Is James Harrison on the Roster Bubble? Or are the Steelers “Bettising” Him?

Is Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison roster spot in jeopardy? Recent comments by linebackers coach Joey Porter seem to open that door.

  • Yet it is also possible that the Steelers are “Bettising” their linebacking legend.

Joey Porter’s announcement that first round draft pick TJ Watt will start at outside linebacker across from Bud Dupree and that neither will rotate is welcome news.

James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons

James Harrison roars at practice while Lawrence Timmons looks on. Photo Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Finding a starter-capable player at right outside linebacker was one critical question the Steelers needed to answer “Yes” two during training camp, and it appears they leave St. Vincents having done so. But they will also leave St. Vincent’s without James Harrison having practiced with the team, which isn’t all that out of the ordinary, given that Harrison doesn’t need the reps.

But before the Steelers preseason opener against the Giants, Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell identified 15 potential open slots on the Steelers roster and 38 locks, leave Harrison and William Gay as “almost locks.”

  • In Wexell’s view a combination of a numbers game with Harrison not showing enough speed could put him in jeopardy.

Regardless of whether Wexell was simply speculating or musing about something he’d heard off the record, Dale Lolley of the Observer-Reporter’s conversation with Joey Porter thickened the plot, as Porter declared:

We know what he can do. At the same time, you want to see a little bit to make sure he still has got it,” Everybody has to be tested to see if you still got it. We can assume something. But the NFL, sometimes you just wake up one day and that pop is gone. There will be a time when we take the wrapping off of him and let him go out there so we can see if it’s still that James from last year.

That, combined with James Harrison being held out of practice, was enough to get Dale Lolley to question whether the Steelers were preparing to move on from James Harrison.

While that’s certainly a possibility, such a move would be out of character for the Steelers. It’s well known that Chuck Noll held on to too many of his starters from the 70’s for too long, but institutional memory has largely kept the team from making the same mistake, as James Farrior, Aaron Smith and Hines Ward learned during the 2012 off season.

The Steelers not only brought Harrison back, but offered him a two year deal, with Harrison proclaiming his desire to play into his 40s. The Steelers cut plenty of players before their contracts expire – think Justin Hartwig or Willie Colon, but it’s rare for them to cut someone after signing them to a new contract (Greg Warren excepted, although word is the Steelers did it this way so that Warren would benefit financially.)

Are the Steelers Bettising James Harrison?

The other possibility is that the Steleers are “Bettising” James Harrison. “Bettising” of course refers to Steelers Hall of Fame Running back Jerome Bettis, who began hearing calls from the experts (Mike Prisuta, for example) as early as the 2002 season.

  • And while Bill Cowher, Kevin Colbert and Dan Rooney didn’t pay much heed to those calls, outside criticism his ability still served to motivate Bettis late in his career.
Jerome Bettis, Ryan Clark

Jerome Bettis and Ryan Clark at St. Vincents in 2015. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Could the Steelers be doing something similar with James Harrison? It is possible but unlikely. James Harrison, who was in the weight room at 5:00 am the morning after the Steelers playoff win over the Chiefs, epitomes the concept of “self-starter.” He needs no motivation.

So on the one hand, you have the Steelers who don’t typically sign veterans and then cut them, on the other hand you have two veteran reporters who are not wont to suggest that someone of James Harrison’s stature is on the roster bubble as a matter of idle speculation.

To be clear, Jim Wexell has reiterated that he expects to see Harrison on the final roster. And even offered this after Harrion’s “mob interview” at St. Vincents:

As someone who would love nothing more than to see James Harrison hosting Lombardi Number 7 alongside Ben Roethlisberger, the hope here is that Wexell’s instinct is right and  Mike Tomlin and Joey Porter are in fact “Bettising” Deebo.

Time will tell. But until then, we’ll chalk this up as a case of 2+2 not quite equaling four.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Colin Cowherd’s Mike Tomlin Attack Amounts to Pure Idiocy

Why Colin Cowherd’s Mike Tomlin attack amounts to pure idiocy

One of the great personal ironies of the global economy is that, trips to the United States either prevent or seriously impair my ability to watch, follow and write about the Pittsburgh Steelers. So it came as a great shock Thursday morning in San Francisco to see that my friend Ivan Cole had taken it upon himself to defend Mike Tomlin against Colin Cowherd on Rebecca Rollet’s Going Deep with the Steelers.

