Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers Reup for 3 Years

The Pittsburgh Steelers are less than 24 hours away from convening training camp at St. Vincents Collegein Latrobe and almost as if on cue came the announcement that they had extended the contract of head coach Mike Tomlin.
The move will keep Tomlin on the Steelers sidelines through the 2016 season.
The Steelers policy has been to extend their head coach when he has two years remaining on his contract. The Steelers did just that two years ago, although at the time Joe Starkey of the Tribune Review noted that the extension was for 2 years plus an option, a departure from their standing operating procedure of offering straight three year extensions.
The Steelers move in 2010 was somewhat logical, as the team had suffered a mighty post-Super Bowl hangover during the 2009 season.
Since then Tomlin should, and apparently has, erased any doubts. In 2010, the Steelers became the first NFL team to begin its season with its starting quarterback serving a suspensionPittsburgh landed in Super Bowl XLVnonetheless.
The Steelers fortunes during the 2011 season weren’t quite so rosy, but Tomlin kept the team in contention despite roster ravaged by injury.
No Surprises This Time

There was little serious doubt that the Steelers would renew Mike Tomlin this time around. The only naysayer was Ron Cook of the Post Gazette, who suggested that Tomlin might resent Art Rooney II forcing him to fire Bruce Arians so much that he would refuse an extension.
Today it became clear why Cook could offer no reporting to back up his claim.
Although financial terms were released with the deal, one would figure that the contract extension would include a hefty increase for Tomlin. If this is true then it also dispels the notion that the Rooneys would refuse to pay top dollar for a quality head coach.
The bottom line is that Mike Tomlin is happy coaching the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Steelers are happy to have him. That’s a win for both sides in addition to a win for Steelers Nation.

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Steelers Sign David DeCastro

Just days before convening training camp in at St. Vincent’s College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania the Pittsburgh Steelers came to terms with David DeCastro their number one pick from the 2012 NFL Draft.
DeCastro signed a 4 year deal which includes an 5th option year at the end.
The news comes as no surprise, but is nonetheless welcome. Although Doug Legursky or Ramon Foster might be “officially” penciled on the depth chart to begin training camp at right guard, the Steelers are clearly counting on DeCastro as their starter. For that to occur he needs to begin camp on time, which now will happen.
The Steelers also signed undrafted rookie free agent offensive tackle Bridger Buche who was a two year starter at Eastern Michigan.

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Steelers Cut Jonathan Scott

One day after resigning veteran offensive tackle Max Starks the Steelers made another move by cutting reserve tackle Jonathan Scott.

Johnathan Scott was part of the Steelers 2010 Free Agent Signing Spree that included the returns of Antwann Randel El and Larry Foote. Scott brought on to be a back up but injuries forced him into the starting line up.

Scott struggled, mightily at times, during the regular season, but stepped up his game impressively during the playoffs and Super Bowl XLV. The Steelers thought so highly of his progress that he began the 2011 season as the starter.

That changed fast, however, as he was unable to protect Ben Roethlisberger’s blind side, and the team quickly moved to bring back Max Starks. Scott continued to receive action however, as repeated injuries forced the Steelers to play musical chairs on offensive line.

The Steelers likely waived Scott now, a week before training camp, to give him a chance to sign on elsewhere. The move also potentially opens up a roster spot for either Chris Scott, the Steelers 5th pick from the 2010 NFL Draft and/or Kyle Jolly, an undrafted rookie Free Agent who from 2010 who has spent the last two years on the practice squad. Trai Essex, who can play tackle, also remains on their roster.

Alan Robinson of the Tribune Review reported that the move will save the Steelers 1.7 million dollars against the salary cap – funds that could be used towards a long-term deal with restricted free agent Mike Wallace.

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Steelers Send Message With Decision to Resign Max Starks

The Steelers sent a message in the first two rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft: 

  • The era of “Plug and Patch” offensive line building in Pittsburgh is over.

Mike Tomlin’s offensive staff quickly confirmed this move after drafting DavidDiCastro and Mike Adams when they called Willie Colon to inform him that theoft-rumored shift to guard was going to become real.

The Steelers shifted Colonbecause they’re projecting Mike Adams to start at right tackle.

