“Choto” Ben Roethlisberger’s Remarks on Mason Rudolph Summed Up in Porteño Spanish

An advantage of living long abroad enough to truly understand its language and culture is that you discover some languages are better equipped to express concepts than others.

For example English has “the wind chill factor” and “the heat index” whereas Spanish has la sensacion termica which communicates both concepts with better economy and accuracy. It is certainly a two way street, as Spanish has no equivalent for “parallel park.”

  • This ties into Steelers football because a recent WhatsApp chat in the Steelers Argentina group concluded that Ben Roethlisberger’s remarks on Mason Rudolph were “Choto.”

Attentive readers will remember “Choto” appeared on this site last September when staff writer Gustavo Vallegos aka El Dr. de Acero used it to describe the bubble screens Todd Haley seemed so intent on throwing to Martavis Bryant.

Yannick Ngakoue, Ben Roethlisberger, Ngakoue Roethlisberger sack, Steelers vs Jaguars, Steelers Jaguars Playoffs

Yannick Ngakoue sacks Ben Roethlisberger. Photo Credit: Steelers.com, Karl Roser

At the time we presented it as an example of how Argentine football fans were taking ownership of their corner of the sport by applying the local slang.

  • Today we use it because the example really brings the idiomatic meaning of “choto” to life.

“Choto” is of course an artifact of Argentine lunfardo or slang an refers literally to, ah, um… how you would describe a certain part of the male anatomy that is either too small or comes up short at inopportune times. Harsh though it may be, it accurately describes Ben Roethlisberger’s reaction to Steelers drafting of Mason Rudolph.

Before delving into why, let’s give Ben the benefit of the doubt.

Giving Ben the Benefit of the Doubt. For the Moment

Roethlisberger doesn’t enjoy the threat of being made redundant his job, and in that respect he is no different than you and I. Take things a step further. An NFL quarterback is ultimate alpha male in pro sports.

  • Alpha males, by instinct, do not share.

Moreover, in football, it is impossible for quarterbacks to “share.” There’s no way Mike Tomlin can platoon two quarterbacks the way Bill Cowher paired Jerome Bettis and Willie Parker. Nor can Randy Fichtner develop an no equivalent to the Ray MansfieldMike Webster rotation that Chuck Noll employed.

  • So, to a certain degree, a franchise quarterback welcoming his would-be successor with less than open arms is actually a healthy sign.

A quarterback with a chip on his shoulder is a quarterback who has the competitive fire burning that’s needed to rally his team late in the 4th quarter. In Spanish they refer to quarterbacks as “mariscal de campo” which translates literally to “Field Marshal.” If that doesn’t quite make sense, think back to Ben Roethlisberger in Super Bowl XLIII and you’ll understand why the term is so fitting.

That’s the Big Ben that captured Steelers Nations hearts and imaginations, and that’s the Big Ben that’s going to bring home Lombardi Number 7.

Even Still Ben Roethlisberger’s Remarks Are “Choto”

Even still, that doesn’t let Ben Roethlisberger off the hook.

If you’re reading this, you’ve read or heard Ben Roethlisberger’s words several times on several sites already. No need to rehash them here. But, in keeping with the linguistic theme of this piece, let’s do a little translation exercise with Roethlisberger’s remarks:

Ben’s “surprised” the Steelers drafted Rudolph
Translation: “Surprised” = ticked off

Ben wonders if the Steelers brain trust “believed” him when he told him he’d play 3 to 5 years.
Translation: Careful for what you wish for. Ben discussed retirement privately during several off seasons before doing so publically a year ago.

Ben wonders how a player who is going to be way down on the QB depth chart can help win a Super Bowl.
Translation: Ben, like a good alpha male is marking his territory.

Fourth, Ben might “point him to the playbook” if Mason ask for help.
Translation: This 36 year old signal caller is worried Father Time might be darkening his door.

As mentioned above, Ben Roethlisberger’s attitude is partially justified. But if you look closely at Mason Rudolph’s post draft comments, it’s clear that the rookie understands his place in the pecking order and is bending over backwards to make that clear.

That Ben Roethlisberger seems intent on taking the opposite interpretation, almost seems to reveal a little latent insecurity, insecurity unbecoming to a future Hall of Famer who professes a desire to play another 3 to 5 years.

And that’s what’s disappointing about his comments. Or, as Argentines would say, “Choto.”

