Tag:Pittsburgh Steelers
Posted on: February 24, 2012 1:45 am
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2012 NFL Combine Day 1: Winners and losers

Whatever you say, Mr. Ryan. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- Forgive us for not primarily focusing on draft-related players in this edition of knee-jerk judgments. But on the first day of the NFL combine, there were relatively few players of note to talk to; none of the interior linemen made appearances with the media, there were some lonely kickers and punters present, and not all of the tight ends showed up.

Most of the media sessions were spent chatting up various general manages and coaches, every single one of whom was asked about Peyton Manning and/or Andrew Luck. Or their own quarterback.

Winners

Andrew Luck: Luck isn't even in Indianapolis yet (that we know of) and he's already getting swooned over, as Mike Freeman wrote earlier on Thursday. The only flaw that people can find is his arm strength, and even that's a stretch. More good news is that his former coach, Jim Harbaugh, thinks he'll handle the pressure of all the expectations surrounding him just fine. Don't expect the hypemobile to drop speed between now and late April.

St. Louis Rams
: On Thursday night, we told a St. Louis radio station that Jeff Fisher would be sitting back and smoking a cigar by the time Robert Griffin III finished running his 40-yard dash. That's because Fisher and the Rams will be holding an auction for Griffin, the clear-cut, second-best (if second ...) quarterback in the draft. Everyone in Indy's glowing about the kid and he hasn't arrived yet either. And everyone interested should get involved. If the Browns, Dolphins and Redskins don't get involved, they're doing themselves a disservice, because RG3 is going to good in the NFL. Make the move, pay the picks and reap the benefits. Fisher's willing to do just that.

Green Bay Packers: There seems to be a lot of speculation about teams wanting Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn around Indy right now. (The Browns, Dolphins and Seahawks could all be interested parties.) Now that Green Bay's locked up Jermichael Finley for two more years, they can, if they want, apply the franchise tag to Flynn and then trade him for the best offer they get from one of the interested teams. As long as they get more than whatever the compensatory pick would be, they win in this deal.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Shortly after Kevin Colbert stated that he wanted wide receiver Mike Wallace to retire as a Steeler, Pittsburgh managed to restructure Ben Roethlisberger's contract. Making Ben more expensive in the future might not help in the future, but it means right now the Steelers can keep Mike Wallace. The No. 1 wideout in Pittsburgh's gotten flak as the heat's cranked up on the possibility of him leaving, but the fact remains that he's the team's best wideout. Antonio Brown is a stud -- the only guy who we know that loves Brown more than we do is fantasy expert Dave Richard -- and he'll keep improving. But Brown doesn't become team MVP without Wallace keeping top cornerbacks away from his side of the field.

LaRon Landry: Holy muscles, Batman. Did he hijack Ryan Braun's FedEx package or something? We kid, we kid. (But no, seriously: we're joking.) On the first day of young football playing fellas flexing their muscles for the public, Landry stole the show with his ripped Twitter pics.

Losers

Jonathan Martin: Forgive us for not loving everyone out of Stanford, or for not giving Martin credit for having confidence. But the athletic offensive tackle won't be participating in most of the drills at the combine, because of food poisoning. (We asked him what he ate, and he didn't remember, but said it was in Arizona. Fear not, consumers of spicy shrimp cocktails.) Martin also repeatedly said he's the best tackle available in the draft, and said "without a doubt" he's better than Matt Kalil. Competition is fun, and confidence is good, but we're not sure why he's talking a big game if he's not participating in the drills.

Mark Sanchez: As Clark Judge noted, "Sanchez should be worried." That's because Rex Ryan came out and made no bold guarantees (a staple of the combine for Ryan) regarding the job security of his starting quarterback. It's OK for Rex to downplay the interest the Jets could have in Peyton Manning; Manning's not a free agent yet, and there are roughly 25 NFL teams that will at least discuss what Manning could do to their franchise. But the lack of guarantees for Sanchez during a tumultuous offseason should be concerning for the Jets current starting quarterback.

Kevin Kolb: Like Sanchez, Kolb didn't exactly get ringing endorsements from the guys who cut his checks. Ken Whisenhunt and Rod Graves didn't explicitly say they'd think about dumping Kolb (due a roster bonus on March 17) if Manning became available, but they sure didn't slam the door on the idea. 