  • My first thought was, “Are we really having this conversation? Aren’t the Steelers 2-0?”
colin cowherd's mike tomlin attack, ben roethlisberger, mike tomlin,

Ben Roethlisberger stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Mike Tomlin. Photo Credit: broncos.com

Well, yes, we are. And perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, because the year began with then BTSC scribe Chris Carter obliterating Jason Whitlock’s contention that Tomlin was “coddled” simply because he was African American. Ironically, or not, Whitlock launched his attack on Cowherd’s show.

My friend Mr. Cole launched a two pronged attack on Cowherd, first taking aim at Cowherd’s argument, and second speculating about Cowherd’s motives. Cole’s article amounts to must read for Steelers Nation, and there’s no reason to rehash his arguments here.

There is every reason to pile on additional reasons to prove that Colin Cowherd’s Mike Tomlin attack is pure idiocy.

Colin Cowherd’s Mike Tomlin Attack Rooted in Stale Criticisms

Colin Cowherd’s Mike Tomlin attack begins in the same old stale criticisms that have been leveled against Tomlin for years. The only one that holds any validity is Tomlin’s almost Thanksgiving Day trip of Jacoby Jones.

  • Cowherd criticizes Tomlin’s assistants for getting into fights with opposing players on the sideline.

Is this the best you can do? The charges leveled against Joey Porter and Mike Munchak during the circus in Cincinnati have been debunked by video evidence. Neither coach acted as an instigator, nor were any of their actions inappropriate.

Really? Last January Mike Tomlin led a Pittsburgh Steelers team into a division rival’s stadium on a rainy night and January. His third string quarterback, Landry Jones threw an interception from the Steelers 14 with 1:43 left to play with Pittsburgh down by 1.

  • Let’s see, how did that one turn out?

Oh, yeah, the Steelers came back and won that one, and one of the franchise’s most dramatic playoff come backs since the Immaculate Reception (and that’s not a comparison one makes lightly.) Yeah, Mike Tomlin really mangles clock management, and if he doesn’t, his teams choke with the game on the line.

Tomlin Was Simply Lucky to get Roethlisberger

The basis of Cowherd’s argument is that Tomlin was lucky to inherit a roster with Ben Roethlisberger and others.

There’s no doubt that Ben Roethlisberger has made Mike Tomlin a better head coach just as Bill Cowher suddenly became a Super Bowl winning instead of a Super Bowl contending head coach after Roethlisberger arrived in Pittsburgh. And Bill Parcells was a better coach with Phil Simms than he was with Drew Bledsoe, Vinny Testaverde and whoever else he had under center with Jets, Patriots, and Cowboys.

  • But Cowherd betrays himself here without even knowing it.

You see, when Mike Tomlin arrived in Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger was “an effective game manager,” and of who it was said that “nothing to this point suggests that Roethlisberger can carry an undermanned team on his shoulders to playoff success.” This missive was written on ESPN back on August 2, 2007, before Mike Tomlin had called his first game as Steelers head coach. (The same article suggested that Matt Leinart was a sure-fire Hall of Famer while Ben would never get to Canton.)

  • A decade later those words seem laughable.

In fact, during the Steelers rebuilding seasons in 2012 and 2013, Roethlisberger’s presence was cited as a reason why the Steelers could go all the way. Cowherd himself extols Roethlisberger as one of the best three quarterbacks in the AFC. He’s right. But doesn’t Mike Tomlin deserve credit for helping develop Ben Roethlisberger, or at the very least providing him an environment to thrive in?

  • And while we’re at it, has Colin Cowherd always thought that Ben Roethlisberger was an elite quarterback?

Or did Cowherd sing the “Big Ben’s just a ‘game manager’ chorus” a decade ago?  I don’t know, but perhaps some questions are best left unasked.

Mike Tomlin is a George Seifert, not a Barry Switzer

Colin Cowherd’s Mike Tomlin attack is laced with comparison’s to Barry Switzer. The argument is that, like Switzer, Tomlin inherited a talented team and rode on his predecessor’s coattails. It IS true that Mike Tomlin took charge of a Super Bowl ready team.

Tomlin started James Harrison whereas Bill Cowher kept him on the bench. Unlike Cowher, Tomlin didn’t had the benefit of the services of Jeff Hartings and Alan Faneca, instead he made it work with Justin Hartwig and Darnell Stapleton. What’s more, Mike Tomlin’s 2010 Steelers team featured even more new faces.

