Steelers Announce Cuts, Waiver Wire Watch Begins

The Steelers officially made their cuts today with no surprises. Mike Tomlin informed players of their fates’ yesterday, but declined to announce decisions until after submitting the paper work to the league office today at 6:00 pm.

The Steelers also placed FB/TE Sean McHugh on injured reserve, making him ineligible to play during the entire 2009 season. Pittsburgh picked McHugh off of waivers last year from Detroit, thus taking him from a club that went 0-16 to one that won Super Bowl XLIII.

Waiver Wire Watch Begins

Pittsburgh now begins watching the waiver wire with dual interests. First, they want to resign players to their practice squad. Chief among those would be preseason sensation running back Isaac Redman, an undrafted rookie free agent, and draft picks A.O. Shipley and defensive lineman Sonny Harris.

The team’s the decision to place Darnell Stapleton on injured reserve leaves them with precious little depth on the offensive line, so the Steelers are also interested in adding a quality lineman via trade or the waiver wire.

Roy Lewis, Dallas Baker Among Those Sent Packing

Two other men who spent time on the bubble during the past two years also got their walking papers. One was Roy Lewis, an undrafted rookie free agent who caught coach’s attention during the 2008 training camp. Dallas Baker was the team’s 7th round draft pick in 2007 and won praise from Mike Tomlin in the 2008 off season for his development on the practice squad.

Both men moved on an off the practice squad and regular season roster in 2008, but neither man was able to make a case for himself at St. Vincents this summer.

Other players cut include:

Mike Reilly, Quarterback
Justin Vincent, Running Back
Piotr Czech, Kicker
Jeremy Parquet and Jason Capizzi, Offensive Tackles
Steve McLendon, Defensive Tackle
Dezmond Sherrod, Tight End
Roy Lewis, Defensive Back,
Andy Shantz and Tom Korte, Linebackers
Dallas Baker, Tyler Grisham and Brandon Williams, Wide Receivers

NFL players have 24 hours to claim a player off the waiver wire. Like the draft teams with poor records have the first chance at waived players, meaning that the Steelers will be picking last.

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Steelers 2009 Draft Needs at Wide Receiver and Secondary

Having dealt with the offensive and defensive lines earlier this week, Steel Curtain Rising now turns to the Steelers 2009 draft needs at wide receiver and secondary.

  • Unlike the lines, the Steelers have some of the best in the game at those positions. At wide out they count on Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes.

In the secondary they have Tory Polamalu a man who is helping define the concept of playmaker and game changer. If Ike Taylor and Ryan Clark are not in that category, both are proven veterans.

Strictly speaking, neither of these areas are problem areas. But if problems are absent, needs are not. Here’s a look at both areas, and Steel Curtain Rising’s assessment on what, if push comes to shove, the Steelers should do if it becomes an either or situation when they’re on the clock.

Steelers 2009 Draft Needs in the Defensive Backfield

In addition to Taylor, Polamalu and Clark, the Steelers have William Gay penciled in as a starter with Deshea Townsend slated to become a nickel back.

The Steelers are big on William Gay. Losing Bryant McFadden hurt, but one of the reasons why the Steelers did not bend over backwards to keep him was Gay’s development. Gay started four games while McFadden was hurt, and alternated snaps with him later.

With Desha Townsend, the Steelers have a proven commodity. Byrant McFadden developed nicely while he was here. The reason why he didn’t play more was because Townsend kept him off of the field. At some point Townsend’s veritable fountain of youth is going to run out, but given his consistency it is unlikely that his play will suffer a dramatic drop off.

But behind him is journeyman Antonio Bryant, who is 32.

At safety the situation is similar. Ryan Clark returned last year with a vengeance. However, the only established back up is Tyronne Carter, who is 33.

Behind those players the Steelers have  last year’s sixth round pick who spent 2008 on IR, and Roy Lewis an undrafted rookie free agent. Lewis turned heads last year in training camp, and the decision to cut him caught some by surprise. He returned to the practice squad and saw some time on the regular season roster, but the fact that he went back to the practice squad could be a bad sign.

This draft is said to be wanting a shut down corner or dominating safety, but deep with quality defensive backs who are considered to be high value pick. The Steelers need to come out of this draft with one.

Steelers 2009 Draft Needs at Wide Receiver

Like Bryant McFadden, losing Nate Washington hurt, but he deserves a shot at starting. The Steelers success at wide receiver in hinges largely on Limas Sweed. Is the player who appeared to be only a step away from making some breakaway plays downfield? Or is he the player whose drops during the regular season only confirmed what the press saw in practice throughout the year?

Even if Sweed does develop like Steelers coaches hope he will (and Steel Curtain Rising thinks he will) the Steelers need to beef up their receiving corps.

  • Because behind Sweed they have Dallas Baker, Martin Nance, and Brandon Williams.

