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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Steelers to meet with linemen not named Pouncey

According to a couple of internet reports, the Steelers will meet with guard/center Rodney Hudson and offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert, both of Florida colleges for personal visits.

The Steelers had a lot of success in 2010 taking former Gator star Maurkice Pouncey in the first round and may be hoping that lightning strikes twice.

Of the two, I like Hudson, a Florida State product, a lot more. He's undersized, but Hudson can play. If he were a little bigger, he'd be a sure first-round pick. As it is, he's not likely to fall past the middle of the second round.

As for Gilbert, he's a big road grader in the Max Starks mold. Gilbert, a Florida product, is more of a third-round prospect - which is where the Steelers took Starks.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Running backs and shelf life

Mike Tomlin in the Post-Gazette said that he's not all that concerned about the heavy work load that Rashard Mendenhall had in 2010.

Mendenhall finished fourth in the NFL in carries last season with 324. Add in his playoff total and that number jumps to 385.

That's usually the danger zone for NFL running backs.

But, as Tomlin said, you draft running backs to hand them the ball.

And let's face it, the ball isn't heavy.

Tomlin famously said in his first season with the Steelers that he would run Willie Parker until his wheels came off.

That's exactly what happened. But Parker didn't have the pedigree of Mendenhall.

When you take a running back in the first round of the draft, you expect him to be a workhorse.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Comp picks announced

The NFL handed out 32 compensatory picks on Friday - a little earlier than expected. The Steelers, as expected, received none.

Only one third-round pick was given out this year - to the Carolina Panthers. Carolina picked up three extra picks.

Any extra draft picks are very useful this season. With the lockout in place, teams are not permitted to sign undrafted rookies following the draft next month.

In effect, the only rookies who know they'll have a shot at a job are the ones who are drafted. It could create a big rush to sign not only veteran free agents, but rookies as well, when a new CBA is finally in place.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It's official: I caved

I've officially caved in and joined the world of Twitter.

You can find me at dlolleyor.

Bear with me on it. I'm new and learning on the fly - no pun intended.

© Marty Schottenheimer has accepted the head coaching position for the Virginia Destroyers. Good to see Marty back in coaching. He's too good to not be doing so at some level.

© Interesting to see that Charlie Batch has filed for bankruptcy.

Batch has always been good in the community, but has had some failed business ventures.

© Compensatory picks are expected to be released by the NFL sometime next week.

I don't expect that the Steelers will any additional picks this year. They signed more free agents than they lost in 2010 with the most notable addition being Flozell Adams.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Draft taking shape

With the way the draft is taking shape, it could behoove the Steelers to trade down out of the first round and acquire more picks.

Because this draft is so heavy on defensive line prospects – many scouting services have 13 or 14 defensive linemen in their top 35 – there could be good value had in acquiring a player at that position in the second round.

There are also so few top-notch players at the positions the Steelers need the most - defensive back and guard - that moving up to grab one of the top guys will likely cost too much.

Teams that have similar needs and higher first-round picks will surely gooble those players up early.

So instead of taking a chance on cornerbacks Brandon Harris or Aaron Williams in the first round – both have flaws – why not move back 10 or so slots, assuming you can find a partner, and take Curtis Brown, Ras-I Dowling or Rashad Carmichael instead?

Or maybe a talented defensive lineman – Cameron Heyward – is still on the board and you take him and grab a corner later in the second round.

They have flaws as well, but you're not spending first-round money on them to acquire second-tier talent.

And any additional picks you acquire can be used to possibly move up in the third round to add some offensive line talent.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cameron Jordan to visit Steelers

According to published reports, California defensive lineman Cameron Jordan is among the players scheduled to visit the Steelers.

The 6-4, 287-pound Jordan is a classic 3-4 end with plenty of upside potential. He's also a player capable of moving inside on passing downs. He's a first-round talent.

Also scheduled to meet with the Steelers are Eastern Washington running back Taiwan Jones and Citadel cornerback Cortez Allen.

Jones, 6-1, 200, is considered a mid-round prospect. He's had some injury problems, so the visit could have been to clear up some medical issues. He missed three games, including a pair of playoff games with a broken foot.

Jones did have nine 100-yard games, including a pair over 200 yards, in 2010, finishing second in FCS in rushing.

Allen, 6-1, 197, is a mid- to late-round talent who could be a small-school gem. He had just 22 tackles and two interceptions in 2010 as most opponents stayed away from him.

