Friday, February 27, 2009

Steelers sign Kemoeatu, McHugh

The Steelers have reached agreement on a contract with free agent guard Chris Kemoeatu on a five-year, $20-million contract Friday, just over 12 hours after the beginning of the NFL free agent period.

Kemoeatu, the Steelers' starting left guard in 2008, was one of three starting offensive linemen set to test the free agent market.

But Pittsburgh placed the franchise tag on left tackle Max Starks and made a qualifying offer of $2.2 million to resticted free agent right tackle Willie Colon.

The team still has an opening at right guard, but it's likely that need can be filled in the draft. Kendall Simmons, who began last season at right guard, played in just four games before suffering a torn Achilles tendon. He was replaced by backup center Darnell Stapleton, but the Steelers would like to upgrade the position.

The Steelers have also re-signed tight end/fullback Sean McHugh, a restricted free agent, to a three-year, $2.57-million deal.

McHugh's deal actually offers some salary cap relief. He had received a tender offer of $1.01 million on Thursday.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Steelers release Simmons, don't tender Smith

In a couple of somewhat surprising moves Thursday, the Steelers decided to allow a pair of former starters to leave.

Guard Kendall Simmons, a former No. 1 draft pick and the team's starting right guard, was released.

Also Anthony Smith, a former third-round draft pick and starting free safety was not tendered a contract offer as a restricted free agent, making him unrestricted.

The Simmons move is not all that surprising considering his injury history. He missed most of the 2008 season after tearing his Achilles tendon.

Not tendering Smith, however, goes against the grain of what the team usually does. Normally, the Steelers like to cover their butts with their own free agents and at least assure themselves of getting something in return.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Saturday dreaming

I've got nothing against Jeff Saturday, who's a fine football player, nor Ralph Cindrich, an Avella native who's a very good agent.

But I just don't see the Steelers being interested in an offensive lineman who will turn 34 in June, at least not unless he's willing to come very cheap.

And if that was the case, Saturday would likely just re-sign with Indianapolis.

But hey, it made for a big story in another newspaper. It's just not going to happen.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Free agency getting close

With free agency just a couple of days away, talks are heating up between the Steelers and some of their unsigned players.

Others, however, see the writing on the wall.

There has been no contact between the Steelers and offensive tackle Marvel Smith, something that's not surprising if you read my story on Kevin Colbert just after the Super Bowl.

The Steelers, who know more about Smith's injury history than anybody, think his career may be over.

That may or not be the case, but the Steelers are moving on.

There has also been little contact with wide receiver Nate Washington.

After placing the franchise tag on left tackle Max Starks, the Steelers saw nearly half of the $20 million in free cap space they had available eaten up.

They'll also have to keep enough money free to tender offers to their restricted free agents – right tackle Willie Colon being the biggest one.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Looking in on the combine

Watching the NFL combine coverage on TV the past few days, here's what I've seen thus far:

© West Virginia quarterback Pat White ran a 4.49 40-yard dash, plenty fast enough to play any position in the league. White still wants to be a quarterback - for obvious reasons, they make the big money – but he has the ability to do a lot of things. The only question with him will be durability and the ability to get lined up under center after playing in a shotgun-only offense at WVU.

He's already proven that he has, as one scout told me when talking about Kordell Stewart one time, 'oh $^%& speed.'

© The running backs at this year's combine weren't in the same league as the ones available last year. This was not considered a strong running back class to begin with, but only three backs broke the 4.5 mark. Pitt's LeShon McCoy did not run.

© Just in case you were wondering if the new turf in Indianpolis may have slowed the backs down, the receivers proved that wasn't the case.

There were 19 receivers who broke 4.5 seconds, led by Maryland's Darius Heyward-Bey, who clocked in at a smoking 4.30. Heyward-Bey also had a vertical leap of 38.5 and a standing long jump of 10-6, showing his explosiveness as well as speed.

Penn State's Derrick Williams ran a disappointing 4.58.

One of the big winners among the wide receivers was North Carolina's Hakeem Nicks. Viewed as a possession-type receiver with great hands and body control, he ran a 4.49, plenty fast enough to possibly get him into the end of the first round.