  • Barry Switzer got handed a Super Bowl caliber team, and within two years, he brought home another Lombardi Trophy.

Kudos to him. But two years later, Switzer’s team had imploded and his players quit on him late in the season. Has last game featured Troy Aikman imploring his teammates in vain to hustle to the line of scrimmage to run the hurry up offense. Jerry Jones fired him.

  • Comparing Mike Tomlin to Barry Switzer is completely off base.

The better comparison is between Mike Tomlin and George Seifert. Like Tomlin, George Seifert got handed the keys to a Super Bowl-ready team, and like Tomlin, Seifert drove his team home. Seifert however, kept his team in contention and in 1994 won another Super Bowl.

  • No one in Steelers Nation should count Lombardi Trophies before they’re won.

But today the Pittsburgh Steelers are legitimate Super Bowl contenders, with a roster that only contains three players from their last Championship team….

…Not bad for a coach who simply got “lucky” to inherit a talented team.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

The Colbert Record: Grading Steelers 2010 Draft Class

Tonight, probably before the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft is complete, you’ll begin to team’s draft performances graded. Bold franchise-saving first round moves will be praised. Catastrophic mistakes will be castigated. Oversights will be lamented.

  • In the end it all means nothing.

That’s right, nothing.

Legitimate evaluations of any draft come, at the earliest, three years after the fact, and ideally at least four years later. Five year draft evaluations give an even more complete picture.

This latest edition of The Colbert Record goes about grading the Pittsburgh Steelers 2010 Draft Class, which should rightly be considered the crown jewel of the draft class of the Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin era.

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

True NFL Draft grades only come with years of hindsight

2010 Draft First Round – Maurkice Pouncey – Striking Gold at Just the Right Time

The Pittsburgh Steelers neglected offensive line building via the NFL Draft between 2006 and 2009 for reasons never fully explained or explored . Even when they used premium picks on offensive lineman they failed to find value, such as taking Kraig Urbik in 2009.

That changed in 2010, when the Steelers used their first round pick on Maurkice Pouncey. Pouncey not only forced Justin Hartwig’s retirement, he’s made 4 straight Pro Bowls. The Pro Football Focus types will tell you that Pouency is overrated.

It says here that the Steelers resurgence on offensive line began the day they picked Pouncey. Grade: Grand Slam

2010 Draft Second Round – Jasion Worilds – Unspectacular But Sold Shot at Replacing Replace Silverback

When the Steelers passed on Sean Lee and picked Jason Worilds, Worilds was clearly picked as heir apparent to James Harrison….

…What was that about best laid plans of Mice and Men?

Worilds ended up replacing LaMarr Woodley, and he’s now out of football while James Harrison returns for a final season. Which isn’t to say that Jason Worilds was a bad pick. He did have difficulties finding a place in the Steelers lineup, but did well in his time before assuming a starting role in mind 2013.

Worilds was a good outside linebacker, but suffers by comparison to the tremendous legacy the Steelers boast at this position. And given how high they took Worilds, you’d expect a little more. Grade: Serviceable Pickup

2010 Draft Third Round – Emmanuel Sanders — Finding Excellent Value in the Value Round

You expect third rounders to develop into starters, and that’s exactly what Emmanuel Sanders did. Injuries limited him in 2011 and 2012 to a lesser extent, but Sanders made plenty of the opportunities given to him at the time.

In early 2012 comparisons between Sanders and a young Hines Ward were not inappropriate. When he finally broke the starting lineup full time in 2013, he didn’t quite reach that level, but he did quite well. Grade: Quality Value Pick +

2010 Fourth Round – Thaddeus Gibson — Striking Out on the Inside

The man who got the ink coming out of mini camp and during the early days of the Steelers 2010 training camp was Thaddeus Gibson. Yet, as the competition progressed, Gibson couldn’t keep up. He made the roster, but the Steelers cut Gibson in October and San Fran picked him up (prompting Ed Bouchette to cry “Dwaine Board” once again). However, unlike Dwaine Board, Thaddeus Gibson never did anything of note in his stays with San Francisco, Chicago, or Tennessee. Grade: Bust

