Watch Tower: BSTC Bests the Professional Press. Again + Willie Colon

After nearly six months of dead air and make news articles, the Steelers media buzzed alive as the lockout ended and the NFL went back to business.

The Steelers filled their biggest need first, re-inking Ike Taylor to a 4 year contract. In analyzing the dynamics that led to the deal, Homer J. from Behind the Steel Curtain shed a little light on what has long been a question of mine.

Homer J. traced the Steelers M.O. all the way back to Mike Tomlin’s first interview with the Rooneys, revealing:

…Tomlin came prepared, and his degree of preparation knocked everyone’s socks off. He brought two bound books with him. One was an analysis of every player on the Steelers’ roster. The second was an analysis of how to build what he had into a championship team. [Emphasis added.]

The fact that Mike Tomlin came to the interview with a detailed plan and blew the Rooneys away has long been known.

But the Watch Tower has always wondered:

  • What are NFL head coaching job interviews are like?
  • Specifically, what was in Tomlin’s “detailed plan?” How did he bowl the Roonys over so persuasively?

For years the Watch Tower has kept an attentive eye tuned towards articles that might answer those questions.

But no professional reporter ever provided anything of any substance. Behind the Steel Curtain’s Homer J. did it in passing in an article about something else.

As has the Watch Tower has observed before and no doubt will again, Behind the Steel Curtain once again provides its readers with information that eludes the professional press. (Full disclosure, yours truly expect to become an occasion contributor to the BTSC team, hopefully as early as next week.)

Clashing Over Willie Colon – Score One for Scott Brown

The Steelers re-signed Willie Colon to a 5 year deal late last week, and while the Tribune Review’s Scott Brown signaled this, the news likely came as a surprise to anyone who relies exclusively on the Post Gazette for Steelers news.

In reporting that the Steelers were making Willie Colon a priority, Brown wrote “Linta [Colon’s agent] said he is cautiously optimistic that he and the Steelers will reach a deal that keeps Colon in Pittsburgh.”

Ed Bouchette’s reporting painted a very different picture for his readers. He’s been saying in chats and PG Plus posts for a long time that he did not think the Steelers wanted to sign Colon to a long-term deal. (Gerry Dulac offered a different view, as the Watch Tower recounted last spring.)

On Wednesday Bouchette went so far as to instruct readers:

Don’t look for Willie Colon to sign with the Steelers, even though they have put him among several players who they considered priorities right now. Agent Joe Linta has said all along that he believed the Steelers would not offer him nearly enough compared to what he believes Colon will earn elsewhere. Linta’s reaction yesterday did not change his opinion. The bottom line is, the Steelers do not believe strongly enough in Colon for whatever reason to give him a big contract. Colon wants more than Max Starks makes and that isn’t going to happen. [Emphasis Added.]

This of course, amounts to a double whammy.

First, you’ve basically got two reporters from different papers indirectly quoting the same source and providing very different interpretations.

And it’s obvious from this quote that Bouchette had little idea that Max Starks was a day, if not hours, away from getting the axe.

Yet, even after the Steelers cut Max Starks, Bouchette doubled down, insisting that Colon almost certainly headed out of town. Talking about the offer the Steelers made Colon, Bouchette recounted, “I’ve heard they made such a low-ball offer to Colon that it turned him off…”

To be fair, Bouchette followed up that observation by reminding readers that Colon was close friends with Ben Roethlisberger and that he wanted to stay with the team.

In certain parts of the blogesphere, bashing Ed Bouchette is common. Not so here, as the Watch Tower has praised him repeatedly. However great some of Bouchette’s sources may be, he’s repeatedly been caught flat footed when it comes to contract negotiation, and he explicitly missed the boat on:

Bouchette was also so confident that the Steelers would do nothing in free agency in 2010 that he went on vacation during the first week – and the Steelers promptly went out and signed Antwaan Randle El, Arnez Battle, Will Allen, Jonathan Scott, and brought Larry Foote back.

