Le’Veon Bell Loses Appeal, Steelers Running Back Faces 3 Game Suspension

The Pittsburgh Steelers star running back Le’Veon Bell has lost the appeal of his failed drug test, and will be suspended for the first three games of the Steelers 2016 season.

le'veon bell, reggie nelson, steelers, bengals, steelers vs. bengals, pittsburgh cincinnati december 2014

Reggie Nelson injures Steelers Le’Veon Bell in December 2014 AFC North Show Down. Photo Credit: Don Wright, Associated Press

Le’Veon Bell first ran afoul of the NFL’s substance abuse policies in July of 2013 when he an LeGarrettee Blount were caught driving while smoking marijuana. The NFL initially suspended Bell for 4 games, a suspension which was later reduced to 2. Since then Bell has said all of the right things, and was even offered up as an example for Martavis Bryant, who is struggling with marijuana addiction.

Bell went so far as to mock the random drug tests he got in April 20th:

When Steelers OTA’s began, Le’Veon Bell assured reporters he would be ready for Pittsburgh’s season opener the focus was on the recovery from the knee injury he suffered at the hands of Cincinnati Bengals thug linebacker Vontaze Burfict in the Steelers loss to the Bengals at Heinz Field last fall.

Then in the middle of June “rumors” began:

Given that the source of the rumors was sports shock jock Mark Madden – the same Mark Madden who once labeled Ike Taylor as the “Steeler worst 4th round pick ever – and give that Bell vehemently denied the rumors, the story died.

Until Steelers training camp began, and word leaked that Bell was in fact facing a four game suspension for skipping drug tests. Bell did not disucss the incident much during preseason, although there were indications that the Steelers felt confident he might win his appeal.

Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert issued the following remark when the news of Bell’s reduced suspension was announced:

We are disappointed Le’Veon Bell has been suspended three games to start the 2016 season. We will continue to support Le’Veon, but we acknowledge this mistake has put the team in an unfortunate position. We will continue to work with Le’Veon to help him eliminate distractions in his life so he can reach his full potential as a member of our community as well as a player for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In a video posted on Twitter, Bell sought to explain the situation to fans, although that video has since been deleted.

Bell’s Appeal Does Yield, “Rearguard” Variety Victory

The news was not all bad for both Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers. As Mike Garafolo of NFL.com has pointed out:

Getting his suspension reduced by 25% is a plus for both Bell and the Steelers, and Bell staying in the same stage of the NFL’s substance abuse policies is also important, as a further incident would only cost him four games, as opposed to 10.

Bell’s Loss is Toussaint and Richardson’s Gain

With Bell out for the Steelers matchups against the Washington Redskins, Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles, DeAngelo Williams will once again take the helm as the Steelers starting running back.

However, Bell’s absence is a boon for Fitzgerald Toussaint and Daryl Richardson, both of whom are battling to be the Steelers number 3 running back. Both men have looked strong in training camp and in preseason and barring injury or a complete meltdown during the Steelers remaining two preseason games, should make the opening day roster.

It is believe that the Steelers will not carry more than three running backs, plus Roosevelt Nix, on their active roster once Bell returns to the team. However, both men will have a chance to prove they belong between now and then.

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Senquez Golson’s Lisfranc Injury = 1 Moment a Blogger Begs to Be Wrong

There are times when bloggers want to blast to the world: “I was right.” Then there are times when bloggers beg to have been wrong. Senquez Golson’s Lisfranc injury falls into the latter category.

senquez golson's lisfranc injury, senquez golson, lisfranc injury, steelers training camp, secondary, cornerback

Senquez Golson throws his helmet in frustration after his Lisfranc injury; Photo Credit: Chaz Palla, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The Pittsburgh Steelers set a daunting challenge for themselves during 2016 training camp: Rebuild the secondary on the backs of 4 young and untested in the form of first round pick Artie Burns, second round pick Sean Davis, 2015’s 4th round pick Doran Grant, and 2015’s 2nd round pick Senquez Golson.

As noted when the Steelers signed Artie Burns, Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin, Keith Butler and Carnell Lake have gone all in on the youth movement at secondary, trading Antwon Blake, Brandon Boykin and Cortez Allen’s cumulative 82 game appearances, 42 starting performances and 17 interceptions for a grand total of 1 snap of NFL experience.

