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Hawaii 5-0 03-17-2013 12:06 PM

Starkey: Steelers taking unfair hits
Starkey: Steelers taking unfair hits

By Joe Starkey
Published: Saturday, March 16, 2013

Fiscal negligence? Is that what the Steelers are being accused of?

How ridiculous.

How incredibly unfair.

Contrary to what the new order of revisionist Steeler historians are telling you, this franchise has deftly navigated the salary cap over the past decade. Its decision-makers brilliantly have combined a win-now philosophy with a willingness to part with still-productive players.

Why did they keep the core largely intact?

Because it was winning, silly!

The Steelers were in the Super Bowl three years ago. They were a botched series (home Baltimore game) away from a first-round bye in 2011. They were thick in the race last winter when a preposterous spate of injuries sabotaged their season. They haven't had a losing season since 2003.

And it's not like they've avoided tough financial decisions, parting with the likes of Joey Porter, Alan Faneca, Chris Hope, Plaxico Burress and now James Harrison.

In cases where prospective free agents were unwilling to accept less than what they could get on the open market, the Steelers simply said goodbye. Mike Wallace is a good example. He was going to chase every penny. I don't blame him, but the Steelers weren't going to play that game with a receiver.

They were going to have to make a decision between Wallace and Antonio Brown at some point — just as they did between Burress and Hines Ward — and chose Brown when it became clear Wallace was going for the gold.

The revisionists' most popular complaint is that the Steelers have been operating with too much of a credit card mentality, pushing debt into the future by way of restructured contracts instead of paying as they went along.

I hear it all the time …

“That's why they're up against the cap!” (as if that isn't the case most years).

“That's why they can't sign any big free agents!” (as if they ever do).

“That's why they can't sign some of their own best players!” (see above: it's happened before).

Listen to these people long enough, and you'd think Howard Baldwin was running the Steelers.

So tell me, revisionists, which contract should the Steelers not have signed? Whose deal should they not have restructured? Who should they have parted with earlier? Which difficult decision did they avoid and thus mortgage their future?

Willie Colon's $29 million deal might look terrible now, but how could anyone have predicted his body would fall apart?

What makes this offseason unusual is the departure of players in their mid-20s — and I believe the Steelers should have made an effort to sign cornerback Keenan Lewis. I'm not sure why they didn't. But it's not like some previous decision cost them a chance. They clearly could have afforded Lewis if they had so desired.

As for restructuring contracts, the Steelers have been incredibly selective. They have almost exclusively selected younger players who figure to be around, not players who will continue to eat cap space long after they're gone.

The issue isn't cap management. It's player procurement. If the Steelers have opened themselves to criticism, it's in the draft room, not the boardroom.

The way this franchise does business, it must hit consistently in the draft. It is supposed to have people ready to replace its departed. That has been the blueprint all along, but you look now and wonder who's next at various positions.

Willie Parker begat Rashard Mendenhall. Who replaces Mendenhall, who didn't make it to a second contract?

Joey Porter begat James Harrison (a lucky find as an undrafted free agent). Who replaces Harrison? The jury is very much out on Jason Worilds.

Santonio Holmes begat Wallace. Who replaces Wallace?

Aaron Smith led to Ziggy Hood, just as Brett Keisel will lead to Cam Heyward. Can Hood and Heyward make good as first-round picks?

Next season is very much a referendum on the drafting work of Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin. It's time for recent draft picks to show themselves. We'll see if David DeCastro, Mike Adams, Marcus Gilbert, Worilds, Hood, Heyward, Cortez Allen and others pass the test.

The Steelers' recent drafting prowess is absolutely up for debate. Their fiscal intelligence is not.

Every fan base in sports wants to win now. For the Steelers, “now” has lasted the better part of 12 years.

Consider yourselves lucky.

steeltheone 03-17-2013 12:15 PM

Re: Starkey: Steelers taking unfair hits
It's a great article...Most of our problems have stemmed from a winning core. There were a few players that should have been let go earlier but overall how can you complain about all winning seasons since 03"

Fire Haley 03-17-2013 01:11 PM

Re: Starkey: Steelers taking unfair hits
plug them holes

Aaron Smith led to Ziggy Hood

how sad is that?

