Steelers & Eli Rogers Face Interesting Restricted Free Agent Decision

Undrafted rookie free agents are the NFL’s answer to Hollywood Redshirts. They’re brought into fill out training camp rosters with a promise of a chance to prove themselves. Earning a spot on the practice squad represents a major victory.

  • Even the scant few lucky enough to land on the 53 man roster end up playing on rookie minimum contracts and face a faint chance of getting a 2nd NFL contract.

Even though Eli Rogers is another Kevin Colbert undrafted rookie free agent success story, last year he earned 4% of what Antonio Brown cleared. Now that Eli Rogers is a restricted free agent, he gets his first shot at NFL riches, and today we look at whether should or will get them.

Eli Rogers, Ryan Shazier, Todd Haley

Steelers, Eli Rogers face interesting free agency decision. Photo Credit: USA Today, via The Cardinal Connect

Capsule Profile of Eli Rogers’ Steelers Career

The Steelers signed Eli Rogers as part of their 2015 undrafted rookie free agent class. With a depth chart that featured Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Sammie Coates, Rogers chances of making the team appeared slim.

  • Yet by late August, USA Today Steelers Wire editor Neal Coolong was singing Roger’s praises, and even comparing his preseason performance vs Philadelphia to that of a young Antonio Brown.

Unfortunately, Rogers got injured and spent his rookie season in injured reserve.

A year later, however, Eli Rogers vindicated Coolong’s praise and won the Steelers slot receiver job at the opening of the season. By the end of the season, Rogers was the Steelers defacto number 2 wide out, and had grabbed 48 passes, to put him at third behind Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell.

In 2017 Eli Rogers found his role in the offense diminished, but that was more due to the emergence of JuJu Smith-Schuster and the return of Martavis Bryant. While Eli Rogers’ catch percentage dropped in 2017, his performance perked up at the end of the season, and during the playoff loss to the Jaguars he was a perfect 5-5.

The Case for the Steelers Tendering Eli Rogers

Assuming the Martavis Bryant trade rumors prove to be false, the Steelers top three wide receiver slots appear to be set going into 2018. But the number 4 slot remains wide open.

  • Darrius Heyward-Bey isn’t a reliable option, and Justin Hunter may look good in practice, but he’s done little on the field.

In two seasons, Eli Rogers has shown himself to be a reasonably reliable target for Ben Roethlisberger at receiver who can provide solid depth. Ensuring that Roger’s returns via with a restricted free agent offer would likely lock down the position for the Steelers, would certainly free them to focus on other needs in the 2018 NFL Draft.

The Case Against the Steelers Tendering Eli Rogers

A restricted free agent tender for Eli Rogers around 1.8 million dollars. That’s a pretty hefty sum for a 4th wide out and about a half million more than Darrius Heyward-Bey made in 2017. There’s also the question of injury.

  • Eli Rogers injured his ACL late in the playoff debacle against the Jaguars.

While he could certainly be ready for the season opener, there are no guarantees. There’s also the simple reality because of his injury, another team is unlikely to make a run at Eli Rogers should the Steelers leave him unprotected.

The Steelers salary cap space is meager, and they’re already going to enter the season carrying Ryan Shazier’s $8,718,000 5th year option, which amounts to dead money. The Steelers need to stretch their salary cap dollars, and tendering Eli Rogers might just be pushing things too far.

Curtain’s Call on the Steelers and Eli Rogers

In the past, after three years, if the Steelers and even an inkling of future interest in a player they’d offer him a restricted free agent tender. Even Daniel McCullers got one last year. About the only exception was Stevenson Sylvester, who didn’t get a tender, but came back at the veteran minimum.

The X-Factor here is Eli Rogers’ injury, and that could swing the balance against the Steelers offering him a tender, but the smart money says one way or another, Eli Rogers will be a Pittsburgh Steeler in 2018.

Has Steelers free agency left you scrambling? Click here for our Steelers 2018 Free Agent tracker or click here for all Steelers 2018 free agency focus articles.

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The Pro’s & Con’s of Steelers Original Round Tender to Restricted Free Agent Ross Cockrell

Cornerback has been a liability for the Pittsburgh Steelers since at least 2013 and perhaps longer. While some of the criticism of Kevin Colbert’s attempt to address cornerback on the cheap (think Antwon Blake & DeMarcus Van Dyke) is legitimate, let’s also remember that the Steelers won Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII by starting two corners drafted in 4th round (Ike Taylor & Deshea Townsend).

But all of Kevin Colbert’s cornerback bargain hunting exhibitions have come up empty, and Steelers restricted free agent cornerback Ross Cockrell provides the perfect example.

