How Carlos Emmons’ Story Offers Hope for Steelers 2017 7th Round Draftee Keion Adams

he end of the 2017 NFL Draft in Pittsburgh saw the Steelers draft Keion Adams, outside linebacker from Western Michigan in a pick that saw immediate comparisons to Arthur Moats.

For the record, the Steelers 2017 7th round pick stands at 6’2” and weighs in at 245 and led the MAC conference with 17 tackles for a loss and posted 13 sacks over two seasons as a starter.

Keion Adams, Steelers 2017 7th round pick

Steelers 7th round pick Keion Adams closes in on Central Michigan’s Cooper Rush. Photo Credit: Bryan Bennett, Kalamazoo Gazette

If you were to play a quick game of word association with a citizen of Steelers Nation and said “Keion Adams” the likely response would be “practice squad.” And landing on the Steelers practice squad wouldn’t be a bad outcome for a 7th round pick.

  • But Steelers history suggests that Keion Adams quest to make the final 53 man roster is far from hopeless.

Oh, to be certain, the odds are long. He’s looking at a Steelers outside linebacker depth chart that lists Bud Dupree and James Harrison as starters, with Moates and Anthony Chickillo as backups along with 2017’s 1st round draft pick T.J. Watt ahead of him.

  • Suffice to say, Keion Adams certainly shouldn’t commit himself to a long-term lease anywhere in greater Pittsburgh.

And like seemingly every NFL draft hopful, Keion Adams has a YouTube highlight clip:

Ok… That highlight clip doesn’t exactly conjure memories of Lambert and Lloyd. Fair enough. But Carlos Emmons was in Keion Adam’s shoes once before, and his story gives the Steelers 2017 7th round pick every reason to chin up.

Carlos Emmons and the Steelers 1996 Draft Class

Future Hall of Famer Kevin Greene departed Pittsburgh following the Steelers loss in Super Bowl XXX. But one of the reasons why the Steelers were ready to let Greene go was because Jason Gildon was ready to start.

  • 20/20 hindsight tells us that Bill Cowher and Tom Donahoe made a mistake in letting the great Greene go in favor of the merely good Gildon.

But that fact wasn’t apparent on the fields of St. Vincents in the summer of 1996 and even if it had been, it would have meant nothing to Carlos Emmons, the outside linebacker that the Steelers had drafted in the 7th round of the 1996 NFL Draft.

Carlos Emmons, Steelers 7th round picks,

Steelers 1996 7th Round Pick Carlos Emmons’s story offers 2017 7th rounder hope Keion Adams. Photo Credit: Getty Images, via Rantsports.com

Mind you, as Super Bowl losers the Steelers were drafting 2nd to last in each round. That made Carlos Emmons the 242nd player drafted out of 254 names called during the 1996 NFL Draft. As if those odds weren’t daunting enough, in addition to Gildon, the Steelers had just resigned Greg Lloyd and had drafted Steve Conley in the third round.

They also had Eric Ravotti who could play on both the inside and outside and, while Chad Brown was a fixture at inside linebacker, the team knew he should shift to the outside should the need arise (as it did, when injuries felled Greg Lloyd in the season opener.)

If that didn’t complicate things enough, the Steelers also had Jerry Olsavsky, Donta Jones and Earl Holmes behind Levon Kirkland and Brown on the inside.

  • Clearly, 1996 did not figure to be a good year to be a linebacker drafted by the Steelers in the 7th round.

As you’d expect, Carlos Emmons wasn’t a player most fans were eager to get a look at once preseason started. But during the Steelers America Bowl game in Tokyo, Emmons made the most of his time and recorded a sack late in the 4th quarter.

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Carlos Emmons tackles a Kansas City Chief. Photo Credit: Post-Gazette, Peter Diana

Dick LeBeau and Bill Cowher continued to give Emmons opportunities in preseason and, if memory serves, he led the team in sacks during that five exhibition game series. When cut down day came the Steelers had a quandary. Their linebackers all looked good.

  • So the Steelers did the unconventional thing, and kept 10 linebackers on their 1996 opening day active roster.

Seven of those linebacker dressed for the Steelers 1996 home opener at Jacksonville, and by the end of the game only 4 of them were in uniform. Greg Lloyd tore his patella tendon, Jason Gildon suffered a knee injury, and so did Steven Conley.

Things looked so bad that Dick LeBeau openly discussed moving to a 4-3, but that wasn’t necessary as Gildon was back in the lineup sooner than expected.

Carlos Emmons had been in street clothes for the season opener, but he played in all 15 of the Steelers other games, and by the end of 1997 he was starting in after Greg Lloyd’s season ended injury. Emmons would go on to start during 1998 and 1999 before leaving for Philadelphia as a free agent, where he played for four years and then went on to play 3 more in for the Giants.

To be clear, when you talk about the Steelers lineage at outside linebacker you typically start by rattling off the name of Jack Ham, and perhaps you throw in Bryan Hinkle before getting to Lloyd, Greene, Gildon, Joey Porter, Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.

  • You never stop to mention the name “Carlos Emmons.”

But that’s beside the point. In the spring and summer of 1996, Carlos Emmons looked like a throwaway pick 7th round picks, just as many pundits have already written Keion Adams as a throwaway 7th round picks.

But Emmons never looked at himself that way, nor did the Steelers. He never blossomed into a star, but had a decent run in Pittsburgh, and overall had a decent NFL career. Fortunately for Kion Adams, Mike Tomlin, Keith Butler and Joey Porter will have him a chance to do the same.

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Hometown Hero Homecoming: Steelers Draft James Conner in 3rd Round, RB Pitt

The close of day two of the 2017 NFL Draft saw the Steelers draft James Conner running back from Pitt with their third round compensatory selection.

  • Fans will remember that the Steelers made a similar move with their 3rd round compensatory selection in the 2014 NFL Draft when they took Dri Archer.

Dir Archer turned out to be a veritable head case, but the Steelers can rest assured that James Conner won’t follow in his footsteps. It remains to be seen if Conner can deliver in the NFL, but the man’s character and work ethic are above reproach, as he bounced back from Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015 to lead the Pitt Panthers rushing for 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2016.

Steelers draft James Conner, James Conner, 2017 NFL Draft

Steelers 3rd round draft pick James Conner rushed for 3,733 yards and 52 TD’s at Pitt. Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire, USA Today

Steelers running backs coach James Saxon insisted that Conner wasn’t a sentimental or character pick and James Connor’s highlight reel from Pitt backs him up:

Hearing his name called by the Pittsburgh Steelers is a dream come true for Connor, who in addition to being a standout for Pitt, is an Erie native who played at McDowell High School.

