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April 28, 2017
by Joe Rutter

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Mock Draft: Day 2 redo


NCAA Football: Ohio State at Penn State

The Steelers reset their draft board and began another mock draft process on Friday for rounds 2 and 3.

So if they get to have a do-over, why can’t I?

My first round was blown to pieces when the Baltimore Ravens grabbed Marlon Humphrey at No. 16. I had the Steelers addressing cornerback first, erroneously thinking that all first-round caliber pass rushers would be gone by No. 30.

With that in mind, I have to reboot the second-day portion of my mock draft mainly because I had the Steelers taking a pass rusher (Youngstown State’s Derek Rivers) in the second round.

Here are my new Day 2 picks.

Round 2: WR Chris Godwin, Penn State. I originally had Godwin falling to the third round but after seeing the run on wide receivers in the first round, I don’t think Godwin has any chance of being available late in round 3. And, given the depth of the cornerback class, I think the Steelers can get a capable player later tonight.

Round 3: CB Shaq Griffin, UCF. He supposedly is one of the three mystery players that met with the Steelers on a predraft visit. (For the record, the Steelers announced 26 players that were at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex and GM Kevin Colbert later said they visited with 29). Minnesota’s Jalen Myrick also is a possibility here.

Round 3 (Compensatory: RB Kareem Hunt, Toledo. Staying with my original selection for the No. 105 overall pick.

— Joe Rutter


April 15, 2017
by Joe Rutter

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Tomlin, Colbert reflect on Dan Rooney’s passing

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin -- Photo by Chaz Palla

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin
– Photo by Chaz Palla

Of Dan Rooney’s many decisions as Steelers president, the two most important ones since the turn of the century easily were bringing Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin into the family operation.

In 2000, Rooney plucked Colbert — like Rooney a North Side native and North Catholic graduate — from the Detroit Lions and tasked him with running the Steelers’ football operations.
Seven years later, Rooney waded through a list of more experienced candidates and hired the little-known Tomlin, a one-season Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator, to succeed Bill Cowher as head coach.
Colbert helped turn around the Steelers fortunes – they had lost 15 of the previous 21 games before his predecessor Tom Donahoe was forced to resign – with six AFC championship game appearances, three Super Bowl trips and two championships on his watch.
Like Colbert, Tomlin enjoyed quick success. He won a Super Bowl in his second season, made another trip in his fourth and steered the Steelers back to the AFC championship game in January for the first time since the 2010 season.
The Steelers’ top football men weighed in on Rooney’s impact Friday afternoon, one day after the team’s chairman died at 84 of natural causes.
“Mr. Rooney touched everybody he ever met,” Colbert said in a statement. “Words cannot express the impact he had on me, my family and our organization on a daily basis. The virtues he taught us about faith, family and our great game of football will never be forgotten and always cherished.
“As we move forward, it is not only our obligation to carry on these wonderful virtues in our lives, but to share these same virtues with others the way he shared them with us.”
Rooney also had a profound impact on Tomlin, the first minority head coach in franchise history. It was the “Rooney Rule” that has helped African American coaches such as Tomlin get required interviews for head coaching vacancies.
“The passing of Mr. Rooney is a difficult time, not just for myself, the Pittsburgh Steelers organization and the National Football League. But for everyone in the City of Pittsburgh and Steelers Nation,” Tomlin said in a statement.
“In 2007, Mr. Rooney afforded me the opportunity to lead the football team he helped guide throughout his life. For that, I am forever grateful and am honored to have done so.
“After every game, win or lose, Mr. Rooney would enter our locker room, look me in my eye and shake my hand along with every player who stepped foot on the field. He embodied professionalism and was a man who created a family-like atmosphere that will continue on.
“Football examples only scratch the surface of how he impacted mine and the countless other lives he touched.”
Family and friends will be received on Monday, April 17, from 2-7 p.m. at the PNC Champions Club, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA. His life will be celebrated at a Mass of Christian Burial on April 18, at 11 a.m. at Saint Paul Cathedral, 108 North Dithridge Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213. Memorial contributions may be sent to Duquesne University or the United Way of Southwest Pennsylvania.
— Joe Rutter


April 10, 2017
by Chris Adamski

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Adamski: Steelers 2017 pre-draft visits, a running tally


The Steelers are expected to take a quarterback in this draft. But would they do it as early as they’d need to if they really wanted Patrick Mahomes? (AP photo)



SOUTH SIDE — Make no mistake, as Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin themselves will repeatedly tell you, predraft visits to a team’s facility are just one part of the equation the Steelers use in the process of deciding who to pick.



