Watch Tower: Deconstructing Bill Barnwell’s Steelers 2016 Off Season Analysis

With the Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 season over, Watch Tower focuses its light exclusively on deconstructing Bill Barnwell’s Steelers 2016 off season analysis.

Bill Barnwell’s Grudging Respect for Steelers

In the interests of transparency, this isn’t the first time the Watch Tower has dissected one of Barnwell’s columns. And in fairness to Mr. Barnwell, he was probably more right on the Steelers contracts for Troy Polamlau and Ike Taylor that we cared to admit back then.

  • Barnwell recently focused on the Steelers 2016 season on ESPN in a 2,645 word ambivalent analysis piece.

The feel of Barnwell’s breakdown of the Steelers comes down to two words: Grudging respect, as captured by the second and third sentences of his column:

This isn’t the most successful run of the storied franchise’s history, with the controversial wild-card win over the Bengals serving as their first playoff victory since beating a Mark Sanchez-led Jets team in the 2010 AFC Championship Game. But they’ve consistently been in the swing of things in the AFC.

Barnwell feels compelled to balance his concession to the Steelers constant relevance in the AFC playoff picture by devaluing the validity of the Steelers most recent playoff victories and that sets the tone for his entire analysis. Yes, his task is to provide a sort of “Pro’s and Con’s” piece on Pittsburgh’s future prospects, but he almost reads like he’s channeling his internal Bob Smizik.

Barnwell on Steelers 2016 Hopes

Bill Barnwell praises the Steelers for what everyone else is praising them for: Exceeding expectations via more sacks and turnovers on defense and exploding on offense in spite of injuries to Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Ben Roethlisberger and Martavis Bryant.

In doing so he cites any number of advanced saber metrics to document the Steelers offensive performance, and raises and important point – at least statistically – about the difficulty of sustaining the increase in turnovers.

  • There’s really not much to quibble about in Barnwell’s analysis of Steelers potential upside.

One might argue that the Steelers improvement in turnovers is due to something systemic, but Barnwell’s numbers are solid. The only real issue with Barnwell’s assessment of the Steelers upside, as that he seems to forget his own points when he examines the Steelers potential downside….

Barnwell on Steelers 2016 Fears

…And you can see that immediately in his first paragraph. Right after praising the young talent the Steelers have surrounded around quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Barnwell goes on to make a curious assertion:

The problem is that the Steelers have struggled to surround that young talent with the sort of solid depth that would raise Pittsburgh’s ceiling to that of a perennial Super Bowl contender.

Really? IT would seem that the Steelers depth is what allowed them to weather all of those injuries and put themselves a fumble away – made by a 4th string running back — from playing for the AFC Championship. Barnwell argues that the Steelers salary cap troubles are the main culprit behind their supposed depth issues. This was painfully true in 2013 and perhaps in part of 2014, but his supporting arguments just don’t jive:

This year, with injuries up on the offensive side of the ball, Pittsburgh’s inability to plug holes because of cap concerns became a bigger issue. Despite having one of the league’s most injury-prone quarterbacks in Roethlisberger, the Steelers had to save money on backups and paid Bruce Gradkowski and Michael Vick a combined $2.4 million, far less than even the Chase Daniels of the world get by themselves. They lacked badly-needed offensive line depth and were out of luck once Pouncey and left tackle Kelvin Beachum went down with season-ending injuries, leaving Pittsburgh with journeyman Cody Wallace and fascinating project Alejandro Villanueva in key roles for most of the season.

Where to begin….? First, the Steelers policy of keeping three quarterbacks and depending on experienced, veteran backups increasingly goes what most teams in the league do. Second, one of the reasons why the 2015 Steelers were so resilient was preciecely because Cody Wallace and Alejandro Villanueva proved to be such cost-effective backups.

  • Finally, how exactly does Barnwell conclude that Ben Roethlisberger is “one of the league’s most injury-prone quarterbacks?”

