Friday, July 31, 2009

Miller had sports hernia surgery

One note of interest - other than of course the Steelers' lack of interest in Michael Vick – was Mike Tomlin's news that tight end Heath Miller had surgery to repair a sports hernia in June.

Tomlin said the team got to the injury soon enough that Miller is expected to be ready to return to the football field at some point before the regular season opener.

Steelers roll in

The Steelers have arrived here at Saint Vincent College ready to roll into training camp 2009.

No real surprises today - as usual on this, the most non-eventful day of the football season.

There were some unsubstantiated reports that Michael Vick was dropped off by a taxi cab at the team's practice facility in Pittsburgh. Those are false. The team is not interested in Vick.

One thing that is still cooking are contract extensions.

In addition to continuing talks with safety Ryan Clark, the team remains in negotiations with defensive end Brett Keisel.

Also of note is that offensive lineman Trai Essex said he's been led to believe he'll get every shot to unseat Darnell Stapleton at right guard.

As for now, I'm off to the run test. It appears the team is relenting a bit on closing the test to the media and will allow us to watch from the hillside above - as we did last year.

No players will be made available afterward, however.

Camp is here

The 2009 Steelers training camp has begun and you've found one of the top places to visit for up-to-date Steelers news by somebody actually covering the team – the other being my good friends at SteelCityInsider.com.

For those of you new to this blog, allow me to introduce myself. I'm Dale Lolley, Steelers beat reporter for the Observer-Reporter. This is my 17th training camp covering the Steelers as a beat reporter. The only person who has been on the beat longer is Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

In addition to this fine newspaper, you can see my work at SteelCityInsider.com and 4for4.com, and here me on occasion on the Steelers radio network on 970-AM, one of the team's flagship stations.

So welcome. Sit back, relax and stay for a while. The next three weeks should be very interesting.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Steelers extend Miller, Clark next?

The Steelers on Wednesday gave tight end Heath Miller a six-year contract extension worth just over $35 million.

Pittsburgh still has a number of starters scheduled to become free agents at the end of the 2009 season, including former Pro Bowl nose tackle Casey Hampton and running back Willie Parker.

I'm told, though, the next potential free agent to sign could be safety Ryan Clark.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Take the Steelers and the over

The over/unders from Las Vegas are in for the NFL season and though I don't play them, if I did, I'd have to go over with the Steelers.

Depending on which service you look at, the Steelers are sitting at 10.5 or 11. Given their schedule, I'd have to go over on that. If the Steelers don't win 12 games in 2009 with the schedule they have, shame on them.

Other numbers I like looking around the AFC include the Colts over 10 – Peyton Manning is still the QB, right? – the Jets under 7, the Chargers over 10 and the Broncos under 6.5.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hood signed

The Steelers have agreed to terms on a contract with first-round draft pick Evander "Ziggy" Hood, meaning the rookie defensive lineman will be at camp when it opens on Friday.

The Steelers have signed all of their draft picks this year prior to the opening of camp.

None are expected to push for starting jobs, but several will be asked to contribute in some way.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Something fishy with Roethlisberger suit

As you've probably heard by now, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been served with a civil suit in Nevada for sexual assault by an employee of Harrah's Casino.

The whole thing sounds a little fishy.

First, there were no criminal charges issued in the alleged event.

And then there's the trouble with when the alleged event – whatever it may be – happened, July 2008.

Roethlisberger has been known to mess around with women. Heck, he's young, rich and famous.

But this seems like an attempt at a money grab.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

What are the folks at EA Sports smoking?

The much-anticipated Madden 2010 player ratings for each team have been released. For a view of how the Steelers are rated in the game, visit http://espn.go.com/videogames/features/madden/madden10?teamId=29.

A couple of things jumped out at me when I was perusing the ratings.

First off, Lawrence Timmons is listed as a 78 in speed (74 overall). That puts him behind both James Harrison (85 speed) and LaMarr Woodley (82 speed) among the Steelers backers.

If I were a betting man, I'd put my money on Timmons winning a footrace among those players.

The other thing that really jumps out to me is that cornerback William Gay is rated as a 63 overall. Maybe nobody told the good people at EA Sports that Gay started a good number of games last season and played well. He's actually rated behind rookie Joe Burnett and just above Keenan Lewis.

Rookie Kraig Urbik (71) is also rated higher than Darnell Stapleton (70) at right guard.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Spaeth working with Fitzgerald

There was an interesting story on SI.com today about a camp Larry Fitzgerald is running in Minnesota for NFL receivers and defensive backs with help from Jerry Rice and Cris Carter.

One of the players in attendance at the camp has been Steelers tight end Matt Spaeth.

If you haven't checked out the story yet, give it a read.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hartwig has broken toe

Just a couple of weeks out from training camp, center Justin Hartwig has reportedly suffered a broken toe when he dropped an object on his foot.

It's not a big deal, but will likely slow him early in taining camp, which opens at the end of the month.

At least it will probably get him out of the run test.