James Connor will provide an immediate boost to a running back depth chart that has struggled to keep two starting caliber running backs healthy since the 2011 season. Le’Veon Bell will remain the uncontested starter, but after Bell the Steelers only have Fitzgerald Toussaint and Knile Davis behind him, a duo whose collective yards-per-carry average is 3.15.

James Conner described getting drafted by his hometown team as:

It’s a dream come true. I’m forever grateful to them for giving me the opportunity after everything I’ve been through. I know a lot of teams were scared, but they gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, and they are going to get a great person and a great football player, and I’ll give it my all for them.

The Steelers were expected to go for a running back early in the 2017 NFL Draft and Conner’s third round selection all but confirms what has been obvious for a while, DeAngelo Williams is not in Pittsburgh’s plans for 2017.

  • By drafting James Conner on the third round the Steelers revived what had once been a robust franchise tradition: Giving Pitt Panthers the possibility to play in the NFL.

The Steelers have drafted over 46 players from the University of Pittsburgh, but have not taken a Panther in the NFL Draft since choosing Hank Poteat in the 2000 NFL Draft.

That’s a far cry from the 1980’s, when the Steelers took 6 Pitt Players in the draft, including 3 in the 1989 NFL Draft in the form of Tom Ricketts, Jerry Olsavsky and Carlton Haselrig who was a Pitt-Johnstown graduate.

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No Time to Be Timid: Steelers Should Resign Lawrence Timmons, Make Law Dog Lifer in Pittsburgh

Regardless of what happens in free agency, Lawrence Timmons will always be the first draft pick that Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert made together. Aside from being a mild surprise, linebackers were seen as a strength going into the 2007 NFL Draft, picking Timmons also revealed an important change in how the Steelers approach to the draft would change under Mike Tomlin.

  • Under Mike Tomlin, the Steelers would favor youth in the draft, particularly in the 1st round.

You can see impact of that shift today – Lawrence Timmons was only 21 when the Steelers picked him and today 10 seasons under his belt he has yet to turn 31 as he seeks his third contract.

Lawrence Timmons, Steelers 2017 free agents, Ryan Shazier, Steelers vs Giants, Lawrence Timmons interception, Roger Lewis

Lawrence Timmons returns an interception in Steelers 2016 win over Giants. (Photo Credit: Peter Diana, Post-Gazette)

Extended Profile of Lawrence Timmons Steelers Career

Those who’re quick to label a draft pick “a bust” would be wise to acquaint themselves with Lawrence Timmons’ story.

  • You can begin with the fact that the Steelers initially selected Lawrence Timmons to play outside linebacker.

Yes, you read correctly. Mike Tomlin’s initial 2007 training camp depth chart slotted Lawrence Timmons in at right outside linebacker behind James Harrison. It didn’t matter much. Injuries in the spring and during training camp limited Timmons’ opportunities to earn a spot on the field and he spent most of 2007 watching and/or playing special teams.

During the 2008 off season the Steelers shifted Timmons to inside linebacker with an eye towards replacing Larry Foote. Timmons excelled in preseason, and while he only started 2 games (both at outside linebacker) he made his presence known by:

Following Super Bowl XLIII, the Steelers had seen enough to pencil in Timmons in over two-time Super Bowl starter Larry Foote. While Timmons started in 2009, the sailing wasn’t as smooth it seems now. He did register 9 sacks, but his play was inconsistent and he split time with Keyraon Fox.

In 2010 however, Timmons was a man on fire. He didn’t draw the attention that James Harrison or Troy Polamalu did, but he made critical play after critical play. The Steelers gave him Lawrence Timmons his second contract after the 2011 lockout ended, only to see Timmons struggle that season.

  • But from 2012 to 2014 Lawrence Timmons was the Steelers most consistent, if not best defender.

Nonetheless, the emergence of Vince Williams in 2013 and Sean Spence in 2014 gave the Steelers an abundance of younger and cheaper options at inside linebacker. This led to ultimately fruitless speculation that Timmons would be a cap casualty or would be traded (not that this site didn’t fan some of those April first flames….)

Lawrence Timmons, Steelers vs Dolphins, Jarvis Landry, Ross Cockrell

Lawrence Timmons moves to tackle Jarvis Landry. Photo Credit: USA Today Steelers Wire

Lawrence Timmons began 2015 by playing through an injury and he appeared to have lost a step as Ryan Shazier usurped him as the resident bad ass in the middle of the Steelers defense. Those doubts persisted during the first half of 2016, but Lawrence Timmons stepped it up during the back half of the season, making two interceptions and two sacks during the Steelers nine game winning streak.

The Law Dog, as Mike Tomlin calls him, topped it off with 2 sacks in the Steelers playoff win over the Dolphins.

The Case for the Steelers Resigning Lawrence Timmons

Lawrence Timmons will be 31 years old on opening day 2017 and will already have 10 seasons of experience under his belt. While age 31 is several years removed from being “young” in the NFL, Timmons has started every game for 7 straight seasons and hasn’t missed a game due to injury since 2009.

  • Timmons also is aware that age is impacting his ability, and he’s taken steps to counter that with his conditioning.

Lawrence Timmons knows the Steelers defense, and Keith Butler, Mike Tomlin and Jerry Olsavsky are intimately familiar with what Lawrence Timmons can do. Father time may indeed have robbed Timmons of a step, but Timmons strong finish to 2016 shows he’s still in that sweet spot where experience can compensate for a drop off in athleticism.

It is also fair to say that even at age 31, Lawrence Timmons probably brings more athleticism to the field than Vince Williams, his logical successor. Assuming his contract demands are not too high, there’s no reason to let him walk.

The Case Against the Steelers Resigning Lawrence Timmons

While Lawrence Timmons strong finish to 2016 was no mirage, the simple fact that it was necessary shows that Father Time is taking its toll. The Steelers have made a commitment to getting younger and faster on defense, and in that sense Timmons is a square peg in a defensive alignment filled with round holes.

  • No, Vince Williams isn’t going to scare anyone with his speed or athleticism.

But in Vince Williams, the Steelers have a modern day Larry Foote, who alongside James Farrior gave the Steelers a powerful inside linebacking tandem that brought home Lombardi Trophies in Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII.

Moreover, the Vince Williams’ salary cap number is about 2.5 million for 2017, or about half of what it would take to keep Lawrence Timmons. Those are 2.5 million dollars the Steelers could spend to bolster the secondary and/or pass rush, instead of paying it to a 31 year old inside linebacker who is only going slower with each passing year.