Tight Ends: This is the new position that's redefining the NFL, right? Well, um, here's the problem (as also noted by CBSSports.com's own Pete Prisco): where were these guys during their big combine day? Rob Gronkowski was the story during the Super Bowl, and for a week after. Jimmy Graham shattered records. Vernon Davis was the guy who made Alex Smith great. And Orson Charles, the third-rated tight end by NFLDraftScout.com, said he's happy to sit and learn behind someone like Tony Gonzalez?Love the attitude. Love it, and Gonzo's the man. But if you're a coming into college and someone tries to steer you away from playing tight end in college, don't listen to them. Or listen to them and stop playing basketball?

Stevie Johnson: We've thought he'd get the franchise tag from Buffalo at minimum. But in listening to Bills head coach Chan Gailey, that's just not happening. Or it might; but Gailey's description of Johnson was quintessential "we're sorry to lose Stevie." He said he wouldn't miss Stevie until Stevie was gone and then cited the "business" of the game. Those aren't the words of a coach who's pumped to be celebrating a new contract for his franchise wideout.

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 5:09 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 9:19 pm
 

Report: Big Ben restructures contract for PIT

It's not ideal, but the Steelers can survive in a Wallace-less offense. (US PRESSWIRE)
By Josh Katzowitz

Since it now seems that the most important thing in the world for the Steelers to do this offseason is keep Mike Wallace in the organization -- clearly the franchise is being truthful when it says it wants the receiver to spend his entire career in Pittsburgh -- even Ben Roethlisberger is willing to sacrifice.

According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Roethlisberger has restructured his contract so the Steelers can save about $8 million in cap space for 2012. Reporter Ed Bouchette writes that the cap space saved by the Roethlisberger restructuring will put the Steelers at about the cap limit of $120 million (the deadline is March 13).

Roethlisberger signed an eight-year, $102 million deal in 2008, and though he was originally supposed to make $11.6 million in 2012, Pittsburgh has taken $10.7 million of that and converted it into a signing bonus. As Mac’s Football Blog points out, the signing bonus will then add $2.675 million to the Steelers salary cap from 2013-2015. Roethlisberger, who now has restructured his deal for the second time in six months, will make at least $11.6 million per year in those three seasons.

Pittsburgh clearly wants to keep Wallace, a restricted free agent this offseason, for the long term, and in order to do that, the Steelers will have to sign him to a long, rich contract. Or they could franchise tag him, which would cost the team about $9.5 million for 2012. Even with Roethlisberger’s restructuring -- and he's not the only one, as the team has reworked the contracts of Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley and Ike Taylor -- reaching that mark probably will be tough.

And at this point, Wallace isn’t sure he’ll return to his team.

"(Pittsburgh is) where I would like to be, but we all know that it is a business and you have certain things you have to handle," Wallace told Sirius XM NFL radio on Wednesday. "So if I have to go elsewhere, you know Pittsburgh will always be in my heart, but I have to do what I have to do.

"Yeah, we are talking, but I don`t know how far they are going to get right now because of the situation. I know that they are working hard trying to take care of it, but I don`t know. We`ll see.”

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert is a bit more optimistic, saying Thursdasy (via the AP), "I'm confident Mike wants to finish his career with the Steelers."

Most likely, the Steelers will place a first-round tender on Wallace, but a team that needs receiver help and that has plenty of space under its respective salary cap (and can let go of a first-round pick) might have a better chance of making an offer to Wallace the Steelers simply can’t match. Then, it won’t matter what Roethlisberger has sacrificed, because one of his top targets will be gone.

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 12:36 pm
 

Steelers want Wallace 'to finish his career here'

Pittsburgh would love to keep top wideout Wallace. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- Kevin Colbert, as GM of the Steelers, is in a precarious position. Pittsburgh has little-to-no cap room and one of their top offensive players, wide receiver Mike Wallace, is a restricted free agent who's been viewed as a candidate for offer sheets from various AFC rivals.

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Colbert emphasized on Thursday at the NFL combine that the Steelers, despite rumors to the contrary, are still very much open to using the franchise tag on Wallace, even though it would tack on another $9.4 million to their salary cap.

