Plaxico Burress Return Takes Kevin Colbert Full Circle

Admittedly you can’t see a lot in that video.

And perhaps that’s fitting as its significance has largely been overlooked by Steelers Nation.

In case you’re unable to tell, what you can see is a clip of Ben Roethlisberger’s touchdown to Plaxico Burress capping the Steelers season-ending victory over the Cleveland Browns.

  • But the pass holds deeper significance because it brought Kevin Colbert’s career with the Steelers full circle.

Dan Rooney named Kevin Colbert as Director of Football operations in January 2000, following a total breakdown in the relationship between Tom Donahoe and Bill Cowher.

At the time many questioned the move, pointing to the fact that Colbert came from perennial loser Detroit.

More than a few scribes were suspicious that Colbert had graduated from North Catholic, a Society of Mary established high school in Pittsburgh that both Rooney and Donahoe himself had graduated from. (Full disclosure, I once volunteered for the MVSC, a great volunteer program run by the SM that fell victim to some petty internal Society of Mary politics.)

  • No one questions Colbert’s credentials today. Nor should they.

His resume comprises 13 rosters that have produced victories in Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII, an AFC Championship in 2010, 6 division titles, 8 playoff appearances and only one losing effort.

Plex Brings Kevin Colbert Full Circle

Plaxico Burress was Kevin Colbert’s first draft pick with the Steelers, initiating a Colbert’s unparalleled streak of success in the first round of the NFL Draft (OK, after finishing 2010 with a bang Ziggy Hood has been, “inconsistent” to put things charitably.)

  • But the drafting of Burress in wasn’t Colbert’s only feat in 2000.

Dan Kreider joined the team in 2000, starting a line of Colbert unrestricted rookie free agent steals that today includes Willie Parker, James Harrison, and Steve McLendon, to name a few (click here for a full look).

2000 was the year that Marvel Smith became the first rookie to start for the Steelers on the offensive line for the opening day since Tom Ricketts did so for the 1989 Steelers. Smith’s play was solid at right tackle but in rapid succession he fell to injury and then so did his back up Shar Pourdanesh. (Sound familiar…? And they didn’t even have Marcus Gilbert to blame.)

“Who?” you might ask? Excellent question question. “Larry Tharpe” has long been forgotten and wasn’t even close to a household word in Steelers Nation in 2000.

Larry Tharpe had played as a part time starter the Detroit Lions in 1992 and 1993, wasn’t on an active roster in 1994 or 1996 but did play for Arizona in 1995, and then returned to Detroit for 1997 and 1998 season after which Detroit did not invite him back.

  • Tharpe watched the 1999 NFL season from a couch somewhere, presumable out of football.

But Kevin Colbert thought enough of Tharpe to bring him to Pittsburgh, and during the middle of the Steelers 2000 season Tharpe started four games.

No one was considering Tharpe for Pro Bowl honors, but the blunt truth is that he out played both Chris Conrad and Anthony Brown, who’d rotated the starting right tackle’s job throughout 1999 in an effort to to see who was more ineffective.

With the selection of Burress in the draft, insight in bringing in players that no one else wanted such as Kreider and Tharpe, Kevin Colbert showed himself as an NFL personnel man who was both smart enough and able enough to add quality contributors wherever he found them.

Plaxico Burress had a decent season for the New York Jets in 2011, but he was out of football for the first three months of the 2012 NFL season. No one wanted him.

When injures robbed the Steelers of Antonio Brown and Jerricho Cotchery’s services, Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert did not hesitate to bring back Burress.

Now Burress only played in three games for Pittsburgh and only caught 3 passes.

  • But one of those was for a touchdown.

A touchdown that sealed victory for the Steelers, a victory the Steelers needed to avoid a losing season.

Not bad for an NFL street free agent. Kevin Colbert couldn’t have scripted it any better.

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

Please lend a hand by sharing this on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc... Thanks.

