Steelers Bolster Tight End Depth, Claim Michael Palmer Off of Waivers

The Steelers can remain mum about Matt Spaeth’s health for as long as they want, their actions indicated they are concerned. Before Matt Speath was carted off the field injured, the Steelers brought in tight end John Rabe.

  • Apparently Rabe’s NFL dream, at least in Pittsburgh, as the team waived in.

The Steelers went to the waiver wire to bolster their tight end depth, claiming Michael Palmer off of waivers from the Seattle Seahawks, as reported by Behind the Steel Curtain.

Palmer entered the NFL in 2010 as an undrafted rookie free agent with the Atlanta Falcons. He played in 14 games in 2010, 16 games in 2011, and 13 games in 2012, starting in six games total. His best year receiving was 2011, when he caught 10 passes for 72 yards.

Michael Palmer’s Upside?

Although he only has 21 catches, but 3 of them are for touchdowns, with one in each of his years in the league. That’s a 21% catch-to-touchdown ratio.

While this statistic is likely little more than a statistical anomaly the Steelers picked up another player labeled “retread” whose numbers told a similar story.

His name is Yancey Thigpen. In 1992 during Bill Cowher’s rookie head coaching season, the Steelers signed Thigpen as a street free agent wide receiver at mid season after San Diego Chargers had cut him in camp.

After two seasons, Thigpen only had 10 NFL catches to his name. But three of them were for touchdowns.

Will Michael Palmer write a similar story with the Steelers?

  • The odds are against it.

But as Ramon Foster’s agent advised him when he was an undrafted rookie free agent in 2009, “Pittsburgh is the land of opportunity.”

At tight end in addition to Palmer the Steelers count Heath Miller and David Johnson who are on the PUP list, Matt Spaeth of aggravated a knee injury, David Paulson, Jamie McCoy, Peter Tuitupou and Nathan Overbay whom they also signed today.

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Steelers Cut Mike Farrell, Sign Tight End Nathan Overbay

The Steelers have not yet confirmed the extent of Matt Spaeth’s foot injury, yet they could be tipping their hand with their actions.

  • Or not.

One day after Matt Spaeth was carted off the field with what Mike Tomlin confirmed was a foot injury, the Steelers cut undrafted free agent rookie Mike Farrell who was hoping to make the team as an offensive tackle, and replaced him with tight end Nathan Overbay.

  • While Farrell’s chances of making the final roster were remote, he was both a former Penn State player with roots to Pittsburgh and a slot on the practice squad seemed to be a possibility.

According to the site Behind the Steel Curtain, Overbay entered the NFL in 2010 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but did not dress for a game with them. He signed a futures contract with the Detroit Lions but was cut according to BTSC, but the website Pro Football Reference lists him on the rosters of the 2011 and 2012 Detroit Lions, although he recorded no statistics.  (ESPN and do not list any stats for the Lions.)

The idea that the Steelers might be tipping their hand is questionable given Overbay’s sketchy pedigree and given the fact that depth at offensive tackle remains at issue for the Steelers as highlighted by the team’s decision to sign D’Anthony Batiste (another player with a questionable track record.

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Steelers Cut Hagans and McNeal, Sign Alexander and Smith

The Pittsburgh Steelers have yet to play their first preseason game but they continue to make roster moves, albeit at the bottom of the roster.

Gone are defensive end Cordial Hagans (not to be confused with Clark Haggans, we assure you) and running back Curits McNeal. Taking their places are running back Alvester Alexander and cornerback Devin Smith.

Of the two, Smith would appear to have a better shot at making the roster, or the practice squad for that matter, as the Steelers are facing a series of injuries at cornerback beginning with starter Cortez Allen. In addition to Allen, who had minor knee surgery, Curtis Brown has been injured, Demarcus Van Dyke has been out as well as rookie Terry Hawthorne.