Bouchette also went firmly on the record saying that “hearing no talk about talks” told him that Mike Tomlin’s contract was not going to be renewed in 2010; the Steelers renewed Tomlin’s contract shortly thereafter.

John Harris the Happy

This edition of the Watch Tower ends with well-wishes for the Tribune Review’s John Harris, who passed the time during the lockout inventing new ways to remind readers of how valuable Ike Taylor was to the Steelers and how jealous suitors were lining up to snatch Taylor away form the Black and Gold.

Well, it is doubtful that Art II, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin were listening, but they did get Ike re-signed, so we should suppose that makes John Harris happy.

Thanks for visiting. To read more analysis of the media that cover the Steelers,
click here to read more from Steel Curtain Rising’s Watch Tower.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

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.

Thanks for visiting. Click here to read the rest of Steelers 2011 Free Agent Focus series. Or follow us on Twitter @SteelCurtainRis.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Plaxico Burress, Mike Tomlin to Meet?

ESPN.com 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….

Thanks for visiting. Click here to read the rest of Steelers 2011 Free Agent Focus series. Or follow us on Twitter @SteelCurtainRis.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

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?)

Thanks for visiting. Click here to read the rest of Steelers 2011 Free Agent Focus series. Or follow us on Twitter @SteelCurtainRis.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

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.
Thanks for visiting. Click here to follow us on Twitter@SteelCurtainRis.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

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.

Thanks for visiting. Click here to read the rest of Steelers 2011 Free Agent Focus series. Or follow us on Twitter @SteelCurtainRis.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

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.

Thanks for visiting. Click here to follow on Twitter @SteelCurtainRis.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Ike Taylor Focus of Steelers Free Agent Need/Want List

EPSN.com 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.

Thanks for visiting. Click here to read the rest of Steelers 2011 Free Agent Focus series. Or follow us on Twitter @SteelCurtainRis.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Paul Solotaroff Explains Context of James Harrison’s Remarks

After encouraging readers to at least maintain an open mind about James Harrison’s claim that his comments had been taken out of context, it is only fair to give an airing to Men’s Journal’s Paul Solotaroff.

Speaking on ESPN radio Solotaroff explains that, while he’s a Giants fan, he was outraged by Roger Goodell’s arbitrary “get tough” policy and his attempt to make James Harrison the focus.
Solotaroff’s commentary is quite interesting. First and foremost, Solotaroff stands by his treatment of James Harrison’s quotes, indicates that Harrison had no quibbles with him when they recently spoke on the phone, although he’s also at peace with Harrison’s attempts at damage control.
I won’t do Solotaroff the injustice of summarizing his full interview here, but I encourage you to check it out on ESPN. You can access a recording of the interview in LZ Granderson’s article on ESPN.com.

Thanks for visiting. Click here to follow Steel Curtain Rising on Twitter.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

James Harrison Offers Mea Culpa Via Facebook

Credit James Harrison with another talent.

When he sticks his foot deep into his mouth, he at least is smart enough to attempt to extract it.

Courtesy of John Stephens from Behind the Steel Curtain, I am here posting Silverback’s response to the earthshaking rant which will appear in Men’s Journal on Friday of this week. (Note Stephens has reposted Harrison’ statement on Facebook.)

First, Harrison addressed his comments directed towards his teammates:

I’ll start by offering my apologies for some of the words that I said during the four days in May that Men’s Journal was invited to my house to discuss what the NFL has recently been portraying as their attempts at ‘player safety’ rules and regulations, and to cover my everyday workout routine.

I did make comments about my teammates when I was talking about the emotional Super Bowl loss, but the handful of words that were used and heavily publicized yesterday were pulled out of a long conversation and the context was lost. Obviously, I would never say that it was all Ben’s or Rashard’s fault that we lost the Super Bowl. That would be ridiculous. Both Ben and Rashard are great players and great teammates. Clearly the entire team bears responsibility for the loss, me included. It was a team effort and a team loss. My teammates know me well, and hopefully understand the things I said were not meant to accuse them of the loss. We all have discussed several things that went wrong in the Super Bowl since that day. What I do apologize for and take full responsibility for is for speaking in such a candid manner to someone outside the team.

