Thursday, May 24, 2007

Early Prediction: Steelers’ Playoff Chances

There’s no doubting the Steelers still have solid talent on both sides of the football. If Big Ben had a slightly better year last season, the Steelers would’ve been in the playoffs. In fact, they only needed one more win (Oakland or Atlanta) to bump Kansas City. Here’s my really early AFC playoff prediction analysis. I’ll revisit this right before training camp and then before the season starts.

AFC East
Patsy’rots – pains me to say they will make the playoffs, but the competition in this division is not great
Jets – made some improvements, success will depend on Pennington, will battle for wildcard
Dolphins – too many questions
Bills – no shot

AFC North
Ravens – have a lot of talent, the question is can McNair win one when he needs to
Steelers – 10-6, wildcard
Bungles – so much promise, so much turmoil, can’t make headway this year
Browns – no shot

AFC South
Colts – lost a lot of talent, could finish in second, but still get wildcard
Jags – will win the division this year
Titans – can’t build on last year and will take a step back
Texans – no shot

AFC West
Chargers – will win the division, team to beat in the AFC
Broncos – will battle for wildcard spot, but doesn’t have enough
Chiefs – won’t make the playoffs this year
Raiders – no shot

Steelers have 10 games they can win, 2 others that will likely go either way, and 4 they will probably lose. I think at 10-6 they can get in and Tomlin will create some excitement.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Don’t Press Send, Don’t Press Send

So you have an inappropriate email that you just have to share with friends, you click forward, start filling in the addresses, and you hit the send button. Next thing you realize and it’s too late, your boss’ name auto-filled in and he/she is now on your distribution. Oh the horror…we all fear this scenario.

For Larry Zierlein, Steelers’ offensive line coach, he’s living this nightmare. His email went to many high ranking NFL officers, including commissioner Roger Goodell. Oh…the embarrassment… This will surely bring some level of discipline from the league office. If it were you or I in the corporate world, we’d be updating or resumes by now.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Impressed with Tomlin

Beside the Faneca drama, the buzz from Steelers mini camp was all about Mike Tomlin. From the flurry of news, he is really impressing people. Now, you draw multiple parallels of his hiring to that of Cowher’s, but will he get the immediate results Cowher did. The good news is that he understands Steeler football and tradition . Even though changes are happening, he’s not going to abandon the run-the-football/defensive philosophy that has been so successful for years. The talk is about a new spread offense, but ultimately it will be the running game that will benefit.

What seems to be impressing people the most, is how Tomlin dealt with Faneca right out of the gate. There are so many things he could have done, but he did the right thing by immediately talking with Faneca. It is still going to be very interesting how this situation plays out. Tomlin also seems to be winning over his players, as he must get them to buy into his plans. Tomlin is definitely bringing some excitement to the team already and it should be fun to see how things progress up until the start of training camp.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Should the Steelers Trade Faneca?

The Steelers missed their chance to trade Alan Faneca before the draft. Now, they have to deal with a potentially disgruntled player. Thanks to the big dollars given to two guards who have never made a Pro Bowl, Eric Steinbach and Derrick Dockery, this off-season, Faneca wants his next contract in that same ballpark. It's hard to blame him. While his agent insists it’s not about the money (heard that from pro athletes before), he just wants respect from the Steelers and insists Faneca has always wanted to end his career with the team. It doesn’t appear either that’s going to happen now.

It’s too late to trade Faneca now. If they don’t negotiate a new deal with him, the best the Steelers can hope for is that Faneca plays out his free agent year with a mission. With tight relationships with Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm, he’s pretty much assured of signing with Arizona next year. At this point, the Steelers will probably get a better compensatory draft pick than what they could get in a trade for Faneca. It’s time to start grooming his replacement and planning for his departure.

It’s too bad that it’s come to this. Faneca has been a great teammate, a true representative of Steeler football, and a model Pittsburgh citizen. However, the economics of the game force teams into tough decisions.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Vote for the 75th Anniversary All-Time Team

You can now vote for the Steelers 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. Here's my team:

QB: Terry Bradshaw - hands down the best Steelers QB
RB: Franco Harris - best Steelers RB of all time
RB: Jerome Bettis - heart and soul of the Cowher era teams
TE: Bennie Cunningham - made every clutch catch
WR: John Stallworth - old reliable
WR: Hines Ward - Mr. versatile
--Hard to omit Lynn Swann here
OL: Alan Faneca - best OL of the 2000's
OL: John Kolb - dominating
OL: Mike Webster - the best center ever
OL: Ray Mansfield - The Ranger
OL: Dermontti Dawson - the 2nd best center ever

