´ Steel Curtain Rising: June 2010

Why Did the Steelers Lose to Tampa

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Willie Colon Out for Season, Chris Scott Hurt Too

In The Inferno, Dante describes 9 rings of hell. And with each passing month of what has been a hellish off season, the Steelers seem to descend a level deeper into another ring….

Today an MRI and surgery confirmed the Steelers worst fears: Starting right tackle Willie Colon will miss the entire 2010 season due to an Achilles tendon tear.

None of this took Steelers Nation by surprise, but the news about Colon came with an additional bitter pill. Chris Scott, the Steelers fifth round draft pick in the 2010 NFL draft, broke his foot while working out at the University of Tennessee, and also had surgery.

Scott, who signed his rookie contract less than two weeks ago, may have been a candidate to replace Willie Colon, instead he will miss all of preseason and training camp….

Flozell Adams Among Potential Replacements for Colon

ESPN.com first rumored the story, and the Tribune Review has now confirmed it. The Pittsburgh Steelers have already worked out former Dallas Cowboy starting left tackle.

Adams entered the league in 1998 and has played in five Pro Bowls. The fact that Cowboys let him go rather than pay him a hefty roster bonus, despite the fact that this is an uncapped year, is telling.

But bringing Adams to the Steelers would give them a body, something they need.

Ramon Foster, the standout from the 2009 rookie free agent class, could also be moved to tackle and apparently 2009 third round draft pick Kraig Urbik could also move from guard to tackle.

So apparently the Steelers have some quantity of options to consider. It remains to be seen if that quantity can translate into quality.

No Love for Tony Hills

Yesterday Steel Curtain Rising mentioned potential replacements for Colon, focusing on Trai Essex and Jonathan Scott. Also mentioned was Tony Hills but interestingly, although not surprisingly, Hills name barely, or never, came up in other discussion boards, fan sites and blogs.

During his rookie training camp, Jim Wexell speculated that Tony Hills might bud into another John Jackson. Instead he has not even made himself into an after thought in the collective mind of Steelers Nation when a major injury occurs at his position....

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Willie Colon Injures Achilles Tendon – Worst is Feared

It has been written here before and, if trends continue we will be forced to write it again: Art Rooney II has to be wondering and wish that he can still wake up and find that the Steelers 2010 off season is just some bad dream.

Steelers Nation got another bout of dark news today as the site Scout.com broke the news that starting right tackle Willie Colon injured his Achilles tendon.

The Steelers have confirmed the injury, but are not ready to comment on its severity. However, the Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac is reporting that NFL.com has already announced that Colon has a torn Achilles tendon, and injury that would end his 2010 season.

This is not only the second injury, but the second torn Achilles tendon injury to hit the Steelers in their, to borrow Queen Elizabeth II’s parlance, “offseason horribilis.”

Essex to Fill the Void?

Steel Curtain Rising will reflect on the implications of Colon’s misfortune in greater depth once the full extend of his injury is known. But at this juncture one stark reality stands out:

  • The Steelers have suffered a devastating injury at the position where they are the thinnest.

At least in terms of quantity, if not quality, the Steelers have decent depth at most positions on the roster, but offensive tackle is not one of them.

Behind starters Willie Colon and Max Starks the Steelers have Tony Hills, their 4th round draft pick from 2008 who has yet to dress for, let alone play in, a game, Chris Scott who was their fifth round selection in the 2010 draft, and Jonathan Scott, whom they signed from the Bills in free agency.

Scott, Jonahtan that is, came off the bench to start 8 games for the Bills last year and is said to have serviceable but far from spectacular skills. He now could be a candidate to replace Colon.

The most likely scenario would see Trai Essex moving from right guard to right tackle. Essex has experience playing at tackle, getting work there as early as his rookie year in 2005.

He came off the bench to start at left tackle after injuries felled both Marvel Smith and Max Starks at the end of the 2007 season, and acquitted himself well.