© The decision of Alabama's Andre Smith to skip out on the combine after checking in could have repercussions for the Steelers. Smith was considered one of the top two offensive tackles available, but teams may now question his desire.

If that happens, it causes a domino effect the rest of the way down the tackle board. Smith will still be a top-20 pick, but a tackle who may have lasted to pick 32 - say Arizona's Eben Britton – may now go before that.

© Oklahoma's Phil Loadholt ran a painfully slow 5.49. That's right tackle material all the way.

© California center Alex Mack did not work out, but Penn State's A.A. Shipley did and had good numbers.

Shipley ran a 5.19 and also bench-pressed 225 pounds 33 times. Shipley's an intriguing prospect who will last until later rounds because he's only 6-1.

Oregon's Max Unger was a little disappointing, managing just 22 bench reps.

Louisville's Eric Wood ran a 5.17 and managed 30 reps on the bench.

Wood has possibilities as a guard.

© In addition to offensive linemen, the Steelers have reportedly been sniffing around cornerbacks at the combine. That makes sense considering Bryant McFadden is likely to leave as a free agent.

They can also get a corner who doubles as a return man, killing two birds with one stone.

According to Jim Wexell of SteelCityInsider.com, the team spent time talking with Coye Francies and Darius Butler.

Butler, from Connecticut, is also a very good return man.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Steelers appearances

From the Steelers: After a season culminating with a historic win over the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII, members of the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers including Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward, LaMarr Woodley, Willie Parker and James Harrison will gather at the AMC Loews Waterfront 22 (300 Waterfront Drive W – Homestead, PA) for a VIP screening of Warner Home Video’s 2009 Super Bowl XLIII Champions DVD. The festivities will get underway at 7:00 PM and media should arrive at 6:00 PM for interviews.

In addition to this VIP screening, these key members of the championship team will be conducting three autograph signings around town for fans that purchase a copy of the Super Bowl XLIII Champions DVD. All store information is featured in text box below along with appropriate players and times. Please note that the players will only sign copies of the purchased DVD and no other memorabilia will be signed.

On February 1st, 2009 the Pittsburgh Steelers made history when they won their record sixth championship by defeating the Arizona Cardinals 27-23 in Super Bowl XLIII. Now, relive their entire season and memorable playoff run with Warner Home Video and NFL Film’s Official Super Bowl XLIII Champions DVD. The DVD includes extensive bonus materials and is due to hit stores on February 24th, 2009 for a retail price of $24.98.

Holmes, Ward, Woodley, Parker and Harrison will be at the Loews in Homestead from 7 to 9 p.m. Feb. 23.

Holmes will be at the Best Buy in Bethel Park from noon to 2 p.m. Feb. 23.

Ward will be at the Wal-Mart in West Mifflin from 1 to 3 p.m. Feb. 24.

Woodley will be at the Giant Eagle at Robinson Twp. from 1 to 3 p.m. Feb. 25.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Why tag Starks again?

The Steelers made the decision to put the franchise tag on left tackle Max Starks Thursday, one year after placing the transition tag on Starks.

Many will look at it and wonder why the team felt the need to tag a guy for a second time, particularly one who hasn't gone into either of the past two seasons as a starter.

But the Steelers don't like to see their options limited.

And looking around the offensive tackle prospects available in free agency and the draft, there was no way the Steelers could afford to lose Starks.

With five offensive linemen set to hit the open market – including restricted free agent Willie Colon – the Steelers also couldn't afford to lose the player who was their best offensive linemen by the end of the 2008 season.

At 27, Starks still has his best football ahead of him as well.

The team will try to work out a new deal with Starks to keep him in Pittsburgh long term, but they wanted to protect themselves against another team swooping in and signing him next week.

The team also considered tagging cornerback Bryant McFadden, but the cost of that was nearly $10 million. Plus, while they have three NFL-quality cornerbacks, they had no other options at left tackle.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Holmes' celebration costs him 10K

Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes has been fined $10,000 by the NFL for using the football as a prop following his game-winning touchdown catch in Super Bowl XLIII.

