Watch Tower: Digging Out Discord in the Steelers Locker Room & for Whom the Bell Doesn’t Toll

The Pittsburgh Steelers have concluded training camp and the preseason, the roster has been trimmed, the waiver wire scoured, and the Steelers 2013 roster has been set, meaning that the time of the year when the media enjoys its most unfettered access to the Steelers players, coaches and front office staff is winding down.

With all of that access, what do they do with it? Let the Watch Tower take a look.

Kovacevic Gets to the Bottom of of the Steelers 2012 Discord

As the Watch Tower was critical of Pittsburgh Tribune Review Writer Dejan Kovacevic last season and it is only just that the Watch Tower now recognize Kovacevic for penning on of the top stories of this preseason/training camp.

Locker room discord was a major under current to the Steelers 2012 8-8 season, and since then there’s been plenty of dirty laundry aired – you know, critiques of LaMarr Woodley’s commitment to training, comments from Antonio Brown about players more focused on stats than winning.

And while the issue has been discussed by the press, Kovacevic went right to the leaders of the defense, Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu and addressed the issue and got both men to speak candidly about the dissension that infected their ranks in 2012.

The role of the credential press in the digital age has been a focus of the Watch Tower lately, and its lights have not shied away from exposing some of the Steelers press corps recent failings.

But Kovacevic’s column shows once again just how fundamentally important it is to have seasoned reporters who have the relationship and the credibility to get straight talk out of players.  This bud’s for you Dejan.

Another Piece of the Todd Haley Puzzle Falls into Place

By now, for all of the talk in 2012 to the contrary, everyone knows that Ben Roethlisberger and Todd Haley had a rocky relationship last season.

  • But apparently the Steelers signal caller wasn’t the only one on the outs with the new offensive coordinator.

And Steelers Nation has Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to thank for adding another key variable to the equation.

In writing about the maturing of the Roethlsiberger-Haley relationship, Ed Bouchette offered this:

Relationships with fellow offensive coaches and players never warmed up, and neither did the offense. Things seem to have changed a year later. Ben Roethlisberger, who called it “growing pains,” opened training camp by saying he and Haley see more eye-to-eye. [Emphasis added]

One of the question marks that surrounded Haley’s arrival in Pittsburgh was his ability to work and play well with others. So the fact that he might have rubbed coaches the wrong way is nothing extraordinary.

But this is the first time that the Watch Tower is aware of that any journalist has reported that Haley had difficulties with his fellow coaches, and Bouchette deserves credit for reporting this fact.

A Word on Contracts

Kevin Colbert told KDKA News during the Steelers preseason loss to the Carolina Panthers that there were no on-going negotiations for contract extensions.

That fact in and of itself might not mean much, because the Steelers, while not negotiating contracts during the season since 1993, have been known to make 11th hour signings days before the first game.

  • The question of who is eligible for an extension has been banded about greatly during camp and preseason.

But Dale Lolley of the Observer Reporter went out on a limb and predicted that the two most likely players to get extensions were Brett Keisel and Ryan Clark. Kudos to Lolley for having the guts to take a swing at a ball that’s barely within the strike zone.

Steelers Radio Goes Live in LATAM

Ed Bouchette shared some important news for Steelers fans in the very corer of the world where Steel Curtain Rising is written:

If you’re not in radio distance, you can hear #Steelers games at http://t.co/UfOfVCIJbb free. There is one hitch http://t.co/07YL36wC0V
— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) August 10, 2013

As Bouchette explained on Shuila, the Steelers began broadcasting their games live on the radio in Spanish via their website.

The team has a huge following in Mexico and their games have been broadcast in Mexico for at least a year.

  • But now radio broadcasts will be carried throughout Latin American cast via the Steelers website.