2010 Fifth Round – Chris Scott, Crezdon Butler, Stevenson Sylvester, — A Mixed Bag

The Steelers drafted 3 players in the 5th round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

Pittsburgh was big on Chris Scott, even after he injured himself in before training camp, ruining his rookie year. Scott made it back to play in two games in 2011 but couldn’t hold on. He did land in Pittsburgh Northeast in 2012 but saw little action. However, Carolina picked up, where he made 8 starts in 2013 and returned to play in 10 games in 2014. Grade: Farm Team

The record shows that Crezdon Butler actually appeared in four games for the Steelers in 2010, but he got cut in 2011. However, he’s hung on since then, playing for Pittsburgh West aka Arizona, Pittsburgh Northeast aka Buffalo, Washington, San Diego, and Tampa. Grade: Farm Team

The Steelers third 5th round pick of the 2010 NFL Draft was none other than Stevenson Sylvester. Sylvester played well on special teams as a rookie and looked to make a big leap during his sophomore season. He didn’t, lasting all of a handful of plays in his first start in the Steelers upset over New England. Still, Stevenson developed into a reliable back up, and Sylvester’s return in 2013 helped bring the Steelers back to their winning ways. That’s fine for a 5th rounder. Grade: Quality Value Pick

2010 Sixth Round – Jonathan Dwyer, Antonio Brown — Hitting the Jackpot

The Steelers first pick in the 6th round of the 2010 NFL Draft saw them grab Jonathan Dwyer. Dwyer’s career with the Steelers was checkered, as Dwyer seemingly showed up to training camp over weight and only made the team due to injuries and/or late pre-season surges. Dwyer’s career with the Steelers might be labeled a disappointment by many and perhaps there’s some justification to that. But you don’t expect to draft a stud in the sixth round and, taking that into consideration, Dwyer delivered excellent value for his draft position. Grade: Over Performer

  • You don’t “expect “ to draft a stud in the sixth round, but sometimes you do.

Antonio Brown proves that good players remain on the board in every round. Brown made his mark early as a rookie in the Steelers upset vs. the Titans. He made it again in the playoffs vs. Baltimore and again vs. the Jets. His play in 2011 made Mike Wallace expendable, and the franchise hasn’t looked back since. Grade: Grand Slam

2010 Seventh Round – Doug Worthington — Another Farm Team Pick

The Steelers picked up Doug Worthington with their last pick in the 2010 NFL Draft and Worthington never held on. He got picked up in 2011 by the Washington Redskins, and appeared in six games in 2012. He was back in DC in 2013 but saw no action, and held a roster spot at some point for the Seattle Seahawks in 2014. Grade: Farm Team

Steelers 2010 Draft Clearly Colbert and Tomlin’s Best

It’s been five years since Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin picked the Steelers 2010 Draft class, and only two players remain on the team from that group. Normally that would be a damming commentary, but the truth is that the Steelers came out of that draft with two studs, and got solid contributions from several other players during the course of their rookie contracts – a key to success in the salary cap era. Overall Draft grade: B+/A-

Thanks for visiting. Click here for more on the Steelers and the 2015 NFL Draft.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Steelers 2015 Draft Needs at Center – Pittsburgh’s Basically Set

The clock is ticking towards the 2015 NFL Draft and Steel Curtain Rising’s evaluation of the Steelers 2015 draft needs continues, with center holding the focus of attention.

Analyzing Steelers Depth at Center – The Starter

Ray Mansfield. Mike Webster. Dermonti Dawson. Jeff Hastings. The Pittsburgh Steelers legacy yields nothing when it comes to center. Sean Mahan might not have proven able to the task, and even if Justin Hartwig did provide solid play during the Steelers run to Super Bowl XLIII run, the franchise went into the 2010 NFL Draft looking to get a blue chip player there.

  • The Steelers of course drafted Maurkice Pouncey with their first round pick in 2010.

Pouncey won the starting job during the summer of 2010, and he has been named to the Pro Bowl in each season which he’s remained healthy enough to start.

2

 

Pounecy is also becoming a leader of the unit, and the Steelers signed Pouncey to a long term contract last summer, leaving no question as to where they see their future at the position.

Analyzing Steelers Depth at Center – the Back Ups

When Kevin Colbert went bargain shopping after the initial 2013 cut downs, one of the players he brought to Pittsburgh was Cody Wallace. But at the time, Wallace was seen as an insurance policy, a “nice to have.” Of course by season’s end, Wallace was starting, as the Steelers lost not one, but two starting centers in a single season.