Holmes' celebration – pretending the ball was a powder dispenser and then throwing it into the air ala. LeBron James – did not draw a penalty flag during the Steelers' 27-23 win over Arizona, but it did cause a lot of griping.

Many felt Holmes should have been penalized – he should have – had the officials seen the event – they didn't.

Holmes' celebration came nearly a minute after his touchdown catch, after his teammates had left him. If you watch video of the play, you can see the official who was watching for any illegal celebrations walking away from Holmes before he went into his act.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A look at the franchise/transition tag values

Remember last year when people were up in arms when the Steelers placed the transition tag on offensive tackle Max Starks, guaranteeing him nearly $7 million?
Here are the tag values for this year. It's interesting to note that the transition tag on offensive tackles would now cost $7.74 million and that the Steelers have just two players - safety Troy Polamalu and defensive tackle Casey Hampton - among the top five-paid players at their position in 2009.
That is how you stay out of cap hell.

Quarterbacks

Player Total
P. Manning $18,704,320
T. Brady $14,620,000
C. Palmer $13,980,001
A. Rodgers $13,952,500
E. Manning $11,416,666
Franchise: 14.65 million
Transition: 12.44 million

Running backs

Player Total
L. Tomlinson $7,816,666
E. James $6,750,000
J. Lewis $6,400,000
R. Brown $6,106,800
C. Portis $6,031,083
Franchise: 6.62 million
Transition: 5.92 million

Wide receivers

Player Total
M. Harrison $12,000,000
L. Evans $10,374,585
B. Berrian $9,438,333
T. Holt $9,104,714
A. Johnson $8,504,848
Franchise: 9.88 million
Transition: 8.39 million

Tight ends

Player Total
T. Gonzalez $5,031,375
L.J. Smith $4,522,000
K. Winslow $4,449,584
A. Gates $4,200,000
J. Witten $4,105,000
Franchise: 4.46 million
Transition: 4.07 million

Offensive linemen

Player Total
E. Steinbach $9,166,666
J. Thomas $8,860,000
W. Jones $8,600,000
O. Pace $8,175,000
J. Gross $7,455,000
Franchise: 8.45 million
Transition: 7.74 million

Kickers/punters

Player Total
S. Janikowski $3,010,000
R. Gould $2,520,000
A. Vinatieri $2,350,000
J. Kasay $2,300,000
B. Moorman $2,236,428
Franchise: 2.48 million
Transition: 2.26 million

Defensive ends

Player Total
J. Peppers $13,902,500
J. Abraham $8,500,000
A. Schobel $8,066,666
J. Taylor $7,500,000
L. Castillo $6,983,500
Franchise: 8.99 million
Transition: 7.78 million

Defensive tackles

Player Total
A. Haynesworth $7,250,003
C. Griffin $6,166,333
T. Harris $6,030,662
M. Stroud $5,666,666
C. Hampton $5,177,083
Franchise: 6.06 million
Transition: 5.45 million

Linebackers

Player Total
R. Lewis $9,428,574
T. Suggs $8,475,000
K. Dansby $8,065,000
K. Bullock $7,858,668
K. Brooking $7,692,226
Franchise: 8.30 million
Transition: 7.48 million

Cornerbacks

Player Total
C. Bailey $12,190,050
C. McAlister $10,907,082
N. Asomugha $9,765000
A. Samuel $8,645,000
P. Surtain $8,280,000
Franchise: 9.96 million
Transition: 8.37 million

Safties

Player Total
B. Sanders $8,209,999
T. Polamalu $6,820,000
R.L. Williams $6,667,385
M. Williams $5,271,666
A. Wilson $4,739,499
Franchise: 6.34 million
Transition: 5.13 million

Monday, February 16, 2009

Time for the combine

It's a bit of a quiet period in the NFL, what with free agency still a couple of weeks away and all.

But the eyes and ears of the league will descend upon Indianapolis this week for the combine.

For guys like me, who concentrate so much on the NFL game that they only get to watch snippets of college games all year, it's a chance to catch up on some of the draft stuff.

I'll watch all the coverage - several times, actually, since it will be re-run a number of times – on the NFL Network. Obviously, watching a guy play is completely different from watching him run around in shorts, but you get a feel for a guy as an athlete.