  • Colbert and Tomlin gambled boldly, but the duo rarely makes personnel decisions based in fear

Fair enough, but four days into training camp Senquez Golson’s Lisfrac injury shows just how thin the Steelers margin of error is. With William Gay and Ross Cockrell, the Steelers should be set at their number 1 and number 2 cornerback positions. The slot remains a mystery. The Steelers had been hoping Golson would emerge as the slot cornerback, which would have given the team greater flexibility manning their Dime defense.

Many outsiders have pegged Davis as the member of the Steelers 2016 draft class most likely to contribute in 2016, giving him an outside chance of unseating incumbent starter Robert Golden. While Davis chances of unseating Golden just took at hit, the probability of him seeing playing time in September just increased exponentially.

Senquez Golson’s Lisfranc Injury Latest Unlucky Twist

The Steelers turned a lot of heads when they picked Golson in the 2nd round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Golson put a lot to like on tape while at Ole Miss, but at his 5’9” frame does not exactly qualify him as a prototypical NFL cornerback.

  • At this point in the young corner’s career, Golson’s same frame suggest fragility.

As Sean Spence showed in 2014, two consecutive injuries hardly spell doom for a promising young player. Spence missed 2012 and then 2013, only to add depth and stability in 2014 and helped author one of the biggest one year-swings in depth chart quality in Steelers history.

Along those lines, a Lisfranc injuries rarely end seasons, as Matt Spaeth and Le’Veon Bell suffered Lisfranc injuries during training camp in 2013 and both returned to post strong season.

  • In other words, fans foaming at the mouth to label Senquez Golson a bust should cool their jets.

Still, a torn rotator cuff ended Senquez Golson’s rookie year, a “mysterious” MRI during Steelers OTA’s, four practices and now a Lisfranc injury will sideline him for at least 12 weeks define Senquez Golson’s NFL resume. Clearly Senquez Golson suffers from an uncanny string of bad luck. And that’s a shame for the Steelers secondary.

Even before his MRI or the the Lisfranc injury, Steel Curtain Rising wondered aloud if Senquez Golson might be this generation’s Kris Farris. Senquez Golson’s lisfranc injury moves that prophecy a notch closer to fulfillment – and Steel Curtain Rising sorely hopes it will move no closer.

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Have the Pittsburgh Steelers 2016 Championship Chances Gone Up in Smoke?

Have the Steelers 2016 Super Bowl hopes gone up in smoke? Who really knows at this point? The news that Le’Veon Bell is facing a 4 game suspension for missing a mandatory drug test offers little encouragement. Now factor in Martavis Bryant’s season-long suspension.

Martavis Bryant, Le'Veon Bell, suspensions, NFL drug policy, Steelers 2016 Super Bowl hopes

Happier Times: Martavis Bryant & Le’Veon Bell celebrate Bryant’s first NFL touchdown vs. the Houston Texans. Photo Credit: Steel City Blitz

  • No matter how you slice it, the Steelers offense just saw their octane rating drop.

Yes, the Steelers still have Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown. Markus Wheaton is arguably underrated. Darrius Heyward-Bey remains a viable number 3 wide receiver and Sammie Coates impressed in the playoffs. But the Steelers will also miss Heath Miller, and Heath Miller who gave Roethlisberger as close to an automatic catch as you can have in the NFL.

To put the losses of Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Braynt into perspective, consider this:

  • While Bryant only played 11 games and Bell only 6, together the two scored 24% of the 2015 Steelers touchdowns.

Of course during 2013 Jerricho Cotchery made a disproportionate share of the Steelers touchdown receptions, but the 2014 Steelers offense more than made up for the loss – in no small part due to the emergence of both Bell and Bryant.

The Steelers depth chart at wide receiver is much better positioned to weather the loss of Bryant than the Steelers depth chart at running back. As noted here before the Steelers depth at running back is close to non-existent. Behind Bell, the Steelers only have DeAngelo Williams and Fitzgerald Toussaint. Currently holding roster spots are Daryl Richardson (167-690 rushing, 38-284 receiving for the Rams in 2012-13), first-year man Cameron Stingily and undrafted rookie free agents Brandon Brown-Dukes and Brandon Johnson.

