Steelers Hold Camp in Mexico – Argentina Next?

As chronicled last week in the Post-Gazette’s Blog ‘N Gold, Behind the Steel Curtain, and Steelers.com, the Pittsburgh Steelers became the first NFL football team to hold a camp for fans down in Mexico.

As a member of Steelers Nation living abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, anything brings the Steelers closer to Latin America is worthy of excitement.

To sum up the story, Ziggy Hood, Keenan Lewis, Mike Wallace, and Daniel Sepúlveda traveled to Mexico City to put on a clinic that drew 500 kids in addition about 1000 spectators.

¿How Big Is This?

Getting 1500 people to show up for a Steelers event might not seem like much, but it is. While the attention of sports fans in the US has long been divided between individual sports like tennis and golf and “the big four” team sports, here in Latin America soccer has occupied most of the latter space all for itself. Moreover, the the World Cup is being played (which is kind of like March Madness, the Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup Finals, and NBA finals — all at once), and Mexico is doing well

None of that stopped Mexico’s first lady Margarita Zavala, who was in South Africa for the World Cup, from traveling across the ocean to attend. That should give you an idea of how big this is.

The Steelers have long been popular in Mexico – remember how the Black and Gold dominated the 85,000 who were on hand at Azteca Stadium for the preseason game in 2000 against the Colts, but their decision to put on a camp in Mexico amounts to an important milestone.

Steelers Sites in Mexico

One of the good things to come out of this is the fact that so many Steelers groups in Mexico are getting good publicity out of this. This site has drawn a huge number of visitors from Mexico, and if the statistics from Google Analytics are at all reliable, these visitors come back regularly.

¡Muchas gracias a mis quierdos lectores de Mexico! ¡Les agredezco su apoyo y lealtad!

Just a little research reveals that there are several Steelers sites written in Mexico, including:

http://www.steelers.com.mx/
http://boixnoixacererosmexico.com/
http://www.steelersmexico.com.mx/
http://foro.steelers.com.mx/index.php

Doubtlessly there are more, and that is where you come in. If you know of any other Spanish language or Latin American-based Steelers sites, please share them by leaving a comment.

Hombres de Acero en Argentina

Is the title suggests, there is a Steelers following here in Argentina. The NFL is not very popular down here, and for awhile Direct TV only provided one third of the NFL Sunday Ticket (not a good way to achieve market penetration, let me tell you), although hopefully the efforts of the Argentine American Football Association have made that a thing of the past.

When I first moved to Buenos Aires in 2001 I founded and proclaimed myself President of the Pittsburgh Steelers Fan Club of Buenos Aires.

Thus far we have an inactive vice President (a great guy, but running your own business is demanding), and another, more active member whom I met while watching Super Bowl XLIII.

So if you are a Steelers fan in Buenos Aries, make your presence known and let’s see if we can generate come momentum for the Black and Gold down on the opposite end of Latin America.

Thanks for visiting. Check out the rest of Steel Curtain Rising.

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Steelers Sign Chris Scott and Crezon Bulter

The Steelers continue to rapidly close in on their goal of getting all draft picks signed prior to the team’s commencement of training camp in Latrobe, PA on July 30th.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has reported that the Steelers came to terms with Chris Scott, an offensive tackle out of Tennessee and friend of 2009 rookie free agent Ramon Foster, and Crezdon Bulter, a cornerback out of Clemson.

Scott was their first pick in the fifth round, and comes to the Steelers with 39 collegiate starts under his belt. Butler, who was their second fifth round pick, started 40 games and pulled down 11 interceptions for the Tigers.

Both men signed three year contracts and agreed to play for the rookie minimum. To clear roster room the Steelers cut rookie free agent Da’Mon Cormartie Smith.

Focus Now on Pouncy and Worilds

The Steelers still have yet to come to terms with their top two draft picks, first round pick center Maurkice Pouncey and second round pick linebacker Jason Worilds.

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Steelers Sign Stevenson Sylvester, Jonathan Dwyer, and Antonio Brown

Rumors may about as to whether the Steelers is not and/or will not enter into negotiations to extend Mike Tomlin’s contract before training camp, but the front office is certainly focused on getting the draft picks signed before the Steelers arrive in Latrobe on July 30th.

Last week the Steelers reached agreements with Doug Worthington and Thaddeus Gibbons, their 4th and 7th round picks, respectively, and yesterday they signed Emmanuel Sanders, one of their third round picks.

Today the Steelers announced that they had consummated two more deals.