California University of Pennsylvania QB Josh Portis visited the Miami Dolphins last week. That has been his lone visit thus far.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Slaves? Hardly

Earlier this week, Adrian Peterson likened NFL players to slaves. Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall then backed Peterson's comment later this week.

That is hardly the case and is demeaning to the people who actually were slaves.

Slaves were forced to work in their job with no say in what they were doing or how they were doing it. They also received no monetary compensation.

NFL players choose to work in the NFL. There's nothing written anywhere that says college football players MUST play in the NFL.

But they do so because they either enjoy playing the game or enjoy the compensation that comes with being an NFL player.

Yes, they cannot readily change jobs. But that is because they sign a contract to work for a certain team.

Do they have to join the team that drafts them? Nope.

There have been instances where a player has forced a trade rather than play for a team prior to ever playing a down for that club - John Elway being the most famous.

And players hold out in an effort to force their trade or release all the time.

But they are compensation well.

Is it a perfect system? Nope.

But to say that NFL players are slaves borders on the ridiculous.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Flagrant hits could draw suspensions

The NFL in 2010 hinted that flagrant hits could be cause for suspension for the violators. Though that never happened, it's looking likely a system will be in place in 2011 to make it so.

This is assuming that we'll have games in 2011 - a safe assumption.

Competition Committee Chair Rich McKay and NFL Executive V.P. of Football Operations Ray Anderson both stressed on a media conference call that they’re recommending that the owners get even tougher with hits on defenseless players.

“In 2011, if there are repeat offenders or flagrant violators, we are going to hold them aggressively accountable, even if it means suspension – some folks believe that suspension is the real messenger in terms of serious enforcement,” Anderson said. “Some of the hits we had this year, particularly if it’s a repeat offender, that person and that club should know that having that person sit out a game — or multiple games in certain circumstances — is very much on the table.”

The fly in the ointment may be getting this past the coaches.

This still has to get approval by the competition committee - which is made up of coaches who may not be so eager to see players suspended, particularly defensive players, who are going to be hit the hardest - no pun intended - by any such rule change.

As we've seen in hockey recently, when push comes to shove, coaches aren't too eager to see players suspended for hits made during the course of a game.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Big week for pro days

Other than LSU on Monday it was a quiet day for scouts looking at college prospects at their pro days.

But Tuesday, things heat up as pro days are scheduled for Florida, Illinois and Pitt. Locally, California (Pa.) and Robert Morris also have their pro days on Tuesday.

Florida State, Penn State, Michigan State, and Maryland are on tap Wednesday.

Thursday, West Virginia's pro day is nestled among those of Stanford, Missouri, Virginia Tech, Virginia and Michigan.

Friday, March 11, 2011

NFL releases is proposal

According to the AP, here is what the NFL released as its latest proposal to the NFLPA. It should give you an idea of what they're looking at as future salary caps.

1. We more than split the economic difference between us, increasing our proposed cap for 2011 significantly and accepting the union’s proposed cap number for 2014 ($161 million per club).
2. An entry-level compensation system based on the union’s “rookie cap” proposal, rather than the wage scale proposed by the clubs. Under the NFL proposal, players drafted in rounds 2-7 would be paid the same or more than they are paid today. Savings from the first round would be reallocated to veteran players and benefits.
3. A guarantee of up to $1 million of a player’s salary for the contract year after his injury the first time that the clubs have offered a standard multiyear injury guarantee.
4. Immediate implementation of changes to promote player health and safety by: reducing the offseason program by five weeks, reducing OTAs (organized team activities) from 14 to 10 and limiting on-field practice time and contact; limiting full-contact practices in the preseason and regular season; and increasing number of days off for players.
5. Commit that any change to an 18-game season will be made only by agreement and that the 2011 and 2012 seasons will be played under the current 16-game format.
6. Owner funding of $82 million in 2011-12 to support additional benefits to former players, which would increase retirement benefits for more than 2,000 former players by nearly 60 percent.
7. Offer current players the opportunity to remain in the player medical plan for life.
8. Third-party arbitration for appeals in the drug and steroid programs.
9. Improvements in the Mackey plan (designed for players suffering from dementia and other brain-related problems), disability plan and degree-completion bonus program.
10. A per-club cash minimum spend of 90 percent of the salary cap over three seasons.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Barber to the Steelers? Come on man!

