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May 18, 2014
by Mark Kaboly


30 comments so far - add yours!

Kaboly: Rookie defensive players and Mike Tomlin just don’t mix (chart included)

tomlin2Thanks, but no thanks.

That’s been the message that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has sent rookie defenders ever since taking over the team in 2007.

It took nearly 100 regular-season games for Tomlin to trust a rookie to start and that was Jarvis Jones Week 2 in Cincinnati a year ago. Vince Williams followed suit because of necessity and the same went with Terrence Garvin — a rookie tryout just months before.

Now, a big reason why rookie defenders haven’t been able to crack the starting lineup for Tomlin hasn’t been because he’s been bull-headed as much as the defense was pretty set with a cast of veteran stars. Still, as those stars got older and eventually left, rookies still didn’t fill the holes.

That very well could all change this year with the selections of Ryan Shazier and Stephon Tuitt — the Steelers’ first two draft picks. The two don’t only have a high pedigree and played a lot at big-time colleges, but are coming into a situation where there is need — inside linebacker and defensive end.

Now, that’s still a ways away but it sure isn’t out of the question like it would’ve been a couple years ago.

Here is a list of rookie defenders and their playing time with the Steelers in the Tomlin era. (Before you ask, the offense has seen a lot of rookies playing including Darnell Stapleton, Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, Marcus Gilbert, Mike Adams and more)

                                               

                                              2007

PLAYER                                      G        GS      SNAPS

William Gay (CB)                     16           0              95

LaMarr Woodley (LB)            13           0              69

Lawrence Timmons (LB)       16           0             16

Ryan McBean (DE)                   1            0              0

Grant Mason (CB)                    5            0              0

                                                   51           0              186

 

                                             2008

PLAYER                             G             GS          SNAPS

Donovan Woods (LB)       5              0              9

Patrick Bailey (LB)             12           0              9

Scott Paxson (NT)             1              0              0

Roy Lewis (CB)                    1              0              0

Bruce Davis (LB)                 5              0              0

                                            24           0              19

 

                                         2009

PLAYER                           G             GS          SNAPS

Ziggy Hood (DE)              16           0              225

Ryan Mundy (S)               16           0              88

Joe Burnett (CB)              15           0              44

Keenan Lewis (CB)          4            0              0

                                         51           0              357


                                          2010

PLAYER                           G             GS          SNAPS

Jason Worilds (LB)          14           0              43

Stevenson Sylvester (LB) 16       0              37

Steve McLendon (NT)    7            0              22

Crezdon Butler (CB)        4              0              0

                                        41           0              102

 

                                                2011

PLAYER                           G             GS          SNAPS

Cam Heyward (DE )        16           0              198

Cortez Allen (CB)             15           0              60

Chris Carter (LB)              8              0              46

Corbin Bryant (DE)          1              0              5

Curtis Brown (CB)            12           0              0

D. Cromartie-Smith (S)   4              0              0

                                             56           0              309

 

                                            2012

PLAYER                           G             GS          SNAPS

Robert Golden (S)          15           0              46

Adrian Robinson (LB)     12             0              0

Marshall McFadden (LB) 1            0              0

                                             28           0              46

                                             2013

PLAYER                           G             GS          SNAPS

Jarvis Jones (LB)              14           8              636

Vince Williams (LB)        15           11           405

Shamarko Thomas (S)  14           2              193

Terence Garvin (LB)        15           1              33

Brian Arnfelt (DE)              2              0              2

                                             60           22           1,269

* Jarvis Jones started Week 2 in Cincinnati

May 13, 2014
by Mark Kaboly


15 comments so far - add yours!

Kaboly: Post draft 1-on-1 with Kevin Colbert

Kevin-ColbertSteelers general manager Kevin Colbert joined me on my TribLive Radio Show on Monday to discuss a number of topics including the speed of the players he drafted all the way to the state of the Penguins. Here’s a sample of what Colbert had to say. To listen to the full interview, check out the podcast. Be sure to tune into the Kaboly Show every Monday at 2 p.m. on TribLiveRadio.com

 

 Q: Have you been able to finally get some rest after a grueling road leading up to the draft?

A: “I have no problem with that. You always have to take care of yourself and sleeping is usually not an issue for me. It was a long process, but it was an enjoyable one. Once you get into it and start moving through it, you keep doing it until you get the job done. That phase of the job is done and now it’s time to find out what we can and cannot do with these guys.”

 

 

Q: If you had to estimate, how many man hours do you and your staff put in over this entire draft process?

A:  “I really don’t think you can. This process actually started last year at our Combine meetings in May and it continued through – the summers are usually slow but it picks up in training camp. It is pretty much a 6-7 days a week job from August through the end of April. You are ready to go and start it all over again. It would be hard to total the hours. Our scouts do a great job and they love doing it. They are passionate about it and, of course, when we plug the coaches into it, they are passionate. I don’t think anybody looks at it as a job more as a labor of love, I guess.”

