Steelers Cut Max Starks, Randle El

Kevin Colbert y Mike Tomlin Tienen Huevos de Acero
Steel Curtain Rising’s description of Tomlin & Colbert’s decision to cut Kendall Simmons in 2009

As a coach, Mike Tomlin refuses to coach scared. Tomlin plays to win, whether its going for 2 even when he’s just been penalized for holding or calling an on-sides kick in a game where quaterbacks are throwing TD’s a will.

Kevin Colbert mimics his counterpart.

Fear does not guide Colbert and Tomlin’s decision making, a tendency which they displayed again this morning while cutting former starting left tackle and one time franchise tag holder Max Starks.

Less than 24 hours before the start of free agency the Steelers now have under contract at the all important offensive tackle position:

Is this how the Steelers get back to the Super Bowl?

Fear not faithful in Steelers Nation. The Steelers cut Kendall Simmons in 2009 leaving them with no “starter capable” guard bound to the team, yet they quickly came to terms with Chris Kemoatu.

As Homer J. from Behind the Steel Curtain pointed out, Tomlin and Colbert have a plan.

They are negotiating to bring Willie Colon back (although how much fruit those questions are likely to bear remains an open question) and will likely bring Jonathan Scott back, who replaced Starks last year at left tackle.

The decision to cut Starks nonetheless counts as a surprise. Bragging rights go out to Michael Bean, found of Behind the Steel Curtain, who apparently went on the radio earlier this year and suggested that Stark’s roster spot might be in jeopardy. Hat’s off to you Michael!

On PG Plus, Ed Bouchette reported that Starks weight in the off season had topped 400 pounds during the lock out and was still at 375.

Randle El Redux Lasts One Year

A year ago Randel El returned to Pittsburgh with great fanfare, but his return to Pittsburgh was to be short lived. Bringing El back was a good move, even if he’d lost a step – or two, since leaving in 2005, but he was simply surpassed by astonishing development of Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown.

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Plaxico Burress, Mike Tomlin to Meet? is reporting that after having dinner with New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin, Plaxico Burress will fly to Pittsburgh to meet with Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.

Reliable Report?

This is certainly not the first time that Plaxico Burress’ return to his former team has been suggested.

Although Steel Curtain Rising has zero access to sources on this one, Burress’ return to the Steelers must be considered unlikely.

Already having resigned Ike Taylor, the Steelers still need to sort out their situation at offensive line, and have veterans such as William Gay and Chris Hoke whom they’d be wise to bring back.

Still, no one expected them to begin the 2010 free agency signing period by signing 5 players, and yet that’s what they did.

Stay tuned….

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Steelers Sign Bates, Boot Sepulveda

The Pittsburgh Steelers signed rookie free agent punter and Michigan State alum Aaron Bates today and in effect, gave the boot to 2007 fourth round draft pick Daniel Sepulveda.

Jeremy Kapinos, who was signed after Sepulveda injured his ACL yet again last year , remains on the roster and the roster spot is likely his to lose.

Mike Tomlin turned heads in his inaugural draft when he traded up in the fourth round to select a punter. Tomlin said he liked Sepulveda not only for his kicking, but because he was a good open field tackler, and he wanted to emphasize that special teams is part of the game.

Chalk that up to a nice idea on paper that never worked out in practice. Sepulveda was never a dominant punter, and spent two of his four years on IR.

In fact, the Steelers made their appearances in Super Bowl XLIII and Super Bowl XLV with Mitch Berger and Kapinos handling the punting chores.

Bouchette’s Bragging Rights

Post-Gazette Steelers beat writer Ed Bouchette can justifiably claim bragging rights. He spoke out against using such a high draft pick on a punter the day the pick was made — and on every occasion he could since then.

This Bud’s for you Mr. Bouchette. (Now, can we please stop bemoaning the pick?)

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Steelers Resign Ike Taylor

It did not take long.