The run test, by the way, is closed to the media this year.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Good story on rookie symposium

Straight talk puts scare into NFL rookies
By CEDRIC GOLDEN
c.2009 Cox Newspapers
AUSTIN, Texas -- Think “Scared Straight!” meets the NFL.
In case you missed the reference, “Scared Straight!” was a 1978 documentary about convicts at New Jersey’s Rahway State Prison who warned juvenile delinquents about the brutal realities of prison life. The documentary spawned programs nationwide designed to steer youngsters away from a life of crime.
Now, the NFL isn’t Rahway, but commissioner Roger Goodell would make a mighty fine warden. He would be a lot more believable than that thieving, fake Bible thumper in Shawshank. Anyway, his league’s answer to “Scared Straight!” comes in the form of the NFL rookie symposium, an event that’s one part seminar and one part freshman orientation.
There were times last week when former Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo didn’t know if he was at a league function or a tent revival, but he and the other 255 draft picks had a truckload of literature dropped on their collective domes over four days in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
One of the featured speakers was ESPN studio analyst Cris Carter, a Hall of Fame wide receiver who testified about the trappings that can kill a promising career.
The young Carter was a mess. He was thrown out of Ohio State for dealing with an agent, then became a cocaine abuser early in his NFL career, prompting Philadelphia Eagles coach Buddy Ryan to release him after a season in which he caught 11 touchdown passes. It was the best thing that ever happened to him, Carter has said on more than one occasion.
Others in his line of work have fallen prey to numerous temptations: drugs, shady business deals, sexual indiscretions, drunken driving, steroids, street crime, and yes, dogfighting.
Carter’s message was simple: Do what I say, not what I did.
“This is a grown man’s league,” he barked. “This ain’t no little boys’ league.”
Then he yelled at a player he caught napping during the speech. Beautiful.
“It was something to hear him talk about his drug situation and being released,” said Orakpo, who went to the Washington Redskins with the 12th pick of the first round. “He said he had to get his life together because he had lost his job and couldn’t feed his family.”
Orakpo didn’t know the name of the rookie who drew Carter’s ire, but he knew attendance at the symposium was mandatory and to blow off the function would have resulted in a $50,000 fine from warden Goodell. And you thought that $100 for missing a Cowboys team meeting was scary.
Carter was a polarizing presence in the NFL because his off-the field problems nearly derailed his extraordinary career. Carter said he doubted if hardcore partiers like him and fellow Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin would survive in the Goodell era. The commish has dictatorial power in the personal conduct department, and NFL players know his brand of justice and the legal system’s can be mutually exclusive.
That’s part of the reason why the rookie symposium is one of the best things the league does. Invariably, there’s bound to be a couple of dumbbells who will go crazy when presented with two things that separate professional athletes from us regular folks -- an unlimited supply of cash and free time.
With that said, we know for every Pacman Jones or Chris Henry who gets arrested, there are a hundred Brian Orakpos and Jason Smiths who won’t see the backseat of a police cruiser. On Saturday, Orakpo and Smith -- the St. Louis Rams’ rookie offensive tackle from Baylor -- will join Tennessee Titans safety Michael Griffin at Akins High School, where Griffin, a former Longhorn, will hold his second annual Orange and White Football Camp.
Smith, the second overall pick behind Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, said he didn’t get as much out of Carter’s speech, and that’s understandable because he’s not about to go out and shoot up a strip club any time soon.
“I’m not speaking for (Orakpo), but I know him well enough to say the chances of one of us coming into the league and getting strung out on cocaine next season is slim to none,” he said. “I was more affected by (Pittsburgh Steelers coach) Mike Tomlin’s speech. When a person like him is speaking about a place I’m trying to go (winning a Super Bowl), I take it very personally and if he tells me to jump, I’m going to jump.”
The players were given pamphlets outlining the dangers they face as young millionaires, along with pens to take notes. While rifling through his pamphlet, Orakpo saw a reference to Travis Henry, a running back who has fathered 11 children by 10 women while battling drug and financial problems. Henry is a sad illustration of how making it to the NFL doesn’t guarantee you’ve made it in life.
Former NFL cornerback Rod Babers said one session from the league’s 2003 rookie symposium stood out in his mind.
“This beautiful woman came up on the stage and we were looking around at each other and going, ’Man, she’s fine,”’ said Babers, a former Longhorn. “The first thing she said was, ’You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.’ Then she told us she had been diagnosed with HIV two years ago.”
While some rookies will be helped by what they witnessed last week, the league could do a symposium every week and it wouldn’t prevent some players from falling into the same traps that have claimed others.
That said, give the league a thumbs up for its part in arming its newcomers with knowledge delivered by those who have been there before.
It’s not exactly “Scared Straight!” but Instructed Straight will do for now.

Cedric Golden writes for the Austin American-Statesman. E-mail: cgolden(at)statesman.com.
Story Filed By Cox Newspapers
For Use By Clients of the New York Times News Service

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Training camp three weeks away

Training camp is three weeks away and I can already feel the excitement about the upcoming football season building.

The Steelers don't have a lot of position battles this season, but they have some things worth watching.

Who will be the starting right guard, Darnell Stapleton, Kraig Urbik or darkhorse Trai Essex?

That's right. Essex could be a factor at that position.

The starting cornerback position is William Gay's to lose and he will have to fall flat on his face or get hurt to do so.

But who will be No. 3? Deshea Townsend again? One of the rookies? Keiwan Ratliff?

Ratliff has younger legs, but you can never count our Townsend. And the rookies, particularly Keenan Lewis, looked good this spring.

The other big battle will be fo the No. 3 receiver spot. I think Shaun McDonald may steal that one from Limas Sweed.

McDonald would give the team the ability to keep Hines Ward on the outside or shift him to the slot if it so chooses. If Sweed's on the field, Ward has to go to the slot.