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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Understanding the Rise, Fall, Resurrection and Ultimate Undoing of Kordell Stewart

Kordell Stewart has officially retired as a Pittsburgh Steeler. That’s a strange thing to say for someone who threw his last pass for the Steelers in December 2002 and left the NFL in 2005.

Yet this is a fitting ending.

Few, if any Steelers had as long and strange of a trip as Kordell Stewart. Steel Curtain Rising takes this opportunity to offer a look back at the oft entertaining, always controversial quarterback who made “Slash” a household word in Steelers Nation.

Pittsburghselected Kordell Stewart in the 2nd round of the 1995 NFL draft. With Neil O’Donnell, Mike Tomczak, and Jim Miller ahead of him everyone expected Stewart simply stand in street clothes clipboard in hand on the sideline.
Steelers lost Rod Woodson and Neil O’Donnell in the 1995 opener. By mid-season back to back losses to the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars and Cincinnati Bengals had sent the Steelers reeling.
Bill Cowher made changes. John L. Williams and John Jacksonreturned to the lineup. Carnell Lake shifted from safety to corner. Erric Pegram started in place of Bam Morris.
And, on a third and long situation, Kordell Stewart lined up under center. 16 yards later he’d converted a key third down, and a Steelers rally began that only ended in Super Bowl XXX.
Stewart’s role grew. Already used as a decoy in multiple receiver sets, during the next week vs. Chicagohe got his first catch – for 27 yards.
A week later, he zig zagged through the backfield throwing his first pass, a 2 yard touchdown to Ernie Mills vs. the Cleveland Browns.

The next week he tore through the Cincinnati secondary for an amazing 71 yard touchdown vs. the Bengals that put the Steelers ahead for good. How impressive was this catch? Take a look (available as of 5/2/12):


And so went 1995 for the Steelers. Kordell Stewart only ran 15 times, only caught 14 balls, only threw 7 passes with one touchdown in each category.
  • Modest but sufficient stats for Kordell Stewart and the “Slash” phenomena take Steelers Nation in force. 

He could do no wrong. But that would change….