But it can be a valuable part, as their recent drafts show.



Over the past four years, 18 of the Steelers’ 33 draft picks were predraft visitors, including three last year: S Sean Davis (Maryland, second round), DT Javon Hargrave (South Carolina State, third round) and OT Jerald Hawkins (LSU, fourth round).



While that better-than-50-percent number of predraft visitors who gets drafts looks nice, keep in mind that means that more than 100 visitors weren’t drafted by the Steelers. That doesn’t necessarily mean they didn’t want to (you only get one pick per round!), and the in-person meetings at the combine and on individual school Pro Days can be just as useful when it comes to getting to know a player. Sometimes, the take-me-out-to-dinner meetings after campus workouts are all a team needs (see: last year, when Colbert and Tomlin dined with eventual first-round pick Artie Burns, then as a result saw no need to burn an at-the-facility visit on him).



But at very least, formally bringing a player in is a signal that there is at least some level of interest from the Steelers – be it their on-field production, Combine measurables or some other attribute that initially caught their eye.



The NFL permits 30 of these visits per draft cycle, although the final number can surpass that because of exemptions given to players with local ties.



Although this is being posted a week into the visits (roughly half of them are complete), we’ll update them daily as they happen. Here is a list with position, prospect, school and projected round (courtesy NFL Draft Scout/CBS):





April 3 (four visitors)

QB Josh Dobbs (Tennessee), 6th rd

WR Kenny Golloday (Northern Illinois), 4th rd

QB Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech), 1st-2nd rd

WR Joshua Reynolds (Texas A&M), 5th rd



April 4 (four)

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Penn State

Chris Godwin has been Penn State’s best receiver the past two seasons. (Barry Reeger/Tribune-Review file)

CB Jourdan Lewis (Michigan), 3rd rd

OLB Takkarist McKinley (UCLA), 1st-2nd rd

S Montae Nicholson (Michigan State), 7th rd/u’d free agent

OLB Derek Rivers (Youngstown State), 2nd-3rd rd



(April 5: None)



April 6 (five)


Pittsburgh football fans are familiar with James Conner — and he with the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. (Chaz Palla/Tribune-Review photo)

S Budda Baker (Washington), 2nd rd

RB James Conner (Pitt), 4th-5th rd

WR Chris Godwin (Penn State), 2nd rd

S Joshua Jones (N.C. State),  2nd rd

ILB Jarrad Davis (Florida), 1st-2nd rd



April 7 (two)

ILB Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt), 1st rd

OLB Carroll Phillips (Illinois), 4th-5th rd




Nate Peterman has been climbing up draft boards this spring. (Chaz Palla/Tribune-Review photo)

(None over the April 8-9 weekend)



April 10 (two)

OLB Sam Ebukam (Eastern Washington), 7th rd

QB Nate Peterman (Pitt), 3rd-4th rd



 April 11 (two)

OLB Tim Williams (Alabama), 2nd rd

DL (DE) Tanoh Kpassagnon (Villanova), 4th-5th rd



Rasul Douglas

Rasul Douglas of WVU is a big (6-2, 209) cornerback. (AP photo)

April 12 (four)

OLB Keion Adams (Western Michigan)7th rd-u’d free agent

TE Jason Croom (Tennessee), undrafted free agent

CB Rasul Douglas (West Virginia), 3rd-4th rd

CB Jalen Myrick (Minnesota)3rd-4th rd



April 13 (five)

WR Shelton Gibson (West Virginia), 5th rd

WR Mack Hollins (North Carolina), 5th rd

CB Marlon Humphrey (Alabama), 1st rd

CB Ryan Lewis (Pitt), undrafted free agent

S Obi Melifonwu (Connecticut), 1st-2nd rd



Treyvon Hester

Treyvon Hester is a Penn Hills High School alum. (Toledo Athletics photo)

(April 14-16, none)



April 17 (one)

DT Treyvon Hester (Toledo), 7th rd



(April 18 none)



April 19 (four)

DL Patrick Gamble, Georgia Tech, undrafted free agent

DL Francis Kallon, Georgia Tech, undrafted free agent

OLB Pita Taumoepenu, Utah, undrafted free agent



Running tally of visits by position (updated 4/13/17):

  • 7 outside linebackers
  • 5 wide receivers
  • 5 cornerbacks
  • 4 safeties
  • 4 defensive linemen
  • 3 quarterbacks
  • 2 inside linebackers
  • 1 running back
  • 1 tight end
  • 0 offensive linemen or specialists





22 defensive players; 10 offensive players

(Last year, for comparison’s sake, it was 26 defensive players, 6 offensive players)




(**Note: players who are local natives or go to a local college can meet with the Steelers and not count toward their allotment limit of 30).