Linebacker Stevenson Sylvester, whom the Steelers took with their third fifth round selection, signed with the team today. Sylvester played his college ball for the University of Utah, where he captained the team for two-years, won defensive MVP honors during the 2009 Poinsettia Bowl, and made the first-all-MWC team.

The Steelers picked Jonathan Dwyer, who played at Georgia Tech, with the first of their two sixth-round picks. Many draft observers were surprised that Dwyer fell so far in the draft, some commenting that he should have been a first or second round pick. Looking at his college resume, it is easy to see why.

Dwyer won first-all-ACC team honors for effort in his final two collegiate seasons. As a sophomore he led his team with 1,395 yards rushing and he earned the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year award, which also qualified him for All-America status. During his junior year campaign he equaled his 2008 total running for 1,395 yards on 235 attempts, which stands as Georgia Tech’s the fourth-best rushing total in school history.

The Steelers second selection was Antonio Brown, who played at Central Michigan and was the school’s all-time reception leader. With several wide outs ahead of him, Brown’s best shot to make the team is probably special teams, and last year he won his second consecutive MAC Special Teams Player of the Year award, as he also earned first-team all-MAC honors as both a receiver and punt returner.

The Steelers will not converge on St. Vincent for more than a month, but the team already has locked down six of their 10 draft picks.

Making Room on the Roster

The Steelers have been above the NFL’s off season roster limit for sometime, which has not been a problem as draft picks do not count until they sign.

To make way for their draft picks the Steelers released wide receiver Jason Chery, kicker Piotr Czech, linebacker Derrick Doggett, punter Adam Graessle, nose tackle Cordarrow Thompson, center Bradley Vierling and cornerback Trae Williams.

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Steelers Sign Emmanuel Sanders

Omar Kahn, Kevin Colbert and Art Rooney II are not resting on their laurels following Steelers OTAs.

They closed last week by signing 7th and 4th round picks Doug Worthington and Thaddus Gibbons and they opened this week by signing third round pick Emmanuel Sanders, whom they selected in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Sanders will enter camp with an eye toward wresting the third wide receiver slot and his main competition aims to be Antwaan Randle El, who rejoined the team this off season after spending the past four seasons with the Washington Redskins.

Emmanuel Sanders selection caught some draft veterans by surprise, as he is a little on the small size, but he impressed Steelers coaches with his hustle and work ethic.

Victory for Twitter

Those who want to stay up to date with the latest in Steelers news should stay tuned to Twitter, as that is where Sanders broke the news himself.

Yours truly discovered the news on Behind the Steel Curtain, and verified it on Steelers Depot, which linked to Sanders Twitter feed.

The truly interesting thing about this is that Twitter allowed these two fan-based sites to beat the Pros to the punch. As of 8:15 Eastern on Monday the 14th, neither the Post-Gazette, the Tribune Review, nor ESPN.com were reporting the news. (Cue Aaron Copeland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.”)

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Steelers Sign Gibson, Worthington

Omar Kahn and the Steelers contract negotiation team netted a pair of Buckeyes, as fourth round pick linebacker Thaddeus Gibson and seventh round pick defensive lineman Doug Worthington came to terms with the team.

Worthington has been practicing with the team at the Steelers OTA’s (Organized Team Workouts) by virtue of the fact that he has graduated. Gibson has not been able to join the Steelers for OTA’s because the NFL does not allow rookies to practice in the spring until their class graduates. Gibbons did, however, attend the Steelers mini camp, as permitted by NFL rules.

With the first two picks in the fold, the Steelers will now focus their attention on signing their remaing eight picks from the 2010 NFL draft.

Coup for Steelers Depot

The news of the Gibson and Worthington signings amounts as a minor coup for the website Steelers Depot. They reported the news on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, and their report was picked up by Behind the Steel Curtain.

Nonetheless, the Post-Gazette did not run the story until today, with Ed Bouchette even questioning the reports of the signings on PG Plus blog this morning.

Hat’s off to Steelers Depot for scoring the scoop.

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Watch Tower: Steelers OTAs End – Tomlin’s Contract Status Moves to Center Stage

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has two years remaining on the contract he signed in 2007. The Steelers unofficial policy has been to renew the contract with their head coach at exactly this point.

With the off season heading into the home stretch Tomlin neither has an extension, nor have any reports surfaced that the two sides are negotiating towards one.

Readers of the Post-Gazette and Tribune Review can be excused if they’ve concluded that Tomlin’s non-extension is a done deal.

Tomlin may very well not get that extension before the regular season begins, but until that happens Steelers Nation should be skeptical of reports to that effect.