The broadcast team does a good job and is clearly knowledgeable of the game (which is a plesant treat, during the Steelers 2010 road victory over Baltimore, one of ESPN’s Spanish commentators confused Dante Stallworth with John Stallworth. Several times he claimed that Dante was a former Steelers, until Raul Allegre finally corrected him.)

One element which the production can improve on is filling in the commercial gaps. During the Steelers loss to the Giants, instead of airing commercials there was dead air time – leaving anyone who stopped by the site at that time to wonder if they were indeed broadcasting the game.

  • Absent commercials, they could have provided additional commentary, or provided free publicity to American football clubs in Latin America, such as the FAA (Argentine American Football league).

Listening to a football game on the radio doesn’t compare to baseball on the radio, but this is a wise marketing move for the Steelers.

Are the Steelers Injury Problems Really Worse?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been ravaged by injuries during the last several seasons. But its been an open question as to whether the Steelers are better or wrose off than the rest of the league.

Basic statistics such as starter games lost to injury are not available to the public, leading Art Rooney II to cite one number and a columnist of the Dallas Morning News to calculate another.

PA-VA Steeler from Behind the Steel Curtain took the matter into his own hands (full disclosure, I also writer for BTSC). Using the best available research, the BTSC scribe compiled the Steelers injury totals for the entire Mike Tomlin era and compared them with the rest of the league.

But the Watch Tower doesn’t need to spill the beans to call out BTSC for sedding light on dearly deserves it.  And again, the Watch Tower asks, why has the credentialed press not pursued this story more aggressively?

Bragging Rights for a Paper Champion?

BTSC also earns kudos for its film analysis of Brian Arnfelt. No one on the press talked about him, but as their film review reveals, he is one kid who really took advantage of his time on the field.

While Brian Arnfelt did not survive the Steelers final cut, he did make the practice squad. Scott Brown, whom ESPN recently poached from the Tribune Review, made mention of Arnfelt after he’d made the practice squad.

But BTSC singled this kid out first, and if he develops into to another one of Kevin Colbert’s undrafted rookie free agent steals, BTSC will have “bragging rights.”

Watch Tower Gets Some Competition?

Again, the Watch Tower finds space to single out BTSC, this time for doing a Watch Towerish piece of their own. While not strictly Steelers related, Christopher Carter, rightly called out the NFL for pressuring ESPN to pull out of a documentary on concussions.

  • The NFL has gone on the offensive regarding concussions this off season, which they have a right to. 
  • Steelers.com has in fact published many well researched articles on the subject.

But the NFL’s only fooling themselves if they think that pressuring broadcast partners to kill projects like this will some out make the concussion issue “go away.”

For Whom the Bell Doesn’t Toll

Finally, without a doubt, the hottest Steelers story in July and early August was the emergence of second round draft pick Le’von Bell. Both the professional press and fans making a pilgrimage to St. Vincents have been at a loss to describe how good Bell has looked.

Mike Tomlin has long been loathe to anoint starters, but there was little surprise when Gerry Dulac reported 3 days before the Steelers preseason opener vs. the Giants that Bell would run with the starters.

On the morning of the game, Ed Bouchette declared:

A new era that harkens back to an old one could begin at Heinz Field tonight when the Steelers play the New York Giants in their first exhibition game.

  • Bouchette then went as far as to compare Le’Veon Bell’s preseason debut to that of Franco Harris….

…By the time it was all said and done, it was the debut that never was, as Mike Tomlin made Bell a scratch due to knee soreness.

The Watch Tower does not want to single out Bouchette on this one, as the entire Pittsburgh press crops was caught flat footed on this one, in spite of the fact that these reporters are living, working, eating, and sleeping along side the Steelers franchise while at St. Vincents.

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Jonathan Dwyer Leads Steelers Cuts

The Steelers waived 22 players today to get within the NFL’s 53 man roster limit. And there were more than a few surprises.

Dwyer was a 6th round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft and at the time many draftnicks felt the Steelers had a steal on their hands.