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Steelers 2017 Summer Reading Recommendations & Poll

Memorial Day weekend has arrived, and with it the unofficial beginning of summer. Neighborhood pools are opening, kids are looking towards the end of school, backyard barbecues are getting fired up and…

  • …The NFL’s true off season is about to begin.

While the Steelers still have a few more weeks of OTA’s and minicamp, we’re rapidly approaching the one time of the year when there really is no real football news to be had. Once upon a time that was the norm, form February to March, with the exception of the NFL Draft. But the world’s changed, and Steelers Nation now demands its dose of Steelers news on a daily basis.

  • That’s dosage will be hard to get pretty soon.

Every off season since this sites founding, yours truly has thought fill the void with reviews of the books we’ve read on the Steelers. Well, that hasn’t happened yet, and probably won’t happen this year. But this year we thought we’d take a mini-step in that direction by publishing our Steelers Summer Reading Poll, with capsule summaries of each of the books in our library.

Steelers 2017 Summer Reading, Their Life's Work, The Ones Who Hit the Hardest, Dawn of a New Steel Age

Image via Pittsburgh Magazine

Take a look at the list below and vote for your favorites:

[yop_poll id=”52″]

Dan Rooney’s self-titled autobiography is a must read for any serious Steelers fan and includes all kinds of insights, including the revelation that Dan, haunted by missing out on Dan Marino, push to draft Ben Roethlisberger.

Ruanaidh has been described as a giant love letter by Art Rooney Jr. to his father. That’s accurate. Another excellent “Fly on the Wall” read from a man who helped architect the Pittsburgh Steelers rise from NFL doormat, to the best football team the league has or ever will see.

Sports Illustrated once described Myron Cope as the soul of the Pittsburgh Steelers and here the Steelers soul tells his tale in Double Yoi a book filled with insights about various Pittsburgh Steelers from the glory years until the Kevin Colbert and Bill Cowher Era including chapters devoted to Terry Bradshaw, Kordell Stewart, Dwight White and Ernie Holmes.

  • Their Life’s Work by Gary Pomerantz isn’t as good as all the hype the book got when it was published in 2013 – it is far better.

Pomerantz give a detailed look at the Life and Times of Joe Greene, Mike Webster, Franco Harris and the rest of the Super Steelers. While Pomerantz clearly holds deep admiration for his subjects, the author pulls no punches with frank discussions of the toll that steroids and head trauma took and continue to take on Pittsburgh’s heroes.

Chuck Noll, His Life's Work Michael MacCambridge’s

His Life’s Work is one I’ve only thumbed through, but Michael MacCambridge’s work is the first and certainly to be the only authorized biography of Chuck Noll. One only needs to glance through this historic book to see that MacCambridge has unearthed unparalleled insights into the man known as the Emperor while unearthing a trove of facts about his time with the Steelers.

Steeler Nation documents the road trip Jim Wexell took in 2007 in a quest to understand the phenomenon that is Steelers Nation and is truly a work of art. His interview with legendary Steelers linebacker Greg Lloyd is worth the purchase price alone.

In The Ones Who Hit the Hardest Chad Millman and Shawn Coyne prove that sports books can go a level deeper, as they detail the Steelers and Cowboys rivalries by comparing the two team’s on the field rivalry with the social and economic transformations that both communities were experiencing in the 1970’s. Click here for a full review by Behind the Steel Curtain founder Michael Bean.

Cowher Power is a compilation of articles published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from 1992 to 2005, published by the newspaper following the Steelers victory on Super Bowl XL. A nice table book which unfortunately contains more than a few factual errors which really weaken its quality.

From Black to Gold is the only book on this list to get a full review here. Written by Tim Gleason, aka Mary Rose from the Golden Age of Behind the Steel Curtain, From Black to Gold is an excellent book that succeeds in covering ground that professional writers have missed.

Andy Russell, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, Steelers Linebacker 70's

Jack Ham, Jack Lambert and Andy Russell. Photo via SteelersUK.com

Andy Russell’s A Steeler Odyssey balances tales of the Pittsburgh Steelers transformation under Chuck Noll, with stories about Russell’s travels around the world with Ray Mansfield, Lynn Swann, and Mel Blount as well as Russell’s stories about his attempts to build his business. Another book that is a worthy investment of your time and money.

