Thursday, April 30, 2009

Steelers ready for mini-camp, make roster moves

The Steelers will hold their mini-camp Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the only mandatory workouts of the offseason.

That means all players will be expected to be there or risk being fined - with the exception of linebacker Larry Foote.

Foote's still on the roster for now, but likely will be given a pass on attending mini-camp as the team tries to trade him in the next few days.

A number of teams have their mini-camps this weekend and if somebody has a starter go down with an injury, it could open the door for a deal.

If not, Foote – who has asked to be traded or released – will be cut, freeing up $2.9-million in cap space.

That money, however, isn't everything that's needed for the team to be able to sign its rookie class.

The Steelers's rookie pool is $4.284 million, meaning they'll still have to clear some cap space to be able to get everyone in by training camp.

© In other news, the Steelers made a flurry of roster moves Thursday, most notably signing wide receiver Shaun McDonald.

McDonald, you may remember, was on my free agent watch list.

In 2008, McDonald had 35 catches for 332 yards and one touchdown in 12 games for Detroit.

The Steelers also signed some camp bodies, adding punter Dirk Johnson and kicker Piotr Czech – don't say that one out loud if you're at work.

Long-snapper Jared Retkofsky was released. He was signed last season when Greg Warren was lost for the season to a torn ACL. The Steelers signed Pitt long snapper Mark Estermeyer as an undrafted free agent earlier this week.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Foote wants out

Linebacker Larry Foote has asked to be released after being told that third-year man Lawrence Timmons will take over his starting job.

The Steelers apparently tried to deal Foote during last weekend's NFL draft, but found no takers for Foote and his $2.9-million salary.

With the draft completed, they are continuing to attempt to find a taker, possibly a team that hoped to get a linebacker in the draft but was unable to accomplish it.

A fifth-round draft pick in 2002, Foote has been a starter since 2004 and is very well respected within the team's locker room.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Early undrafted rookie signings for Steelers

These are unconfirmed at this point, but California University of Pennsylvania quarterback Kevin McCabe is among the players the Steelers have agreed to contracts with after the draft.

McCabe originally began his career at Virginia before transferring to Cal.

When I get some confirmation on more players, I'll update.

Derrick Richardson, S, New Mexico State.

Mike Reilly, QB, Central Washington.

Ramon Foster, OT, Tennessee.

Mark Estermyer, long snapper, Pitt.

Tom Korte, ILB, Hillsdale College.

Tyler Grisham, WR, Clemson.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Draft Day 2 stuff

The Steelers moved to fill a need position with their first pick in the third round, taking Wisconsin guard Craig Urbik, a big, mauler who could push for a starting spot at right guard.

It was a solid pick, if uninspiring. The team wanted to grab a big man for their offensive and defensive fronts and did both with their first two picks.

They added speedy kick returner Mike Wallace with their second pick and should be targeting a CB in the latter part of the round, though Pitt's Scott McKillop is also a possibility.

© I loved the fifth-round selection of UNLV's Frank "The Tank" Summers. This is a guy who's built like former Steelers running back Barry Foster and catches the ball well out of the backfield.

He was one of my favorite players in this draft. Do a search for his highlights on Youtube and enjoy.

© The Steelers are really loading up with corners and defensive linemen. Not a bad idea considering the age issues they have at the two positions.

Who are the early targets?

With three picks in the third round of Sunday's NFL draft, the Steelers have plenty of ammunition to make some noise.

Here are some of the guys who are still available who could draw their interest:

Duke Robinson, G, Oklahoma - He doesn't move as well as the Steelers might like, but some mock drafts a month ago had him going to the Steelers in the first round. I didn't like that, but in the third round, he'd be OK.

D.J. Moore, CB, Vanderbilt - If he were an inch taller than the 5-8 and change he measured at the combine, he'd already be gone.

Coye Frances, CB, San Jose State - At 6-0, 185 pounds, he just needs to put on five or so pounds. But he's intriguing.

Keenan Lewis, CB, Oregon State - A big corner who can run. Doesn't catch the ball well, though.

Chip Vaughn, SS, Wake Forest - A big safety who could help on special teams and possibly spell the end of Tyrone Carter's stay on the roster.

Jamon Meridith, OT-G, South Carolina - Played tackle in college, but may project better to guard in the pros. He's a more athletic Trai Essex.