Smith arrives to the NFL after making second-team All Big Ten at Wisconsin. He caught on as an undrafted rookie free agent with the the Dallas Cowboys, but he did not show Jason Garrett enough and was cut last week.

In contrast, this is Alexander’s second summer of making the rounds of NFL training camps. Alexander played his college ball at Wisconsin and has spent time with the Bears, Colts, and the Titans.

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Steelers Tight End Matt Spaeth Carted Off Field @ St. Vincents

This time you can’t fault Kevin Colbert for not having a contingency plan.

The 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers entered training camp as a team with many needs and little in the way of a safety net. As recently observed here, the Steelers openly decided to tempt fate, wagering that the offensive line injury muses would not look down in disfavor again, and assembled a roster with precious little depth at either offensive tackle position.

Should Mike Adams or Marcus Gilbert fall injured, the Steelers contingency plans are named Guy Whimper and D’Anthony Batiste. Neither strike fear on to hears of Haloti Ngata or Terrell Suggs.

In contrast, knowing full well that Heath Miller would not be available to start the 2013 season, the Steelers put a contingency plan in place.

  • Unfortunately it looks like the contingency plan himself got hurt.

Late into the afternoon Mark Kaboly dropped this bomb via Twitter:

Steelers TE Matt Spaeth carted off with injury. Didn’t see what it was.
— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly_Trib) August 7, 2013

Matt Spaeth of course was a member of the Steelers 2007 draft class, and Kevin Colbert’s decision to resign Spaeth off of the free agent market turned some heads but it ultimately made sense.

  • No one would accuse Spaeth of being a world beater, but he certainly offered more value than Leonard Pope

Colbert also gave himself another back up option, in deciding to resign tight end/fullback David Johnson, a member of the Steelers 2009 draft class whose shift to fullback in 2012 was widely heralded, only to be derailed by Johnson’s torn ACL.

  • Johnson however, began training camp on the PUP list.

The nature of Spaeth’s injury is not known. The news broke in the late afternoon via Twitter, but it wasn’t until the late evening that the Post Gazette published a story on it, and then on PG Plus. The Tribune Review had not published a story on it as of 11:38 Buenos Aires time (yeah, that’s right, how often do you see that time stamp on Pittsburgh Steelers stories?)

  • But players rarely get carted off the field unless it is serious.

At tight end the Steelers also have David Paulson, whom they drafted with their second pick 7th round of the 2012 NFL Draft and Jamie McCoy whom they also drafted in the with their first 7th round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

Spaeth’s Injury Steel Curtain Rising’s Fault?

If a server personnel crisis at tight end can’t be laid at the feet of Kevin Colbert, might Steel Curtain Rising be the culprit…?

Who knows. But the fact that Spaeth got injured on the same day that we published an full throated endorsement of Mike Tomlin’s “No to Golf Carts, Yes to Full Contact” training camp philosophy is ironic to say the least…..

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Mike Tomlin Sets Tone for 2013 Steelers with No Golf Carts, Full Contact Practices

In the late 1990’s something happened in Pittsburgh that had not occurred since Chuck Noll agonized over whether not to start Mark Malone or not to start David Woodley. Surely you remember that, right?

Neither do I. At least not too much. Such “quarterback controversies” obviously missed the sports pages during adolescence which was spent in the DC area at the height of the Joe Gibbs era.

And what was this momentous event you ask?

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers suffered back-to-back losing seasons.

During the 1998 and 1999 seasons Kordell Stewart’s growing pains, a series of draft-misfires on offensive lineman (and wide receivers), and a simmering feud between Tom Donahoe and Bill Cowher resulted in the Steelers their first back-to-back losing seasons since the Apple IIc was hottest tech gadget.

Those consecutive losing seasons cost Donahoe his job and brought Kevin Colbert back to Pittsburgh, and on the eve of that first Colbert-era training camp  my friend Mike, a patron of Baltimore’s legendary Purple Goose Saloon, thought we had a solution.