 

 

Q: You got the fastest linebacker in the draft, the fastest player in the draft and one of the fastest wide receivers in the draft. Is it safe to assume that you wanted to improve your team speed?

A: “As long as they can play. Where we picked those guys, we felt that they can not only run fast, but they are good players. Ryan Shazier was a highly productive linebacker on a really good team. Dri Archer‘s speed is unique, but that is only part of his ability. He was also highly productive, not only as a runner, but as a kick returner and potentially a punt returner. Martavis (Bryant) not only runs fast but he had a ton of plays down the field with a big play offense that featured the best receiver in the draft in Sammy Watkins.”

 

 

Q: All of us experts had you picking a cornerback or a receiver in the first round. Well, we were wrong. I have always been curious if you – even if it is for curiosity sake only – take a look at some of the mock drafts, even if it is only by some of the top guys who do it, just to get a feel?  

A: “You do notice them and you can’t help but to notice the mock drafts because they are on every prominent website that you go to for news. You basically see in any given draft people talking about usually 20-25 guys and there is a lot of air time for that group of players. If you see a name that’s outside of that group – you evaluate them and it’s not like you don’t know about them. But when you see somebody mentioned, those people are getting that information somewhere so maybe there is something to lead you to believe, even if you don’t like him, that somebody else does. That may or may not influence whether you have him available to you when you pick. With this draft as unique as it was with the talent level so deep to you didn’t see people reaching from outside from even our own evaluations. It’s unusual. Teams have their board the way they like it but this draft, I think, had a lot of the same ratings on them because there were so many to choose.”

 

 

 

Q: One of the assistants on Saturday during the media scrum said “there were a lot of guys you liked but all those guys got drafted.” I assume you won’t tell me who specifically, but I would have to assume one was cornerback. Did what maybe Cleveland did and Chicago did right before you force you to switch up?  

A: “As I said even when we did our press conference last Monday, I said that there were 19 guys in this draft that we would be extremely happy to get and Ryan (Shazier) was in that group. There were guys who went ahead of Ryan who were really good players. They all aren’t at 19. Somebody has to be at 1 and somebody has to be at 19. When you pick a guy like Shazier, he was a part of that group. We were extremely excited that he was there but there were other players that we would’ve entertained and maybe we didn’t have an opportunity to pick them. That doesn’t diminish our excitement for Shazier.”

 

 

Q: In today’s NFL, is there a such thing as a Levon Kirkland-type inside linebacker of 290 pounds guy anymore or because of the rule changes of not allowing to hit as much, is it going toward the speedy 230-pound inside guys like Shazier?

A: “The game has changed. The high school game crept into the colleges which crept into the NFL because of the players that are groomed at each level. You have to adjust to it. Football over the last five years in the NFL has become the lateral type game. You almost saw it back in the early 2000s when New England started spreading people out and you saw some different things and you thought that this could be the wave of the future. It certainly has stuck. You have to have people that can make plays laterally not to say that people aren’t going to try to run down your throat if they get mismatches. That lateral speed is really important and that’s why Shazier was really exciting for us to add because he can make those plays laterally. He can get down the field in coverage to some spots where some others couldn’t because of his speed. He can certainly add an inside pass rush with his burst and his ability to find some cracks inside. That’s why we viewed him as a first-round player.”

 

 

Q: I know you are a big Penguins fan so I am going to put you on the spot. What’s going to happen in Game 7?

A: “I think we are going win. To win a game in any professional sport, it’s a difficult task and I am just not talking about the playoffs. You can never take a win for granted because the other team is professionals as well. To win a series, you have to win more games than they do. It’s not easy. I am sure a lot of people are disappointed that there is a Game 7, but it’s not easy to win a game let alone a series when you play another team of professionals. It’s a tall order but  I am sure they are going to be up to it. The Consol better be rocking for these guys because they deserve our support and they are going to get it and we are going to get that win.”

 

 

May 11, 2014
by Mark Kaboly


52 comments so far - add yours!

Kaboly: (Quickly) grading the Steeler draft

It wasn’t flashy, but it sure did produce two things — speed and versatility — and it also filled a couple of needs in the process. Saying that, here’s a quick and, as I like to say ‘at first thought’ grades from me on the Steelers 2014 draft (Yeah, I know, it’s 24 hours after the draft.)

 

1st — Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State

This just in: The Steelers really needed an inside linebacker and maybe just as much as cornerback and wide receiver. The Steelers didn’t go into the draft with Shazier in mind, but when cornerbacks Justin Gilbert and Kyle Fuller were gone as well as wide receiver Odell Beckham, Shazier was the highest rated guy left on the board. He’s fast, he can tackle and he’s a playmaker in a place where there wasn’t much of that last year. Did I mention he was fast?