If they are, they’ll from yet another feather in Kevin Colbert’s uncanny cap of undrafted free agent steals. But remember, Redman didn’t play a down his rookie year and Willie Parker only rushed 32 times as a rookie.

DeAngelo Williams performed tremendously in 2015. Credit Colbert for another masterful free agent signing. But Williams will be 33 and skill-position players at that age often suffer sharp season-to-season drop offs. Jerome Bettis was 33 when he retired, although Williams has less than half the carries on his frame than Bettis did.

Impact of Bryant and Bell’s Absence on Steelers 2016 Super Bowl Hopes

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2016 Super Bowl hopes can in no way be considered bolstered absent Martavis Bryant and without the services of Le’Veon Bell for the first quarter season. Martavis Bryant possesses Randy Moss-like talent, while a healthy Le’Veon Bell is the NFL’s best running back not named Adrian Peterson.

  • However Steelers Nation need not abandon all hope.

Last year, absent Antonio Brown, Bell, Williams and Maurkice Pouncey and with Ben Roethlisberger at less than 100% the Pittsburgh Steelers were a fumble and a third and long stop away from the AFC Championship. “AFC Championship” functions as the operative word in the preceding sentence. It is unlikely that the defense in general or more specifically the 2015 Steelers accidental secondary could have gone into Foxborough and beaten Tom Brady.

  • Prior to Bell’s suspension (or Bryant’s for that matter), the Steelers 2016 Super Bowl hopes hinged on Keith Butler’s ability to take Pittsburgh’s defense to the next level.

And for that to happen, Butler and Carnell Lake must successfully see Senquez Golson, Artie Burns, Sean Davis and perhaps Doran Grant through a baptism of fire. Don’t expect much proof that that has occurred in September, when the Steelers will be without Bell’s services.

At the end of the day, the continued development of the Steelers defense and the performance of their untested secondary will impact the Steelers 2016 Super Bowl hopes more than Le’Veon Bell’s looming 4 game suspension or Martavis Bryant’s year-long disciplinary hiatus.

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Steelers Le’Veon Bell Faces Four Game Suspension for Missed Drug Test

The Super Bowl-expectations are high this year for the Pittsburgh Steelers,  but unfortunately, those expectations may have to be tempered just a bit.

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According to ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano, his sources have told him that star running back Le’Veon Bell is facing a four-game suspension to start the 2016 season for missing a mandatory drug test.

Le’Veon Bell, 24, was suspended for the first two games of the 2015 season, stemming from a DUI charge in August of 2014, when a vehicle he was riding in with former backup running back LeGarrette Blount was stopped by local police.

  • The two were charged with marijuana possession, and Bell, who was the driver, was subsequently charged with a DUI.

Bell was perhaps the most important cog in Todd Haley’s offensive game-plan in 2014, when he rushed for 1,361 yards and added another 854 yards through the air on 83 receptions. Sadly for the Steelers, Bell suffered a hyper-extended knee in a the regular season-finale against the Bengals at Heinz Field and was out for the wild card playoff game against Baltimore a week later.

Last season, in-addition to his two-game suspension to start the season, Bell missed the final two months after suffering a torn MCL, once again at the hands of the Bengals in a Week 8 match-up at Heinz Field on November 1.

If the reports are true, and Bell is indeed out for the first month of the season, the Steelers will have to rely heavily on veteran running back DeAngelo Williams, who piled up 907 yards on the ground while filling in admirably for Bell a season ago.

While fans remember Fitzgerald Toussaint for his fumble in the AFC Divisional loss to the Broncos, Toussaint played well overall for the Steelers in the playoffs. However, beyond Williams and Toussaint, the Steelers 2016 running back depth chat is thin.

While the reports on Bell aren’t official just yet, it is factual that Martavis Bryant, who was suspended for the first four games a season ago for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, will miss all of 2016 after failing multiple drug tests earlier this offseason.

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Steelers Release Tight End Matt Spaeth

As per several news outlets, the Steelers on Thursday released veteran tight end Matt Spaeth after he failed a physical.

  • Spaeth, who had offseason knee surgery, evidently didn’t recover in time for the Steelers’ satisfaction.

