View Full Version : Steelers report: Inside slant

02-13-2011, 09:12 PM
Steelers report: Inside slant
The Sports Xchange
Feb. 13, 2011

Don't expect the Steelers to do much between now and March 3. In fact, they may do nothing other than get ready for the draft.

They have three starters who can become free agents in cornerback Ike Taylor, linebacker LaMarr Woodley and injured tackle Willie Colon. No one should be surprised if they sign none of them until a new CBA comes into place.

"We haven't talked about anything," director of football operations Kevin Colbert said regarding free agents last week. "There's nothing, really. All we're really worried about is that ... I have to keep draft preparations because I know that's going to happen."

The Steelers came close to winning their second Super Bowl in three years so no drastic changes are necessary. If and when free agency begins, they will make hardly a ripple in the talent pool available. The draft is again key to their success, which they always look at as long term and not shooting for the moon in any one year.

"We never try to attack this thing for any one given year," Colbert said. "The goal of the organization is to have a chance to compete every year. We (had) a chance this year. Beyond that we'll try to retool it and see where it stands --this team, this playoff run and then draft preparation. Where that will lead I don't know."

They must deal with those free agents and, if they lose them, go about replacing them. They also will continue to look at the age of some players, especially those on defense, where three of their top four linemen are well into their 30s and linebacker James Farrior is 36.

They will add a cornerback or two in the draft, no matter what happens to Ike Taylor.

On offense, they need to add more guards and tackles but that is their only issue on that side of the ball. They have a great quarterback, good running back and tight end and some outstanding young receivers who will only get better - Mike Wallace and rookies Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown to go with returning vet Hines Ward.

Pittsburgh should be as good next season as they were in the one that just concluded with them losing by six points in the Super Bowl. They might be even better with the return of injured players such as Aaron Smith, Harry Colon, Max Starks and having Ben Roethlisberger the entire season.

"I really think we learned a lot this year," Ward said. "The resiliency -- even falling down 21-3 (in the Super Bowl), a lot of teams would have thrown in the towel. But to come back in position to win spoke volumes.

"We know we have the guys here."

Nobody plans to retire, by the way. That includes Ward (36 next month), linebacker Farrior (36 last month) and Smith (36 in April).

"I love this group," Farrior said after the loss in the Super Bowl. "I think it is a heck of a group. There is a lot more football left in us. We just have to stay together. Hopefully, everything works out in the offseason and we get back here next season."

Steelers report: Strategy and personnel
The Sports Xchange
Feb. 13, 2011

Mike Tomlin has decided to keep both of his coordinators but must find a replacement for secondary coach Ray Horton, hired by Arizona as the Cardinals' defensive coordinator.

The Steelers have three starters who can become free agents and must decide what to do about them: Linebacker LaMarr Woodley, cornerback Ike Taylor and tackle Willie Colon. Kicker Shaun Suisham's contract also is up.


There have been reports that LaMarr Woodley expects to be "franchised" but the Steelers may be reluctant to do that, first of all because they do not want to pay him more than $10 million that would require in 2011. Woodley may just be too expensive for them and they did draft Jason Worilds on the second round last year as an outside linebacker and he could step in for Woodley if he leaves as a free agent.

That may be their only decision before March 4 because they are a team of patience and with no CBA it requires even more patience this year.


1. Cornerback: Ike Taylor can become a UFA but even if they re-sign him, they need at least one more good corner because they do not have another good corner and the good passing teams exploited that the past season, including Green Bay in the Super Bowl.

2. Offensive tackle: Their two starters both were hurt and had surgeries - Max Starks (neck) and Willie Colon (ruptured Achilles). If both return in good health, the need eases but there is no guarantee they will and Colon will be a UFA. Flozell Adams will turn 36 and he's due a $5 million salary. The others are not deemed competent fulltime starters.

3. Defensive line: Ziggy Hood, drafted in 2009, played well for injured Aaron Smith but the Steelers need to find another starter-in-waiting either for NT Casey Hampton, who will be 34 before the start of next season, or DE Brett Keisel, who will be 33.

4. Linebacker: LaMarr Woodley may leave as a UFA, which would leave his spot to rookie second-round pick Jason Worilds but they have no backups on the outside and James Harrison will be 33 in May. It's time to get another linebacker-in-waiting.

WR Hines Ward was to have surgery on his left knee to repair cartilage and his left thumb that was dislocated when a ligament tore. WR Emmanuel Sanders was to have surgery to repair a small broken bone in his foot. QB Ben Roethlisberger, who continued to wear a protective shoe on his broken right foot, will not have surgery and allow the foot to heal on its own. OTs Max Starks (neck surgery) and Willie Colon (Achilles surgery) continue to rehab. C Maurkice Pouncey (high ankle sprain) did not play in the Super Bowl but no surgery is necessary. DE Aaron Smith long ago completed rehab on surgery to repair torn triceps but never did play and must regain his strength in the arm.