After duly apologizing to his teammates, Harrison address his other comments:

I also need to make clear that the comment about Roger Goodell was not intended to be derogatory against gay people in any way. It was careless use of a slang word and I apologize to all who were offended by the remark. I am not a homophobic bigot, and I would never advocate intolerance of gay people.

As far as the photo that was shown on air yesterday, collecting guns is a hobby of mine, and I advocate the responsible use of firearms. I believe in the right to bear arms. I like to go to the shooting range. I like to hunt. I like to fish. I could just as easily have posed with my fishing poles but it obviously wouldn’t be an interesting picture for the magazine. I am not promoting gun violence by posing for that photo. There are also other photos in the magazine story that were not shown on air yesterday – including me with my sons, with my mom and as a kid.

Unfortunately, the above items and other comments have detracted from the original purpose of the story – a position I have been advocating for some time now. If player safety is the NFL’s main concern, as they say it is, they are not going about it in an effective manner. There’s nothing about extending the season or issuing exorbitant fines on defensive players that makes any shift toward the prevention of injury to players.

I believe that the league may have been feeling increasing pressure about injuries and concussions last year, and that they panicked and put rules in place that weren’t fully thought out. I’m not advocating more flags and fines, I’m just saying that the current rules are not completely fair, and I don’t believe in the way that the league is handling their position as overseer of the NFL and the well-being of its players.

As far as the character and reputation hits I may suffer as a result of my comments in the article, I’ll take those hits and more if it brings increased attention to the re-examination and installation of rules and regulations that would create a REAL impact on player safety.

Analysis

A lot was said about Harrison’s incendiary comments. Yours truly compared James Harrison to Greg Lloyd, who, his status as a personal favorite aside, may have done his share to divide the locker room.

Gerry Dulac wrote extensively on PG Plus, roundly taking Harrison to task and suggested that punishment was in order.

The best article I read was one on ESPN by Ashley Fox, who rightly said that Harrison above all made himself look like an idiot.

Now Harrison is attempting to make it right.

Don’t Be Too Quick to Discount His Excuse

His first line of defense was time-honored “they took my words out of context.”

Athletes always opt for this route. Just just because it seems like the easy out, does not mean we should discount the excuse, and those with person experience with the press might understand why.

Back in 1991 I testified in front of the Montgomery County Council. It was a sparsely attended event, so much that the council member (and future council president and county executive) chairing it feel asleep.

To my great surprise a week or so later someone called me to about the article that the Montgomery Gazette hard written on my testimony. There was one problem. The reporter never bothered to interview me and a good deal of my testimony was taken out of context.

On a larger scale in 1996 I volunteered for a year at People Working Cooperatively in Cincinnati, Ohio (a phenomenal organization serving a great city, Bengals not withstanding). A few months prior to my service there the agency had been the subject of a municipal investigation.

The Cincinnati press descended on PWC’s headquarters and interviewed its leaders. I was told by people whom I know an trust that while on site the reporters made ever effort to take a sympathetic tone, only to savage the agency once they got back to the studio.

I’ve known others who’ve brushed with the press and had similar experiences.

If you think about it, it is easy to imagine Harrison making comments about Rashard Mendenhall and Ben Roethlisberger in a light hearted or even off hand way, perhaps even with a playful tone. Of course all of that would get lost the instant they went into print.

Harrison’s comments about Goodell are another matter. From 6000 miles away those still “sound” as if they’re from the heart.

Silverback Should have Known Better

The bottom line is that Harrison should have known better. He is not a rookie and has been in the spotlight enough to know that something like this would happen.

Thanks for visiting. Click here to check out the rest of Steel Curtain Rising. Or, click here to follow this site on Twitter.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!