Many expected Kordell Stewart to size the reigns in the 3 way quarterback derby Bill Cowher convened at Latrobe in the summer of ‘96.
Kordell failed to distinguish himself and after quickly benching Jim Miller, Cowher turned to Mike Tomczak. Stewart remained “Slash” and if he improved at receiver, he often seemed hesitant and tentative under center where he’d previously been cocky and confident.
After stabilizing the team during early and mid-season, Mike Tomczak began to find the limits of his abilities. As injuries mounted and the playoffs loomed Cowher sought for a weapon to compensate.
With the Steleers behind late in the first half Kordell came into the game and immediately put the team ahead with an electrifying 80 touchdown scramble.
Kordell stayed in, but couldn’t complete passes. Any passes, unless you count 2 interceptions. The defense kept it close, and on the final drive Kordell found his rhythm and was an end zone drop away from a successful comeback.
Cowher employed a similar strategy for the playoffs. Vs. New England in Fog Bowl II he was an utter disaster throwing 10 passes with no completions…..
Bill Cowher named Kordell Stewart his starter for the 1997 season and the roller coaster ride was on.
Statistically Kordell’s play in 1997 failed to impress. But he did something more important than put up pretty stats – he won, often in dramatic fashion.
Week 5 vs. Baltimoregave an early example. I sat in the stands at Memorial Stadium and Kordell looked cluelessly threw three interceptions, one worse then the next. With the Baltimore up 24-7 at the half, Ravens fans joked that “Kordell is our most valuable player.”
  • But a different Kordell rallied Pittsburgh to victory in the second half, throwing three touchdown passes and scoring another on a 70 yard scramble.
Week 15 vs. the Broncos told a similar tale.
As John Elway was toasting Donnell Wolford, Kordell was erratic and threw an interception that Denverquickly turned into a touchdown. A side line reporter revealed that Bill Cowher told Mike Tomzack and Mike Quinn to “talk to Kordell and get him to calm down.”
  • Kordell didn’t calm down.
Instead he exploded to throw to touchdown strikes to Yancey Thigpen and rushing for two more as the Steelers won.
A week later in New England, Kordell was at it again.
A late Drew Beldsoe interception gave the Steelers a chance to tie a game they’d never led. Kordell helped convert a 4th down on this drive, threw a touchdown and then completed a pass for a successful 2 point conversion which tied the game. Pittsburghwon, and secured a bye in the playoffs.
Although the 1997 playoffs ended with the Kordell’s 3 interception loss vs. the Broncos in the AFC Championship, the sky seemed to be the limit for Kordell. 1998 and 1999 revealed Kordell’s limits to be much closer to the ground….
1998 and 1999 were dark times for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
While the Steelers wisely refused to overpay to free agents Yancey Thigpen, John Jackson, and Carnell Lake, their draft picks and free agent replacements proved woefully inadequate.
  • The line couldn’t block for Jerome Bettis
  • Receivers couldn’t get open
  • The secondary became a sieve (anyone remember Travis Davis?)
Below this lay a simmering feud between Bill Cowher and Tom Donahoe.
Most of this was lost, however, on Steelers Nation.
  • For many, the Steelers problems boiled down to two words:  Kordell Stewart.
Stewart indeed struggled mightily.
Ray Sherman was clueless when it came to using Kordell’s athleticism, and Kevin Gilbride sought to transform him into a pure pocket passer.
At times Kordell looked beyond lost. The long ball, which had been his specialty, disappeared completely. Check down passes of 6 or 7 yards routinely landed at players ankles.
Stewart resisted taking responsibility. He got benched in Tampa. He cried. He finished 1999 as a wide receiver, with Cowher banning him from quarterbacks meetings.
Things got ugly.
  • Kordell received death threats
  • Fans poured beer on him
  • He began playing better on the road than at Three Rivers Stadium
  • Racist comments circulated
  • Rumors about his personal life surfaced
No shortage existed of people ready to assure you “My buddy’s the cop” who found Kordell in some supposedly unsavory and illegal situation.
Further complicating the situation was the huge contract that the Steelers, in a show of confidence, had given Kordell following the 1998 season.
Salary cap realities tied the Steelers to Stewart.
With the 8th pick in the 2000 draft the Steelers had their choice of quarterbacks. Yet Kevin Colbert and Bill Cowher optedagainst selecting Chad Pennington.
Instead they brought in Kent Graham who won the job in preseason. The Steelers nonetheless started the 2000 season 0-3 and things seemed to go from bad to worse when Graham injured himself on a late Friday afternoon.
The Steelers were heading to Jacksonville, where once again Kordell would rise from the ashes.
Kordell did it again the next week vs. New York and two weeks later replaced an ineffective Kent Graham. He led comeback victories vs. Cincinnatiand came off the injury cart a week later to rally the team vs. Oakland.
The Steelers were eliminated on tie breakers during the season’s final week that year, but had recovered their mojo. Many players can claim credit for that, but perhaps none more than Kordell.
The 2001 Steelers took the NFL by surprise, finishing 13-3. Kordell had a Pro Bowl year and was voted team MVP, having picked up the slack when Bettis fell injured late in the season.
The Steelers made it to another AFC Championship and they lost again with Kordell throwing another 3 interceptions.
But the loss was not his fault. The Patriots offense shredded the Steelers defense in the first half, while their defense stuffed the Steelers running game. Steelers special teams gave up two touchdowns and that simply proved to be too much for Stewart to overcome.
Kordell Stewart’s first and second passes of the 2002 season were intercepted and quickly converted into points by the New England Patriots in what would become known as the “Dread the Spread” game.
The next week vs. Oakland Kordell played better but was still unable to lead a comeback.
The following week Stewart again struggled as Pittsburgh found itself locked must win situation vs. the Cleveland Browns. Late in the 4thquarter Cowher needed a spark and sent in Tommy Maddox and the Steelers won.
  • After the game Cowher seemed to indicate that Stewart would start the next week, but he shifted course, naming Maddox as “the starter.”
A few weeks later when the Steelers played the Colts and the game was broadcast on ESPN Deportes reporter Raul Allegre dropped a bomb, telling his Latin American audience:

Hablé con Bill Cowher sobre Kordell Stewart, y él me dijo que no quisiera cambiar a su mariscal, pero sentí que tendría que hacerlo, porque Kordell Stewart había perdido la confianza del resto de los miembros del equipo.

