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September 1, 2016
by Mark Kaboly

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Kaboly: Cutting down to 53

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin -- Photo by Chaz Palla

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin
– Photo by Chaz Palla

CHARLOTTE, N.C – This is the time of the year that you hear NFL coaches talk about how some cutting their roster to 53 was quite a difficult things to do.

For the Steelers’ Mike Tomlin, you shouldn’t hear him say that because about the only choice he has to make from now and until the 53-man roster needs to be in place by Saturday at 4 p.m is whether or not he’s going to keep 11 linebackers or six cornerbacks.

So, without any fanfare, here’s my 53-man roster that initially will be in place (there will be an addition or two, like tight end and corner, after the rest of the league’s cuts circle through.) By the way, there is a misnomer that a team HAS to keep 10 offensive linemen or 10 linebackers. As long as they feel they can get their guys on the practice squad, there is no use in forcing them on the 53-man roster.

QB (3) – Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Zach Mettenberger

RB (4) – DeAngelo Williams, Fitz Toussaint, Daryl Richardson, Roosevelt Nix (Le’Veon Bell goes on suspended list)

WR (5) – Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Eli Rogers, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Sammie Coates.

TE (3) – Jesse James, Xavier Grimble, David Johnson (Could bring in a free agent tight end)

OL (8) – Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Ramon Foster, Alejandro Villanueva, Marcus Gilbert, Ryan Harris, Cody Wallace, Chris Hubbard.

DL (7) – Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Ricardo Mathews, L.T. Walton, Daniel McCullers, Javon Hargrave, Lavon Hooks

OLB (5) – James Harrison, Jarvis Jones, Arthur Moats, Bud Dupree, Anthony Chickillo

ILB (5) – Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, Steven Johnson, L.J. Fort

CB (6) – William Gay, Ross Cockrell, Artie Burns, Doran Grant, Donald Washington, Montell Garner (Could bring in a free agent cornerback).

S (4) – Mike Mitchell, Robert Golden, Shamarko Thomas, Sean Davis

PK (1) – Chris Boswell

P (1) – Jordan Berry (Could bring in a free agent punter)

LS (1) – Greg Warren


August 31, 2016
by Chris Adamski

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Adamski: Javon Hargrave’s new nickname




A good angle for a pic of Javon Hargrave — not the best angle to understand why he got his new nickname. (Chaz Palla/Trib Total Media photo)



We all get nicknames. Some we love. Some we hate. And usually it’s the latter that your friends good-naturedly stick with for you.


Such seems to be the case for Steelers rookie defensive tackle Javon Hargrave. Hargrave, for what should be obvious reasons, has been known in some circles as “Gravedigger.” (Although ESPN reported that it was given to him by a coach at South Carolina State because of his violent sacks) Apparently, teammate Cameron Heyward wanted a better name for him, though.


So he began calling him something. And telling others to call him that.


And, of course, the next logical step in the progression is to… Tape a makeshift nameplate above the individual’s locker with it on it???


Heyward has taken to referring to Hargrave as “J Wobble” for reasons that should be obvious only if you’ve seen Hargrave in person. From behind. While staring at his derriere.


You see, Hargrave – at 6 feet 2, 305 pounds – has a very large behind. One that Heyward believes appears as if it, well, wobbles.


I will give a hat tip to Jacob Klinger, who’s the brightest young reporter on the Steelers beat and has done a fine job in his 16 months on it.


You see, I walked over to Hargrave today, curious to find out why the nameplate above his locker said “J WOBBLE 79” instead of, you know, “HARGRAVE 79,” which is what every other player has above is (well, they all don’t say, literally, ‘Hargrave,’ as they each have the player’s last name followed by his individual number… but you know what I meant). Klinger was chatting with Stephon Tuitt about the nickname – and the name plate – at Tuitt’s spot a couple lockers over. He got much more detail and had a much more humorous conversation, of which I imagine he will relate at some point.


We are not allowed to snap photos in the locker room, otherwise I’d be happy to show the “J WOBBLE” nameplate. It is handwritten – though that is not notable because the rookies and first-year players and others who have not yet made the 53-man roster as holdovers all have handwritten nameplates. (Some even have temporary lockers set up in the middle of the floor space).




Anyway, Hargrave went public (via the miracle of social media) with a reference to his longstanding (former?) nickname:



Heyward, of course, being the savvy veteran he is, wasn’t taking the bait:



That led to…



Heyward suggested a democracy:



I have a feeling we all know what will win…



Regardless, watch Hargrave in action again Thursday at Carolina. Mark Kaboly will be there to cover the fourth and final preseason game. The kid is the real deal – and he could even start the regular-season opener.