Here is a quote from team general manager Kevin Colbert, courtesy of NFL.com:

Matt never fully recovered from knee surgery this past offseason, and he will not be ready to return to football activities at this  time,” said Colbert. “Matt played an integral role in our Super Bowl XLIII Championship run, and we wish him the best in his future endeavors.

Spaeth was part of Mike Tomlin’s first draft class in 2007 and came to the Steelers as a third round pick out of Minnesota. He was Heath Miller’s backup and the team’s number two tight end for four years, catching 36 passes for 275 yards and five touchdowns.

Matt Spaeth, Steelers tight end, matt spaeth catch vs. Bengals 2014

Matt Spaeth catches as pass for the Steelers vs. the Bengals in December 2014. (Photo Credit: Michael Conroy, AP)

After his rookie deal expired following the 2010 Super Bowl XLV season, Spaeth signed a deal with the Bears who, according to Spaeth’s Wikipedia Page, then traded future Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen to the Panthers.

After two seasons in Chicago, Spaeth was released and subsequently re-signed with the Steelers prior to the 2013 regular season as insurance for Miller, who suffered a devastating knee injury in Week 16 of the 2012 season.

However, Spaeth was injured himself, at the beginning of the year and never made much of an impact outside of blocking during his last three campaigns in Pittsburgh.

For the 6’7″, 270 Spaeth, 32, it remains to be seen if he’s going to continue to play football, or if he’ll decide to call it a career.

To take Spaeth’s place on the roster, the Steelers signed free agent tight end Mandel Dixon.

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Watch Tower: Insight into What Makes Tomlin Tick, Steelers Situation @ Safety and Much More

The  NFL’s “true off season” doesn’t leave many Steelers stories for the Watch Tower to shine its light on, but a few do stick out ranging from the new insight into how Mike Tomlin operates, Steelers situation at safety, the evolution of the Steelers defense and creative approaches to “content” in this otherwise dead period for Steelers news. Read on…

Mike Tomlin, Bruce Arians, Art Rooney II

Mike Tomlin and Bruce Arians; Photo Credit: Gene J. Puskar, Associated Press

Insight into How Tomlin Ticks via Arians Interview

The Bruce Arians firing made news recently. Again. If you’re reading this, you already know the details and have your own opinion formed on it. No need to repeat. HBO’s Real Sports mostly milked an established story for shock value, but in doing so it lent some insight into Mike Tomlin:

I got a call on Monday and said, ‘I can’t get you the money.’ I said, ‘Okay.’ He said, ‘No, I can’t get you a contract.’ I said, ‘Are you firing me?’ He said, ‘No…’ ‘Well… it’s just a matter of words, Mike. Okay. If I don’t have a contract, I’m fired.’ And he said, ‘I’m going to fly down and talk.’

So where’s the insight, you ask? Unlike Bill Cowher, Mike Tomlin has never had an itchy trigger finger when it comes to firing assistant coaches. Yet, if Arians’ account is correct, shows that not only does he have a difficult time doing it, he also struggles with breaking bad news.

  • This is the second example we have of Tomlin breaking bad news by distancing himself from it.

As the Watch Tower noted last July, Dani Bostic, then writing for Behind the Steel Curtain, reported that when the Steelers cut Isaac Redman, Tomlin took much of the same tact, declaring “’I tried fighting for you.’” The Watch Tower freely concedes that this insight into Tomlin falls into the category of “interesting, but not terribly useful.” Nor should it suggest anything negative about Mike Tomlin as a person, coach or leader.

Chuck Noll, a man of unquestioned integrity, struggled when delivering bad news to players or coaches headed out the door. But its oft been argued that the Tomlin that Steelers Nation sees in front of the cameras isn’t the same Tomlin behind the scenes, and the HBO report helped pull back the veil.

“New” Name in Mix for Steelers @ Safety?

For the second consecutive year, Steelers secondary remains the team’s biggest question mark heading into training camp. In fact, one could argue that the question mark has grown from 2015 to 2016.

There’s perhaps in bigger position battle than that at free safety. Robert Golden enters camp as the front runner, with second round draft pick Sean Davis in the mix and Shamarko Thomas in contention (on paper at least.)

In an article covering Robert Golden’s determination to claim the starting roster spot, Kaboly observed: “…and there even is talk about Will Allen being an eventual option.” Will Allen is of course not a “new” name to the Steelers, but Mark Kaboly is the first credentialed Steelers journalist to report that there’s a serious possibility of Will Allen returning.