Curtain’s Call on Lawrence Timmons and the Steelers

Lawrence Timmons has repeatedly affirmed his desire to stay in Pittsburgh. Both Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert are on the record saying they want him back. When those two things happen, a deal usually gets done.

  • Is it a slam dunk?

Hardly. The Steelers like Timmons, but their decision to resign Vince Williams last year signaled that they’re prepared to move on if necessary. Indeed, Kevin Colbert’s comment that Lawrence Timmons is free to test the free agency waters clearly indicates that the Steelers won’t get into a bidding war to keep Timmons’ in Pittsburgh.

Nor should they. But they likely won’t need to, and a James Farrior type deal for Timmons would benefit all parties and more or less ensure that the Law Dog remains a lifetime Pittsburgh Steeler.

Struggling to keep up with Steelers free agency? Click here for our Steelers 2017 Steelers Free Agent tracker and/or click here for all Steelers 2017 free agency focus articles.

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Steelers 2016 Roster Analysis – Depth Primes Pittsburgh to Win

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2016 opening day roster for their Monday Night Game against the Washington Redskins appears to be set. While Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin could decide to add a tight end, put Senquez Golson on IR and sign a cornerback or make some other move, the Steelers brain trust has pretty much cast their die.

  • There are a lot of interesting stories and subplots, but any Steelers 2016 roster analysis must focus on it depth.

Indeed, while Pittsburgh is hardly bullet proof, the Steelers 2016 roster boasts of far greater depth than the team has seen since their last serious Super Bowl run. Seriously. Think back just three years. Prior to the Steelers 2013 opener, no less Bob Labriola compared the Steelers offensive line depth to walking a tight rope without a net.

  • Just 11 plays into the season, the Steelers fell off that tight rope.

And the bleeding didn’t stop stop with Maurkice Pouncey’s season-end injury. Before the game was over the Steelers had lost their starting inside linebacker and number two running back for the season, and their starting corner for the next several games. Worse yet, although Mike Tomlin would never admit it, the men taking their places were not “starters in waiting.”

This year things are different. Yes, certain areas of the Steelers depth chart are uncomfortably weak, but this Steelers 2016 roster analysis finds the Black and Gold rich in depth in several key positions.

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Steelers 2016 Roster Analysis reveals depth primes Pittsburgh to win. Photo Credit: Gene J. Puskar, AP

Steelers 2016 Depth Chart @ Quaterback

Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones and Zach Mettenberger

Clearly, the Steelers will not contend for a Super Bowl should Ben Roethlisberger suffer a serious injury. But Landry Jones evolution as a quarterback has shown him to be a serviceable backup, and Zach Mettenberger has “upside” that neither Bruce Gradkowski or Bryn Renner could hope to offer.

Steelers 2016 Depth Chart @ Running Back

DeAngelo Williams, Daryl Richardson, Fitzgerald Toussaint and Roosevelt Nix (fullback); (Le’Veon Bell suspended for first 3 games)

A year ago the Steelers went with Bell, Williams and two fullbacks plus Dri Archer whom they held onto until it was clear no one would trade for him. And they ended up starting practice squad running backs in the playoffs. Word is that either Fitzgerald Toussaint or Daryl Richardson will be gone once Le’Veon Bell’s suspension ends.

Perhaps, but the Steelers are at least starting the season with a running back depth chart that’s three deep, which is smart.

Steelers 2016 Depth Chart @ Tight End

Jesse James, David Johnson and Xavier Grimble; (Ladarius Green is on PUP)

The future is now for Jesse James. As a rookie James showed promise catching the ball, but has struggled in blocking. James had better grow up quickly. David Johnson provides veteran depth, but is a blocker at this point. Xavier Grimble’s performance has been boom-bust.

The bottom line is, the Steelers depth chart at tight end is extraordinarily weak. Guys will need to grow up fast, or Todd Haley must creatively devise a way to cover this deficiency.

Steelers 2016 Depth Chart @ Wide Receivers

Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Sammie Coates, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Eli Rogers

Who needs Martavis Bryant? OK, that’s perhaps overstated, but the emergence of Eli Rogers and the development of Sammie Coates should compensate for Bryant’s loss. Clearly, Antiono Brown is the best class of the group, and the class of his position in the NFL.

Like Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers cannot weather a serious injury to Antonio Brown.

Steelers 2016 Depth Chart @ Offensive Line

Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, Ramon Foster, Alejandro Villanueva, Cody Wallace, Ryan Harris, B.J. Finney and Chris Hubbard

The Steelers boast four proven starters in Pouncey, DeCastro, Gilbert and Foster. Alejandro Villanueva still must prove himself, but should he falter, the Steelers have Ryan Harris, who is fresh off of a Super Bowl start. Cody Wallace gives the Steelers a solid backup at the interior positions.

Hopefully neither B.J. Finney nor Chris Hubbard will need to play significant snaps.

Steelers 2016 Depth Chart @ Defensive Line

Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave, Ricardo Mathews, Dan McCullers and L.T. Walton

Assuming the injury to Javon Hargrave isn’t serious, the Steelers defensive line depth is better than it has been in several seasons. Ricardo Mathews showed in preseason that he can play nose and defensive end, and Daniel McCullers size makes him an attractive option. L.T. Walton also has the look of an up and comer.

Steelers 2016 Depth Chart @ Outside Linebacker

James Harrison, Jarvis Jones, Arthur Moats and Anthony Chickillo (Bud Dupree on injured reserve)

Bud Dupree’s injured reserve designation puts a damper on this one. The fact is that the Steelers were counting on him to become the pass rusher they drafted him to be. Still, Arthur Moats has shown he can get the job done, and Jarvis Jones made flashes during last year’s post-season that few fans seemed to notice. Anthony Chickillo has done everything the Steelers have asked of him. Which is good, because he will be asked to do more.

Finally, James Harrison enters his final year. If things go well, Harrison will be a situational player. Either way, the Steelers are very wise to keep him on the roster.

Steelers 2016 Depth Chart @ Inside Linebacker

Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, L.J. Fort, Tyler Matakevich and Steven Johnson

Timmons, Shazier and Willaims give the Steelers 2016 roster three starter capable inside lienbackers, with Steven Johnson and L.J. Fort providing valuable depth.

Tyler Matakevich reminds people of Jerry Olsavsky. Jerry O was another late-pick inside linebacker who wasn’t strong enough, big enough or fast enough, but made a career in being good enough. Tyler Matakevich will get a chance to prove the same.