Today in resigning Max Starks the Steelers sent another unequivocal message: 
  • You have to earn your role as a starter when you’re a Pittsburgh Steeler

The latter message was just as important as the former. Mike Adams brings more than his fair share of baggage to the NFL – Adamsknocked himself off the Steelers draft board with a positive drug test at the NFL scouting combine.

Adams worked himself back into the Mike Tomin and Kevin Colbert’s good graces, and they rewarded him by giving him a chance.

But when news of Colon’s shift to guard was accompanied by confirmation that Marcus Gilbert would remain at right tackle the idea that the Steelers braintrust might be giving Adam’s more than a chance wasn’t so outlandish.

Afterall, the only two people he’d have to beat out were Trai Essex and Jonathan Scott – both mean whose track record at the left tackle position is checkered – to be charitable.

But with Max Starks on the roster, the Steelers have brought in a veteran whom Adams will have to push himself to beat. They’re also giving themselves the luxury of allowing Adamsto grow into the position.

Steelers Sign Starks – an Annual Off Season Rite

Perhaps when I launched Steel Curtain Rising in January of 2008 I it never occurred to me to  write up a batch of generic articles to cover typical, recurring, events.

One such story could have been “Steelers Resign Max Starks.” 

That would have come in handy as hardly a year has passed without Max Starks putting ink to paper with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
That four year contract got cut short, however as Starks injured his neck during 2010 and had to finish the season on IR.

The Steelers “Resign Max Stark” yarn took an unexpected twist in 2011 as Starks, after weighing in at over 400 pounds at Ben Roethlisberger’s wedding, was cutas soon as the lockout ended.

When WillieColon went down after the Debacle in Baltimore, many fans expected the Steelers to rush to the Red Phone to resign Starks (or perhaps Flozell Adams who actually offered his services to the Steelers — for a price.)
That plan lasted all of 3 games when it became crystal clear that Jonathan Scott was not a 16 game starter at left tackle. Discretion is that better part of valor, and the Steelers turned to Max Starks, initially thinking he would provide depth, but Starks started immediately — and the Steelers offensive line improved as a result.

Starks appears to be happy with the Steelers, Alan Robinson of the Tribune Review indicated that Atlantawas interested in signing him, despite the fact that the Steelers never seemed to have made up their collective mind on him.

However rumor is that Starks was never high on Bruce Arianslist, and that of course is a moot point now. Welcome back to Steelers Nation Max (again).

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Steelers Not Among iPad Early Adopters in NFL

Training camp is still a few weeks away, but this might be the last summer that a familiar NFL ritual plays out in St. Vincents.
What every player dreads all summer long in Latrobe is a knock at the door from “The Turk.” Who knows who plays the role of “The Turk” today.
That’s not what’s important. It’s the news he brings.
The knock at the door is usually followed by the grim phrase:  “Coach wants to see you. And bring your play book.”  The later part of that phrase tells all – your days as a Steeler are over.
Some unfortunate few will hear that dreaded phrase this summer, but they might be the last.
No, the Steelers are not planning on holding camp elsewhere.
But as NFL.com recently profiled, tablet computer technology is sweeping the NFL, simultaneously replacing the traditional pen and ink playbook and radically alerting the experience of film study.
As the article details, every NFL team is experimenting with the iPad with several teams discarding dead tree editions of the playbook.
The Steelers, as reported by Neal Coolong of Behind the Steel Curtain, are not one of them. The Steelers will make film and plays available for iPads, but they’re not making them mandatory.
Avoiding “Putting on the Dog?” Not so Fast
Why aren’t the Steelers early adopters? There’s no way to be sure.
Art Rooney Sr. always admonished against “Putting on the dog,” his way of reminding the boys to be modest, translating his credo in to practical advice such as “Don’t get a Cadillac, get a Buick instead.”
Dan Rooney is a traditionalist when it comes to the game and its presentation. In 1998 when a Jacksonville Jaguars team mascot and mocked the Steelers huddle Rooney loudly complained, going as far as to say, “It’s a shame we didn’t have Lambert or Lloyd with us. They’d have put him in the hospital.” 
When the Jacksonvillebeat reporter protested “But its only entertainment” Rooney’s report was “At Three Rivers Stadium our entertainment is in between the lines.”
But it would be a mistake to insist that the Steelers resist technology.
In fact, as part of the BLESTO scouting combine, the Steelers were one of the first teams to use computers in the scouting and evaluation of players. In fact, former Steelers defensive back, long-time BLESTO head, and soon to be Hall of Famer Jack Butler starred in a Sperry Rand commercial touting its computer’s role in the NFL draft.
Down Side to Technology
Traditionalists like Art Rooney Jr., who ran the Steelers scouting department in the 70’s, were “OK” with using computers, but were smart enough not to become slaves to them.
As he details in his biography/autobiography Ruanaidh, that self-same BLESTO computer didn’t think that Mike Webster could cut it in the NFL.
Even when it factored in intangibles like attitude and football intelligence, Webster simply lacked the measurables, or so that Sperry Rand algorithm concluded.
Fortunately Dick Haley, Tim Rooney, Art Jr. and Chuck Nolltook the time to look at tape on Webster, who of course became a Hall of Famer.
The smart money says that the Steelers will fully embrace tablet technology. But they’ll leave it to others to work out the kinks.
So it might be a few summers before the phrase “Coach wants to see you, and bring your iPad” are uttered in the halls of St. Vincents.