Til then…



August 27, 2016
by Chris Adamski

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Adamski: Numbers game might finally be opening up for hard-hitting Dangerfield at safety



This is where I’m supposed to make a “searching for respect” pun about Jordan Dangerfield. But I won’t stoop to that level. (Photo courtesy



No one on the Steelers, it seems, enjoys laying a good hit more – nor does it more often – than Mike Mitchell.


And make no mistake, few who saw Jordan Dangerfield’s hit on the Saints’ Marcus Murphy delivered late in Friday night’s preseason win in New Orleans enjoyed it more than Mitchell.


“If ‘Danger’ gets an opportunity to lay you out,” Mitchell said, almost beaming, “that is one thing he is going to do, no question.”


Thing is, Mitchell sees a little of himself in Dangerfield, who’s entering his fourth autumn in the employ of an NFL team – thereby, by definition, making him a professional football player – but has yet to spend time on an NFL team’s 53-man roster nor, of course, play in a regular-season game.


That – potentially – could finally end this season.


“Danger is one of my favorite guys,” Mitchell said early last week. “He’s a guy literally who shows up everyday; he’s happy to be here, he’s an extremely hard worker, If you’re a football purist, you root for guys such as Jordan Dangerfield to make the team and you root for them to be successful.”


It’s hard to imagine that anyone has appeared in an official transaction for the Steelers more often than Dangerfield has over the past 32 months.


Counting practice-squad transactions, he’s been signed on six different occasions by the Steelers in that time span. Of course, that also implies that he’s been released almost just as often. And that doesn’t even count being let go by the Buffalo Bills after they signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Towson, an FCS school.


Getting cut so often can’t be easy. But the gregarious Dangerfield flips it – he’s also been SIGNED six times by the Steelers, right? How many people can say that?


“It shows how much they see in me — or how much potential they see I have,” Dangerfield said. “So I am just trying to show them that I can contribute to the team any way they want me to.”


But how can you stay positive after being let go so many times?


“I just look at it, everything happens for a reason,” Dangerfield said. “It’s a business more than anything, the numbers and all that. I could use James Harrison as a prime example, he was cut a handful of times and he was patient, obviously, with it — and he became defensive player of the year, All Pro and all that. So I look at him for some motivation, and God-willing, just when my time comes I’m ready and can show them what I’ve got.”


As it has been during each of his previous three training camps – and as it is for all of the other rookie and first-year players on the 90-man camp roster – Dangerfield’s goal is to make the 53-man roster when the regular season begins in two weeks.


He acknowledges, via “the numbers” he alluded to earlier, that this might be his best chance.


With the injury to Senquez Golson (and, to a lesser extent, the less-serious injury to Artie Burns), the trickle-down effect in the Steelers’ secondary (re: rookie Sean Davis moved from safety to slot cornerback) has left the team perilously thin at safety. After starters Mitchell and Robert Golden, the only player with any NFL experience is Shamarko Thomas, who played just 20 defensive snaps last season.


That means, there’s a roster spot there for the taking. And barring an acquisition from outside the organization, no one is in a more prime position to take it than Dangerfield. (Neither Jacob Hagen nor Ray Vinopal has distinguished himself – cornerback Doran Grant’s sometimes-on-again-off-again move to safety notwithstanding).


In Friday’s preseason win at New Orleans, Davis was the only defensive player who logged more snaps than Dangerfield — a potential sign that the organization wanted to get a good long look at him in advance of the first cuts, and wants to get Dangerfield as many game reps as possible.


Three years into the Steelers’ playbook, Dangerfield says he can play either free or strong safety, having mastered the subtle details of each. He also, of course, is eager to play special teams – which is, of course, the gateway for players onto the roster to make a mark, particularly at the safety position, where the body type and skill set is often perfect for special teams.


“I’m going to just try to put it all on the field and show them what I have,” Dangerfield said.

“You gotta just be patient, keep faith in God and I’m just taking advantage of each opportunity I get to play this game that I love.”


An outgoing type, Dangerfield has at least one teammate rooting for him.


“We appreciate everything he brings to us, from his mentality, to his approach to work,” Mitchell said. “He’s one of those guys who’s a small-school guy like me. He comes out here, he wants to prove it every single day.

“He’s a little quieter than me. But… he kind of has that little chip on his shoulder, and I love that.”





August 23, 2016
by Chris Adamski

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Adamski: Pitt, Woody High alum Mosley-Smith out to complete unprecedented Pittsburgh football trifecta




Khaynin “K.K.” Mosley-Smith has been in uniform for Woodland Hills, Pitt and now the Steelers (Photo by Chaz Palla/Tribune-Review)



Barely visible on his lower arm when he wears longsleeves, Khaynin Mosley-Smith has a tattoo of a simple “P” in the familiar stylized font immediately recognizable: The Pirates logo.


“Pittsburgh, of course,” Mosley-Smith was saying in the Steelers locker room the other day. “Cumon!”