Steelers 2016 Depth Chart @ Cornerback

William Gay, Ross Cockrell, Sean Davis, Justin Gilbert and Senquez Golson

Clearly any Steelers 2016 roster analysis must conclude that cornerback remains the weakest link on Pittsburgh’s depth chart. William Gay gives the Steelers a proven, veteran presence. Ross Cockrell played well in 2015, but remains untested as a starter. Sean Davis is a rookie, and Justin Gilbert has been a bust given his draft status.

  • And the Steelers are holding out hopes that Senquez Golson can return.

Keep in mind that Golson has had all of 1 and a half padded practices on his NFL resume. Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin went all in on the youth movement at secondary. The fact that Brandon Boykin and Cortez Allen remain unemployed tells us that the rest of the NFL agrees with their decision to subtract them from the roster.

It remains to be seen if Carnell Lake and Keith Butler can transform subtraction into addition.

Steelers 2016 Depth Chart @ Safety

Mike Mitchell, Robert Golden, Sean Davis, Shamarko Thomas and Jordan Dangerfield

Mike Mitchell leads the group, and if he plays at the level he played in 2015, the Steelers should be OK. Robert Golden finally has his time to shine, after playing behind Troy Polamalu and Will Allen. Shamarko Thomas most likely holds a spot on the Steelers 2016 roster because he’s a good special teams gunner.

Jordan Dangerfield showed he can play in preseason, and Sean Davis is good enough to work at Safety and corner.

Steelers 2016 Specialists

Greg Warren, Long snapper
Jordan Berry, Punter
Chris Boswell, Place Kicker

This time a year ago the Steelers were on their third of what would be four place kickers and had just traded away Brad Wing. There’s been little news about any of the Steelers specialists and let’s hope it remains that way.

Steelers 2016 Roster Analysis – Depth Primes Pittsburgh to Win

The Steelers 2016 roster has its weak spots at tight end and at cornerback, but at just about every other spot on the depth chart boasts a deep enough bull pen to support a serious Steelers Super Bowl run.

And that’s not something that has been true in recent years.

Buckle your chin straps Steelers Nation, the Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin have built the 2016 Pittsburgh Steelers to win.

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The Clock is Ticking…. For Travis Feeney to Secure his Steelers Roster Spot

Of all the Steelers rookies and young players being talked about this summer, from 1st round pick Artie Burns to Sean Davis to Javon Hargrave, Eli Rogers, Tyler Matakevich, etc, etc, the one name conspicuously absent from any sort of hype is sixth round pick Travis Feeney.

I find that rather disappointing, since I was really looking forward to the young linebacker out of Washington turning heads in training camp and during the preseason.

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Steelers 6th round pick Travis Feeney during OTA’s. Photo Credit: Keith Srakocic, AP used in Seattle Times

When you studied Travis Feeney’s NFL.com Draft profile that included such measurables as a 6-4, 230 lb frame, 4.5 speed and a 40-inch vertical, well, that was pretty darn enticing.

And then there was this analysis by Mark Dulgerian:

Feeney is one of the more athletic edge pass rushers whom many considered a late-round sleeper heading into Day 3.  As he develops, he can carry over his special teams coverage skills to the Steelers’ units.

You had to wonder why a guy who recorded eight sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss in his senior year with the Huskies and possessed so much raw athleticism would slip to the third day of the draft, but as he told ESPN in May, multiple shoulder surgeries may have contributed to his falling stock:

“That’s what I’m thinking why. You never know. Kind of unpredictable.”

  • But, regardless of where an athlete is selected, if his skills shine through, the coaching staff is going to see it.

So have Feeney’s skills shined through so far this summer?

Not yet.

Rocky Training Camp for Travis Feeney Thus Far….

Google “Travis Feeney” and you don’t find much about him, other than stories that date back to the spring, right after the Steelers drafted him. Meanwhile, there are multiple stories to read about guys like Eli Rogers and 7th round pick Tyler Matakevich.

This past Thursday, he finally made his debut in the Steelers preseason loss to the Eagles at Heinz Field, but only recorded one tackle.

Is pointing this stuff out a bit unfair? Perhaps. After all, what have we heard or read about cornerback Artie Burns so far this summer, other than the lumps he’s taken while trying to cover Antonio Brown at training camp? And when someone is injured and can’t practice or get into exhibition games, there aren’t going to be many stories written about him.

Fair enough, but the difference between Artie Burns and Travis Feeney is five rounds. That means Burns was a lock to make the team the second head coach Mike Tomlin called him to tell him he was the Steelers newest first round pick on during the 2016 NFL Draft.

  • Dulgerian alluded to Feeney’s special teams prowess in his aforementioned assessment, and he was named the Huskies Special Teams Player of the Year in 2014.

There’s usually room on an NFL roster for a special teams demon, and Feeney can certainly put his skills to good use as he develops into an outside linebacker. Sadly for him, his draft status isn’t one that lends itself to the same benefit of the doubt Burns’ currently enjoys.

2 Presason Games Might Define Travis Feeney’s Steelers

So is Travis Feeney a prime candidate to wind up on the Steelers practice squad this year? At the moment, that appears to be Travis Feeney’s Steelers future.

Feeney’s a sentimental favorite in these parts. When Travis Feeney signed his rookie contract, this site observed that the Steelers have a long tradition of drafting successful linebackers in the sixth round, from Vince Williams, to Bryan Hinkle, to Eric Ravotti and of course, the legendary Greg Lloyd.

  • However, Mike Tomlin is not wont to make sentimental decisions when it comes to awarding spots on either the Steelers 53 man roster or the practice squad.

Fortunately for him, Travis Feeney still has two preseason games to allow his skills to shine through. He’d be wise to take full advantage of every snap he gets. Here’s to hoping Travis Feeney gives Mike Tomlin, Keith Butler, Joey Porter and Jerry Olsavsky every reason to give him the ultimate benefit of the doubt.

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Honoring Steelers Linebacker David Little – An Underapperciated Part of Pittsburgh’s Linebacker Legacy

When David Little began his NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1981, he arrived on the scene one year after his older brother, Larry Little, a future Hall of Fame guard who played 14 years for both the Chargers and Dolphins, ended his.

  • Talk about a lot to live up to for the younger Little, a middle linebacker and Pittsburgh’s seventh round pick out of Florida.

Speaking of future Hall of Famers, the Steelers still employed nine of them during Little’s rookie season. One of those future enshrines was Jack Lambert, Pittsburgh’s fierce, cranky and toothless middle linebacker. In only his eighth year in the NFL and still in his late-20s, the perennial Pro Bowler figured to rule the turf of old Three Rivers Stadium for many more years to come.