If the Steelers do turn to Will Allen all will not have gone well in training camp, but Mark Kaboly will be able to claim bragging rights.

Popjoy Adds Something Significant to the Archer Story

In 2016 “Content aggregation” forms a fundamental part of the sports media landscape. By necessity, any site (including this one) that doesn’t have access to original sources practices it. At its best it works like this: Someone else publishes a story, a blogger rehashes that story; the better bloggers either expand upon the story or find some way to add their own twist.

  • The news that the Jets cut Dri Archer and that Archer then refused show up for practice when claimed by the Bills offers a perfect example.

Nearly every Steelers blogging site wrote an obligatory post on the failed Steelers third round draft pick continuing to flounder outside of Pittsburgh. Curt Popejoy of USA Today’s SteelersWire however, provided a good example of content aggregation at its best. Popejoy went beyond the “this shows Archer did have off the field issues” angle of the story, by informing his readers that the Steelers, by all accounts, did not have a pre-draft visit with Archer.

In other words, instead of simply recycling someone else’s story, Popejoy found a way to add new information by connecting dots that no one else thought to connect. And for that Curt Popejoy wins Watch Tower Kudos.

Wexell on Evolution of Steelers Defense

The evolution of the Steelers defense from a 3-4 zone blitz focused unit pioneered by Dom Capers, Dick LeBeau and Bill Cowher to a 4-3ish Cover 2 is hardly a unique topic in Pittsburgh and has been discussed frequently in the 2016 off season. But perhaps no one has covered it in as much detail as Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell and an early May piece by Wexell caused the Watch Tower to raise its antenna.

After detailing how the Steelers personnel has evolved away from the scheme Dick LeBeau and Bill Cowher built, Wexell shared this:

That’s reportedly what the great Tampa-2 defensive coordinator, Monte Kiffin, actually liked about the Steelers’ defense this past season. When Kiffin visited practice for a short spell, I perceived it as a consultation session. I perceived the wise old genius was brought in to help out a first-year coordinator bridge two systems.

Monte Kiffin visiting the Steelers was news to the Watch Tower.

A quick Google search confirms that Kiffin had in fact been present at practices at some point in the Steelers 2015 season. In fact, Tomlin discussed Kiffin’s visit at length in a Steelers.com interview (presumably during a press conference, Steelers.com doesn’t clarify the context.) The news that Mike Tomlin’s mentor stopped by Steelers practice is hardly a bombshell, nor is the revelation that Kiffin offered advice to Keith Butler exactly ground shaking.

  • Similar to insights gained from the Arians interview, the Monte Kiffin factoid falls into the category of “more interesting than useful.”

But this was a story out waiting to be told or at least a fact out there waiting to be used to support a larger story. And once again Jim Wexell separated himself from the pack by using it to deliver an extra bit of added value to his readers and for that again he wins Watch Tower Kudos.

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Steelers Validate Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert’s Commitment to Fairness with Brandon Johnson Signing

Mike Tomlin has vowed numerous times to “Leave no loose stone unturned” in his effort to improve whatever ails the Pittsburgh Steelers. The aftermath of Steelers decision to cut Shuan Suisham’s illustrates just how serious Tomlin takes his own words.

  • To fill Shaun Suisham’s spot, the Steelers signed Penn State’s Brandon Johnson, he of 4 carries to his NCAA rushing resume.
steelers, rookie, 90th roster spot, brandon johnson, penn state, running backs, undrafted rookie free agents

One of Brandon Johnson’s four carries while @ Penn State; Photo Credit: Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

One benefit to such late roster moves is Steelers Nation REALLY knows who is the 90th man on the roster. The Steelers invited Brandon Johnson to their rookie tryout camp, and while the Steelers cut Rajion Neal and Christian Powell, they replaced them with Cameron Stingily and Brandon Brown-Dukes leaving Brandon Johnson on the outside looking in.

  • Now Brandon Johnson has a shot at his NFL dream, however slim it might be.

When one things of unheralded, rookie free agent running backs names like Willie Parker or Gary Russell come to mind (even if Russell didn’t come to the Steelers as a true UDFA.) When Willie Parker proved he belong in the NFL, fans wondered why he didn’t play more for the North Carolina Tar Heels. But Parker logged 285 carries at Chapel Hill. Gary Russell only played two years in college, but the Minnesota Gophers trusted him enough to put the ball in his hands 210 times.