The Steelers have already made an original round restricted free agent tender to Ross Cockrell, and here we review the merits of their decision.

Ross Cockrell, Steelers vs Raiders, Ross Cockrell interception, Mike Mitchell, William Gay

Ross Cockrell’s Red Zone interception against the Raiders in 2015. Photo Credit: USA Today’s SteelersWire

Capsule Profile of Ross Cockrell’s Steelers Career

After the 2015 pre-season’s first cut down day, the Steelers made a curious move – they claimed cornerback Ross Cockrell off of waivers from the Buffalo Bills. The Steelers had already traded for Brandon Boykin and, at least publicly, were still committed to Cortez Allen.

In week four when Ross Cockrell picked off a Joe Flacco pass in the Steelers Monday Night loss to the Ravens the move made more sense. At mid season, when he made a touchdown saving interception in the end zone against the Raiders, it make even more sense. Cockrell appeared in 15 games for the Steelers and started in 7 games by the Steelers count.

Perhap’s Cockrell’s biggest moment for the Steelers came in the playoff win over the Bengals, as Cockrell recovered Jeremy Hill’s fumble that Ryan Shazier had forced, opening the door to the Steelers come from behind win.

  • The Steelers saw enough of Ross Cockrell in 2015 to pencil him in as their 2016 starter.

Ross Cockrell started all sixteen games for the Steelers in 2016, and while he didn’t record any interceptions, he had 14 defensed passes. Fans didn’t hear Ross Cockrell’s name a lot during 2016, and for a cornerback that is often a good sign.

The Case for the Steelers Tendering Ross Cockrell

In 31 regular season games and 5 playoff games Ross Cockrell has proven himself to be a quality NFL cornerback. Moreover, he’s grown from someone the Steelers picked up off of the wavier wire into a starter on a defense that went all the way to the AFC Championship (although they did struggle there – so did the offense.)

When addressing the Steelers needs at cornerback heading into the 2017 NFL Draft, Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell offered this:

Here’s another thing: Ross Cockrell is a treasure. He works so hard that no one will dismiss his chances. Therefore, no ones [sic] going to leak that they’re dissatisfied with their outside guys. And really, with how hard Cockrell works and how smart he is, there’s no certainty a high draft pick will beat him out. But I believe that with such a deep crop the value will be too good to pass up.

That sounds like Ross Cockrell has a lot of “upside.” Viewed from that perspective, one can only wonder if the Steelers original round tender, which would bring Pittsburgh a 4th round pick should another team sign Cockrell, is too low.

The Case Against the Steelers Tendering Ross Cockrell

The Pittsburgh Steelers need quality cornerbacks. Rookie Artie Burns, whom the Steelers took in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, showed a lot of promise in his first year. But William Gay showed signs he might be losing a step.

While Ross Cockrell was an improvement over Antwon Blake, that’s kind of like saying the Steelers improved at quarterback in 1988 after trading Mark Malone and starting Bubby Brister. The restricted free agent tender the Steelers offered Ross Cockrell is just under 2 million dollars per year.

  • Is Ross Cockrell really worth that much money?

Ben Roethlisberger’s Super Bowl window is shrinking, perhaps faster than thought even a year ago. The Steelers need proven production out of their cornerback position, not uncertain potential. Offering Ross Cockrell a restricted free agent tender is tantamount to trying to apply a BandAid to a wound that needs stitches.

Curtain’s Call on Ross Cockrell and the Steelers

Deciding on whether to tender or not to tender a restricted free agent can be tricky business for a team. While a tender does allow a team to hedge its bets, it also commits them to a certain dollar value (although RFA tenders are not guaranteed).

  • Ross Cockrell has shown enough in during his time in Pittsburgh that the rest of the NFL knows he can play cornerback.

He’s not a player like Stevenson Sylvester, whom the Steelers can opt not to tender and expect to get back in August or September should they decide they need him after all. Offering a right of first refusal tender to Chris Hubbard probably wouldn’t deter another team from making an offer to Ross Cockrell.

By giving Ross Cockrell an original round tender, the Steelers will force any team to sacrifice a 4th round draft pick to take him away, and Pittsburgh retains the right to match the offer. The Steelers have had teams make runs at their restricted free agents before, once with Jerrol Williams in 1993 and again in 2013 with Emmanuel Sanders.

The key to both situations is in both situations, the Steelers refused to panic. Given how great of a commodity cornerbacks are and how thin the Steelers are at the position, it’s possible that an original round tender for Ross Cockrell doesn’t carry a high enough cost to deter opposing General Managers.