In a nutshell, Cowher told Allegre that he didn’t want tobench Kordell but felt he had to because Kordell had lost the confidence of the rest of the locker room.
  • And therein lies the key to the rise and fall of Kordell Stewart:  Confidence.
Success in the NFL at quarterback involves many factors, but none are perhaps more important than confidence and mental toughness.
Ben Roethlisberger once remarked that the true test of toughess for a quarterback was the ability to shrug off throwing 3 interceptions in a playoff game and comeback to play well enough to give your team a chance to win.
Kordell Stewart lost whatever swagger he had as a swashbuckling Slash that allowed him to lead numerous comebacks.
To tap an overused metaphor on this site, when Kordell could rely on instinct and athleticism, he defied gravity with a uncanny cartoon character like ability. 
  • But twin sets of triplet interception AFC Championship performances forced Stewart to look down. And like the Road Runner, Kordell fell.
Most quarterbacks are finished when they lose their confidence.

Kordell, after enduring a particularly cruel two-year purgatory, rebuilt his confidence and earned a second chance to knock on heaven’s door, only to fall short a second time.

Bill Cowher couldn’t afford to give him a third chance because the only thing that allowed Kordell to return to relying on instinct, was removal of the pressure of the starting job.
If you want proof, consider that when Tommy Maddox got injured in 2002, Kordell Stewart played some of his best football ever, nearly rallying the team to victory in Tennessee, and going 22-26-236-0-1 with another forty yards rushing the next week vs. Cincinnati.

  • Those were arguable his best two games as a passer.
He followed a similar pattern in Chicago, playing his best when coming off the bench.
As someone whose heart was rooting for Kordell even when his head said he was done, I wished him success after Pittsburgh, and thought he’d enjoy a successful run as a backup.
That was not to be. Kordell held a clipboard for two years in Baltimore, but threw no passes. As late as 2009 or 2010 Steelers Digest reported that Stewart held out hope that his phone might ring.
  • It never did.
So he decided to seek closure in the place where his long, strange NFL odyssey began, and by his account he found it. Good for you Kordell. Good luck and Godspeed in retirement.

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Watch Mike Tomlin’s William and Mary Hall of Fame Induction Speech

They coined the term “Class” to describe people like Mike Tomlin. Tomlin, a native of Tidewater, Virginia, was a scholarship student and graduate from William and Mary.

  • The William and Mary Hall of Fame recently inducted MikeTomlin.
Pro Football Talk Editor Mike Florio recently lambasted Tomlin for the contents of his speech.

Behind the Steel Curtain’s
Neal Coolong wasted little time in taking Florio to task for “character assassination” and the Steelers Depot similarly took Florio to task for taking Tomlin’s words out of context. (Full disclosure, I am an occasional contributor at BTSC.)
Florio’s comments appear questionable, to say the least. TheWatch Tower has sought Florio’s side of the story and will have more to say depending on how Florio responds (or fails to respond.)
But regardless, this controversy regarding Tomlin’s comments is a crying shame. His 15 minute speech to was a piece of beauty, where Mike Tomlin stepped out form his “coache’s role” and offered a rare glimpse of just why he blew away Dan Rooney and Art Rooney II during his interview.
Take the time to view the speech for yourself (available as of 5/29/12).


Mike Tomlin truly is a class act, and is a credit to his family, his school, Pittsburgh Steelers and Steelers Nation.

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Todd Haley Restores the Fullback to the Steelers Offense

The fullback has returned to Pittsburgh following a five year banishment at the behest of Bruce Arians, thus we have our the first real news to come out of the Steelers OTA’s.

Offically OTA’s stand for “Organized Team Workouts.”

The truth is they boil down to football in shorts. Make no mistake, they give rookies a chance to begin learning the system and get acquainted to the team. But little of consequence happens at these events, although they’re covered in part to supply the voracious appetite that Steelers Nation has for news about its beloved team.

The reemergence of the fullback counts as real news, and it was reported by Ed Bouchette in PG Plus. According to Bouchette’s report, Isaac Redman informed him that David Johnson is now classified as a fullback, and is attending meetings with the team’s backs.

The Steelers drafted Johnson in 2009 as a tight end, and he’s served in both capacities since then.

Bruce Arians’ Original Sin

Bruce Arians got off on the wrong foot with many in Steelers Nation because one of his first moves was to phase out fullback Dan Kreider.

