Steelers Lose Frank “The Tank” Summers

Perhaps some things are just not meant to be.

The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Frank “The Tank” Summers in the 5th round of the 2009NFL draft to great fanfare.

Summers made the squad despite arguably being out-preformed by 2009’s training camp sensation Isaac “Redzone” Redman. Summers played in two games, starting one as the team’s fullback, but he looked lost.

After the Steelers loss to Chicago, Summers went on IR with what at the time appeared to be a mysterious back injury, but the injury was later corroborated by media reports of surgery.

Summers returned to training camp in 2010, where many suggested that despite his size he was miscast as a full back, that he should have been used as a conventional running.

Regardless, it was Isaac Redman’s chance to turn the tables, as Redman made the team, relegating Summers to the practice squad.

Summers neither attracted interest while on the waiver wire nor while on the Steelers practice squad, but the San Diego Chargers signed Summers, where he’ll get a chance to compete for a slot on their 2011 roster – assuming there is a 2011 season.

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Steelers Make Cuts: Logan in, Redman, Davis, Madison Waived

The Steelers got down to their 53 man roster today, and there were some surprises. Former CFL star and special teams stand out Stefan Logan made the team, but undrafted rookie free agent Isaac Redman wasn’t so lucky. Nor were running back Carey Davis, cornerback Anthony Madison, or 2008 third round pick Bruce Davis.

Or Were They?

Earlier today the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette reported the information above, yet the team has made no official announcements, and other media outlets are reporting that the Steelers are attempting keep their final cuts secret.

The Post-Gazette later informed that these cuts were not offical, but one can trust Ed Bouchette and Gerry Dulac’s journalistic sleuthing skills.

Tomlin to Attempt Deception and Misdirection?

Perhaps the only element of mystery is weather Mike Tomlin will have a change of heart, as he does not need to report the cuts to the league until tomorrow. The more likely scenario is that he wants to keep his options open should trade opportunities arise.

In addition to the players mentioned above, the Post Gazette reports that 2009 7th round pick Sonny Harris got his release as well as fellow seventh round pick A.O. Shipley. Linebacker Donavan Woods and defensive lineman Scott Paxton were also cut.

The team will apparently come to an injury settlement with running back Carey Davis.

A third round pick in 2008 out of UCLA, Bruce Davis has disappointed, and apparently lost a roster sport oft injured but always scrappy linebacker Arnold Harrison.

Steel Curtain Rising’s “Curtain’s Call” Starts at .500 as Summers Makes the Team

Last night Steel Curtain Rising introduced “Curtain’s Call” and went .500. “Curtain’s Call” correctly predicted that Stefan Logan had made the team (as did the rest of Steelers Nation), but “Cutain’s Call” was way off on Redman and Summers, predicting that Issac Redman would make the team and Summers would be cut.

Ed Bouchette reported that Frank “the Tank” Summers, although only getting one carry, ran hard, and also impressed with his ability as a run blocking fullback.

Ryan Mundy, another player who made a splash last night, also made the team. Mundy was a 6th round draft pick in 2008 who was waived in an injury settlement last year, but later returned to the practice squad. Mundy gives the Steelers some youth at the back up safety position, where Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark’s primary back up is Tyrone Carter who is 33 years old.

There has been no news about the fate of defensive back Roy Lewis, one of last summer’s stand out undrafted free agents. Lewis made the 2008 practice squad and spent time on the regular season roster. Mike Tomlin repeatedly praised him for his “position flexibility” last year, but Lewis name has been seldom heard this summer.

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Steelers Put Darnell Stapleton on IR, Cut Four Others

The Steelers made their first mandatory roster cuts today, and while there were no surprises among those released, another move is causing heads to turn.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that the Steelers waived center Alex Stepanovich, wide receivers Martin Nance and Steven Black and safety Derrick Richardson. They also placed guard/center Darnell Stapleton on injured reserve, making him ineligible to play for the entire 2009 season.

Why Put Stapleton on IR?