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Watch Tower: Calling Out Mike Florio, Revisiting Mike Tomlin and Kordell Stewart, and Taking Our Own Medicine

NBC Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio attracts attention to himself. Last month Florio drew the ire of Steelers Nation by taking Mike Tomlin’s William and Mary Hall of Fame induction speech and twisting it so far out of context they it was unrecognizable.

Fellow scribe Neal Coolong of Behind the Steel Curtainimmediately pounced as did Steelers Depot and Dan Gigler of the Post Gazette’s Blog ‘N Gold. 

Then I watch Tomlin’s speech (click here for the full video) and now I question whether or not Coolong was harsh enough.

But the purpose of Watch Tower’scritical eye is to analyze and understand what drives the coverage that the Steelers get in the press. 
  • So the Watch Tower went right to the source:  Mike Florio himself.

I sent Florio a message, asking if he’d read the full text of Tomlin’s speech or viewed it (Florio quoted passage, citing Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column).

I inquired if he weighed the context of Tomlin’s and if he’d sought comment or clarification from Tomlin or the team. One imagines that Burt Lauren, Steelers Communications director, would take Florio’s call. Finally, I asked Florio if he really did want to insulate that Tomlin condoned attempts to injure players.
The response from Florio?
  • Despite repeated attempts, Florio chose not to respond.

The professional press criticizes bloggers, often rightly, for hiding behind anonymity as they poison the well of public discourse.

But the fact that Florio put his name beside his attacks fails to make him any better.
He could have responded to my inquiry in several ways. He could have defended his work, offered a mea culpa or even dismissed the question with a hearty “who the hell are you?”
Instead, he chose silence.
  • And for that, the Watch Tower calls out Florio as a coward.

If you’re going to make scandalous charges about one of the classiest individuals in the NFL Mike, then man up stand behind what you write.

Kordell the Best Between Bradshaw and Ben?
Kordell Stewart surprised Steelers Nation yet again with his “retirement.” Stewart generated more controversy than perhaps any man to wear the Black and Gold and his decision to call it quits 10 years after leaving the team drew a variety of responses.
None were more puzzling, however, than Ron Cook of the Post-Gazette.
Reflecting on Stewart’s career Cook concluded, “He was the Steelers’ best quarterback between four-time Super Bowl winner Terry Bradshaw and two-time Super Bowl winner Ben Roethlisberger.”
Two paragraphs later Cook doubled down:

Stewart once predicted he would make the Hall of Fame. He fell considerably short, but he was better than everyone on this list: Cliff Stoudt, Mark Malone, David Woodley, Scott Campbell, Bubby Brister, Steve Bono, Todd Blackledge, Neil O’Donnell, Mike Tomczak, Jim Miller, Kent Graham and Tommy Maddox. They are the other Steelers quarterbacks who followed Bradshaw and preceded Roethlisberger.

  • Cook makes a bold claim.