Idle Speculation from the Steel City?

As Steelers OTA’s drew to a close, attention early in the week, before the news of the Roethlisberger DVD’s and TV interviews broke, began focusing on Tomlin’s contract status.

First to weigh in was the Tribune Review’s John Harris.

As Steel Curtain Rising has suggested before, John Harris either has a bone to pick with Mike Tomlin or else he knows he can generate page views by chopping the youngest Super Bowl Champion coach off at the knees.

Harris takes a more level tone with Tomlin this time around, both extolling Tomlin’s record while stoking doubts about Tomlin.

Reasons why he doubts the Steelers will sign Tomlin to an extension are as follows:

  • They didn’t extend his contract after Super Bowl XLIII
  • Larry Foote and Bryant McFadden returned after having lost starting jobs under Tomlin
  • Art II’s edict to improve the running game and some supposed philosophical difference that have emerged with Dick LeBeau

Harris’ observations are reasonable but can none the less be answered, as seen below

  • The Steelers have clear and well-established contract negotiation policies, there is no reason to think they would deviate from them following Super Bowl XLIII
  • Tomlin did not want to lose Foote and McFadden in the first place
  • LeBeau and Tomlin have twice had the number one defense working together
  • And Tomlin may already be grooming Randy Fichtner as Arians’ replacement with his decision to promote Fichtner to quarterback’s coach

All of this amounts nothing more than speculation, which puts Steel Curtain Rising on par with John Harris, as the erstwhile sports editor of the Tribune-Review reports no new news, nor does he cite any on the record or off the record sources “close to Tomlin, the Steelers, an agent, or even a South Side dog catcher who claims to be privy to an inside scoop.”

That’s a shame, because Steel Curtain Rising is 6,000 miles away from the story whereas Harris sits in the middle of Pittsburgh surrounded by sources….

What to Make of “Lack of Talk about Talks”?

Tomlin’s contract status gets more interesting as it was also a hot topic in Ed Bouchette’s weekly chat.

When asked about negotiations a few weeks ago Bouchette reminded readers that there was still plenty of time and that he expected a deal to get done.

This week he was far less sure, indicating to several questioners (including 3 from this author) that he now doubted a deal. Bouchette did not offer any affirmative reports to back that up, but rather he based his belief on the lack of talk about talks.

Attentive fans in Steelers Nation should perk up their ears when Bouchette changes his tune like this. He knows the Steelers organization through and through. He and Gerry Dulac have been right several times this season while others have been wrong.

But while Bouchette’s comments about Tomlin’s prospects for a contract renewal command a healthy respect, no one should accept them as Gospel.

Bouchette gets the goods, but he’s missed the boat on Steelers contract negotiations several times in recent years.

In 2008 he opined that no contract extensions would be reached because the Steelers ownership restructuring was consuming that attention of the Rooneys.

In the 2009 season he repeatedly his belief that the Steelers would not resign Max Starks to a long-term deal

  • Starks inked a four year extension in June.

Also during the 2009 off season, Bouchette indicated that the Health Miller resigning would be the team’s last move prior to the season

And, on the eve of free agency 2010, Bouchette not only told his readers not to expect much, he put his money where his mouth was and headed off to vacation

Ed Bouchette is a great reporter with fabulous sources, but few of them, it would seem, are involved in contract negotiations.

The more interesting question of course is, should the Steelers extend Mike Tomlin’s contract?

Steel Curtain Rising will be sounding off on that soon, so stay tuned.

For more media analysis of the Steelers press coverage, see Steel Curtain Rising’s Watch Tower.

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Roethlisberger to Rejoin Steeler OTAs

Pittsburgh Steelers OTA (that is NFL parlance for “Organized Team Activities” or football in shorts) will be getting a familiar face back.

The Post-Gazette and Tribune Review are both reporting that the NFL has cleared Ben Roethlisberger to return to practices with the team.

In imposing his six game suspension, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell barred Ben from participating in the Steelers spring workouts and/or training game.

The news release by the NFL indicates Roethlisberger’s suspension remains at six games for the time being.

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Steelers OTA’s – Pouncey Injured

The Pittsburgh Tribune Review is reporting that Pittsburgh Steelers first round draft pick Maurkice Pouncey was injured during the team’s spring OTA’s (organized team activities.)

The injury does not appear to be serious, but injuries during spring drills are never welcome news, and Pouncey’s was not the first, after beleaguered wide receiver Limas Sweed was lost to an Achilles tendon injury a few weeks ago.