DL: Joe Greene - Mean Joe
DL: L.C. Greenwood - always got the big sack
DL: Dwight White - intense
DL: Keith Willis - lookout QB
LB: Jack Ham - made every big play
LB: Jack Lambert - most feared player ever
LB: Greg Lloyd - personal favorite
--hard to choose just 3 here, Greene, Porter, Gildon, Kirland, etc...
DB: Mel Blount - who wants to catch a pass with Mel lurking around
DB: Rod Woodson - one of the NFL's best
DB: Carnell Lake - tough on run and pass
DB: Troy Polamalu - does he make every tackle

K: Gary Anderson - money
K: Roy Gerela - Gerela's Gorillas

Thursday, May 10, 2007

There isn't anybody better than Kevan?

Kevan Barlow? Is he really the answer at RB for the Steelers? If it was TJ Duckett, Ladell Betts, Ron Dayne, or another already now signed, but missed opportunity, big back, I wouldn't even question the move. I don't like busting on Pitt guys because I like to see them do well. But, Barlow has not been good for a while now. He has problems holding onto the ball and he was down right bad with the Jets last year. I know the Steelers need more RB depth, but I'm just very skeptical that this guy is the answer. The only way I can accept him as a Steeler is if his role is third or fourth string -- insurance in case either Parker or Davenport go down with an injury.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Can Big Ben Get It Back This Year?

My personal thoughts are leading me to believe that Ben Roethlisberger is going to have a big year. For those of you who missed it, ESPN last week put out a great article, Roethlisberger still dealing with the road less taken, detailing the motorcycle event and the impact it had on Ben, the woman involved, and the city of Pittsburgh.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Early Positional Battles

Heading into Tomlin's first official mini-camp, I see four key positional battles heating up:

At wide reciever, do the Steelers keep 5 or 6 this year? If it's 5, the battle will be between rookie Dallas Baker and 2nd year player Willie Reid. Reid brings a lot of speed and the added dimension of being a great kick returner. The question with him is health. He rarely saw the field last year and needs to show early that he's ready to go. Baker is a completely different WR. He's got very good size, but lacks great speed. Could become a reliable possession receiver with red-zone capabilities. If the Steelers decide on 6, both may have a spot.

At cornerback, there could be fight for who stays on the roster. This battle is between former 2nd round pick Ricardo Colclough and veteran Deshea Townsend. Steelers would love for Colclough to finally step up and show his abilities to be a solid CB. He has injuries problems of his own after suffering from a serious neck injury last year. At 32, Townsend is aging like a fine wine. He's had two very good seasons in which the young guys were gunning for his job and failed to beat him out. But, is this the end of the line? He's getting paid a lot of money. Do the Steelers make a salary cap move with him now? Each player's early performance may dictate what the Steelers plans are at CB.

At center, Jeff Hartings leaves a big hole. Webster, Dawson, Hartings...3 centers since the 70's. Has there been a more stable position in all of sports? Can the Steelers find the next successor with what they have? The battle begins with free agent signee Sean Mahan against in-waiting Chukky Okobi. There could also be more individuals entering the battle, such as Marvin Philips and Kendall Simmons. With Mahan and Okobi getting the initial crack, one needs to show the staff that they really want this job. This is going to be interesting and could ultimately determine how successful the team is going to be this year and going forward.

At running back, Parker and Davenport are the only sure things here. Do the Steelers bring back Verron Haynes? If his knee is OK, I think he's coming back. What about rookie free agent Gary Russel? This guy sounds like he has some talent, although school wasn't his thing. Who else is out there to mount a challenge? One or both of these guys needs to step up, compete, and contribute. If Fast Willie goes down, the season is over unless somebody can show something here. I have to imagine that the Steelers are not done looking for more talent at RB.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Linebacker or Punter...

And, with their fourth round pick, the Steelers select a 6-2 1/2, 230 pound, 4.43 in the 40...punter...huh!!! About the same size and even faster than first round pick Lawrence Timmons, Daniel Sepulveda is not your prototypical punter. In my previous entry, I mentioned Sepulveda may have been the Steelers' best day 2 selection, and I'm not wavering from that. This guy not only booms the ball, but he hits like a freight train. Imagine being an NFL returner and getting flattened by the punter...a bruised ego may not be the only bruise you'll walk off the field with. This guy has me stoked me up. Can't wait to see him clean some clock.