  • Take a way the golf carts

That’s right.

In either the summer of 1994 or 1995 (new search limitations of Google News archives make it hard to tell) Bill Cowher created a minor stir when he convinced Dan Rooney to provide players with golf carts to shuttle them to and from practices during training camp. Reporters told their readers how remarkable this was but the development was quickly accepted as part of Steelers summers at St. Vincents.

The internet was in its infancy then, or else I suspect the reaction in Steelers Nation might have been a little louder. Remember, fan protest had reversed Cowher’s attempt to move the Steelers bench to the sunny side of Three Rivers Stadium. And, after all this was and remains the team with no cheerleaders and a decal on only one side of the helmet.

A dozen or so years later (yes, makes me feel old to say it) Mike Tomlin has stolen a sheet from the Pittsburgh Steelers Fan Club of Maryland.

  • For the first time since the early 1990’s there will be no golf carts at St. Vincents.

It says here that Cowher’s Steelers went to Super Bowl XXX and ultimately victory in Super Bowl XL and no one in Steelers Nation said, “And to think, the guys were though enough to do this, in spite of the golf carts that took them from the dorms to the practice fields at St. Vincents.”

Likewise, Tomlin’s teams have won Super Bowl XLIII and lost Super Bowl XLV respectively by a hair, golf carts not withstanding.

  • But Mike Tomlin is still making a right move.

The attitude behind our “No golf carts at St. Vincent’s” during  the summer of ’00 was simply that the golf carts were fine for a team of seasoned playoff veterans, but perhaps should be a perk to be earned.

  • The same logic applies here, only this time Tomlin is following through on it.

Tomlin, of course balks at the notion that his training camp changes have anything to do with the inopportune moments that plagued the 2012 Steelers. “Last year is last year, this year is this year.”

Tomlin loves saying that. The changes are completely irrelevant. Yeah, and the fact that Bruce Springsteen’s first marriage was falling apart had nothing to do with multiple metaphors for marriage gone sour in his seminal work Tunnel of Love.

The 2012 Steelers, absent locker room leaders like Hines Ward, James Farrior, and Aaron Smith, were simply too inconsistent and too undisciplined at times.

But taking away the golf carts is a symbolic move, Tomlin’s made another move that’s both substantive and riskier

  • Live, tackling during full contact practices.

This later development was last seen in the hey day of Chuck Noll, according to any number of Steelers beat reporters.

Lest Steelers Nation tire itself out pumping their fists in approval, full contact in practice is not what the Dr. ordered for a team with an already precarious injury situation.

  • But Tomlin’s move is nonetheless the right one.

The decision to go full-contact, full pads is yet another calculated risk the team is taking heading into 2013. But time and time again, Mike Tomlin refuses to coach scared.

As Steel Curtain Rising observed earlier, it is no longer a question of whether the Steelers 2012 draft class, 2013 draft class, and the respective undrafted free agent rookie classes will win starting jobs at St. Vincent’s.

They will win them, because veterans such as James Harrison, Max Starks, Keenan Lewis, and Willie Colon are playing elsewhere.

But by holding full-contact practices Tomlin is sending a message to a team in transition:

  • Even though you may end up winning these starting jobs, you’re still going to earn them by the sweat of your brow.

So far one of the few players to endorse Tomlin’s approach is Ben Roethlisberger – who can’t get hit. That means the rest of the team is grinning and bearing it.

Which is exactly the reaction Steelers Nation should hope to see.

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Watch Tower: Are the Renegade Steelers the NFL’s Next “Lean, Mean, Fighting Machine?”

The Pittsburgh Steelers opened training camp as a team looking to fulfill a host of needs and the press has done its best to keep Steelers Nation up to speed covering a wide range of topics, giving the Watch Tower ample subjects on which to shine its light.

