Steelers 2016 Free Agent Tracker

The start of NFL free agency is underway, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have been busy. In an effort to keep Steelers Nation (as well as ourselves) head from spinning too much, we bring you Steel Curtain Rising’s annual Steelers 2016 Free Agent Tracker.

Steelers 2016 Unrestricted Free Agents

Antwon Blake
Signed by Tennessee Titans

Brandon Boykin
3/28Signed by Carolina Panthers.

Bruce Gradkowski
Byron Stingily
Cam Thomas
Clifton Geathers
Darrius Heyward-Bey
Steelers resign Darrius Heyward-Bey to 3 year contract

David Nelson
Doug Legursky
Greg Warren – Signed to one year extension
Jordan Todman
3/18Signed by the Indianapolis Colts

Kelvin Beachum
3/15 – Signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Michael Vick
Ramon Foster
3/9Steelers resign Ramon Foster to 3 year contract.

Robert Golden
Steelers resign Robert Golden to 3 year contract.

Sean Spence
3/16Signed by Tennesse Titans

Steve McLendon
3/15Signed by the New York Jets

Will Allen
Will Johnson
William Gay

3/8 Steelers resign William Gay to 3 year contract

That is a LONG list of unrestricted free agents, although only a handful fall into the category of ones the Steelers will want back that will draw interest from other teams. With that said, two of the Steelers free agents that opponents are most likely to target are charged with protecting Ben Roethlisberger….

As we have every year, Steel Curtain Rising will offer free agent profiles on each, and we will update their status as it changes.

Steelers 2016 Restricted Free Agents

Terence Garvin
 – Not tendered restricted free agent offer by the Steelers.
3/17 – Signed by the Washington Redskins

Per the 2011 CBA, restricted free agents have more than three seasons and less than four seasons of accrued seniority.

The Pittsburgh Steelers can retain the right of first refusal, or the right to match any competing offer, by offering the corresponding tender. The Steelers could, theoretically, offer higher tenders to get draft picks as compensation should the restricted free agent sign an offer and the Steelers decline to match. (See Emmanuel Sanders in 2012.)

Pittsburgh Steelers 2016 Exclusive Rights Free Agents

Chris Hubbard, resigned
Roosevelt Nix, resigned
Ross Cockrell, resigned
Kelvin Palmer, released
Mitchell Van Dyk, released
Rob Blanchflower, released

Per the 2011 CBA, exclusive rights free agents are players who have less than 3 years of seniority accrued and therefore the Pittsburgh Steelers retain exclusive rights.

The Steelers have already resigned Chris Hubbard, Roosevelt Nix, and Ross Cockrell and in turn they have already released their rights to Kelvin Palmer, Mitchell Van Dyk, and Rob Blanchflower all of whom were on placed on the waived/injured list and whose rights reverted to the Steelers when no one else claimed them.

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Steelers 2015 Practice Squad Complete with Grant and Chickillo Signings

A day after finalizing their 53 man roster, the Pittsburgh Steelers made a flurry of moves to their practice squad. Chief among them was to resign 4th round pick cornerback Doran Grant and 6th round pick linebacker Anthony Chickillo to the practice squad.

Both of them made the Steelers initial 53 man roster, but the Steelers cut Grant and Chickillo to make room for running back Jordan Todman and defensive end Cashaud Lyons who were cut by the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers respectively.

As of 11:00 p.m. on Monday September 7th, the Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 practice squad stands like this:

Isaiah Burse, wide receiver
Anthony Chickillo, outside linebacker
Jordan Dangerfield, safety
Matt Feiler, offensive tackle
L.J Fort, linebacker
Doran Grant, cornerback
Xavier Grimble, tight end
Barrett Jones, center
Shakim Phillips, wide receiver
Fitzgerald Toussaint, running back

Of the ten players, Chickillo, Dangerfiled, Fort, Grant, and Philips sent training camp with the Steelers, the rest are cast offs from elsewhere in the NFL.

