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mesaSteeler
02-01-2010, 08:01 PM
Junker: Time for the Steelers to make tough decisions
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_665059.html#
By Guy Junker
FOR THE PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Monday, February 1, 2010

There is one football game remaining and the book closes on another NFL season, even if it closed on the Steelers months ago during a dreadful five game losing streak to some of the worst teams in the league.

To prevent similar misery next year the Steelers now must decide which free agents they need to keep, to try to keep, and to allow to leave. Take out sentiment and consider the cold, hard facts that include age, ability, and cash -- but mostly cash. An uncapped season doesn't suddenly mean every player will be kept and paid what they want.

Most important is to find a way to sign nose tackle Casey Hampton. To play the 3-4 defense well, you must have a dominant nose tackle. Hampton is still dominant. He made the pro bowl. Coach Mike Tomlin's eyes light up when you ask him to assess the season Hampton had. But he is going to be 33 by the time the regular season starts, will always struggle with his weight and could drop off the chart quickly. The franchise tag is the way to go here even though Hampton doesn't want it and says he was promised they won't do that.

It only ties him up for one year and if he were playing with the hopes of a big free agent contract after that he certainly would keep in top shape. It makes perfect business and football sense. Chris Hoke has always played well in Hampton's place, but he's not young either. If Hampton goes, they could probably do fine with Hoke for a year but would have to make the position a priority in the draft.

The other must-sign unrestricted free agent is Jeff Reed. Have you watched kickers in the playoffs? Wow, what a mess. Reed is money in the bank inside the 50 and is especially good at Heinz Field with its notoriously bad field condition and swirling winds. In a season like this past one where the Steelers offense struggled in the red zone, he is a great insurance policy.

Critics point out his short kickoffs. All I know is that two seasons ago the Steelers were at the top of the NFL in kick coverage and Reed was kicking then as well. Look back at some of those returns that killed the Steelers this past season. Directional kicks inside the 10 yard line and near the sideline should not be returned for touchdowns. He's worth the trade off. Place kickers in football are like closers in baseball. There aren't enough good ones for every team to have one. The Steelers have one and should keep him.

If those are the only two unrestricted players the Steelers sign, so be it. But they probably need to find a way to sign either cornerback Deshea Townsend or safety Ryan Clark. Their secondary struggled and even with the return of Troy Polamalu they are still thin back there.

On paper they have more depth at cornerback after drafting Joe Burnett and Keenan Lewis last year although both would qualify as disappointments. If both Townsend and Clark leave there would be a lot of holes to fill. Clark would be more expensive but would also provide more service time and safety is the thinner of the two spots. He will be 31 in the fall but Townsend will be 35.

Then there is running back Willie Parker. Who wants to see this guy leave from a sentimental standpoint? He has the longest run in Super Bowl history. He has the Steelers single game record for most rushing yards. He has a great personality and was a terrific story as he became one of the most productive backs in the NFL after hardly playing at all in college.

But it's time to let him go. He hasn't been the same since he broke his leg against the Rams while he was leading the league in rushing late in the season in 2007. There is already a young player ahead of him on the depth chart, Rashard Mendenhall, and Parker wants a chance to start again. That combination tells you it just isn't going to work out here for fast Willie.

Those are the five biggest decisions the Steelers have to make soon. Offensive tackle Willie Colon is an unrestricted free agent (unless a new cba is suddenly negotiated) and that should make dealing with his situation more cut-and-dried. Basically they are young and talented on offense and old and talented on defense. That makes it difficult to tear that defense apart and rebuild. Phe window hasn't closed on this group yet as a Super Bowl contender, providing they make some good decisions in both free agency and the draft.

Guy Junker can be reached at guy@gopgh.com or .


Images and text copyright 2010 by The Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
Reprodu

Northside Jonny
02-01-2010, 08:17 PM
I think Junk is right on the money here . Sad to see willie go but at this point a good move . I also must agree with tagging Casey this will make him stay in shape if he wants that big contract at 34. I am kind of worried if we do tag him he will fake the injury for a season. I would like to see them keep Colon he is probably one of the best two lineman on the team . Good article thanks Mesa.

DoubleYoi
02-01-2010, 09:13 PM
I think Junk is right on the money here . Sad to see willie go but at this point a good move . I also must agree with tagging Casey this will make him stay in shape if he wants that big contract at 34. I am kind of worried if we do tag him he will fake the injury for a season. I would like to see them keep Colon he is probably one of the best two lineman on the team . Good article thanks Mesa.

I'm not sure faking an injury would be a wise move for Big Snack. An injury at his age would put some doubt in the minds of any GM looking to pick him up, especially after being put on the PUP list in training camp last year. I know he rebounded nicely (as he always has) from a lazy training camp but giving it all you got is stil the best way to prove you're worth a big contract.

mesaSteeler
02-01-2010, 09:13 PM
I think Junk is right on the money here . Sad to see willie go but at this point a good move . I also must agree with tagging Casey this will make him stay in shape if he wants that big contract at 34. I am kind of worried if we do tag him he will fake the injury for a season. I would like to see them keep Colon he is probably one of the best two lineman on the team . Good article thanks Mesa.