Mike Thomas, WR-KR, Arizona - An electric return man who's only 5-8. But he can play.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Steelers extend Ward

According to ESPN.com, Steelers receiver Hines Ward has agreed to and signed a four-year contract extension worth $22 million.

Ward was scheduled to be a free agent after the season. He's now signed through 2013.

The deal is structured so that it frees up some cap room in 2009..

© Apparently the Cleveland front office has been smoking some ganja with Percy Harvin.

Why in the world do you move down in the first round - twice - and only pick up a bunch of bums and a couple of picks?

To take a center?

Wow.

© Keep an eye on what happens with the defensive tackles - Peria and Hood – if one of them is available, he could be the pick. Though Peria is 25, which is a concern.

If it comes down to Wood and Unger, Wood will likely be the pick, but we'll see.

© Hood or Unger.

© The Steelers took Ziggy Hood, giving John Mitchell his first first-round defensive lineman to work with since Casey Hampton was their first-round pick in 2001.

Hood projects as a defensive end in Pittsbugh's 3-4. He's a high-motor guy, but needs to get more stout against the run.

© I look for the Steelers to try hard to trade up in the second round. In fact, as I sit here at 7:53, almost 20 minutes after they made their pick, Colbert and Tomlin haven't come in to address the media.

Tells me something's brewing.

© I have confirmed the Steelers are trying to trade up in the second round for Unger.

© With trade up for Unger dead, I like Jamon Meredith now in the second round. Craig Urbik and Antione Caldwell are also possibilities.

© The Steelers dealt their second round pick (64th) and a fourth (132) to Denver for the 79th and 84th selections.

They now have three third-round picks.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Final mock

Here it is, my greatly anticipated final mock.

I expect a number of trades Saturday, but I've done this without any.

I'll be updating from the Steelers headquarters Saturday night, letting you know what I'm hearing.

1. Detroit, Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia - As much as I’d love for the Lions to take somebody else – I was a Detroit fan growing up - it appears Stafford is the guy.

2. St. Louis, Eugene Monroe, OT, Virgina – The Rams have many needs, but upgrading the offensive line is a good place to start.

3. Kansas City, Jason Smith, OT, Baylor – Many have the Chiefs taking Aaron Curry, but they’ve signed three linebackers in free agency and Curry really doesn’t rush the passer well.

4. Seattle, Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech – Wide receiver was a huge problem for the Seahawks last year, though a trade down with somebody wanting Mark Sanchez is highly possible.

5. Cleveland, Mark Sanchez, QB, USC – I expect the Browns to move Brady Quinn, opening up a spot for Sanchez.

6. Cincinnati, Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest – The Bengals continue to build their front seven.

7. Oakland, B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College – The Raiders really need to bulk up the run defense.

8. Jacksonville, Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri – Maclin gets time to work with Torry Holt.

9. Green Bay, Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi – The Packers need a starter at RT and Oher can handle the job and is a little safer pick than Andre Smith.

10. San Francisco, Andre Smith, OT, Alabama – The 49ers gave up more sacks than the Steelers last year - that’s right, more.

11. Buffalo, Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas – The Bills need to add to their non-existent pass rush.

12. Denver, Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU – The Broncos get the best 3-4 end in this draft.

13. Washington, Rey Mauluga, LB, USC – The Redskins really want to move up and get Sanchez. That will be the key to this draft.

14. New Orleans, Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State – This is a no-brainer. He could be a corner, he could be a safety. Either way, he’ll help the Saints, who need both.

15. Houston, Clay Matthews, LB, USC – Surprise, surprise. This one is picking up some steam.

16. San Diego, Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia – The Chargers are concerned that LaDainian Tomlinson is close to the end and know that Darren Sproles isn’t an every-down back.

17. N.Y. Jets, Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State – Jets have to get their quarterback of the future.

18. Denver, Everette Brown, OLB, Florida State – The Broncos get a top pass rusher to convert to OLB.

19. Tampa Bay, Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi – The Bucs haven’t been fearsome up front for several years.

20. Detroit, Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee – None of the remaining OTs deserve to be take this high, so the Lions go for a DE.

21. Philadelphia, Chris Wells, RB, Ohio State – The Eagles pair Beanie with Brian Westbrook.

22. Minnesota, Darius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland – The Vikings badly need playmakers on the outside to open things up for the running game.