  • Didn’t seem like there’d be much of a future as a starter for Little, especially considering his rather middle-of-the-road draft-status.

Even after the Steelers switched to a 3-4 alignment in 1982 (three down linemen, two outside linebackers and two inside linebackers), it didn’t create a starting spot for Little. Instead, veteran Loren Toews started every game at left inside linebacker in ’82 and again in 1983, while the consistent and reliable Lambert manned the right inside spot.

Things forever changed for Little in 1984, after the legendary Lambert suffered a turf toe injury and only started three games.

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David Little helps Mel Blount bring down Marcus Allen

In Lambert’s place and along side Super Bowl veteran Robin Cole, Little started 13 games in ’84 and finished fourth on the team in tackles with 86, according to a UPI story published about Little in January of ’85, just prior to Pittsburgh’s match-up against the Dolphins for the right to go to Super Bowl XXIX.

“When you play Lambert’s position, your job is to make big plays,” Little told sports writer Dave Raffo, some 31 years ago.

In-fact, the Steelers defense made many big plays with Little starting in-place of Lambert, finishing fifth in both total yards and takeaways in ’84, as Pittsburgh advanced all the way to the AFC Championship Game.

As the story pointed out, Lambert was activated prior to the game against the Dolphins, but head coach Chuck Noll perhaps left no doubt as to who would start: “He’s a special player,” Noll said of Lambert. “But David Little has done an outstanding job in his place.”

Little started the conference title game in Miami, which turned out to be a 45-28 loss, and would continue to start for the remainder of his career, after Jack Lambert retired following the ’84 campaign.

  • Over the next eight seasons, Little was a model of consistency, starting an additional 112 games.

The NFL really didn’t keep track of tackles during Little’s playing days, but according to an article from The Pittsburgh Press published in 1990, Little, who made his first Pro Bowl that season, was the same tackling machine as Lambert, as he led the team in that category five of the previous six seasons–including four in a row up to that point.

  • It may have taken awhile for Little to earn his first Pro Bowl honor, but they say the ultimate respect a player receives is from his teammates.

Future Hall of Famer, and Little’s 1988 co-Steelers MVP, Rod Woodson, positively beamed when asked about Little finally making the Pro Bowl:

He’s been playing here for 10 years and playing well for 10 years,” He’s finally getting recognized, and everybody’s  really happy for David. I mean really, really happy.

Little played two more years and lasted through Bill Cowher‘s first season as head coach. However, despite the free agent departure of Hardy Nickerson, Cowher released Little during training camp in 1993 in-large part because of the development of second-year players Jerry Olsavsky and  Levon Kirkland.

Levon Kirkland, who much like Little, would go on to be a mainstay at the inside linebacker spot for many years. Because of his size (275 pounds) and almost unreal athleticism, Kirkland became a star at inside linebacker and made two Pro Bowls during his time with the Steelers.

  • As for Little, he never played again and retired into relative obscurity after 12 NFL seasons.

Sadly, on March 17, 2005, Little died in a weightlifting accident at his home in Florida. He was 46.

David Little may not have been as famous as his older brother or the Hall of Fame legend he replaced at inside linebacker for the Steelers. In-fact, he probably didn’t even quite enjoy the notoriety of his successor Levon Kirkland.

But David Little upheld the standard of excellence that is the Steelers linebacker legacy and had the respect of his teammates and a career to be proud of.

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Steelers Draft Tyler Matakevich, Close 2016 Draft with Linebacker from Temple

Going into the 2016 NFL Draft all signs indicated that the Pittsburgh Steelers would go all in on defense, and that is what they did from start to finish. The day’s end saw the Steelers draft Tyler Matakevich, a linebacker from Temple with their second 7th round pick.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin praised Tyler Matakevich explaining “He’s easy to track. You watch Temple play, he makes all the tackles.” Kevin Colbert offered this:

Such comments hark back to the end of the 2009 NFL Draft, when the Steelers used their next to last pick to take center A.Q. Shipley. Shipley’s supposedly had short arms for a center and lacked other measurables, but Colbert insisted that Shipley displayed the heart needed to play in the NFL.

  • A.Q. Shipley never played for the Steelers, save for the practice squad, but had a respectable career for the Colts, Ravens and Cardinals.

Tyler Matakevich played inside linebacker for Temple, and assuming the Steelers keep him there, he does have a decent shot at a roster spot, as the departures of Sean Spence and Terence Garvin leave at least one opening to be filled.

Video Highlights of Tyler Matakevich

Tyler Matakevich was a four year player for the Temple Owls where he amassed 338 tackles, 7 sacks, 7 interceptions, forced 4 fumbles, and tackled 40 people behind the line of scrimmage. You can see some of his best work for yourself, thanks to the magic of YouTube:

Tyler Matakevich looks to have been a big fish in a small pond. Now he must prove he can do it with the big boys. You can imagine that Steelers Inside Linebacker coach Jerry Olsavsky will give Tyler Matakevich every chance he deserves to impress enough to make the team.

After all Olsavsky himself entered the NFL as a longshot 10th round draft pick from Pitt who supposedly wasn’t big enough, strong enough, or fast enough. But Jerry O was good enough. Matakevich will get the chance to prove the same thing about himself.

Welcome to Steelers Nation Tyler Matakevich.

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The Colbert Record: Steelers 4th Round Draft History Under Kevin Colbert

In its current incarnation, the 4th round represents balance point of the NFL Draft. Rounds 1-3 represent the cream of the crop. Rounds 5-7 represent the bottom feeders.

  • Round four falls squarely in between.

A fourth rounder maturing into a starter should surprise no one; yet a fourth rounder who only develops into a part-time role player cannot be written off as a bust. This year’s edition of The Colbert Record looks at Kevin Colbert’s history with 4th round picks.

steelers, draft, grades, evaluations, bust, Kevin Colbert

True NFL Draft grades only come with years of hindsight

Steelers 2000 Fourth Round Pick – Danny Farmer

Wide receiver had been a weakness of the Steelers in 1998 and 1999. Based on the early returns, Troy Edwards had given the Steelers a foot hold on rectifying the problem, and the earlier pick of Plaxio Burress looked to improve the Steelers further. No one paid much attention to Hines Ward, so the pick of Danny Farmer seemed enticing.