Aaron Smith, Willie Parker, Marvel Smith and Joey Porter Retire as Pittsburgh Steelers

There’s one thing that no one in Steelers Nation can deny. Kordell Stewart is a man of many talents. But no one would have predicated that nearly a decade after playing his last game in Pittsburgh, Stewart remains a Steelers trend setter.
At least that is how it seemed Friday night at Latrobe Stadium.
A number of weeks ago Joey Porter announced that he was going to officially retire as a Steeler. Kordell Stewart had inspired his decision, Porter discussed the issue with management and that they were happy to oblige.
How they were.
Joey Porter was joined by Aaron Smith, Willie Parker, and even Marvel Smith at a ceremony held before the Steelers annual night practice in Latrobe. The act is largely symbolic, as no “one day contracts” were signed, but the fact that these men desire to “go out as Steelers” reinforces the fact that Pittsburghis a special city, and the Steelers are a special franchise.
All four men made the Pro Bowl. Aaron Smith, Parker, and Marvel Smith were veterans of  both Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII teams and Porter played a pivotal role on the Super Bowl XL squad.
Of the four, Porter is the only one to wear another team’s colors.

Dan Gigler of the Post-Gazette reported that Jerame Tuman, a back up tight end from the Super Bowl XL squad, was also in attendance as was former Steelers running back and running back’s coach Dick Hoak.

Thanks for visiting. Click here to follow us on Twitter @SteelCurtainRis.

Please lend a hand by sharing this on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc... Thanks.

Steelers 2012 NFL Draft Class at a Glance

Three days, seven rounds, 253 players and Mel Kipper Jr. is already getting ready for next year.
The Pittsburgh Steelers came into the 2012 NFL Draft armed with 10 picks, and ended up taking nine players. By position their picks breakdown this way:  3 offensive lineman, 1 defensive lineman, 1 linebacker, 1 running back, 1 wide out, 1 corner, and 1 tight end.
Steelers Picks in the 2012 NFL Draft:
1. David DeCastro, guard, Stanford University
2. Mike Adams, tackle, Ohio State University
3. Sean Spence, linebacker, University of Miami
4. Alameda Ta’amu, nose tackle, Washington University
5. Chris Rainey, running back and kick returner, Univeristy of Florida
6. (no pick, traded to Washington Redskins to move up in 4th)
7. Toney Clemons, wide receiver, Colorado University
7b. David Paulson, tight end, Oregon
7c. Terrence Fredrick, cornerback, Texas A&M
7d. Kelvin Beachum, guard, Southern Methodist University
Deviation from Discipline Policy
Although the Steelers do not deserve the halo that many (including yours truly) try to affix to them, they do run one of the cleaner NFL shops.
And the team has a reputation for both avoiding players with off the field issues and weeding out those that have them. Yet three of the nine players the team selected have histories with discipline issues.
The first two are relatively minor. Chris Rainey got into trouble for sending threatening text messages to an ex-girlfriend. Assuming this is an isolated incident, it is no biggie.
Sean Spence also ran afoul of some NCAA regulations regarding conduct with an agent and accepting gifts. Again, this is nothing to overlook entirely, but it is also not a grave offense.
The biggest issue involves Mike Adams, who tested positive at the NFL Scouting Combine for marijuana. And this is not the first time this kind of thing has happened for Adams.
Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin were very open with the press about this issue. Adams transgression got him knocked off of the Steelers draft board, and it was only after Adams reached out to them and agreed to take certain actions, that the Steelers restored him to their board.
Marvel Smith, Colbert’s first 2nd round pick in 2000, had a similar history and developed into a Pro Bowl left tackle for the Steelers. There’s no guarantee that Adams will pan out the same way, but the Steelers have taken a significant risk. Colbert acknowledged as much, admitting that if things didn’t work out with Adams, he would be responsible.
The Steelers are of course not finished adding to their roster. As soon as the draft ends, the mad dash for rookie free agents begins.
The Steelers have made many of those moves already. When the list is finalized, Steel Curtain Rising will bring it to you in full.

Thanks for visiting. Click here to check out the rest of Steel Curtain Rising. Or, click here to follow us on Twitter @SteelCurtainRis.

Please lend a hand by sharing this on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc... Thanks.

Max Starks Saved the Steelers Season in 2008. Can He Do It Again?

Prelude: October 5th 2008, Jacksonville Florida. Max Starks had entered the 2008 season as the Steelers transition player carrying a 6.85 salary. And he wasn’t even starting.