You are most welcome.

Northside Jonny
02-01-2010, 10:19 PM
I'm not sure faking an injury would be a wise move for Big Snack. An injury at his age would put some doubt in the minds of any GM looking to pick him up, especially after being put on the PUP list in training camp last year. I know he rebounded nicely (as he always has) from a lazy training camp but giving it all you got is stil the best way to prove you're worth a big contract.

Yeah I guess all teams spend there money wisely right. You now guys that own teams like the Lions , Raiders , Browns , Bills . He won't care bout winning anymore and i guarentee that some dumbass owner would give him the cash. He will be another in a long line who leave the steelers past there prime for more money and you never hear of em again.

steelerdude15
02-01-2010, 11:12 PM
I def. believe keeping Reed would be good, especially after watching the playoffs this year. Even though he can't kick as far as he used to, he can still kick an great field goal. We could invest into another kicker for the kickoffs. I hope Hampton stays cause he's a big part of our defense, he's a leader, he's important, and he's been a Steeler his whole NFL life. I don't mind if Clark and Townsend leave, they're both older now and just aren't as productive as they use to be. I really don't want to see Willie go, he's been a great back, but he is older now and his run is coming to an end soon.

steeltheone
02-01-2010, 11:35 PM
I just don't like the idea of having a starting DL with the ages of 32 33 34. One of them needs to go so Hood gets all the reps.

Galax Steeler
02-02-2010, 06:27 AM
I just don't like the idea of having a starting DL with the ages of 32 33 34. One of them needs to go so Hood gets all the reps.

Agreed Hood needs to be in the starting lineup somewhere. I would love to see him in there on every play.

El-Gonzo Jackson
02-02-2010, 11:37 AM
Hood is gonna rotate in with Keisel and Smith to keep them fresh. I think this is the final year on Smith's contract, so 2011 should be Hood's year to start by default. Still going to have to draft D line this year to add depth or find a free agent.

I think Hampton is a must to re sign. I dont think D linemen or O linemen suddenly losing a step in their 30's is an issue. Look at guys like Sam Adams, Ted Washington, Kimo VonOlhoffen, Brentson Buckner, Aaron Smith, etc. If Hamp gets a 4 year deal, that would work out fine.

steelreserve
02-02-2010, 01:26 PM
Then there is running back Willie Parker. Who wants to see this guy leave from a sentimental standpoint?

Obviously, this guy has never heard my thoughts on the subject. Finally getting that dingbat out of the starting lineup helped our offense roughly as much as drafting another Pro Bowler. Letting him walk is a no-brainer.

I think we've got to keep Clark if we want to be serious about returning the secondary to respectability. Hampton is a must-sign, but if he wants a ridiculous deal ... really? That's precisely what the franchise tag is for.

Reed can stay or go, I really couldn't care less. Townsend would be nice to have around for his experience, but it really is time to start finding some new guys.

WeegiesWarriors
02-02-2010, 02:53 PM
Hampton being franchised is a cancer waiting to happen. Guaranteed.

steelreserve
02-02-2010, 03:55 PM
Hampton being franchised is a cancer waiting to happen. Guaranteed.

Yeah, and Hampton leaving as a free agent is a shitty defense waiting to happen.

I'll take the cancer any day, thanks, and hope that winning counteracts any bitching and moaning -- which it has a way of doing.

A better situation would be that we just use the franchise tag to give him and his agent the dickslapping they need to come up with a realistic contract, not some ego-fed absurdity where they carry all the money out in a wheelbarrow.

Prok
02-02-2010, 04:17 PM
Yeah, and Hampton leaving as a free agent is a shitty defense waiting to happen.

I'll take the cancer any day, thanks, and hope that winning counteracts any bitching and moaning -- which it has a way of doing.

A better situation would be that we just use the franchise tag to give him and his agent the dickslapping they need to come up with a realistic contract, not some ego-fed absurdity where they carry all the money out in a wheelbarrow.

Which is why I'm pretty convinced we go NT/DT in round 1. I just hope like hell we don't have to pass up that stud shut-down corner because we HAVE to have the NT.

I got a buddy who is really high on Dan Williams DT from Tenn. Say's he would be a great fit for us.

markymarc
02-03-2010, 11:38 AM
IMO there are only 2 must signs on that list and they are Casey Hampton and Jeff Reed. While it would be nice to bring back Ryan Clark in 2010, I think he will want too much money. Plus he was very exposed this season with the loss of Troy.

See you later Willie and Deshea. Thanks for everything, but it's time to move on. We need to get younger on defense and that's why you let Deshea and TC walk!