GRADE: A

 

2nd – Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame

If it wasn’t for an injury that made his weight get out of control for a while, Tuitt would’ve been a first-rounder. He’s a perfect 3-4 end with tremendous size and ability to get to the quarterback. And again, it filled a glaring need a position that’s quite important.

GRADE: B+

 

3rd – Dri Archer, RB, Kent State

This pick was kind of curious because the Steelers aren’t in position to pick for luxury, in my opinion, when it comes to the third round. Sure, Archer is fast and could provide a different aspect to the Steelers offense and also help in the return game. But with a team with depth issues, do you really want to use a third-round pick who is going to touch the ball – at most – five times a game? A little too early for my liking.

GRADE: B-

 

4th – Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson

Make no mistake about it, Todd Haley wanted this guy. He actually lobbied for him in the second and third rounds to no avail. What makes Bryant so intriguing is his ability to get deep. It doesn’t take much for a wide receiver to run down the field and catch the ball so he can definitely be used in some packages as a rookie. However, he is somewhat of a project that is going to be a work-in-progress, but in the fourth, it could end up being a steal. What I kept hearing about Bryant is that he has a “tremendous upside.”

GRADE: B+

 

5th – Shaquille Richardson, CB, Arizona

When you get to the fifth round, you aren’t going to get many sure-fire starters. Richardson is more of a depth guy who might eventually turn into something good. However, he won’t help the Steelers this year at all. But when you come out and say you are happy with your depth at cornerback, I guess you don’t need somebody to step in right away.

GRADE: C

 

5th – Wesley Johnson, OL, Vanderbilt

Same thing goes for Johnson as Richardson. At best, this guy is a swing guy. He’s undersized for tackle and hasn’t played the other positions much. However, knowing that he call play all five positions on the offensive line makes his a sensible low-round pick.

GRADE: C

 

6th – Jordan Zumwalt, LB, UCLA

Taking Shazier and having Terrence Garvin, Sean Spence and Vince Williams at inside linebacker now makes this pick curious. He played in the same style of defense at UCLA that he will play with the Steelers, but it’s going to be hard for him to make a splash.

GRADE: C

 

6th – Daniel McCullers, NT, Tennessee

At 6-7, 356, the man is big and athletic. Maybe too big. When you get to the late rounds, you pick or upside and McCullers has a lot of upside with his size and athleticism. No hard in drafting him and seeing if he can use that size to his advantage in the NFL.

GRADE: B

7th – Rob Blanchflower, TE, UMass

I do believe the Steelers have about three of these type tight ends on the roster. Injuries have slowed him, so it’s not a big gamble taking him at the end of the draft.

GRADE: C

 

OVERALL GRADE: B

 

May 11, 2014
by Mark Kaboly


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Kaboly: 6 non-draft questions and 6 non-draft answers by 6 Steelers’ assistants

ButlerThe Steelers finished up their draft on Saturday and then added nine undrafted free agents to their roster not long after.

While the weekend was focused on the new additions to the Steelers’ roster, it wasn’t void of other information.

If you are not familiar on how the draft process works when it comes to covering it, I’ll map it out for you.

After the pick is announced, the position coach of that draft pick speaks to the media. While the majority of the questions are about that pick, other topics are also covered mostly because none of the coaches have been available to the media since the end of the season.

So, here are some non-draft nuggets that came out of this weekend.

* Dick LeBeau (defensive coordinator)  LeBeau surprised a lot of us when he said that he’s comfortable with the depth at cornerback despite not having much in the way of experience behind Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen and William Gay.

“I feel good about the cornerbacks that we have and we have more numbers there than people realize. At these other positions, we have people that I at least know about, let’s put it that way. We may have great players in the building already; they just haven’t had the chance to show us that they are great. I guess you can’t take a defensive guy every pick but maybe we’ll get a corner with the next pick.”

 

* John Mitchell (defensive line) – There has been a lot of question surrounding nose tackle Steve McLendon and if he can be an effective player when it comes to playing the position and especially stopping the run.

“I do. Steve was here for a long time. He played behind Casey Hampton and Chris Hoke. He is a guy who made himself and worked real hard. I’m pleased where he is. I’ve watched a lot of tape, reviewing a lot of things from last season and he is a guy who knows what he needs to do, and I think he is going to improve. He is going to get better and better. This was the first time he has played in the NFL as a starter. It’s not easy, and I’m sure he had a lot of weight on his shoulders knowing how Casey and Chris played, and I’m sure he wanted to do well. I told him you can’t be Casey and you can’t be Chris, just be Steve McLendon. I think we are going to see Steve McLendon rather than Steve trying to be Casey or Chris. He has put in the time. He is very diligent about watching tape and being on time. You have to be yourself and not worry about what you can’t do. What he can do is run to the ball. He has to learn to get off blocks and keep his pad level down. He is not going to be as strong as Casey. Chris was very intelligent, and Steve is also. He has to be able to take things from the classroom to the field. If he can be Steve and not Casey or Chris, he will be okay. I’m not worried about him at this time.”