Mosley-Smith is a Pittsburgher through and through. And he’s hoping to pull off an unprecedented Pittsburgh football trifecta.


A defensive tackle signed early last week, Mosley-Smith isn’t the first Woodland Hills High School graduate to hold a spot on the Steelers’ roster. And he certainly isn’t the first Pitt alumnus to do so, either. Of course, scores of Pitt players have made it to the NFL – and it isn’t a stretch to say that Woodland Hills is one of the preeminent producers of pro football talent in the nation.


But if Mosley-Smith could work his way onto the in-season practice squad, then 53-man and then gameday roster, he’d become the first player to play for what has been Pittsburgh’s highest-profile* football high school, college and pro programs.


“I’m excited just thinking about that,” Mosley-Smith said. “That’s great for me, a great story, just to have the opportunity.


“It’s a blessing, man, to grow up here and go to the university here – one of the best universities out there – and then coming from a high school like Woodland Hills and being right next door is like… I mean, my (journey), so far, is right up there. The great line of a trio.”


Mosley-Smith, of course, has plenty of work to do before he attains the status of appearing in a regular-season game for the Steelers. For now, he’d likely be elated to make the practice squad once the preseason ends – and that would be quite an accomplishment for the 6-foot, 305-pounder who was a two-year starter at Pitt.


Known as “K.K.,” Mosley-Smith was selected first team All-State Class AAAA by the Pennsylvania Sports Writers and was a Tribune-Review “Terrific 25″ after being only two-way starter for Woodland Hills’ 2009 WPIAL Class AAAA champion team.


After a prep-school pit stop, a productive career at Pitt followed  – one in which Mosley-Smith spent countless hours in the very same South Side building he’s working out in now with the Steelers.


After Pitt’s loss to Navy in the Military Bowl last December, Mosley-Smith embarked on training for his NFL shot. He told me he lost about 15 pounds since the end of last season. After not being drafted or signing a contract with an NFL team, the Steelers invited Mosley-Smith to their rookie minicamp in May as a tryout.


Although he wasn’t signed then, he was three months later on Aug. 14.


“I did my rookie minicamp tryout and did what I had to do there,” Mosley-Smith said. “Guess I made an impression on these guys and that was my plan, got the call, came in, and I’ve just been grateful ever since for the opportunity.”


“I was just grateful to get that call back.”


Although, as such a late undrafted signee, Mosley-Smith faces long odds to continue his association with the team beyond these next two weeks, he did make an appearance in the Steelers’ most recent preaseason game, which was just four days after he’d signed. And there isn’t much experience among the depth of the Steelers defensive line, so who knows?


Mosley-Smith is a lot like former Pitt teammate Ray Vinopal – just happy to have the opportunity to make an impression. At very worst, it’ll be a few weeks as an NFL player that he won’t forget – and that he can take as a learning experience for another chance down the line.


“The level of competition is definitely a step up (from college),” Mosley-Smith said. “Guys are better and more (physically) mature… I’m just learning how the game works and how this league works. That’s all it is.”





*-While labeling Woodland Hills the “highest profile” local prep program is certainly arguable and subjective, for these purposes, it’ll be recognized as the high school that has produced by far the most NFL players over the past generation. (translation: I don’t want angry emails from outposts such as Aliquippa, Clairton, Jeannette, Wexford, Oakland, Monroeville, Jefferson Hills, etc. etc.).





August 16, 2016
by Chris Adamski

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Adamski: One man’s (assuredly wrong) Steelers 53-man roster projection


Post prologue: Check out TribLive Radio’s Steelers Roundtable show from this week. Kaboly, Paulk and Adamski talk James Harrison and all other team issues. One-click listening here.



Tyler Matakevich (46) is fighting to be the 52nd or 53rd member of the Steelers’ active roster. (Photo by Chaz Palla of Trib Total Media)


The internet is littered with Steelers sites and blogs making their projections for the team’s 53-man roster come the second week of September. I didn’t say this would be original – but I will say that it is one man’s (assuredly not-100 percent-correct) opinion of what the team’s composition should be come kickoff Sept. 12 at Fed Ex Field. What better time than the close of training camp at St. Vincent College to unveil it…



Ben Roethlisberger

Landry Jones

Dustin Vaughan

Pretty straightforward here in light of the continuing injury issues for Bruce Gradkowski. The Steelers under Tomlin/Colbert have always chosen to keep three quarterbacks on the roster; never was that more evident than last season when Mike Vick hung around despite the clearly losing all confidence in his ability to start.



DeAngelo Williams

Fitzgerald Toussaint

Daryl Richardson

I’m going to assume that Le’Veon Bell begins the season serving a suspension. If that’s so, it would seem these three are in pretty good shape to earn roster spots (Williams, of course, is a given). None of the other younger challengers has stood out enough to make a compelling case over Toussaint and Richardson.