The New York Post today has stated that the Steelers are a possible landing spot for Tiki Barber now that he has started the process of ending his retirement.

I don't think there's any way that happens.

I could be wrong, but I don't see the Steelers being interested in a 35-year-old guy who hasn't played a down of football in several years and who's only coming back because he needs the money once his TV gigs dried up.

It just doesn't make sense.

Yes, I know that Mewelde Moore is an unrestricted free agent, but that doesn't mean the Steelers are going to look to get older and do so with a player who's clearly in it for the money.

The Steelers are looking to get younger, not older.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

One hurdle cleared

According to some reports, NFL owners and the NFLPA have agreed that a rookie salary cap will be a part of any future CBA.

Under the agreement, first-round picks will be given four-year deals, while all other rounds will get three-year contracts.

This is the first step – albeit a small one – in getting a new CBA completed.

As we've seen with the escalating rookie salaries handed out over the past decade or so, the owners have been unable to help themselves in giving ou the big deals.

Every year, the pick in a particular first-round slot wants more money than the guy taken with that selection in the previous year.

And the owners have paid it.

Though there were some players who did not want a rookie cap in place, most veterans saw the need for it. They saw players getting more money – some of it guaranteed – than established players and saw how backward such a situation was.

In fact, the only people who don't like a rookie cap are likely the agents.

But even they'll make out. Once a player establishes himself, he'll get that big second contract after three or four years. And that's when everyone cashes in.

© In his latest mock draft, Mel Kiper has the Steelers taking Danny Watkins, the overage guard from Baylor.

I don't see that being the pick, unless a lot of crazy stuff happens ahead of them.

A pick of Watkins, who will turn 27 during the 2011 season, would fly in the face of everything the Steelers have done in the first round of their drafts under Kevin Colbert.

Colbert has expressed a desire in the past to pick players who are not only good, but good and young. Not only are they still getting better, but you also max out on the years they can play for you.

That's why the Steelers love to take underclassmen.

Watkins doesn't qualify.

Good player, but too damn old. By the time his first contract is complete, he's already in his 30s. And then what? If he doesn't start his first season - or even his second - you've wasted a good sum of money on a guy who's already almost over the hill.

And don't give me this "football age" stuff. As we've seen with James Harrison this offseason with his two back surgeries, old age is old age.

Quite frankly, you just don't heal as quickly from injuries the older you get.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Steelers hire Lake

The Steelers have filled the lone spot on their coaching staff by hiring Carnell Lake to coach defensive backs.

Lake, a five-time Pro Bowl player with the Steelers, replaces Ray Horton, who was hired as Arizona's defensive coordinator.

It's an interesting move in that Lake was always considered one of the more cerebral players when he was with the Steelers. He also holds the team record for sacks by a defensive back in one season.

Friday, March 04, 2011

It's official: We're in uncharted territory

A month ago, the Steelers were playing the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl.

Now, who knows?

Free agency would have begun today had the owners decided not to tear up the old CBA and start negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement.

We should be talking about who's coming, who's going and what those moves mean in terms of next month's draft.

Instead, the entire league is in limbo.

It's likely that the league and players will continue to extend negotiations – and that's a good thing. It means that at least they're talking and things haven't gotten contentious enough that they no longer have anything to talk about.

But if it continues long enough that we start getting close to the draft at the end of April, things could get very interesting.

Usually, free agency opens up and teams draft according to who they lose and who they are able to sign.

This year, things could be different. Teams may have to draft and then hope that they're able to fill the holes.

Also, while teams will proceed with their draft plans as usual, it's the post-draft stuff that could get interesting.

With no new CBA in place, rookies won't be able to go through any mini-camps or other offseason workouts. They won't even be permitted to meet with coaches.

And undrafted rookies won't be permitted to sign with any team.

The longer that process goes on, the tougher it will be for rookies to make a contribution in 2011 and the more difficult it will become for undrafted rookies to make a roster.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

So much for that theory

The Steelers on Tuesday offered offensive tackle Willie Colon a one-year tender contract at the first-round level.

So much for the theory that the Steelers were going to let Colon go as a free agent because he was too close with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

It also pretty much puts to rest Colon's agent's statement that the offensive tackle has played his last down with the Steelers.

It's highly unlikely any team will go after Colon in free agency when they would have to give the Steelers a first-round pick in return, particularly since he is coming off a ruptured Achilles' tendon.