While practice squad players are clearly not considered to be top-line talent, current Steelers such as Ramon Foster, James Harrison and Doug Legursky spent time as practice squad apprentices. Last year the Steelers put Nick Willams and Josh Mauro, both promising young defensive lineman, on the practice squad, only to see them poached away.

Both men are currently employed by NFL teams, and given the Steelers desperate need for depth on the defensive line, it is safe to say that Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert wish they’d never left Pittsburgh.

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Steelers Waive Doran Grant, Anthony Chickillo, Sign Jordan Todman, Cashaud Lyons

Editor’s note: The Steelers cut Doran Grant in 2016. Click here for the story.

A day after cutting 18 players to get down to the NFL-mandated 43 man limit, the Pittsburgh Steelers made three more moves. The Steelers waived 4th round draft pick Doran Grant and 6th round draft pick Anthony Chickillo and signed defensive end Cashaud Lyons and running back Jordan Todman.

Although the Steelers cut Doran Grant and Anthony Chickillo to make room for the new arrivals, both could return to the Steelers via the practice squad should they clear waivers.

It is unusual by not unprecedented for the Steelers to cut a 4th round draft pick. The Steelers cut4th round pick Fred Gibson in 2005 and they also cut Danny Farmer in 2000 who was also a fourth round pick.

Cashaud Lyons is a 6-5, 295-pound rookie whom the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed as an undrafted rookie free agent following the 2015 NFL Draft. Lyons hails from Tusculum College which is the same Division II All-America from that produced Steelers 2004 second round flame-out Ricardo Colclough.

Last season Lyons set single-season school records for tackles (89) and tackles-for-loss (19) by a defensive lineman, and he ran a 4.86 40 with a 30.5 vertical jump and a 10-foot broad jump at his Pro Day. During preseason, Lyons logged 101 snaps for the Buccaneers recorded one sack, made four QB hits, created four QB hurries and had seven tackles, per Jim Wexell’s Steel City Insider.

Jordan Todman entered the NFL in 2011 as a 6th round pick of the San Diego Chargers. He made the Chargers final cut and dressed for one game, but was cut and landed in Minnesota. The Vikings cut him, but Todman landed a roster spot with Jacksonville, where he saw playing time in 2013 and 2014 as a back up, putting up a respectable 4.1 yards per carry average.

Todman spent the 2015 training camp with the Carolina Panthers, and scored on a 49 yard touchdown in the preseason finale in a play which just might have led to Shamarko Thomas getting benched.

Pouncey to Injured Reserve Designated Return, Legursky Back

The Pittsburgh Steelers placed starting center Maurkice Pouncey on the injured reserve designated return list and resigned Doug Legursky. While the move is hardly a surprise, there was some speculation that the Steelers would wait until after Thursday night’s opener vs. the Patriots to avoid being on the hook for the balance of Doug Legursky’s salary.

The Steelers clear want Doug Legursky to be ready to hike the ball to Ben Roethlisberger should anything happen to Cody Wallace. Smart move on their part.

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Steelers Cut 18, Sign Ross Cockrell, Roosvelt Nix Makes Roster. For Now

The Pittsburgh Steelers cut 18 players to get to the NFL’s mandate roster limit of 53. Headlining the cuts were running back Josh Harris, backup center/guard Doug Legursky, cornerbacks B.W. Webb, Kevin Fogg and 7th round pick safety Gerod Holiman.

With Le’Veon Bell facing a 2 game suspension, Josh Harris had a golden opportunity to establish himself as the Steelers third running back.

However, Harris did not perform well in preseason after spending much of training camp injured, and the Steelers will go with DeAngelo Williams as their prime running back, and Will Johnson and Dri Archer will serve as his backups. Fullback Roosevelt Nix also made the roster giving the Steelers 2 players at a position where many teams have none.

  • The Steelers cuts in the secondary also yielded surprises.

Kevin Fogg had an outstanding camp by all accounts and had the Steelers lone interception during preseason, he was expected to challenge B.W. Webb for a roster spot, instead both both visits from The Turk, as did 7th round draft pick Gerod Holiman.