In 2008 he was the first man off of the bench when Smith was lost again against Jacksonville, although the Jaguar defenders threw him aside like a rag doll en route to Ben Roethlisberger. No heads were scratched when Starks started the next game.

Still, if the Steelers could do a lot better than Essex at right tackle, they could probably manage to do worse, for whatever that is worth.

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Steelers 2008 and 1979 Super Bowl Champions Compared

ESPN.com is running a division-by-division “best ever series” at the moment, and their take on the AFC North provided some interesting food for thought.

James Walker, who covers the AFC North for ESPN, selects the Steelers 1975 team as the best ever.

Personally I would lean toward the 1978 team because it was the most complete – Rocky and Franco could still dominate on the ground and Bradshaw struck deep to Lynn Swann and John Stallworth downfield. On the defensive side of the ball, the 1975 version of the Steel Curtain was stronger, but the 1978 Steelers defense was still the best in the game.

But Walker makes strong arguments for the 1975 teams, and I have no reason to quibble.

The bigger issue is the honorable mentions that get tacked on at the end. Each team in the series gets one “Best” plus three honorable mentions. Walker awards honorable mentions (in order) to the Steelers XIII, XIV, and IX, and Super Bowl Squads.

But he mentions nary a word about the Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII.

And that is a mistake.

Ranking the Steelers Super Bowls

Any ranking of the Steelers Super Bowl squads has got to list either Super Bowl X or Super Bowl XIII as one and two. It really is that simple.

And there’s a strong argument for ranking the Super Bowl IX squad number three, if for no other reason that this was a group with a dominate defense, a crushing running game, and this group of Steelers was only broaching the heights of its greatness.

But who comes in fourth is a more difficult question.

Walker ranks the XIV squad 3rd, and while winning the fourth Super Bowl was impressive, why does it get automatic preference over the two more recent Super Bowls?

Most in Steelers Nation will probably rank the 2005 Super Bowl XL team last in the group. If forced to rate them, that is probably the rating I would give them. And perhaps that is a mistake, as that team had a championship caliber defense matched by a balanced offense. It also won 4 straight road playoff games to get its Lombardi.

Rightly or wrongly, even if you ignore all of Mike Holmgren’s sour graping about the officiating, the Steelers Super Bowl XL squad will suffer from the fact that they neither put on a dominate nor dramatic performance in the big game itself.

I invite any reader who wishes to advocate on behalf of the Steelers Super Bowl XL squad to leave a comment stating their arguments.

I’ll concentrate on making the case for the 2008 Steelers.

The 2008 Steelers vs. the 1979 Steelers

First, why rank the 1979 team below the 1974 team?

In addition to the reason cited above, the 1974 Steelers vanquished the Oakland Radiers, a fellow Super Bowl Champion from that era, en route to the title game and then defeated the perennial Super Bowl contender Vikings, and their Purple People Eater defense, in the Super Bowl itself.

The 1979 Steelers squad has no similar victories notching its belt. Certainly, Bum Philips and Earl Campbell were formidable opponents, and the Rams were a good team from that era, but neither could be considered as great.

It is impossible to compare teams from different eras with 100% objectivity, but any analysis must begin with a look at the players.

The 1979 team had nine Hall of Famers. How many potential Hall of Famers did the 2008 team have? Troy Polamalu, hopefully Hines Ward, and perhaps Ben Roethlisberger assuming he keeps his pants on. And on the surface, that should settle the argument right there.

But many of the Steelers future Hall of Famers were already in decline in 1979. Like the 2008 team they finished their regular season with a 12-4 record, and like the 2008 Steelers, they followed up their Super Bowl victory finishing 9-7.

But the 2008 Steelers played one of the toughest schedules in league history. They did so after weathering a blistering series of injuries that ravaged their offensive line and forced them to start their fourth string running back in the season defining week 5 contest against Jacksonville.

And if the 2008 Steelers lacked the dynastic quality of their 1979 forbearers, that is a simple function of the era in which they play. The 2008 Steelers had their backs pressed to the wall so many times during the year, and each and every time they responded.