  • At least until the Steelers opened camp at St. Vincent’s in Labrobe

Danny Famer couldn’t cut it, so Bill Cowher and Kevin Colbert cut him. Bob Smizik of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette decried the move, pointing the Farmer’s absence after the Steelers 16-0, 2000 opening day loss to the Ravens. Smizik doubled down in December (when the 2000 Steelers had turned around their season), extolling Farmer, by then a Cincinnati Bengal for a great game against Jacksonville.

Farmer, however was out of football by 2003, and never had more than 19 catches in a season. He didn’t do much for the Bengals, which is better than what the Steelers got from him. Grade: Bust

Steelers 2001 Fourth Round Pick – Mathias Nkwenti

Unlike wide recievers, there are few stats measure offensive lineman. But one stat that does stand out is this: Mathias Nkwenti appeared in two games for the Steelers one in 2001 and another in 2003. Then he was out of football. Grade: Bust

Steelers 2002 Fourth Round Pick – Larry Foote

If you were looking to define a prototype for a “quality 4th round pick” you’d need to look to Kevin Colbert’s 2002 4th round pick of Larry Foote.

When news broke that 2001’s rookie stand out Kendrell Bell was injured and wouldn’t be able to suit up for the opener, most Steelers fans figured that John Fiala would be the “Next man up.” Fiala wasn’t a superstar, but he’d paid his dues on special teams and as a backup since 1998, and sort of fit the Jerry Olsavsky mold.

  • Bill Cowher instead looked to the rookie Larry Foote to start.

Foote got the first three starts of the season, and while Bell kept him on the bench in 2003, Foote assumed the starting role in 2004 and started from that moment until the Steelers hoisted Lombardi Number Six over their heads after Super Bowl XLIII.

Foote of course departed in 2009, but was back in 2009 as a backup, only to reassume the starting role after James Farrior’s retirement. 105 regular season starts and 11 playoff starts including two Super Bowls is pretty impressive for a fourth round pick. Grade: Over Performer

Steelers 2003 Fourth Round Pick – Ike Taylor

If Larry Foote fulfilled all that can be expected of a 4th round pick, then 2003’s fourth round pick is an example of a 4th rounder who completely exceeds expectations. And to think, Mark Madden declared the pick of Ike Taylor as the worst pick in franchise history.

Something tells me that Mike Holmgrem and Matt Hasslebeck would beg to differ.

Ike Taylor won’t get recognition alongside the Jack Butler, Mel Blount and Rod Woodson as one of the franchise’s true great cornerbacks because he couldn’t hold on to interceptions. But from 2005 until 2012ish, Ike Taylor was able to shadow the opponents best receiver and often times take him out of the game. Grade: Grand Slam

Steelers 2004 Fourth Round Pick – Nathaniel Adibi

If Steelers lore is correct, a faction of the Steelers draft room wanted to use this pick on Michael Turner. Bill Cowher wanted Nathaniel Adibi. Unfortunately Cowher got his way. Nathaniel Adibi never played a down in a regular season NFL game, Michael Turner rushed for 7,338 yards in a 9 yard career. Grade: Bust

Steelers 2005 Fourth Round Pick – Fred Gibson

Just as he did in 2000, Kevin Colbert drafted wide receiver in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL Draft. Like Danny Farmer, Fred Gibson never played a down for the Steelers. Unlike Danny Farmer, Gibson never played anywhere in the NFL. Grade: Bust

Steelers 2006 Fourth Round Picks – Willie Colon and Orien Harris

Many times during Mike Tomlin’s early tenure, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ed Bouchette refered to a lack of alignment between the front office and the coaches on the offensive line, and looked to the Steelers seemingly bipolar treatment of Max Starks.

Bouchette might have had a point, but Steelers coaches were already angling to replace Max Starks with Willie Colon by the end of his rookie year. Colon did beat out Starks on the right side, and held down the fort there from 2007 to 2009. Injuries of course ruined his 2010 and 2011 season and derailed it in 2012 when he’d settled in at offensive guard. Grade: Quality Value Pick

Orien Harris, defensive tackle out of Miami was the Steelers second fourth round pick in 2004. He never played a down for the Steelers, but did appear in 18 games for the Bengals and Browns in the next three season. Grade: Bust

Steelers 2007 Fourth Round Picks — Daniel Sepulveda and Ryan McBean

The Mike Tomlin era began with two fourth round picks and it started with a bang, of sorts.
Mike Tomlin looked to make a statement with his first draft by trading up to get a punter to emphasize the importance of special teams. Daniel Sepulveda was the pick.

Sepulveda had two decent seasons punting, until injuries cost him the 2008 season. He injured himself again in 2010. To the surprise of many, the Steelers brought him back in 2011, but his last game was the Steelers All Saints day upset of the Patriots. It is not Sepulveda the Steelers picked him first, but if you pick a punter in the fourth round, he’d better be All World. Sepulveda wasn’t that even when healthy: Grade: Disappointment

The Steelers second 4th round pick was of Ryan McBean, a defensive tackle out of Oklahoma State. McBean played one game as a rookie in Pittsburgh during 2007 for the Steelers, and then 46 the three years afterwards including 21 starts. Unfortunately, McBean played his last four seasons for Denver and Baltimore. His stats indicate OK value for a 4th round pick, unfortunately, the Steelers didn’t benefit from any of that value. Grade: Bust

Steelers 2008 Fourth Round Pick – Tony Hills

As mentioned when profiling 2008’s 3rd round pick Bruce Davis, Jim Wexell wrote that Mike Tomlin would match Tony Hills and Bruce Davis together during training camp and extol both men on, saying, “I’m going to make a player out of one of you.”

  • Unfortunately, Tomlin was wrong about both men.

Davis was gone in a year. Tony Hills however, stuck around. However, he did not dress in 2008 nor did he suit up in 2009. Hills got a little bit of a reprise under 2010’s special teams coach Sean Kugler, and he actually saw action in four games. The Steelers experimented with him at guard during the 2011 preseason, but cut him.

Since then Tony Hills has stuck on with Denver, Indianapolis, Dallas, Miami and most recently in 2015 New Orleans, seeing spot duty (and one start) in 18 games. But when you draft a tackle in the 4th round, you really need more than four games in 3 seasons. Grade: Bust

Steelers 2009 Fourth Round Pick – Traded

The Steelers traded their 4th round pick along with their second to get Denver’s two 3rd round picks in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Steelers 2010 Fourth Round Pick – Thaddeus Gibson

The Steelers used their 2010 4th round pick on linebacker Thaddeus Gibson. The early reports on Gibson out of Latrobe were positive. However, when the Steelers needed to make a roster move in October, Gibson’s spot was sacrificed. San Francasico snapped him up, where he saw spot duty in two teams. He’d get spot duty in two more games the next season with the Bears, and then a roster spot sans the spot duty with the Titans. Gibson was out of football after that. Grade: Bust

Steelers 2011 Fourth Round Pick — Cortez Allen

Kevin Colbert certainly has had bigger 4th round disappointments than Cortez Allen (see 2012’s) and the same can be said for Art Rooney, Dick Haley and Tom Donahoe before him. But none have had a stranger trip than Cortez Allen.