 

* Richard Mann (wide receivers) – We didn’t see much of Markus Wheaton last year, but it appears that the second-year man out of Oregon State will be expected to make great strides this year with the loss of Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders.

“What I found out about Markus last year was that he has good toughness. We all know he hurt his finger and we played him towards the end of the season because we didn’t have anybody else due to injuries. He never complained about it and I know it was hurting, so I found out something about him. I think some of the things that I saw him do in the preseason, up until he hurt that finger against Minnesota over in London, he went downhill a little after that, but up until that point, he was doing very well.”

 

* Carnell Lake (defensive backs) – Like LeBeau, Lake also isn’t too concerned with his defensive backfield despite not getting much help in the draft.

“It’s fortunate that we’ve had some players that we picked up as free agents. Antwon Blake is one, very fast, quick, aggressive corner that I liked coming out of last year. We were fortunate to grab him in free agency, and he’s turned out to be very productive for us especially on special teams. We got Brice McCain in the offseason, who I’ve been working with on the field the last couple of weeks. I’m really impressed with the way he moves. I think these guys are just getting started. They have the ability to cover and stay close to receivers. So for guys that we’ve picked up in free agency that may have been overlooked in the past, I’m pretty excited about. I think we’ve had the ability to plug and play some of these players that we’ve picked up.”

 

* Mike Munchak (offensive line) – Munchak has been on the job for only a couple months, but has gotten a glimpse into what Maurkice Pouncey is all about. Pouncey was lost for the season a dozen plays into the season last year with knee injury.

“He’s doing well. He’s a guy that when you’re as competitive of a player as he is and get hurt in the opener, you can’t wait to play the first game. The biggest, probably hardest part for him is going to be relaxing and realizing we don’t play until September. We’ll have plenty of opportunity to get him ready to play and get his confidence back and all of that stuff that you face coming off of an injury. He looks good and I’m looking forward to going into the next phase with the OTAs in a few weeks, letting him get closer to the game and he’s a guy that I’m looking forward to working with.”

 

* Keith Butler (linebackers) – The Steelers added former player Joey Porter as a defensive assistant during the offseason and Butler said that he will help last year’s first-round pick Jarvis Jones immensely.

“He and Jarvis are probably the same guy. Their style of play, Jarvis might be a little different than Joey, but not much. Joey has always had an attitude when he played and we need some of that. I’ve already told the story of him going out to the bus to try to pull everybody off the bus. I want that type of attitude in that room. Joey, that’s the way he played. A lot of people say that he was a loud mouth and maybe he was but he backed that mess up. If you don’t back it up, it’s hollow. He was a good player for us not only when he was young, but when he got older too. I think he has a passion for coaching. He loves it. He loves to be on the field working with those guys. He has a really good knowledge base to do it.”

 

May 9, 2014
by Mark Kaboly


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Kaboly: Not the pick you wanted, but …

I know what you are thinking because most of us were thinking the same thing when the Steelers used the 15th pick in Thursday’s NFL Draft to take Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier.

Why, oh, why?

Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard – the guy who the Steelers brought in for a visit and showed up in force at the cornerbacks’ Pro Day was there for the taking … and the Steelers passed (and maybe for good reason. He didn’t get drafted until nine picks later).

Now, the Steelers filled a glaring need with the pick of Shazier. The Mack inside linebacker position is in shambles with the team not really being able to rely on Vince Williams or Sean Spence, but wasn’t there a bigger need at cornerback?

That’s surely debatable, to a point.

They do need a young cornerback to be able to replace Ike Taylor next year and they still might get that in the second or third round, so that should take a little sting off the pick.

But when you peel everything away and get passed the shock of the pick (shock because nobody had him on their mock draft), it could end up being a pretty dynamic selection.

He’s fast. He’s experienced. He’s young. And did I mention that he is fast?

When asked what the Steelers clocked him at the draft, Mike Tomlin said “fast.”

Like 4.4 fast. Or 4.36 fast like he ran at his Pro Day.

The Steelers needed a playmaker on defense and Shazier appears to have the talent to be that guy. When you consider you can pair him with another speedster like Lawrence Timmons on the inside and it can prove a lethal combination for the Steelers especially if Jarvis Jones continues to develop and Jason Worilds picks up where he left off.

My one issue is that could you have traded down and still get Shazier at 24 or 25? Sure, but if the Steelers identified that as their guy then go ahead and take him when you can. So for that, it was a good pick.

