Steelers Sign Troy Polamalu to 4 Year Extension

Troy Polamalu has a knack for saving games at the 11th Hour. The Steelers it seems, are about to repay him in kind.

The Post-Gazette, as well as numerous other sources are reporting that the Steelers have reached an agreement to extend Troy Polamalu’s contract through the 2014 season. Steelers Digest confirmed the report, indicating the Polamalu signed the extension prior to boarding the team’s charter for Baltimore.

Change of Heart?

When news broke that the two sides were negotiating, Steel Curtain Rising weighed in against making the move now, simply because it seemed questionable to commit big, guaranteed dollars to a player with mounting injuries.

Moreover, the Steelers had given indications that the “vault was closed” after having dished out hefty signing bonuses to stars such as Ike Taylor, Willie Colon, LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons. It made more financial sense to wait.

Obviously Art Rooney II, Omar Khan, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin thought differently.

Reversal of History?

As everyone knows, the Steelers didn’t draft Dan Marino who went to Miami, and it took 20 years and a kid from Miami, Ohio to live down that mistake.

The back story of rumors about Marino’s involvement with drugs along with contradicting confirmations and rejections by Chuck Noll and Art Rooney Jr. are also well known.

But the back story runs deeper.

After the Steelers selected Gabe Rivera in the first round of the 1983 draft, John Clayton, then writing for the Pittsburgh Press, suggested to Dan Rooney that the Steelers get Marino trade back into the first round by packaging Cliff Stoudt and some picks for Miami’s first.

Word is that Chuck Noll and the other Steelers coaches embraced the idea, until Rooney mentioned its source, which killed the deal before it even got started.

Jim Wexell, of both Steelers Digest and Steel City Insider has suggested several times this off season that the Steelers dare not make the same mistake with Polamalu that they made with Rod Woodson.

Did someone on the South Side lend their ear to Wexell?

I have no inside information that this is the case, but it is an interesting enough possibility to throw out there.

Good Football Move

How the Steelers arrived at the decision to resign Troy Polamalu is less important than why they resigned him.

And that reason is simple.

Every generation boasts a handful of players who possess the rare combination of athleticism, skill, dedication, and “on the field presence” that allows them to change the course of games with a single play.

The Steelers of the 70’s had at least a half dozen – something you’ll never see again. Rod Woodson was one such player.

And so is Troy Polamalu

Although I questioned the wisdom of when the Steelers should resign Polamalu, it was always a question of when and not if.

Troy Polamalu is truly a special player and the Steelers have just taken steps to ensure he plays his entire NFL career in Pittsburgh.

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Steelers Negotiations with Polamalu Puzzle

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Ed Bouchette dropped a minor bombshell this morning when reported that the Steelers are attempting to secure a long term deal with All Pro starting strong Safety Troy Polamalu.

The move is puzzling for many reasons.

The Steelers wrapped up an aggressive free agent signing spree when they locked up Lawrence Timmons a few weeks ago. All indications were that the Steelers were done until the 2012 off season.

That seemed to be a prudent move on many fronts, not the least of which is financial.

Troy Polamalu is one of the greatest game-changing players in the league today, and a healthy Polamalu is an essential part to any Steelers plans to dominate via defense.

The key word is healthy.

Troy Polamalu as been likened by From Black to Gold author Tim Gleason to an European sports car that dominates the road it rides on but is all too often in the shop.

Polamalu has been injured often in recent seasons, and his explosive style of play combined with his 30th birthday do not figure to make him more durable in the future.

Any agreement between the Steelers and Polamalu would come with a hefty signing bonus, one that the Steelers would be left on the hook for were Polamalu to be injured during the upcoming season.

The Steelers cannot afford to lose Polamalu, but they will be able to use the franchise tag to keep him under contract for 2012.

Like Jerome Bettis and Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu is one player for whom ever effort should be made to allow him to retire as a Steeler. But neither a football or a business case exists to justify the Steelers attempt to sign him before the 2011 commences.

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Steelers Give Lawrence Timmons a Second Contract, Make the Right Move

“Follow the money” implored “Deep Throat” the inside source of the Watergate scandal.

If you want to know what the Pittsburgh Steelers see as the strength of their team, look at where they put their money.

    • James Farrior signed for five years and 18.25 million dollars in 2008

 

 

  • LaMarr Woodley signed for 6 years and 61.5 million dollars earlier this month

And today the Steelers announced that they’d signed Lawrence Timmons, starting inside linebacker, and the first pick of the Mike Tomlin era for six years and a cool 60 million dollars, including 18 in bonuses.