Yes, Roethlisberger did have to leave three games with injuries in 2015. But he only missed a handful of snaps in 2014 and did not miss an entire snap in 2013. Ben Roethlisberger has taken much more punishment than most of his peers – and he be one player who “gets old fast” but toughness, not fragility has been Ben’s hallmark.

Barnwell on Steelers 2016 Salary Cap

Barnwell devotes the last 1/3 of his critique of the Steelers to salary cap issues. The Watch Tower does not pretend to be a closet capologist, but Steel City Insider’s Ian Whetstone has looked at the Steelers situation and come to different conclusions. But if we accept that Barnwell perhaps has a point about the Steelers and Lawrence Timmon’s contract, he still appears to contradict himself.

Barnwell is highly critical of the Steelers secondary. So is Steelers President Art Rooney II, in so many words, so Barnwell’s critiques are on solid ground. Unlike Rooney, Barnwell names names, as he singles out the Steelers reliance on Antwon Blake and Will Allen. Then a couple of paragraphs down, he makes this assertion:

No fewer than six starters are hitting unrestricted free agency this offseason, and Pittsburgh can’t afford to lose them all. That includes three members of that secondary in Blake, Gay and Will Allen; they aren’t exactly stars by any means, but the only players in line to replace them are Cortez Allen and rookie second-rounder Senquez Golson, who combined to play one game in 2015 thanks to injuries.

Barnwell is right about the Steelers not being able to rely on Golson and Allen, but he undercuts his own consistency by critiquing the Steelers for relying on Blake and Will Allen and then turning around and critiquing them for being in danger of losing them.

His conclusion suffers from the same type of circular logic, as he tries to suggest moves the Steelers might make to free up salary cap space:

They can save $4 million by cutting Heath Miller, $1.8 million by releasing Shaun Suisham and $4.4 million by designating Cortez Allen as a post-June 1 release. That also leaves them without starters at three positions.

OK. First, Heath Miller is not going anywhere, 4 million dollar contract or not, but that misses the point. Shaun Suisham missed the entire 2015 season and Cortez Allen missed all but a handful of plays. Chris Boswell may very well have cost Suisham his roster spot, and Cortez Allen has not been considered a starter since mid 2014.

None of this is to say that Barnwell doesn’t make legitimate points. While the Steelers are no longer in salary cap purgatory, they still have a lot less room to maneuver than many of their competitors. Few people , including Barnwell himself, mentioned it, but few would doubt that keeping Brice McCain would have helped the Steelers secondary.

So it would be incorrect and unfair to write Barnwell off as a “knee-jerk naysayer.” But it also seems like Barnwell’s Steelers 2016 off season analysis suffers from a lack of objectivity on some level.

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Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 Season Review – Learning to Win by Overcoming Adversity

When future historians pen the definitive history of the Pittsburgh Steelers, 2015 will be a turnkey season. But in which direction did the key turn? Right now Steelers Nation can only wait for its answer. But today the 2015 Steelers have given us one undeniable truth:

  • Time and time again, Mike Tomlin and his players have demonstrated the resiliency necessary to overcome adversity.

The Steelers began 2015 with mixed expectations. Pittsburgh had closed 2014 unexpectedly strong by going 4-0 with the defense leading the way. Then 2015 began with a home playoff loss to the division rival Baltimore Ravens. Worse yet, the ease with which the Ravens beat the Steelers seemingly exposed Pittsburgh as a pretender rather than a true contenders:

  • Le’Veon Bell’s absence rendered the Steelers offense rudderless
  • The offensive line failed to protect Ben Roethlisberger
  • Pittsburgh’s pass rush couldn’t pressure the passer
  • Joe Flacco victimized the Steelers secondary

With on these underlying flaws laid bare, most pundits predicted Pittsburgh would take a step back in 2015. And the 2014 Steelers were AFC North Champions a year ago, their 2015 successors had to sneak into the playoffs.

No one can argue with those contrasting facts, but do they prove the pundits right?