March 27, 2017
by Joe Rutter

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Rutter: Tomlin talks Harrison, Timmons & AB portrayal



PHOENIX — The Steelers will open the 2017 season with a 24-year-old and a 38-year-old at outside linebacker.
If you think coach Mike Tomlin is concerned about the old guy — James Harrison — handling the position at an advanced age, guess again.
“We all have to acknowledge that James already has conquered the odds,” Tomlin said Monday at the NFL annual meeting. “He doesn’t fall into convention. His existence doesn’t fall into convention.”
Still, Tomlin likely will make some concessions to Harrison’s age at the outset of the season, much like he did in 2016 when Harrison didn’t start until the 11th game.
Harrison was part of a rotation that included former No. 1 draft pick Jarvis Jones. Then, Jones whiffed on a tackle that allowed Ezekiel Elliott to score the winning touchdown for the Dallas Cowboys in Week 10, and Harrison started the final six meaningful regular-season games and all three in the playoffs.
“We’ll be thoughtful about our approach in a similar way we were thoughtful about our approach a year ago,” Tomlin said.
Harrison played all but one snap down the stretch against Buffalo, Cincinnati and Baltimore. In the postseason, he played 173 of a possible 197 defensive snaps. The Steelers will try to add a pass rusher early in the draft with the intention of him one day replacing Harrison. Arthur Moats and Anthony Chickillo also can ease Harrison’s workload.
“I was comfortable with the way we walked it a year ago,” Tomlin said. “It got to a point where it was ‘go’ time. And he was ready to go. Maybe the way we managed him over the course of the front part of the year allowed that to happen. So the good thing is that it’s nothing new for us, it’s nothing new for (him). We’ll walk that tightrope again.”

— Tomlin will enter 2017 with a new perspective. He has coached teams coming off a Super Bowl win, a Super Bowl loss, an early-round playoff exit and no playoff trip altogether. This time, he’ll bring back a team coming off an AFC championship game loss.
Does that mean Tomlin thinks the Steelers are close?
“I always feel like we’re close,” he said. “You could ask me one of those 8-8 years, and I would have thought we were close. I mean that.”

— For the first time in 11 seasons with the Steelers, Tomlin won’t enter training camp with Lawrence Timmons, his initial draft choice, at inside linebacker. Timmons, of course, signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the Miami Dolphins.
Although the Steelers are moving on with Vince Williams, Tomlin admitted to having sentimental feelings for Timmons.
“These are unique relationships,” he said. “We had a lot of fun over the last decade. … Just because we no longer do formal football business doesn’t mean he and I won’t have a relationship, or he won’t have a relationship with the members of this football team or organization.”

— Asked whether Antonio Brown was portrayed unfairly for his Facebook Live incident during the playoffs, Tomlin said: “Fair or unfair, he created the storm. That’s life, particularly life in our business at this level. It’s something to be dealt with, from his perspective and from our perspective, collectively.”

– Joe Rutter


March 26, 2017
by Joe Rutter

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Rutter: Leftovers from Kevin Colbert conference call



Some excerpts from Kevin Colbert’s 15-minute conference call with reporters attending the NFL annual meeting in Phoenix:

1. The Steelers liked defensive lineman Tyson Alualu when he entered the NFL draft seven years ago. Alualu joined the Steelers last week, signing a two-year contract.
Said Colbert: “He can provide us depth and competition at both end and nose tackle, moreso as an inside pass rusher and in most of the sub-rush stuff, even though he has rushed some from the outside. … Veteran defensive linemen that can play both in and out are valuable. The type of player and person he is, he hasn’t had success from a team standpoint that he hoped to achieve. So I think he is excited about getting into our environment.”