Dawn of a New Steel Age is the book Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Ed Bouchette wrote during the crippling 1992 Pittsburgh newspaper strike which describes the end of the Chuck Noll era and the beginning of Bill Cowher’s reign, including profiles on players such as Hardy Nickerson, Rod Woodson, and Neil O’Donnell. In the late 1990’s I saw a review of this book that described it as “The best insider book ever.” The observation is probably more correct today than it was then.

Men of Steel by Jim Wexell contains capsule profiles of Pittsburgh Steelers from the Mike Tomlin era all the way back to portraits of men who played for the likes of Jock Sutherland and Walt Kiesling. While the book’s overall quality does take a hit due to some surprising factual errors, its individual portraits form veritable mosaic that depicts franchise as a whole.

Bill Cowher, Kordell Stewart

Bill Cowher and Kordell Stewart. Photo Credit AP Gene Puskar

Dare to Dream and Keep the Faith were penned in 1996 and 1997 by Jim O’Brien and contain stories both about the Steelers from the Cowher-Donahoe era as well as stories about the Super Steelers. O’Brien’s book, The Chief, tells the story of Art Rooney Sr. though the words of those who he touched, and includes rare profiles of Tim, John and Patrick Rooney.

Just Watch the Game by John Steigerwald goes into detail about all three major Pittsburgh sports teams and its media landscape. Steigerwald pulls no punches and pointedly refuses to genuflect at the altar of political correctness. Even if you disagree with much of Steigerwald’s political world view, he offers valuable insights on the Steelers and he is an accomplished writer.

Matt Lode’s 100 Things that Every Steelers Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die’s title is self-explanatory. It also lists Steel Curtain Rising as one of the best Steelers blogs out there, so that alone makes it a great book!

Share Your Steelers Summer Reading Recommendations

There are obviously a lot of other books written about the Pittsburgh Steelers, some good, some bad and some in between. Please take a moment to share your Steelers summer reading recommendations either by writing your choices in the poll or leaving a comment.

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Steelers 2017 Free Agent Cody Wallace – Does B.J. Finney’s Rise Mean Wallace’s “Life’s Work?” has Arrived?

In the modern, salary-cap era of the NFL, getting a pink slip on cut down day doesn’t necessarily spell doom. Current Steelers Fitzgerald Toussaint, Anthony Chickillo and James Harrison have been cut only to see another NFL Day.

  • But when The Turk came knocking down in Tampa in September 2013, Cody Wallace had to fear The End had arrived.

After all, Cody Wallace had bounced around between the 49ers, Lions, Texans, and Jets rosters and practice squads from 2008 to 2011 and landed a spot duty position with Tampa in 2012. When you’re a 28 year old NFL offensive lineman who has been with 5 teams in 5 years and you get cut, “Life’s Work” is usually comes next.

But even then, Cody Wallace appeared to be an insurance pickup. Maurkice Pouncey was continuing the Steelers tradition of stability at center that runs (almost) unbroken from Ray Mansfield, to Mike Webster, to Dermontti Dawson to Jeff Hartings. Little did they know, the Steelers would need Wallace’s services and need them soon.

That was four years ago and now the Steelers must decide if free agent Cody Walllace’s services are still worth it.

cody wallace, cody wallace free agent, steelers vs packers, steelers 2017 free agents

Cody Wallace starting at center in the Steelers 2013 game against Green Bay at Lambeau Field. Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch, USA TODAY Sports

Capsule Profile of Cody Wallace’s Steelers Career

When Maurkice Pouncey went down on opening day 2013 against the Titans, Cody Wallace was in street clothes. The Steeler signed Fernando Velasco who started the next 11 games until he too got injured in the Steelers Thanksgiving loss to the Ravens.

It was Cody Wallace’s turn to be the next man up, and Wallace finished that game and started the final four games of the Steelers 2013 season. In 2014 Cody Wallace appeared in 15 games and gave two solid performances starting at guard.

When Maurkice Pouncey went down for the count in 2015, Cody Wallace started all 16 of the Steelers regular season games and both playoff games at center. Going into 2015 the Steelers had a pretty good record when Cody Wallace started, and during 2015 Ben Roethlisberger enjoyed solid protection the entire time, and Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams had solid run blocking.

Cody Wallace only appeared in one game during 2016 and was put on injured reserve just before the Steelers game road game against the Ravens.

The Case for the Steelers Resigning Cody Wallace

Cody Wallace gives the Steelers veteran depth at the offensive line and the ability to step in and start at not one but two positions. While the NFL injury gods haven’t tortured the Steelers in recent years the as badly as they did at the beginning of the decade, the Steelers have learned the lesson that you can never have too many good offensive lineman.