Vince Ferragamo came off the bench to play a phenomenal game for the LA Rams that day in Pasadena, but no one will ever confuse him with Kurt Warner, and Ferragamo had nothing on the order of a Larry Fitzgerald at his disposal.

The 1979 Steelers were a great team. But the 2008 Steelers deserve to be considered a notch higher when establishing a pecking order among the Steelers Super Bowl Champions.

But this is just the opinion of one voice in Steelers Nation. All who have a different take are welcome to leave a comment and voice their views. Let the debate begin.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Steelers Hold Camp in Mexico – Argentina Next?

As chronicled last week in the Post-Gazette’s Blog ‘N Gold, Behind the Steel Curtain, and Steelers.com, the Pittsburgh Steelers became the first NFL football team to hold a camp for fans down in Mexico.

As a member of Steelers Nation living abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, anything brings the Steelers closer to Latin America is worthy of excitement.

To sum up the story, Ziggy Hood, Keenan Lewis, Mike Wallace, and Daniel Sepúlveda traveled to Mexico City to put on a clinic that drew 500 kids in addition about 1000 spectators.

¿How Big Is This?

Getting 1500 people to show up for a Steelers event might not seem like much, but it is. While the attention of sports fans in the US has long been divided between individual sports like tennis and golf and "the big four" team sports, here in Latin America soccer has occupied most of the latter space all for itself. Moreover, the the World Cup is being played (which is kind of like March Madness, the Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup Finals, and NBA finals -- all at once), and Mexico is doing well

None of that stopped Mexico’s first lady Margarita Zavala, who was in South Africa for the World Cup, from traveling across the ocean to attend. That should give you an idea of how big this is.

The Steelers have long been popular in Mexico – remember how the Black and Gold dominated the 85,000 who were on hand at Azteca Stadium for the preseason game in 2000 against the Colts, but their decision to put on a camp in Mexico amounts to an important milestone.

Steelers Sites in Mexico

One of the good things to come out of this is the fact that so many Steelers groups in Mexico are getting good publicity out of this. This site has drawn a huge number of visitors from Mexico, and if the statistics from Google Analytics are at all reliable, these visitors come back regularly.

¡Muchas gracias a mis quierdos lectores de Mexico! ¡Les agredezco su apoyo y lealtad!

Just a little research reveals that there are several Steelers sites written in Mexico, including:

http://www.steelers.com.mx/
http://boixnoixacererosmexico.com/
http://www.steelersmexico.com.mx/
http://foro.steelers.com.mx/index.php

Doubtlessly there are more, and that is where you come in. If you know of any other Spanish language or Latin American-based Steelers sites, please share them by leaving a comment.

Hombres de Acero en Argentina

Is the title suggests, there is a Steelers following here in Argentina. The NFL is not very popular down here, and for awhile Direct TV only provided one third of the NFL Sunday Ticket (not a good way to achieve market penetration, let me tell you), although hopefully the efforts of the Argentine American Football Association have made that a thing of the past.

When I first moved to Buenos Aires in 2001 I founded and proclaimed myself President of the Pittsburgh Steelers Fan Club of Buenos Aires.

Thus far we have an inactive vice President (a great guy, but running your own business is demanding), and another, more active member whom I met while watching Super Bowl XLIII.

So if you are a Steelers fan in Buenos Aries, make your presence known and let’s see if we can generate come momentum for the Black and Gold down on the opposite end of Latin America.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Steelers Sign Chris Scott and Crezon Bulter

The Steelers continue to rapidly close in on their goal of getting all draft picks signed prior to the team’s commencement of training camp in Latrobe, PA on July 30th.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has reported that the Steelers came to terms with Chris Scott, an offensive tackle out of Tennessee and friend of 2009 rookie free agent Ramon Foster, and Crezdon Bulter, a cornerback out of Clemson.

Scott was their first pick in the fifth round, and comes to the Steelers with 39 collegiate starts under his belt. Butler, who was their second fifth round pick, started 40 games and pulled down 11 interceptions for the Tigers.