Darnell Stapleton was signed as an unrestricted free agent by the Steelers following the 2007 draft. He made the team, only dressed but did play during the Steelers playoff loss to the the Jacksonville Jaguars.

His development continued and he made the team in 2008 as a back up at guard. Stapleton was thrust into the starting line up during the Baltimore game when Kendall Simmons was lost for the year.

He started for the remained of the year on the Steelers oft maligned offensive line, but improved along with the rest of the unit, which ultimately contributed to the Steelers victory in Super Bowl XLIII.

While some expected Stapleton to be pushed for playing time in camp, coaches viewed him as a player on the rise, both a guard, and at center, where he figured to be the top back up to Justin Hartwig.

In fact, Stapleton started training camp at center due to an injury to Hartwig, but stopped practicing early in camp due to a knee injury. He had surgery which the team declared a success, and was expected to be game-ready in a matter of weeks.

Injury Worse than Expected? Or Did Darnell Disappoint?

It is impossible to know if Stapleton’s injury was worse than reported, but the cases of Marvel Smith and Ben Roethlisberger last year suggest that the Steelers are capable of being coy about injuries.

Regardless, placing Stapelton on IR deprives the Steelers of an experienced back up on the offensive line, an area where the team his little depth.

One could also speculate that Stapelton’s development had stalled, as it was reported that Trai Essex would continue as the starter at right guard regardless of whether Stapelton recovered on schedule or not. While this is plausible, it is also unlikely, as Stapelton did practice enough to disappoint.

Vote of Confidence for Ramon Foster?

Another explanation is that this move marks a vote of confidence in guard Ramon Foster. Foster signed after the draft as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Tennessee, and has impressed coaches to the point where he has generally been seen as out playing this year’s third round pick Kraig Urbik.

All of this is speculation at this point, more will certainly be known as the week evolves.

Steelers Sign Brett Keisel to a Five Year Deal

The other big news is that the Steelers have signed starting left defensive end Brett Keisel to a five year contract extension. Steel Curtain Rising will discuss the move and its implications at greater length later this week.

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Steelers Lose to Redskins 17-13; Starters Look Strong

The Washington Redskins defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-13 in tonight’s pre-season match up in Landover, Maryland. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was held out of the game as a precaution, but the team scored a touchdown with the first team offense under the direction of Charlie Batch.

The Steelers first string defense held tight in an early goal-line stand, and Redskins starting quarterback only completed one pass out of seven throws.

Dixon Plays Well But Is Injured

Dennis Dixon also put in another solid night of work, completing 8 passes and rushing three times for 20 yards. Dixon however, was forced to leave the game with a shoulder injury. The severity of the injury is not known, but it did give fourth string quarterback Mike Riley a chance to play and he completed 2 of 5 passes, and ran for 25 yards on two scrambles.

Mendenhall Has Better Night, Stefan Logan Shines as Kick Returner

Rasshard Mendenhall carried five times gaining 26 yards, which was a significant statistical improvement over his effort against the Phoenix Cardinals in the Steelers first preseason game.

Former CFL running back Stefan Logan got his opportunity to showcase his talents. Logan returned four kickoffs for 157 yards, for an impressive average of 39.3 yards per return. He also returned four punts for 48 yards, giving him a 12 yard average.

Unquestionably a long shot to make the team, Pittsburgh’s two beat reporters have diverged sharply on just how realistic of a chance Logan has. It would seem like Logan improved his chances this evening.

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Steelers Training Camp 2009: Unasked Questions

Steelers training camp is in its second week, and we know the drill. a little more than a week old

12 months ago when the Steelers assembled in Latrobe for Camp Tomlin II, they did so under a cloud of questions, about special teams, about their defense, about their running game, and about Mike Tomlin himself.

What a difference one year makes.

The Steelers are now defending Super Bowl Champions. They had the number 1 defense last year and Pittsburgh’s toughness and tenacity in 2008 was second to none. And no one questions Mike Tomlin.

Like every team, the Steelers enter training camp questions to answer. Will this group of Steelers avoid a Super Bowl hangover? Can the offensive line sustain its 2008 gains? What, if anything, will the front office do about players set to become free agents?