Dallas Baker spent 2007 on the practice squad during where his efforts won him hearty praise from Mike Tomlin a little over a year ago. He qualified that praise by saying that Baker’s work with pads on would be the true crucible. Baker did well enough in training camp to beat out Willie Reid, although what does that really say?

He only managed one catch before getting cut in late November, after which Dallas Baker landed on the practice squad. Nance played on the practice squad behind him, while Williams has bounced from team to team.

Depth at wide receiver is a real need for the Steelers, which they must address in the 2009 draft.

Steelers 2009 Draft Needs at Wide Receiver and Secondary – Which Are More Urgent?

Of the two areas, wide receiver is the greater need. No, if the Steelers get a high value DB, they certainly should not reach for a wide receiver.

But they need help at wide out. At defensive back they have proven (if rapidly aging back ups) and some maturing talent that at least has potential.

  • Neither can be said about the personnel behind Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes, and that assumes that Sweed makes a huge leap.

So if the choice comes down to a wide out and a DB that the Steelers have rated equally, the Steelers should opt to take the receiver.

Thanks for visiting. Click here for all of Steelers Curtain Rising’s assessment of the Steeler 2009 draft needs.

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Joey Galloway Visits Pittsburgh Steelers

Its not often that a free agent with a big name graces the presence of the Steelers complex on the South Side, but it happened today.

Joey Galloway, recently of the Tampa Bay, visited the Pittsburgh today as the Steelers began searching for a potential number three or number four wide reciever.

Galloway was a number one draft choice by the Seattle Seahawks in 1995 and has played for Dallas as well. Perhaps Galloway is one who never quite lived up to his billing, but he did post three consecutive 1000 yard seasons between 2005 and 2007. Two of his year’s there also overlapped with Mike Tomlin’s, which could explain the mutual interest, that plus Tomlin’s fascination of athletes of Galloway’s pedigree.

Realistic Chance?

Which begs the question, is there a realistic shot at Joey Galloway becoming a Steeler?

It depends.

He is 37 and is reaching the end of his playing days. Injuries last year limited him to 9 games and only 13 catches. This is not the typical profile of Steelers free agent pick up, yet Galloway also visited the New England Patriots, a team known for finding veterans who just enough left in the tank to make a contribution.

If he is willing to play for at or close to the league minimum, the Steelers would incurr little risk by bringing him on board. The Steelers did something similar back in 2002 when they brought in Terance Mathis as their fourth wide receiver and he caught 23 passes for 218 yards. Those are not impressive numbers at all, but are far better than the seven catches that Limas Sweed and Dallas Baker totaled in 2008 working out of the fourth receiver slot.

There’s also no certainly that any concrete talks will emerge from this visit. Last year the Steelers entertained Kyle Brady and Anthony McFarland and nothing materalized with either veteran.

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Roy Lewis, Dallas Baker Signings Begin Steelers 2009 Off Season

The defending Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers began the 2009 off season by taking steps to completing their pre-free agency roster today. Some of these moves had been discussed on blogs for about a week, but they only became offical today.

The Steelers resigned all of the players who were on their practice squad at the end of the season. That group includes Roy Lewis, an undrafted rookie free agent cornerback who turned a lot of heads during the 2008 preseason. Lewis spent some time of the Steelers active roster and can also play safety.

Dallas Baker also makes his return. The 7th round draft pick from 2007 spent time on the Steelers active roster, but was waived during mid-season when injuries to the secondary forced the team to create roster room. 2008 sixth round pick Ryan Mundy also rejoined the team.

  • Center/guard Doug Legursky, TE Dezmond Sherrod, RB Justin Vincent and LB Donovan Woods also rejoined the active roster.

Three new faces join the Steelers roster, they are RB Stefan Logan, WR Brandon Williams and FB Ryan Powdrell. Logan put up some impressive numbers last season for for the CFL’s British Columbia Lions, he spent time on the Miami Dolphins 2007 practic squad. Williams has spent time with the 49ers and Rams, while Powdrell has spent time with the Packers and the Bucs.

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2008 Steelers Roster Shuffles: Roy Lewis in, Dallas Baker Out

Faced with the prospect of going up against a San Diego Charger’s team loading with weapons in the passing game, the Steelers cut Dallas Baker and signed corner back Roy Lewis from their practice squad, reports the Post-Gazette.

  • The Steelers are missing starters Desha Townsend and Bryant McFadden, and had signed veteran corner back Fernando Bryant earlier in the week.

Drafted in the 7th round of the 2007 NFL Draft, Dallas Baker won high praise from Mike Tomlin during the off season. He did play in eight games as the Steelers 4th wide receiver, but only managed one catch.

Roy Lewis was an undrafted rookie free agent who impressed during the preseason. He did not make the final cut, but the Steelers were able to keep him on the practice squad. In cutting Baker and elevating Lewis, the continues the trend that has seen undrafted free agent rookies out shine the Steelers day two draft picks.