The Steelers instead opted to sign cornerback Ross Cockrell whom the Buffalo Bills drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft and who appeared in 7 games for Buffalo last year.

The other Steeles hopefuls who got visits from The Turk are: The Steelers released 18 players and placed linemen Mitchell Van Dyk and Kelvin Palmer on the team’s waived/injured list.

running back Jawon Chisholm
offensive linemen Reese Dismukes and B.J. Finney
wide receivers Shakim Phillips and Jarrod West
defensive linemen Matt Conrath, Ethan Hemer and Mike Thornton
linebackers L.J. Fort, Shayon Green and Howard Jones
safeties Jordan Dangerfield and Alden Darby

The Steelers also placed offensive lineman Mitchell Van Dyk and Kelvin Palmer on the team’s waived/injured list. In other roster moves, the Steelers traded 2014’s punter Brad Wing to the New York Giants for a conditional 7th round pick, and will begin the 2015 season with Jordan Berry as their punter.

Practice Squad Potential

Steelers decision to sign Ross Cockrell indicates that the final composition of the Steelers 53 man opening day roster is far from complete. The Steelers depth at offensive and defensive line is painfully thin, and Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin will certainly be scouring the wavier wire looking for potential additions.

Several of the Steelers players who were cut can expect to return to the Steelers practice squad, with Kevin Fogg and Jordan Dangerfield topping the list. Howard Jones also could return for a second year, as could C.J. Goodwin and Ian Wild, whom the Steelers cut earlier in the week.

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Steelers Sign Doug Legursky Bolstering Depth @ Center & Guard

So much for the best laid plans of mice and men. No sooner did Steel Curtain Rising publish an article on Cody Wallace’s record as a Steelers starter than did news arrive the that Pittsburgh Steelers had signed Doug Legursky….

To make room for Legursky, the Steelers put wide receiver David Nelson on injured reserved. For those reading the later name and asking “Who?” the Steelers signed David Nelson when they put place kicker Shaun Suisham on injured reserve.

Doug Legursky’s Second Act in Pittsburgh

Doug Legursky broke into the NFL as one of the Kevin Colbert’s undrafted rookie free agent finds. Legursky was part of the Steelers 2008 undrafted rookie free agent class and while he went on and off the roster James Harrison style, he joined the practice squad in October of that year and stuck.

The next year in training camp, Legursky proved himself capable enough that he earned a final roster spot, as Mike Tomlin labeled him “This year’s Darnell Stapleton.” and he made a strong enough accounting of himself that he made the team’s final roster.

  • Legursky didn’t see a lot of action in 2009, although the team did use him in spot duty as a fullback.

In 2010 Legursky made four straight starts at guard for the Steelers in place of Trai Essex, and after Maurkice Pouncey suffered a high ankle sprain in the Steelers AFC Championship victory over the New York Jets, Legursky stepped forward to start in Super Bowl XLV.

Legursky started 11 games for the Steelers in 2011, where he saw duty both at guard and center. When Pouncey suffered another late season ankle injury it fell to Legursky to take up the starting reigns at center for the Steelers in their Tebowing at Denver in the playoffs that year.

Despite his versatility and position flexibly, the Steelers let Doug Legursky go in free agency after the 2012 season. Despite having started the Steelers last two playoff games, his departure was considered so insignificant that neither of the Pittsburgh dailies covered Legursky’s decision to sign with the Buffalo Bills.

Cody Wallace will likely remain the starter, but the headline “Steelers sign Doug Legursky” signals that the Pittsburgh brain trust does not have full confidence in Chris Hubbard or B.J. Finney’s ability to back up Cody Wallace at center and/or Ramon Foster or David DeCastro at guard.

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Maurkice Pouncey Injures Ankle as Steelers Defeat Packers 24-19 to Win Preseason Home Opener

Finally the Pittsburgh Steelers have won one, although the Steelers 24-19 preseason victory over the Green Bay Packers came at a high cost as Pittsburgh suffered multiple injuries.