Dan Kreider of course was one of the first of many Kevin Colbert undrafted rookie free agent steals. He earned that distinction because he was a human battering ram, equavilant to or perhaps better than a sixth offensive lineman, at least in running game.

As someone who later became a self-professed Arians Agnostic, I must admit that my initial qualm with phasing out Kreider was that it signaled a departure from “traditional Steelers Football.”

But I am wise enough to know that however strong that sentiment might run, the league is changing, and even if it didn’t, the Steelers wouldn’t have won Super Bowls IX, XIII, XIV, and XLIII without the prolific passing of Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger.

  • That reality does not absolve Arians of his original sin.

The problem with phasing out Kreider, was the simple fact that Kreider,was a stud, and relegating him to the bench signaled an intent to try to force player into a system as opposed to using a system to maximize the talent on hand.

Carey Davis was supposedly Kreider’s replacement, but Davis never did anything to justify the move. Arians preferred to run with two tight ends, which is fine, but you need two good tight ends to make that work, and Matt Spaeth performance was never consistent enough to be considered “good.”

Year after year, fans and the press would clamor for a fullback, and Arians stock response was “my offense doesn’t have a fullback.”

That’s not a terrible thing. Fullbacks are a fading breed not only in the NFL but in football in general. But Arians wasn’t even open to the concept.

Implications of David Johnson’s Move to Fulltime Fullback

David Johnson lined up plenty as a fullback or H-Back over the last few years and showed himself to be a good lead blocker.

His skills should only improve now that he’s there full time, which undoubtedly helped fuel Todd Haley’s decision.

  • The move also has roster implications.

The signing of Leonard Pope gave the Steelers four tight ends on their roster, and they took another in the 7th Round of the 2012 NFL Draft. No one expected them to keep four tight ends, let alone five.

Johnson’s move to fullback potentially gives the Steelers the luxury of keeping Weslye Saunders on the roster.

The Steelers could conceivably open the season with Heath Miller, Lenoard Pope, and David Paulson as their trio of tight ends, and then bring Saunders back when he finishes his suspension, waive Paulson and bring him back to the practice squad.

Of course, now that Johnson is officially a full back, it could put Jonathan Dwyer or Barron Batch’s roster sport in jeopardy, but that remains a tale for another day.

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The Puzzle and Promise of Moving Willie Colon to Guard

The Steelers have ended the speculation they created by taking David DeCastro and Mike Adams with their first two picks in the 2012 NFL Draft. Willie Colon’s move to guard completes a sea-change in the Steelers offensive line building approach.

  • The move is as welcome as it is necessary.

For too long “plug and patch” have been the watch words of the Steelers offensive line philosophy. For a time, Pittsburgh defied gravity by winning one Super Bowl and appearing in another despite sub-standard offensive lines and record numbers sacks allowed.

Even if you control for Ben Roethlisberger retaining the ball too long, 2011 was the season when the Road Runner glanced downward and Big Ben took the fall.

Lacking both depth and talent, injuries forced the Steelers to use an estimated 22 different offensive line configurations in 2011. Only weeks after committing their young offensive lineman, the Steelers reversed courseand recalled Max Starks just over a month after waving him.
The Steelers 2012 offensive line will have a very different look.
Instead of featuring undrafted rookie free agents Doug Legursky and Ramon Foster and journey men veterans like Jonathan Scott and Trai Essex, they’re set to start two firsts, two seconds, and a fourth round draft pick.
  • Hear! Hear! Cried the man whose been calling for more stability on the offensive line.

 Sounds good on paper, but is moving Colon to guard really the right thing to do? The answer remains nebulous.

The Pros of Moving Colonto Guard
The Steelers drafted Willie Colon as a tackle but rumors that he was a natural guard have always followed him. 
  • Position shift rumors are staples of football. 

In the 80’s and 90’s WMAL/WTEM sports radio guru Ken Beatrice never tired of insisting to Steelers Nation expats in Washington that the Steelers needed to move cornerbacks Delton Hall and Chad Scott to safety. Steelers Digest even chimed in, reporting that unnamed Steelers coaches regarded Scott as a safety playing corner.

I’ll leave it to others to definitively rate Colon’s performance as a tackle and simply say that if he was a good tackle he was never going to be a dominate one.
If the Steelers think the Colon can be a better guard that Legursky and Foster, then they should make the move.
Fear never motivates Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert’s. To wit, they informed Colon of the switch as soon as they drafted Adams
  • Precedent supports their decision to do it now.