"We won't know until we know what we're dealing with as far as cap space. So we have to leave that option open, absolutely," Colbert said. "The thing I can say for sure about Mike is that we want Mike to finish his career with the Steelers and we're confident that Mike wants to finish his career here and play with a great quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger and have the receivers we have to compliment him.

"We think he's only scratched the surface in what he can do. There's a lot left there that still can be developed and we're anxious to see it happen as a Steeler."

The Steelers are being hurt by changes to restricted free agent (RFA) rules in the new CBA; teams only have to surrender a first-round pick in exchange for Wallace if the Steelers decline to match any offer from someone else.

"The compensation is what it is," Colbert said. "We have to live within the rules and make the best decisions we can."

Cap space is the bigger issue, though. Even if the Steelers can get under the cap through cutting players and restructuring contracts, they'd still need to wiggle out another $10 million in order to easily bring Wallace back in 2012.

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Posted on: February 22, 2012 7:56 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 7:57 pm
 

Mike Wallace understands that NFL 'is a business'

It's not ideal, but the Steelers can survive in a Wallace-less offense. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

If, in 12 days, the Steelers haven't extended wide receiver Mike Wallace's contract, there's the real possibility that he may have played his last game for Pittsburgh. The organization will tender Wallace, a restricted free agent, the highest offer but teams looking for proven deep threats might willingly give up a first-round pick for his rights.

Exacerbating matters: the Steelers are some $7 million over the salary cap and likely wouldn't be able to match any contract another team might offer Wallace. Pittsburgh understands this and so does the third-year wide receiver.

"(Pittsburgh is) where I would like to be, but we all know that it is a business and you have certain things you have to handle," Wallace said during an appearance on SiriusXM Wednesday afternoon (via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review). "So if I have to go elsewhere, you know Pittsburgh will always be in my heart, but I have to do what I have to do. ...

"Yeah, we are talking, but I don`t know how far they are going to get right now because of the situation," he said, referring to the team's cap situation. "I know that they are working hard trying to take care of it, but I don`t know. We`ll see."

(We talked about Wallace's future -- among other things -- on the most recent Pick-6 Podcast.)


We wrote Monday about the doomsday scenario that has the Steelers losing Wallace and, well, it's not the end of the world some fans and media portray it to be. (We'll include part of it below since we buried it in a post about Big Ben and Haley, western Pennsylvania's newest BFFs.)

Wallace has put up some mind-blowing numbers during his three-year career, and you can even blame his second-half-of-2011 slump on Roethlisberger's health and defenses double- and triple-teaming him. But Pittsburgh also has Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. We think Brown will eventually be better than Wallace, if he's not already. And Sanders has the ability to become a solid No. 2 option.

The Steelers would also have an additional first-rounder, most likely near the bottom of the round. If, in their draft evaluations, they find a handful of players that they think would help them immediately (and when we say "players," we really mean "offensive linemen"), perhaps it's a tradeoff worth considering. Wallace is worth more than a late first-round selection but there are extenuating circumstances, chiefly the salary-cap purgatory the organization currently finds itself.

In addition to Brown and Sanders, Pittsburgh would need to re-sign someone like Jerricho Cotchery, or hope that Hines Ward has anything left for another season. (Worth mentioning: Ward had a severely sprained ankle early in the season and that may have hampered his production down the stretch.)

Then there is tight end Heath Miller, recently underutilized because of Pittsburgh's suspect pass-blocking. Haley announced at his introductory press conference that he was a huge Miller fan, and Miller could become another downfield option in the Steelers' passing game should they lose Wallace.

Finally, Pittsburgh has been to three Super Bowls since 2005, winning two. The group of pass catchers in 2005 included Ward, Cedrick Wilson and Antwaan Randle El. In 2009, it was Ward, Santonio Holmes, and Nate Washington. The takeaway: given the Steelers' financial predicament, keeping Wallace is more a luxury than a necessity.

The organization has less two weeks to sort this out. Whether that's enough time to get under the cap and extend Wallace is an entirely different issue. But Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has an impressive track record not only when it comes to identifying talent but knowing when to let them walk. We'll know shortly where Colbert stands on Wallace.

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Posted on: February 22, 2012 12:27 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 1:07 pm
 

Hines Ward pleads guilty to reckless driving

WardBy Josh Katzowitz

Last July, Steelers receiver Hines Ward was arrested on a DUI charge, an incident that stunned CBSSports.com’s Mike Freeman* because he seems like the exact opposite of the kind of guy who would get himself into that kind of trouble.