Roosevelt Nix

While listed as a fullback, expect Nix to play some more tight end/H-back on offense this season – and of course, continue to be a special-teams dynamo.




Antonio Brown

Markus Wheaton

Sammie Coates

Darrius Heyward-Bey

Eli Rogers

Rogers has impressed enough that his roster spot, barring a major decline over the next three weeks, looks safe. The other four are cemented in. Rookie Demarcus Ayers will probably have to raise eyebrows on punt returns to have a shot at making the active roster – failing that, he should make a solid practice-squad player.




Jesse James

David Johnson

Xavier Grimble

We’re going to assume, for these purposes, that Ladarius Green is not healthy enough to start the season on the 53-man roster (I “project” him below as remaining on the physically unable to perform list, but regardless, one way or another, as we sit here 27 days before the season starts, it’s tough to envision him making enough progress that quickly). Grimble has enough potential to warrant a look as a “Ladarius, Jr.” but will someone else be brought aboard for blocking purposes?




Maurkice Pouncey

David DeCastro

Ramon Foster

Marcus Gilbert

Alejandro Villanueva

Cody Wallace

Ryan Harris

Chris Hubbard

Jerald Hawkins

From right tackle to left guard, the starting foursome might just be the best in the league. Left tackle, however, is a question mark. Whoever doesn’t start between Villanueva and Harris could begin as the “swing” backup tackle – though don’t discount the possibility that player sits on Sundays with Hubbard the emergency backup. Wallace is the main backup at the interior spots, with Hawkins having too much potential to expose to waivers on his way to the practice squad. Poor B.J. Finney is the odd man out.




Cameron Heyward

Stephon Tuitt

Daniel McCullers

Ricardo Mathews

Javon Hargrave

L.T. Walton

Finally, some depth – six players capable of playing a quantity and quality of snaps. Mathews is a serious upgrade as the top veteran backup, and Hargrave is good enough to push McCullers. The combined talent level should be more than enough to man the nose tackle spot – Hargrave has had the look of someone who can already help in the nickel on passing downs, too. None of the crop of very-talented-but-flawed rookie and first-year defensive linemen brought in have done anything to distinguish themselves.




Jarvis Jones

Bud Dupree

James Harrison

Arthur Moats

Anthony Chickillo

Pretty much all “chalk” here with the same five guys who finished last season (indeed, played virtually all of last season – at least after which Chickillo earned a regular proverbial “hat” on gamedays). Rookie Travis Feeney could use a year on the practice squad to bulk up and learn – his chances of making a run at the 53-man evaporated with camp injury.



Lawrence Timmons

Ryan Shazier

Vince Williams

Steven Johnson

LJ Fort

Tyler Matakevich

Keeping both Fort and Matakevich is a stretch, but with Ross Ventrone injured, an extra linebacker can serve in the “exclusive special-teamer” role that both Fort and Matakevich figure to excel at. So ILB becomes like Little League – “no cuts.”




William Gay

Ross Cockrell

Artie Burns

Doran Grant (Safety?)

This could be an area ripe for a veteran addition via trade, the waiver wire or a street free agent, because this is perilously thin to go into a season. Burns, of course, has to be on the 53 as a first-round pick, but he hasn’t necessarily shown he’s ready to play and has been banged up. It should be noted that if the season began today, for all intents and purposes, Sean Davis would be a “CB” – if only because there aren’t any other obvious options. (We likewise could consider Doran Grant a safety — Grant has been better this camp than last, but now there’s even question what his position is?). Someone else can – and should – be on this list at this position. But unless, say, a Montell Garner or an Al-Hajj Shabazz makes a late camp run at it, it might not be someone currently on the 90-man camp roster.



Mike Mitchell

Robert Golden

Sean Davis (CB?)

Shamarko Thomas

Jordan Dangerfield

Almost as cloudy as cornerback is safety, where Golden can seemingly rest easy he’s got a starting job locked up, and Thomas hasn’t been pushed much for a roster spot, either.  Dangerfield was No. 53 on this fictional roster – in his fourth season associated with the NFL, he finally makes an active roster to be a special-teamer and an extra body in the secondary. Depending on the level of faith the Steelers have in Grant as a safety, though, he could be jettisoned as soon as Bell returns.




Chris Boswell (K)

Jordan Berry (P)

Greg Warren (LS)

This one’s easy – Boswell and Warren have no in-camp competition, and Berry has visibly out-performed the rookie challenger to his job, Will Monday. Warren has held the job (aside from injury) for 12 seasons, but Boswell is less than 10 months into his tenure and Berry just one season.