2015 Adversity of the “Unknown Unknowns” Smacks the Steelers

All NFL teams plan for “what might go wrong.” Sometimes a team projects and plans accordingly, other times they project but take calculated risks and then there are the “Unknown Unknowns.” What’s an “Unknown, unknown?” in the NFL?

Unexpected adversity smacked the 2015 Steelers in the face early and often. Considered numerically, the numbers are daunting:

  • 46 starter games were lost to injury on offense
  • 6 more offensive starter games were lost to suspensions
  • 1/3 of the Steelers games, including the playoffs, saw a quarterback enter the game because of injury
  • 20 minutes 46 seconds – that’s the total time that Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Le’Veon Bell played together
  • 40% of the Steelers starting offensive line finished the season in injured reserve

Those numbers paint a pretty grim picture. Fortunately saber metrics, DOVA numbers and fantasy football stats don’t win football games. Winning comes from somewhere else.

2015 Steelers Learn a Potentially Important Lesson

One of the underlying ironies of the Steelers 2015 season is that while you can quantify the adversity this team weathered, quantifying how the Steelers overcame is near impossible.

Oh yes, numbers abound. Keith Butler’s defense vastly improve Pittsburgh’s takeaway total, and you can even pinpoint no less than 7 times that opponents entered the Red Zone only to have the Steelers take it away.

  • But can you really measure taking the ball away in the Red Zone with a numerical value?

You can talk about how vs. the Chargers, Michael Vick hit a 71 yard touchdown strike to Markus Wheaton, and then followed it with another drive that saw him convert 3 third downs with passes to Darrius Heyward-Bey and Heath Miller while converting another with a 24 yard scramble.

  • But can is act of an aging superstar digging down to find “IT” one last time quantifiable in anyway?

You can discuss how Martavis Bryant took a Landry Jones check down pass simply intended to burn off clock time and transformed it into an 88 yard touchdown win sealing run against the Cardinals, or how Antonio Brown took a similar pass 57 yards in OT vs. Oakland set up the game winning field goal.

  • But do stat lines “88 yards, TD” and “57 yards, TD” really convey the value of these plays?

You can remind someone of how Ryan Shazier sealed victory over the Broncos with an interception or how he stripped the ball away when all looked loss in Cincinnati.

  • But how do you calculate the statistical value of the uncanny ability to force late game turnovers that defines all true great defenders?

While all of these facts and figures should impress, they’re insignificant when measured against the process that each of the represents – learning how to win games.

Make no mistake about it. More is involved in winning football games then throwing more accurately, running a little faster or, Jack Lambert please forgive me, hitting harder than your opponents. Teams learn “how to win” just as they learn “how to lose.”

  • The final minutes of the Steelers playoff win over the Bengals put on a clinic of one team going through the exercise of learning to win while the other demonstrated the opposite lesson.

On paper, by failing to win the AFC North crown, the 2015 Steelers might have taken a step back. But if, IF they can internalize the lessons learned above, any future 2015 Steelers season review will reveal that made immeasurable progress this season.

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Vote Steelers Nation on Steelers 2015 Roster Needs Heading into Training Camp

The real Steelers 2015 off season has arrived. Since the Steelers season-ending playoff loss to Baltimore, the Steelers have weathered free agency and the retirements and releases of franchise pillars like Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, Brett Keisel in addition to saying goodbye to Dick LeBeau.

No NFL team intentionally weakens itself during the off season, but the salary cap and the draft force tough choices that carry opportunity costs.

The Steelers have done a lot to strengthen the roster holes were exposed at various times in 2014, but the operative questions are has Pittsburgh done enough and where are the Steelers still weak? Got idea of your own, well….

[yop_poll id=”17″]

The Steelers will answer these questions themselves come July 25th at St. Vincent’s in Latrobe, but Steel Curtain Rising is giving you a chance to answer the questions now.

Steelers Roster Needs Heading Into Training Camp

The Pittsburgh Steelers have made their choices. As the Steelers June Curse has shown, things could still happen that impact the roster between now and July 25th (think Willie Colon’s injury or worse yet Ben Roethlisberger’s motorcycle accident), but barring a return of Julian bad luck, the 2015 Steelers will win and lose with their current roster.