The Steelers took Allen in the 4th round of the 2011 NFL Draft and as a rookie, Allen played a role in shutting down (or at least containing) the Patriots Rob Gronkowski in the 2011 Steelers upset of the Patriots. Word was that in 2012, Allen pushed Keenan Lewis hard for the starting slot. Lewis won, but when injures opened the door for Allen to start late in 2012, Allen responded with two interceptions and one forced fumble vs. the Bengals and then two forced fumbles in the season finale vs. the Browns.

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers, it appeared, had found their cornerback.

Allen got injured in the Steelers season 2013 opener vs. the Titans (who didn’t get injured that day), and struggled when he returned to health. However, his pick six in the snow at Lambeau sealed the Steelers win over Green Bay.

  • That was the Cortez Allen the Steelers had been waiting for.

The Steelers went out on a limb, and resigned Cortez Allen to a 25 million dollar contract before the 2014 season. IT was a good deal for Allen. He pocketed just under 6.3 million for just 12 games. The Steelers of course have cut Allen and moved on. Grade: Disappointment

Steelers 2012 4th round pick – Alameda Ta’amu

By 2012 Casey Hampton was on his last legs and, while Steve McLendon was looking good, the Steelers still were not ready to anoit him as Hampton’s successor. So Kevin Colbert traded up to get the last pure nose tackle in the draft Alameda Ta’amu.

  • One of the ironies about the pick, was that David DeCastro’s highlight reel showed him manhandling Ta’amu earlier in the year.

That was worrisome, but not nearly as worrisome as Ta’Amu’s drunken rampage through the South Side that could have easily killed someone. To the chagrin of many, the Steelers kept him around, but eventually let him go. Ta’Amu landed in Pittsburgh West aka the Arizona Cardinals, where he played in 21 games. Grade: Bust

Steelers 2013 4th round picks – Shamarko Thomas and Landry Jones

The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t trade future draft picks. It simply runs against the franchise’s philosophy. In 2013 the made an exception, however, and traded up to grab Shamarko Thomas, a safety out of Syracuse.

  • The word was that Shamarko would have gone 1st had he been 2 inches taller.

The Steelers put their money where their mouth was by working Shamarko into the slot early in the season. Shamarko got hurt, Will Allen returned, and after the Steelers 2013 debacle vs. New England, Shamarko’s snaps with the secondary can be counted in single digits (or almost.)

The Steelers haven’t give up on Shamarko yet, but at this point he’s doesn’t look to get off of special teams outside of an emergency. Grade: Bust

The Steelers surprised many when they drafted Landry Jones in the 4th round of 2014. Many speculated he was arriving as Ben Rothlisberger’s replacement. Instead, he replaced Charlie Batch. Landry Jones struggled in both the 2013 and 2014 preseasons, making fans long for the days when Brian St. Pierre held the clipboard.

  • The Steelers challenged Jones in 2015 at St. Vincent’s and Jones responded.

Landry Jones quite frankly still must prove he’s a competent number 2 NFL quarterback, but his off the bench performances vs. the Cardinals and the Raiders prove he’s a competent number 3 NFL quarterback. Grade: Serviceable Pick Up

Steelers 2014 4th Round Draft Pick – Martavis Bryant

When the Steelers turn comes to pick in the fourth round, it would be wise for Dan Rooney to veto any decision to pick a wide receiver…. As he did in 2000 and 2005, Kevin Colbert looked to build wide receiver depth in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Unlike Danny Farmer and Fred Gibson, his pick, Martavis Bryant, has played in the NFL.

  • And unlike Farmer and Gibson, Bryant has shown he has transformational talent.

But Bryant is of course dogged by off the field substance abuse issues, and will miss his third season due to a suspension.

Please Mr. Colbert, do not draft any more wide receivers in the 4th round. Grade: Disappointment

Steelers 2015 4th Round Draft Pick – Doran Grant

When the Steelers cut Doran Grant to make room for some waiver wire pickups, Steelers Nation reacted as if Mel Taylor Woodson had been sent packing. The reaction was exaggerated as the Steelers resigned Grant to the practice squad, and then the active roster.

  • But Grant only had one snap in 3 games.

Normally one would caution that it is far, far too early to come to any conclusion on a 4th round pick after a rookie year, and it IS too early to give up on Doran Grant. But given Kevin Colbert’s track record here, one would like to see more encouraging results. Grade:  Farm Team

Kevin Colbert’s Record in the 4th Round

In his seven drafts with Bill Cowher, Kevin Colbert had some bad misses with his fourth round picks, but he also found Larry Foote, Ike Taylor, and Willie Colon in the fourth round, and those men have 5 Super Bowl rings between them for games in which they started.

  • Unfortunately, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin have been a disaster in the 4th round.

They’ve traded up three times and only have an oft-injured average punter, a nose tackle most famous for an off the field incident, and safety who was supposed to replace Troy Polamalu but can only seem to play on special teams. Cotez Allen flashed ability, but faded even more quickly. Martavis Bryant tantalizes, but his toking might cost him an NFL career.

Landry Jones has grown into a respectable player, but his late development in 2015 isn’t enough to compensate for all the other outright busts. Grade: D

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Kelvin Beachum’s ACL Tear Eerily Reminiscent of Jerry Olsavsky Knee Injury, Lost Opportunity

The Steelers 25 to 13 victory over the Arizona Cardinals did not come without its costs. Michael Vick’s hamstring injury might have very well cost him his status as QB number 2, but Kelvin Beachum’s torn ACL could prove even more costly.

“Next Man Up” is a phrase that’s getting all too familiar in the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room. According The Steelers Wire, the Steelers have already missed 65 starter games due to injury. Per ESPN the Steelers are only second to the Green Bay Packers in terms of injuries.