23. New England, Brian Cushing, LB, USC – The Patriots need to continue to get younger at linebacker.

24. Atlanta, Darius Butler, CB, UConn – The Falcons get a great playmaking cornerback.

25. Miami, Larry English, LB, N. Illinois – Bill Parcells doesn’t mind taking defensive ends from small schools and making them linebacker ala. DeMarcus Ware.

26. Baltimore, Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois – The Ravens are making over their cornerback position.

27. Indianapolis, Evander Hood, DT, Missouri – The Colts started a pair of tackles that barely topped 500 pounds combined in 2008.

28. Buffalo, Eben Britton, OT, Arizona – The Bills got their pass rusher with their first pick, now they get an offensive tackle to replace Jason Peters.

29. New York Giants, Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina – He’s not quite as big as Plaxico Burress, but he’s faster and has better hands.

30. Tennessee, Brian Robiskie, WR, Ohio State – The Titans are working to get Anquan Boldin away from Arizona, but Robiskie is a solid, safe pick.

31. Arizona, Aaron Maybin, LB, Penn State – Running back is a possibility, but Maybin is good value here.

32. Pittsburgh, Max Unger, G-C, Oregon – Unger started at all five offensive line positions for the Ducks, but his best position is center. He’ll start at guard for the Steelers before eventually shifting inside.

Steelers sign Ratliff

Obviously unhappy with their cornerback depth, the Steelers signed former Indianapolis Colts cornerback Keiwan Ratliff Friday to a one-year contract.

The signing of Ratliff, who started four games for the Colts in 2008, lessens the need for the Steelers to overdraft a cornerback this weekend.

© Later on tonight, I'll have my mock draft posted. I've got it finished now, but I want to wait and see if any trades get done early this evening before posting it.

© I'll also be updating the blog live from the Steelers offices on the South Side this weekend, so check back early and often.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Random tidbits

Detroit has an offer on the table for quarterback Matthew Stafford as the top pick.

I think it's a mistake for the Lions – what's new? – because quarterbacks bomb out so often in the first round and they have much greater needs. Plus, I just don't like any of the quarterbacks in this year's draft.

Detroit would be better off taking offensive tackle Jason Smith first rather than a quarterback, but that's why they're the Lions.

© Once that top pick is established, however, the rest of the draft will start to take shape.

© There seems to be a hold on the Braylon Edwards to Giants trade.

If I'm the Giants, I'd rather have Hakeem Nicks than give up a first-round draft pick and a player – which is reportedly what the Browns are asking for – for Edwards, who dropped everything in sight last season.


© According to ProFootballTalk.com, the Steelers currently have $440,000 in cap space. Again, a trade for Buffalo's Roscoe Parrish seems unlikely because of that - unless Pittsburgh is willing to release inside linebacker Larry Foote.

The Steelers will obviously have to do some work before they sign any of their rookie class.

Those players count as minimum wage guys until they actually sign their contract and therefore don't count against the top 51 salaries.

© Darius Butler is the only cornerback who would interest me in the first round if I'm the Steelers.

© Given my choice of the top three center prospects in this draft, I'd list them in this order, Eric Wood, Max Unger, Alex Mack. That's right, Mack's third on my list because he hasn't shown the ability to play anything other than center, while the other two have.

Wood's nastiness and love of the game gives him the nod over Unger for me.

© Brian Robiskie might be the safest pick of the second tier of wide receivers.

He's smooth with great size and good, not great, speed.

Plus, his dad's an NFL coach, so you know his head's on straight.

Can't say that about Percy Harvin or Kenny Britt. And Nicks raised some concerns by putting on 14 pounds after the combine - though he did have a hamstring problem.

© I think I'd rather have a load in my pants than Phil Loadholt.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Taylor restructures contract

Ian Whetstone, the resident capologist at SteelCityInsider.com, found that the Steelers have restructured the contract of cornerback Ike Taylor, freeing up $430,000 in cap space by giving him that money in signing bonus instead.

It's been something the Steelers have done a good job of doing over the years as a way to free up space.

© SteelCityInsider.com's Jim Wexell has confirmed the rumors that were being bandied about the Steelers media room Monday that running back Gary Russell was released due to a run-in with the law.

Russell apparently was staying with a friend at a Columbus, Ohio home that was raided by police. A large stash of marijuana was found.