Renegade! BTSC On-Line Pre Season Magazine Subdues Traditional Press

Sports publications ramping up coverage at the start of NFL training camp goes back decades – who can forget the early 80’s Sports Illustrated commercials that ran in early July talking about “a time when hands are taped and protected…”

The mainstream Pittsburgh media has been no exception, but this year they were outfoxed by Behind the Steel Curtain and its “Renegade” on line magazine, featuring 26 articles in 26 hours (which didn’t quite reach that goal to a technical snafu.)

In case you’re missing it: #Steelers preview posts every hour today to celebrate training camp, and they’re all here:
— BTSC Steelers (@btsteelcurtain) July 26, 2013

What’s more amazing is that the 26 articles were written almost entirely by site editor Neal Coolong, despite the fact that he’s got one top Steelers blogging staffs at his disposal (full disclosure, I also write for BTSC.)

When asked about why he undertook such an ambitious project, Coolong explained, “…I go big or I don’t go at all.” Beyond that, Coolong expressed a desire to produce coverage that offers readers something different than other sites provide.

For example, he intentionally chose video highlights on the Steelers 3rd round pick Marcus Wheaton that underscore his likely role in Todd Haley’s offense, as opposed to trying to ride the “Marcus-Wheaton-is-Mike-Wallace” coat tails.

Similarly he took a more sober, but substantive look at 2012 first round draft pick David DeCastro, opting to review video highlights that show DeCastro’s struggles in the Steelers losses vs. Dallas and Cincinnati in addition to highlights that show some of his promise.

While Coolong declined to provide specific numbers, he did say that traffic was good, although perhaps not necessarily better than it would have been had he opted for a more conventional approach.

  • Regardless of traffic, it is BTSC’s unconventional thinking that the Watch Tower salutes

With respect to the traditional press, both the Tribune Review and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette featured stories pushing the yin vs. yang nature of this Steelers training camp.

Allen Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review wrote that the normal crush of national media and talk about Super Bowl expectations was absent at St. Vincent, but then contrasted that with quotes from Larry Foote and Ryan Clark who of course vowed that the Steelers would prove the critics wrong.

Gene Collier of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette attempted to weave a similar piece together drawing upon his drive to Latrobe, quotes from various Steelers, and a reference to ground hog issues St. Vincent’s have been having.  The Watch Tower has long recognized Collier as one of the nation’s wittiest and most insightful sports writers, but whatever he was trying to do in this article quite frankly did not work.

Ray Fittipaldo Joins PG Beat Staff… Then Disappears

Post Gazette Fittipaldo has done occasional pieces on the Steelers since OTA’s in 2010, providing Steelers Nation with some of their first insights on Jonathan Dwyer, for instance.

At the opening of Steelers training camp, Ed Bouchette announced that Fittipaldo was now working the Steelers beat full time for the Post-Gazette. Fittipaldo then did the opening day a video with Bouchette (where he looked a tad bit uncomfortable on camera.)

  • The funny thing is, during the week since, Fittipaldo’s bye line has appeared only once.

Its way too early to make anything of this, but it is peculiar to say the least.

Meet Sanders the Steelers New Stud Speedster, Deep Threat

Emmanuel Sanders gave Steelers Nation one of the most interesting stories during the Steelers 2013 off season. First Sannders had an offer with New England. Then he didn’t (or at least Sanders didn’t sign New England’s offer sheet). Then Sanders did sign it. Then the Steelers were going to let Sanders walk. Then, with Ben Roethlisberger‘s support, the Steelers matched the offer and kept Sanders.

  • And now Sanders is a Steeler again (and wants to stay one apparently.)

The Watch Tower chronicled the Sanders story, and observed that most of the professional press was of the opinion that the Steelers should let Sanders walk and take New England’s third round pick.

  • Those arguments had some merit, but they do add irony to some of the early lead stories on Sanders.

Jim Wexell offered an excellent free piece on his subscription site Steel City Insider, titled “When Did Sanders Get So Fast.”