As a fourth year rookie, Kelvin Beachum was scheduled to become a free agent and looked to cash in big time. He will of course still become a

free agent, but his value on the free agent market, but Beachum’s ACL injury will put a considerable dent into his market value.

it is unfortunate too because the Steelers offered Beachum a long-term contract prior to the beginning of the season, but Beachum offered to take his chances. No one knows how far the Steelers and Beachum were in terms of numbers, but he’d have done well to have talked to Steelers inside linebackers coach Jerry Olsavsky.

Olsavsky and Beachum Have a Lot in Common

It might seem odd to suggest that an offensive lineman take advice from an outside linebackers coach, but Jerry Olsavsky and Kelvin Beachum have a lot in common. When the Steelers drafted Jerry Olsavsky in the 10th round of the 1989 NFL draft, he was hardly the prototypical NFL inside linebacker. One commentator described him as “Not big enough, not strong enough, not fast enough, but simply good enough.”

  • Like Kelvin Beachum, Jerry Olsavsky defied the odds and made the Steelers opening day roster.

Like Beachum, injuries created an opportunity for Jerry Olsavsky to not only play, but to start as a rookie. Like Beachum, Jerry Olsavsky impressed coaches and skeptics a like, filling in for Hardy Nickerson so well that he earned AP All rookie team honors.

There their paths diverged. Kelvin Beachum became as starter in his second year, first getting forced into action at center after Maurkice Pouncey’s injury on opening day 2013 vs. the Titans, and then at left tackle when Mike Adams proved to be woefully inadequate.

In contrast, a healthy Hardy Nickerson kept Jerry Olsavsky on the bench though much of 1990, 1991, and 1992. There was no free agency then, so Olsavsky had little choice but accept his lot as a special teamer. In 1992 it was clear that Nickerson would not be back due to a contract dispute, and David Little’s skills were on the decline.

Even before the 1992 season was over, Bob Labriola of Steelers Digest was openly suggesting that Levon Kirkland and Jerry Olsavsky would be the Steelers starting inside linebacking tandem in 1993.

The Glory, Agony, and Lost Opportunity of Jerry Olsavsky’s 1993 Season

Kirkland and Olsavsky did take over the inside linebacking starting slots in 1993, and everything seemed to be falling into place for the unheralded draft pick from Pitt. The Steelers defense improved from 13th in the league to 3rd (in total yardage) and the Freeman McNeil verdict had ushered free agency into the NFL. And Olsavsky was in the final year of his contract….

The Steelers signed Rod Woodson and Barry Foster to lucrative deals in September, and made offers to a number of other players. Jerry Olsavsky was one of them. However, squabbles over contracts caused tension and distraction in the lockeroom, and the Steelers abruptly cut off all negotiations until the end of the season.

Jerry Olsavsky had decline an offer from the Steelers. The number are not available on the internet, but the $800,000 sticks in my memory, whether that was a signing bonus or an annual average is unknown. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it was good money in 1993.

  • Seven games into the season, Jerry Olsavsky suffered a devastating injury vs. the Cleveland Browns.

Again, the exact extent of the injury isn’t available on the internet, but if memory serves, Jerry Olsavsky blew out 3 of 4 ligaments in one of his knees. Olsavsky made a miraculous comeback, and was resigned to the Steelers active roster in the middle of 1994, and became a part time starter when a “high ankle sprain” marred Chad Brown’s 1994 season.

But the Jerry Olsavsky knee injury cost him his big payday in Pittsburgh.

Kelvin Beachum’s Free Agency Fortunes Unknown

Kelvin Beachum’s ACL injury isn’t nearly as devastating as the Jerry Olsavsky knee injury was. He will find interest on the free agent market, likely finding suitors in both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the rest of the league. But whatever offer he gets, it will certainly be less than whatever the Steelers had on the table last summer.

Beachum’s attitude is healthy, as he told the Pittsburgh Tribune Review:

That stuff will take care of itself when it is time to, and I said that from the get-go. I am a football player and this is one of the things that happen when you play football. It’s part of the game.

Good for him. But you can’t help but wonder if he doesn’t regret not talking to Olsavsky before turning the Steelers down.

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Top Storylines as Steelers Mini Camp 2015 Closes

The Pittsburgh Steelers wrapped up Mini camp this week and now the true off season begins. Mike Tomlin has long discounted spring practices as “Football in shorts” and it is true that there isn’t a lot to be learned from these sessions. Hence, Jim Wexell’s report that Tomlin tersely snapped a “no” as a response to a question about whether the rookies impressed him should surprise no one.

  • But this is 2015 the machine-like appetite of Steelers Nation must be fed.

Storylines emerge every year during Steelers OTA’s and Mini Camps and 2015 was no exception. The main storylines as the Steelers mini camp 2015 closes follow below Mike Tomlin’s picture.

The Steelers Offense is Poised to Explode

This should come as a surprise to no one. If the unit sputtered during the first half of 2014, it soared in the second. Ben Roethlisberger is playing the best football of his career, and Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant give him a potential lethal triple threat.

And that doesn’t include potential contributions from Heath Miller or rookie 3rd round pick Sammie Coates.

  • And, for what it is worth, the consensus of the Steelers press corps is that Martavis Bryant is set up for a break out year.

Johnny Mitchell Is Happy

As Dale Lolley points out, neither man has put on the pads yet, but Daniel McCullers and Clifton Geathers have both come to camp in shape, and both have Steelers defensive line coach Johnny Mitchell beaming.

For Steelers Linebackers Two is Better than One

The shape and direction of the defense under new defensive coordinator Keith Butler was a hot topic of course. But truth be told, there was little real news on front and there will not likely be any until the Steelers open vs. the Patriots.

One change that people are talking about is the decision to split the linebacking coaching duties between Joey Porter and Jerry Olsavsky.

The interesting thing is that move was made at the behest of Butler, who himself apprenticed under Dick LeBeau as his linebackers coach.

Steelers Undrafted Rookie Free Agents Generating a Buzz

Kevin Colbert has been an ace at finding unrestricted rookie free agents who blossom into legit NFL players, from stars like James Harrison and Willie Parker, to solid starters like Steve McLendon, to role players like Isaac Redman.

Going into training camp members of the Steelers 2015 undrafted rookie free agent class who’re generating a buzz include tight end Cameron Clear, wide receiver C.J. Goodwin, cornerback Kevin Fogg and, while they’re signed officially as wide receivers, Tyler Murphy and Devin Gardner will at least get a shot at challenging Landry Jones for the third quarterback slot.

Although, it’s worth noting, that per Dale Lolley, Landry Jones looked pretty good in mini camp.

But, as Mike Tomlin would remind us, let’s see how things play out when the pads to on and the hitting starts. See you in Latrobe, Steelers Nation!

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