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Steelers 2008


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Here we go again, lots to discuss. Ben should be in-line for a club record-setting contract extension. Free agents like Faneca and Haggans are expected to seek greener pastures. With the demise of the O-line this season I think most of us would agree that OL will be the top priority in the 2008 draft and perhaps free agency too.

Let’s start with the D…clearly the D was low on playmakers at the end of the season.

Steelers fans quickly found out the importance of Aaron Smith this year. After not missing any time in his career he had two injuries this season. Let’s hope this is not a sign of things to come. Hampton by all accounts had a good season although I’ve read elsewhere that he could stand to lose some weight. Keisel seemed to be solid all year although I envisioned him being moved around and making some plays in this D. Hard to do as an end in the 3-4 I suppose.

The Steelers pass rush has been suspect for most of the past two seasons. I hope the changing of the guard at OLB from Haggans to Lamarr Woodley fixes a lot of that. I expect the combo of Harrison and Woodley will be very good. Where does that leave 2007 1st rounder Lawrence Timmons? Looks to me like they may eventually to decide to groom him as James Farrior’s replacement on the inside after 2008. Farrior and Foote are solid but not exactly playmakers although Farrior still has that ability.

How about the secondary? They say a pass rush can make any secondary look good and I suppose the opposite is true. Polamalu is still a playmaker although injuries were clearly a factor in his play for much of the year. I worry with his style of play that will be a common theme. I still like Ike and McFadden long-term at CB although neither is a playmaker. Townsend finds a way to stay on the field but I wonder how much he has in the tank. Free safety Anthony Smith seems to have regressed a bit after the Pats debacle…we’ll see how he rebounds in the offseason. Certainly he has potential.

On O I think the Steelers core of skill players: Ben, Parker, Ward, Holmes, Miller are as good as any in the NFL outside of NE and Indy. Clearly their focus is on OL and protecting their investment at QB. Obviously the entire OL can’t be replaced. It seems like Mahan was a bust at center. Some have speculated that Kendall Simmons will move to center and Willie Colon will slide over to right guard. That would leave right tackle to Starks (if he’s re-signed), Essex or a draft choice. I guess Kemoeatu is the most likely replacement for Faneca at LG. Other than OL the rest of the O looks pretty good but it would be nice to add some depth at WR, Nate Washington has some upside but drops a lot of balls too. Guys like Wilson and Willie Reid don’t look like keepers to me.

On coaching, I am not at all sold on Bruce Arians playcalling but that is for another time. Other coaches like OL Zeirlein and Special Teams Ligashesky may be on borrowed time also. I wonder if the timing of Tomlin’s hiring last year made acquiring quality assistant coaches difficult. In my opinion OL and Special Teams are two areas where coaching makes the biggest impact. I thought Tomlin did okay his first year, no real signature wins but he did finish 5-1 in the North and won the division so that is a good sign.

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You summed it up very well. The #1 priority (other than signing Ben) is to fix the offensive line. As you said Faneca is almost certainly gone and Mahan was a bust at center. I have also heard that Willie Colon was second in the league for giving up sacks by an offensive lineman. Frankly I am not sure what they should do.

Marvel Smith had a bad back almost all season and it showed. He just had surgery and I don't know how many years he has left. We definitely need depth as Starks is an UFA and Essex is a RFA. I'm sure they'll offer Essex a tender and be able to retain his services and they'll probably try to resign Starks unless they do something really crazy like go after UFA Flozell Adams or Ryan Lilja (we can dream). Assuming they don't go after a high price FA, they should probably use their #1 on an OT.

At guard I don't think I would screw with Simmons as that seems to be the only position on the line that is stable. If Faneca leaves they'll need to start Kemeatu or slide Mahan to guard which is supposedly his natural position. One thing is for sure about Mahan: he sucks at center. I don't know what FA centers are out there but if they aren't able to sign one they'll need to use their #2 or #3 pick on the best center available.