During the second half the prime time epic that defined the Pittsburgh Steelers 2008 regular season, starting left tackle Marvel Smith went down to injury….

…and in came, not Max Starks, but rather Trai Essex. The Steelers after paying him the average of the other top ten tackles in the league and calling him “starter capable” still didn’t think enough of Max Starks to name him as the number 3 tackle.

Trai Essex barely slowed the Jaguar defenders who sacked Ben Roethlisberger 3 times that night and subjected him to numerous after the throw hits. All Max Starks could do was to stand there and watch….

Crisis on the Steelers Offensive Line, 2011 Edition

Four games into the 2011 season and the Pittsburgh Steelers have made an abrupt “About Face.” After the team lost Willie Colon in the Debacle in Baltimore many in Steelers Nation expected the Pittsburgh to hit the red phone to either Starks or Flozell Adams. After all, the team had been rumored to be interested in bringing both men back well before Colon’s injury.

Mike Tomlin instead made a commitment to starting rookie Marcus Gilbert, and in doing so the team seemed to be indicating that they were turning away from the “Patch and Pray” offensive line building strategy in favor of a more methodical approach.

Steel Curtain Rising applauded them for the more deliberate strategy.

Fear rarely motivates the decision making of Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert and they stuck to the plan even as the line play became more and more of a glaring liability after the Shut Out of Seattle and Escape from Indy game.

Such steadfastness is admirable, but knowing when to stand your ground and knowing when to stand down is something that separates organizations like the Packers and the Steelers from the Bengals and the Rams.

The Steelers demonstrated that today when the resigned Max Starks, waving rookie Chris Scott to make room for him on the roster.

Max Starks and the Steelers, Then and Now

Making the move all the more interesting is the fact that Max Starks rejoined the Steelers on October 5th, three years to the day that his predecessor’s career ended in injury.

The coaches 2008 experiment with Trai Essex as the starting left tackle lasted all of a few quarters. By the next week in Cincinnati, Max Starks started at left tackle where he went on to start 34 more games, including Super Bowl XLIII.

It is fair to say that Max Starks entered the 2008 season as an overpaid afterthought and ended up saving the season.

Can he do it again? Is it fair for Steelers Nation even to expect him to?

The answer remains far from clear. Starks weight ballooned during the off season, and he finished 2010 on injured reserve with a neck injury – the same type of injury that ultimately ended Marvel Smith’s career.

But the fact is that the offensive line did play better with Starks in the lineup in 2010, as Jim Wexell calculated that Ben Roethlisberger got sacked twice as often with Jonathan Scott starting at left tackle.

The Steelers themselves don’t seem to be clear on Starks role. During his PG Plus chat Gerry Dulac indicated that Starks would “only provide depth” and later indicated that Starks might not even be dressing were it not for the rash of injuries on the offensive line.

That at least, we’ll assume, is the word Dulac got before mid-day. But the end of the day Ed Bouchette took to PG Plus to inform readers that Max Starks took about half of the snaps with the starting unit.

That could mean many things, of course.

In the final analysis the Steelers have plenty of other issues besides the offensive line bedeviling them a quarter of the way into 2011. (How about two critical errors by the place kicking unit in four games?)

Even before his most recent injury no one would ever confuse Max Starks for Tony Boselli. So any messianic aura that accompies Starks’ return is sorely misplaced. If Max Starks can’t be a savior for the line, he can bring it some much needed stability.

As the injuries have mounted and Ben Roethlisberger has taken more and more hits fans have wondered aloud “Isn’t there at least a chance that Starks [or Adams] would be better?”

Management has asked itself this question and their answer is obvious. Welcome back Max.

Thanks for visiting. Click here to check out the rest of Steel Curtain Rising. Or, click here to follow us on Twitter @SteelCurtainRis.

Please lend a hand by sharing this on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc... Thanks.

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.

Please lend a hand by sharing this on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc... Thanks.

Watch Tower: Art Rooney II Interview, Plus Footbreakgate

A lot goes on any time the Steelers and Ravens face off, but last week’s pre-game barrage provided the Watch Tower some interesting fodder.

First came the news that Ben Roethlisberger had a broken foot. The Post-Gazette broke the news during the day last Thursday, titling their report as an exclusive. This was a scoop because Roethlisberger’s foot injury had previous been labeled as a “sprain.”