Russell apparently has not been charged with any crime, but the Steelers did not want the situation to become a distraction.

© Director of football operations Kevin Colbert did not deny that the Steelers talked to the Buffalo Bills about wide receiver/return man Roscoe Parrish, but said that they have contact with all teams leading up to the draft to find out who might be available.

That said, the Steelers are very tight against the salary cap and a trade is unlikely.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Steelers open OTAs

The defending world champion Pittsburgh Steelers held their first official workout of the offseason Monday as they opened their OTAs (Organized Training Activities).

Santonio Holmes, Tyrone Carter, Ryan Clark, Willie Parker, Troy Polamalu, Larry Foote and Lawrence Timmons were among those who weren't here, but head coach Mike Tomlin said none of those were unexpected.

That both Timmons and Foote were MIA was interesting, though, since they figure to battle for the starting mack position. It doesn't figure to be much of a battle, however, as former first-round draft pick Timmons just has too much athleticism for Foote.

© According to director of football operations Kevin Colbert, the Steelers are very tight against the salary cap, hence the release of running back Gary Russell, as I reported last week.

Colbert said the Steelers wanted to sign Charlie Batch before OTAs opened and needed cap space to do so. They looked at the roster and running back looked to be a spot where they could give up a player with Rashard Mendenhall coming back to action.

Russell, by the way, was picked up by Cincinnati.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mock Draft Part II

Here is mock draft II as we get a week closer to the actual thing. My final mock will be out Friday, March 24.


1. Detroit, Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia - The Lions seem to be settling in on taking the quarterback with the first pick.

2. St. Louis, Jason Smith, OT, Baylor - The Rams have a lot of holes, but the release of Orlando Pace may have tipped their hand.

3. Kansas City, Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest - The Chiefs are going to a 3-4 defense and Curry has the ability to play inside or outside.

4. Seattle, Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech – After suffering through a terrible season with injuries at the position in 2008, the Seahawks grab a stud.

5. Cleveland, B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College – They just gave a boatload of money to Shaun Rogers last year, but he already wants out.

6. Cincinnati, Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri – The Bengals like to score points in bunches. They just can’t stop anybody.

7. Oakland, Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia – With Crabtree and Maclin gone, the Raiders go for another big need.

8. Jacksonville, Andre Smith, OT, Alabama – The Jags allowed 42 sacks in 2008, a lot for a team that only throws it 20 times per game.

9. Green Bay, Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU – With the switch to a 3-4, the Packers need bigger defensive ends.

10. San Francisco, Mark Sanchez, QB. USC – The 49ers have all but given up on Alex Smith.

11. Buffalo, Everette Brown, DE. Florida State – The Bills were pitiful rushing the passer in 2008.

12. Denver, Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State – You didn’t think Kyle Orton was the long-term answer did you?

13. Washington, Brian Oropko, DE, Texas – The Redskins managed just 24 sacks in 2008.

14. New Orleans, Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State – The Saints were incredibly soft in the secondary last season.

15. Houston, Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee – The Texans need to get Mario Williams some pass rushing help.

16. San Diego, Rey Maualuga, LB, USC – Where else would Junior Seau Jr. go?

17. New York Jets, Percy Harvin, WR, Florida – If you don’t have a great quarterback, you’d better at least load up on wide receivers.

18. Denver, Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi – The Broncos’ run defense was non-existent in 2008.

19. Tampa Bay, Chris Wells, RB, Ohio State – Cadillac Williams just can’t stay healthy and Ernest Graham is, well, Ernest Graham.

20. Detroit, Ziggy Hood, DT, Missouri – The Lions could use help everywhere, but have to get better up front on both sides of the ball.

21. Philadelphia, Darius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland - The Eagles have been looking for a stud WR for seemingly forever.

22. Minnesota, Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois – The Vikings have a great defensive front but need help in the defensive backfield.

23. New England, Clay Matthews, LB, USC – Matthews fits the mold of New England linebackers and Bill Belichick coached his dad in Cleveland.

24. Atlanta, Brian Cushing, OLB, USC – The Falcons lost both OLBs in free agency. They signed Mike Peterson, but need another.

25. Miami, James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State – The Dolphins have plenty of holes for a team that made the playoffs in 2008. They hope Laurinaitis is the second-coming of Zach Thomas.