Both men signed three year contracts and agreed to play for the rookie minimum. To clear roster room the Steelers cut rookie free agent Da’Mon Cormartie Smith.

Focus Now on Pouncy and Worilds

The Steelers still have yet to come to terms with their top two draft picks, first round pick center Maurkice Pouncey and second round pick linebacker Jason Worilds.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Steelers Sign Stevenson Sylvester, Jonathan Dwyer, and Antonio Brown

Rumors may about as to whether the Steelers is not and/or will not enter into negotiations to extend Mike Tomlin’s contract before training camp, but the front office is certainly focused on getting the draft picks signed before the Steelers arrive in Latrobe on July 30th.

Last week the Steelers reached agreements with Doug Worthington and Thaddeus Gibbons, their 4th and 7th round picks, respectively, and yesterday they signed Emmanuel Sanders, one of their third round picks.

Today the Steelers announced that they had consummated two more deals.

Linebacker Stevenson Sylvester, whom the Steelers took with their third fifth round selection, signed with the team today. Sylvester played his college ball for the University of Utah, where he captained the team for two-years, won defensive MVP honors during the 2009 Poinsettia Bowl, and made the first-all-MWC team.

The Steelers picked Jonathan Dwyer, who played at Georgia Tech, with the first of their two sixth-round picks. Many draft observers were surprised that Dwyer fell so far in the draft, some commenting that he should have been a first or second round pick. Looking at his college resume, it is easy to see why.

Dwyer won first-all-ACC team honors for effort in his final two collegiate seasons. As a sophomore he led his team with 1,395 yards rushing and he earned the conference's Offensive Player of the Year award, which also qualified him for All-America status. During his junior year campaign he equaled his 2008 total running for 1,395 yards on 235 attempts, which stands as Georgia Tech’s the fourth-best rushing total in school history.

The Steelers second selection was Antonio Brown, who played at Central Michigan and was the school’s all-time reception leader. With several wide outs ahead of him, Brown’s best shot to make the team is probably special teams, and last year he won his second consecutive MAC Special Teams Player of the Year award, as he also earned first-team all-MAC honors as both a receiver and punt returner.

The Steelers will not converge on St. Vincent for more than a month, but the team already has locked down six of their 10 draft picks.

Making Room on the Roster

The Steelers have been above the NFL’s off season roster limit for sometime, which has not been a problem as draft picks do not count until they sign.

To make way for their draft picks the Steelers released wide receiver Jason Chery, kicker Piotr Czech, linebacker Derrick Doggett, punter Adam Graessle, nose tackle Cordarrow Thompson, center Bradley Vierling and cornerback Trae Williams.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Steelers Sign Emmanuel Sanders

Omar Kahn, Kevin Colbert and Art Rooney II are not resting on their laurels following Steelers OTAs.

They closed last week by signing 7th and 4th round picks Doug Worthington and Thaddus Gibbons and they opened this week by signing third round pick Emmanuel Sanders, whom they selected in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Sanders will enter camp with an eye toward wresting the third wide receiver slot and his main competition aims to be Antwaan Randle El, who rejoined the team this off season after spending the past four seasons with the Washington Redskins.

Emmanuel Sanders selection caught some draft veterans by surprise, as he is a little on the small size, but he impressed Steelers coaches with his hustle and work ethic.

Victory for Twitter

Those who want to stay up to date with the latest in Steelers news should stay tuned to Twitter, as that is where Sanders broke the news himself.

Yours truly discovered the news on Behind the Steel Curtain, and verified it on Steelers Depot, which linked to Sanders Twitter feed.

The truly interesting thing about this is that Twitter allowed these two fan-based sites to beat the Pros to the punch. As of 8:15 Eastern on Monday the 14th, neither the Post-Gazette, the Tribune Review, nor ESPN.com were reporting the news. (Cue Aaron Copeland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.”)

The 1989 Pittsburgh Steelers

The 1989 Steelers inspired like no other non-Super Bowl Steelers team. The pundits never gave this group a chance, while true fans always knew in their gut that this team had something special.