The Steelers quickly countered, arguing that Ben foot was not in fact broken but rather that the injury involved some scare tissue from a previous injury.

Two things are interesting about this. First, this is not the first time the Steelers have been less than forthcoming with the press about injuries. Marvel Smith had back surgery during the 2008 season and the news never saw the light of day until long after it happened.

Likewise, this is not the first time that the Post-Gazette has ratted out, or at least claimed to have ratted out, the Steelers in terms of injuries. After the Steelers final regular season game against Cleveland in 2008, the Post-Gazette reported that Ben Roethlisberger had in fact suffered a spinal cord concussion – a report the Steelers later disputed.

The interesting thing about both reports is that the Post-Gazette made no attempt to cite sources, simply leading with “the Post-Gazette has learned” as opposed to mentioning “unnamed sources” or “sources with knowledge of the situation.”

Steel Curtain Rising’s Watch Tower has might light of Ed Bouchette’s inability to get inside information on front office dealings in terms of contract negotiations.

But Ed Bouchette clearly has fairly reliable sources with access to the team’s medical staff.

Rooney Interview Scoop for the Tribune-Review

The Tribune Review missed out on brokenfootgate, but they may have scored a bigger coup. Last Thursday Tribune Review beat writer Scott Brown treated his readers to a full-length interview with Steelers President Art Rooney II.

Although Brown shared no indications of the conditions of the interview, other than to say that it occurred after practice, it appears to be an exclusive, as the Post-Gazette ran no story on it, and neither did the national outlets.

In keeping with Steel Curtain Rising’s long standing editorial policy of not stealing other writer’s thunder, I will not summarize the interview here. However, Rooney’s comments were surprisingly frank given how closely the Rooney family has supported Roger Goodell.

Click here to read Brown’s interview with Art Rooney II.

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.

Please lend a hand by sharing this on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc... Thanks.

Aaron Smith has Surgery, Does NOT Go on IR

As expected, the Steelers confirmed today that Aaron Smith had undergone surgery to repair a torn triceps.

The unexpected news was that the Steelers were not, for the time being, putting him on injured reserve. While offers a big of unanticipated hope Steelers fans would do well to remember that management has tried this tactic before without reaping much of a reward.

In 2008 the Steelers kept Marvel Smith on the active roster until late in December, even though he did not play after being injured in the Jacksonville game.

Likewise in 2009, the Steelers kept Troy Polamalu on the active roster through the end of the season, even though he did not return after leaving the Cincinnati game.

Room on the Roster?

While the desire to keep Smith active Is understandable, one might question whether the Steelers can afford this luxury. They’re almost certain to activate McClendon from the practice squad, but to do that they would need to cut one of their player.

This will be difficult, given that the Steelers roster has been crafted to balance veterans with defined roles and rookie’s whose potential they hope to develop.

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

Please lend a hand by sharing this on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc... Thanks.

Marvel Smith Signs with San Francisco – The End of an Era?

One of the hallmarks of the Bill Cowher era of was that the Steelers offensive lines for those years comprised a Who’s Who of AFC Pro Bowlers. But as Bobby Dillion wrote “the times, they are a changing.” is reporting that formers Steelers left tackle Marvel Smith has agreed to terms with the San Francisco 49ers.

The move comes as no surprise. Smith’s contract had expired, and the Steelers had made it clear that they were not going to attempt to bring him back when they used the franchise tag on Max Starks.

End of an Era?

Marvel Smith was the only Steelers lineman with Pro Bowl experience, and his departure marks the end of an era, assuming that none of the Steelers offensive lineman make the 2010 Pro Bowl.

The Steelers have a Pro Bowler or a Pro Bowl experienced offensive lineman in the starting line up every season since Mike Webster made the 1979 Pro Bowl. That isn’t quite the same as sending an lineman to the Pro Bowl ever year – there were plenty of years when no Steeler earned that distinction, but they always had someone who had been there, someone who was capable of that caliber of play.

Smith’s age and chronic back problems certainly conspired against him. Steelers made the assessment that Smith was no longer capable of Pro Bowl caliber play, and they made the right decision.