26. Baltimore, Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi – The Ravens have a need at RT.

27. Indianapolis, Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers – With Marvin Harrison now gone, the Colts need somebody to help take pressure off of Reggie Wayne.

28. Philadelphia, Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia – The Eagles don’t want to give Brian Westbrook the ball 30 times per game.

29. New York Giants, Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina – Plaxico Burress is gone and Amani Toomer is way over the hill.

30. Tennessee, Darius Butler, CB, Connecticut – The Titans lost pretty much all of their secondary depth this offseason.

31. Arizona, Aaron Maybin, LB, Penn State – Maybin could give the Cardinals a nice edge rusher for their 3-4.

32. Pittsburgh, Alex Mack, C, California – Mack will be given time to settle in at guard for a year before switching to center.

Steelers release Russell

In an interesting move Thursday, the Steelers released running back Gary Russell, their primary kickoff return man and short-yardage specialist in 2008.

The move was announced at the same time as the team announced it had re-signed quarterback Charlie Batch.

It's likely that this was a salary cap move. With the signings of James Harrison and Batch this week, the Steelers had to be tight against the cap.

Russell wasn't making a lot of money, but the $450,000 or so in base salary he would have earned was likely used to sign Batch.

It also shows how much confidence the Steelers have that running back Rashard Mendenhall will be completely healed from the broken shoulder he suffered early in the 2008 season.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Steelers 2009 schedule released

With the 29th-toughest schedule in 2009, the Steelers' schedule looks even easier in terms of when and where the games will be played.

The NFL released the schedule Tuesday and it shapes up like this:

Thurs. Sept. 10, Tennessee 8:30 p.m.
Sun., Sept. 20, at Chicago, 4:15 p.m.
Sun., Sept. 27, at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
Sun., Oct. 4 San Diego, 8:20 p.m.
Sun., Oct. 11, at Detroit, 1 p.m.
Sun. Oct. 18, Cleveland, 1 p.m.
Sun., Oct. 25, Minnesota, 1 p.m.
Bye
Mon., Nov. 9, at Denver, 8:30 p.m.
Sun., Nov. 15, Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
Sun. Nov. 22, at Kansas City, 1 p.m.
Sun., Nov. 29, at Baltimore, 8:20 p.m.
Sun., Dec. 6, Oakland, 1 p.m.
Thurs., Dec. 10, at Cleveland, 8:20 p.m.
Sun., Dec. 20, Green Bay, 1 p.m.
Sun. Dec. 27, Baltimore, 1 p.m.
Sun., Jan. 3, at Miami, 1 p.m.

Again, not a difficult schedule and one made easier by the fact the Steelers only play back-to-back road games twice.

Schedule to be released/Batch signed

The NFL schedule will be released at 7 p.m. today.

You can bet the Steelers will be featured in a number of prime time games, starting with their opener, which we already know is against Tennessee Thursday night in what should be a rocking Heinz Field.

The interesting thing will be whether or not the league honored the Ravens' request not to play the Steelers in Pittsburgh in prime time.

The Ravens and Steelers figure to be two of the top teams in the AFC again this season and the rivalry screams for prime time matchups each time they play.

© After losing Byron Leftwich over the weekend, the Steelers have signed veteran backup Charlie Batch to a one-year, $895,000 contract.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Harrison signed

As reported last week, the Steelers have signed linebacker James Harrison to a new contract.

The deal is for six years at just over $51 million, including $20 million in bonus money, making him the highest-paid defensive player in Steelers' history.

A two-time team MVP, Harrison is also the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

With Harrison signed, the Steelers will now turn their attention to signing some of their other 11 starters who are entering the final year of their contract.

Topping that list will be getting a deal done with tackle Max Starks, the team's franchise player. Starks is set to earn $8.5 million in 2009 and the Steelers would like to lower that number with a long-term deal.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Steelers lose Leftwich

The Steelers lost free agent quarterback Byron Leftwich to the Tampa Bay Bucs on Sunday, leaving a hole on their roster behind Ben Roethlisberger.

Leftwich signed a two-year deal with Tampa Bay, spurning a similar offer from the Steelers for the opportunity to win a starting job in Tampa Bay.

The Bucs' depth chart at quarterback now includes Leftwich, Josh McCown, Brian Griese and Josh Johnson.