In 1998, Bill Cowher tried Jamain Stephens, Paul Wiggins, and Chris Conrad at right tackle throughout training camp. All three fell woefully short, and it wasn’t until the fourth preseason game that Cowher settled on his line moving Will Wolford from left guard to left tackle and shifting Justin Strzelczykfrom left to right tackle.

With Alan Fanenca working himself into the line up that arrangement worked fairly well, but the Steelers offensive line started slow out of the gate and never really caught up.
So if moving Colonnow gives them their best chance to field fielding their five best lineman from the get go, then more power to them.
The Puzzling Aspect to Colon’s Move to Guard
But Tomlin refuses to anoint rookies. Believes in a way that it ruins them for the rest of their careers….– Bob Labriola, Steelers Digest, 9/4/10, explaining why Mike Tomlin delayed naming Maurkice Pouncey as his starter.
There’s a flip side to moving Colon to guard and doing it now, and it has nothing to do with his ability to beat out Legursky or Foster.
Who plays left tackle?
At first, everyone assumed that Marcus Gilbert would move to from right to left tackle, a shift for which he’d been groomed.
Not so, reports Ed Bouchette on PG Plus. Gilbert will stayat right tackle.
That leaves four options on the left side:
  • Giving it another go with Jonathan Scott
  • Bringing back Max Starks
  • Offering Trai Essex his shot
  • Starting rookie Mike Adams

Jonathan Scott or Trai Essex will begin training camp at the top of the depth cart. The Steelers don’t arrive at St. Vincent’s with rookies penciled in as starters. Not under Chuck Noll, not under Bill Cowher, not under Mike Tomlin.

But Jonathan Scott is not and will never be the Steelers answer as a starting tackle. Yes, he performed above expectations, at times, in late 2010 in relief of Max Starks. Likewise, he held his own in spot duty late in 2011.
But he was so overwhelmed in early 2011 that the Steelers wasted little time in going to the red phone to Max Starks after the Trashing in Texas.
Max Starks is kind of like a fire in an Irish peat bog. The Steelers keep trying to put him out (why? well that’s another question) but he keeps returning. Assuming he recovers from his ACL tear, Starks could help this team.
But the Steelers salary cap problems make Stark’s return unlikely, as a recent Tribune-Review article confirmed.

  • That leaves rookie Mike Adams.
Again, I don’t know enough to project whether Adams talent makes him a viable candidate to start in 2012. Others such as Dale Lolley argue that he’s not ready.
But Adam’s talent is not the only variable to consider.
His off the field issues are well documented, and Kevin Colbert readily admitted he went out on a limb for Adams. And even without the baggage, Adams is a rookie, and Tomlin is loathe to anoint rookies.
In moving Willie Colon and keeping Gilbert at right tackle, the Steelers have paved the way for Adams to claim the starting job at left tackle.
Giving a young rookie such a baptism by fire can force him to mature fast and force him to take command of his career. 
  • Or it can set him up to fall flat on his face.

Is that really a risk you want to take with the position charged with protecting your 100 million dollar quarterback’s blind side?

It says here that Mike Tomlin, Todd Haley, and Sean Kugler know more about offensive line and football character than I do.
They wouldn’t attempt this without thinking they can succeed. But it’s going to be interesting to see how they fit this piece into their puzzle. 


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Bill Cowher Fights Melanoma in Memory of Kaye Cowher

It’s been less than 2 years since Bill Cowher tragically and suddenly lost his wife Kaye to skin cancer, but now the former Steelers standard bearer is doing something about it.

In an effort profiled by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Bill Cowher is helping launch the public awareness campaign “Melanoma Exposed.”
The campaign’s aim is to get people to take the disease seriously and to get themselves checked. As the Post Gazette article details, Melanoma is a very leathal form of skin cancer, but it is treatable – when caught early.
As part of the campaign, several NFL teams, including the Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, and Baltimore Ravens will be holding free screenings. Bill Cowher adds that he hopes the Pittsburgh Steelers follow suit.
Steel Curtain Rising shares his wish. For more information, you can access the site’s website at:  www.MelanomaExposed.com.

