Visit NFL from the sidelines on the new Observer-Reporter site:

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Week 2 of OTAs news and notes

Not a whole lot happening at OTAs this week.

I guess the biggest news was that Marcus Gilbert got some time at left tackle this week with rookie Mike Adams still unable to attend because of the class schedule at Ohio State.

Though the Steelers would prefer to keep Gilbert at RT, it's not a bad thing for him to get some work on the other side - even in shorts. As we have seen the past couple of years, what the planned line is and what it turns out to be a few weeks into a season, are often two different things.

Besides, as I've previously said, it's not the Steelers' way to simply hand a rookie a starting job.

So with Gilbert, Trai Essex and Jonathan Scott working at LT, there are still some bodies to climb over there.

I know, I know, you all hate Essex and Scott. But it says here that if push came to shove and Adams can't beat those guys out - which is always a possibility - the Steelers want to cover their bases.

Plus, there's still the possibility of bringing Max Starks back again. Starks, by the way, has been seen at the Steelers practice facility.

© Perhaps the most bizarre happenstance of the week was the "retirement" of former quarterback Kordell Stewart.

Considering the only time I'd seen Kordell the past few years was on pre-game shows and such, I thought he'd already hung up the helmet.

I know a lot of fans have a great deal of dislike for Stewart, but I always found him a decent guy.

He was a little full of himself in the beginning, but got knocked down a peg by the whole benching in favor of Kent Graham (!) thing.

He stayed strong and came back a better player and person from that ordeal - and the ridiculous and cowardly rumors about his sexual orientation.

I always admired him a little for that.

Was he a great quarterback? No. But he sure was fun to watch. If the coaching staff had used him a little better, he could have been much more impactful than what he was - and he was still impactful.

© Hines Ward will be working on NBC this fall. I hope they give him some training before they set him free on the mic.

I did a story on Ward for the Steelers Game Day program a couple of years ago. I asked him two questions and finished the interview with 20 minutes of tape to go through.

Ward is famous among reporters for his talking. He would talk about anything and everything, often without cue.

I wish him luck.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

OTA news and notes

Isaac Redman told reporters today that the Steelers do, indeed, have a fullback on the roster. The Steelers have moved David Johnson to fullback on a full-time basis.

Redman said this will help Johnson as a blocker since he formerly had to go to tight end meetings and did not attend sessions with the running backs. Redman, who is glad about the change, said the running backs will be better able to show Johnson where they would like their lead blocker during their film breakdowns.

@ Draft picks David DeCastro, Mike Adams and Alameda Ta'amu are not at these OTAs because their colleges are still in session.

@ Linebacker Jason Worilds was at the session today but not practicing. He has a cast on his left wrist.

Defensive end Brett Keisel is among those not here as well. He's still recovering from his groin injury suffered against Denver.

@ Talked to Keenan Lewis today. He feels like the starting job is his to lose after logging more than 500 defensive snaps last season.

He also said he's been in constant contact with teammate Mike Wallace and that it is difficult seeing people rip his friend for not being at the OTAs. The other players don't mind.

@ Also spoke with Maurkice Pouncey briefly about the new offense. He said that the blocking scheme isn't different, just some different verbiage.

He also likes the move of Willie Colon to guard. Said it gives the Steelers a lot of nasty in the middle of the line.

Monday, May 21, 2012

OTAs set to begin

The Steelers OTAs are set to begin this week and the team has some interesting battles that will begin.

We all know by now of the team's shakeup on the offensive line. As I've said, Jonathan Scott will likely take first-team snaps at left tackle and Ramon Foster will be at right guard - for now.

But rookies Mike Adams and David DeCastro will be pushing from the start.

The other big battle will be at cornerback across from Ike Taylor.

William Gay, last year's starter, is gone and Keenan Lewis will get the first chance to replace him.

But second-year players Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown will be pushing hard.

Of course, one of those three will be in the starting lineup. Another will be the third corner.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Colon moving to LG

In a move that has been talked about for years by fans, the Steelers have told Willie Colon that he will move inside to left guard.

Colon has missed most of the past two seasons with injuries, so the move makes some sense. The team has drafted offensive tackles Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams in the second round of the past two drafts and with Colon being a question mark in terms of his injury past, they've got to get the young guys as many snaps as possible.

If, for example, Adams doesn't work out at left tackle, they can always move Colon back out to right tackle and move Gilbert over to the left side - though he might not have the feet to make such a move. Last year's starter, Max Starks, is also still a free agent, so there is also the possibility that he could be brought back as well if Adams struggles.

The move of Colon to left guard would give the Steelers a potential line of, from left to right, Adams, Colon, Maurkice Pouncey, rookie David DeCastro and Gilbert.

That line certainly has some pedigree, but it would be foolish not to expect some rookie struggles from Adams, who was inconsistent at Ohio State.

Monday, May 14, 2012

New offseason rules stink

Last year, we had the lockout, so there was plenty to talk about in regard to the NFL.

But the lockout spawned a new collective bargaining agreement and new offseason practice rules, which we are currently living under. And I've got to tell you, I'm with the coaches on this one These new rules stink.

The new CBA severely limits – compared to the previous rules - the number of monitored practices coaches can have with their players. Thus, young players aren't getting as much face time with coaches as they used to.

In addition, it's also meant less for the media to write about in regard to their respective teams.

At this point in previous years, you could drop in and watch an OTA or two, talk to some players and file away information for future stories. Now, not so much.

The only players the new rules is really hurting are the young ones – the players who need the OTAs to get better.

That's why the coaches wanted more structured practices, not just players working out with team trainers. The players can stay in shape on their own. That's part of their job.

It's the coaches' jobs to get them ready to play. And that has gotten more difficult with fewer offseason practices.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Steelers-Jets talked trade

NFL Network is reporting that the Steelers had a trade in place with the Jets to move up and get guard David DeCastro - something I tweeted they should do as DeCastro fell past the 15th pick.

The Jets wanted Quinton Coples or Bruce Irvin and when the Seahawks took Irvin with the 15th selection, the Jets decided to stick with their pick and take Coples rather than risk not getting their man in a trade down with the Steelers.

As luck would have it for the Steelers, they were able to stay where they were at and get DeCastro anyway.

Tells you why the Steelers were so excited about getting DeCastro on draft day and wasted no time getting their pick to the podium.

The Steelers also have the Bengals to thank.

Cincinnati, which needed a guard, passed on the chance to take DeCastro not once, but twice, deciding instead to trade back in the first round and take Kevin Zeitler.

I like Zeitler and think he'll be a solid player for a long time in the NFL. But DeCastro has an opportunity to be special.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Rookies complete their first camp

The Steelers rookies completed their first workouts with the team over the weekend. I'd love to report more, but the team has restricted what the media is permitted to report from the workouts and, I took a well-needed week of vacation last week and skipped the workouts.

What gives?

How can I take a week off when the team is working?

Honestly, we won't know a thing about these rookies until we see them interacting with the veterans and where the team lines them up when everyone is present.

We all know that David DeCastro, Mike Adams and Alameda Ta'amu are big. We know that Sean Spence is short.

Outside of that, there isn't a lot to be gained from these kind of workouts - media wise.

OK, there are a couple of things. David DeCastro lined up initially at right guard. Mike Adams at left tackle. They will likely both swap sides at some point before it's all said and done.

The players are having the playbook thrown at them for the first time. Outside of that, until mini-camp later this month, we really won't know much.

@ One thing we do know is that the new rookie salary cap rules are having the desired effect. The Steelers have begun signing their draft picks and given the new rules, there's a good chance everyone could be signed by the time mini-camp opens up May 22.