But the Steelers conserve their options and will ultimately control what happens. That’s the right move. Ross Cockrell is the type of player who can help you win a Super Bowl, and the Steelers have ensured that they’ll be able to keep in in Pittsburgh.

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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What to Do about Steelers Restricted Free Agent Terence Garvin?

The Pittsburgh Steelers might not be entering 2016 with the type of high profile free agent class that Steelers Nation was forced to endure in the 1990’s (think Neil O’Donnell, Yancey Thigpen, Chad Brown etc….), but almost without a doubt, the Steelers have some complicated choices in front of them.

Steelers restricted free agent Terence Garvin illustrates just how complicated those choices can get.

Capsule Profile of Terence Garvin’s Career with the Steelers

While its true that OTA’s, minicamp’s and other spring workouts are generally much to do about nothing, Terence Garvin proves that events with real news value really do occur during spring practices.

Terence Garvin’s phone didn’t ring during the 2013 NFL Draft. He didn’t even get a call from then linebacker’s Keith Butler offering him an undrafted rookie free agent contract the day after the draft. But the Steelers did offer him an invitation to rookie mini-camp.

He impressed enough to earn a futures contract that got him a ticket to Latrobe. Garvin did well in Latrobe, and although he did not make the final list of cuts, the Steelers did sign him to their practice squad. But Garvin’s stint on the practice squad was short lived.

Then Matt Spaeth suffered a lisfranc injury during training camp, the Steelers put Spaeth on IR and activated Garvin. Garvin dressed for 15 games in 2013, but for the first half of the year he toiled in obscurity on special teams. However, during the later half of the season, attentive fans noted that number 57 would line up with the defense on third downs, replacing Vince Williams.

Then came the signature moment of Terence Garvin’s Steelers career (available as of 2/26/16):

The Steelers had been all but eliminated from the playoffs, the Cincinnati Bengals still had a shot at securing a bye, but Terence Garvin’s hit on Kevin Huber revealed just how badly the Bengals were unprepared for prime time.

Garvin also got injured in that game, but he seemed to have a bright future ahead of him. Mike Tomlin called him “a big safety” and he seemed to be ahead of Williams when it came to pass coverage. The Steelers then of course went and drafted Ryan Shazier in 1st round of the 2014 NFL Draft and Sean Spence made a full recovery.

Terence Garvin fell off the radar screen of most Steelers fans, but has remained a solid contributor on special teams.

The Case for Steelers Keeping Terence Garvin

With Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier, Sean Spence, and Vince Williams the depth of the Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacking corps has been the envy of the NFL for the past two seasons. Garvin has barely been a footnote on that depth chart.

That might make him seem like a luxury, but Sean Spence is due to become a free agent this year and will probably depart for greener pastures and Vince Williams will likely follow the next year.

Those two facts alone, combined with his steady special teams play, make the case for bringing Terence Garvin back to Pittsburgh.

The Case Against Steelers Keeping Terence Garvin

The case against bringing Terence Garvin back to Pittsburgh is a pretty weak one, but it would say that if Garvin dressed to play special teams but couldn’t press Spence or Williams for playing time while Ryan Shaizer was nursing injuries, should the Steelers really settle for 5th best?

Curtain’s Call on Steelers and Terence Garvin

At the end of the day, the question isn’t really whether the Steelers want Terence Garvin back or not it is whether they offer Garvin a restricted free agent offer. Last year the Steelers offered restricted free agent tenders to Will Johnson, Antwon Blake and Robert Golden even though Golden was seen as little more than a special teams player.

  • Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell has estimated that the Steelers could not tender Garvin and save about $900,000.

There is a predicent for that. The Steelers didn’t tender Stevenson Sylvester in 2013 but still brought Sylvester back. But franchise practice has been to tender restricted free agents, and given future uncertainty at the position, the Steelers will likely do that with Garvin.

Free agency go your head spinning? Check out our Steelers 2016 free agent tracker and/or click here to read all articles on our Steelers 2016 Free Agent Focus section. 

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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-

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Stevenson Sylvester a Steelers Again; Will Allen Next?

Mike Tomlin vowed to make changes after the Steelers loss in London gave them their first 0-4 start since the Bill Austin era. In rapid succession:

Behind the Steel Curtain has also reported that Shamarko Thomas will get more snaps at the expense of Ryan Clark. William Gay was apparently running with the first team head of Cortez Allen…. These moves may or may not come to pass, but there’s another that is far less hypothetical.

The Steelers drafted Sylvester in the 5th round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Sylvester played well on special teams and in spot duty. However, he did not make much of a leap between his rookie and “sophomore” year. Sylvester started in the Steelers ’11 upset of the Patriots, but was quickly pulled from the game.