Steelers report: Notes, quotes
The Sports Xchange
Feb. 13, 2011

Given their uncanny ability to draft, develop and advance players, the Pittsburgh Steelers rarely lose a veteran for whom they don't have a ready and able replacement, but the AFC champions might be out of luck in supplanting corner Ike Taylor if he departs via free agency.

Taylor's agent, Joel Segal, told The Sports Xchange this week that there have been "zero negotiations" to date and that he expects the eight-year veteran to be "a very hot guy" in free agency.

He might be right.

It could be time to break out of the closet those old, dusty, "I Like Ike" campaign buttons from the 1950s and polish 'em up.

Taylor has some of the poorest hands in the league among cornerbacks, and drops more than his share of would-be interceptions, but coaches, particularly defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, regard him highly. He is the closest thing Pittsburgh has to a "shut-down" cornerback and is a terrific fit for the Steelers' system, a guy who is rarely out of position in coverage and plays the run well.

Hard to say what the Steelers would do without Taylor, who will be an unrestricted free agent no matter the resolution of CBA discussions, and who seems destined to test the open market.

"I've been (in Pittsburgh) my whole career, and I'd like to finish with the Steelers," said Taylor, a fourth-round pick in 2003. "It's my home, and I really don't know anything else. But (stuff) happens, so we'll see."

Taylor signed a five-year, $22.5 million extension just before the start of the 2006 season, but that deal will expire, and it will likely cost the Steelers a lot more to keep him. Despite the success of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers in last week's title game, Taylor played pretty well in Super Bowl XLV. Rodgers clearly targeted corners Bryant McFadden and William Gay throughout the game. On one of the game's biggest plays, a third-and-10 completion to Greg Jennings up the seam, Taylor had excellent coverage, but Rodgers lofted the ball just over his finger tips.

Director of football operations Kevin Colbert acknowledged last week the Steelers are "definitely behind" on some negotiations, because of their appearance in the Super Bowl, but emphasized Taylor is a priority for the club. But the team is expected to use a franchise tag on linebacker LaMarr Woodley, so retaining Taylor could be a stretch.

As of Thursday night, there were no discussions planned as the Steelers, like many teams in the league, wait for CBA negotiations to play out.

Pittsburgh has drafted four cornerbacks the four years - Gay (fifth round, 2007), Keenan Lewis (third round, 2009), Joe Burnett (fifth round, 2009) and Crezdon Butler (fifth round, 2010) - and none seems ready enough yet to step in. Gay started 14 games in 2009, but was inadequate enough that the Steelers re-acquired McFadden in a trade. Gay is seen more as a nickel defender than a starter in the "base" defense. - Len Pasquarelli

--Four of the five Steelers' losses this season came to teams representing two-name cities: New Orleans, New England, New York and Green Bay. And, for the first time wearing their white jerseys in four Super Bowls, they lost.

--Troy Polamalu has been fingered as having done little in the Super Bowl to show he was defensive player of the year in 2011. But that looks more like a coaching decision to keep him deep and prevent the Packers from hitting the big pass play.

"When you spread out the offense the way they do," Polamalu said, "you're able to put somebody on one side of the field and just work on the opposite side of the field."

--Hines Ward mentioned that he could not watch any TV in the days after the Super Bowl because all it showed was Green Bay. The Steelers took the loss hard because no one on that team had ever lost in a Super Bowl - the only other one lost by Pittsburgh came 15 years earlier.

"I lost an AFC Championship Game one time and the pain was there for about four to six weeks," linebacker James Harrison said. "I don't know how long this is going to last but I hope it is over with fast."

--Ward was still bemoaning that final two-minute drive that started off with a 15-yard completion to Heath Miller and then a 5-yard completion to Ward. But after the catch by Ward, the confused Steelers wasted 30 seconds lining up for second down and it was followed by three consecutive incomplete passes to Mike Wallace.

"We were scrambling a little bit because we lost Emmanuel," coordinator Bruce Arians said regarding the broken foot to WR Emmanuel Sanders. "Guys were in a little bit different position and we lost a little bit of time to set up."

"He just told me it's not even an option so don't even think about it." - Hines Ward, on what coach Mike Tomlin told him about retiring.

02-13-2011, 09:36 PM
Lol, I love Tomlin, "It's not even an option so don't even think about it"

02-13-2011, 10:04 PM
Mike Tomlin has decided to keep both of his coordinators

Great, another year of Arians. :banging:

tony hipchest
02-13-2011, 10:28 PM
They might be even better with the return of injured players such as Aaron Smith, Harry Colon, Max Starks and having Ben Roethlisberger the entire season.

.please tell me this guy is just intentionally trying to be funny.

"harry colon"? :moon:

02-13-2011, 10:31 PM
Great, another year of Arians. :banging:

Maybe he retires, but he's probably got motivated to stay because of Lebeau