Cody Wallace knows Mike Munchak’s system. He’s a quality player who has shown the ability to deliver when called upon time and time again.

The Cast Against the Steelers Signing Cody Wallace

B.J. Finney and Chris Hubbard. Both are younger lineman benefited from Wallace’s injury and absence in 2016. While both players offer the rare combination of experience and youth. They’re known commodities.

  • In contrast, Cody Wallace will turn 33 this year and he’s coming off of an injury.

The Steelers also have 2016’s 3rd round pick Jerald Hawkins coming back in 2017. While Hawkins plays tackle he’s another younger lineman that the Steelers will need reserve a roster spot for. Given that, Cody Wallace isn’t worth even a minimal signing bonus. The Steelers can get the same depth with younger, cheaper players.

Curtain’s Call on the Steelers and Cody Wallace

If this were simply and X’s and O’s decision, and if my medical staff assured me Cody Wallace’s injury wasn’t long-term, then this arm-chair general manager would bring him back. It is true that B.J. Finney did an exceptional job as a guard.

On the Steelers first several 3rd downs ended in sacks as, the Browns ran right at Landry Jones and on came Jordan Berry. That was fine for a meaningless game against the Browns, but if you’re Mike Tomlin, do you really want to roll the dice with letting that happen to Ben Roethlisberger?

But of course personnel decisions in today’s NFL don’t simply come down to the X’s and O’s, they’re just as much about the bang for your salary cap dollar.

  • And in that analysis, the argument for letting Cody Wallace walk gets a lot stronger.

And at the end of the day, the Steelers will almost certainly hold off on making any sort of an offer to Cody Wallace, see who they can pick up in the 2017 NFL Draft, and only then seriously consider bringing him back.

In all likelihood, while the door isn’t completely closed, the Steelers look set to move on from Cody Wallace.
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 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.

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.

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Steelers Resign Pouncey for 6 Years, 48 Million Dollars

For nine years and two Super Bowls, Ray Mansfield anchored the center of the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line. Mike Webster took up the call for another 13 years 2 Super Bowls and 1 Hall of Fame induction. After that, the duty fell to Dermontti Dawson for the next 12 years. Finally, Jeff Hartings did the honors for 6 more years and another Super Bowl.

  • Since 2010 that responsibility has fallen to Maurkice Pouncey and after today, at least on paper, he’ll carry that burden for another 6 years.

June first’s arrival not only brought OTA’s to the South Side but also money freed up by LaMarr Woodley’s release. The question of “What will the Steelers” do with their salary cap largesse has been on the minds of everyone in Steelers Nation.

At this point, the answer is “None of the above,” as the Steelers are focusing on resigining their own, after inking Maurkice Pouncey to a 6 year 48 million dollar deal, that reportedly includes a 9 year signing bonus.

Maurkice Pouncey was one player that Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert fell in love with at the 2010 NFL scouting combine, so much that Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had no compunction or reservation in saying he was the Steelers pick right then and there.

Pouncey did not disappoint, becoming the first rookie to start for the Steelers in the Mike Tomlin era, capping the season off with a Pro Bowl appearance followed by two more.

Who’s Next?

With Pouncey resigned, attention will immediately shift to who is next. Dale Lolley suggests it will be Cortez Allen, who is entering the final year of his contract and the Steelers likely have no wish to repeat what happened with Keenan Lewis.

Ben Roethlisberger might also be a possibility, given the current escalation of quarterback contracts, but that is a far more complicated contract to negotiate.

Nonetheless, although the deal makes Pouncey the NFL’s highest paid center, it actually gives the Steelers some short term salary cap relief, given them greater flexibility.

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2 Lessons Learned from the Steelers 1974 Hall of Fame Draft

Steelers Nation is celebrating Pittsburgh’s 1974 draft this spring as it should. In 1974 the team of Chuck Noll, Art Rooney, Jr., Dick Haley and Bill Nunn authored the best draft in this history of the National Football League.

It’s probably not too much of a stretch for the faithful to do a collective fist pump and channel their inner Brett Hart’s saying,

  • The Steelers 1974 Draft is the best there was, there ever will be!

You earn the right to say that when your team drafts 4 Hall of Famers in the form of Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Jack Lambert and Mike Webster.

steelers 1974 draft war room rooney nunn haley
Bill Nunn, Dick Haley, V. Tim Rooney, and Art Rooney Jr.

