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05-04-2009, 09:10 PM
Timmons next up for Pittsburgh
May 4, 2009 5:37 PM

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

The Pittsburgh Steelers officially released linebacker Larry Foote, the team announced Monday evening. As a result, the Steelers lose a veteran but will get to take Foote's $2.885 million salary off their cap.

This also means it's time for 2007 first-round pick Lawrence Timmons to make the jump to being a full-time starter. The coaching staff was preparing Timmons the past two years for this moment as he gradually took playing time from Foote. That is what caused Foote to want out of Pittsburgh in the first place.

There was a chance Timmons would have unseated Foote if the two had an open competition in training camp. But Monday's release puts an end to the speculation.

Now Timmons has a much bigger role in Pittsburgh's title defense. He has shown many flashes but never had the opportunity to prove he can be a consistent football player -- until now.

Pittsburgh Steelers, AFC North, Larry Foote, Lawrence Timmons


# Pittsburgh Steelers starting defensive end Brett Keisel told the AFC North blog this weekend that there have been no contract discussions with the team to date. This likely means Keisel will go into the 2009 season playing out the final year of his deal. He joins an impressive list of 2010 free agents for the Steelers, which also includes defensive tackle Casey Hampton, safety Ryan Clark, tailback Willie Parker and left tackle Max Starks.


Can Steelers avoid repeat of '06?

May 4, 2009 1:00 PM

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

PITTSBURGH -- Mention the year 2006 in the locker room of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the veterans generally cringe.

"Crazy," Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said.

"The guys still on this team from '05 remember how it felt in '06," added cornerback Ike Taylor.

Even quarterback Ben Roethlisberger admitted it was his toughest year "physically, mentally and emotionally."

Immediately after the Steelers won their fifth Super Bowl title that February, everything quickly unraveled.

* Team leader and future Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis announced his retirement.
* Former head coach Bill Cowher entered the final year of his contract, immediately starting year-long speculation of his retirement.
* Roethlisberger got into a motorcycle accident that summer, causing multiple injuries. He missed the regular-season opener and wasn't the same player once he returned.
* The Steelers started their title defense 2-6 on their way to an 8-8 finish.

Simply put, the 2006 Steelers provided a blueprint of how not to defend a Super Bowl title.

As we fast forward to 2009, the Steelers are in the same position as a more mature team. Pittsburgh defeated the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII last February for its NFL-record sixth championship and an opportunity to win back-to-back championships in Pittsburgh for the first time in two decades.

In order to have a chance, the Steelers need to avoid the same issues, distractions, and complacency that haunted them just three years ago.

"You can always be hungry, but once you eat or feel you did everything that you can do, the hunger kind of goes," Taylor explained. "So now we have to take it to the next step ... When you get past hungry, you have to get greedy."

It takes a greedy team to win back-to-back championships. In the past 10 years, only one group -- the 2003-04 New England Patriots -- was able to maintain enough focus and resolve to pull off this feat.

During last weekend's minicamp, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin elaborated on Taylor's statement and the team's approach for 2009.

"I prefer to use the word driven," Tomlin said. "I view hunger as something that can be satisfied, whereas driven is not. Driven is an irresistible and sometimes irrational urge to do an act, which is pursue greatness, which is what we're trying to do."

A fighting chance

In hindsight, it was easy to see why the 2006 Steelers never had a fighting chance to repeat as Super Bowl champions. Two of the biggest figures in the organization -- the quarterback and head coach -- were in the midst of turmoil.

Roethlisberger's motorcycle accident changed the makeup of the team not only physically but emotionally. A case can be made that, in addition to the player, the team never recovered that season.
The Quest to Repeat
Three of the past seven reigning champions failed to make the playoffs, including the 2006 Pittsburgh Steelers.
Year Champion Record
Following Year
2001 New England* 9-7
2002 Tampa Bay* 7-9
2003 New England 14-2
2004 New England 10-6
2005 Pittsburgh* 8-8
2006 Indianapolis 13-3
2007 N.Y. Giants 12-4
2008 Pittsburgh ???
* Didn't make the playoffs the following year.

"All of our focus went from winning the Super Bowl to [Roethlisberger's injury] and wanting him to heal," said Keisel, who is one of Roethlisberger's best friends on the team.

Roethlisberger generally doesn't like reflecting on his accident. But when asked what he could do differently during this title defense, Roethlisberger was candid.

"I'm going to try to avoid offseason injuries; that's what it was for me," Roethlisberger said. "We had a bull's-eye on our chest as a team. But we will be all right. We will come in and see how things go."

As the team got off to a slow start, Cowher's situation also increasingly became the elephant in the locker room. The longtime coach spent 15 seasons in Pittsburgh, and toward the end of 2006 everyone knew the end of an era was forthcoming.

So far, this year's team has avoided major distractions.

Roethlisberger says he's 100 percent healthy. Tomlin is firmly entrenched as Pittsburgh's head coach. And the team will return at least 20 of its 22 starters from last season.

The Steelers lost cornerback Bryant McFadden in free agency, and starting linebacker Larry Foote was the only no-show for Pittsburgh's minicamp and wants to be released because of a reduced role with the team.