Dwyer played well in mini-camp, but showed up overweight to training camp, but played his way on to the team in preseason. The same thing happened in 2011. He fared better in 2012 and was the team’s starting running back, but showed up overweight again in spring practices, although he arrived at Latrobe in good shape.

But Steelers coaches had wearied of Dwyer, and Felix Jones performance in the final two preseason games was enough to push Dwyer off of the roster.

Miller Time? Not Quite Yet, But Sooner Than Expected.

The Steelers moved Heath Miller to the active roster. Miller suffered a torn ACL in the Steelers loss to the Bengals, and had been on the Steelers PUP list. Now Miller can join the team at any time during the season. As it is, the Steelers are carrying an unheard of 5 tight ends on their roster.

No Draft Pick Security on the Steelers

The Steelers also showed no sentimentality when it came to draft picks. Alameda Ta’amu, the team’s 4th round pick in 2012, was cut, as where Terry Hawthorne and Justin Brown, who were 5th and 6th round picks from the 2013 NFL Draft.

All three could return to the practice squad.

Steelers 2013 Roster M.O. – Renewal

Cornerback Josh Victorian, linebacker Marshall McFadden, and tight end Jamie McCoy, players who spent time on the Steelers 2012 active roster and/or practice squad were all let go.

  • When Kevin Colbert talked about the expendability of players from an 8-8 squad, he was serious.

With that said, at least McFadden and McCoy have practice squad eligibility.

The rest of the players cut include:

Running back Alvester Alexander
Wide receiver Reggie Dunn and Kashif Moore
Tight End Nathan Overbay
Offensive linemen Mike Golic Jr., Joe Madsen, Joe Long and Chris Hubbard
Defensive end Brian Arnfelt
Linebackers Alan Baxter, Terence Garvin and Brian Rolle
Safety Ross Ventrone
Cornerback Devin Smith
Punter Brian Moreman

Potential Practice Squad Members

Expect a couple of three of the names above to return via the practice squad, assuming they do not land spots with other teams. Linebacker Alan Baxter impressed many and will likely be asked back. Defensive end Brian Arnfelt play in preseason impressed the scribes at Behind the Steel Curtain, and he could find his way back.

Mike Golic and Joe Long are also potential practice squad players.

Watching the Wavier Wire

One name not on the cut list is Guy Whimper a free agent offensive tackle who did not impress during the preseason. Max Starks is available, and there is the possibility that Starks could return to Pittsburgh, although he did play very poorly in San Diego.

Either way, you can be very, very sure that Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin are scouring the waiver wire at this very moment, looking for a quality offensive tackle who got caught up in a numbers game some where.

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Watch Tower: Right or Wrong, ESPN’s Chadiha Simply Fails to Understand the Steelers

ESPN’s Jeffri Chadiha recently weighed in on the Pittsburgh Steelers prospects for 2013, and Steelers Nation will not like his conclusions. In a nut shell Chadiha says that the Steelers are destined for a downswing on the level that epic franchises such as the Redskins, Cowboys, and 49ers experienced.

Chadiha projects the Steelers as a third in the AFC North with 8-8 likely their best possible outcome. Chadiha’s overall argument has some merit. He could in fact be right. But the Watch Tower is more interested in deconstructing how Chadiha builds his argument.

ESPN’s Chadiha on What Ails the Steelers – Offense

The base of Chadiha’s argument for the demise of the Steelers can be summed up in two sentences:

The offense has quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and a ton of questions. The defense is old and missing key performers from a unit that led the league in total yards allowed in 2012.

Right off the bat, the Watch Tower finds bones to pick with Chadiha’s methodology. Taken at face value, his breakdown of the offense appears to be correct, on defense, not so much.

  • So just what are those questions the Steelers face on offense in Chadiha’s eyes?

The first two specifics that Chadiha’s cites are these:

It has been years since Roethlisberger has taken snaps behind an offensive line that could be described as sturdy and it’s anybody’s guess as to how well he’ll coexist with offensive coordinator Todd Haley this season.