Dejan Kovacevic wrote a piece titled “Call Sanders the X-Factor” and discussed how Sanders had taken over Mike Wallace’s slot as the “X” receiver. The Tribune Review’s Steel Mill Blog also focused on Sander’s as a downfield threat.

The Steelers the NFL’s New “Lean Mean Fighting Machines?”

The clip is of course from the timeless ‘guy movie’ Stripes.

The movie was released just as the Super Steelers were entering their decline, but if press coverage is to be any guide, the 2013 Steelers have taken John Candy’s “Ox” character’s mantra as their rallying cry.

A quick (and very unofficial) survey of press stories shows that no more than four focus on or at least detail weight loss on the part of the Steelers.

Kudos to Dejan Kovacevic for tying it all together and saying what some fans suspected — last season too many Steelers were out of shape.

At this point it might be apt to include another clip for Stripes, the one where Bill Murray’s character inspires “Ox” to victory in a mud wrestling match with the “Lean Mean Fighting Machine” mantra, but that clip is not on YouTube and this is a family site.

And perhaps it wouldn’t quite be fitting, as Ed Bouchette did do an article about Steve McLendon’s use of ballet al la Lynn Swann, where he also observed that McLendon “officially” gained 40 pounds from his rookie listed weight of 280….

Steelers Salary Cap

John Clayton, former Pittsburgh Press and current ESPN writer, gave Steelers Nation some hope following the 2013 NFL Draft, when he told fans that the Steelers were more or less out of the woods in salary cap trouble. Happy story, right?

  • Not so fast.

Behind the Steel Curtain has done two salary cap pieces taking issue with Clayton’s conclusion. The first went as far as to suggest (citing a Yahoo! article) that the Steelers might need or want to reduce their 2014 salary cap burden by parting ways with expensive veterans, such as Ryan Clark and/or Brett Kesiel.

And BTSC threw further cold water on Clayton’s argument, by providing some analysis that suggest that the NFL’s upcoming TV contracts won’t do much to lift the salary cap – filling in the gaps on what has been a greatly under covered story, both nationally in Pittsburgh.

Steelers Special Teams History Under the Microscope

Bob Labirola did a feature on the Steelers history with special teams in the recent Steelers Digest. One interesting nugget to come out of the story was on Bobby April’s departure.

When Bobby April left Pittsburgh for New Orleans after Super Bowl XXX, word was that he found Bill Cowher too demanding. Labriola sheds a little light here, asserting that the April-Cowher dispute was over who got credit for calling the surprise on-sides.

Not sure what the issue is here, as one NFL Films clip clearly showed April suggesting it to Cowher, Cowher agreeing, and radioing Chan Gailey about the decision.

  • Labriola’s article is good, but the Watch Tower has two bones to pick.

First, there is an error, as Labriola claims that errors in the Steelers 1987 finale vs. Kansas City led Chuck Noll to hire his first special teams coach. Unfortunately the ’87 Steelers finished their season with a home loses vs. Houston and Cleveland (I remember listen to the latter game on the PA Turnpike — it was my introduction to Myron Cope.)

Second, Labriola does a good job of singling out some of the higher profile speicla teams breakdowns in Steelers history, but ignores the quality special teams the Steelers enjoyed under George Stewart, Ron Zook, and Kevin Spencer.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde nature of the Steelers special teams (sniff, sniff, if you’ve read this far you probably are,) then click here for Steel Curtain Rising’s article on it.

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Batiste Signing Begs the Question – Will We Be Singing “Where did you go Maxwell Starks, Steelers Nation Turns Its Lonely eyes to you….”

It is far, far too early for Steelers Nation to begin panicking, but the injuries the Steelers have suffered thus far in training camp reveal just how little margin for error the Steelers have left themselves in 2013.

In wrapping up the Steelers 2013 off season, Steel Curtain Rising looked back at the gloom and doom predictions and preceded free agency, and complemented Kevin Colbert for pulling off the equivalent of a salary cap “Loaves and Fishes” miracle.