The Steelers chose part ways with Lance Moore, to let Brice McCain become a Dolphin, but made sure that Arthur Moats, Matt Spaeth, Will Allen, and James Harrison remain in the Black and Gold. They drafted 2 corners, two outside linebackers, one defensive end, a wide receiver, a tight end and a safety in 2015 draft.

steelers, draft, needs, depth chart, pecking order, priority, 2015

Pecking order of the Steelers 2015 Draft Needs

But the Steelers ignored offensive line and running back in the draft and free agency, and these were areas where lack of depth stung the team in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

And while they’ve added numbers at cornerback and outside linebacker there’s no guarantee that the Steelers can find quality in all of that quantity.

  • Objectively speaking the 2015 Steelers will arrive at St. Vincents a stronger unit than they have in the past.

Just two years ago in 2013 the Steelers commenced training camp depth so thin that they knew they were essentially one injury away from disaster at inside linebacker or offensive line. And as fate would have it, both Maurkice Pouncey and Larry Foote were lost on opening day. In 2014 the Steelers rolled the dice that they could get through the season with Jarvis Jones, Arthur Moats, and Jason Worilds at outside linebacker and of course they were unretiring James Harrison three weeks into the season.

Other than quarterback, where Ben Roethlisberger remains indispensable, there’s no roster area depth is so precariously thin that a single injury would leave the team in dire straits. In that sense, the Steelers have given themselves a better shot at success.

But training camp is all about transforming potential into reality. Someone will fall injured, perhaps even ending his NFL dream (think Plaxico Burress rotator cuff tear in 2013.) There will be surprises and disappointments.  But for that we’ll have to wait until the Steelers start training camp on July 25th.

Until then, you have your chance to make your voice heard in our poll.

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Steelers Draft Anthony Chickillo in 6th Round, Linebacker Miami

The Steelers drafted Anthony Chickillo with their second 6th round compensatory pick. Chickillo played defensive end for the Miami Hurricanes, but the Steelers are projecting him as an outside linebacker, as evidenced by the fact that ourside linebackers coach Joey Porter, and not defensive line coach Johnny Mitchell addressed the press after the Steelers announced their pick.

Anthony Chickillo stands at 6’3” and weighs 267 pounds and is a Tampa Bay native. Chickillo played for three seasons at Miami, and recorded 64 tackles and 12 sacks.

Colbert’s comments would seem to indicate that the Steeler regard Chickillo as a work in progress.

Video Highlights of Anthony Chickillo

The University of Miami is one of the most prolific of the NCAA’s football programs, and in its heyday of the late 1980’s and 1990’s was often described as “almost like a pro team.” As such, all of their draft prospects (thankfully) have You Tube video highlight reels posted, which you can find enjoy here:

That’s some impressive film. But for all its legend and lore, doing it in college, even for a team like the Miami Hurricanes, isn’t the same as doing it in the NFL

How Anthony Chickillo Fits into the Steelers Plans

Anthony Chickillo will follow in the footsteps of so many other undersized college defensive ends drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers – he’ll be asked to learn a new position of outside 3-4 linebacker.

  • In doing so he’ll have one of the Steelers finest 3-4 outside linebackers there to coach him.

But even with Joey Porter’s mentoring, Chickillo faces an uphill battle to make the team, simply because of his status as a late round pick. And if the Steelers need at outside linebacker going into the 2015 NFL Draft was acute, Pittsburgh’s depth at outside linebacker is not as perilously thin as it was because of the selection of Bud Dupree.

Still, if he can contribute on special teams, then he has a chance at making the team, and unless he totally fumbles his opportunity at St. Vincents, Chickillo will have an almost certain slot on the practice squad.

Welcom to Steelers Nation Anthony Chickillo.

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Steelers 2015 Draft Needs at Tight End

The 2015 NFL Draft is 24 hours away, and Kevin Colbert and his staff are hurriedly making their preparations. Steel Curtain Rising continues its look at the Steelers 2015 Draft Needs, focusing on tight ends.