Ziggy should never even be mentioned in the same sentence as Aaron Smith

Hawaii 5-0 03-18-2013 02:03 AM

Re: Starkey: Steelers taking unfair hits
Colbert: Team has 'wants,' not 'needs'

Bob Labriola
Steelers Digest

The Steelers roster has undergone a lot of change since their 2012 NFL season ended in a disappointing 8-8 non-playoff season, and in a January interview General Manager Kevin Colbert forecast as much. “Again, if we don’t change 8-8, and we don’t change the roster that produced 8-8,” said Colbert at the time, “we’d be silly to expect a better result if we have the same group of guys.”

It’s now mid-March, and the Steelers have experienced change. James Harrison was cut after he and the team could not come to an agreement on an adjusted salary for 2013. Rashard Mendenhall (Arizona) and Keenan Lewis (New Orleans) and Mike Wallace (Miami) exercised their rights as unrestricted free agents and have signed with other teams. This is not to indicate Harrison, Lewis, Mendenhall, and Wallace were the culprits in last season’s 8-8, now should it be taken to mean Colbert sees these departures as positives. But it does represent change, and change was necessary.

“You could obviously say that we lost starters and some starters have left us,” said Colbert from Phoenix as the NFL convened there on Sunday for its annual spring meetings. “To this point we re-signed one starter and that would be Ramon Foster. Of course, Greg Warren is our starting long-sapper, and we’ve tried to add some complimentary pieces. We are still evolving as a roster, and I don’t think that part of it will be completely done until we get through the draft and the college free agents. There’s still time in free agency to make moves, and the draft will provide the final pieces that we’re going to put back together with the roster.

“Only time will tell,” added Colbert when asked to assess how this will impact the team’s record in 2013. “We’ll see where that goes. You could also argue that we lost pieces from an 8-8 team. So, can we get better? We hope. Had we re-signed folks, we were hoping to be better but now that we didn’t we have to find replacements, again, via free agency or the draft. We hope that we ultimnately are a better team.”

One of the reported changes was Emmanuel Sanders signing an offer sheet as a restricted free agent with the New England Patriots. Had that happened, the Steelers would have had seven days to match the Patriots offer or lose Sanders to New England and receive its third-round pick in this upcoming draft. Colbert said the Steelers have not received a signed offer sheet from the Patriots so far, nor do they have any knowledge that one is on the way.

But even if Sanders is to present the Steelers with a signed offer sheet some time before the April 19 deadline to do so, and even if the team would fail to match and end up losing him to go along with the others already gone, Colbert maintains the team won’t panic.

“We’ll wait to see what fits. If a player makes sense, if we think he’s a better player and we can make it fit financially, then we’ll investigate,” said Colbert. “There are really no limitations on looking for other guys.”

Recently, the Steelers have gone looking for familiarity. William Gay was brought back to fortify the depth chart at cornerback, and the same applies to Matt Spaeth at tight end, and Plaxico Burress at wide receiver. None of those signings necessarily mean the Steelers are satisfied now with those areas of their roster, Colbert said, just as none of the departures from those areas necessarily mean the team believes it needs to add to them.

“I don’t like to use the word ‘need,’” said Colbert. “I never did. I never will. It’s going to be ‘wants.’ We don’t know yet. We don’t know until we get through free agency. We’re going to continue to monitor every guy who’s available. There might be some (free agents) we didn’t think we had a chance (to sign) and all of a sudden the market changes and it becomes a discussion. We’re not going to lock in on one position, or prioritize one position over another. If there’s a player available in free agency who can make us better in whatever way he can do it, then we’ve got to look at him. It’s the same thing with the draft. We’re never going to go in saying, ‘We have to have this position.’”

Colbert also responded to questions pertaining to a number of other areas of the roster and/or moves the Steelers have made so far this offseason.