Ladarius Green



Le’Veon Bell

Martavis Bryant



Senquez Golson


One final parting shot: There will be at least one player (in the secondary or at tight end being the logical guesses as to where) who will be on the season-opening roster who is not on the 90-man camp roster right now (be it a street free agent or a waiver-wire or trade pick-up from another organization).




This roster is not completely conventional, and I’m sure many can (and will) nitpick it. But just one man’s quick opinion on how it should go — admittedly a man who is neither an NFL general manager nor has the aptitude to be one!



Next time we chat, it won’t be from a dorm room but will be from the South Side.

Til then…



August 15, 2016
by Chris Adamski

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Adamski: Daryl Richardson makes his case for the Steelers’ No. 4 running back job – or No. 3??





(Photo courtesy Richardson’s official Twitter account, @DRICH_26)



Daryl Richardson pondered the question for a few moments, then shrugged.


“I’m not for sure,” said the most veteran candidate for a roster spot behind Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams on the Steelers’ running back depth chart. “I just know I have to make the best of my opportunity.”


Richardson was given an extended look in Friday’s preseason opener against the Detroit Lions at Heinz Field. He had been asked if he took that as a sign of confidence in him and his abilities by the coaching staff.


With veterans Bell and Williams both secure in roster spots and a desire to preserve their bodies, five other running backs were in uniform for the Steelers in their first live, game action of the summer. As we’ve seen in recent years, however, the third- and fourth-string backs have had an alarming and peculiar tendency to play critical roles for the Steelers.


While a top two of Bell and Williams, on paper and when healthy, is the envy of most anyone in the league, those two aren’t without their risks: Williams is 33 (the oldest running back in the league) and didn’t make it to the playoffs last year because of injury. Bell has had significant injuries during each of his first three seasons in the NFL and has missed all three of the Steelers playoff games in that span.


Oh, and there’s the matter of he might miss the first four games of the season that you might have heard about.


So with that in mind, the Nos. 3-4 running backs should be a front-burner subject.


Looking at the first preseason game for guidance, Richardson by far played the most among those competing for the job(s). He also was the most productive:




Player                  Offense           Special teams              Touches*/yds  Returns/yards

Daryl Richardson                    24                    2                                  13/60               1/25

Fitzgerald Toussaint                17                    12                                2/8                   1/23**

Brandon Brown-Dukes            10                    0                                  2/10                 —

Cameron Stingily                    6                      2                                  1/1                   —

Christian Powell                      0                      3                                  —                      —

Note: Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams did not play.

*-On offense

**-Toussaint had a special-teams tackle, which is somewhat notable



“I think I did pretty good; the offensive line did a great job to open things up,” Richardson said of his performance against the Lions. “But I still have to better and corrections have to be made.”


Quite simply, the Steelers wouldn’t have played Richardson that much if they weren’t considering him for the No. 3 or No. 4 running back job. (Put another way: I really don’t think, for example, they’re giving too much consideration to Christian Powell for such duties, do you?).


Richardson also was back for kickoff returns, a duty he’d never performed (not even in the preseason) over his five seasons in the NFL.


“That was the first time I’d ever had a kickoff return,” said Richardson, who broke in with a bang with the Rams in 2012 but hasn’t played in an NFL regular-season game since 2013. “Man, it happens fast and quick out there on kickoffs.”


Interestingly, Richardson did NOT play any other special teams. Yes, this entire exercise is reading too much into, well, everything, but maybe that means a good thing for his chances?


Richardson told me Sunday that he weighs almost 10 pounds more than his listed weight of 196, and he swears he hasn’t lost any quickness. During practice, he’s certainly looked like he moves well enough.


My take: Richardson has run hard in camp, he says he’s fully healthy for the first time in a while (that explains why he’s been cut four times over the past three calendar years), he’s versatile (a decent blocker and 38 catches in 24 career games) and he comes across as hard-working. His competition, in all due respect, hasn’t stood out much. (See: Powell’s lack of game snaps and Brown-Dukes size and low-level college experience – though I could see Brown-Dukes ending up on the practice squad). If Bell is indeed suspended for the start of the season, barring injury and if the proverbial season started today, I think Richardson would be a lock to open up on the 53-man roster.


Then the question becomes, does he have any chance of passing Toussaint on the depth chart? To be frank, I think Richardson has had the better camp – so far. And splitting the kick return duties between the two against the Lions suggests coaches are considering it. As does giving Richardson more reps than Toussaint.


Then again, it’s dangerous reading too much into preseason playing time. After all, the one time in his career Richardson got more touches in a preseason game than Friday was the finale of last season for the Jets.


New York cut him two days later.


Still a long, long way to go before the Steelers’ final cuts come Sept. 3.