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Todd Haley Presents New Playbook to Steelers

The NFL’s true “off season” might be fast approaching, but Todd Haley is already at work presenting his new offense to Steelers coaches and players.
While its way too early to draw conclusions, the early reactions are something to take note of.
Ben Roethlisberger suggested that to understand the new offense, he might need the Rosetta Stone. Emmanuel Sanders confirmed via Twitter that more than 90% of the offense had changed.  
In interviews Todd Haley, while making it clear he was going to install his own system, also let it be known that he didn’t expect too the changes to be too profound. He emphasized that he broke into the coaching ranks with Bill Parcells, whose playbook was similar to that of Ron Erhardt.
The late Ron Erhardt, who served as Steelers offensive coordinator from 1992 to 1995, established many of the fundamentals that have guided the Steelers on offense since then.
That’s What the All Say, Isn’t It?
Of course this is not the first time we’ve heard that the Steelers offense has been radically changed while remaining consistent with previous incarnations. 
It’s true that Ray Sherman was basically asked to come in and run the Steelers existing offense in 1998, and the results were disastrous. Kevin Gilbride was in a year later and given a much more free hand. Yet Gilbride insisted that because of his ties to the “Tom Coughlin/Bill Parcells coaching line” that his play numbering system would be similar.
Similarity or not, Kordell Stewart and the rest of the players had a difficult time with an offense that required quarterbacks and receivers to read the pre-snap coverage and make automatic adjustments to routes at the line of scrimmage. 
Its Like Learning a New Language
One of the more disturbing things coming out of Ed Bouchette’s article was “For Roethlisberger and the rest of the veterans on offense, it’s like learning a new language….”
The Steelers have had experiences with new offensive coordinators who’ve tried to come in and change the language. And it didn’t work.
The experience of course was with Joe Walton in 1990, who came in and completely changed the offense from technique, to play calling, to vocabulary.  That did not sit well with the players, who resisted, most notably, Bubby Brister, who actively resisted.
That prior experience is certainly not one that Haley is doomed to repeat. 
While players admit it’s a change, all of them remain upbeat. And Todd Haley is known for tailoring his offense to the strength of his personnel, as opposed to Walton who insisted on attempting to force a system that ill-suited his players’ talents.
Apparently some talk radio hosts in the Pittsburgh area are already starting to fan the flames of a supposed rift between Roethlisberger and Haley. As the site Nice Pick Cowher has pointed out, such reactions are totally unfounded at this point.
The evolution of the new offense and all the change it implies, nonetheless remain a story to keep an eye on.

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Only Daivd DeCastro and Sean Spence Remain Unsigned

And then there were two.
With the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement paving the way, the Steelers are signing their draft picks at a quick pace. The Steelers first moved to sign Alameda Ta’amu, Chris Rainey and Toney Clemons. Then they inked second round pick Mike Adams followed by seventh round picks David Paulson, Terrence Fredrick and Kevin Beachum.
Now only first round pick David DeCastro and third roundpick Sean Spence remain unsigned. But expect that to change soon.

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Steelers Sign Ta’amu, Rainey, Clemons

My how times have changed. The 2012 NFL Draft was nary two weeks ago, yet the Steelers have already agreed to terms with three of their draft picks.

Over the weekend the Steelers signed 4th roundpick Alameda Ta’amu and 5th round pick Chris Rainey to four year deals. Ta’amu’s was reported to be worth close to 2.5 million.
Suffice to say, things were decidedly different in yesteryear. It was common for NFL draft picks to hold out well into training camp. Rod Woodson held out for the entire first half of his rookie year, although that didn’t stop him from nabbing an interception for a touchdown in his fourth NFLgame.
In 1990, Eric Green, Neil O’Donnell, and Craig Veasey, the Steelers 1st, 3a and 3b picks from that spring’s draft missed over 22 days of training camp. Chuck Noll was furious, lambasting the rookiesclaiming that they missed so much camp they’d might as well not even bother signing.
O’Donnell, incidentally, signed his contract the next day, although he denied Noll’s badgering had anything to do with it.
The last mid round pick to hold out for any noteworthy amount of time was recently departed Aaron Smith, who missed the first two days of his rookie training camp in 1999.
The reasons for the change in standard operating procedure are twofold. Prior to the 1993 Collective Bargaining Agreement, rookie held out because without free agency it was for many the only time they held any leverage in contract negotiations.
The 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement took that a step further by establishing a rookie wage scale, giving agents and teams very little to negotiate about.

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