 6’2”, 301 lbs.
Detemetrius Taylor, Fullback, Virginia Tech 273 lbs.

Who is the Next Pro Bowler?

Rookie free agent signings for most NFL teams are ho-hum affairs. But Kevin Colbert and his scouting team have a well-deserved reputation for finding steals among the players who did not get drafted.

James Harrison, Willie Parker, and Nate Washington all started Super Bowl XLIII after joining the Steelers as unrestricted free agents.

And while no one is ready to declare him a Pro Bowler, 2009 rookie free agent Ramon Foster bypassed draft picks and veterans to become the team’s top back up at guard.

The most interesting pick up of course, is Detemetrius Taylor. The former, 273 pound defensive lineman from Virginia Tech is vying for a spot as the team’s only fullback.

This might seem like an odd move, but credit Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert for creative thinking. There’s very little risk involved, but plenty of upside if the move works out.