These issues have been discussed to death, so Steel Curtain Rising chips its two cents in, but the main focus of this post is on the unasked questions that the Steelers face this summer in Latrobe.

Questions like, is there any discontinuity in the philosophies between Mike Tomlin and Bruce Arians? What is Carey Davis’ Role? Will this be that year that the Steelers day 2 draft slip ups come back to haunt them?

We’ll dive into these questions after quickly commenting on the others.

“You’re judged not so much on how you deal with failure, but how you deal with success.” – Mike Tomlin, during his first year as coach, reflecting on his post-Super Bowl experience in Tampa Bay

Success can breed complacency; Tomlin knows this and set the tone accordingly.

Not 24 hours removed from winning Super Bowl XLIII, Tomlin relegated the 2008 squad to the past, banished the word “repeat,” and declared 2009 to be a new year, with a new team, with a renewed goal to win Lombardi Number Seven.

Mike Tomlin’s good fortune brings him 20+ Super Bowl XL veterans. These men lived through 2006’s 2-6 start, struggle to finish 8-8 and, perhaps worst of all, both drubbings from the Ravens.

  • The Steelers may falter in 2009, but don’t bet on compliancy being a cause.

In 2008 the Offensive Line Gained, Now Can It Sustain?

Two facts were lost in the late season clamor to declare the Steelers offensive line as failure.

  • This was a line that was rebuilt in training camp, and then rebuilt again at mid-season.
  • The line did improve during the latter part of 2008.

While progress can carry over from season to season, this is not guaranteed. While the line’s work in Latrobe is important, they won’t face any real tests until the regular season, and then we will know if Larry Zierlein succeded in building upon 2008’s foundation.

What About the 2010 Free Agents?

Include Jeff Reed, and at least six Steelers starters can become free agents come March 2010.

Losing any one would be a blow. All of them? A disaster.

A bigger disaster would have been losing James Harrison, Max Starks, Hines Ward and Heath Miller, whom the Steelers resigned this year.

  • This story has legs, and Steel Curtain Rising will say more later as time allows. But for now, just remember that the Steelers will have options come 2010.

Is There a Clash of Philosophies Between Mike Tomlin and Bruce Arians?

Perhaps this question isn’t being asked for a good reason. Perhaps there is no controversy. Winning Super Bowls tends to overshadow a lot of disagreements.

The fact remains that the Steelers struggled in short yardage situations last year. In Arians defense, a big reason for these struggles is that the Steelers offensive line could not support a power running game.

Mike Tomlin also responded to Willie Parker’s complaints about the team’s running game by pointing out that the Steelers had Super Bowl titles, not rushing titles.

Still, Tomlin left little doubt that he was not happy with the team’s running game late in the season.

Whether this question gets asked depends in large part on the development of the offensive line and Rassard Mendenhall, as the early returns indicate the Steelers air game will continue to fly.

  • If Parker stays healthy, Mendenhall improves, and the line is better but offensive consistency still eludes the Steelers, it is going to be interesting to watch how Tomlin reacts.

What in the World is Carey Davis’ Role?

OK… asked or unasked, this is not a burning question. Fair enough. But what IS Cary Davis’ role with the team. One of Bruce Arian’s first acts as offensive coordinator in 2007 was to phase out full back Dan Krieder in favor of Carey Davis.

Coaches argued that what Davis gave up in blocking ability he made up for in rushing and pass catching ability.

In 2007, Davis had 17 carries and 12 catches. In 2008, with Willie Parker hurt much of the time and Mendenhall out for most of the season, Carey Davis’s production dropped to 12 carries and 5 receptions.

When the Steelers cut Gary Russell, Steel Curtain Rising asked why Russell and not Davis. OK, non-football reasons drove the Steelers decision to cut Russell, but this doesn’t obscure the fact that Davis’ role with the team seems to be shrinking, not growing as Sean McHugh serves as their primary full back (when the use one). Mewelde Moore is a far more accomplished number 3 back.