The Steelers took Foote's situation in stride last weekend as well as the fact that many key veterans are in the final year of their contracts. Players such as defensive tackle Casey Hampton, tight end Heath Miller, safety Ryan Clark and tailback Willie Parker are set to become free agents in 2010, but not before this current group gets to make another run at the title.

Team of the decade?

The Steelers are chasing a lot of history this fall.

With another championship, it would mark Pittsburgh's third title in five seasons and cement its status as an NFL dynasty. A trio of titles also would spark a heated debate between the Patriots and Steelers for team of the decade, as these organizations would hold six of the past nine Lombardi trophies. Both teams have future Hall of Famers, outstanding coaching and franchise quarterbacks who are the consummate winners.

But if 2006 is any indication, the Steelers can ill-afford to look ahead to the "dynasty" conversation. Every Super Bowl champion begins the following year with a new set of challenges in order to stay on top.

"It's our main goal," Keisel said of winning another Super Bowl. "It's what we want, and it's what we're striving for. It's the focus starting now.

"[Tomlin] put that in front of all of us at our team meeting and making it evident. We understand we're not going to win the Super Bowl this week. But at the same time, he wants us out every day when we're making our decisions thinking, 'Is this going to help us win a championship?'"

Pittsburgh Steelers, Mike Tomlin, AFC North, Super Bowl, NFL, minicamp, Brett Keisel, Ben Roethlisberger, Ike Taylor, Larry Foote, Willie Parker, Heath Miller, Bill Cowher, Ryan Clark, Casey Hampton, Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots

Sort comments by: Most Recent | First Posted

Galax Steeler
05-05-2009, 03:34 AM
They left Heath Miller off of the list of free agents after 2010 and that is the main one.

Steelers & I
05-05-2009, 05:30 AM
They left Heath Miller off of the list of free agents after 2010 and that is the main one.

The Steelers took Foote's situation in stride last weekend as well as the fact that many key veterans are in the final year of their contracts. Players such as defensive tackle Casey Hampton, tight end Heath Miller, safety Ryan Clark and tailback Willie Parker are set to become free agents in 2010, but not before this current group gets to make another run at the title.

If you ask me, they're all important. I'm already resigned to the fact that the Steelers are going to lose more than a couple of key players after next season. That's just how it goes in todays NFL. I'm glad that I don't have to make the decisions on who's signed and who's let go.

05-05-2009, 12:44 PM

As I take one last scan through my notes from the Steelers' minicamp, I noticed several things I didn't get to over the weekend.

Therefore, here are some final notes and observations:

The Steelers have a lot of kick returners and punt returners in camp this year, as several drafted rookies also have that type of versatility. Of course, not everyone is going to make the team. But if Pittsburgh doesn't have a decent return game this year, it won't be for its lack of trying.
Pittsburgh starting tight end Heath Miller said he's not worried about entering the final year of his contract and won't let it distract his play this season. Miller said he's "hopeful" to remain a Steeler beyond 2009, whether a deal gets done before or after the season.
As I was interviewing Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel about Pittsburgh's 2006 season, he provided some good perspective that didn't make it into the story.
"I think this team has enough veterans on it, where we know how to prepare, we know how to come into camp and we know it's starting fresh," Keisel said. "When you win a Super Bowl, you know you're going to get everyone's best shot. Everyone wants to beat the champs, and we understand that."

Rookie receiver Mike Wallace looks fast -- really fast. I cannot say for certain that he has "football speed" once everyone puts the pads on. But in shorts, I cannot recall seeing a faster player last weekend on the practice field.
The Steelers have two weeks off before returning for Organized Team Activities (OTAs) on May 19.

Sounds good!

05-05-2009, 04:11 PM
I believe Timmons was going to take Foote's job in training camp.

Foote is a smart player with a lot of experience in a 3-4. We could see him sign with any of the teams making the transition to the 3-4 defense.

As for Keisel, I think he will be resigned. He's not going to get big money (3-4 DE's normally don't), and it's going to be more of a rotation starting at some point this season when Hood gets acclimated to the 3-4 DE job.

Tomlin isn't going to let 2006 happen again. He's not going anywhere, and he still has that fire. Cowher seemed satisfied with his career after winning that Super Bowl. Tomlin wants to win multiple Super Bowls.

Not to mention, Big Ben isn't going to take on a car windshield with his face this offseason. So we're not going to have a letdown from our quarterback.

05-05-2009, 05:09 PM
Can't wait to see last year's draft class blow our f'ing minds!

05-05-2009, 06:05 PM
I just know that I love everything that I am hearing from the Steelers star players. I know that things happen unexpectedly alot of times and we never know what is gonna happen at anytime, but I dont see this team letting their guards down and not making a serious run at no. 7 in '09. Tomlin is the kind of coach that is not gonna let this team down and I also think that Ben has learned a valuable lesson on being the defending super bowl champs and he will be a more productive QB for that reason. If this offensive line gels and plays better this season its gonna have to be scary for opponents.