The Watch Tower takes no issue with Cook’s opinion, he’s entitled to it and there’s an argument to be made to support. But successfully making such an argument requires marshaling evidence that Kordell was better than Neil O’Donnell at least, and perhaps Tommy Maddox.

Cook doesn’t do that. He probably didn’t have the column space, but his piece would have been far more interesting if he had.
Mike Tomlin’s Contract
Earlier this year he suggested that Tomlin might resent Art Rooney II’s forcing him to fire Bruce Arians so much that he’d decline to renew his contract. Regular readers will remember that the Watch Tower took issue with Cook then for not backing his analysis up with any reporting.
Cook mentioned the Arians firing, but took a different direction and in doing so raised the possibility that Steelers Nation will get an answer to a long-unanswered question.
Cook reasons that market dynamics dictate a significant raise for Tomlin, in the range of what it Bill Cowher could have commanded in 2006.
  • Many believe that Cowher simply because the Steelers would not pay premium dollar for a head coach.

Personally I’ve always felt that the Steelers probably would have met his price had he indicated that his future was in Pittsburgh. But we never got to find out because Kaye Cowher was already in the family’s newly purchased home in North Carolina, hence the Rooneys declined to open their check books.  

If Cook is right we could find out just how ready the Rooneys are to pay top dollar for a coach in a few weeks.
Love for Troy Smith, No Love for Mewelde Moore
The Steelers lost Mewelde Moore when he signed with theColts and decided to part ways with Troy Smith. You’d figure that Moore’s departure would merit more attention than Smith.
That was not the case, at least in Pittsburgh’s to leading dailies. News, let alone a story, about Mewelde Moore’sdeparture was no where to be found on either website save for a brief mention in Seth Rorabagh’s “Morning Links” column on PG Plus. 
  • In contrast, Smith’s departure drew short stories in both the Tribune Review and Post Gazette.

 Moore’s departure was widely forecast, but he was an unsung hero in the Steelers 2008 Super Bowl season and deserved more of a send off. Nonetheless, the lack of coverage was fitting as in 2008 the press largely ignored Mewelde Moore until injuries forced him into the line up (click here for that story.)

Steel Curtain Rising Takes Its Own Medicine
The Watch Tower bright lights do not discriminate, not even when it comes to its home site.
When news broke that the Steelers planned to keep Marcus Gilbert at right tackle I jumped to the conclusion that meant they were therefore were by default (given that they won’t be so dense as to start Jonathan Scott or Trai Essex there) handing the job to second round pick Mike Adams. 
  • As it turns out, Marcus Gilbert did see time at LT during OTA’s and word also circulated that the team might give Max Starks a look.

Two pitfalls of the internet are haste in getting “content” on a page can lead to sloppy judgment and that nothing generates hits like a negative headline.

So be it. Yours truly fell prey to both of those and I duly accept my comeuppance.

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Steelers cut Troy Smith

The Pittsburgh Steelers announced yesterday via Twitter that they have cut 4th string quarterback and former Heisman trophy winner Troy Smith. The Steelers had signed Smith to a futures contract in January.
The decision to sign Smith surprised some, but was quite understandable as Bryon Leftwich, Charlie Batch, and Dennis Dixon were all unrestricted free agents heading into the off season. Both Leftwich and Batchhave since resigned with the Steelers.
Smith had worked out with the team throughout the off season, including OTA’s and Minicamp.
Saved by the Bell….
Anyone who (that is anyone who works a full time job) has their own site about their favorite sports team can tell you, one of the biggest frustrations is having more ideas than you have time to write about.
Sometimes, however, that is a blessing.
I know little of Troy Smith, other than he’s bounced around the league for a few years in spite of his strong college pedigree. Yet, a recently published story on Smith in the Post-Gazette, combined with tales form PG Plus about his arm strength got me thinking that perhaps Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin had brought Smith as more than insurance.
According to press reports, the Steelers actively want to groom a young signal caller to be Ben Roethlisberger’s back up. They didn’t draft a quarterback in the 2012 NFL Draft, seemingly leaving room for Troy Smith to win a job in camp.
Or so my article was about to argue.  Sometimes being too busy to write is a blessing.
Daylight for Dennis Dixon….?
Smith’s departure brings the number of experienced quarterbacks on the Steelers roster to 3. They traditionally bring four to camp to keep everyone fresh.
Dennis Dixon, the team’s 5th round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft had expected (or at least hoped) to cash in during free agency.
The first two rounds of free agency are over and the draft has come and gone and no one has called Dennis Dixon’s number.
This amounts to pure speculation on the part of Steel Curtain Rising, but one has to wonder if letting Smith go opens up a slot for the team to give Dennis Dixon a chance to win a spot in camp.
That prospect is not entirely likely, as Dixon was unhappy with his role last year and made noises about being traded, but the possibility remains.