Cary Davis has guys like Hank “the Tank” Johnson, Stefan Logan, and Isaac Redman behind him.

  • At age 28, the 2009 camp could bring Carey Davis’ “now or never” moment.

Will the Steelers mistakes on draft day number #2 come back to haunt them?

Kevin Colbert, Bill Cowher, and Mike Tomlin have done an excellent job on day one of the draft. For evidence look no further than Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII.

The 2008 draft did little, if anything to help the Steelers get Lombardi Number Six, and hence the focus on the development of that group this summer in Latrobe.

But Colbert Record on day two has not been as stellar.

The Steelers very well might have the oldest defensive line in the NFL, and picks like Ryan McBean, Orien Harris, Shuan Nua, and Eric Taylor contribute to this distinction.

The Steelers secondary is younger, and features a smart mix of accomplished veterans and enticing potential. That is good, but Pittsburgh might not need to bank so much on untested potential had guys like Anthony Smith and Ricardo Colclough stepped up.

Looking at it another way, 2004 draft picks Ben Roethlisberger and Max Starks are entering the primes of their careers. These are the only two guys from that group that have made a name for themselves in the NFL.

The same can be said for the 2006 draft. Santonio Holmes came into his own in the 2008 playoffs and Willie Colon has been OK, and still has an upside. But aside from Anthony Smith and Willie Reid, even the most avid Steelers fan is likely to read the rest of 2006 draft roster and ask, who?

No one is talking about this, in part because the 2007 draft is delivering results, and because, there is little that can be done. But it’s a legitimate question.

In a sense, the question is being asked every time someone brings up the Steelers 2010 free agent class. The Steelers would have more options had an up and comer, or even a could be up and comer, to step into Hampton, Kiesel, or Clark’s shoes. That they don’t can be traced, at least in part, to disappointments on day two of the draft.

  • At the end of the day however, barring injury the impact of this probably won’t be felt until 2010.

Thanks for visiting Steel Curtain Rising. Thinking of other “unasked questions” for training camp 2009? Leave a comment and let us know.

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The Case of Rashard Mendenhall

Looking at the numbers, the Steelers 2008 first round draft pick did not have a good night in his first action since being injured last year against Baltimore.

Rashard Mendenhall didn’t play much. But on 9 carries he only ran for 24 yards, leaving him a 2.7 yard average, with his longest run coming in at 7 yards.

Yet, Post-Gazette Columnist Ron Cook declared that Mendenhall “Ran hard” and then quoted Mike Tomlin as saying “I thought he made some nice runs.”

The Danger of Judging a Game by Statistics

ESPN.Deportes did not show the game in Buenos Aires, where Steel Curtain Rising is based. Hence the observation that Mendenhall’s performance might be an “Ominous Sign” was born solely out of the numbers.

But numbers can be misleading.

That’s where you come in. A good number of you reading this saw the game, and undoubtedly saw Mendenhall run.

So we turn it over to you.

What can we make of Mendenhall’s performance against Arizona in the preseason? Is there cause for concern, or did he look pretty good in spite of the 2.7 yard per carry average. Or perhaps its simply too early to tell.

Leave a comment and let us know what you think.

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Isaac Redman “Stars” as Steelers Top Cardinals 20-10 in Preseason Rematch

The Steelers and the Cardinals met again tonight for the second time in six months. Last the stake was nothing less than the Super Bowl, this time, it was, nothing….

The Steelers were successful in their first exhibition season. Not because they scored more points, although that is always nice, but because they appear to have avoided major injury.

According to, the star of the show was undrafted rookie free agent Isaac Redman, who scored twice in late 4th quarter goal-line situations. ESPN reports that Redman not shyed away from taking on the Steelers All-Pro linebacking corps, and further informs that he scored in two goal line drills in training camp.

The drive was set up by an interception return by rookie corner Joe Burnett, who picked off a Brian St. Pierre pass and returned it to the three, setting up Redman’s first touchdown.

Third string quarterback Dennis Dixon, who for the record was 10-19 for 112 on the night, later led an 80 yard drive that resulted in another Redman touchdown.