Analyzing Steelers Depth at Tight End – The Starter

Heath! For ten years the chant has been a staple both at Heinz Field and across Steelers Nation every time number 83 makes a catch. Pittsburgh Steelers tight end might not get the recognition he deserves outside of Pittsburgh, but since his arrival in Pittsburgh, Heath Miller has been just as vital to the Steelers victories in Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII as have other offensive stalwarts like Hines Ward and Willie Parker.

  • Now Heath Miller and Ben Roethlisberger are all that remain from the offenses of those two Super Bowl units.

At age 33 Heath Miller returns to the Steelers with one year left on his contract and remains one of the top tight ends in the game. Since performance 2014 in terms of catches and targets was almost identical to that of 2013, and when opposing offenses sought to double cover Le’Veon Bell out of the backfield, Roethlisberger connected with Miller to make them pay.

  • If all of that is true, and it is, in the last two seasons Miller began to show some signs of age.

He fumbled twice in 2014 and had a few uncharacteristic drops in the Steelers playoff loss to the Ravens. Miller’s status as starter should remain safe in 2015 and he probably has a few more years left, but the he’s now closer to retirement than his rookie year.

Analyzing Steelers Depth at Tight End– the Back Ups

The Steelers decision to resign Matt Spaeth in 2013 drew a collective “What?” from Steelers Nation, but Spaeth’s play has since vindicated Kevin Colbert’s decision to bring him back to Pittsburgh.

With that said, Spaeth isn’t going to fool anyone should he try to do a Rob Gronkowski imitation. Spaeth’s main role with the Steelers is that of a blocker and he does it well. The Steelers recognize that, which is why they resigned him.

Behind Spaeth, the Steelers return a 2014 practice squad veteran and 2014 7th round draft pick Rob Branchflower who is untested, unknown and will need to fight for a roster spot in Latrobe this summer.steelers, draft, needs, priority, 2015

Priority Status of Tight End for Steelers in 2015 NFL Draft

The 2015 NFL Draft isn’t  too early for the Steelers to be being seeking Heath Miller’s successor, and from a pure question of need at tight end, picking a top prospect in the second or third rounds would not be out of the question. Other needs might dictate the Steelers wait longer, but tight end is an aging position for the Steelers, and they need to build depth for the present and groom talent for the future.

Therefore tight end’s priority status for the Steelers in the 2015 NFL Draft must be considered Moderate-High.

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Steelers Resign Will Allen – Retirement in 1 Veteran Safety Paves Way for Return of Another

Less than 24 hours after Steelers legend Troy Polamalu retired, Pittsburgh resigned Will Allen, who has backed up Polamalu at safety since 2010. Although Allen is only one year younger than Polamalu, the Steelers secondary was arguably playing its best football during the final four games of 2014 with Allen starting and Polamalu on the bench.

Terms of the deal were not announced, but it is likely that Allen signed for something at or very close to the veteran minimum.

Timing of Allen Signing Telling

Given their profile and level of their contributions during 2014, it was peculiar that the Steelers would decide to resign Clifton Geathers and Darrius Heyward-Bey before resigning Will Allen.

  • The timing of the move tells you all you need to know.

The Steelers clearly wanted and needed veteran depth behind Mike Mitchell, Shamarko Thomas, and Robert Golden. And while Steelers management – from Art Rooney II down through new defensive coordinator Keith Butler had signaled that Troy Polamalu was not in their 2015 plans – they had not completely closed the door on a Polamalu return in 2015.

The Steelers will also likely seek a safety at some point in the 2015 NFL Draft and there’s no certainty that Allen will get a roster spot. But for now he provides a veteran presence in a safety corps that has just gong from one of the most-experienced positions on the depth chart to one of the least in only two years.

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Steelers 2015 Free Agency Scorecard Delivers Mixed Bag for Steelers Nation

The Steelers continue to make piece meal free agency moves and could — and they most certainly should resign Will Allen before all is said and done. They could possibly add a corner at a bargain basement veteran minimum price.