Injuries and inconsistent play kept Sylvester off the field for much of 2012, and the Steelers did not even bother to extend him a restricted free agent tender.

No other team took him, and the Steelers brought him back to training camp, but his Sylvester’s name headlined the first round of cuts.

  • Like Jonathan Dwyer, Stevenson Sylvester can apparently come home again.

How much upside Sylvester can bring an 0-4 team is unknown, but he does offer one value that neither Wilson nor Vince Williams can boast – knowledge of Dick LeBeau’s defense.

Allen Next?

One of the more underrated players in the Steelers 2012 defense was safety Will Allen. Playing without Troy Polamalu for much of the year, the Steelers struggled with Ryan Mundy playing in his slot.

  • When they benched Mundy and played Allen, the Steelers defense improved.

So it was some what of a minor surprise when Allen defected to Dallas. Dallas waived him after the loss to the Broncos, and look where he appeared next:

Will Allen working out w Steelers as we tweet. Will Gay ran 1st team RCB today. Cortez Allen practiced as nickel bc of “injury issues.” ???
— James C Wexell (@jimwexell) October 9, 2013

  • Could the Steelers be planning another roster move?

It is certainly possible. Outside of Clark and Polamalu the Steelers have next to no experienced depth at safety. Allen would provide that, although at the expense of some younger player’s roster spot.

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Baron Batch, Stevenson Sylvester Headline Steelers First Cuts

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 roster began to take shape today, and the list of cuts contain some familiar faces including Stevenson Sylvester and Baron Batch.

Baron Batch’s shot at making the roster figured to suffer a blow when the Steelers traded linebacker Adrian Robinson for Felix Jones; yet the absence of Adrian Robinson should have helped Sylvester’s case, at least on paper.

Reality turns out to be something different.

Also getting a visit from the Turk were:

Van Dyke, Spence Highlight Steelers Injury Moves

The Steelers have placed linebacker Sean Spence on the team’s Reserve/Physically Unable To Perform (PUP) List. Per NFL rules, this action bars Spence from even practicing with the team for 6 weeks, after which the Steelers have 3 weeks to activate him or place him on injured reserve.

Offensive lineman Justin Cheadle who was recently injured found himself on the waived/injured list as did DeMarcus Van Dyke. The only real difference here is that as both players were injured, the Steelers must reach an injury settlement with them.

Steelers seventh round draft pick Nick Williams, whose best shot was the practice squad, was also placed on injured reserve ending his rookie season before it ever began in a move that bolsters Al Woods and Alameda Ta’amu’s chances of making the final roster.

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The Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 Draft Class at a Glance

The 2013 NFL Draft is now history, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have 9 new players to show for their efforts. The Steelers entered the draft with serious needs at almost every position and depending on who you believed they either drafted for need, or were able to basically stick to their “best available” player philosophy while hitting their needs.

Neither answer will be terribly relevant as long as they players they picked pan out. Some of course will fail (think Limas Sweed), others will suffer misfortune in the form of injury (think Sean Spence,) while others yet will likely go on to exceed expectations (think Aaron Smith).

Here’s a snap shot of the 9 mean that Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin deemed worthy of a shot at becoming Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 Draft Class:
(click on the names below for capsule profiles and/or video highlights of

1. Jarvis Jones, Outside Linebacker, Georgia
2. Le’von Bell, Running Back, Michigan State
3. Markus Wheaton, Wide Receiver, Oregon State
4. Shamarko Thomas, Safety, Syracuse
4. Landry Thomas, quarterback, Okalahoma
5. Terry Hawthorne, Cornerback, Illinois 
6. Vince Williams, Inside Linebacker, Florida State University
6. Justin Brown, Wide Receiver, Okalahoma
7. Nicholas Williams, Defensive End, Samford

How the Class of 2013 Fits In

Regular readers knows that Steel Curtain Rising neither grades drafts nor evaluates individual draft picks. Such exercises are understandable, but day after draft evaluation is about as valuable as an opening day batting average.

Look back no further to the Steelers 2008 Draft, which the “experts” uniformly thought was a good draft the day after. Five years later the Steelers 2008 Draft looks quite different.

Potentially the Steelers have give themselves the ability to improve play making on the defense, bolstered their running back corps, and injected speed into their wide receiving corps. Markus Wheaton figures to give the Steelers needed depth at safety and could become a possible successor to Troy Polamalu and/or Ryan Clark.

Beyond that, the rest of the class realistically will hope to exit St. Vincents having shown they can contribute enough on special teams to merit a roster spot.

