Monday, July 30, 2007

How Many Receivers and Tight Ends?

The talk is that there will be three and four receiver sets, as well as three tight end formations. From what I can decipher, that means the Steelers are going to need to keep more players in these positions than they have in the past.

The good news is that the team has some pretty good players and some potential talent at both the WR and TE positions. Starting with the receivers, I see the Steelers keeping at least six and maybe seven. Here are the six that I believe will make the team: Dallas Baker, Santonio Holmes, Willie Reid, Hines Ward, Nate Washington, and Cedrick Wilson. The possible seventh could be Rasheed Marshall. I have to say that I like this group.

The tight end position may have the greatest depth on the team. Heath Miller and Jerame Tuman are the vets. Third round pick Matt Spaeth, Cody Boyd, and Jon Dekker are all monsters. In fact, Tuman is the smallest TE on the team at 6-4 253. I think Tuman brings a lot to the team and this unit, but he could go in a coast saving move. There has to be some intrigue in lining up two 6-7 TEs with Spaeth and Boyd in short yardage and red-zone opportunities. My thoughts are that the Steelers will keep three TEs (Miller, Tuman/Boyd, and Spaeth), and both Boyd (if he doesn’t win a job outright) and Dekker make the practice squad.

Next up, sorting out an offensive line. There are lots of decisions to be made here.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Running Back Competition

There are a few questions here. Who will be the third-down back? Who will be the goal line back? What happens to Dan Kreider after this year and is there another capable FB on the roster?

I’m thinking the Steelers keep five or six RBs. The top four are Willie Parker, Najeh Davenport, Kevan Barlow, and Dan Kreider. Who stays after these guys depends upon the health of Verron Haynes. The news on Haynes sounds like his knee is still a problem. If he’s healthy, he makes the team. My guess is that he’ll go on IR. My dark horse of this group is Gary Russell. Although he flunked out of school and didn’t play last year, he put up some great numbers in his junior year despite not starting. He has size and speed – could be a Willie Parker type steal. He at least makes the practice squad.

That leaves a battle between Larry Croom, Carey Davis, and John Kuhn. One of these guys probably becomes the backup FB. Although, there could still be a free agent signing as other teams adjust rosters here.

The RBs that make it past the first cut:
Haynes (possible IR)
Russell (possible practice squad)

Next up, I’m breaking down the WRs and TEs.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Quarterback Battle

For the Steelers, there is not much of a battle here. This is probably the least competitive positional battle on the team. Roethlisberger and Batch are set as the top two. The only real question here is; now with Ben healthy do they keep a third QB on the roster?

The competition is between Brian St. Pierre and Bryan Randall. St. Pierre probably has a slight advantage because he’s been with the team for a few years now. However, if the team goes with only two, my guess is that Randall sticks with the practice squad. Money will have nothing to do with the battle between these guys, as neither will be looking at a contract above mid six figures. One interesting news note, the team looked at Aaron Brooks recently, deciding not to make a move.

The Steelers plan to use more three and four WR sets and even three TE formations. Roster spots will need to be found to accommodate extra personnel at these positions.

I’ll break down the RB competition next, where it starts to get a little more interesting.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Camp's Open

Camp Tomlin is now officially open for business and it couldn't have started any better. Every rookie is signed and in camp, Polamalu is signed for years to come, Faneca is in camp, and Tomlin took it easy on everbody yesterday. Now, it's time to get this team in shape. In the coming weeks, I'll detail the position battles and try to predict this season's roster.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Polamalu Close to Signing

Some big news is looming as the opening of camp approaches. While the Steelers have not yet come to terms with the top 3 draft picks, it sounds like one very important veteran will be signed soon. Of all the players in the last year of their contracts, Troy Polamalu was the one the team had to sign. Nothing is official yet, but this is great news. Polamalu’s signing should also really help Mike Tomlin as he continues to build player relationships.

Of the other players in their final contract year, it’s pretty clear Alan Faneca will not be back. Two other starters on the offensive line also only have a year left, Kendall Simmons and Max Starks. It will be interesting to see what happens with these two players. Depending upon their performances and those of the younger guys, they may or may not be back. LB Clark Haggans and FB Dan Kreider are in their final year too. The Steelers need Haggans. He’s a solid LB and probably the team’s best pass rusher now that Joey Porter is gone. As a fellow UNH alum, I love the toughness of Kreider, but I have a feeling the Steelers will not bring him back unless the financial terms are in their favor.

Only 5 more days until camp…