They also need some depth on the defensive line, secondary, and are in need of a return man that is actually a threat to catch the ball (important) and return it more than 5 or 10 yards. The one thing I would love the Steelers to do is scan for a specialist that does nothing but kicks deep on kickoffs.

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At guard I don't think I would screw with Simmons as that seems to be the only position on the line that is stable.

I essentially agree with everything you said, but this take made me laugh. First time I've ever heard Ken-doll described as being stable. Unless stable is defined as routinely falling on his butt without contact during the backpedal. The guy is flat awful.It's a pipe dream I know, but here's my take on fixing the o-line.I resign Faneca and move him to C. We have our next Jeff Hartings. Both guard positions benefit immensely from this move. Colon moves to RG. At #23 we take the best tackle available (Baker, Oher, Clady, Williams etc.) Great value at the position in this years draft as every name I mentioned is a better prospect than Levi Brown was last. The rook starts at RT. Kemo, Mahan, Kendoll will compete with our 2nd round pick, who I hope is either Duke Robinson/Roy Schuening, at LG. Smith returns at LT. Starks is signed to a Simmons like contract and backs up both tackle positions or keeps RT warm til the rook is ready. Continuity is somewhat intact and the majority of the line would be together for the next 3-4 seasons.18.6 mill in cap space goes a long way.C is IMO the #1 priority for this team. No quality C in the draft or FA that I can see. Faneca is the best bet and could anchor the line for 4-5 seasons and retire a Steeler as he deserves to.So, my big signings would already be on the roster. Faneca and Starks. Roth gets his extension. Hopefully we get a small hometown discount from each.CB, DE, and FS should be addressed in the draft. FS only if Clark is done. WR if he can come back. One of the bunch hopefully can provide some big play potential as a return man.Ligasucksy should be gone. Zierlein should get one more season. Other than the 3rd and 6 debacle (whole series actually) in the Jags game I liked Arians game plan between the 20's. The O-line limited him in the redzone.Just my take.
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I know it sounds funny but other than Faneca, Simmons WAS the most stable offensive lineman.

I don't dislike your idea about moving Faneca to Center but I doubt he re-signs let alone move to another position. Guards make more money than Centers and at this point, Faneca is all about the money.

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Faneca will not be back so there is no point in talking about him.

They need G, C, DE, 3rd WR, RB, and special teams.

I doubt they can make any real moves in free agency. They don't have much money and are going to give a lot to Ben. This all needs to be done through the draft.

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Where does that leave 2007 1st rounder Lawrence Timmons? Looks to me like they may eventually to decide to groom him as James Farrior’s replacement on the inside after 2008. Farrior and Foote are solid but not exactly playmakers although Farrior still has that ability.

Timmons is the new Alonzo Jackson. He will never start for the Steelers. He was a terrible, terrible draft pick.
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Timmons is the new Alonzo Jackson. He will never start for the Steelers. He was a terrible, terrible draft pick.

I'm not at all clear how you are even able to evaluate him at this point, let alone make over the top assertions like this.

They drafted him to sit and learn for at least a season; possibly even part of next year although I hope not. Remember he's only 21.

I'm also unclear where you get the statement that they will not have money to spend in the off-season. It's not official yet as there is much TBD before cap numbers can be know, but I have heard the figure 18.6 mill under the cap thrown around. I'm guessing it will not be quite that high, but they will have some flexibility.

Sounds like the Steelers are prepared to at least make an attempt at both Starks and Faneca. Don't know if it happens, but it is a realistic possibility.