True to form the 1989 Steelers flirted with oblivion and teased championship greatness – all in one season.

Steel Curtain Rising paid homage to those men last season, chronicling their efforts week in and week out, allowing readers to discover or relive one Steelers Nation's less frequently told stories.

Steel Curtain Rising now brings you entire 1989 Pittsburgh Steelers series on one page.

Each link below takes you to a story on the 1989 Steelers, starting with the Steelers 1989 draft and running all the way through the St. Valentine’s day disaster – aka Chuck Noll’s hire of Joe Walton in February 1990.

At anytime you can click on the 1989 Steelers tag to access all of the stories at once.*

Enjoy

The 1989 Pittsburgh Steelers at a Glance:

Gems Amidst the Fools Gold: The 1989 Steelers Draft

Latrobe 1989: Prelude to the Emperor’s Last Hurrah

Why Remember the 1989 Steelers?

Browns Pulverize ’89 Steelers 51-0 on Opening Day

Bengals Trash ’89 Steelers in 41-10

Vultures Circle Three Rivers as Steelers Start 1989 Season 92-10

1989 Steelers Shock Vikings, NFL, 27-14

Barry Who? ’89 Steelers Shut Down Rookie Barry Sanders in 23-3 Victory at Detroit

So Close, Yet So Far: ’89 Steelers Tease Upset then Fall to James Brooks and the Bengals

Revenge is Best Served Brown! Steelers Grab First Win at Cleveland since 1981

Bristerless Steelers Blanked in the House of Pain, 27-0

Dramatic Goal Line Stand Seals ’89 Steelers Victory over Kansas City

Broncos Bounce Steelers 34-7 in Mile High

1989 Steelers Shut Out for the Third Time by Bears, Appear Done for Year

’89 Steelers Surge to the Playoffs Begins: Special Teams Spark Victory over San Diego

Splish, Splash, ’89 Steelers Give Miami a Bath

Pete Axehelm’s Video Tribute to the AFC Central

Oilers Get 4th Time Out, Sweep Steelers in Regular Season

Steelers Shut Out Jets – The NFL Discovers Greg Lloyd

Patriots are Road Kill on the ’89 Steelers Surge Toward Playoffs

1989 Steelers Defeat Tampa Bay Finish 9-7, Make Playoffs!

Steelers Shock the World, Upset Houston Oilers in the House of Pain

Merril Hoge Shines, But the Steelers Fall Short in Denver, 24-23

The St. Valentine’s Day Disaster: Chuck Noll Hires Joe Walton

* The Steelers 1989 Season tag displays all stories in the series, with the most recently published on top, so you’ll need scroll around.

Thanks for visting. Click here for Steel Curtain Rising's take on what the Steelers are doing today.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Steelers Sign Gibson, Worthington

Omar Kahn and the Steelers contract negotiation team netted a pair of Buckeyes, as fourth round pick linebacker Thaddeus Gibson and seventh round pick defensive lineman Doug Worthington came to terms with the team.

Worthington has been practicing with the team at the Steelers OTA’s (Organized Team Workouts) by virtue of the fact that he has graduated. Gibson has not been able to join the Steelers for OTA’s because the NFL does not allow rookies to practice in the spring until their class graduates. Gibbons did, however, attend the Steelers mini camp, as permitted by NFL rules.

With the first two picks in the fold, the Steelers will now focus their attention on signing their remaing eight picks from the 2010 NFL draft.

Coup for Steelers Depot

The news of the Gibson and Worthington signings amounts as a minor coup for the website Steelers Depot. They reported the news on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, and their report was picked up by Behind the Steel Curtain.

Nonetheless, the Post-Gazette did not run the story until today, with Ed Bouchette even questioning the reports of the signings on PG Plus blog this morning.

Hat’s off to Steelers Depot for scoring the scoop.

Watch Tower: Steelers OTAs End – Tomlin’s Contract Status Moves to Center Stage

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has two years remaining on the contract he signed in 2007. The Steelers unofficial policy has been to renew the contract with their head coach at exactly this point.