2. The signing of RB/KR Knile Davis doesn’t signal the end for DeAngelo Williams with the Steelers, but it seems unlikely the veteran running back will return.
Colbert noted that Davis “has a lot of football left in him. His age, his size, his speed and his kick return production were very interesting to us. Does that mean the door is closed on DeAngelo? Again, I will never shut that door completely until we have to, and that’s when we reach that 90-man (roster) limit.”

3. The Steelers, by the way, have 81 players under contract, more than any other NFL team. That leaves room for eight draft picks and one rookie free agent. Which means the Steelers likely will shed some players on the bottom of the roster to add to the rookie free-agent class after completion of the draft.

4. Because of the NFL combine starting a week later, the NFL annual meeting also was pushed back, and that forced Colbert to make a decision. He opted to attend some college pro days this week rather than spend three days in Arizona at the annual meeting.
“Every time we go to a pro day or visit a player here or on campus, you learn something,” Colbert said. “That’s why it’s important to get to as many as you can. That’s the reason I’m not at the owners’ meetings. … It ran up against some pretty significant pro days. We made the decision that it’s more important for me to be out at these pro days because every time we go to one of these, we learning something news. Even if we scouted the kid throughout the whole fall, and we saw him at the Senior Bowl and the Combine, every exposure gives us an opportunity to learn something that we didn’t know (prior).”

— Joe Rutter


March 21, 2017
by Chris Adamski

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Adamski: Where have you gone Allen Rossum? Can Knile Davis end Steelers’ kick return revolving door?


Knile Davis might finally be the answer to the Steelers’ perpetual kickoff return question. Or not. (UPI photo)


SOUTH HILLS – The names, oh the names. Many of them will make Steelers fans chuckle in amusement.


If they don’t make them shudder in disgust.


During Mike Tomlin’s first 10 seasons as coach, the Steelers cycled though 28 different kick returners (as in, legitimate options used deep to return kicks such as receivers, running backs and defensive backs – not “up men” who recorded an official statistical return… if we counted them, the number bloats further and begins to include the likes of Cameron Heyward and Matt Spaeth).


Anyway, of these 28 men, they range from Stefan Logan’s 55 returns (all during the 2009 season) all the way down to the one kick returned each by the likes of Jordan Todman, Jerricho Cotchery and Tyrone Carter.


In between are such forgettable names as Willie Reid (six kicks returned Tomlin’s debut 2007 season), Najeh Davenport (17 combined in ’07 and ’08), Mewelde Moore (18 over a four-year span), Chris Rainey (39 in 2012), Dri Archer (23 in his 20 NFL games between 2014-15) and Justin Gilbert (three last regular season, plus three more – including one near-disastrous one – in the playoffs).


There’s been a pair of lamentable Jones’ (Felix had 23 in 2013; Jacoby nine fumble-filled tries two years later), a Canadian Football League lifer (Logan), a former Pro Bowl returner (three years after being so honored as a Falcon, Allen Rossum had 38 Steelers returns in 2007) and a couple of future Pro Bowl receivers (Antonio Brown – 46 kicks returned, most during his first two seasons 2010-11 – and Emmanuel Sanders – 41 returns from 2010-13).


For the most part, none have worked.


The Steelers have one kickoff return for a touchdown since Sept. 23, 2007, when Rossum took one to the proverbial house in a 37-16 win against San Francisco. The lone kickoff-return touchdown to come since then was on a trick play: a reverse from Moore on a handoff to Brown for 89 yards in a win at Tennessee on Sept. 19, 2010.


So the Steelers have gone 157 games without one of their kick returners taking a kick back for a touchdown on their own – and 110 games doing so by any means.


Even in today’s game when kickoffs are de-emphasized and most result in touchbacks, that’s not good. (For comparison’s sake, opponents have six kickoff returns against  the Steelers in the Tomlin era).


When it comes to average return yards, the Steelers’ picture isn’t as bleak – but it’s not good, either. They’ve been below average over the decade and haven’t ranked better than eighth in the NFL during any season under Tomlin. Four times, they’ve been in the bottom quartile, and the league rankings over the past four seasons are: 21st, 26th, 14th, 17th.


It hasn’t been without trying, either. Tomlin quickly established his love for prioritizing special teams when he spent two draft picks (using one to trade up) in selecting a punter during his first draft (Daniel Sepulveda, who incidentally set the trend for Tomlin’s similar punting woes).