For those of you keeping track at home, that averages out to about a quarter of the 120 million dollar salary cap paid out to the starting linebacking corps.

The Right Move

As a rookie Lawrence Timmons had difficulty getting on the field due to some nagging injuries. Although he failed to break the starting line up in his sophomore season, he nonetheless made his share of “Splash plays” – his work in relief of James Harrison in the Washington game sticks out.

Timmons graduation to the starting line up in 2009 fell below expectations, but who didn’t fall short of expectations in 2009?

But in 2010 Lawrence Timmons came into his own.

While James Harrison and Troy Polamalu (rightly) filled the highlight reels for their eye popping plays against Tennessee, Timmons was flying around and seemingly in on every play and played a key role in shutting down Chris Johnson.

The Steelers defense played one of the best games in its history that hot and humid day against Tennessee, and the game also served as a metaphor for Timmon’s season. Guys like Harrison, Polamalu, and Woodley got most of the accolades, but Timmons led the team in tackles.

Locking Timmons up for six more years is the right move.

The Right Move II

In reporting Timmons signing, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s Ed Bouchette concludes that the Steelers have finished with their signings for the year. (The Steelers have had a contract negotiation black out since 1993.)

That means that Troy Polamalu and Mike Wallace, both in the final years of their contracts, will have to wait.

That too is wise on the part of the Steelers braintrust.

For as strongly as Steel Curtain Rising defended Troy Polamalu against the “overrated” charge this past summer, the truth is that Polamalu has missed games because of injury in four of the past five years, and he’s finished the functional equivalent of two of those in IR.

Make no mistake about it, the Steelers defense cannot be great without Troy Polamalu, and it would be a tragedy should wear any other uniform before beginning his “life’s work.” But the Steelers will have the option to franchise him at season’s end, and after making an honest assessment as to how much Polamalu has left in the tank.

Mike Wallace will be a restricted free agent next spring. The Steelers do run the risk that some other team will make an inane offer that they cannot match, but it is a risk worth taking.

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Steelers Resign Trai Essex

Throughout the preseason there has been a lot of speculation that the Pittsburgh Steelers would welcome back one of their departed offensive lineman.

They surprised Steelers Nation today by doing just that.

Early in the day Ed Bouchette reported on PG Plus that Trai Essex stopped by the South Side to pick up his AFC Championship ring. While Bouchette did not rule anything out, his post made it pretty clear nothing else was afoot.

As it turns out, Bouchette was wrong, as the Steelers resigned veteran tackle/guard/tight end? Trai Essex to a one year deal. To make room for Essex, the Steelers waived unrestricted rookie free agent Nevin McCaskill.

Prior to Essex’s return, it was widely expected that the Steelers would either bring back Max Starks and Flozell Adams, both of whom they waived ealier this summer in salary cap moves.

Essex is a lesser player than both Starks and Adams, but he does bring versitility, or as Mike Tomlin likes to say, “position flexibility.” Essex can step in at either tackle or guard position, and last year lined up as a blocking tight end on a number of occasions. Indeed, Ed Bouchette has even suggested that the Steelers resign Essex and use him as the number two tight end.

With the Steelers offensive line in a state of flux, it will be interesting to see if this is the final move that they make.

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Steelers Sign Jerricho Cotchery

The last time Jerricho Cotchery was at Heinz Field, he was catching passes from Mark Sanchez and putting the New York Jets within striking distance of pulling off one of the AFC Championship game’s biggest comebacks in history.

With the New York Jets focusing on more expensive toys, Cotchery’s final choice came down the Steelers and the Ravens.

Cotchery chose the Steelers yesterday, coming to terms with the team. He will not join the team for workouts until Sunday, however.

Terms of Cotchery’s deal were not disclosed, but one must expect that the signing came on the Steelers terms given that he left Latrobe without and offer only to return.

Roster Spots at Risk?

Cotchery provides immediate depth for the Steelers at wide out. Entering camp wide receiver appeared to be one of the Steelers strong points, but lingering nature of Emmanuel Sanders injury is cause for concern.

Limas Sweed, who separated his shoulder last week, did not figure to make the team barring a gang busters performance in the preseason, is the most threatened by Cotchery’s arrival. So too, however, are Arnz Battle and Tyler Grisham.

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Woodley Re-Signs. How Does He Stack Up Against Lloyd, Porter, Gildon et. al.?

The Pittsburgh Steelers re-signed franchise player LaMarr Woodley today to a six year 61.5 million dollar contract with 22.5 million dollar signing bonus, as reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The deal makes Woodley the second highest paid Steelers player in history, second only to starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

The term “highest paid player in Steeler history” is a relative one – in 1993 alone that title passed from Kevin Greene, to Greg Lloyd, then to Rod Woodson.