Link for both roster strategies and salary cap figure below.

http://pit.scout.com/2/717046.html

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Tomlin to retain both coordinators:

Tomlin to retain both coordinators LeBeau, AriansWednesday, January 09, 2008By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-GazetteMike Tomlin's top coaches will return to their jobs next season, sources on the Steelers said yesterday.Dick LeBeau will return as defensive coordinator in 2008, which will be his 36th season as an assistant or head coach in the NFL.Bruce Arians will be back for his second year as offensive coordinator after Tomlin promoted him from wide receivers coach under Bill Cowher a year ago.Often, a first-time head coach who has not been associated with some of the assistants he hired will make moves after he works with them for a year. But Tomlin has decided to make no changes in his coordinators for next season.LeBeau, 70, coached the defense to the No. 1 ranking in yards allowed in the NFL this season. They also ranked third in the league against the run and third against the pass. LeBeau was Cowher's defensive coordinator since 2004, his second stint with the team. He also coached Cowher's first five seasons as secondary coach for three years and coordinator for two.Arians, 55, has been a coach since 1975 and an NFL assistant for 11 seasons. He was offensive coordinator for three season with the Cleveland Browns before joining the Steelers as their wide receivers coach in 2004.The offense under Arians ranked 17th in the NFL this season, third in rushing. Most important, Ben Roethlisberger rebounded from a poor 2006 to have his best season statistically of his four years in the NFL, ranking second only to New England's Tom Brady with a 104.1 passer rating and setting a Steelers record with 32 touchdown passes.Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com

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I am relieved LeBeau will be back. AT his age he could decide to retire at any time. The one thing a lot of people overlooked in the playoff game was the masterful job he did figuring out how to limit Taylor and Jones-Drew with a severely hobbled defense. I don't believe there is a better DC in the league.

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I don't know how many of you remember me railing against the Steelers draft this year and you all arguing with me that we had a great draft...

How many of you would prefer to have Joe Staley in a Steelers uni to Timmons right now? The Steelers should have been addressing their O-line deficiencies TWO drafts ago, but ignoring it last year was a travesty. We're paying for our sins now.

The Steelers have a few needs outside of OL, but they've got to sell out completely in this offseason if they want to have any chance in 2008.

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I don't know how many of you remember me railing against the Steelers draft this year and you all arguing with me that we had a great draft...How many of you would prefer to have Joe Staley in a Steelers uni to Timmons right now? The Steelers should have been addressing their O-line deficiencies TWO drafts ago, but ignoring it last year was a travesty. We're paying for our sins now.The Steelers have a few needs outside of OL, but they've got to sell out completely in this offseason if they want to have any chance in 2008.

Joe Staley would have been a good pickup but the jury is still out on Timmons. Going into last season the biggest need was to address the lack of depth at LB. I think they did that. I do agree that Spaeth was a reach in the 3rd round though.Going into the 2008 season the o-line is the number 1 priority. Let's see how they address it.As far as having any chance in 2008 I think you are overstating things a bit. The Steelers did win the division and as of this moment only Cleveland seems to have their crap together. The Steelers (as well as the rest of the AFC North) are going to have tough schedules next season. It will be extremely important to do well against the other teams in the division.
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I don't know how many of you remember me railing against the Steelers draft this year and you all arguing with me that we had a great draft...How many of you would prefer to have Joe Staley in a Steelers uni to Timmons right now? The Steelers should have been addressing their O-line deficiencies TWO drafts ago, but ignoring it last year was a travesty. We're paying for our sins now.The Steelers have a few needs outside of OL, but they've got to sell out completely in this offseason if they want to have any chance in 2008.

It would have been nice if they'd looked to the Oline a little more last draft or two years ago, but they also really needed LB. Haggans is gone this year, Harrisons turing 30, Farrior isn't going to be gone next year? It normally takes time for LB to learn to play in our system and the investment last year could pay huge dividends. It also was not unreasonable to think that some of our OLine men could've worked out comeing into last year. Starks, Kemo, Trai, Mahan, Okobi, Simmons, Smith, Faneca... it wasn't unreasonable for them to beleive the young guys could develop and create a good line. It didn't and now they have a lot of work to do. Its hard to predict how players will progress and unfortunately for the Steelers most of their prospects are turning out good.
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Some of the more insightful answers from Ed Bouchette's last chat of the season...

Ed Bouchette's Steelers chat transcript 01/08/08

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Katmandu: Happy New Year Ed. Thanks for your good work this season. Now that the season is over, please give us your gut feeling on which coaches & players just saw their final action as a Steeler this past weekend.