The Steelers had attempted to resign him on the eve of the regular season, only to be rebuffed – this came on the heels of Smith’s first round of back surgery. The Steelers swore

He started the season well, but got injured again against Jacksonville. The Steelers kept him on the active roster until the end of the year, but and ended up needing back surgery again and went on IR. The 49ers apparently offered Smith very little guaranteed money, as indicated by the article announcing his signing.

Thanks for visiting. You can follow all of the Steelers free agent moves in our Steelers 2009 free agent focus series.

Please lend a hand by sharing this on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc... Thanks.

Steelers Tipping Their Hand on CBA Negotiations?

“There are no plans to engage in talks about a long-term extension for [Willie] Colon.”
– Mike Prisuta, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/12/09

My first reaction upon reading this was “why?”

Its not that Willie Colon is an All-World offensive tackle, but the facts are simple:

  • In two seasons as a starter, he has shown himself to be a decent player on an otherwise undistinguished offensive line
  • He signed a one year tender, binding him to the team through 2009
  • If they don’t sign him to a long term deal, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2010
  • The Steelers currently have no viable alternative behind him, unless you could Tony Hills

The Steelers entered free agency this year and saw five offensive lineman become free agents, either restricted or unrestricted.

As things currently stand, this time next year three starters, Max Starks, Willie Colon, and Justin Hartwig will all become free agents again.

They say they want to sign Max Starks to a long term deal, but he’s got eight million and change coming to him as a franchise player. The leverage is all on his side.

Logic then dictates that you get your other tackle under contract sooner rather than later.

Steelers Looking Ahead to Uncapped Year?

Upon reading Prisuta’s article, Steel Curtain Rising’s instinct screamed “write an article and take the Steelers to task for their patchwork offensive line building strategy.”

For the past two years the Pittsburgh’s MO for the offensive line has been: Franchise a guy here, transition a guy there, keep him around as a restricted free agent, cross your fingers and hope you can do the same next year.

It has worked, but can the Steelers remain competitive if this continues?

That’s a legitimate question, but perhaps the Steelers are operating with a little more foresight than they’re given credit.

Although it’s not on most fans’ radar screens, the NFL is heading from some tricky waters on the labor front. The current collective bargaining agreement between the owners and the NFLPA expires in 2011. 2010 is set as an uncapped year.

While an uncapped year will not be kind to mid-market teams like the Steelers, as Daniel Snyder will doubtlessly set the market rate for third string running backs at 10 million dollars a year or some other ludicrous sum.

  • Yet the uncapped year does come with some advantages for teams that operate wisely

One of those is that players will not reach unrestricted free agency until they’ve played for six years.

Willie Colon was drafted in 2006. He’s played three years and is now a restricted free agent. Under the current scheme, he’s set to become an unrestricted free agent after he’s played his fourth season. But unless the owners and the NFLPA renew the agreement in before the end of 2009, the NFL will enter the uncapped year.

And if that happens Willie Colon will still be a restricted free agent again in 2010 and at least theoretically in 2011.

Dan Rooney is one of the league’s most influential owners, and Art II played a key role in averting the uncapped year back in 2007. The Rooneys will work day and night to get an agreement in place. It’s good for them and its good for the game.

But if it’s true that they’re not going to seek a long-term deal with Colon then the Rooneys could very well be signaling that they think the league is headed for an uncapped season, despite their best intentions and efforts.

Alternative Explanations

It’s quite possible that Steel Curtain Rising’s take is in err. After all, a little more than a year ago we admonished our readers to ignore what Kevin Colbert said about the 2008 draft, assuring them that the Steelers would focus on the offensive and defensive lines in spite of their pledge to “take the best player available.”

Steel Curtain Rising was wrong then, so its only appropriate to offer some alternative explainations now.

Prusita Is Mistaken

The Pittsburgh media has been caught behind the curve on the Steelers personnel plans recently.

  • They failed to anticipate James Farrior’s signing last August
  • They did not report a (thank God) unsuccessful attempt to resign Marvel Smith during training camp until November
  • They were blindsided by the decision to cut Kendall Simmons

So its quite possible that they will attempt to ink Colon to a long-term deal before the season starts. Right now their priority is resigning James Harrison, and that contract is going to be tricky. Assuming they get that deal done, they’ll then know what they have to spend on other players.