Dallas Baker’s departure with the team could be short lived, however, as the Steelers could resign him as early as next week, if he clear waivers. The Steelers would likely make such a move, as they only have four wide receivers on their roster, and tight end Heath Miller is out with a dreaded “high ankle sprain.”

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Willie Reid, Ryan McBean Top Steelers Cuts; Charlie Batch goes to IR

The Steelers paired their roster down to the NFL’s 53 man limit on Saturday, and the list included a few surprises.

2006 third round pick wide receiver Willie Reid topped the list, followed by 2007 fourth round pick Ryan McBean. They also cut return specialist Eddie Drummond and punter Paul Ernster.

In addition they placed quarterback Charlie Batch on injured reserve ending, which will make him ineligible to return his year. As he is in the final year of his contract, he may have played his last game as a Steeler.

The Steelers also reached injury settlements with 2008 sixth round picks linebacker Mike Humpal and safety Ryan Mundy.

The other players waived by the Steelers

Patrick Bailey, linebacker
Billy Latsko, fullback
Doug Legursky, guard
Matt Lentz, guard
Roy Lewis, defensive back
Grant Mason, safety
Jeremy Parquet, offensive tackle
Scott Paxton, defensive tackle
Jordan Reffett, defensive end
Micah Rucker, defensive end
Dezmond Sherrod, tight end
Lee Vickers, tight end
Justin Vincent, running back
Travis Williams, corner back

Assuming that the Steelers do not pick up one off of the wavier wires, the Steelers will start the season with only have two tight ends on their 53-man roster, although Mike Tomlin situationally used offensive tackle Max Starks as a third tight end in 2007.

Willie Reid had been locked in an intense battle with 2007 7th round pick Dallas Baker for the 5th wide receiver spot. Reid had performed well during preseason, leading the team in catches, and many insiders felt he had the upper hand. But during the off season Mike Tomlin had praised Dallas’ Baker’s development, but qualifying his remarks with the caveat that Baker needed to perform well with pads on. Apparently, Baker looked good enough in pads.

Roy Lewis’ departure marks somewhat of a surprise, as he had both played well and shown an ability to play both corner and safety. Expect him to be resigned to the practice squad… assuming he clears waivers.

Today’s roster moves also confirm a rather disturbing trend of poor second-day drafting on the part of the Steelers. Stay tuned for further coverage of this issue.

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Updates on Dallas Baker, Max Starks and of course Anthony McFarland the “Real” Steeler News to Come out of NFL Owners Meetings

Both Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert met with the press during NFL’s recent owners meetings, but the slew of articles these meetings spawned led to little real news for Steelers fans.

Tomlin stated that the Steelers can a good team but reaffirmed that greatness is determined on the field. He also indicated that injured starters such as Max Starks, Marvel Smith, Ryan Clark, Aaron Smith, and Willie Parker and healing well and should be back at full strength. None of this was new to the attentive souls in Steelers Nation.

Those same observant fans, however, had to have been amused by the Post-Gazette article “When Big Ben Talks, Colbert Listens to His Wishes.” To the untrained eye, it might appear as if Ben Roethlisberger gained pull than simply his 102 million dollar contract.

  • Roethlisberger has publicly called for Pittsburgh to draft a tall wide out.

When asked about this, Colbert stated, “…if a tall receiver happens to be a good receiver and a value pick, that’s something we’ll definitely consider.”

  • Translation: The Steelers will not deviate from their plan to draft the best available player to satisfy Ben’s wishes.

Mike Tomlin did however share some insight regarding wide receivers, with praise former 7th round pick and practice squad player Dallas Baker. Tomlin informed that “[Baker] made plays on a daily basis (in practice) that raised some eyebrows.” While the coach was quick to point out that doing it in practice is not the same as in a game, at 6’3” 203 lbs. Baker holds potential. While he will probably never become a world beater, he could develop into a good 4th or even 3rd receiver.

Kevin Colbert also clarified that Max Starks remains in the Steelers plans, and that they have not made much progress on the long term deal they seek because of all the work they did running up to the owners meeting.

  • It appears that the Steelers are succeeding their gambit to scare other teams from Starks.

Starks showed a lot of versatility last year, and it would be good to have him back. It remains to be seen if the transition tag will force the Steelers to over paying to keep him.

Finally, John Harris of the Tribune Review brought us another twist in the Anthony McFarland story. McFarland is apparently not ready to play, but both he and the team were pleased by his work out. Tomlin asserted that he remains interested in McFarland, and if that is the case then the Post-Gazette was again mistaken when they commented that Nick Eason’s signing signaled the end of the Steelers interest in McFarland.*

It will be interesting to see how the McFarland situation unfolds following the draft; likewise, Dallas Baker’s performance also bears watching.

*Although this is not an offical edition of “Watch Tower,” the Tribune-Review whipped Post-Gazette again by delivering the news on McFarland, Starks, and Baker.

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