Ed Bouchette: Look for my analysis on Thursday, I believe, but quickly: I would be surprised if a coach gets fired, and I would think Faneca and Haggans and perhaps Max Starks will leave as free agents.

Terrible_Trousers: Do you think Tomlin will begin to implement a new defense next season? Or would that take too many personnel moves?

Ed Bouchette: They will stick with the 3-4. That is how they are built, especially at outside linebacker, and that is what they will stay. Also, for all the griping, they were a pretty good defense this year.

hinestheman: Ed, do you think Nate Washington has done enough to push aside Cedric Wilson? Will they resign one and release the other?

Ed Bouchette: They're not going to release either. Cedrick is under contract. Nate is a restricted free agent and they can match anything. Both will return.

Terrible_Trousers: Ed, How about Woodley, played like a man! Looks like OLB is in good hands.

Ed Bouchette: Yes, Woodley probably will start there next year. He needs to buckle down and learn the defense so he does not make as many mental errors, and I believe he will.

Terrible_Trousers: Ed, Do you feel this team has a good young core, with the potential to improve, or are they on the downward slope as some media members have suggested?

Ed Bouchette: Let's see, they went from 8-8 to 10-6 and their first division title in 3 years. Ben got better and they had the NFL's leading rusher through 14 games. That's a downward trend? They need some help in both lines, but if you look around the league, every team needs help. Well, maybe 31 of them.

bigbo24: Do you think the Steelers will retain Bruce Arians this upcoming season and try to go back to the physical style of play they got away from this year?

Ed Bouchette: Bruce will be back. That "physical style" can be overrated.

GjSteel: Hi Ed...well this season is over...how about a grade for Mike Tomlin in his first season as a head coach?

Ed Bouchette: B

StillaYinzer: Do you think there is any chance the Steelers would cut Marvel Smith this off-season given his back injury and huge cap number?

Ed Bouchette: After watching their line play, you want them to cut one of their best linemen? His back injury was corrected by minor back surgery. He'll be fine.

2ptconversionfromthe12: Ed, can you please tell Arians to scrap the fade? They usually have some creative 2 pt conversions but the fade is atrocious.

Ed Bouchette: I'm not a fade fan either.

Tprod: Ed, Did Essex play well enough in his last games to allow the Steelers to let Starks go?

Ed Bouchette: Yes, he played will in his last two games. They'll try to re-sign Starks, but that's touch-and-go. Also, I don't think Essex is a right tackle, so it's a moot point.

2ptconversionfromthe12: Ed, is it time to question Colbert? They really haven't had a good draft in 3 years, and I will give you credit, the Sepulveda pick was a disaster-you were the first to point that out.

Ed Bouchette: Apparently, you just made it time. Every draft head is questioned because they all have their clunkers. It's the nature of trying to forecast what a 21-year-old kid will be in the pros. You can't get them all right. He apparently did a good enough job that they won a Super Bowl in 2005, went 15-1 in 2004 and returned to win the division title this year. All on a team that does not believe a lot in free agency.

StillaYinzer: I'm guessing Woodley will take over for Haggans. It would appear Timmons would need to take over for Foote or Farrior next year to get any real playing time. I don't see this happening. How do you see it?

Ed Bouchette: I think he will compete with Larry Foote for that "mack" job.

monkey: Ed, given Tomlin's background as secondary coach, what do you think his thoughts are of our secondary after his first year? Will he look to upgrade their or continue to work on developing?

Ed Bouchette: They always want to do that. Ryan Clark will be back, Troy P. will be healthy. I think they need another corner to compete.

traffic: Ed, apparently Peter King said that Ben holds on to the ball too long, that is not the offensive line alone who must take the blame for all the sacks. Do you agree? Sometimes I watch Brady and Peyton, and even other QBs, and it seems as if they have a lot of time.

Ed Bouchette: At times, I thought he did hold it too long.

Ddrews: Ed, I know that Brett Keisel lead the defense in pressures, but is he the right guy for every down? It seemed like he struggled against the running game.