Mendenhall’s Performance and Ominous Sign?

In what could perhaps be an ominous sign, 2008 first round selection Rashard Mendenhall started the game, but was held to 24 yards on 9 carries which amounts to a 2.7 yard average.

Isaac Who?

With Willie Parker, Mendenhall, Mewelde Moore, and Cary Davis ahead of him, Isaac Redman would figure to be a long shot to make the team. But the former stand out from Bowie State in Maryland does have precedent on his side.

Steelers Director of Football Operatioin Kevin Colbert has shown a penchant for finding undrafted free agents who bud into NFL stars, Willie Parker and James Harrison being only two of many.


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Watch Tower: Stefan Logan Generating Contrasting Assessments from the Press

If all dreams come true for at least a day during the NFL draft, then training camp is the groggy between sleep and waking when some dreams fade and others come into focus.

It gets interesting when seasoned journalists contrast sharply over who is fading and who is shining.

And that is not only true for draft picks, and new comer Stefan Logan gift wrapped the perfect example this week.

Logan was a CFL stand out at running back and as kick returner who signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent shortly after the 2009 draft.

For the record, Steel Curtain Rising knew and still knows nothing about Logan, so like most of the rest of Steelers Nation we depend entirely on the professionals.

But in whom to place your trust when it comes to making such judgments?

Ah, that is the complicated question.

Bouchette vs. Brown

This week the two beat writers from both of Pittsburgh’s dailies went head-to-head (in a manner of speaking) over Stefan Logan.

Ed Bouchette entered the fray first during his weekly Tuesday chat. Here’s the exchange:

Viz-Burgh: Ed, what’s the word on Stefan Logan? Saw he was activated from PUP yesterday AM & practiced, but then heard he missed the afternoon. Did he practice this AM? Any word on him?
Ed Bouchette: Logan looks like a guy headed for the cut list.

A day or so later, Scotty Brown of the Tribune-Review weighed with his assessment of Logan in his “From the Press Box” feature:

His ability to make the kind of exaggerated cuts you see in video games earned Stefan Logan the nickname “Joystick” last season while he was tearing it up inthe CFL.

It drew “oohs” and “aahs” from fans today at St. Vincent College as Logan showcased the kind of burst and shiftiness that may allow him to play his way onto the Steelers as a kickoff returner/receiver/running back….

Logan is just 5-foot-6 and 180 pounds but he is already showing the kind of toughness he needs if he wants to stick with the Steelers. Put on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list last Friday because of a mid-foot sprain, Foster [sic] started practicing Monday.

Contrasting opinions do not get any clearer.

Bouchette commands a certain respect as the dean of the Steelers press corps, but Scott Brown has shown a knack for hustling for the story.

Either way, it will be interesting to see how this turns out.

In the meantime, if any of you have seen Logan in action in the CFL or on Chuck Noll field at St. Vincents, feel free to share your views by leaving a comment.

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Miller, Polamalu, Stapelton Begin Training Camp with Minor Injuries

Two days after announcing Heath Miller had signed a 31 million dollar contract, the Steelers revealed the tight end had a sports hernia and will be limited at the start of training camp.

Mike Tomlin also revealed that safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback Deshea Townsend are nursing hamstring injuries. Justin Hartwig and Darnell Stapelton round out the veterans on the injury report, Hartwig with a toe and Stapleton with swelling in his knee.

New comer Stefan Logan, a running back signed from the CFL, will begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin downplays the seriousness of these injuries, insisting that he is being prudent.

Steel Curtain Rising openly questioned Tomlin’s cautious approach a year ago in training camp. As mentioned in our annual Goofs Column, Tomlin clearly knew what he was doing. Following the Steelers weak finish in 2007, Tomlin altered his practice and training camp plans and succeeded in keeping the Steelers fresh for their Super Bowl run in 2008.

Suffice to say, in 2009 Steel Curtain Rising will neither question nor criticize Mike Tomlin should he continue to make liberal use of the injury list while the Steelers are camped at St. Vincent.

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