On the issue of the offensive line, Chadiha is right. The last time Ben Roethlisberger had a quality offensive line in front of him was 2007…

…And while Steel Curtain Rising has been beating the drum, the fact is that the Steelers have done quite well instead of offensive line deficiencies, particularly in Super Bowl XLIII.

  • This is the first instance of Chadiha being (potentially) right, but through no fault of his own.

Offensive line remains an issue. The issue however is more one of health and depth rather than quality. Chadiha fails make that argument, and ignores the fact that the Steelers have invested heavily in building a high quality offensive line in the form of Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Ramon Foster, Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams.

Chadiha is on firmer ground when it comes to the Ben Rothlisberger-Todd Haley relationship but only slightly. As the Watch Tower pointed out, the press saw lots of smoke there in 2012, only to have Ben and Haley say all the right things, which worked fine until Bob Labriola of the Steelers Digest outed them after the season.

  • But Chadiha ignores what have to be at least a dozen stories detailing how Haley worked constructively with his coaches and players to open up the offense.

It would seem that any argument for the Steelers demise that’s based on the Roethlisberger-Haley relationship would have to take those developments into account. Chadiha doesn’t.

Chadiha also talks about the Steelers dismal 2012 running game and the loss of Mike Wallace and now Plaxico Burress.

  • Again, these are potential issues, but he also ignores potential remedies. 

As Steel Curtain Rising has argued, the performance of the Steelers running game in 2012 was directly proportional to the health of the offensive line. In this respect Chadiha’s in good company – everyone else is also missing this.

Mike Wallace will be missed, but Chadiha ignores the fact that Wallace’s attitude has been at issue, and that he’s largely developed into a home run or bust type player.

Furthermore, there are other arguments Chadiha could use in his favor but fails to do so. The Steelers will open the season with David Paulson as their number 1 tight end. Emmanuel Sanders has a lot of potential, but his health has been suspect.

As for losing Plaxico Burress, Burress could have contributed, but he was projected to be a 4th or 5th receiver at best, and was no lock to make the team.

Deconstructing ESPN’s Chadiha on What Ails the Steelers – Defense

The bulk of Chadiha’s argument on the defensive side lies in the perceived age of the defense. Its as if Warren Saap’s “Old, slow and done” pronouncement has been recited enough to somehow take on an air of truth – facts be dammed.

In this respect, Chadiha focuses on the age of the Steelers secondary and ignores tendencies elsewhere. As Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review pointed out in may, the average age of the Steelers starting defense is projected to be at 29.3 years, almost two years younger than its 2011 predecessor.

Perhaps the biggest potential liability facing the Steelers defense is how they’re going to compensate for the absence of James Harrison’s run stopping ability is one that Chadiha leaves untouched.

Deconstructing Jeffri Chadiha ESPN — National Media’s Failure to Understand the Steelers

All of these flaw’s in Chadiha’s methodology lead to one larger, and more fatal, flaw in his overall approach. Chadiha just doesn’t get how the Steelers operate. After detailing the franchise’s legendary stability and success he goes on to observe:

That level of success is the major reason it’s so hard to envision their impending demise now. They’ve always beaten the odds. They’ve rarely stayed down for long. Just when it seems they’ve lost one too many key performers, another unheralded contributor steps up his game. This team seemingly can do no wrong at finding players to fit most pressing needs.

The Steelers have been so good in this department that they’ve never had to go on a spending spree in free agency. The coaches simply waited for their draft picks to grow up, step in and live up to expectations. But that formula will not be as reliable this coming fall. There are too many holes for the Steelers to fill. It’s hard to believe they can be that fortunate at every position requiring an upgrade.

This team actually needs to get back to its roots before it ever can become championship-caliber again… [Emphasis added.]

There are a couple of issues here.