The stories behind the 1974 draft remain the stuff of legend. Of Art Rooney Jr. scouting Lambert while he practiced on asphalt at Kent State. Bill Nunn’s slight of hand in scouting John Stallworth. These and other yarns will be spun and respun and will again.

Expecting the success of the 1974 draft to be repeated in Pittsburgh or elsewhere simply isn’t realistic. The playing field is far too level now. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t lessons Steelers Nation can take from the 1974 NFL Draft as we move towards the 2014 NFL Draft.

Lesson I – The Fallacy that The Steelers 1974 Hall of Fame Hall Sparked 4 Super Bowls

Alan Robinson’s hardly the only one to make this kind of statement. In fact, many assume it is simply reality. Nonetheless, Robinson’s recent article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review provides a perfect example:

This is the 40th anniversary of the Steelers’ Class of 1974, a 21-member draft class that is the best in NFL history. Of the five Hall of Famers drafted by NFL teams that year, four were Steelers, an unprecedented talent haul that immediately propelled the franchise to four Super Bowl wins in six seasons. (Emphasis added.)

That’s poetic and looking back 40 years later it certainly seems like a true case of cause and effect at work. Except closer examination of the record reveals something else.

Of the four Hall of Famers taken, only Jack Lambert started immediately. The NFL didn’t keep sacks then, but Lambert bagged two interceptions and force a fumble.

Mike Webster started 1 game but appeared in 14, as Chuck Noll worked out a rotation system for Webster and Ray Mansfield. Webby got his time, but it was still Mansfield’s line.

  • As for Lynn Swann and John Stallworth? 

Lynn Swann is listed as starting two games, but recorded all of 11 catches and two touchdowns. Swann contributed on special teams, returning 41 punts for an impressive 14.1 average and one touchdown.

John Stallworth is listed as starting 3 games that year, but still only made 16 catches for 1 touchdown.

Lambert’s contributions were the most important, and roughly analogous to those the Heath Miller made as a rookie in the Steelers run to Super Bowl XL. Webster, Swann and Stallworth did their parts, but paled in comparison to those made by the likes of Joe Greene or Franco Harris, let alone those of Frank Lewis, the team’s number 1 wide out.

  • The bottom line is that fans hoping for salvation via the 2014 should temper expectations

A strong rookie class can boosts but does not transform a contender into a champion.

Lesson II:  Beware of Paralysis by Analysis

Post-draft day grades and evaluations are about as useful as MLB batting averages on April 15th — papers are almost obligated to publish the number, but come late September no one will care. Nonetheless, the rush to be the first to declare a “winner” to the draft after the last selection is called has accelerated to inane levels in the age of the internet.

  • But such paralysis by analysis is hardly something born in the digital age.

In his self-titled autobiography Dan Rooney shared this bit of instant analysis published after Day 1 of the 1974 NFL Draft:

The Steelers seem to have come out of the first five rounds of the draft appreciably strengthened at wide receiver but nowhere else. They didn’t get a tight end, and the ones remaining are more suspect than prospect. They didn’t get a punter, although none of the nation’s best collegiate kickers weren’t in the first five rounds. They didn’t get an offensive tackle that might’ve shored up what could well become a weakness. What they did get was Swann, who seems to be a sure-pop to help; Lambert, who figures to be the number-5 linebacker if he pans out; and three question marks.

The rush to judgment after a draft is only human. But the Steelers had just taken 4 future Hall of Famers, and the columnist from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was miffed because they didn’t take a punter.

None of this will or should stop professional writers and bloggers from analyzing the 2014 NFL Draft. But lesson of the Steelers 1974 Draft is that such instant draft analysis must be taken with several healthy shakes of the salt shaker.

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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.

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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.

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2008 Death of Dwight White, Steelers Legend, Dropped Steel Curtain to Half Strength

2008 was not a kind year to the Steel Curtain. In January, Ernie Holmes died in a car accident, and then Myron Cope passed away, silencing Steelers Nation’s definitive voice. Sadly, in June of 2008 Dwight White joined them.

  • Nature sometimes has a way with working its ironies.

In his 2002 autobiography, Double Yoi, Myron Cope dedicated an entire chapter, “Half of the Steel Curtain,” to Holmes and White. He argued that while Joe Greene and L.C. Greenwood received their just accolades, Holmes and White were too often overlooked. Whether it be because of Divine will or a random act, all three were called away from Steelers Nation in a span of less than six months.