  • But by and large the table is set.

And a lot of Steelers Nation is not happy about some of the choices the team has made, although their M.O. has been the same as it always has been:

  • Look to fill a few holes,
  • Do some bargain hunting,
  • Refuse to overpay,
  • Invest in resigning their own players

Most fans wanted the Steelers to sign a corner and/or an outside linebacker and the Steelers appeared to be interested in doing either of the two things, but ultimately found the market too expensive.

The Steelers did of course sign DeAngelo Williams to back up Le’Veon Bell (and start in his place when his suspension for a DWU becomes official).

Pittsburgh Steelers, 2015 Free Agents, Harrison, Polamalu, Kesiel, fans, poll

Steel Curtain Rising Readers Speak

The Steelers had 14 unrestricted free agents heading into the 2015 off season in addition to two aging roster veterans who were on the bubble.

The decision to resign or let a player walk is always an emotional one, and one that fans often do not understand. Yours truly can remember a moment, in 1993 or 1994, when the internet was in its infancy seeing a fan lay into Dan Rooney and Tom Donahoe for resigning Dermontti Dawson while he still had 1 year on his deal. If memory serves, the fan wrote:

  • “Dan Rooney needs to understand that the point of free agency is to sign guys from other teams, not your own.”

Of course Daniel Snyder spent his first dozen years as owner instructing his coaches and personnel staff to do just that, and the results speak for themselves. Oh, and during that time Dermontti Dawson has been elected to the NFL Hall of Fame.

  • Still, the poll that Steel Curtain Rising ran during February and March is revealing about the wants of this little corner of Steelers Nation.

With that in mind, how does the Steelers 2015 Free Agency scorecard stand up against the desires of fans, or at least against the desires of our readers here at Steel Curtain Rising.

James Harrison, Arthur Moats, and Matt Spaeth found a lot of love from visitors to this site, and the Steelers came through, resigning each player. Brett Keisel, Jason Worilds, and Brice McCain also found a lot of love, but none will return to Pittsburgh in 2015.

  • Readers also reaped a ringing endorsement for Troy Polamalu back.

This came in spite of one article arguing that it the ideal situation would be for Troy Polamalu to retire, and another saying that Will Allen presented a wiser choice for a veteran safety back up. It’s hard to say goodbye, and yours truly won’t be too upset of Polamalu came back at the veteran minimum.

As for the rest of the depth chart, Ike Taylor has found little love here, and probably rightly so as his phone isn’t ringing in Free Agency.

  • The rest of the depth chart didn’t evoke much passion from our loyal readers, although the restricted free agents remain popular.

Finally, Clifton Geather’s name got left off of the poll and he was completely left out of the Steelers 2015 Free Agent focus. This was an honest oversight, but yours truly also didn’t think there was any chance he’d be back. Well, the Steelers resigned Geathers and he’ll get his shot this summer at Latrobe.

Make Your Voice Heard Steelers Nation

Voting in a poll is one thing and we thank everyone who took the time to vote (and please vote in our current poll on the Steelers needs heading into the 2015 NFL Draft. But polls are one demensional, and say nothing about why you felt/feel as you do.

So take a moment to leave a comment, and let fellow fans know your thoughts about what decisions the Steelers have made in 2015 thus far.

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Steelers Antwon Blake Signs Restricted Free Agent Tender

Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Antwon Blake has signed his restricted free agent tender, ensuring he will return for the 2015 season.

After the initial roster cut in 2013, the Steelers picked up Antwon Blake, Cody Wallace and Zoltan Mesko in a bit of waiver wire bargain hunting. Blake saw no action at corner in 2013, but Carnell Lake mentioned him when reporters question the Steelers decision to wait until the 5th round of the 2014 NFL Draft to pick a corner, Shaquelle Richardson who has since been cut.