While little detail is known about the severity of those injuries, top among the list appears to be one to starting Pro Bowl Center Maurkice Pouncey. During the first quarter Pouncey was blocking for Le’Veon Bell when the Packers Ha Ha Clinton-Dix rolled over Pouncey’s ankle while making a tackle. Pouncey walked off the field on his own power, but was later taken to the dressing room on the cart.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ed Bouchette, who appears to have fairly strong sources inside the Steelers medical department, shared this in-game update:

If the phrase “Maurkice Pouncey injures ankle” sounds familiar, it should.

Ankle injuries have been an issue for Pouncey throughout his career. Pouncey injured his ankle in the Steelersv 2010 AFC Championship victory over the New York Jets and saw Doug Legursky start Super Bowl XLV in his place.

A year later, Pouncey injured his ankle again vs. Cleveland in 2011. That injury forced Pouncey to miss the Steelers loss to San Francisco, and the same injury forced him to miss the Teebowing the Steelers suffered in Denver during the playoffs.

Following the game, Bouchette tweeted this, more ominous update:

Bouchette’s updates didn’t get any more positive:

If Bouchette’s report are confirmed, Pouncey is almost certain to miss the Steelers opener vs. New England several other games after that as Dejan Kovacevic reporting confirms:

Up until now, the Steelers have been relatively lucky on the injury front. The news that Maurkice Pouncey injured his ankle and needs surgery is not good, but at the very least the Steelers still have time to plan for it.

Pouncey Not the Only Injury Suffered by the Steelers vs. the Packers

The Steelers also suffered two other potentially significant injuries vs. the Packers. First back up quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, who was seeing his first action of the preseason, left the game with an injury.

And starting defensive end Stephon Tuitt also left the game with and injury, although Ed Bouchette reports that his injury is not serious:

No more news has been released on Bruce Gradkowski, although any injury would be of concern to the Steelers, given that the Steelers only activated him from the PUP list 6 days ago.

Steelers Defense Goes on Sack Attack

One of the overriding concerns throughout the preseason has been the development of the Steelers defense in general, and their lack of ability to generate a pass rush has been a specific concern and one that Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler has spoken on the record about.

  • Taking things a level deeper, the Steelers have yet to see much this summer out of Jarvis Jones and Bud Dupree, two first round picks drafted specifically to rush the passer.

The Steelers defense have heard the pleas of their coaches, and they responded in force vs. the Packers. James Harrison started the action for the Steelers, sacking Aaron Rogers for a safety on the Steelers second drive. This sparked and explosion by the rest of the Steelers defense, with Jarvis Jones, Bud Dupree each recording a sack, and they were joined by safeties Shamarko Thomas, Ian Wild, and newly acquired L.T. Fort.

Roethlisberger “Usual Self” Jones Rallies Steelers

Ben Roethlisberger saw limited action, but he completed 11 of his 14 passes including a 5 yard hook up with Markus Wheaton for the Steelers first score. Roethlisberger left the game in the second quarter, giving way to Gradkowski.

However, once Gradkowski left the game injured, in came Landry Jones. Jones has seen extensive work this preseason, one which he entered with a target on his back. Although Jones performance in two preseason games has drawn mixed reviews at best, he has been solid enough to drive Devin Gardner and Tajh Boyd off of the team.

Against the Packers, Jones led the Steelers to 17 unanswered points, as Pittsburgh erased a 19 to 9 deficit that ultimately saw them win the game 24 to 9. Jones connected with Tyler Murphy and Shakim Phillips for two touchdown passes.

The Steelers offense also enjoyed another strong showing from DeAngelo Williams, which is a good sign, as they’ll be without the services of Le’Veon Bell for the first two games of the season.

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Steelers (Latest) Gamble on Offensive Line to be Tested vs. Colts

Time will tell whether the Steelers decision to cut Wesley Johnson will come back to haunt them the way cutting Kraig Urbik or letting Doug Legursky go did, but the first test will come today vs. the Colts.

Marcus Gilbert, by all accounts, will not suit up due to NFL concussion protocols. And that is as it should be. However, it leaves the Steelers in a bind, once again, at offensive tackle. Mike Adams will start in Gilbert’s place and Kelvin Beachum will stay in his normal spot at left tackle.