Now, was it the pick that we all wanted to see?

Well, that’s another story.

May 6, 2014
by Alan Robinson


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Robinson: Big Ben discusses 2014 QB class, his contract status and more

Ben Roethlisberger

What does it take for an NFL rookie quarterback to succeed? If anyone knows, it’s Ben Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger made some interesting comments Tuesday on his 93.7 FM radio show about the Class of 2014 quarterback group headed by Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr.

“It takes a little bit of luck, it takes a little bit of crazy fire and tenacity because you’ve got to be able to take a hit and get up,” Roethlisberger said. “I think it takes a good team around you. I was blessed to come in (in 2004) with a great defense, a good offensive line, a good running game and a lot of veterans around me who helped usher me in and mold me.”

Roethlisberger played on a team that went 15-1 during his rookie season, but lost to the Patriots in the AFC title game. A year later, the Steelers won the Super Bowl.

So perhaps it’s not surprising which rookie QB Roethlisberger believes in built for long-term success — the guy who most resembles him.

“I talked to Blake, and I know Blake has that fiery chip,” Roethlisberger said of Bortles, who played at Central Florida. “I think he’s going to be the best one of the group because I see something in him, his competiveness, his leadership. And I think he’s got a lot of upside.”

Bortles is listed at 6-foot-5 and 232 pounds, making him the same height and only nine pounds lighter than Roethlisberger. Manziel is 5-11 1/2 and 207.

Roethlisberger also praised Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M, saying, “He’ll come into this league and he’ll probably be a star early because he’ll use his athleticism.”

But Roethlisberger also related a recent conversation he had with former Pro Bowl linebacker Joey Porter, now a Steelers defensive assistant.

“I was in the weight room the other day with Joey Porter, (and he was) asking me what I thought about Manziel,” Roethlisberger said. “I looked at Joey and said, `Joey, do you think if you got a good hit on him, that he would be OK? And he said, `No, not at all.’ And that’s my question.

“You have guys like Joey Porter, who’s a big guy, guys that are fast like Troy (Polamalu), Ike Taylor coming off the edge, Lawrence Timmons, you’d better be real athletic, get down or be big” to absorb the pounding an NFL quarterback can take.

“I think he definitely has a lot of upside, but let’s wait and see,” Roethlisberger said. “The key I’ll say every year when I get asked about RGIII (Robert Griffin III), Andrew Luck, or whoever it is, Cam Newton, it’s not about your first year, it’s about years two, three and four.

“Can you sustain it when defenses, like coach (Dick) LeBeau and the defenses he coaches, when they figure you out, can you find a way to stay a step above them?”

Roethlisberger, who has two years remaining on his current contract, also said he knows of no ongoing contract talks between his agent, Ryan Tollner, and the Steelers.

“I think there’s always a chance (for a new deal), but I don’t know how realistic it is,” Roethlisberger said on his 93.7 FM show. “I don’t know that there are any real serious talks. If there is, I haven’t been informed of it. I think it’s probably just been some small talk, like, `Let’s talk later.’ It’s hard for me to really speculate what they’re  doing behind closed doors. It’s nothing significant enough to be brought to my attention.”

Roethlisberger also said:

— He was surprised when wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery left to sign with the Carolina Panthers. Cotchery led the Steelers with 10 touchdown catches last season.

“He was one of the best teammates, along with Heath Miller, I’ve ever played with in any sport,” Roethlisberger said. “I didn’t see us losing him, so it might have made it a little tougher when you’re not expecting someone to go. But he had to do what was right and best for his family.”

— He works out six times a week and, going into his 11th season at age 32, hopes to play until he is nearing 40.

“I feel great, I feel like I’m in great shape, I feel really good,” he said. “At this rate, I feel I could play for quite a few more years, I feel I could get five, six, seven more years out of these arms and legs.”

– He believes the no-huddle will be more of a base offense in 2014 given how successful it was during the second half of last season, when the Steelers went 6-2.

“In the past, we’ve always had the no-huddle but it’s always been a back burner type of offense;  let’s go to it if we’re in trouble or we need a change of pace. If we kind of need a spark,” Roethlisberger said. “We’ve all kind of come to the conclusion that maybe it needs to be more involved, we need to do it more. So I think parts of it might be more of a base offense; we might go into training camp, OTAs, minicamp, using it a lot more, so it is more of a regular thing.

“But not always. Because we’ve got to have our two and three tight-end packages, we’ve got to have jumbo stuff, short-yardage, goal line. We still have to have all those things. But to have it, to use it more often, and to be more comfortable with it, I think it makes us better.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 1, 2014
by Alan Robinson


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Robinson: New Steelers wide receiver Lance Moore tells Saints fans to chill out

Lance Moore

 

Lance Moore apparently caused a stir down south with his comments that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a stronger arm than Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

Apparently, Saints fans took that as a slight following Moore’s nine seasons with the team, a span in which he caught 346 passes in 101 games and played on one Super Bowl winner.