Wallace appeared in 15 games in 2014 and started two, at guard, and did quite well. He’s a serviceable back up, and the Steelers certainly appreciate what that means after the 2013 opening day disaster.

Priority Status of Center for Steelers in 2015 NFL Draft

With Maurkice Pouncey set as the starter, and Wallace available as a capable back up the Steelers are pretty well set at the position, save for another uncanny 2013 like rash of injuries at center.

Steel Curtain Rising’s credo was, is and will remain “you can never have enough good offensive lineman.” You can’t. But the Steelers have two centers, which is more than they started 2013 with, and that should be enough. Should a tackle or guard who has the position flexibility present himself in the draft, then by all means the Steelers should take him.

But given the Steelers depth and their needs at other positions, drafting a pure center in 2015 is simply a luxury they do not have, and the priority status of center for the Steelers in the 2015 NFL Draft must be considered Low.

Thanks for visiting. Click here for more on the Steelers and the 2015 NFL Draft.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Do Steelers OTA’s Reveal Mike Tomlin Developing a Soft Spot for Rookies?

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin detests anointing rookies. It’s just not his thing. Tomlin is of the firm belief that rookies must earn their stripes in the NFL.

  • Just how far will Tomlin go to make that point? 

Back during the 2010 training camp, the Pittsburgh Steelers had a rookie sensation. Word was that he was clearly out playing the incumbent starter, a Super Bowl XLIII starting veteran to whom the Steelers had signed to a 4 year contract just 10 months before.

  • That meant little to Tomlin.

To avoid anointing the ascending rookie, Tomlin developed a pre-season starting rotation that included Johanthan Scott “competing” with Flozell Adams for the starting right tackle position. You might remember the rookie in question, his name was Maurkice Pouncey, who went on to not only oust the starter Justin Hartwig, but he pushed him off the roster entirely.

As Steelers Digest Bob Labriola pointed out at the time, Flozell Adams was never in danger of not getting the starting job, but Tomlin didn’t want to leave any appearance that Pouncey was being handed the job.

The Times Are They a Chang’in? 

Fast forward to 2014. The Steelers shock all of the pundits in the 2014 NFL Draft by selecting inside linebacker Ryan Shazier with their first round pick. Yes, Ben Roethlisberger will have to wait 4 rounds to get his tall receiver, and fans will have to wait longer to get their corner.

  • Yet, some things go according to plan, as Tomlin declared regarding Shaizer and 2nd round pick Stephon Tuitt:  “It’s [starting] not something that’s going to be given to them, They’ll be given an opportunity to earn it.”

Of course a coach is supposed to say that on draft day. But watch what coaches do, not what they say. Almost as soon as the Steelers drafted David DeCastro in 2012, then offensive line coach Sean Kugler was on the phone to Willie Colon, informing him that the oft rumored move from tackle to guard was happening.

  • Steelers OTA’s are in full swing, and Dick LeBeau and Mike Tomlin didn’t wait a single snap to replace Vince Williams with Ryan Shazier in the first team defense.

The move itself has little more than symbolic value at this point. OTA’s are, as Tomlin loves to preach, “football in shorts.” Perhaps this is linebacker’s coach Keith Butler’s way of introducing the playbook to Shazier via baptism by fire. Perhaps come training camp at St. Vincient’s in Latrobe, Shazier will indeed be forced to win the starting role in the trenches.

But for now it’s a change of tune if not in fact a change in song on the part of Mike Tomlin….

…And for those of you who’re into reading things into “Football in shorts,” Shaizer closed the loop on this story by knocking down Pouncey during OTA’s.

Thanks for visiting. Click here to check out the rest of Steel Curtain Rising. Or… Follow @SteelCurtainRis

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Can’t Get Enough of Tennessee? Steelers Sign Former Titans Center Fernando Velasco

Note to aspiring NFL centers. If you’re looking to for a shot at the mantle of Ray Mansfield, Mike Webster, Dermontti Dawson, and Jeff Hartings and you don’t get drafted by the Steelers, you should try to first latch on with the Tennessee Titans.

One of Mike Tomlin’s more unsuccessful personnel moves was to bring Sean Mahan to the Steelers from Tampa. After that experiment failed, the Steelers looked to free agent center Jeff Hartwig who’d cut his teeth in Tennessee.