A few months later and eight days before coaching his first game, Tomlin’s Steelers traded for Rossum – another early indication he was enamored with specialists. Rossum was OK (he did have that touchdown) – but his 23.3 average was fourth-worst in the league among players who had at least as many returns as him.


Rossum also was the first indication that Tomlin was willing to devote a roster spot to a player who is almost exclusively a returner. But that it didn’t work out so well (Rossum was cut the following offseason) was a harbinger of things to come for similar one-trick-pony, return-only specialists the Steelers would employ. Think Logan (lasted just one season), Rainey (lasted just one season, when he had all the relevant returns and only 40 offensive touches) and Jacoby Jones (I don’t even want to get into that one). All flamed out quickly.


As bad as Archer was offensively (a third-round pick who gained 63 yards from scrimmage in two seasons), he might have tanked as a returner even moreso (nine of 23 kick returns went for fewer than 20 yards, just one went longer than 30) – if that can be even believed and is possible.


This is all relevant today, of course, because the Steelers signed Knile Davis. While purportedly perhaps their backup running back, Davis’ true value might be seen as a kickoff returner. Even though he was cut twice last season, Davis has a 26.8 yards/attempt career average – that would have ranked fourth in the NFL last season – and three kick return touchdowns (two regular-season, one in the playoffs).


That’s promising. Maybe Tomlin’s kick curse will be broken.


Judging by past history, though, I wouldn’t bet on it.







LIST OF STEELERS WHO HAVE RETURNED DEEP KICKOFFS SINCE 2007 (in reverse chronological order of last kick returned, with number regular-season returns listed):


Fitzgerald Toussaint (13)

Sammie Coates (6)


Gilbert (18.7 avg, no TDs) (Chaz Palla/Tribune-Review photos)

Cobi Hamilton (5)

Justin Gilbert (3)

Antonio Brown (46)

Jacoby Jones (9)

Dri Archer (23)

Markus Wheaton (27)

Jordan Todman (1)

LeGarrette Blount (5)

Felix Jones (23)


Dwyer (22.5 avg, no TDs)

Emmanuel Sanders (41)

Jonathan Dwyer (4)

LaRod Stephens-Howling (1)

Chris Rainey (39)

Jerricho Cotchery (1)

Mewelde Moore (18)

Isaac Redman (5)

Stefan Logan (55)

Joe Burnett (3)

Carey Davis (7)


Davenport (16.6 avg, no TDs)

Rashard Mendenhall (7)

Mike Wallace (1)

Gary Russel (16)

Najeh Davenport (17)

Tyrone Carter (1)

Allen Rossum (38)

Willie Reid (6)


March 4, 2017
by Joe Rutter

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Rutter: Pitt, Penn State notes from NFL Combine


INDIANAPOLIS — Leftover items from Friday’s interview sessions at the NFL Combine.


Scott Orndoff’s favorite tight end should come as no surprise for someone raised in Waynesburg and who played football at Seton-La Salle and Pitt.

It’s Heath Miller.
“I realize it more now than when he was still playing, but he was a complete, solid tight end,” Orndoff said. “He was a reliable pass catcher. He was out there first through third down. Anytime they needed him to make a play, he can down with it.”
Given Ladarius Green’s concussion issues, the Steelers still may be seeking a replacement for Miller.
“I’ll go wherever this process takes me,” Orndoff said.
Orndoff is projected as a late-round pick. He tried to increase his value by training in Tampa, Fla., under the tutelage of former NFL wide receiver Yo Murphy.
Orndoff was in Tampa from Jan. 2 until heading to Indianapolis this week for the combine.
“The tight end position has evolved so much,” Orndoff said. “There are so many great receiving tight ends here and also a lot of good blocking tight ends. If I was able to hone in my craft enough, I’d like to be a complete tight end, someone who plays first, second and third down like you used to see in the past.”
Or someone like Heath Miller.