Here’s what Moore had to say on the adjustment period, during his first session with Steelers reporters this week:

“It can [take some time] because they are a different style of quarterback. I would say Ben has a little bit stronger of an arm, maybe a lot stronger arm. Just from the couple of days with him here, that’s something that kind of jumps out at me. If you are kind of lazy with your eyes – I call it lazy with your eyes – the ball will zoom right past you. That’s something that I will have to adjust to.

“I feel like the quarterback should never really have to adjust to the receiver. The receiver should make those adjustments and make things right with the quarterback, because they are the ones pulling the trigger. If they are waiting on you, it’s going to be tough for things to get done. I have been around long enough. I played with, at least in practice, a bunch of different quarterbacks that have different styles. Like I said earlier, the more work that we put in together, the more smooth that will be.”

Moore wasn’t being critical of Brees — and why should he be? — but rather was explaining the differences in the throwing styles of the two QBs. No doubt Emmanuel Sanders is making a similar adjustment in Denver from catching Roethlisberger’s passes to catching those of Peyton Manning.

Moore received some criticism from Saints fans following his remarks, which prompted him to post this response on Twitter:

“Everybody down south is mad now? Never said I disliked Drew (sp) or am not thankful for my time w him. Wouldn’t be where I am w/out him. Chill out.”

Moore is trying to bounce back from an off-season at age 30 in 2013, when a broken hand helped limit him to 37 catches, a 12.4 average and two touchdowns. He was coming off his first 1,000-yard season in 2012 (65 catches, 6 TDs, 1,041 yards).

He explained it was somewhat traumatic to be let go by a team after so long — it was a salary cap move — but was glad the Steelers picked him up within days.

“I actually heard that I was being released or shopped on Twitter. I was at a workout and people were text messaging me like crazy. So immediately, I texted Coach Sean Payton and my wide receivers coach about what was going on. Literally about 36 hours later I got released. It wasn’t necessarily something that I didn’t see as a possibility after coming off of last season. I didn’t have the greatest of years. They kind of owed me a little bit of money. I understood that it was probably a possibility that I wasn’t going to make that money there. That’s how it goes in this game. A lot of teams are trying to get younger and cheaper at the same time,” Moore said.

” And I was kind of one of those casualties of that. And from that point, I got released on a Friday, I believe. Sunday afternoon, I left and visited New England. It was a quick visit. I was in and out. From there, they kind of just told me we will wait and see what happens with Julian Edelman and we will go from there. I didn’t hear back from them, obviously, after Edelman signed. I was kind of in limbo, just training and waiting. And out of the blue, my agent called me and said the Steelers wanted to bring me in on a visit.

“I came up here and had a great time. I met all the coaches. It felt like it was right. Coming from a place where things are run the right way, ownership is great and you win a lot of games, obviously won a world championship, you want that feeling again. You want to be able to get somewhere where you have an opportunity to win. I’ve been in the game 10 years now. I am not here just to try to collect a check. I want to win another championship. I feel like this is a great place for me.”

Moore, by the way, was impressed by the display of six Lombardi Trophies at the Steelers’ South Side offices, and told coach Mike Tomlin it helped influence him to sign with Pittsburgh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 22, 2014
by Alan Robinson


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Robinson: Ike Taylor says to watch for this receiver in Steelers’ draft

Martavis BryantIke Taylor is one Steelers player who doesn’t mind discussing team personnel matters, and he made an interesting comment Tuesday on his TribLiveRadio show.

Asked about the upcoming draft, Taylor said he thinks the Steelers will go for a cornerback in the first round — Bradley Roby, Darqueze Dennard or Justin Gilbert are the most-likely targets — then grab Clemson wide receiver Martavis Bryant (above) in a later round — which would probably be the second round.

Bryant is 6-foot-4 with secondary-shedding speed and exceptional leaping ability — or exactly the kind of receiver with size the Steelers are seeking. But he isn’t nearly as polished, and wasn’t nearly as proficient, as the upper-tier receivers in the draft — namely his Clemson teammate, Sammy Watkins, and 6-5 Mike Evans of Texas A&M.

Of course with Watkins on the field, he is always going to be a quarterback’s  No. 1 option, as he was last season for Tajh Boyd — as evidenced by his 101 catches for 1,464 yards, 12 touchdowns (one of 96 yards) and 14.5 average. It’s pretty evident Watkins will be the first receiver taken in the draft.

But Bryant wasn’t exactly a bit player in Clemson’s offense; he had 42 catches for 828 yards and seven touchdowns, and his 19.7 yards per catch average was nearly five yards higher than Watkins’ average. The 2013 season was the only one in which Bryant was a starter; he made 11 starts and was chosen as honorable mention All-ACC.