Antwon Blake began the 2014 season as the Steelers 3rd cornerback, but found himself displaced by Brice McCain, as McCain replaced Ike Taylor. However, Blake’s demotion did not last long, as he supplanted starter Cortez Allen who lost his starting job and then found himself benched altogether.

Blake’s biggest play came in the Steelers season finale defeat of the Cincinnati Bengals, when he forced an A.J. Green fumble to seal victory.

Blake made headlines this off season for the wrong reason, with a public drunkeness arrest in California, although Blake was not charged with any crime.

With Blake formally back in the fold for 2015, the Steelers now have William Gay, Cortez Allen, and B.W. Webb on their roster, and are expected to target cornerback early in the 2015 NFL Draft.

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Steelers Sign Shayon Green, Former Miami Hurricane, to 1 Year Contract

The Pittsburgh Steelers continue to make roster moves, having signed outside linebacker to a 1 year contract. Shayon Green played for the Miami Hurricanes, where he overcame two ACL tears at Miami and in 2013 he started 13 games and recorded 68 tackles, including 10.5 for losses, and three sacks.

  • Green went undrafted in the 2014 NFL Draft, but did get an invitation to the Miami Dolphins training camp, but he did not make the team.

Clearly Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin, and new defensive coordinator Keith Butler see something in Shayon Green, but in effect the Steelers are “adding a body” at one of the thinnest areas on their roster.

At outside linebacker the Steelers currently have Jarvis Jones, Arthur Moats, James Harrison, Howard Jones and former CFL stand out Shawn Lemon. The Pittsburgh Steelers are expected to target outside linebacker in the 2015 NFL Draft, with the only real debate being whether they’ll pick a cornerback or an outside linebacker in the first round.

Of course that was the conventional wisdom going into the 2014 NFL Draft – that the only questions about the Steelers priorities were which order they’d draft cornerback and wide receiver in the first and second rounds.

The Steelers promptly went off the script, drafting inside linebacker Ryan Shaizer in the first round, Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt in the second round, Dri Archer in the third round and it wasn’t until the fourth round that they picked a wide receiver, Martavis Bryant.

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Steelers Resign Clifton Geathers – No, This Is NOT (another) April Fools Joke

The Pittsburgh Steelers can claim that they’re œdone€ with free agency all they want, but until they stop signing players no one will believe them. Since Kevin Colbert and Art Rooney went on record say the Steelers had pretty much finished up with free agency the Steelers have resigned James Harrison and then offered a contract to Darrius Heyward Bey.

No, this is not (another) April Fool’s joke, although it almost was. Literally.

Back at the beginning of the month I finished our Steelers 2015 Free Agent Focus profiles on all of the Steelers free agents. It was only then that I realized that I’d forgotten one. Clifton Geathers.

IT from there came the brainwave to offer Steelers Nation a challenge:

  • $50 Argentine pesos to any scribe in Steelers Nation who could write a compelling case for why the Steelers should resign Clifton Geathers and keep a straight face while doing so.

This was a dead serious idea. I’d started a post and had it 2/3 of the way completed but stopped because of other distractions and because the copy wasn’t as compelling as it could have been.

Well, apparently Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin were able to do just that, without batting an eye. And they would know Geather’s  capabilities far better and anyone whose eyeballs have passed over this site, truth be told.

The Steelers of course signed Clifton Geathers to “replace”€ Brett Keisel when Keisel went on injured reserve. Clifton Geathers is not listed as having even dressed for any of the three games that he was on the roster for, and his only claim to fame was starting a fight with Maurkice Pouncey during his first practice with the team for œpracticing too hard.€

But perhaps practicing hard is what Geathers needed, because Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin, and John Mitchell wouldn’t have offered to bring him to St. Vincent’s unless they saw something they liked. No terms of the deal were announced, but one can imagine it is a veteran minimum, which means Geathers will have to win a job in Latrobe.

  • If nothing else, Geathers gives the Steelers some depth on defensive line, where Cam Thomas is their only back up defensive end.

Prior to “€playing”€ in Pittsburgh, Geathers played for Dallas, Miami, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, and Washington.

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