  • In contrast, Brandon Johnson got carries in two games, and turned his 4 carries into 23 yards.

The website Go PSU Sports further informs us that the former walk-on Brandon Johnson appeared 19 games total, almost all on special teams. Jacob Klinger of Penn Live reports that his measurable from Penn State’s Pro Day were 4.43 40-yard dash and vertical jumped 39 inches.

  • No matter how you look at it, Brandon Johnson’s pedigree is thin.

The fact that Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin filled an unexpected roster vacancy with a running back is no confidence, given the Steelers lack at running back behind Le’Veon Bell, DeAngelo Williams and Fitzgerald Toussaint.

But the Steelers Brandon Johnson signing really does represent a “loose stone turn over signing” much like Donald Washington’s does. (The Steelers signed “veteran cornerback Donald Washington, who has been out of the NFL since 2011 and only played a handful of snaps in the CFL since then.)

Past Steelers Running Backs from Penn State

It says here if Brandon Johnson gets a couple of carries late in the 4th quarter of the Steelers first preseason game, he will have beaten the odds. Still the fact that he has a pre-training camp roster spot means that Bradon Johnson has a chance of being the first Nittany Lion running back to play for the Steelers since fullback Jon Witman made the team in 1996.

Witman was preceded by Leroy Thompson, who was drafted by Chuck Noll in 1991. And of course Thompson followed in the footsteps of two other Penn State greats, Franco Harris and Dick Hoak.

  • Judged by yards gained, the fortunes of Penn State running backs with the Steelers are on a downward trend…

Don’t expect Brandon Johnson to break the trend, but Todd Haley and James Saxon will give this latest loose stone a fair shot at trying.

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Steelers Release Shaun Suisham, Chris Boswell Inherits Kicking Job

The chances of Shaun Suisham, the Steelers placekicker for four-plus years, bouncing back well enough to regain his spot atop the roster in 2016 were probably fairly slim to begin with….

shaun suisham, steelers, steelers vs. ravens, steelers ravens heinz field 2013

Shaun Suisham in 2013 after kicking a game winner vs. Baltimore; Photo Credit: Peter Diana, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

…The veteran kicker suffered a season-ending ACL tear while making a tackle on a kickoff during the Hall of Fame Game last August and was lost for all of 2015. In his absence–after failed experiments with both Garrett Hartley and Josh Scobee–virtual known Chris Boswell exploded onto the scene and proved to be a younger and cheaper version, as he converted on 29 of 32 attempts down-the-stretch for the playoff-bound Steelers.

Factoring in age (Suisham, 34, is nine years older than Boswell), along with money (Suisham had two years to go on a four-year extension he signed in 2014), and it was going to take an awful lot for the veteran to pry his old job back from the understudy.

  • It also didn’t help No. 6’s case that he was still unable to kick almost a year after his injury.

And unfortunately for Suisham, who appears to be one of the nicest and classiest players around, he suffered a recent setback on his injured knee which proved to be the final nail in the coffin, as the Steelers announced his release on Friday on their official team website.

Much like Boswell last fall, there was nothing much to be excited about with Suisham, when he arrived in Pittsburgh back in 2010 after the ceremonious release of veteran kicker Jeff Reed.

  • But Suisham proved to be consistent, making 14 of 15 field goals down-the-stretch.

In four-plus years in Pittsburgh, Suisham’s consistency remained, as he posted an 87.9 percent conversion rate on field-goal attempts–including a robust 91.5 percent over his final three seasons.

Suisham never missed an extra-point during his time with the Steelers (his career in Pittsburgh came before the extra-point was moved to 33-yards away), and he was a remarkable 30 of 30 between 40-49 yards away from 2012-2014.

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Common Sense Rules Day in Artie Burns Rookie Prediction Poll

Call it a victory for common sense. As is custom here at Steel Curtain Rising, immediately after the 2016 NFL Draft we polled our readers giving them a chance to voice their predictions on how the Steelers 1st round pick Artie Burns career will turn out.