August 11, 2016
by Chris Adamski

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Adamski: Ex-Bengal Wallace Gilberry on rivalry with Steelers – ‘There is no hate’


Post prologue: The weekly Steelers Roundtable show, hosted by Mark Kaboly, Chris Adamski and Ralph Paulk and sponsored by Goodrich and Geist, broadcast live Thursday morning. We talked CB and TE depth, made our world-famous Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down, and even welcomed in the great Chaz Palla for a guest appearance. Click here to give a listen.




Wallace Gilberry (95) in simpler times when things made sense: he was a Bengal and everyone knew the Bengals hated the Steelers.




LATROBE – While Cincinnati’s Adam Jones and Vontaze Burfict seem to draw the majority of the ire of Steelers fans when it comes to the rivalry with the Bengals,  Wallace Gilberry always seemed to be in the middle of it, too:


(x) Gilberry was fined for bumping Steelers assistant Joey Porter late in the team’s ridiculous, storyline-packed wild-card playoff win at Paul Brown Stadium in January.


(x) Gilberry was reportedly subject of an alleged bounty, of all things, from Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley, a former head coach of his in Kansas City.


(x) Gilberry was also the target of comments from Steelers tackle Marcus Gilbert, who told our Mark Kaboly after a December regular-season victory in Cincinnati that Gilberry “is just a dude that talks. When the ball is snapped, he doesn’t do anything. Gilberry is a clown, I can say that now. We came in here and said let them talk and whenever the ball is snapped, let’s go punch them in the mouth and play football.”




OK, so fast forward several months. Gilberry is now a Detroit Lion. And his team came to St. Vincent College for a joint practice with the Steelers. We in the media were watching him much more closely than any other opposing rotational defensive lineman. Would he be trash-talking? Would he engage Gilbert? Would he say anything to Haley? Porter? Would any of the Steelers target him, as an abhorrent ex-Bengal?!


Um, well, no.


And to only further disappoint Steelers fans, Gilberry spoke to a small group of Pittsburgh reporters after the second of the two joint practices. And get this: He’s a really, really nice guy. He shook hands with each of us afterwards, giving a heartfelt “God bless.”


He also holds no grudges toward the Steelers in general, or Porter, Haley or anyone in particular. Most surprisingly (and disappointingly to those of us who play up the bloodthirsty angle of the NFL!), Gilberry even downplays the Steelers-Bengals rivalry!



Gilberry on Steelers-Bengals:

“It’s a helluva rivalry between those guys and Cincinnati – and that whole division. I think it’s one of the most physical divisions out there.

But we’re trying to bring that over here to Detroit. We play physical up front here, too. That’s what we wanted to come out here and show them – that we would match their physicality and for the most part I believe that both sides got ready this week.”


On how, from the outside, it sure seems as if it’s personal between the Steelers and Bengals:

“We’re all friends. There’s no hate; there’s no hatred.

Things happen, things happen in the heat of the moment and you guys put mics and cameras in our faces, so you express yourself.”



On if he talked to Porter:

“Me and Joey spoke on the phone when he was down for the Senior Bowl (in January). There’s no hatred. But the fans love it and it sells tickets and in the NFL that’s all that matters.”



On his relationship with Haley:

“I never had a problem with him; Todd was one of the guys who pushed me so much when I got to Kansas City and really kind of turned me into the guy I am because I was kind of undersized in his defense when I was there and I had to prove myself. Everyday he made me prove myself and nine years later I am still here. So I have no ill will toward him whatsoever.”



On if he believes the “bounty” allegation:

“No, not at all. It sells tickets, it gets the fans excited, and we play hard behind it. But other than that, off the field, we’re all men, we’ve all got families to feed and we’ve all got one goal: and that’s being successful in this business. And that’s what it’s all about.”



On how – if he won’t use the word ‘hate,’ he’d describe the Steelers-Bengals rivalry:

“It’s physical, it’s physical, it’s physical. But again, things happen, heat of the moment, people say stuff that they can’t take back and once it’s out there, it’s out there. And that’s on both sides of the ball but at the end of the day we are all trying to win a ballgame. Things happen and they happen and it’s over with and you move on.”



Gilberry suggested that the intensity of rivalry is manufactured as a  form of “clickbait.”


I frankly have no idea what he’s talking about in saying that.

–Signed: This post.




August 7, 2016
by Chris Adamski

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Adamski: Sorting out the Steelers’ tight end situation of the past 7 months


Post prologue: Check out the most recent edition of the Steelers Roundtable on TribLive Radio with Ralph Paulk and Josh Taylor broadcasting live from St. Vincent College in Latrobe.




Ladarius Green hasn’t put on pads yet since signing with the Steelers.



For more than a decade, it was nearly as dependable as hypocycloids on helmets or Bill Hillgrove on the radio when it comes to what’s been reliably associated with the Steelers: Heath Miller lined up at tight end.