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Which of the Steelers 2012 Draft Picks Will Fail?

IF you’ve found this page in June our July of 2012, you might be head scratching over the current poll because the Pittsburgh Steelers2012 Draft Class is being met with tremendous fanfare. An overwhelming number of fans in a previous poll were ready to anoint David DeCastro as the next Alan Faneca.

Fortune shined the Steelers favor, allowing them draft the best players available without needing to reach. 

  • Or so the tale goes.

Truthfully, having David DeCastro slip to them in the first round was likely an incredible stroke of luck for the Steelers. And, prior to his positive drug test, Mike Adams had been pegged as a sure first rounder.

There’s no doubt that the Steelers 2012 Draft Class is a group brimming with potential. 
  • But with every draft class the challenge lines in transforming that potential into to production.

In other words in when the Steelers convene camp in Latrobe a month from now reality will begin to set in.

  • And that reality dictates that some of these draft day superstars will fail in the NFL.

As pointed out here recently, many of the same things begin said about the Steelers 2012 draft class were also being said about Pittsburgh’s 2008 draftees (click here for the article.)

Kevin Colbert leads one of the finest scouting efforts in the NFL. Colbert’s record in the first round is the envy of the league (click herefor a pick-by-pick breakdown of Kevin Colbert’s first round success.)
Yet my quick, back of the envelop calculations reveal that even Colbert has only picked average 2.5 quality contributors per draft. 
Rebecca Rollett, writing on Behind the Steel Curtain, has done a more exhaustive study of Colbert’s early, middle, and late round picksand, while her conclusions are slightly more generous than mine, they show that Kevin Colbert is ahead of his peers. (Full disclosure: I also write for Behind the Steel Curtain.) 
  • So be it. It’s likely that Colbert has drafted a couple of three studs in waiting.

But that doesn’t change the simple fact that some of these men simply won’t make the transition to life in the NFL.

I don’t say this to be a naysayer, but rather inject a little dose of reality into a conversation where many are already ranking the Steelers 2012 Draft along side the Steelers historic 1974 Draft.
No one would be happier if the 1974 prediction comes to bear because that would likely mean more Super Bowls in the Steelers future.
But basic math tells us that a 1974 repeat, or a even a near repeat is not likely. And that means that some of Aprils “Can’t Miss” prospects will. 
  • Who will fall through the cracks?

Will David DeCastro prove to be the new Huey Richardson? Might Mike Adams prove to be a Ricky Williams soul mate? Could Alameda Ta’amueat himself out of the league?

I don’t pretend to know, but I do offer you the chance to make your voice heard.
Take a moment to vote in the poll above or better yet, offer your reasons behind your vote in the comment section.

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Steelers Say Goodbye as Mewelde Moore Signs with Colts