Bryant was timed at 4.42 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, tying him for the fifth-fastest time among wide receivers, although his 16 weightlifting reps of 225 pounds were seven fewer than for Miami, Fla. punter Pat O’Donnell. But here are a couple of Bryant’s numbers that, er, jump out — 39 inches in the vertical jump and 124 inches in the broad jump.

And nearly a quarter of his catches last season were for 20 yards or longer, though he also dropped 12.5 percent of passes thrown his way.

A scouting report on Bryant: He’s long, tall and possesses elite speed. Good at making back-shoulder catches, but drops some passes he should catch. Not an especially adept route runner. Needs time to make it in the NFL; he declared early for the NFL Draft in part because some of Clemson’s younger receivers were pushing him for playing time. But he is explosively fast after catching the ball, and he could be the proverbial take-the-top-off-the-defense receiver the Steelers are looking for. (They signed free agent Darrius Heyward-Bey to audition for the same role.)

Career stats: 61 catches, 1,354 yards, 13 touchdowns in 27 career games. Also returned 14 kickoffs for a 20.8 average.

Taylor’s job as a cornerback is to closely watch wide receivers. Now we’ll find out if he is just as proficient in watching them off the field.

 

April 17, 2014
by Alan Robinson


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Robinson: Will Roby be Steelers’ pick? Donald now in the Top 10?

Bradley Roby

As the Steelers continue their face-to-face visits with nearly all of the top cornerback prospects in the upcoming NFL Draft, one of them is making a surge up the draft boards.

 

NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah, a former scout for three NFL teams, said Thursday on a conference call that Bradley Roby (above) of Ohio State could be the second cornerback chosen in the May 8-10 draft — and he has him going to the Steelers at No. 15.

 

Roby visited the Steelers last Friday.

 

Previously, the general consensus among the top-level draft analysts was that Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State and Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State were  1-2 among cornerbacks. But Jeremiah said his discussions with team executives lead him to think that Roby could go fairly early, possibly ahead of Dennard.

 

Jeremiah had Roby rated as the top cornerback going into the season. But Roby had an uneven senior year, with Jeremiah saying he might have had some NFL-itis — wishing he’d gone pro the previous spring. Roby also was suspended for Ohio State’s season opener because of an off-field incident.

 

Roby is 5-foot-11 and 194 pounds, and he ran an impressive 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

 

Jeremiah’s NFL Network colleague, Charles Davis, has Roby behind Gilbert and Dennard. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has Roby behind Gilbert, Dennard and Jason Verrett of TCU.

 

Dennard and Verrett met earlier with the Steelers in Pittsburgh, with Verrett dropping by the South Side offices on Monday — the same day cornerback Shaquille Richardson of Arizona visited.

 

Yet another cornerback, Phillip Gaines of Rice, met with the Steelers on Thursday, along with defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman of Minnesota and tight end Rob Blanchflower of Massachusetts.

 

With so many of their 30 allowable visits devoted to cornerbacks, it’s obvious the Steelers plan to draft at least one — but not necessarily on the first round.

 

Roby, for example, was seen before as a possible second-round pick. But, if Jeremiah’s instincts are correct and he goes in the first round, another one of those cornerbacks (Dennard or Verrett) could be available in the second round for Pittsburgh, which then could possibly go for a wide receiver on the first round.

 

The Steelers also met recently with two safety prospects,  Calvin Pryor of Louisville and Deone Bucannon.

 

Davis also thinks Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald could end up being a Top 10 pick.

 

Jeremiah has Donald going No. 14 overall to the Bears,  but Davis said Donald could go as early as No. 10 to the Lions, who decided recently not to bring back defensive lineman Nick Fairley.

 

“Donald could be a guy they (the Lions) make a move on right then and there,” Davis said. “I don’t think he’s out of line for the Giants (at No. 12). The Bears, Cowboys (No. 16) are probable spots. I’m not sure he gets past that.”

 

Jeremiah also thinks Pitt quarterback Tom Savage will go near the top of the second round, and Davis said Pitt wide receiver Devin Street could go later in that round.

 

April 16, 2014
by Alan Robinson


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Robinson: The position of greatest need for the Steelers pre-draft is …

Brett KeiselCornerback or wide receiver? Wide receiver or cornerback?

 

With the NFL Draft now three weeks away, much of the pre-draft speculation concerning the Steelers is whether they’ll take a cornerback (Darqueze Dennard, perhaps, or Justin Gilbert) or a wide receiver (even if Mike Evans isn’t there at No. 15, which he probably won’t be).

 

Yet neither one of those position picks would help the Steelers at what currently is their position of greatest need.

 

Defensive end.