Steelers, Artie Burns, 1st round pick

Steelers 1st round pick Artie Burns @ OTA’s; Photo Credit: ESPN.com

  • Savvier readers are aware, is largely an exercise in satire.

While it understands and respects their entertainment value, this site does not believe in instant draft grades and never treads in those waters. Some of this skepticism is rooted in being dumb enough to voice out loud doubts about the wisdom of picking Ben Roethlisberger arguing Tommy Maddox could get the job done.

  • In the years since then, events have vindicated the lesson.

In 2015, Ike Taylor’s retirement offered an example of just how piss poorly some post draft graders got it wrong on him. This year, the Steelers 2011 draft class provided another picture perfect example of why thorough draft evaluation comes 5 years after the fact.

  • So these polls are posted with a very large dose of tongue and cheek.

artie burns, rookie predictions, steelers, 1st round draft pick, cornerbacYou, my beloved readers, got it lock stock and barrel, as fully 50% of you gave the correct response: ask me in a couple of three years. For the first time in recent memory, this poll drew its share of write ins – thank you to both those supplying the answer and the others who joined in the chorus.

Of those readers who did feel confident enough to make a prediction, fully 9% of them project Artie Burns as the next Ike Taylor. If Burns does turn out to be as good as Taylor, he will have had a good career. Another 7% say he’ll turn out like the Steelers last 1st round pick, Chad Scott. Scott took a lot of heat from the fans, but a Chad Scott caliber cornerback would have represented a major boost at cornerback over all 2015 Steelers cornerbacks not named William Gay.

6% of readers thought that Artie Burns might turn out to be the next Deshea Townsend.  This is interesting, because even Burn’s backers concede he is raw, and the Steelers drafted Townsend in 1998, but Townsend didn’t crack the starting lineup until 2003.

But Deshea Townsend was good enough to start in Super Bowl XL and be a major contributor to victory in Super Bowl XLIII.

3% of our readers thought that Artie Burns would have the potential to be the next Dwayne Woodruff, a proposition I’m sure Mike Tomlin, Keith Butler or Carnell Lake would take. 1% of our readers boldly predicted that Artie Burns would be the next Rod Woodson or Mel Blount. No one was ready to call him the next Willie Williams or the next Delton Hall.

The truth is that one can hope that is not the case. Willie Williams had a good career for a 5th round pick, but probably played his best ball in Seattle. In contrast, Delton Hall out performed Rod Woodson to win the Steelers 1987 rookie of the year award, but  injuries, inconsistency and lack of discipline thereafter marred his career thereafter.

How will Artie Burns career turn out?

Who knows. Like most readers here, I’m taking a wait and see approach as I do with all draft picks. In the meantime, thanks to everyone who took out time to vote.

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6 Option Steelers 2016 Off Season Survival Guide

Take a deep breath Steelers Nation, we have now reached “The Void.” Player resignings, free agent departures and free agent pickups, pre draft visits, mock drafts, the draft itself, draft grades, rookie contract signings, OTAs and minicamp have run their course. Now we must survive six weeks wihout football.

  • For Steelers fans born in the 80’s or after, this is how the NFL offseason used to be from January to July.

Outside of a brief oasis provided by the draft, you’d be lucky to find a dozen Steelers stories published between the end of season and the beginning of training camp. Those days are long over, and even all of us have long become accustomed to round the clock Steelers coverage day in and day out.

So what is Steelers Nation to do now a serious news drought is about to set in? Here is our 6 Option Steelers 2016 Off Season Survival Guide.

pittsburgh steelers, heinz field, off season, training camp

Heinz Field Sits Empty as Steelers 2016 Training Camp is 6 weeks away… Photo Credit: Associated Press

1. Take a True Steelers Sabbatical

At the end of April, Ivan Cole of Going Deep: An Introspective Steelers Site shared how personal and professional commitments had kept him from following the draft and free agency on anything but a casual basis.

As Cole himself explained:

  • “But sometimes you (or at least I) have to get off the train. And you know what I learned? I really didn’t miss much if anything at all.”

Let’s state for the record. Yours truly remembers the days of spending February, March, April, May, and June scouring the Washington Post and/or listening intently to Ken Beatrice’s Sports Call for even a hint of NFL, let alone Steelers-related news. I don’t miss them.

But my friend Mr. Cole has hit on to something:

  • Coverage of the NFL has become a too oversaturated.