Ward’s lawyer denied Ward was impaired by alcohol as he drove, and seven months later, Ward has cut a plea bargain deal with the DeKalb County (Ga.) Solicitor’s office, which has dropped the DUI charge.

In exchange, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports, Ward pleaded guilty Wednesday to reckless driving and no contest to a charge of failing to maintain lane.

Ward was sentenced to 12 months of probation (he’ll be allowed to check in with his officer on the phone or with email since he’ll likely be playing football somewhere in 2012), 80 hours of community service and a $2,000 fine. He’ll also undergo an alcohol evaluation.

*Ravens running back Ray Rice also was mighty displeased by the arrest.

Ward's lawyer, Andy Reed, released this statement afterward (via the Pittsburgh Post Gazette): "We are grateful for the outcome. By dropping the DUI charge, it is clear that the prosecution did not have sufficient evidence to proceed. Hines has always maintained that his ability to drive was in no way impaired and we are pleased that the facts supported his innocence. He is thankful to his legal team and to all who stood by him. Hines has a great respect for the legal system and is also grateful, in particular, to the state for the professional manner in which they handled this matter."

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Posted on: February 21, 2012 8:25 pm
 

Pick-6 Podcast: Ranking the free-agent QBs

Will Peyton end up in the Valley of the Sun?(CBSSports.com illustration)

By Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

The old saying goes something like this: yes, it's officially the NFL offseason but there really is no offseason. The Giants won the Super Bowl a few weeks ago but teams can already franchise would-be free agents, the combine begins this week and free agency the week after.

There are plenty of storylines, and Peyton Manning's future is among the biggest. On the latest Pick-6 Podcast, we talk whether the Arizona Cardinals make the most sense for Manning (he does look dashing in red), and where the other free-agent quarterbacks (Matt Flynn, Kyle Orton, Jason Campbell, Chad Henne) might end up this spring.

The conversation then turns to Big Ben and Todd Haley, and a possible theory for why the Steelers could let Mike Wallace leave as a restricted free agent.

(Did we mention that you should subscribe to the podcast via iTunes? And if you can't listen to the podcast below, download it here. And if you'd like to keep working while listening in your browser, pop that puppy out in a new tab here.)


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Posted on: February 21, 2012 6:58 pm
 

Report: Roethlisberger, Haley finally meet

Now that Big Ben and Haley are BFFs, the team has to decide Wallace's future in Pittsburgh. (Getty Images/US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

Some sad news for those fans and media looking for a story where there wasn't one: after a couple weeks on the job, new Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley finally had a face-to-face with franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette tweeted the details late Tuesday afternoon:

EdBouchette
News many have waited for: Ben & Steelers new OC Todd Haley finally met, sat down and talked.
2/21/12 5:46 PM

So what does this mean? Not much, really. Haley's arrival in Pittsburgh furrowed some brows but team president Art Rooney II said last week that the hire was soley that of head coach Mike Tomlin. Put differently: Rooney hadn't suddenly morphed into a meddlesome owner, ordering Haley's hire, even if Rooney wasn't jazzed by the prospects of Bruce Arians, Haley's predecessor, keeping his job.

There's still the issue if Haley and Big Ben can co-exist. Roethlisberger has stated previously that he's not a huge fan of yelling, we still think it won't affect his on-field performance. In fact, CBSSports.com's Will Brinson thinks the Steelers' Pro Bowl quarterback could have his best season yet in 2012. (We talked about it on the most recent Pick-6 Podcast.)


So now, with that all behind us, the second-biggest offseason storyline facing the Steelers is Mike Wallace's immediate future with the team.

CBSSports.com's Pat Kirwan wrote about it over the weekend: Pittsburgh is well over the cap and even if they wanted to franchise Wallace (they don't), their precarious salary-cap situation won't allow it. Which means that Wallace, a restricted free agent and one of the league's best young wide receivers, could be had by a wideout-needy team for a first-round pick should the Steelers choose not to match any contract offer Wallace would receive.

Before last summer's new CBA, restricted free agents tendered at the highest level would bring a first- and third-rounder should they sign elsewhere. Now it's only a first-rounder, which means that the Patriots, a club desperate for a deep threat that also has two first-round picks, would be a logical landing spot.