Interestingly enough, the Steelers do have an unfortunate precedent of seeing first round picks injured during spring practices and/or non-contact drills.

In 1998, 1997 first round pick Chad Scott was lost for the year when he tore his ACL during spring practices. Likewise, in the early days of his rookie training camp the 1991 draft round Huey Richardson managed to break his nose during non-contact drills. Huey Richardson, who recorded token apperances in five games with the Steelers as a rookie before being traded to the Redskins, went on to become on of the NFL’s “greatest” all time draft busts.

…Based on today’s news — Ed Bouchette reported in PG Plus that Pouncy finished practice — it seems that Pouncy is following different footsteps, and Steelers Nation can be thankful if that is the case.

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Bryant McFadden in 2009 What Went Wrong?

Steelers Nation regarded Bryant McFadden’s defection to the Arizona Cardinals after Super Bowl XLIII with mixed feelings.

Some saw it difficult to see the 2005 second round pick depart just when it seemed like he’d finally developed into a quality starter.

Others took a different view, holding a player who truly merited second round pick status should have become a full-time starter before his first year.

Regardless, there was always William Gay, whose play in relief of McFadden in 2008 impressed even Dick LeBeau.

Gay and McFadden in 2009

William Gay, of course failed to meet expectations in 2009. He struggled so badly that Mike Tomlin publicly entertained the notion of replacing him, although that only amounted to Joe Burnett getting a few snaps here and there during the Cleveland debacle and the other remaining games of the season.

Bryant McFadden is more difficult to discern.

Writing on PG Plus, Gerry Dulac commented on his poor performance in the playoffs, but beyond that McFadden’s play in Arizona drew little attention in Pittsburgh.

So McFadden’s return along with a sixth round pick on day three of the 2010 NFL draft, at the cost of a third round pick, drew cheers from Steelers Nation and Steel Curtain Rising was part of the chorus.

None of the cheering obviated the question, “why was Arizona so willing to let him go for so little?”

For that, I can offer no explanation. Steelers secondary coach Ray Horton asserted to reporters that the Steelers remained confident that McFadden could contribute in the Steelers system.

Horton reassured, but offered little in the way of analysis.

Fortunately Behind the Steel Curtain has done that for us. Their writer, “Johnny_S” posted an thorough, in depth analysis of McFadden’s abilities as a corner relative to the Steelers and Cardinals’ respective defensive systems.

Steel Curtain Rising’s policy is to grant the work of others the glory they earn, and we will do so here. But I highly recommend you invest the time to read what Johnny_S has to say as he has put a lot of thought, time and research into this and he’s also humble enough to acknowledge the limits of his own analysis. (Click here to read.)

What About the Pros?

This is not the first time, and certainly will not be the last time that Steel Curtain Rising has recognized Behind the Steel Curtain. I am amazed that the depth and breath of the articles they publish.

Which begs the question, why haven’t we seen this from the professional writers?

Regular readers know that Steel Curtain Rising’s Watch Tower praises the Post-Gazette and Tribune-Review writers as often (or almost as often) as it has criticized them.

But ealier this week on PG Plus Ed Bouchette lamented, perhaps tongue and cheek, about the difficulties of writing a football blog in May.

On balance, Bouchette has been providing good value and thus far PG Plus has been worth the four dollar (or sixteen Argentine pesos in my case) subscription fee

True, writing about football in May does have its challenges. But articles like Johnny_S’s show that there are interesting Steelers stories out there waiting to be told, and a writer like Bouchette has time and access to sources that no fan could ever hope to have.

Just a thought.

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Sweed Out, Roethlisberger Evaluations Complete, Steelers Sign Isaiah Williams…

The news that the Steelers placed Limas Sweed on the injured reserve list came as no surprise after the unlucky wide receiver had injured his Achilles tendon a few weeks back during spring practice.

By placing him on IR, the Steelers were making Sweed ineligible to play for the duration of the 2010 season. Sweed most likely will want to attempt a comeback, but the beleaguered former second round pick from the 2008 draft faces an uphill battle.

To take Sweed’s spot on the off season roster, the Steelers signed former Baltimore Ravens free agent rookie Isaiah Williams. Williams was signed by the Ravens following the 2009 NFL draft, but was cut before opening day.

Roethlisberger Evaluations Complete, For Now…

The NFL has reported that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has completed the medical and psychological evaluations ordered by the NFL. He has still not been given permission to return to the team.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell could allow the Ben resuming activities with the team in advance of his 6 game suspension, or he could order more tests. The Post-Gazette report indicated that Roethsliberger’s team felt he would rejoin the team soon.

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