The teams, meanwhile, will be trying to get a feel for them as people during their one-on-one meetings.

Here's some of the guys I'll be focusing on as possible first-day draft picks for the Steelers:

Round 1
Alex Mack, C, California. Mack's 6-4, 315-pounder who has the size to line up at guard as well.
Eben Britton, OT, Arizona. Britton is considered the fourth or fifth best offensive tackle prospect in this draft. At 6-5, 310 pounds, he has the size of a LT. I want to see how he moves to determine if he can play that spot in the NFL.
Max Unger, C, Oregon. At 6-5, 305, Unger's not quite as big as Mack, but he's played OT at the collegiate level.
Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU. The 6-5, 290-pound Jackson has prototypical 3-4 defensive end size. But does he have the motor?

Round 2
Phil Loadholt, OT, Oklahoma. Loadholt lives up to his name at 6-7, 340 pounds. He looks like a RT. Can he move?
Derrick Williams, WR, Penn State. Nate Washington could be gone and Williams could challenge Limas Sweed for the No. 3 spot while also taking over in the return game.
CBs Coye Francis, San Jose State; Victor Harris, Virginia Tech; Bruce Johnson, Miami; Sean Smith, Utah; Keenan Lewis, Oregon State. All have second-round grades right now and it will be a position of need if Bryant McFadden leaves. Deshea Townsend isn't getting any younger and his contract is up after the 2009 season.

© The last word on Butler

Here's the last word on the Keith Butler-Arizona Cardinals flirtation.

It turns out my source in Arizona was right, the Cardinals did, indeed, ask for and receive permission from the Steelers to talk to Butler about their defensive coordinator opening.

According to the Arizona Republic, Butler decided to stay in Pittsburgh, declining the interview offer.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Smith speaks about free agency

Steelers free agent-to-be offensive tackle Marvel Smith was on Sirius's "Movin' The Chains with hosts Tim Ryan and Pat Kirwan Friday.

Here's what the discussion was:

Host, Pat Kirwan: "Marvel, you know free agency is right around the corner. You're going to be a free agent tackle. I'm going to assume you're going to hit the open market. You know the first question I'm going to ask [is] 'How much gas is left in your tank?' Because you have to sell that idea. Because if you got three in you, I got the contract waiting for you."

Marvel Smith: "I'm actually feeling really good. It was difficult going through the injury but, like I said, its probably a blessing that it happened the way it did because I almost didn't play the whole season so it feels like my body is that much more fresher because I had a lot more rest time or what not. And now, it was weird because at the Super Bowl it was a little more frustrating because I felt healthy enough to play. But that was the cards I was dealt. So right now I'm feeling healthy, I'm ready to go, I'm out here working out, training everything already so I'm feeling pretty good."

Pat Kirwan: "All three tackles for the Steelers are going to be hitting free agency in some form or another. Would you like to go back to Pittsburgh? Have they talked to you about coming back?"

Marvel Smith: "I would definitely love to be back in Pittsburgh. I've been there my whole career. So I would definitely love to retire as a Steeler if that's possible. There's definitely been some talk about trying to bring me back and seeing what it's going to take to do that. So my first choice would definitely be Pittsburgh and if that doesn't work out I'll definitely see what other options are out there."

Host, Tim Ryan: "Any hankering to get back to the west coast?"

Marvel Smith: "I was born and raised in Oakland, California. So for me if it didn't, for whatever reason I can't go back to Pittsburgh, and I've been on the east coast my whole career, I would definitely love to be back on the west coast. No doubt about that."

Tim Ryan: "Realistically, where do you see your market value with the situation you're in right now versus the other free agent tackles that are out there?"

Marvel Smith: "To tell you the truth I haven't really paid much attention to it. Talking to my agent there's definitely some interest out there and we'll get a better idea of what that is after the teams go through the combine and sit down and look at there personnel and stuff like that. I really don't judge myself amongst the other guys. I'm just trying to get myself back playing the type of football I know I can play, and go out there and play at the level that I want to."

Tim Ryan: "When healthy - and if you're healthy and you sound like you are, at least getting close - do you still feel like you're an elite left tackle in the pro game?"