Still, the deal amounts to a slight shock – not that the Steelers signed Woodley, but that they made such a tremendous investment in him, particularly in terms of guaranteed money.

In just four years, LaMarr Woodley has registered 39 sacks, caught 3 interceptions, and forced 7 fumbles. Together with James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley forms the NFL’s most prolific outside linebacking tandem.

LaMarr Woodley vs. the Steelers Linebacker Legacy

The Pittsburgh Steelers yield nothing to any franchise when it comes to linebacking. Success at linebacker means contributing to that legacy; simply living up to it fails to suffice. (Don’t believe me? Check out some reader comments when I mentioned Jason Gildon in the same article as Greg Lloyd.)

How then do Woodley’s first four years stack up against some of his predecessors in the Steelers 3-4 system:

Compared to those who came before him, LaMarr Woodley acquits himself quite well. He leads the group in sacks and forced fumbles, and ties for second most starts with Joey Porter. (James Harrison was not included, as he started very little in his first four years.)

Greg Lloyd trails him in sacks, but Lloyds other numbers reveal how special he is. The number of tackles is also telling, as it shows just how involved a player is in the defense, and here Woodley only trails Joey Porter and Lloyd. (Note on the stats, I’d thought that Lloyd’s high tackle number must be an error on the part of Pro Football reference, but the Steelers 1990 media guide confirms his 1989 total, which was 92 tackles.)

Of course stats can mislead. It isn’t just making plays, but making them in a timely fashion, and in this respect Woodley also excels, registering a sack in each of his post-season appearances, and of course Super Bowl XLIII effectively ended with Woodley’s strip-sack of Kurt Warner.

The Steelers have made a significant investment in LaMarr Woodely and anytime you write a check for 22 million you take a considerable risk.

But the Pittsburgh Steelers clearly believe in LaMarr Woodley, and so should Steelers Nation.

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Steelers Sign John Gilmore, Greg Warren

The Steelers signed their first unrestricted free agent from another team today when they came to terms with tight end John Gilmore of Tampa Bay.

John Gilmore was drafted in the sixth round of the 2002 NFL Draft by New Orleans, but never played for the Saints, latching on with the Chicago Bears.

He played for six years in Chicago, mainly as a back up tight end, before playing for Tampa from 2008 through 2010. Gilmore played his college ball for Joe Paterno at Penn State.

Gilmore is primarily a blocking tight end, and is expected to compete with David Johnson for the number two tight end job, although his presence could allow Johnson to play the hybrid tight end/fullback or H-Back position which he played well in last season.

The Steelers also resigned long snapper Greg Warren, who was injured last year.

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Mewelde, Hoke, & Dixon Sign with Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers came to a string of agreements with free agents today, resigning Mewelde Moore, Chris Hoke and Dennis Dixon. All three were reported to be one year deals.

Punter Dan Sepulveda who was cut just a few days ago, was also resigned, presumptively at a lower salary.

What These Moves Mean

In Mewelde Moore the team gains an experienced back-up running back whose good hands the team can depend on when a 3 shows on the down marker. Steel Curtain Rising has been big on Moore since he joined the team in 2008, which Mewelde Moore’s best year.

Moore saw his action reduced last year, as both his number of carries and his average dropped. However, he continued to produce in the passing game and his presence in camp will ensure that players on the bubble such as Jonathan Dwyer and the 2011 7th round pick Barron Batch take their fight for roster spots seriously.

Gerry Dulac was reporting last night that the Steelers were not considering resigning Chris Hoke. Dulac explained today on PG Plus that the two sides had not been able to agree on a contract, which put his signing in doubt. Fortunately for Steelers Nation the two sides came to an agreement.

The nose tackle is the fulcrum on which the success of the 3-4 defense swings, and Chris Hoke has been more than up to the task when Casey Hampton has to come out.

The Steelers clearly wanted Dixon back, but Dixon will have to fight for a roster spot, as the Steelers are unlikely to bring four quarterbacks into the regular season. Charlie Batch may be fragile, but he proved his worth to the team last year.

Sepulveda Gets a Bounce

Just a few days ago it seemed like Daniel Sepulveda’s days as a Steeler were over. Perhaps the Steelers had already seen enough of the punters they have in camp to bring him back, perhaps this move has been in the works all along.

One way or another Sepulveda knows it is now or never.

Unsigned and Unwanted?