The premise was that, while the Steelers might have had to swallow hard watch stars on the rise like Mike Wallace and Keenan Lewis depart for greener pastures, Colbert had positioned Pittsburgh to get the most bang for its salary cap buck.

While that analysis holds true, success in such a maneuver depends on some very calculated risks.

Steelers Operating Without Safety Net

As Bob Labriola of the Steelers Digest pointed out, the Steelers in many ways are entering 2013 without much of a safety net.

In no area are the Steelers more exposed than on offensive line.

While the Cortez Allen’s injury is believed to be minor and should heal well before the season, in addition to Gay, the Steelers can still count on Curtis Brown and Josh Victorian, even if Demarcus Van Dyke and 5th round draft pick Terry Hawthorne are out with injuries of unknown severity.

They also have 4th round pick Shamarko Thomas, whose versatility is already on display (in camp at least):

With Cortez Allen out and William Gay moving up to LCB, look for #Steelers to use rookie Shamarko Thomas in the nickel defense
— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) August 2, 2013

The loss of Nik Embertate is drawing a lot of attention, some of that is simply because of the nature of the NFL news cycle. Fans have long demonstrated a nearly insatiable appetite for news about the NFL, and in the age of smart phones and tablets, they have the means to get it.

Websites respond in kind with “content.”

But it goes beyond that….

Steelers Tempting Fate with the Offensive Line?

….The Steelers Achilles heal in 2011 and 2012 was neither their secondary nor their inability to create sacks and force turnovers on defense. No, it was the instability on their offensive line.

In Marcus Gilbert, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, and Mike Adams the Steelers have given themselves a potentially strong starting front five. Kelvin Beachum gives them another solid, young back up. John Malecki also has some game experience and adds stability to the inside.

Depth gets thin, quickly at tackle. Guy Whimper is the only player with real NFL experience, and Whimper’s ability has been savaged from every where from Behind the Steel Curtain to the Steel City Insider.

The hope was that Embertate would show enough to be an option their, if not on game days then certainly on the practice squad. Mike Golic Jr. was brought in as a tackle, but word his he looks better at guard.

Jim Wexell wrote glowingly about Pittsburgh-area native Mike Farrell and of course the Steelers have Joe Long, Jake Long’s younger brother.

Batiste has played for 3 teams in six NFL seasons and been cut loose after his only extended stretch as a starter. Yet, as Neal Coolong has observed, he’s out performed Whimper….

The injury streak suffered by the Steelers at offensive line has been uncanny. The Steelers had some hard salary cap calculations to make.

  • Did they roll the dice and calculate that lightning can’t strike 3 times?

Too Early to Start Missing Max Starks? 

Steelers Nation rightly cringes at the thought of either Adams or Gilbert falling injured. The decision to sign Batiste signals that Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert do too.

“Where did you go Maxwell Starks Steelers Nation turns it lonely eyes to you…” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as the famous bar from Mrs. Robinson, but hopefully those bars will not be hummed on the South Side this fall.

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Steelers Sign D’Anthony Batiste in a Curious Move on Offensive Line

It is offical. The Steelers have placed rookie free agent Nik Embertate on injured reserve. To take his place on the roster, the Steelers have signed former Pittsburgh West, aka Arizona Cardinals offensive lineman D’Anthony Batiste.

The Steelers like to sign offensive lineman who are versatile, and Batiste has shown he can get around:

#Steelers sign veteran OT D’Anthony Batiste. He has spent time with 6 different NFL teams, 3 leagues.
— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) August 3, 2013

But this isn’t the kind of versatility that the Steelers want or need. As noted earlier, Arizona had a bad offensive line in 2012, and Batiste was one of its worst players. D’Batiste broke into the leauge in 2007 with the Atlanta Falcons, and actually started 4 games for them, according to the site Pro Football Reference.
He spent 2009 with the Washington Redskins, working on a line replete with problems, then spent 2010 with the Denver Broncos and Cardinals. While only appearing in 5 games in 2010 and 2011 for Arizona, he played in 15 games and started 10.
As Neal Coolong of Behind the Steel Curtain observed prior to the Steelers signing of Batiste:

The idea of the Steelers holding enough interest in free agent offensive tackle D’Anthony Batiste seems absurd.
Even dangerous.