Ideally, the Steelers would find a way to keep Wallace, but that will require some nifty salary-cap maneuvering in the coming weeks; free agency starts March 5. But here's the other side of that argument should they lose him:

Wallace has put up some mind-blowing numbers during his three-year career, and you can even blame his second-half-of-2011 slump on Roethlisberger's health and defenses double- and triple-teaming him. But Pittsburgh also has Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. In our opinion, Brown will be better than Wallace, if he's not already. And Sanders has the ability to become a solid No. 2 option.

The Steelers would also have an additional first-rounder, most likely near the bottom of the round. If, in their draft evaluations, they find a handful of players that they think would help them immediately (and when we say "players," we really mean "offensive linemen"), perhaps it's a tradeoff worth considering. Wallace is worth more than a late first-round selection but there are extenuating circumstances, chiefly the salary-cap purgatory the organization currently finds itself.

In addition to Brown and Sanders, Pittsburgh would need to re-sign someone like Jerricho Cotchery, or hope that Hines Ward has anything left for another season. (Worth mentioning: Ward had a severely sprained ankle early in the season and that may have hampered his production down the stretch.)

Then there is tight end Heath Miller, recently underutilized because of Pittsburgh's suspect pass-blocking. Haley announced at his introductory press conference that he was a huge Miller fan, and Miller could become another downfield option in the Steelers' passing game should they lose Wallace.

The organization has nearly two weeks to sort this out. Whether that's enough time to get under the salary cap (they're currently about $7-$8 million over) and extend Wallace is an entirely different issue. But Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has an impressive track record not only when it comes to identifying talent but knowing when to let them walk. We'll know shortly where Colbert stands on Wallace.

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Posted on: February 20, 2012 7:36 pm
 

Roethlisberger, Haley still haven't talked

Haley, left, still hasn't called Roethlisberger, center, despite being hired by Tomlin two weeks ago. (US PRESSWIRE)
By Josh Katzowitz

Todd Haley wasn’t exactly known as a player-friendly coach when he was at the helm of the Chiefs, and in his new job as the Steelers offensive coordinator, it appears he isn’t trying very hard to be Ben Roethlisberger’s best friend.

Or, you know, trying to talk to him at all.

That’s what Roethlisberger revealed to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, saying, “He still hasn’t called yet.”

The admission continues what has become a strange offseason for the Steelers, with team president Art Rooney II seemingly overruling coach Mike Tomlin and letting offensive coordinator Bruce Arians “retire.” Then, with the hiring of Haley, it’s been unclear who actually wanted him (there was speculation that Tomlin didn’t want Haley as much as Rooney did, though Rooney later came out and said Tomlin was the one who makes the assistant coaches decisions).

Pittsburgh's offensive upheaval
With the loss of Arians, Roethlisberger made it clear he wasn’t happy with that decision, and when Haley was announced as the new hire, he said, “I've gotten a lot of calls and texts and emails from people around the league, both good and bad about him. Everybody has an opinion, as we all know, and they're letting me know what their interaction with him was -- good, bad and indifferent. I've heard a lot of things and I'm looking forward to meeting him and forming my own opinion."

Roethlisberger probably wouldn’t have guessed that two weeks later, he still would be looking forward to meeting him (there’s a pretty good chance by this point, though, that Roethlisberger already has formed an opinion).

The Trib Review went on to write that Roethlisberger “definitely came across and had the tone that he has no intention of making the first move.” And really, why should he? Haley is the new guy, and Roethlisberger is the quarterback who’s won two Super Bowls. Roethlisberger is a top-10 quarterback, and Haley just got fired from Kansas City.

Seems like Haley would want to meet the guy who is responsible for leading the offense. Of course, we probably should have expected his from Haley.

"It doesn't matter where you stand on the totem pole," Kurt Warner, who played for Haley with the Cardinals, said earlier this month. "If he sees something you can do better, he lets you know about it. That was a reason for our success."

"He just wants you to do the right thing. Instead of getting offended, maybe you have to look at yourself and say, 'OK, that's a legitimate concern.' That's the way you get good. That's how you stay great. He will be good for Ben, not that Ben needs a lot of help.”

Of course, the only way for Haley to possibly help Roethlisberger would be to meet him. We’ll have to wait and see how long it takes for that to happen.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com