Less than 24 hours after NFL teams could begin negotiating with players, the Steelers announced that they had agreed to terms with Ike Taylor, who cannot formally sign his contract until after 6:00 pm on Friday the 29th.
Financial terms of the deal were not announced, but length of the contract was reported at 4 years, reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
With Taylor under contract, the Steelers will focus their attention on their next free agent priority, offensive tackle Willie Colon.
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18 Rookie Free Agents Sign with Steelers

The Steelers moved quickly to sign undrafted rookie free agents today, the first day in which they were allowed to make such moves.

In addition to the agreements to bring on board Anthony Gray, Weslye Saunders, Miguel Chavis and Terrence McCrae, which were known this morning, the Post-Gazette is reporting that Steelers have also come to terms with:

Vaughn Charlton, a tight end/H-back from Temple;
John Clay, a running back from Wisconsin;
Armand Robinson, a wide receiver from Miami;
Adam Mims, a wide receiver from Furman;
Colin Miller, a center from Central Michigan;
Trevis Turner, an offensive tackle from Abilene Christian;
Brent Greenwood, a safety from Iowa;
Niles Brinkley, a cornerback from Wisconsin;
Eric Clanton, an outside linebacker from The Citadel;
Mario Harvey, an inside linebacker from Marshall;
Eric Greenwood, a wide receiver from Idaho.

That brings the number to 15. However, NFL teams are permitted 90 person training camp rosters. Behind the Steel Curtain is reporting that the Steelers have also come to terms with three more players:

Ty Boyle, a defensive end from North Dakota
Joshua Harrison, an offensive tackle from South Carolina State
Derek Chard, a long snapper from UConn

For those of you keeping score at home, the break down by position goes like this:

Tight Ends: 2
Wide Receivers: 4
Running Back: 1
Offensive Tackles: 2
Centers: 1
Guards: 0

Defensive lineman: 3
Linebackers: 2
Cornerback: 1
Safety: 1
Long Snapper: 1

The high number of wide receivers is attention catching, given that the Steelers have five quality wide outs returning, with Limas Sweed and Tyler Grisham expect to push Antwaan Randle El for a roster spot.

Conversely, the low number of defensive backs also catches the attention, given that both Ike Taylor and William Gay are unrestricted free agents.

Filling out the roster with undrafted rookie free agents is normally a ho-hum affair but, as mentioned on Steel Curtain Rising list week, the Kevin Colbert has a history of plucking gold out of the NFL draft’s scrap heap.

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Steelers Rookie Free Agent Agreements Begin

The lockout has ended and news of the Steelers first free agent moves is coming in. While the Steelers cannont “sign” anyone until Friday, Behind the Steel Curtain is reporting that the Steelers have agreed to terms with:

  • Anthony Gray DT/NT, Southern Mississippi
  • Weslye Saunders TE, South Carolina
  • Miguel Chavis, DL, Clemson

Inside Pittsburgh Sports is also reporting on his Twitter feed that the Steelers have agreed to terms with:

  • Terrence McCrae, WR, Ohio

DiPiola is also reporting that Philadelphia, Arizona, and Baltimore are set to make a bull rush for Steelers free agent Ike Taylor.

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Ike Taylor Focus of Steelers Free Agent Need/Want List is reporting that the NFL lockout should be lifted within 48 hours, ushering in perhaps the most chaotic period in the NFL’s history.

Going by the time table outlined by ESPN, free agency should begin by Saturday the 30th of July.

Teams will be able to negotiate with their own free agents beginning on Wednesday of this week.

The Steelers of course have a number of free agents, but none by any stretch of the imagination are more important than Ike Taylor.

The Steelers weakness, as exposed last season by Drew Brees and Tom Brady and ultimately Aaron Rodgers in Super Bowl XLV, is their secondary. Specifically speaking, the Steelers have one quality starting cornerback in a league where you generally need three.

Gerry Dulac and Ed Bouchette both have reported that Taylor remains the Steelers free agent priority and both report that the Steelers think they can sign him.