Have the Steelers always beaten the odds? Well, they’ve been better than many, but what about 1980’s? Sure, they never quite hit bottom the way say the ’88-’89 Cowboys did, but the period doesn’t exactly serve as an example of Steelers excellence (Steel Curtain Rising’s beloved 1989 Steelers not with standing.)

Indeed, one of the issues weighing down the Steelers in ‘80’s was their unwillingness to part ways with aging veterans and an inability to keep drafting and scouting aligned.

  • Note, these Steelers have taken pains to avoid that.

Indeed, it wasn’t until Dan Rooney fired his brother Art Rooney Jr. that the Steelers drafting improved. (If you think that is a stretch, the firing occurred in late ’86 – Chuck Noll drafted Rod Woodson in 1987 and Dermontti Dawson in 1988 in addition to players like Hardy Nickerson, Merril Hoge, and Greg Lloyd.)

The other issue is Chadiha’s interpretation of the Steelers attitude towards free agency. He claims “[the Steelers] never had to go on a spending spree in free agency.”

Really? The Steelers had multiple times when they could have opted for wholesale rebuilding via free agency in the mid and late ‘90’s, the ‘00’s, and even in this decade.

  • They never have gone on a free agency spending binge because it goes against the philosophy of the franchise.

The fact that Chadiha simply misses or doesn’t get this really cuts into his credibility as a commentator on the team.

One final criticism of Chadiha. He ends his piece saying that the Steelers need to get back to their roots, implying that it is not something in the offing, when a large part of the Steelers offensive plan going into 2013 is to take advantage of the tendency to build defenses to protect against the pass by running on them.

  • Now the Steelers aren’t exactly announcing this strategic shift on their home page, but if a blogger in Buenos Aires with no direct access to sources can learn this, so should a reporter from a network with a billion dollar contract to cover the NFL.

In the final analysis, Chadiha’s predictions for gloom and doom in Pittsburgh in 2013 could turn out to be right. The Steelers have little to zero margin for injury on the offensive line and perhaps the secondary. A number of other things must work exactly as planned.

But Chadiha’s methodology and understanding of the franchise is so flawed that if he is right, the Watch Tower will say he is right be accident, and will award no bragging rights.

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Steelers Cut Danny Harpmann, Sign RB Jeremy Wright

Place kicker Danny Harpmann put in a very solid preseason of work during 2012 and had Steelers Nation been in charge of the decision, it would have been Harpmann rather than Shaun Suisham doing the Steelers kicking chores in 2012.

  • And that shows you why fan’s should have zero impact in those decisions, because Suisham had a phenomenal year.

Not only was Suisham almost perfect, he routinely kicked balls back into the end zone. Indeed, Suisham was a bright spot in a special teams unit that was otherwise a liability.

The Steelers thought enough of Harpmann to bring him back for another shot at St. Vincent’s. Well the Steelers have broken camp and are leaving Latrobe, but with three preseason games remaining, they’re saying good bye to Harpmann.

Taking Harpmann’s place is running back Jeremy Wright, who is an undrafted rookie out of Louisville. Behind the Steel Curtain has speculated that the Steelers are mainly interested in Wright for his return abilities.

However, the BTSC also suggests that, with injuries to second round pick Le’Veon Bell and Isaac Redman, the Steelers may just be looking for a body to help carry the load in preseason. Last year the Steelers brought in Dujuan Harris for just that purpose, only to cut Dujuan Harris and see him do well in two starts for Green Bay.

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INCYM: Steelers-Giants Video Higlights

There’s no substitute to seeing things through you own eyes, and that even includes the oft maligned August institution we know as preseason football. Case in point, the Pittsburgh Steelers recent preseason loss to the New York Giants.

As you might expect preseason football isn’t high on programmers lists here in Latin America, and I do not have reliable enough internet connectivity to think of watching on-line. So listening (in Spanish) on Steelers.com and reading commentaries of others has to suffice.