  • This author offers living proof of Cope’s contention.

Growing up in 70’s suburban Maryland in a household where sports held a low priority, I knew very little of Dwight White and Ernie Holmes.

Dwight White, Roger Staubach, Super Bowl X, Steelers vs Cowboys

Dwight White closes in on Roger Staubach in Super Bowl X. Photo Credit: Joe Caneva, AP via NFL.com

I of course knew about “Mean Joe Greene.” While the Steelers were busy winning their third and fourth Super Bowls, some of the other kids on Wendy Lane and I used to play “Super Steelers” pretending that the Steelers had super powers. If memory serves, Joe Greene could turn himself into a giant at will. (Lynn Swann had super speed. Franco could bust through walls. Terry Bradshaw threw exploding footballs and could hit anything he aimed for. Although I was yet to be acquainted with The X-Men at age six, Chuck Noll played a professor Xavier-like role.)

While L.C. Greenwood held no place in our Parthenon of Steelers Super Heroes, I distinctly remember a friend preparing to go into his Five Mississippi rush in a game of Nerf football saying, “I’m L.C., I’m L.C.” and knowing immediately he was talking about L.C. Greenwood of the Steelers.

Like Ernie Holmes, “D. White” was just a name and a face that I knew from Steelers 50 Seasons poster that hung on my wall for so many years. I didn’t learn just how distinguished a member of the Steel Curtain that Dwight White was until I was in college.

  • Dwight White was one of the top story tellers of the Super Steelers.

His comments on the NFL Flims tribute to Chuck Noll that appeared on the back end of the Steelers 1992 season in review are priceless.

Ray Mansfield sets the stage, recounting how John Madden capped the Raiders victory over the Miami Dolphins by proclaiming “the best two teams in football played to day, and it’s a shame that one of them had to lose….” Continuing, Mansfield explains that Noll came in the locker room the next day, with a determined look on his face, saying “They think the just won the God Damm Super Bowl… But let me tell you something, the best God-Dammed football team is sitting right here.”

White picks up the thread, remembering “At the time, that was pretty strong language for Chuck. Later on he developed the ability to rattle it off pretty well, but at the time that was pretty uncharacteristic.” White recounts how Noll’s words set the locker room on fire, reassuring that, “From that point on, we knew we were going to win…. I mean, it was like getting a blessing to go out and beat up on somebody.”

The Steelers of course went on to upset the Oakland Raiders 24-13 in the AFC Championship, but the game that followed was perhaps White’s finest hour. As Myron Cope tells the story, White was stricken with phenomena the week of the Super Bowl IX. He’d lost 18 pounds and was so sick he was unable to lift his leg on the one day he tried to practice.

On the morning of Super Bowl Sunday, White left the hospital, insisting that he be taken to the Sugar Bowl. Team Dr.’s let him warm up, figuring he would pass out. White didn’t, and insisted on starting the game.

The Vikings tested White immediately. They ran directly at White on their first three runs, and White stopped them each time, tackling Dave Osborn for a loss, no gain, and a one yard gain. Topping it all off, White scored the game’s first points, sacking Fran Tarkenton for a safety. White played the entire game, save for a few plays in the first quarter. Minnesota finished the day with 21 yards rushing on 17 attempts.

When asked about it years later by Cope, White told him’’ “‘You know what? It was kind of a blur’” He also offered “‘What I remember, though, was that our players kept asking me in the huddle, “How you feeling?” It was annoying’”

White followed up this effort by sacking Roger Starbauch three times in Super Bowl X, and registered 33.5 sacks between 1972 and 1975. Dwight White retired in 1980, and 27 years later he is still 7th on their all-time sack list.

Like many of the Super Steelers, Dwight White settled in Pittsburgh, excelling at what Chuck Noll calls “life’s work.” He worked as a stock broker, ultimately becoming the Senior Managing Director in Public Finance for Mesirow Financial. White was also active in numerous Pittsburgh charities.

Ray Mansfield was the first Super Steeler to pass away, followed by Steve Furness, Mike Webster, and Ernie Holmes. As haunting as that is, the numbers paint an even grimmer picture: According to ESPN, 38 former Steelers have died since 2000, and 17 of those were 59 or younger.

But nothing is quite is poignant as the realization that, with Dwight White’s passing, the Steel Curtain now permanently stands at half strength.

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