Prusita’s Right Because the Steelers Simply Don’t Think Colon is Worth a Long Term Investment

Perhaps we can simply take Prusita’s report at face value. With few exceptions, the decision to give Kendall Simmons a four year contract in 2007 comes to mind, the Steelers are very wise about who they commit long-term money to. It is very rare that they issue a contract that they later regret, and its also uncommon that they discard someone who goes on to be a star elsewhere.

While they do not have viable replacement for Colon in waiting, it is certainly plausible that they could pick someone up in the draft with an eye to grooming him to be the starter on opening day 2010.

All of this is of course speculation. Steel Curtain Rising invites those of you who have access to legitimate sources to pick up from here take the story to wherever the facts lead you.

Thanks for visiting. Explore our Steelers 2009 Free Agent Focus, or check out the rest of Steel Curtain Rising.

Please lend a hand by sharing this on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc... Thanks.

Just How Valuable Were the Steelers 2009 Free Agents?

NFL players are a scarce commodity. Economics 101 tells us that scarcity + high demand leads to high prices.

When free agency began at 12:01 am on Friday the 27th, the Steelers saw no fewer than a eleven unrestricted hit the open market. Most are not expected to return, so that begs the question, just how valuable are these players?

  • The answer depends upon who responds.

One of the most interesting things in the run up to free agency was the difference in the values that the Pittsburgh press pegged on the Steelers free agents vs. the national media.

In discussing Bryant McFadden, Chris Kemoeatu, and Nate Washington, the Post-Gazette and the Tribune Review regularly attributed the adjectives “top free agent corner/guard/wide receiver,” or phrases like “so-and-so is expected to be the first to go.”

  • These men are good players who will rake in a lot of money and the Steelers will miss McFadden and Washington.

But the rest of the national media does not hold these Steelers in as high regard as their colleagues in the Pittsburgh press do.

Peter Schrager of Fox Sports wrote a lengthy column rating free agents at every position. He broke players down into three major categories: Big Money Guy, The Bargain Bin, the Wild Card, and one minor one, Other intriguing names.

The Steelers only had one player land in one of Schrager’s top three categories. He put Byron Leftwich into the Bargain Bin, which is on the mark. The only other Steelers to make Schrager’s list were Marvel Smith and Nate Washington, who both were “Other intriguing names” at their respective positions.

Washington is easy to understand, but Smith an intriguing name at his age and with his injury history?

  • Byrant McFadden’s name was no where to be found, which must be considered some what of a surprise.

Regardless, its interesting to note that 72 hours into free agency, neither McFadden nor Washington has a new team. That will almost certainly change before the end of the week, but the disparity of the Pittsburgh media’s evaluation of Steelers free agents and that of the national media is interesting.

It brings back memories of 1999, when Richard Huntely signed a contract extension with the Steelers. The exact numbers of his deal have faded from memory, but they were nothing extraordinary. The Pittsburgh media was in awe of the contract, in spite of the fact that it only amounted to backup money – generous back up money, but back up money nonetheless.

Pittsburgh Sports Media Gets Blindsided by Simmons’ Departure

Speaking of surprises, Steelers Nation was not expecting Steelers to cut Kendall Simmons. And that’s because this move was totally unanticipated by the Pittsburgh press corps.

In particular, Ed Bouchette was asked time and time again during the season in his weekly chat sessions about the Steelers plans for Chris Kemoeatu. Bouchette’s reply was that the Steelers would most likely let him go and plan to start Darnell Stapleton and Kendall Simmons at guard in ’09.

To be fair, Bouchette reported several times over the last week that the Steelers were in serious talks with Kemoeatu, but never he suggest that Simmons would get the axe.

Taking Our Own Medicine, Again

A site that revels in pointing out the faults and inconsistencies of the professional journalists in Pittsburgh must own up to its own short comings.

Steel Curtain Rising ran a post the morning after the Steelers cut Simmons. In that post we stated that he’d been drafted in 2003. In fact, he was drafted in 2002. We’ve corrected the mistake, but it is nonetheless important to fess up.

Please lend a hand by sharing this on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc... Thanks.