But the ESPN highlights package someone was kind enough to upload to YouTube makes a world of difference.

There’s no coherent analysis one can draw from a handful of plays, but a few thoughts to come to mind.

For all the talk about the emergence of a newly dominant starting offensive line, Ben Roethlisberger looked to be running for his life a little too much in these highlights. LaRod Stephens-Howling really did look impressive. Eli Manning and Victor Cruz did make an excellent play, but it is also clear that Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark were out of position, so the savaging of William Gay is a little out of place.

However DaMon Cromartie-Smith’s lapses in punt coverage become even more inexcusable on film, as does Landry Jones fouled exchange with Baron Batch and the ensuing safety.

The downside of depending on highlights is that you’re at the mercy of the editor. Emmanuel Sanders looked good, we’re told, but there’s little of him show. Al Woods stepped it up, but there’s very little of him to see. Ditto Alameda Ta’amu who is in a fierce roster fight and needed a monster game, apparently played well but wasn’t shown…

…There’s no replacement for seeing things yourself.

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Steelers Offensive Line Depth Continues to Thin; Plaxico Burress Goes on IR

An NFL training camp injury to an undrafted free agent rookie or a player making a second stab at NFL stardom in a second training camp normally isn’t news worthy.

This sounds brutal, but they not newsworthy because:

  • A big part of the value of these players is that they are expendable.

Yes, the reality is that harsh. The vast majority of these players will never see an NFL practice squad, fewer will see the 53 man roster, even less will dress, and slimmer number yet will see significant non-garbage time, non-special teams action.

With the Steelers this year, it’s is different particular on the offensive line, as Jim Wexell’s Tweet from Monday August 12th indicates:

Cheadle carted awaywith apparent right knee injury. Was the favorite to win 9th OL spot.
— James C Wexell (@jimwexell) August 12, 2013

Well, you know the answer and do not have a personal acquaintance with Cheadle and/or California University, then you almost certainly need to revaluate your priorities in life….

Steelers Offensive Line Injuries – Too Early to Say “I Told You So,” But…

…A site called Spotrac.com tells us that Cheadle played his college ball at California and spent 2012 training camp with the Kansas City Chiefs. (You can also learn on the site that he’s costing the Chiefs $3,000 in salary cap dead money, should you really want to know.)

Jim Wexell however does tell us something that we do want to know, and that is that this aspiring offensive tackle was penciled in to be the Steelers 9th offensive lineman….

It should therefore surprise no one that the Pittsburgh Tribune Review’s Allen Robinson got Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley on record as saying the team would look to bring in outside help.

As Steel Curtain Rising warned less than a fortnight ago, the 2013 Steelers have rolled the dice that lightning will not strike twice four times in the form of offensive line injuries.

They made that gamble when they let Max Starks walk to San Diego, Doug Legursky head off to the Bills and did not select an offensive lineman in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Unfortunately one of those was Nik Embernate who is already on IR. Cheadle was apparently the next man up. Just saying.

Steelers Place Plex on IR

As expected, Plaxico Burress’s rotator cuff surgery has ended his season, and likely Burress’ NFL career, as the Steelers placed him on injured reserve.

Interestingly enough, Matt Spaeth will not be placed on IR, at least yet. Spaeth was injured in practice and it was later revealed that he suffered from a Lisfrac injury.

And for those of you who’re dying to know, Jim Wexell provided Steelers Nation with its midday Cheadle health update:

@retiredmd37 No Cheadle update. I’m pretty much alone on campus now. Finishing up a McLendon feature for the Digest and then going home.
— James C Wexell (@jimwexell) August 13, 2013

No news, we trust, is good news….