  • Dan Rooney had better say an extra decade on his rosary beads in hopes that neither man gets hurt.

When Beachum went down briefly vs. the Texans, Maurkice Pouncey was set to move to left tackle with Cody Wallace taking over at center. That’s because the Steelers have no other offensive tackles on their roster, now that Johnson is gone.

  • If the last several season have made anything clear, is that offensive line depth is necessity, not a luxury.

The Steelers of course found this out, again, the hard way on opening day 2013. They rolled the dice, and came up short, very short. Now they’re doing it again. Guy Whimper was available and could have been resigned. Ross Ventrone could have been cut, but perhaps Shamarko Thomas’ lingering injury prevented that.

Either way, the Steelers are left hoping lighting doesn’t strike in the same place it has – many times, in the past. The franchise has invested heavily in the draft to provide Ben Roethlisberger with quality protection, yet they still seem willing to gamble further down the depth chart.

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Watch Tower: Munchak Factor, Bell & Blount’s Bust, and Revisiting Redman

For true Steelers junkies nothing beats training camp. Like the draft, training camp is about the future and the time when optimism more or less has free reign, save for serious injuries and gravely stunted player development.

steelers training camp st. vincent's latrobe

It’s also the best time for an institution like the Watch Tower, as the Steelers press has greater access to players, coaches and front office personnel than any time during the year. Alas, the Watch Tower was on vacation (ironically in the US) during training camp, and hence many opportunities to better understand what makes the Steelers media tick were lost.

Still, on the eve of the regular season, the Watch Tower still finds time to shine its light on Munchak, Blount and Bell, and Isaac Redman

What to Make of the Munchack Factor…?

As anyone with a pulse in Steelers Nation knows, the 2014 off season was the Pittsburgh Steelers most active. Yet for all of the free agent acquisitions, it has been said that Mike Tomlin’s decision to hire Mike Munchak has his offensive line coach could be the team’s biggest move.

  • To be fair all journalists covering the Steelers, a lot has been written about this.

But the Watch Tower singles out the Post-Gazette’s Ray Fittipaldo  for his article on Mike Munchack’s work with the offensive line. Not only does Fittipaldo confirm the story behind Jack Bicknell’s departure (as have others) he dives deep into the details of just exactly what it is that Munchack is doing in hopes of protecting Ben Roethlisberger better, and takes a look at his history of protecting quarterbacks.

  • Truth be told, this is the type of article that the Watch Tower has complimented the likes of Behind the Steel Curtain for publishing and admonished the professional press for avoiding.

While Fittipaldo’s version might not be truly BTSC like, lacking detailed stats and film clips, he helps make up for that in original reporting (full disclosure, I also write occasionally for BTSC.)

Busting Bell and Blount

The nearly unending stream of off season feel good news about the Steelers was broken by the news that Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount had been arrested for marijuana possession and in Bell’s case, DWU.

But it is what happened next that got more interesting from a media analysis perspective. The NFL Network quickly reported that only Bell had been charged and Blount had not. Behind the Steel Curtain quickly confirmed the report, and some in the media followed that track, others continued to report that both men had been arrested.

  • Who was right?

As it turns out, the story was a little more complex. Ultimately both men are facing charges, but it is obvious that Blount was either never taken into custody and/or was allowed to leave earlier, as he made it to the team plane.

Either way, kudos to Neal Coolong for being the first member of the local Steelers press to confirm, or partially confirm, a crucial detail of a quickly emerging story.

Revisiting the Redman… Or Lack Thereof 

While James Harrison legitimately owned the “retirement” news coverage, he’s not the only former Steelers practice squad turned Steelers Nation fan favorite to hang it up this off season.

  • The other is of course Isaac Redman.

Not that readers who depended on either the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette or the Tribune Review exclusively for their Steelers news would know that. Isaac Redman retired on August 22nd, and yours truly first saw a story, shared via Twitter, by the Baltimore Sun.