Pittsburgh currently has just unproven second-year QB Dennis Dixon on its roster behind Roethlisberger. The team will now turn to veteran Charlie Batch, who missed the entire 2008 season with a broken clavicle suffered in the first preseason game.

The Steelers wanted to bring both Leftwich and Batch to camp this summer in case one of the two were injured.

:Leftwich was signed last August after Batch was injured.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Harrison deal near?

According to KDKA-TV's Bob Pompeani – perhaps the hardest-working TV reporter in Pittsburgh – the Steelers and linebacker James Harrison could have a new deal by next week.

Pompeani reports the deal would be worth $45 million, which tells me it's likely a four-year extension for the 30-year-old Pro Bowl linebacker.

The Steelers will likely have to move some money around to strike a deal like that, but that probably won't be too big of a problem.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Polamalu, Fitzgerald on Madden cover

It's gotta be the hair.

According to Yahoo, EA Sports is considering putting both Troy Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald on the cover of its next Madden game.

Of course that opens both men up to the dreaded Madden curse, which has afflicted more than one player after appearing on the popular game's cover.

Maybe with two guys, they'd only be half-cursed.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

First mock draft

OK, you asked for it, here it is. Remember, this will change over the next couple of weeks as more information comes in.

1. Detroit, Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia - The Lions seem to be settling in on taking the quarterback with the first pick.

2. St. Louis, Jason Smith, OT, Baylor - The Rams have a lot of holes, but the release of Orlando Pace may have tipped their hand.

3. Kansas City, Brian Orapko, OLB, Texas - The Chiefs are going to a 3-4 defense and need pass rushers.

4. Seattle, Eugene Monroe, PT, Virginia - No need to convince the team that has had Walter Jones at LT for a decade the value of a good LT. Jones’ eventual replacement.

5. Cleveland, Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest - The Browns need to upgrade their front seven. Curry does everything well except rush the passer, so he’ll fit right in with the Browns.

6. Cincinnati, Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech - The Bengals are looking to trade Chad Johnson and Crabtree would soften that blow.

7. Oakland, B.J. Raji, DT. Boston College - Even if Raji did smoke some pot it wouldn’t bother the Raiders. In fact, it might increase their interest in him.

8. Jacksonville, Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri - The Jaguars haven’t had a playmaker at WR since Jimmy Smith retired.

9. Green Bay, Everette Brown, LB, Florida State - The Packers are shifting to a 3-4 and need guys to rush off of the edge.

10. San Francisco, Andre Smith, OT, Alabama - After signing Marvel Smith, the 49ers need some younger insurance.

11. Buffalo, Aaron Maybin, LB, Penn State – Maybin was awfully productive last season, but will be making the transition to LB.

12. Denver, Tyson Jackson, DT, LSU – The Broncos couldn’t stop anybody last season.

13. Washington, Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi – Washington’s offensive line is getting a little ragged.

14. New Orleans, Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State – The Saints were incredibly soft in the secondary last season.

15. Houston, Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois – Make this pick with the expectation that Donta Robinson won’t re-sign after this season.

16. San Diego, Rey Maualuga, LB, USC – Where else would Junior Seau Jr. go?

17. Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State – The Jets really made this a need position. More athletic than Mark Sanchez.

18. Denver, Brian Cushing, LB, USC – The Broncos are reworking what was a bad defensive front.

19. Tampa Bay, Mark Sanchez, QB, USC – Even with Jon Gruden gone, the Bucs keep collecting QBs.

20. Detroit, Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi – The Lions need to beef up the defensive front.

21. Philadelphia, Darius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland - The Eagles have been looking for a stud WR for seemingly forever.

22. Minnesota, Percy Harvin, WR, Florida – The Vikings want to upgrade their WR position and Harvin can certainly do that.

23. New England, Clay Matthews, LB, USC – Matthews fits the mold of New England linebackers.

24. Atlanta, Ziggy Hood, DT, Missouri – A big body for the front seven.

25. Miami, Alex Mack, C, California – The Dolphins are in a tough spot needing help in a lot of places.

26. Baltimore, Hakeem Nicks, WR, NC – The Ravens know that Derrick Mason is nearing the end.

27. Indianapolis, Filli Moala, DT, USC – The Colts need to beef up the interior of their defensive line.

28. Philadelphia, Beanie Wells, RB, Ohio State – The Eagles get a big back to pair with Brian Westbrook.

29. New York Giants, Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia – The Giants would have preferred one of the top WRs fall to them and like Kenny Britt of Rutgers, but they’ll settle for Moreno as a replacement for Derrick Ward.