Now the same cycle is repeating itself. The experiment with Kelvin Beachum at center may last one merciful game as the Pittsburgh Steelers signed veteran center Fernando Velasco.

Long time free lance reporter Jim Wexell described Velasco in these terms:

I watched new Steelers OL Fernando Velasco this preseason and am surprised he was available. Strong, some mobility. Quality pick-up.
— James C Wexell (@jimwexell) September 9, 2013

It is not know if Velasco will start Sunday vs. the Bengals but, unlike Kelvin Beachum, he’ll at least have game experience at center. One thing is certain, regardless of whether Velasco starts or not, he won’t spend his week in practice as the team’s number 2 tight end…

Steelers Continue to Shuffle Roster

The shuffling of the Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 roster in the wake of their disastrous loss to the Titans also continued in other areas, as Jonathan Dwyer returned to the team and kicker Shayne Graham also came on board due to Shawn Suisham’s hamstring injury.

Maurkice Pouncey, Larry Foote, and LaRod Stephens-Howling officially went on season-ending injured reserve.

Thanks for visiting. Click here to check out the rest of Steel Curtain Rising

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Steelers To Cut Willie Colon in 2 Years

Steelers fans experiencing a feeling of euphoria over the signing of offensive lineman Willie Colon need look no further than La Toalla Terrible to burst their bubbles.

La Toalla Terrible, ever one to ferret out those hard to find news nuggets, uncovered a shocking revelation from the Steelers brass.

The Steelers plan to cut Willie Colon within two years.

Sound crazy.

Think about it:

  • The Steelers signed Sean Mahan in 2007 to a five year deal and then…

…Traded him back to Tampa Bay in 2008

  • They signed Kendall Simmons to a four year deal in 2007 and then…

…cut him in 2009

Notice a trend? Well keep your eyes peeled boys and girls because it gets better.

  • After signing Justin Hartwig to a 2 year deal in 2008, they extended his contract for four years in 2009, and then…

…cut him in 2010

  • After benching Max Starks in 2007 they made him their transition player in 2008 and then the franchise player in 2009 before finally signing him to a four year deal in 2009 with a ten million dollar bonus, only to, you guessed it…

… cut him in 2011.

What’s more, the Steelers really wanted to resign Marvel Smith before the 2008 season. After pouting at Pittsburgh’s proposal Smith “NO” opted to become a free agent and was promptly put on the after falling prey to injury against Jacksonville.

Steelers Football Operations Director Cevin Kolbert regrets that one to this very day, explaining to La Toalla Terrible:

You know we offered Marvel a multi-year contract with a nice bonus, it’s a shame he didn’t sign it. His refusal really wrought havoc with our plans.

‘Messed up your plans!’ La Toalla Terrible exclaimed! ‘How could that be, didn’t you dodge a bullet on a not giving a bunch of money to a guy forced into retirement less than a year later?’

“Relax,” cautioned Kolbert, “It’s a sane strategy.”

‘Strategy?’ ‘Strategy?’ ‘How is that a sane strategy?’ demanded La Toalla.

“Don’t you see?” countered Kolbert, “we wanted to lock down Marvel for the same reason we locked down Willie.”

“So why sign lineman to long term contracts only to cut them two years later,” La Toalla Terrible insisted, and then stared at his source through the slits of his eyes.

After holding out in silence Kolbert finally caved, offering in exasperation, “ as Kolbert revealed, “you see, it keeps the rest of the league guessing!”

La Toalla Terrible (Spanish for Terrible Towel) takes Steel Curtain Rising’s readers for walks along the bizzaro side of Steelers Nation. Click here to read more of La Toalla’s rumblings and mumblings. Click here for the rest of Steel Curtain Rising.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Watch Tower: Leftwich Injury, Roethlisberger Suspension, Steelers Cuts

The final week of the Steelers 2009 off season provided a lot of news and a lot of drama between Byron Leftwich’s injury and the Steelers final cuts.

How all of this impacts the Steelers is of course what fans care about. And that is as it should be. However, the events of the last week provided some insights into how the press works. Here are some highlights.

Leftwich Injures Left Knee and Leaves Game

This news spread pretty fast – I learned about it from PG Plus, but it was also carried by ESPN and other outlets.