Ed Bouchette: He did struggle a little vs. the run, but he's not that kind of end. He's more of a pass-rusher and I dont think they can keep him in one spot. They need to move him around more. I think they also need another big lineman to add to the mix.

Avoid95Lloyd: Brett Keisel's TWO sacks ain't gonna cut it next year. Any FA we might target to play with Aaron & Casey?

Ed Bouchette: Don't look for your answers in free agency, not from this team.

PhillyMarty: In the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft, the Steelers will draft a player at what position?

Ed Bouchette: Line -- offense or defense.

Will_from_Freehold_NJ: Ed, what should the Steelers do about free safety? Anthony Smith talks a good game (guarantee anyone?), and Tyrone Carter misses tackles (nice attempt on Jones-Drew and Garrard Tyrone!!). Also Ryan Clark was to come back from a spleenectomy (not easy to do, see Chris Simms)? Your thoughts?

Ed Bouchette: I would say it's Ryan Clark and/or Anthony Smith.

Avoid95Lloyd: Any chance we see Albert Haynesworth next to Hampton next year? that'd be quite the formidable duo!

Ed Bouchette: In your dreams.

Tprod: Ed, Considering the way Mahan performed, without blaming him for the phantom holding call on the two point conversion, would the Steelers be better off moving Simmons to center and releasing Mahan? Mahan received only a minimal signing bonus of $750,000 which would entail a minimal salary cap hit for 2008. Simmons could possibly prevent the collapsing of the pocket in the middle.

Ed Bouchette: They have to do something to shore up the center position. I don't know if Simmons can play there or not.

Run4it: The poor offensive line play certainly indicates to me a lack of coaching - do you think this group missed the expertise of Russ Grimm and how will Tomlin address for next year?

Ed Bouchette: I think there was a period of adjustment to a new coach. But remember this: Ben was sacked 47 times this year, 46 last year.

Avoid95Lloyd: Is Ben NFL Comeback Player of the Year??

Ed Bouchette: he got my vote.

Steel_in_CO: Is next year a "make or break" for Willie Reid? He's not done much here...

Ed Bouchette: No, he hasn't done much. Yes, I would say next year is his last chance here.

PhillyMarty: Did the Steelers leave any unused cap space to rot away that could have been used for an early re-signing of a vet player?

Ed Bouchette: yes, but not much. Plus, they have a policy they've followed for 14 years -- no negotiating during the season.

betterpersoneldecisions08: Would the Steelers pursue a good OT in Stacy Andrews of the Bengals?

Ed Bouchette: I would think not. Stop thinking free agency, at least as it pertains to the big-name, big-price people. They have a QB to pay.

First published on January 8, 2008 at 2:21 pm

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08008/847616-66.stm

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I don't know how many of you remember me railing against the Steelers draft this year and you all arguing with me that we had a great draft...How many of you would prefer to have Joe Staley in a Steelers uni to Timmons right now? The Steelers should have been addressing their O-line deficiencies TWO drafts ago, but ignoring it last year was a travesty. We're paying for our sins now.

I was one of them. So, if we're playing what if....What if we drafted Staley, and he got injured? And Timmons came on like a beast? Of course you saying Timmons was a mistake looks good now, he missed all of camp and preseason with injuries. That's a factor completely outside the argument of whether or not he was the right pick.
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Great initial summary.

I still think that Simmons should have been the starting Center THIS season, so I again am pulling for him moving there next season if no other G convert like Hartings or mobile C is available in free agency or the draft. I doubt re-signing Faneca is at all possible. I still place blame on his comments in the off-season that he would not convert to LT if asked on why he WASNT asked . . . Faneca, Kemoeatu, Mahan, Simmons, Colon should have been the line against Jax. Kemoeatu is/was our best backup OL regardless of position.

Woodley obviously starts with Harrison on the outside next season. They should be very formidable. I think Farrior is on his way out with Timmons starting next season in his place. I like Foote.