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Pittsburgh Native Mike Farrell’s NFL Dream Gets a Second Lease on Life; Steelers Resign Offensive Lineman

The Mike Farrell’s dream of playing in the NFL for his home town Pittsburgh Steelers got a second lease on life. Shortly before Pittsburgh’s first preseason game vs. the Giants the Steelers resigned Farrell, just two days after they cut Farrell to sign tight end Nathan Overbay.

To make room for their newly reacquired offensive tackle, the Steelers cut cornerback Buddy Jackson.

Did the Steelers Brain Trust Get a Premonition of the Reserve Offensive Line? 

While these marginal roster moves are normal for at any time of the year, let alone training camp, the timing of the move was peculiar. It is almost as if the Steelers Brain Trust had a premonition that their reserve offensive line would struggle so mightily vs. the Giants.

Back up quarterback Bruce Gradkowski pleased fans with his mobility – which is good because it was needed. Landry Jones had his first hand off transformed into a safety (which was more than partially his fault) and 4th string quarterback John Parker Wilson gave up four sacks in a single quarter.

The group’s run blocking wasn’t better, with Baron Batch, Isaac Redman and Alvester Alexander all putting up mediocre numbers.

No fan of course should think of Mike Farrell as a savior, but the Steelers reserve offensive line has left itself plenty of room for improvement.

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Steelers Come Up Small in Preseason vs. Giants, Lose 18-13

Its only August football, but Mike Tomlin cannot like what he saw as the Pittsburgh Steelers looked pretty sloppy in their 18-13 preseason loss to the New York Giants.

Steel Curtain Rising’s Golden Rule of Preseason is that while results don’t mean much exhibition games do tend to revealing about individual units and provide a good look at individuals.

Steelers Struggles vs. Giants

In that respect, Danny Smith’s special teams debut left a lot to be desired, with one blocked punt, and two kick off fielding errors on the part of rookie J.D. Woods and David Gilreath.

Rookie quarterback and fourth round draft pick Landry Jones had a difficult night, botching a hand off to Baron Batch leading to a fumble. Batch himself entered the game as one Steeler who was fighting for his NFL life, and he did not help his cause rushing 5 times for 4 yards.

Bruce Gradkowski, while going 6/11 had trouble connecting with his receivers, and was described by Behind the Steel Curtain as possibly “attempting to thin out the wide receiving corps.”

Jason Worilds did make his presence known by registering a sack, but also got noticed the wrong way with two roughing the passer fouls in two minutes.

Steelers Success vs. Giants

The star of the offense was LaRod Stephens-Howling who led all rushers with 40 yards on seven carries. Rookie Marcus Wheaton also looked good, as did David Paulson, although Michael Palmer, signed just a few days ago, got the starting nod.

The real “stars” of the game were the Steelers linebackers, with first round draft pick Jarvis Jones recovering a fumble and defending a pass. Adrian Robinson, who was reportedly having a rough time at St. Vincents, scored the Steelers only touchdown on an botched snap. Rookies Vince Williams and Brian Rolle also looked good in Behind the Steel Curtain’s estimation.

Rounding out the Steelers success on defense was Al Woods, who lead the team with 9 takcles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for losses, and 1 QB hit.

The Steelers picked up Al Woods off of waivers from the Saints in 2010, after New Orleans cut their then rookie draft pick. Woods then bounced around between Tampa Bay, Seattle’s, and Pittsburgh’s active rosters and practice squads.

Performance like Woods’ put in vs. the Giants will earn him a permanent home.

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Matt Spaeth Injures Lisfranc; Possible Done for Year; Steelers Thin at Tight End

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Matt Spaeth went down with an injury on Thursday August 8th. On Friday the Steelers added two more tight ends to their roster, in the form of Michael Palmer and Nathan Overbay.

  • The timing of those two events was in no way coincidental.