 

Look at the Steelers depth chart (and it’s below), and it’s obvious how thin they are at a critical position in their defense — and one in which they received mostly solid play last season from Cam Heyward, Brett Keisel and, sporadically, Ziggy Hood.

 

But Hood left to sign with the Jaguars, and Keisel is an unrestricted free agent who, at 35, is unsigned. Just before the start of the free agent signing period March 11, Keisel’s agent, Eric Metz, said the Steelers had shown no interest in bringing Keisel back.

 

However, the Steelers’ only defensive line addition to date is former Chargers nose tackle Cam Thomas, who, at 330 pounds, seems more suited to playing nose tackle than he is to playing defensive end in a 3-4 defense. However, if the Steelers were to take the field today (and they don’t for another four months-plus, of course), he’d likely be playing there.

 

With free agency about dried up, the Steelers’ only avenues for securing another defensive end capable of playing immediately are 1) The draft; 2) Hoping a team releases an experienced defensive end after June 1, for salary cap purposes or 3) Bringing back Keisel.

 

The draft appears to be a real gamble, at least if the Steelers are anticipating immediate help. While this appears to be a loaded and deep draft at multiple positions, the defensive line isn’t one of them.

 

Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina is likely to be a very high pick, perhaps even No. 1 overall, but multiple draft analysts are calling this a weak draft for d-linemen, at least those suitable for the Steelers’ system.

 

Among defensive linemen, Aaron Donald of Pitt is ranked No. 14, Timmy Jernigan of Florida State is No. 18 and Louis Nix of Notre Dame — who the Steelers scouted at the recent Fighting Irish pro day — is No. 28 among all draft prospects, according to NFL.com draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah. But they’re all defensive tackles.

 

After Clowney heads the list at No. 1 overall, no other defensive end is in Jeremiah’s top 30; Kony Ealy of Missouri is No. 31, Dee Ford of Auburn is No. 33 and Stephon Tuitt of Notre Dame is No. 34. Tuitt recently visited the Steelers for one of the multiple in-house interviews they’ve done post-combine.

 

Might the Steelers be eying Tuitt as a possible second-round pick? Given their thin-as-thin-can-be predicament at defensive end, it’s possible, because it’s obvious they must add someone at defensive end who can take a considerable number of snaps next season.

 

The Steelers don’t often go this deep into an offseason without securing starters at every position but, currently, they need a starting wide receiver opposite Antonio Brown and a starting defensive end opposite Heyward.

 

Even if they are figuring that Thomas will end up as a starting defensive end, they  need someone behind him — and the question is whether that might be Keisel,  who said at the end of last season that he wanted to keep playing.

 

 

Steelers Depth Chart (4/16/14)

 

OFFENSE

WR —             Markus Wheaton (1)

Darrius Heyward-Bey (5)

 

LT —    Kelvin Beachum (2)

Guy Whimper (8)

 

LG —   Ramon Foster (5)

David Snow (2)

 

C —      Maurkice Pouncey (4)

Cody Wallace (4)

 

RG —   David DeCastro (2)

Nik Embernate (1)

Bryant Browning (1)

 

RT —   Marcus Gilbert (3)

Mike Adams (2)

 

TE –    Heath Miller (9)

Matt Spaeth (7)

David Paulson (2)

Michael Palmer (4)

 

WR —             Antonio Brown (4)

Lance Moore (9)

Derek Moye (1)

 

QB –  Ben Roethlisberger (10)

Bruce Gradkowski (7)

Landry Jones (1)

 

 

RB –   Le’Veon Bell (1)

LeGarrette Blount (4)

 

FB –   Will Johnson (2)

 

DEFENSE

 

DE —   Cam Heyward (3)

Brian Arnfelt (1)

 

NT –   Steve McLendon (4)

Hebron Fangupo (1)

 

DE –   Cam Thomas (4)

Nick Williams (1)

 

OLB –            Jason Worilds (4)

Chris Carter (3)

 

ILB –  Vince Williams (1)

Sean Spence (2)

ILB — Lawrence Timmons (7)

Terence Garvin (1)

 

OLB –            Jarvis Jones (1)

Arthur Moats (4)

 

CB –   William Gay (7)

Brice McCain (5)

CB —   Cortez Allen (3) or             Ike Taylor (11)

Isaiah Green (1)

 

SS —    Troy Polamalu (11)

Shamarko Thomas (1)

 

 

FS –    Mike Mitchell (5)

Will Allen (10)

Robert Golden (2)

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

K –      Shaun Suisham (9)

P –      Adam Podlesh (7)

Brad Wing (1)

 

LS —    Greg Warren (9)

Bryce Davis (1)

 

Number of NFL seasons denoted in (parenthesis)

 

Sources: Steelers and ourlads.com

 

 

 

 

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