Now it seems that the Steelers have decided to strike the proverbial bell and bide the danger….

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Nik Embernate Tears ACL, MCL, Steelers Work out Batiste

Getting an invitation to the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp as an undrafted rookie free agent, might not be the real-life equivalent of Rudy, but it comes pretty close. While the Steelers do have an excellent record of finding and developing undrafted rookie free agents, the odds that these young men face are long.

Nik Embernate was one of the top prospects among the Steelers 2013 undrafted rookie free agent class and had been having an excellent camp, only to injure his knee and be carted off of the field. The worst was feared, and alas those fears were confirmed on Friday afternoon:

Nik Embernate tore his ACL and MCL. surgery date hasn’t been set. #Steelers
— James C Wexell (@jimwexell) August 3, 2013

The road to recovery from a double ACL/MCL injury is long, and unlike a draft pick such as Sean Spence, the Steelers have far less invested in Embernate and less incentive to invite him back in 2014. Steel Curtain Rising wishes him the best.

Steelers React by Looking to Waiver Wire

In light of the injury to Embernate, the Steelers look to the waiver wire and are reportedly working out former Pittsburgh West aka Arizona Cardinal offensive tackle D’Anthony Batiste.

Steelers To Work Out Former Cardinals OL D’Anthony Batiste #repost
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@SteelersGab) August 3, 2013

While the logic behind this is simple, the deeper question is “Is working out Batiste a good idea?”

To this end I can only quote Behind the Steel Curtain’s Neal Coolong (full disclosure I also write for BTSC):

According to Pro Football Focus, Batiste was the second-worst pass blocking tackles in the NFL last year. Of a horrendous offensive line in Arizona, he was the worst.

Suffice to say, Steel Curtain Rising will have more to say about Steelers training camp injuries in the near future.

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Cortez Allen Undergoes Surgery – Still Too Early to Hit the Panic Button….

As the Steelers 2013 training camp approaches the one week mark, injuries continue to lead the news, as Cortez Allen underwent minor surgery on his knee.

#Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen has had minor knee surgery.
— Dale Lolley (@dlolleyor) August 2, 2013

Dale Lolley also reported that it is his understanding that Allen suffers from a meniscus issue, although he could not confirm the news.

If that is the case, meniscus injures are relatively minor compared to ligament damage, and Mike Tomlin has said that he expects Allen to miss “a few weeks.”

Not Time to Hit the Panic Button Yet, But…

While the Steelers likely lost one of its most promising 2013 undrafted rookie free agents when offensive lineman Nik Embernate was carted off the field with what looked to be a season-ending injury, Pittsburgh is in better shape than some of the other teams around the league (see Dennis Pitta of the Ravens).

Allen has had 2 years in Dick LeBeau’s defense, and will likely return to practice well before the season opener.

  • Still, for a team ravaged by injuries in both 2011 and 2012, the trend that is forming is not positive.

William Gay has assumed Allen’s slot at nickel back, and Allen’s injury presents and opportunity for Curtis Brown.

The Steelers selected Curtis Brown a in the 3rd round of the 2011 NFL Draft, and when Brown entered the NFL he was seen as more of a finished product than Allen, who the Steelers drafted in the 4th round in 2011. But while Brown has excelled on special teams, he also struggled last year when forced into the starting line up vs. San Diego (again, did anyone look good that day?)

Josh Victorian is also a likely beneficiary, as with Demarcus Van Dyke out he too will get more playing time.

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