The Steelers had released little in the way of information on Matt Spaeth’s injury, other than to say it was to the foot. But later this afternoon Pittsburgh Tribune Review writer Dejan Kovacevic broke the news:

Ouch. Unconfirmed, but I’m hearing #Steelers TE Matt Spaeth will have lisfranc surgery that will end season. That’s middle of foot.
— Dejan Kovacevic (@Dejan_Kovacevic) August 9, 2013

Other reports are pegging the recovery time at 8-10 weeks, which would put the Steelers at mid-season.

  • Could Dejan’s prediction turn out to be too dire?

Perhaps, but most likely not. As Behind the Steel Curtain has pointed out, recent NFL history with Lisfranc injuries shows that they are normally season-enders, reminding us of how similar injures end the 2012 seasons of Santonio Holmes and Maurice Jones-Drew.

  • One way or another the Steelers must make a decision on Spaeth. There is no way they can carry him on the roster until mid season hoping that he returns to health. 

They could carry him through the preseason and put him on injured reserve and designate him as a player who can return, as they did with David DeCastro last year, but that is not likely.

With Spaeth out, the 2012 7th round pick David Paulson now must “grow up fast” as the starting role will fall to him until Heath Miller can return to health. In the meantime, Ben Roethlisberger is going to need target for passes in the middle of the field.

In addition, the Steelers have David Johnson who is on the PUP list, as well as Jaime McCoy and Peter Tuitupou….

…Where is Preston Gothard when you need him?

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The Steelers Alameda Ta’amu Needs a Giant Game vs. New York… Assuming He Plays

While every year the fan complaints about “the drudgery that is preseason football” get louder, one inescapable fact remains unchanged:

  • Every summer the much maligned rite of “preseason football” gives 45 young men a shot at a lifetime dream.

Think about it. With the exception of a handful of highish round draft choices, and NFL gives young rookies a brief, four game window in which the dream of “playing in the big leagues” becomes possible.

  • And then that dream is over. And for most of the kids its over forever.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a sterling history with undrafted rookie free agents.

Heck Willie Parker and James Harrison set records in Super Bowls XL and Super Bowl XLIII respectively. Players like Dan Kreider, Ramon Foster, and Nate Washington show that the Steelers have found contributors at nearly every position area via the undrafted rookie free agent pool.

But for every Steve McLendon and every Kaydrick Vincent there are 44 or 45 Kyle Clements. (Clement was a member of the Steelers 2008 undrafted rookie free agent class, and his shot at NFL glory ended in injury after a few series in the Steelers first preseason game in ’08.)

While the Steelers Saturday night match up at Heinz Field vs. the Giants is key for many of these nameless NFL wanna bes, its also critical for other, higher profile aspirants.

Of those five, perhaps no one faces a more daunting task than the Steelers 2012 4th Round Draft Pick Alameda Ta’amu.

The Kevin Colbert traded up to get Ta’amu in the 4th round of the 2012 NFL draft, explaining that the move was necessary because Alameda Ta’amu was the true nose tackle in the draft.

Its gone downhill since then for Ta’amu. First he struggled in 2012’s training camp, gaining far more noteriety for his walk to Walmart than anything he did on the field.

Then came Ta’amu’s drunken rampage on the South Side.

Since then Ta’amu has done all the right things (save for a boneheaded rewetweet).

  • But now he’s facing a rather unenviable situation.

Opening training camp on the Steelers PUP list, Ta’amu was activated only to learn that in a year he’s gone from promising 4th round draft pick to 4th on the depth chart.

Yet, the Steelers preseason game vs. the Giants could change all of that.

  • And the irony is that Ta’amu might not even get to play

Ta’amu began Steelers training camp with a hamstring injury and was only activated days ago, and no word has been given on whether or not he will play.

  • If he does, he needless to say he’s got to put in a strong performance.

If not, he find himself in the perverse position of hoping that Al Woods and Loni Fangupo prove that they’re not NFL nose tackle material.

Regardless of griping from some fans, the position battles that will occur in the final three quarters of the preseason game vs. the Giants are very important to the futures of these young men and the Steelers line itself.

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