Miller played in 168 of the Steelers 176 regular-season games between 2005-2015. Beyond the games, though, was how unfailingly Miller was on the field during each of them. Last season, for example, Miller’s 924 offensive snaps (according to played ranked sixth in the NFL among tight ends – but that doesn’t even tell the entire story. If you take away time missed during the Seattle and Indianapolis games because of injury, Miller played more than 97 percent of the Steelers’ offensive snaps.


And that was as a 33-year-old.


If it wasn’t obvious before, forget the tangible contributions such as receiving and blocking – Miller’s retirement this past winter leaves a gaping hole simply in terms of snaps to man.


And yet of everyone who has participated in at least one training-camp practice for the Steelers this summer, only Jesse James (181) and David Johnson (222) played any NFL tight end snaps last season – and their combined playing time is dwarfed by what Miller did alone.


Of course, this doesn’t include Ladarius Green, who was signed to a lucrative free-agent contract in March but who hasn’t taken one team practice rep as a Steeler as of yet. While Green is expected to up to speed in time for the regular season, with each day that passes, concern gradually mounts that perhaps he won’t be – if not for health reasons, if only because he will have had so few practice reps within his new offense, for his new team and catching passes from his new quarterback.


On whole, 15 men have been on the Steelers roster at some point during calendar year 2016 who have the ability to be a tight end. Of course, that counts three who could be considered to varying degrees more H-back than tight end (Will Johnson, David Johnson, Roosevelt Nix), seven who are still property of the Steelers, six who are practicing and five who are in the tight end meetings room (Nix is not).


Seven have been signed since after the draft was over (the Steelers did not draft a tight end), and five have been cut since then – including three over the past 18 days. Some have had comically short Steelers tenures (Jay Rome, 38 days; David Reeves, 17 days; Mandel Dixon, 14 days; Jake Phillips, two days).


Of those still standing, one (Nix) was a college defensive lineman and is purportedly a pro fullback – he’s just been lining up on the line in tight end formations at times, sparingly, during camp. Three others (Xavier Grimble, Paul Lang, Michael Cooper) combine for zero NFL games. All that’s left – again, excluding Green, who has only been seen at St. Vincent running on his own and in a straight line – is David Johnson (24 career receptions in 82 games) and James (eight career games, eight career catches).


If the season began today – and, of course, it doesn’t – and/or if Green’s surgically-repaired ankle doesn’t improve over the next five weeks… what are the Steelers options at tight end?


James would start and serve the No. 1 role. Grimble has been taking practice reps commensurate with a player who’s expected to have a not-insignificant role in the offense. Johnson will handle duties of a hybrid Matt Spaeth/Will Johnson 2015 version, meaning mostly as a blocker. It appears Nix is being prepped for some traditional tight end-style work, and maybe someone such Mt. Lebanon native Paul Lang steals a roster spot (in lieu of a still-PUP’d Green).


The unsettled situation bares watching over the next four weeks through the preseason games and up until the final cutdown day.



Steelers tight ends in calendar 2016:

  • Heath Miller – retired
  • Matt Spaeth -released/failed physical
  • Jesse James – ACTIVE
  • Will Johnson – left as free agent
  • Xavier Grimble – ACTIVE (no NFL experience)
  • Rob Blanchflower – released
  • Ladarius Green – PUP list
  • David Reeves – cut after 3 rookie minicamp practices
  • Jay Rome – cut after 7 OTAs
  • David Johnson – ACTIVE
  • Paul Lang – ACTIVE (no NFL experience)
  • Mandel Dixon – cut after 4 practices
  • Jake Phillips – cut after 2 practices
  • Michael Cooper – ACTIVE (no NFL experience)
  • Roosevelt Nix – ACTIVE (a fullback by trade)


August 1, 2016
by Chris Adamski

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Adamski: Artie Burns fueled by avoiding the dreaded label of ‘bust’







Artie Burns was just a few months removed from his 21st birthday, and hadn’t even taken part of a full training-camp practice yet.


He hasn’t yet missed an assignment during an NFL game, hadn’t allowed a touchdown or even so much as a catch.


Still, he’s heard and read the whispers from the “fans” and trolls.


‘He’s a bust,’” Burns relayed. “’He’s gonna be a bust.’


“I like to hear stuff like that. It makes me try harder.”


While it’s probably more of a sad commentary on society and on the internet/social-media age that individuals are roundly criticized for their work before they’ve even truly began their job in earnest, Burns’ path to proving his worth – through little fault of his own – could be considered tougher than most for myriad reasons:



None of the phenomenons above are directly attributable to Burns (certainly not at this early juncture). And Burns, in time, could end up being a star-level player and/or the best at his position from the 2016 draft class. Who knows?


But if it doesn’t happen right away, in the world we live in now, some fans will casually throw out the “B” word (“bust”) — as many apparently already have, even at this absurdly and comically early stage of his career.


Burns vows he uses it as fuel.