Former Penn State receiver Chris Godwin is a projected third-round pick. The Steelers could be in the market for a pass catcher in that round, and Godwin said he spent some time with team officials at the NFL Combine.
After Penn State’s loss to USC in the Rose Bowl, Godwin headed to Pensacola, Fla., where he worked out and watched film with former Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson.
“He’s just as he appears on TV,” Godwin said. “He’s a very cal and collected individual, but he’s very smart in what he does. … It was a great experience. I learned a lot of things from that guy. I was just mainly trying to pick his brain from everything in the classroom to training regimen to just how to get open and how to create separation in the NFL.”
Godwin decided to forgo his senior season after catching nine passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns in the Rose Bowl. He said the big game didn’t influence his decision to leave school early.
“I had been contemplating it, leading up to the bowl game,” he said. “Not one game is going to make or break your decision to when it comes to declaring for the NFL.
“It definitely was a good note to go out on.”

— Joe Rutter


March 1, 2017
by Joe Rutter

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Rutter: The inexact science of evaluating 3-4 pass rushers



INDIANAPOLIS – Despite all of the measurements and drills conducted at all-star games, scouting combine and pro days, the Steelers don’t know whether a college player has the aptitude to play outside linebacker in their 3-4 defensive scheme until much later in the calendar year.
How much later?
“Usually when they line up on a Sunday,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said Wednesday.
For some former college stars, such as 2015 first-round draft pick Bud Dupree, the transition to professional pass rusher comes smoothly. For others, like 2013 top draft pick Jarvis Jones, the progression is much slower – if it ever happens at all.
The Steelers are expected to add another pass rusher in the draft, likely in the first round, which makes the topic especially pertinent at the NFL combine.
Addressing reporters here, Colbert said evaluating players who can play outside linebackers in a 3-4 defense is the most challenging of any position on the field.
Colbert estimates “80-90 percent” of college defensive ends or outside linebackers play in a stance.
“We have to try to project whether a guy can stand up and do extra things than pass rush that is required in our defense,” Colbert said. “The margin for error at the outside linebacker position is really greater … because most of the time it is a projection.”
For the Steelers, the task is projecting whether a player also can, according to Colbert, match up with a tight end or offensive tackle and drop into pass coverage.
“The dropping part, we won’t see until we get in here for initial workouts and follow up at the pro day,” Colbert said.
Invited to the combine were 51 players classified as either defensive ends or outside linebackers.
“As we go through this, we probably lose three, four, five guys that we say are 4-3 defensive ends instead of 3-4 linebackers,” Colbert said.
Complicating matters at the combine is the limited time scouts, coaches and general managers can watch each player. Colbert said defensive ends/outside linebackers go through three types of pass drill and are thrown three balls.
“Sometimes, it’s the first time they’ve caught a ball,” he said.
At the player’s pro day is when the Steelers have a chance to work with an outside linebacker prospect more closely.
To determine whether a player can physically adapt to the Steelers’ 3-4 scheme, Colbert said the team focuses on his feet, hips and hands.
“You’re not really going to get into whether they know or understand what they’re doing,” Colbert said, referring to a player’s ability to drop into pass coverage. “You’re just looking at the physical ability to do it. You can transfer most of them, if they have the athleticism to do it. It’s just knowledge and repetition.”
As far as aptitude and, well, an actual ability to sack NFL quarterbacks, check back on Sundays starting in September for the answer.

— Joe Rutter


February 28, 2017
by Chris Adamski

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Adamski: “Everyone feels solid” in the wake of Antonio Brown’s new contract




(Chaz Palla/Tribune-Review)




Antonio Brown entered the media room at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on Tuesday morning flanked by his girlfriend and four children. Perhaps they can serve as an excuse why he was a not-too-bad “only” 15 minutes late for the press conference announcing his new mega-contract with the Steelers.



No one had any complaints about the notoriously perpetually-tardy Brown today – certainly not Steelers president Art Rooney II, who stood behind and to the right behind Brown as Brown fielded questions from the media. A small, proud smile was permanently affixed to Rooney II as Brown spoke.



The timing of it, really, works for all of us,” Rooney II said in brief remarks introducing Brown. “I want to thank Antonio and his representatives for the hard work in getting this done.”



How much work? Consider that Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told the Trib that he attended all four of the Steelers’ preseason games. Remember, this is a super-agent whose client list is as impressive in its length (close to 100) as it is in quality (Rob Gronkowski and LeSean McCoy among them). Think about all the places he could have been – and an agent needs to be – during the frenzied month before the regular season begins. In a show of support for Brown and how badly he was going to work with the Steelers to get a deal done, Rosenhaus kept showing up at Steelers games, again and again.