On signing Bruce Gradkowski as a veteran backup quarterback, and whether it signals the end for Charlie Batch: “Bruce is a young, veteran backup. When I say young, I mean he still has some productive years, and it’s not a year-to-year proposition. We were hoping to get an experienced backup who not only knows the league but knows our division very well. Of course, he understands the tradition of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he wanted to be a part of that. There’s a lot of value in having a person like that in that role, as well. (As for Charlie Batch), we haven’t ruled anybody out at this point. As I said earlier, we still have to continue to put this thing together, and it won’t be finalized until we hit the 90-player mark after the draft.”

On what went wrong with Mendenhall in 2012: “Rashard had health issues. I still believe it takes players with an ACL injury a full year (to recover). They may come back before a year, but I still don’t think they are 100 percent until that full year is up. Obviously, we had Casey Hampton and we had a guy like Max Starks who started from Week 1, but they play different positions. Every player is different. Honestly, I don’t think (Mendenhall) ever quite got to the point where he was 100 percent as we’ve seen him before.”

On whether no Mendenhall means the Steelers need a franchise running back: “I think we need more production out of the running back position than we got last year. Of course, Jonathan Dwyer has signed his (restricted free agent) tender and he wants to join in the competition. Hopefully, Isaac Redman does the same and Baron Batch joins in as well.”

On 2013 free agency turning into a buyer’s market: “I honestly haven’t studied it that much. I don’t know if players aren’t happy with what’s available, or if teams are being more cautious. I honestly don’t know, because I haven’t spent a lot of time trying to analyze it, and we really won’t because you don’t have time until after the draft. You look back and see what the trends were. Maybe there is some significance to it. I just can’t pinpoint it yet.”

steeltheone 03-18-2013 03:42 AM

Re: Starkey: Steelers taking unfair hits

Originally Posted by Killer (Post 1093532)
plug them holes

Aaron Smith led to Ziggy Hood

how sad is that?

Ziggy should never even be mentioned in the same sentence as Aaron Smith

The Steeler's best year statistically against the run were with Hood in the lineup not Smith. Hood might not be a superstar but he is better than he gets credit for.

Fire Haley 03-18-2013 06:34 AM

Re: Starkey: Steelers taking unfair hits

Originally Posted by steeltheone (Post 1093733)
The Steeler's best year statistically against the run were with Hood in the lineup not Smith. .

more proof why stats are for losers

Being good against the run in a passing league isn't much good.

VaDave 03-18-2013 06:46 AM

Re: Starkey: Steelers taking unfair hits

Stats can be misleading. Just ask any statistician.

Please replay the KC game from last year, and focus on Hood, then let us know how well he plays. Trust me, it's a real eye opener in case you've not noticed before. 1st play from scrimmage, He not only gets knocked back 7 yards off the LOS, he was also pushed to the numbers on a one on on block. If you want an even better example, check out the season opener against Baltimore in 2011.

BowCatShot 03-18-2013 01:25 PM

Re: Starkey: Steelers taking unfair hits
What a bunch of crap. The Patriots have had winning season after winning season, haven't they? Then according to the twisted logic of this post they oughta be in salary cap hell also. Shouldn't they? But they're not. How is that possible?

wwhickok 03-18-2013 01:27 PM

Re: Starkey: Steelers taking unfair hits

Originally Posted by steeltheone (Post 1093733)
The Steeler's best year statistically against the run were with Hood in the lineup not Smith. Hood might not be a superstar but he is better than he gets credit for.

I dont care what the stats say, Hood is no Aaron Smith. Smith wasnt a 'statlong guy'. His ability benefited everyone, Hampton, the LBs, etc all were able to have bigger impacts because of how good and strong Smith was at the line. He may not have had the sacks and tackle #'s that Hood does/could but other people did, because of him.

harrison'samonster 03-18-2013 01:29 PM

Re: Starkey: Steelers taking unfair hits
Hood has had mixed results. that is a reason why people don't think he's that good. Look at the first Cincy game this year, if he can play more consistently like that then people will notice him more.

Like Steeltheone said, he's no superstar but he deserves some credit and hopefully this year he shows what he can be.

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