Marvel Smith: "No doubt about it. Anybody that's out there in free agency - I don't want to sound, I don't want my comments taken out of context or whatever - but if I'm healthy there's nobody in free agency that's going to be a better left tackle then I am."

Friday, February 13, 2009

Make LeBeau No. 1

The blog SteelersDepot.com and blogger Dave Cherry are making an effort to get Steelers' defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau to the top of IMDB (The Internet Movie Database).

LeBeau, for those of you who didn't know this, served as Michael Caine's stunt double in the 1970 movie "Too Late the Hero."

The move may be working. According to IMDB, LeBeau's searches on the site have increased 48 percent, while the movie's popularity has also increased.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Steelers add 10 players

Seven members of the Steelers’ 2008 practice squad were among 10 players signed today to the team’s offseason roster.

The Steelers announced today that WR Dallas Baker, C/G Doug Legursky, CB Roy Lewis, S Ryan Mundy, TE Dezmond Sherrod, RB Justin Vincent and LB Donovan Woods have re-signed with the team after spending part or all of the 2008 season on the club’s practice squad.

The Steelers also signed three players with no prior experience with the team to their offseason roster. The players include RB Stefan Logan – who I reported on last week – WR Brandon Williams and FB Ryan Powdrell (POW-drell).

Logan (5-7, 185) rushed for 889 yards on 122 carries (7.3 avg.) and caught 52 passes for 477 yards (9.2 avg.) and three TDs in 2008 with the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League. He signed with the B.C. Lions as a free agent in May of 2008 after spending time in 2007 on the Miami Dolphins practice squad as an undrafted rookie out of South Dakota. The 27-year-old Logan spent five years out of football before enrolling at South Dakota in 2003.

Williams (5-11, 170) played in 23 NFL games with the San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams from 2006-07. He was released by the Rams prior to the 2008 regular season and did not play with another team. Williams was selected in the third round (84th overall) of the 2006 NFL Draft by the 49ers after a college career at Wisconsin. He signed with the Rams as a free agent in October of 2007. Williams has returned 35 punts for 245 yards (7.0 avg.) and 38 kickoffs for 888 yards (23.4 avg.) during his NFL career.

Obviously, the Steelers are still looking for help in the return game.

Powdrell (5-11, 254) originally signed as an undrafted rookie with the Green Bay Packers in 2007 but was released prior to the regular season. The 25-year old Powdrell, who played in college at Southern California, spent a week on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice squad in 2008.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What comes around

At the post-Super Bowl party the Steelers threw, I was talking to Dick LeBeau and mentioned to him how crazy the final five or so minutes of that game were.

"You lost one like that, right?" I asked, recalling he was on Cincinnati's staff when Joe Montana hit John Taylor with 34 seconds remaining in Super Bowl XXIII to beat the Bengals, 20-16.

"Yeah, and just like that play, where my guy just missed the pass by a couple of inches, we had the same thing tonight," LeBeau replied, his ever-constant smile on his face.

"That's the way the game goes."

Apparently, I wasn't the only one to make that connection.

The San Francisco Examiner's Tim Liotta compares the two endings in a Feb. 8 column.

© As expected, the Steelers don't have any plans to cut linebacker Larry Foote or ask him to take a paycut.

It's just not their way. Foote has been a steady starter on two Super Bowl teams. I know there's a lot of people out there in a hurry to replace him - and it will likely happen in 2009 - but he's a valuable backup to have around.

And his salary isn't outrageous.

The Steelers took a lot of heat for paying Max Starks $7 million in 2008. Look how that worked out.

Monday, February 09, 2009

A couple of interesting notes

In Peter King's Monday Morning QB, he breaks down the Steelers' game-winning drive in the Super Bowl and also dropped a couple of nuggets of information.

The first was Ben Roethlisberger said that he played with two cracked ribs in the Super Bowl.

My first inclination on that - having dealt with Roethlisberger throughout his pro career – is I'm not buying it until I get confirmation from somebody other than Roethlisberger.

Remember the broken toes? Remember the 103-degree fever.

Ben's something of a drama queen when it comes to injuries. I don't know why that is, but he's always one to play up injuries as worse than they are.