That might not have been the primary determining factor in the contract getting done – but it set a tone, and it didn’t hurt.



“The end result (of the contract) is our client getting a deal that he deserves and that he can feel good about and the team can feel good about,” Rosenhaus said in a phone interview Tuesday. “That’s the mark of a good deal, where everyone feels solid. So I appreciate the Steelers’ integrity for following through with their commitment and not wavering and seeing that it gets done.”



Brown, who’s spent all seven of his seasons with the Steelers, likewise expressed his appreciation: “The Rooneys did a great job of accommodating me. They always do a great job in that regard. I’m just grateful we could get things done early enough. “



Brown has always found motivation through means that include the tried-and-true “proving people wrong.” He even on Monday tweeted a not-so-flattering draft profile of himself from 2010. Will now that he has his new deal and can claim the title of “highest-paid receiver in NFL history,” where does Brown find his motivation?



“Every year you have to prove yourself,” he said. “Every year is a new year and a fresh start, so you have to come out and prove yourself. And that battle is never ending. Every year I’m judged on my performance and how I make the team better.”

“I just give everybody inspiration and motivation. If you work hard and do the right things, you’ll get rewarded. And the result for working hard and doing the right things is being in this position.”



The Steelers, recognizing the special nature of Brown’s abilities and the unique circumstances surrounding his contract, had already given him salary advances each of the past two summers.



The whole idea behind those advances collapsed if the Steelers didn’t give Brown an extension this spring. That they did shows what they think of him as a player.



February 28, 2017
by Joe Rutter

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Rutter: Clearing up Bell’s franchise tag number


Trying to make sense of the NFL salary cap and collective bargaining agreement is a lot like trying to decipher the IRS tax code. It can be confusing and can lead to mistakes by those without genius IQs.

I learned as much Monday night when dealing with the Le’Veon Bell franchise-tag situation and trying to determine his salary figure for the 2017 season. So, I decided to use this forum to clarify some statements written in today’s article.

Because I failed to read one part of the NFL rules on franchise tags, I wrote that Bell’s salary number under an “exclusive” franchise player designation would be dictated by Adrian Peterson’s salary this season. And I wrote that Bell’s salary wouldn’t be known until April 21, the end of the restricted free agency period. While Peterson’s salary will help determine the value of an “exclusive” franchise tag and April 21 remains the deadline, neither will apply to Bell’s case this year.

Here is why, and I’ll try to keep the explanation as simple as a wordy first-year beat writer can do in the wee hours of the morning:

The more common “non-exclusive” franchise designation is based on the salaries of the five highest-paid players from the previous season, but also takes into account 5 years of data as it pertains to the salary cap. This resulted in a $11.789 million “non-exclusive” value for running backs in 2016 even though the top 5 salaries for running backs averaged about $8.6 million.

The “exclusive” designation pertains to the top 5 salaries for the current season. With Peterson (and his $18 million salary for 2017) possibly being released by the Vikings, that will reduce the average salary for a franchise running back significantly. Some estimates have the 5-player average going as low as $7.2 million.

But, thanks to another CBA provision (one I originally overlooked), the Steelers knew when deciding which tag to apply that Bell would get between $12.2-$12.4 million in 2017.


Because of the section of the CBA which states that if the “exclusive” value is lower than the “non-exclusive” value — which surely will be the case this season at running back — the player will receive the greater value.

So, no matter what happens with Adrian Peterson in the upcoming weeks, the Steelers will pay Bell the higher rate in 2017. Again, that number won’t be known until the salary cap is set within the next week, but is expected to be between $12.2-$12.4 million based on a $168 million salary cap. And once that figure is known, there’s no need waiting to see what the lower April 21 “exclusive” figure will be.

With finances being no consideration in the matter, the decision about which tag to apply to Bell came down to whether the Steelers wanted to allow him to negotiate with other teams (and receive two first-round draft picks as compensation had he signed elsewhere). The Steelers ultimately decided to use the “exclusive” tag, which permits no other teams to negotiate with Bell.

It was a decision made from a truly “football” standpoint and was devoid of economic implications as it pertains to the CBA and it’s confounding franchise-tag rules.

Having tried to clear that up, it’s back to genuine football. I leave today for the NFL combine in Indianapolis where I’ll be reporting on 40-yard dash times and bench press totals for the next few days. Check back for our daily coverage.

— Joe Rutter

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