Behind the Steel Curtain’s Jeff Hartman had actually published a story before the Sun, making it the first Steelers-oriented publication to get the information out. Scott Brown of ESPN also wrote a very fitting tribute to the man who was perhaps the most popular backup running back in Steelers history.

  • The Post-Gazette and Tribune Review meanwhile ignored the story.

One may ask, “So what? In age of social media who cares, if fans can find out through other channels?” From a strict news distribution perspective, the objection is valid. Which is problematic.

  • But if it is valid, it again calls into question the function and indeed justification of the existence of a daily.

The Watch Tower wishes to be clear. While a one-time fan favorite and a competent backup, Redman in no way earned the type of place in Steelers rushing lore held by the likes of Dick Hoak, Franco Harris, Rocky Bleier, Merril Hoge, Jerome Bettis, or Willie Parker.

  • But Redman was the starting running back for the Steelers just one year ago, and his retirement is news and deserves to be covered. 

And this is just the beginning.

There was always a 2 +2 = 3 aspect to Redman’s decline. He started, struggled, was deactivated, and then the Steelers cut him. Then, in spite of his restricted free agent tender not being guaranteed, the Steelers had to re-work Ike Taylor’s contract because of Redman’s release. Why? Well, because Redman made a 1 time.  termination payment, a story that only Scott Brown reported at the time.

  • Then nothing else was heard. 

The question is why? At a minimum, Redman’s decision to exercise his 1 time termination payment suggests that he didn’t anticipate playing again anytime soon. Given his poor play in ’13 that makes sense. Given his 3 solid years of play prior to that it does not.

  • A bigger story lay behind the scenes.

Steelers Nation now knows that Redman was injured, and was injured at the start of the Steelers season, almost certainly training camp. Yet, that avenue was never addressed or explored by the press, leaving one angle to the Steelers 0-4 start unexplained. Nor was the issue of a player hiding injury discussed.

Truthfully, when you couple this lapse in coverage with lapses like the failure to report Doug Legursky’s departure, it would seem that the editors of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Tribune Review need to soul searching as to just what their mission is in terms of Steelers coverage.

Thanks for visiting. To read more analysis of the media that cover the Steelers, click here to read more from Steel Curtain Rising’s Watch Tower.

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Steelers Free Agent Focus: Velasco, Wallace Center of Attention

Ray Mansfield, Mike Webster, Dermontti Dawson, Jeff Hartings. That’s 565 starts, 37 years, 18 Pro Bowls, and two NFL Hall of Famers. From Chuck Noll to Bill Cowher center always remained a pillar of stability of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

That reality has radically changed under Mike Tomlin, whose succession of starters spans Sean Mahan, Justin Hartwig, Maurkice Pouncey, and Doug Legursky.

If that bit of instability on this key offensive line position taught the Steelers Nation not to take center for granted, nothing prepared them for 2013. And that brings Steel Curtain Risings Steelers Free Agent Focus to Fernando Velasco and Cody Wallace.

Capsule Profile of Ve Velasco lazco and Wallace with the Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers were likely on Fernando Velasco’s mind for much of training camp, as he expected to start opposite them on opening day at Heinz Field. Alas, he fell as a cap casualty and was in church when David DeCastro’s errant cut block connected with Maurkice Pouncey’s ACL.

The Steelers signed Velasco immediately, and he brought stability to offensive line just as fast. Kelven Beachum was free to return to tight end and ultimately to relieve Mike Adams at left tackle.

Cody Wallace was in street clothes on opening day, and all the way to Thanksgiving saw little more than spot duty. That changed on Thanksgiving vs. the Baltimore Ravens, as Velasco went down with an Achilles injury. Wallace stepped in and started the Steelers final four games of the season.

Case for Resigning Velasco and/or Wallace

The Steelers are franchise that saw four players split the starting duties at center (with all due respect to Roger Duffy’s starts during 1999 and 2000) that was suddenly forced to start three centers in a single season.

But you know what?

  • Save for the home opener, for all of the weakness of the Steelers offensive line, the quality of play on the interior line was never at issue. That speaks well of both men’s abilities.