Certainly Vince Williams could cost Stevenson Sylvester, Adrian Robinson and/or Chris Carter a roster spot. Justin Brown could force Jerricho Cotchery and/or Plaxico Burress to seek out what Chuck Noll referred to as “Life’s Work.” Nicholas Williams could cost Al Woods a roster spot.

Or maybe not….

A Shot at a Dream of a Life Time

…But all of that sorting out can wait until the sun shines down on Latrobe.

For now each of these nine men have been given a shot at a dream that all of us shared the first time we touched a Nerf football, called out the cadence of a meaningless snap count, and argued over whether there should be a 3 or 5 Mississippi rush.

At this moment congratulations are in order for the Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 Draft Class. Congratulations gentleman, good luck, and welcome to Steelers Nation.

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Steelers Draft FSU’s Vince Williams in 6th

After addressing their needs at linebacker in the first day of the 2013 NFL Draft when they selected Jarvis Jones with their first round pick, the Steelers again returned to the position on day three at the bottom of the draft by picking inside linebacker Vince Williams in the 6th round.

The Steelers used their compensatory pick to take Williams.

Williams stands at 6’11” and the Steelers are listing Vince Williams weight at 250 lbs although other sources have him at 233.

His time in Florida was marred by injuries, but he improved his stock in pre-draft workouts. In total he played in 50 games at Florida State and started 26, recording over 13 tackles for a loss during that time. He also defensed 7 passes and had one interception.

Clearly Williams is coming to the Steelers as some what of a project, but the Steelers are notably thin at inside linebacker. Behind starters Larry Foote and Lawrence Timmons, the Steelers only have Stevenson Sylvester, Adrian Robinson and Chris Carter, none of whom have proven much.

The Steelers brought Williams to the South Side for a work out, and Behind the Steel Curtain’s Neal Coolong described him as “a fairly one-dimensional player, and it doesn’t seem he’d be available for three downs due to limited pass coverage ability.”

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Steelers Sign Stevenson Sylvester; Workout Howling and Gooden

The Pittsburgh Steelers entered free agency both salary cap strapped and dangerously thin at inside linebacker. And with one bold* roll of the dice they helped shore up depth at inside linebacker while (probably) saving themselves at least 500,000 dollars in the process, when the resigned unrestricted free agent Stevenson Sylvester. (*Ok, that’s “bold” with a very lower case “b”)

The Steelers drafted Sylvester in the 5th round of the 2010 NFL draft and could have secured right of first refusal or compensation in the form of a 5th round pick by offering Sylvester a restricted free agent tender of 1.33 million.

However, the Steelers opted not to offer Sylvester any tender making him an unrestricted free agent, allowing him to sign with a team of his choosing. But as obersved here in the free agent focus on Sylvester, no one was going to offer Stevenson Sylvester big money.

Sylvester had a strong rookie season looking good on special teams, but struggled with spot duty in 2011 and saw his 2012 season hobbled by injuries. The reality is that Sylvester will likely have to fight for a roster spot in training camp, especially of the Steelers end up making linebacker a priority in the 2013 NFL Draft as their pre-draft visits indicate.

Nonetheless, the Steelers now have a body at inside linebacker with experience in a Dick LeBeau defense to back up Lawrence Timmons and Larry Foote, which is something they could not say 48 hours ago.

Free Agent Running Back, Linebacker also Pay Visits

The Steelers also entertained former Pitt running back LaRod Stephens-Howling who most recently played for Pittsburgh West (aka the Arizona Cardinals) and former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Tavares Gooden.

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Steelers Roll Dice, Only Offer Original Round Tenders to Restricted Free Agents

The Steelers are banking that dice don’t have memory, at least when it comes to restricted free agents. Facing salary cap pressures, the Steelers have given original round tenders to restricted free agents Steve McLendon, Jonathan Dwyer, Emmanuel Sanders and Isaac Redman. Pittsburgh has opted not to offer tenders to Stevenson Sylvester or Jeremy Kapinos, making both men unrestricted free agents.

By offering the men original round free agent tenders the Steelers both preserve their right to match any offer given to these players and the signing team will have to give up a draft pick from the round the player was taken in.

However, since both Isaac Redman and Steve McLendon were undrafted rookie free agents, the Steelers would get nothing should either man leave the team, although they still retain the right of first refusal.

Given that both men have ample experience, either man could garner attention, thereby putting the Steelers at risk of losing their project starting nose tackles and running backs. However, a year ago the Steelers made the same gamble last year with (then) restricted free agents Ramon Foster and Doug Legrusky, both of whom had starting experience, and neither man drew much interest from NFL teams.

The cases of Sylvester and Kapinos are more nebulous the Steelers could bring both men to camp, but clearly show no interest in paying either man more than the NFL veteran minimum.

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