Trai Essex, Keyron Fox, and Anthony Madison are all unrestricted free agents from the Steelers 2010 roster and all remain unsigned.

Gerry Dulac has already reported that Essex will not be back. Trai Essex falls into the category of being a jack of all trades and master of none. Although he can and has played each of the guard and tackle positions, he has played none of them with distinction.

Essex may not join Steelers at St. Vincents, but he’d likely be the first person they’d call in the event of injury.

Keyron Fox flashed a lot of promise in 2009, only to make a name for himself with idiotic penalties in 2010, not the least of which came as the Steelers were attempting to mount a come back in the final moments of Super Bowl XLV. It appears that Fox has worn out his welcome in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Madison’s absence proves to be the most interesting, as the Steelers special teams have suffered dearly without him in the past. Madison also showed his versatility in 2010 by playing some cornerback.

If the Steelers can find cap space, they would be wise to welcome Madison back.

Roethlisberger, Harrison Renegotiating

The Steelers remain over the cap, but Ben Roethlisberger and James Harrison are renegotiating their contracts to provide the team with relief.

Even still, the Steelers may need to release more veterans to get under the cap by Thursday.

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Steelers Re-sign William Gay to Multi-Year Deal

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Mark Kaboly is reporting that the Steelers have reached terms with number three corner William Gay.

Gerry Dulac of the Post-Gazette is also reporting the deal, adding that the Steelers have agreed to a multi-year extension with Gay.

William Gay was the team’s 5th round pick in the 2007 NFL draft and split time in the starting role with Bryant McFadden in 2008. Gay assumed the starting role in 2009 and struggled.

Following Bryant McFadden’s return in 2010, Gay served as the team’s number three corner, and did a decent job there. The Steelers decision to bring Gay back means that Keenan Lewis, their third round pick in 2009, will struggle to make the team as the Steelers drafted two corners in the 2011 NFL draft.

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Steelers Sign Willie Colon, Cut Flozell Adams

The Steelers solidified their offensive line today, or at least clarified it, by signing Willie Colon to a 5 year 29 million contract.

The move however, came at the cost of Flozell Adams. The team had hoped to get Adams to agree to take a pay cut to serve as a number 3 back up.
Colon’s move comes as somewhat of a surprise — the Steelers drafted him in 2006 had passed on a number of opportunities to sign him to a long-term deal.
But Colon wanted to stay in Pittsburgh, and took a home town discount to the tune of 3 million less than Chicago was putting on the table, to stay.
Dreading Scott?
With the move complete, at this point it is the Steelers appear to be entering training camp with Jonathan Scott as their right tackle. Scott started for much of last year after injuries felled Max Starks mid season against Cincinnati.
Scott’s performance as a starter was so-so. Like all of the Steelers lineman he performed well enough to win under trying circumstances, but the Steelers really struggled to run to the left side, and Ben Roethlisberger, as always, was under pressure.
Behind the Steel Curtain’s Michael Bean predicted Max Stark’s departure, and argues that Scott provides better value at the position (Starks was set to make 7 million this year.) While Bean’s argument might make economic sense, Starks — when healthy — is a better tackle than Scott.
If Scott opens camp as a starter it by no means ensures that he’ll finish there. Chris Scott, the team’s 5th round draft pick in the 2010 NFL draft, will reportedly get a shot to start, as might Marcus Gilbert, the team’s 2nd round draft pick in the 2011 NFL draft.
And, just to keep things interesting, word is the Steelers might attempt to resign Max Starks at a lower salary, and option I consider to be unlikely.
Cameron Heyward Signs, Eason Departs
The Steelers signed first round draft pick Cameron Heyward. Terms of the deal were not released by the Post Gazette, but one must assume it is a four year deal. Prior to the current CBA the Steelers practice had been to sign first round draft picks to 5 year deals, but that is not prohibited.
Finally, Nick Eason is leaving to rejoin Ray Horton in Pittsburgh West aka the Arizona Cardinals. In four years with the Steelers Eason developed into a serviceable back up, but his departure perhaps gives Steve McLendon a chance to hold a roster spot.
What of William Gay and Chris Hoke?
While the Steelers lost 2007 draft pick and back up tight end Matt Speath to the Chicago Bears, free agents William Gay and Chris Hoke remain unsigned.
Many fans might welcome Gay’s departure, but Gay is a decent third corner back and the Steelers have little proven depth at that position.
Resigning Chris Hoke is a must. Hoke generates little ink, but Chris Hoke steps up and gets the job done when called upon, which is no small feat when you’re talking about your back up nose tackle in a 3-4 defense….
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