30. Tennessee, Darius Butler, CB, Connecticut – The Titans need help in the secondary.

31. Arizona, Connor Barwin, LB, Cincinnati – Teams are intrigued by his athleticism.

32. Pittsburgh, Eric Wood, C/G, Louisville – The Steelers ignored the offensive line last year, but can’t do it again. Max Unger will also tempt them, but Wood is nastier.

Steelers finalizing draft boards

The Steelers are finishing up their draft preparations and looking over prospects. With the draft a little over two weeks away, the team will begin doing mock drafts in the next week or so.

A lot can change in the draft process in two weeks, but rest assured, attaining at least two offensive linemen will be a priority. So will acquiring a cornerback, wide receiver and defensive linemen.

In fact, about the only position the Steelers won't be picking from will be quarterback and tight end.

With a healthy portion of the team's starting lineup heading into the final season of their contracts, just about anything could happen in this draft.

Of course the waiting will be the hardest part. That first day is going to drag on while we wait for the 32nd pick to finally come around.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Steelers re-sign Fox

The much-awaited re-signing of linebacker Keyaron Fox has been finalized for the Steelers.

Fox agreed to a two-year, $1.8-million deal Monday.

It was a deal both sides wanted to happen, but there had been no hurry to get it done until now. With the team's offseason workouts set to begin soon, however, the Steelers wanted Fox to be able to participate.

Now, he can.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Leftwich, Skins talking

Steelers quarterback Byron Leftwich met with the Washington Redskins over the weekend and the Washington, D.C., native could soon sign with his hometown team.

The Steelers would like to have Leftwich back for another year as Ben Roethlisberger's backup. Of course, they'd also like to bring Charlie Batch back as well.

Washington tried hard to make a trade for Denver quarterback Jay Cutler, who was later dealt to Chicago. The move has put quarterback Jason Campbell's status with the Skins on thin ice. Campbell is reportedly ticked off about the team trying to deal him.

Signing Leftwich would give the Redskins options.

The Steelers, meanwhile, like second-year quarterback Dennis Dixon, a fifth-round pick last season. Despite coming off a major knee injury that ended his college career, Dixon looked good in training camp and the preseason.

He may not, however, be quite ready to hold down the No. 2 job with the Steelers. Hence the team's interest in bringing back Leftwich and/or Batch.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Burress at Pittsburgh airport

According to my good friend and former KDKA sports anchor John Steigerwald, troubled wide receiver Plaxico Burress was spotted soon after his release by the New York Giants at the Greater Pittsburgh Airport.

I'm sure it was just a coincidence, but you can bet that more than a few people out there started putting two-and-two together and coming up with five.

The Steelers need a wide receiver and Burress has a good relationship with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger from their time together here.

But it's highly doubtful the Steelers would even be slightly interested in bringing Burress back.

First, he's got a possible jail term hanging over his head stemming from gun charges in New York. Second, well, we don't have to go any further than the first point.

Burress isn't coming back.

It's more likely, by the way, that he was in Pittsburgh settling some other form of business. Burress has had several problems with creditors over the years, several from when he was with the Steelers.

Seems he sometimes forgets to pay his bills.

Personally, I never had a problem with Burress. I always found him approachable, even after a loss, which wasn't always the case with some of his teammates.

But he is certainly immature.

© According to blogger Lance Zierlein - yes, the son of Steelers offensive line coach Larry Zierlein – Jay Cutler was almost with the Browns.

Actually, according to Zierlein's well-placed source – which wasn't his father – there were a couple of trade possibilities involving the Browns and Cutler.

There was a three-team deal in the works that would have sent Cutler to Washington, Jason Campbell to Cleveland and Brady Quinn to Denver.

There was also a straight Cutler-for-Quinn deal that Cutler nixed.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Kreider signs with Arizona

The Pittsburgh-to-Arizona matriculation continues as former Steelers fullback Dan Kreider has signed with the Cardinals.

Kreider, the Steelers' rookie of the year in 2000 after making the team as an undrafted free agent, spent last season with the St. Louis Rams after Pittsburgh did not re-sign him.

He joins Jerame Tuman, Sean Morey, Clark Haggans as former Steelers the Cardinals have signed.