“I don’t know who is, but whoever it is, they said I’m a bust, so I’ve gotta prove them wrong, right?” Burns said.


“I like criticism. I like to hear people say bad things about me; I get a kick out of that. Every day I wake up in the morning, I look to see what someone says about me. I like that.”


My advice to those who are saying these things: Let the kid play in a game – let alone a season – before starting to pass judgment.


Then again, Burns seems to enjoy hearing it now.



July 30, 2016
by Chris Adamski

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Adamski: ‘Open competition’ at punter between Berry, Monday




Can Will Monday continue the Steelers’ punting carousel? (photo courtesy Duke’s official athletics website)




It’s one of my favorite (if particularly overly trivial) phenomenons in recent Steelers’ history: over the past decade, they simply can’t seem to settle on a punter.


From Daniel Sepulveda to Jordan Berry and everywhere in between (Mitch Berger, Paul Ernster, Jeremy Kapinos, Drew Butler, Zoltan Mesko, Matt McBriar and Brad Wing, if you’re scoring at home), Mike Tomlin has blown through punters like no one else in the league since he took over as Steelers coach in 2007.


No man has been the Steelers punter for more than 28 consecutive games in the Tomlin era. Berry would need to last until Week 13 of this season (Dec. 11 at Buffalo) to snap that streak.


But will he?


Not if Will Monday has anything to say about it.


Monday was one of the top punters available for the draft this spring. A four-year punter at Duke, he was all-ACC as a freshman after leading the conference in gross average. He was first- second- or third-team ACC each season he competed in college.


Monday was rated among the top five punters coming out this year by Most of the other draft services – at least the ones that bother to rate specialists – agreed.


But Monday was not one of the three punters who were selected (Drew Kaser, Lac Edwards and Riley Dixon were), meaning he had a decision to quickly make as the NFL’s Annual Selection Meeting was wrapping up late on the final Saturday of April.


“The Steelers started contacting me toward the end of the draft, and I felt like it was the best opportunity from what I’d been hearing so far,” Monday told me on Friday before the first training-camp team practice.

“Who doesn’t want to come to a franchise like this? It’s an unbelievable franchise with a good opportunity to compete and have an open competition, so I thought it was the best opportunity for me, and that’s the one I went with.”


Notice Monday said “open competition” – I doubled back with him, and he confirmed that’s what the team told him. [I know, I know, of course; what else would they say? However, there have been many instances – often at kicker or long snapper with the Steelers because of circumstance, but sometimes at punter, too – in which a guy was brought in just as a proverbial “spare leg” to use in practices and preseason games. Everyone knows he has no chance to make the team (barring injury) and unseat a capable veteran.]


That’s not the case here – and not just because the strong-legged Monday is a legitimate NFL prospect. Berry was OK during his first NFL season in 2015, but coaches would like him to be more consistent. After being in a similar position as Monday last summer (he beat out incumbent Wing during camp), Berry’s performance as the Steelers’ only punter resulted in pedestrian league rankings in gross punting average (third-to-last at 42.6) and net average (24th at 39.1).


If Berry doesn’t have a strong camp and Monday does, could it be that the Steelers turn to their 10th punter in Tomlin’s 10 seasons? Could it really be the 12th time the job has switched hands (counting the three times Sepulveda lost it because of injury)?


Could it be that for the fourth time in five years the Steelers incumbent punter was beaten out in camp? And the fifth camp in a row breaks with a change at the position?


“The way it’s been said to me is it’s an open competition,” Monday said. “They don’t bring anybody here unless they have a legitimate chance to make the roster, so that’s kind of how I’m treating it: the best man is gonna get the job. So it’s my job to go out here and do my best and continue improving every day and take advantage of every opportunity that I have.”


Monday and Berry were booming high punts to each other – under the watchful eye of special teams coordinator Danny Smith and the proverbial “eye in the sky” camera, of course, too – on the second field during Friday’s inaugural training camp practice.


Who was kicking farther? Better? Higher with more hang time?


Cumon, I’m a reporter – but I’m not skilled or well-versed enough in punting to evaluate it (not to mention, with all due respect to the position, I had other priorities to track in the precious time we have to watch practices at St. Vincent). So, all I can say in my professional opinion is that both men indeed kicked the ball very, very high and very, very far.


Monday confirmed that whoever is the punter will also be the holder and that neither man has been asked to give it a crack on kickoffs. Monday also noted that he hasn’t too often had to have to fight for his position – he “started” for four years at Duke after accepting a scholarship from the school late in his junior year of high school.


“It’s different being in a competition – it’s been a long time, five years ago when I was a redshirt,” Monday said. “So for me to kind of get back into the swing of things, I used minicamp and used OTAs to get back into that. Now, it’s all or nothing. I’ve got have that mindset of winning the job.”



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