But Ed Bouchette came away with the scoop of the night, informing us that the Steelers were taking Leftwich to the hospital to get an MRI done.

  • Score one for Ed Bouchette and the Post-Gazette.

However those following the comment stream on Behind the Steel Curtain learned that Leftwich had torn his MCL, thanks to a tweet from Leftwich’s agent.

  • Score one for Twitter and fan-based sites like Behind the Steel Curtain

The Big Meeting in New York

ESPN.com’s Sal Palantonio dropped a minor bombshell during the middle of the week, when he reported that his sources had informed him that Ben Roethlisberger and his representatives were going to push Roger Goodell to reduce his suspension to two or three games.

He further reported that Steelers President Art Rooney II was going to New York to support Ben in this endeavor.

The interesting part is that the Pittsburgh papers did immediately pick up the story.

However, the Post-Gazette’s Gerry DuLac reported the day before the meeting that neither Ben nor the Steelers were going to push Goodell for a further reduction of Ben’s suspension. All reports out of New York indicate that he was right.

  • Score one for Gerry DuLac and the Post-Gazette.

Ben Breaks Down in the Locker Room Before Beginning his Suspension

One of the most interesting stories of the last week was one that only readers of Jim Wexell’s Inside the Steel City site saw.

Mike Pruista, the former Tribune Review columnist and current WDVE sports director, reported that Ben Roethlisberger broke down in the locker room and addressed the team, apologizing for the fact that he was about to be suspended.

The interesting thing is that neither rival Pittsburgh publicaions, nor national publications, picked up the story.

I’ve always liked Jim Wexell since his days with the web site Real Pittsburgh.com because I felt he brought something to readers that other beat writers missed, and this amounts to a major another scoop on the part of him and Pruista.

They may have benefited from some sort of exclusive, but if that’s the case it in no way diminishes the power of their story.

  • Score one for Inside the Steel City.

Steelers Reach Cut Down Day

Steelers fans could get information on the team’s first 10 cuts directly from the team’s website, although as noted at the time, Behind the Steel Curtain beat both Pittsburgh papers in getting the information to the web.

Indeed, Scott Brown of the Tribune-Review got something before mid-night, but the Post-Gazette did not have anything up there as of 12:00 am Eastern.

With just a few clicks, fans could learn that Kraig Urbik, Justin Hartwig, and Frank “The Tank” Summers were also going to be included in the next wave of cuts, news that came from Inside Pittsburgh Sports, among other sources.

Interestingly enough, readers of the Post-Gazette did not learn about these impending moves, not even from the paid PG Plus section.

  • Score one for Inside Pittsburgh Sports and Twitter

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.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Steelers Cutting Frank “The Tank” Summers?

Jerry DePaoli of the Inside Pittsburgh Sports is reporting that the agent of Frank “The Tank” Summers in addition to a league source have confirmed that the Steelers 2009 fifth round draft pick has been cut.

The report also indicates that the Steelers will attempt to sign Summers to the practice squad, although Craig Schaffer, Summer’s agent, says he has already gotten calls from interested teams.

Such reports from agents are to be taken with a grain of salt. Sometimes they are true, sometimes talk is just talk, and other times the agent is simply attempting to create the impression that his client is in demand.

Inside Pittsburgh Sports is also reporting that the Steelers granted permission to Justin Hartwig’s agent to seek a trade. Jim Wexell’s Twitter feed carried a report that Steel Curtain Rising referenced earlier saying that Hartwig had been told to “look elsewhere.”

Thanks for visiting. Click here to follow Steel Curtain Rising on Twitter.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Justin Hartwig Reportedly Cut By Steelers

359 days ago the Steelers signed starting center Justin Hartwig to a four year extension.

Today Inside the Steel City’s Jim Wexell reports that the Steelers have decided to part ways with Hartwig.

If this turns out to be correct, Hartwig would be the biggest cut the Steelers have or will make, as Hartwig started every game for the team since joining as an unrestricted free agent in the 2008 off season.

Hartwig’s play, however, had slipped, and many felt he had been out played by back up center Doug Legursky and even Kraig Urbik, whom the Steelers have also decided to cut.

Even if this report turns out to be false, which is doubtful, Hartwig will be replaced in the starting line up by 2010 first round draft pick Maurkice Pouncy.

Thanks for visiting. Click here to follow Steel Curtain Rising on Twitter.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!