According to King per Roethlisberger, X-rays taken the week leading up to the game - something everyone denied - didn't show the fractures. They were revealed in an MRI in Pittsburgh last week.

© King also said the blood treatment used on Hines Ward, where concentrated levels of his own blood were injected into his injured right knee, was also done earlier in the season on Troy Polamalu's injured calf.

© If there is one beef I have with Mike Tomlin it is that he's not always forthcoming with injury information.

Bill Cowher would open his Tuesday press conferences by giving the entire laundry list. He had nothing to hide when it came to injuries.

But Tomlin has a little of Bill Belechick in him when it comes to injuries. Sometimes he won't mention an injured player unless you specifically ask him about that player.

Sometimes, he'll make it sound like it was an oversight on his part. But Tomlin's too smart to miss anything. If he doesn't mention an injury, there's a purpose behind it.

The entire NFL is turning into the NHL when it comes to injuries thanks to Belechick and former Denver head coach Mike Shanahan.

Either everybody should report all of their injuries or nobody should report any of them.

© After some checking over the weekend, I've determined that the Cardinals did not inquire about the services of Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler. My source in Arizona was mistaken.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Butler leaving?

The Arizona Cardinals have fired defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast and may be looking to the Steelers to replace him.

Arizona has contacted the Steelers for permission to speak to linebackers coach Keith Butler about the opening.

Given that it would be a promotion, the Steelers shouldn't be able to say no. But I've been unable to confirm that one way or another.

Butler was seen as the eventual replacement for defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau in Pittsburgh when LeBeau finally decides to walk into the sunset.

Butler was on staff with Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm when they were in Pittsburgh.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Steelers to sign CFL running back

According to TSN.com, the Steelers will sign B.C. Lions running back Stefan Logan.

"When I tried out in January they said they wanted to sign me then, but we'd have to do it after the Super Bowl," Logan told TSN.

"They told me I had a good opportunity to make the team as a starting kick and punt returner and as a third down back," said the former South Dakota star.

The 27-year old Logan, was among the CFL leaders in rushing yards with 889 yards on just 122 carries. He also caught 52 passes for 477 yards and three touchdowns.

Finding a better option as a kick and punt returner will be a top priority for the Steelers this offseason.

Despite some strong punt returns by Santonio Holmes in the postseason, the return game struggled this season, ranking near the bottom of the league in both punt and kick returns.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Parade on Demand

Comcast will provide KDKA-TV’s coverage of Tuesday's Steelers Super Bowl Parade free to all digital subscribers through its On Demand service.

Immediately after KDKA-TV’s live coverage concludes, Comcast digital customers can select the “Your Town” folder on their On Demand menu and then select the “Sports” and “KDKA Steelers Parade” folders to view the celebration.

Comcast also provides its Sports Entertainment Package customers with a variety of Steelers content through the “Steelers 24/7” On Demand folder.

Comcast On Demand currently offers customers thousands of kids and family entertainment choices among the more than 10,000 programs available throughout the course of a month, including more than 1,000 choices in HD available at any time. 

Tuesday news

The parade today was a good look at how close this Steelers team is.

These guys really enjoy being around each other and there's no finger pointing between the offense and defense.

That wasn't always the case. I distinctly remember when there was a definite chasm between the offense and defense back in the early 90s. The defense, which was outstanding, didn't feel the offense carried any of load.

© The task of building for the 2009 season begins today for the Steelers. The Super Bowl is over and the NFL combine is in just a couple of weeks. Free agency begins Feb. 27.

No rest for the winners.

© Head coach Mike Tomlin, director of football operations Kevin Colbert and the Rooneys, Dan and Art II, will sit down in the next two weeks to discuss the team's direction.

Rebuilding the offensive line will be a big topic. Four players with starting experience will be free agents.

Signing outside linebacker James Harrison to a new deal - he's got one year remaining on his current deal - will also be a hot topic. That will be one of the team's offseason priorities.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Here we go again

After a short night to digest that game, I guess the one thing that does stand out about it were the number of penalties.

We didn't see many holding penalties period in the NFL this season, but we saw more than our share called in the Steelers' win over Arizona in the Super Bowl.