While the league certainly encourages this, some of this is a byproduct of the 24/7 news cycle paired with hundreds of millions of terabytes of webserver space that demand “content” to fill it.

This poll is closed! Poll activity:
start_date 06-06-2016 18:49:27
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How do you plan to "survive" the true Steelers off season

As a proprietor of a Steelers website that has no plans on going dark until training camp, I do hope to see you here between now and July. But nonetheless, sometimes taking a break can be very healthy. Consider taking one. (We’ll be here when you get back.)

2. Focus on Quality Steelers Stories

There are dozens of writers who regularly turn out quality work eve in a Steelers news doldrum. At Steel City Insider Jim Wexell has promised to keep his readers, or at least his subscribes, engaged. The website Steel City Blitz favors original content over content aggregation. The aforementioned Going Deep: An Introspective Steelers Site is a site that makes a point of not chasing headlines – you can appreciate the sort of freedom that that editorial philosophy allows a times like this.

  • One should assume that over on Behind the Steel Curtain, Chris Carter will continue with his film breakdowns, which are absolute must reads.

And of course, there are over a dozen or so books on the Steelers out there that should more than keep you occupied between now and the end of July.

3. Embrace the Suck and Admit Your Powerlessness over the Disease

You admit it you’re powerless. You can’t get enough of the Steelers. You have an appetite that you must feed, quality be dammed. Perhaps you might want to see option 1 above, but barring that, you’ll continue to find plenty of “fast food type” Steelers stories from now until July.

To be fair, most of the items that make up Defeo’s list can either become quality pieces or “fast food” depending on the writer who is penning them. But the internet has taken us to a place where churning out the football equivalent of “pulp fiction” is easier than ever before.

Hence you get stories that purport to define “The worst losses in Steelers history” yet do not include a game played before 2001, save for Super Bowl XXX. Steelers.com is one site you can expect to continue to produce orginal work during this downturn, so look to their headlines, and then look to any number of sites to mimic them. Some will do it will, adding their own value, others, not so much….

4. Go All in on the Pirates

Yes, our beloved Bucos are 33-36, on losing streak and sit 15 games out of first place. But it’s only June. And, heck, at the beginning of this decade a Pirates team that was only 3 games below .500 probably would have been cause for a ticker-tape parade on Boulevard of the Allies.

Seriously, with the Stanley Cup in hand, Steelers and Penguins fans should rally around the Pirates in the hope that Pittsburgh can build some true, 3 sport momentum heading into the fall.

5. Bask in Television’s Second Golden Age

Critics like Alan Sepinwall have said that we’re in television’s second golden age. I was raised in a house with parents who didn’t watch much TV outside of the news and the 10:00 pm dramas and inherited much of their attitude.

  • But Sepinwall right.

If there’s still a lot of garbage being produced, there are also a lot of shows being made now that never would have even been pitched to studios in the 1980’s or 1990’s. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, your somewhat SOL was the there’s only one episode left following last night’s Bastard Bowl.

However, if you’re not, there’s now 6 complete seasons of 10 episodes a piece…. Sort of convenient for Steelers fans looking to fill six weeks between now and training camp. If fantasy and magic are not your cup of but you somehow missed Breaking Bad, well that’s another down to earth series that NEVER would have been made in yesteryear. Check it out.

6. Focus on the FAA

Ah this one surprised you, or at least piqued your interest enough to see what the heck it was about. The FAA is the Futbol Americano Argentino association, and they just kicked off their regular season!

FAA, futbol Americano Argentino

Scenes from the FAA, Futbol Americano Argentino league.

The league has is six teams strong and while it doesn’t exactly feature NFL caliber players, the truth is, you’ve got to admire any group of 20 and 30 something Argentines who grew up in a culture that worships futból, who strap on full pads and go at it for the love of the game….

OF course most of you live far, too far away to taken in their games, and the video section of their website doesn’t appear to be updated…. However, yours truly will most likely take in a game or two of there’s over the next month.
In a perfect world, Steel Curtain Rising would have a series of stories to roll out to fill the void. The fact is we’ve only been able to do that once, in the form of the Chuck Noll-Bill Walsh series back in 2008. Either way, Steel Curtain Rising will do its best to provide quality Steelers reading material between now and July.

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