Even if injuries were not up league wide, and they are, and even if they weren’t hitting offensive lineman harder than most position areas, if 2013 taught the Pittsburgh Steelers anything, it is that keeping quality depth on the offensive line is not a trivial matter.

This reality alone makes both Velasco and Wallace attractive. Both are veterans who know what it’s like to line up in the trenches, both have proven themselves, and both have position flexibility. What more do the Steelers want?

Case for Letting Velasco and/or Wallace Walk

While the NFL’s salary cap increase look to help the Steelers, it still does not give them a lot of room to operate. Fernando Velasco has shown the NFL he belongs, and the market value for his services should reflect that. Do the Steelers really have the luxury of a carrying veteran with 60 games and 30 starts under his belt?

The Steelers could do worse than Wallace, but his limited playing experience, he’d never started prior to the Steelers game vs the Dolphins, suggests that they could also do better.

Curtain’s Call on Velasco and Wallace

The wild card here is Fernando Velasco’s torn ACL, ironically enough. Had he not been injured, he almost certainly would have found a team willing to pay him more than Pittsburgh would have been willing to offer. But teams will be leery about throwing money at a player coming off an ACL injury, particularly in the early going of free agency, when the contracts are biggest.

That in all likelihood means that Velasco won’t see much interest until after the 2014 NFL Draft. And at that point the Steelers will have far better insight into the progress of his recovery.

  • Cody Wallace might attract some interest, but he’s likely a player the Steelers can have back if they want back. 

The Steelers need depth on the offensive line, particularly at center, because Maurkice Pouncey has not had a good track record when it comes to staying healthy. Bringing one or both back would be a wise move. Expect to see one or both back.

Thanks for visiting. Click here for the rest of Steel Curtain Rising or here to see our Steelers 2014 Free Agent Focus.

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The Pittsburgh Steelers Kafkaesque Luck with Offensive Line

All things Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line has been a frequent topic here since the site’s founding in January 2008. Since that time Steel Curtain Rising has:

The Steelers of course have been attempting to rectify these failings in the 2010, 2011, and 2012 NFL Drafts with the picks of Maurkice Pouncey, Marcus Gilbert, David DeCastro and Mike Adams. And if the need to replace Adams with Kelvin Beachum shows that perhaps the Steelers could have picked a little wiser, nothing, repeat nothing, could have prepared them for the disaster of 2013.

  • The NFL Offensive Line Injury gods hath no mercy on the Pittsburgh Steelers

Yes the Steelers were caught with their pants down at center when disaster struck vs. the Titans on opening day. Cue the “Where did you go Doug Legurskkky, Steelers Nation turns its lonely eyes to you, boo, hoo, hoo?” tape. Fair point, management should have prepared better.

  • But the Steelers improvised, adapted and found ways to overcome.

Unfortunately, their luck has not changed.

Injuries have forced Guy Whimper into a starting role twice, in addition to spot duty at various positions
The Steelers played all 8 active offensive lineman vs. Oakland and most likely vs. Baltimore too.
In addition to losing Pouncey for the year, the Steelers also lost his replacement Fernando Velasco

As if that’s not Kafkaesque enough for you, consider what the Steelers have done to bolster offensive line depth. They traded for Levi Brown after the debacle in London, quite possibly marking the franchise’s first in-season trade for a players since the Bill Austin era. And just a few days ago, they signed Rashad Butler. Now get this:

  • The services of both Levi Brown and now Butler were lost to the Steelers before either even played a game!

Brown of course got injured in pregame warm ups vs. the Jets. Brown has left the team for “personal reasons.” Both gone without so much as a snap. How exactly is management supposed to plan for that?

This is coming on top of two season-ending offensive line (Marvel Smith and Kendall Simmons) injuries in 2008 and three straight seasons of injury-induced offensive line musical chairs spanning from 2010 to 2012.

As noted in an earlier post, offensive line injuries are up league-wide. But the Steelers have had a string of bad luck that predates the current trend.

While super natural explanations for this go beyond the purview of this blog, no one could fault Mike Tomlin, Kevin Colbert, and/or Art Rooney II for asking, “Why me?”

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