Most, however, were clearly holds.

In fact, after seeing it several more times, I'm actually of the belief now that Justin Hartwig's fourth quarter holding penatly in the end zone that resulted in a safety wasn't really a hold as much as he got bullrushed and the guy fell on top of him.

On the Harrison interception, I didn't see the hold on Warner until about the fourth replay. There was so much going on during that play that it just wasn't obvious. People complaining about that one have to realize that all of the officials were down in the other end zone and they have to immediately start trying to run with the play. I'm sure at that point, the officials on that side of the field are trying to watch and see if Harrison goes out of bounds, if there's any illegal blocks in the back, etc.

There was really none of the officials who would have had a proper angle to call a holding penalty at that point. Life goes on. You don't like it, don't throw the pick.

I thought LaMarr Woodley's sack and strip on the final play was clearly a sack and strip. The replay showed Warner's arm go back to throw the ball and then he's hit before it comes forward.

That made up for the horrible call on the previous sack and strip in the third quarter when the only reason his arm came forward was because he was hit. He wasn't attempting to throw that ball.

Cardinals fans have a legit complaint on the roughing the passer penalty on Karlos Dansby in the third quarter. That wasn't roughing. Nor, however, was it intentional grounding as some talking heads would have you believe. Ben Roethlisberger was outside the tackle box – he was at the hash mark and left tackle Max Starks was inside the hash mark by a yard when the play began - and the ball was thrown past the line of scrimmage.

© The Steelers were kind enough to invite me to their post-game celebration Sunday night and a good time was had by all.

It shows what a classy organization they are and it was really nice to see the players celebrating such a dramatic win with their friends and families.

It was also nice for the front office people - the ones behind the scenes that you never see - to get that opportunity to let their hair down after a long and successful journey.

The highlight of the night had to be seeing Snoop Dog freestyle a Steelers rap to the tune of Gin and Juice. I got part of that on my Blackberry as a recording. If I actually figure out how to get it off of my Blackberry, maybe I'll post the audio here sometime this week.

© Talking to some front office people last night we figured out there are five people in the organization with six rings, five with six I began to call them.

Team chairman Dan Rooney is the obvious one. Joe Greene has six as well, four as a player, two as a member of the front office.

The others are video coordinator Bob "Mack" McCartney, longtime college scout Bill Nunn and Human Relations/Office Coordinator Gerry Glenn.

Congratulations to them as well.

© I'm off to the airport to return to Pittsburgh. I'll check in again later when we arrive.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Wow!

I don't even know what to say about that one at this point.

I just finished writing five Super Bowl stories in roughly an hour-and-a-half.

I'm not complaining. I'm just saying, it's going to take me about 24 hours to completely digest this one.

© Before everybody kills me because the Steelers ran the wildcat in this game, let me say a couple of things:

A. I wrote about them doing it with Mewelde Moore, not Willie Parker as they did in the game.

B. I didn't give away the play because when the Steelers worked on it in practice a couple of weeks ago, it was with Ben Roethlisberger going in motion and pitching the ball deep.

So there!

© I'm happy for a lot of guys in that locker room. Covering this team from May through now – that's how long a season lasts – you see all of the hard work that goes into doing this.

© It would have been better for my blood pressure, however, if somebody would have stopped Larry Fitzgerald in the fourth quarter. Ike Taylor, you did a bang-up job on him for three quarters, but great players are great players for a reason.

I was getting ready to start tearing up all five of my stories and start re-writing. Not a fun job when you're working on an 11:45 p.m. deadline.

© I'm going to go and have a much-deserved – at least in my opinion – beer.

Cheers.

At the game

The skies are overcast here in Tampa with temps in the low 70s, high 60s.

There's a light wind, nothing too substantial.

Dennis Dixon, Anthony Smith, Fernando Bryant, Bruce Davis, Tony Hills, Jason Capizzi, Scott Paxson and Orpheus Roye are inactive for the Steelers.

Brian St. Pierre, Eric Green, Tim Castille, Victor Hobson, Elliot Valleo, Brandon Keith, Alan Branch and Jerame Tuman inactive for the Cards.