The Steelers in fact attempted to resign Ike Taylor before the NFL lockout began but were unsuccessful. Taylor says he wants to stay with the Steelers, but clearly the Taylor is not offering a hometown discount.

The NFL’s new salary cap might leave the Steelers struggling for space, although any reduction in overall cash expenditures will affect other teams as well.

The Steelers have succeeded in free agency because they avoid bidding wars and refuse to overpay.

But one thing is certain.

It is much more a case of the Steelers needing a Ike Taylor back than simply wanting him back.

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Steelers to Face Salary Cap Trouble in New CBA?

This is a little premature to discuss, as the new CBA has yet to be reached and anything, including continuation of the lockout, could happen.

But ESPN’s John Clayton is reporting that the salary cap will likely decline in any new CBA, and he’s listing the Steelers as one of the 7 teams that would be most aversely affected.

Accordingly to Claton, the Steelers are 10 million dollars over the prospective cap. On the surface of things, this does not bode well for the team.

Clayton, for examples, explains that the Steelers could cut half of that gap by parting ways with Flozell Adams.

The conventional wisdom is that the Steelers cannot resign Willie Colon, which means that losing Adams would rob the Steelers of both quantity and quality of depth at offensive tackle.

Likewise, the Steelers need to resign Ike Taylor, and their ability to do so would be compromised by how much they can restructure existing deals and create enough space to ink Taylor.

Kevin Colbert and Art Rooney II have been quite adept at managing the salary cap, and there is no reason to expect this to change.

But given the compressed free agency time frame and a reduced salary cap is going to require some fancy footwork on the part of both men to ensure the Steelers keep Taylor and Adams or Colon in the Black and Gold in 2011.

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Ike Taylor to Reach Free Agency?

Ike Taylor may be headed for the open market. The Steelers had announced that they intended to sign Taylor. The Steelers were so confident that they could sign Taylor that they did not use a transition tag on him.

The Steelers may have miscalculated.

Ed Bouchette is reporting on PG Plus that the Steelers have not reached an agreement with Taylor, and that they are unlikely to do so before the 24 hour extension of the CBA expires.

This does not mean that Ike Taylor won’t return to the Steelers, but allowing him to test the market injects an air of unanticipated uncertainty into the Steelers future at secondary.

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Willie Colon Gets 1 Year Tender From Steelers

In news that passed without as much of a ho-hum announcement, the Pittsburgh Steelers offered a one year tender to Willie Colon. In theory, the Steelers would have the right to match any offer to Willie Colon or else get a first round pick in exchange for losing him.

The tender itself is meaningless, or almost meaningless.

Almost all sides agree that any new CBA, whether it comes in 2011 or 2012, will grant unrestricted free agency to six-year veterans which would include Colon.

Watch Tower: Differences of Perspective

Do the Steelers want Willie Colon?

It depends upon whom you read.

Ed Bouchette and Gerry Dulac of the Post Gazette rarely publicly disagree, but both men have offered differing opinions of the Steelers treatment of Willie Colon.

Ed Bouchette argues that the Steelers have handled the Willie Colon situation poorly, neglecting to offer him a long term deal. Bouchette reports that Colon’s agent has not even talked to the team. Bouchette’s point is to look to the Steelers actions. For three years he has been a restricted free agent, but the Steelers have never done more than give him one year tenders.

Gerry Dulac however, has a different take. Dulac has insisted twice in on-line chats that the Steelers do want Colon. He did not offer much evidence to back up his claim, but one would figure Dulac wouldn’t make the argument if he wasn’t giving his info from so source inside the organization.

Of the two, Bouchette would appear to have the stronger argument, however, Bouchette has been caught flat footed time and time again when it comes to predicting the Steelers contract moves….

In Part I of our Steelers 2011 Free Agent Focus Part II argued that the Steelers needed to keep Colon. I hope they do, but I think Bouchette is right. The Steelers inactions toward Colon speak for themselves.

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