The Pittsburgh Steelers said good bye to reserve running back Mewelde Moore, who will rejoin Bruce Arians at the Indianapolis Colts.
Moore arrived in Pittsburgh in 2008 with little fan fare, the news of Moore’s signing breaking on the same day that Ben Roethlisberger signed his 100 million dollar extension.
Moorenever became a star with the Steelers, but he was an invaluable back up and effective third down back.
Mewelde Moore passed through training camp and the beginning of the 2008 campaign largely ignored by the press if not the coaches.
But Mooreplayed a crucial role when injuries felled Willie Parker, Rashard Mendenhalland Carey Davis. Moore started in the all-important mid-season show down with Jacksonvillethat year and helped breath life into Mike Tomlin’s “The Standard is the Standard” philosophy by running the ball with authority.
  • Mooreplayed extensively during the rest of 2008, and was one of that Super Bowl season’s unsung heroes.
And that’s how his career in Pittsburgh will be remembered. Moore never got a lot of fanfare, but he always gave it his all whenever he stepped on the field.
Caught in the Backfield Glut
With Rashard Mendenhall still rehabbing his ACL and likely to start the season the PUP, Isaac Redman is poised to enter 2012 as the Steelers starter. 
Behind Redman the Steelers have quantity depth but the quality of the depth remains an unknown. Jonathan Dwyer looked good in his only start vs. Tennessee, but he’s had chronic off season conditioning issues and hasn’t been tested extensively.
Barron Batch was a training camp hero last summer in Latrobe before injuring his ACL and, while his potential is real, much remains for him to prove.
Chris Rainey, the Steelers 5th round pick from the 2012 NFL Draft, offers alluring potential but, then again, can’t we say that about every draft pick this time of the year?
John Clay also figures to be in the mix.
With David Johnson moving to full back, the Steelers will likely carry four pure running backs on their roster. Redman and Rainey are locks to make the team, with Dwyer and Batch holding down the other two spots – assuming that Rashard Mendenhall starts the year on the PUP.
  • Steelers coaches liked Moore, with Kriby Wilson likening him to “an old familiar suit case.”
While the Steelers made little or no effort to sign Mewelde Moore, word was that he might become a training camp addition, depending on how the competition at the back up spot played out.
  • For good for or for ill, that Indianapolis has now taken that option off of the table.
Best of luck Mewelde, Steel Curtain Rising wishes you great success in Hoosier country – as long as that success comes not at the expense of the Steelers….

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Tomczak to be Pittsburgh (Power) Offensive Coordinator

Former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mike Tomczak is returning to coach offense in Pittsburgh. No, he’s not joining Todd Haley’s staff, but will rather join as the offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Power, the Steel City’s arena football team.
Bill Cowher and Tom Donahoe brought Mike Tomczak to Pittsburgh in 1993 where he played as a back up, and occasional starter, from 1993 to 1999. Tomczak cut his teeth in Chicago as a starter/backup for  Mike Ditka and then played for several teams before arriving in Pittsburgh.
In fact, Tomczak can boast to his grandchildren that he was the only AFC Central quarterback to defeat the Steelers during Cowher’s inaugural season.
The name “Mike Tomczak” generally draws ire in Steelers Nation, but he did stabilized the backup slot during Neil O’Donnell and Kordell Stewart’s starting tenures.

Tomczak’s Shining Moment as a Steeler
His brightest moment came in 1994, Bill Cowher opted to sit Neil O’Donnell due to nagging injuries. With Tomczak starting, the Steelers won two crucial AFC match ups vs. Miami and Los Angeles.
How Tomczak won those games was more important, however. Entering 1994, Eric Green still looked like he might redefine the tight end position. But as the year wore on it became clear that Green wasn’t going to reach his potential. O’Donnell insisted on forcing the ball to Green anyway.
History will remember Tomczak serving as the successful “game manager” in those two contests, but his real contribution was to show O’Donnell he had weapons in the form of Yancey Thigpen, Ernie Mills, Andre Hastings, and Charles Johnson.
For those unacquainted with those names, Thigpen, Mills, Hastings, and Johnson were the “Young Money” of their day. It’s true that neither Hastings nor Johnson ever lived up to their promise, and injuries hampered Thigpen and Mills development.
Nonetheless, the Steelers passing offense was at its most potent in 1994 when Green was on the bench and the four wide outs were in the game. The tendency that would carry over into 1995 and ultimately Super Bowl XXX, with the 5 wide receivers and the Kordell Stewart as “Slash” phenomenon, all began with Tomczak’s two starts.
Good Luck Mike
Tomczak in many ways seems like a natural coach. He served as sideline confidant to Jim McMahon and Jim Harbaugh in Chicago, helping them weather the “Ditka’s in Your Face Syndrome.” He also served as a mentor, for whatever good it did, to Kordell Stewart.
Many thought that when Tomczak retired Bill Cowher would bring him back as a quarterback’s coach, and Tomczak always seemed interested in coaching.
Well, he never got to join Cowher’s staff, but he will get a taste of coaching pro football in Pittsburgh.

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