With the off season heading into the home stretch Tomlin neither has an extension, nor have any reports surfaced that the two sides are negotiating towards one.

Readers of the Post-Gazette and Tribune Review can be excused if they’ve concluded that Tomlin’s non-extension is a done deal.

Tomlin may very well not get that extension before the regular season begins, but until that happens Steelers Nation should be skeptical of reports to that effect.

Idle Speculation from the Steel City?

As Steelers OTA’s drew to a close, attention early in the week, before the news of the Roethlisberger DVD’s and TV interviews broke, began focusing on Tomlin’s contract status.

First to weigh in was the Tribune Review’s John Harris.

As Steel Curtain Rising has suggested before, John Harris either has a bone to pick with Mike Tomlin or else he knows he can generate page views by chopping the youngest Super Bowl Champion coach off at the knees.

Harris takes a more level tone with Tomlin this time around, both extolling Tomlin’s record while stoking doubts about Tomlin.

Reasons why he doubts the Steelers will sign Tomlin to an extension are as follows:

  • They didn’t extend his contract after Super Bowl XLIII
  • Larry Foote and Bryant McFadden returned after having lost starting jobs under Tomlin
  • Art II’s edict to improve the running game and some supposed philosophical difference that have emerged with Dick LeBeau

Harris’ observations are reasonable but can none the less be answered, as seen below

  • The Steelers have clear and well-established contract negotiation policies, there is no reason to think they would deviate from them following Super Bowl XLIII
  • Tomlin did not want to lose Foote and McFadden in the first place
  • LeBeau and Tomlin have twice had the number one defense working together
  • And Tomlin may already be grooming Randy Fichtner as Arians’ replacement with his decision to promote Fichtner to quarterback’s coach

All of this amounts nothing more than speculation, which puts Steel Curtain Rising on par with John Harris, as the erstwhile sports editor of the Tribune-Review reports no new news, nor does he cite any on the record or off the record sources “close to Tomlin, the Steelers, an agent, or even a South Side dog catcher who claims to be privy to an inside scoop.”

That’s a shame, because Steel Curtain Rising is 6,000 miles away from the story whereas Harris sits in the middle of Pittsburgh surrounded by sources….

What to Make of "Lack of Talk about Talks"?

Tomlin’s contract status gets more interesting as it was also a hot topic in Ed Bouchette’s weekly chat.

When asked about negotiations a few weeks ago Bouchette reminded readers that there was still plenty of time and that he expected a deal to get done.

This week he was far less sure, indicating to several questioners (including 3 from this author) that he now doubted a deal. Bouchette did not offer any affirmative reports to back that up, but rather he based his belief on the lack of talk about talks.

Attentive fans in Steelers Nation should perk up their ears when Bouchette changes his tune like this. He knows the Steelers organization through and through. He and Gerry Dulac have been right several times this season while others have been wrong.

But while Bouchette’s comments about Tomlin’s prospects for a contract renewal command a healthy respect, no one should accept them as Gospel.

Bouchette gets the goods, but he’s missed the boat on Steelers contract negotiations several times in recent years.

In 2008 he opined that no contract extensions would be reached because the Steelers ownership restructuring was consuming that attention of the Rooneys.

In the 2009 season he repeatedly his belief that the Steelers would not resign Max Starks to a long-term deal

  • Starks inked a four year extension in June.

Also during the 2009 off season, Bouchette indicated that the Health Miller resigning would be the team’s last move prior to the season

And, on the eve of free agency 2010, Bouchette not only told his readers not to expect much, he put his money where his mouth was and headed off to vacation

Ed Bouchette is a great reporter with fabulous sources, but few of them, it would seem, are involved in contract negotiations.

The more interesting question of course is, should the Steelers extend Mike Tomlin’s contract?

Steel Curtain Rising will be sounding off on that soon, so stay tuned.

For more media analysis of the Steelers press coverage, see Steel Curtain Rising’s Watch Tower.