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Arians offense was very vanilla and I was not impressed with the playcalling. Most of the offensive production was the result of Roethlisberger doing ad-hoc scramble adjustments.

Lebeau was great. Except...PLEASE stop using Troy Paulamalu as an undersized OLB. If they would let him play safety...the "playmaking" on defense that is lacking would greatly improve.

Hopefully Woodley pans out as a sack master.

On Offense...need RB depth and O line. Everything else is fine as far as I can see it.

Yes...need improvements in the special teams coverage and a better return game.

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I agree with all that has been said, but I also think they need to find another QB if possible. I believe Batch has seen his better days. I no longer feel safe knowing he would be our QB if Ben goes down, and that's not an "if", it's a "when". He takes too many hits because of his horrid O-line and he does tend to hold onto the ball too long. But, a backup QB would be further down my list as regards as to what has been said here already.

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I don't know how many of you remember me railing against the Steelers draft this year and you all arguing with me that we had a great draft...How many of you would prefer to have Joe Staley in a Steelers uni to Timmons right now? The Steelers should have been addressing their O-line deficiencies TWO drafts ago, but ignoring it last year was a travesty. We're paying for our sins now.The Steelers have a few needs outside of OL, but they've got to sell out completely in this offseason if they want to have any chance in 2008.

Joe Staley would have been a good pickup but the jury is still out on Timmons. Going into last season the biggest need was to address the lack of depth at LB. I think they did that. I do agree that Spaeth was a reach in the 3rd round though.Going into the 2008 season the o-line is the number 1 priority. Let's see how they address it.As far as having any chance in 2008 I think you are overstating things a bit. The Steelers did win the division and as of this moment only Cleveland seems to have their crap together. The Steelers (as well as the rest of the AFC North) are going to have tough schedules next season. It will be extremely important to do well against the other teams in the division.
It has been painfully obvious that for the past two years we've needed to address the offensive line. I'm not sure why everyone thought linebackers was a bigger need last year. We only lost Porter from an already top 10 group and we knew we had Harrison waiting in the wings. Some depth is nice and the Woodley pick seems to be panning out well, but it still left us short on the O-line.Two years ago, when the Steelers traded up, I was SURE they were going to pick Nick Mangold. Steelers football has always focused on the Center. We've had as many coaches in the past 30 years as we have Centers until this year. Webster, Dawson, Hartings and.....Mahan? That's like following Noll and Cowher with Rich Kotite. Don't get me wrong, I love Santonio, but Steelers football is made on the line.Add to that the fact that we've got our best QB since Bradshaw throwing the ball and we should be dominating...but he's back there running for his life half the time. Yes, Ben needs to learn to throw it away every once in a while, but damn...he needs some time. The guy is running for his life and still having a hell of season...imagine what he could do with some protection.Was Timmons the right pick last year? I maintain that LB wasn't our biggest need then so no, I don't think he was the right pick. Sure, we didn't know we'd get lucky with Woodley in the second, but independent of that, O-line was the biggest area of need. Now, with Faneca leaving, we're left to cobble together a line with those that are left out of a sub-par group plus what we can add in FA and rookies. This doesn't sound promising to me. I don't know why we should believe we can lose a pro-bowl guard from a poor o-line and hope to do well.Yes, we won the AFC North this year, but we limped to the title. Cleveland is clearly improving and with a little defense will improve...however, I believe both Cleveland and Pittsburgh will struggle to repeat their records next year with the 1st place and 2nd place schedules. Cinci, who I told everyone would struggle this year, will come back to the pack with a 3rd place schedule. They still have most of the same pieces from 2 years ago and a much easier schedule. Bottom line, unless we work some magic in the draft/FA with regard to the O-line, I think we're looking at mediocrity for the next year or two.
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I don't know how many of you remember me railing against the Steelers draft this year and you all arguing with me that we had a great draft...

How many of you would prefer to have Joe Staley in a Steelers uni to Timmons right now? The Steelers should have been addressing their O-line deficiencies TWO drafts ago, but ignoring it last year was a travesty. We're paying for our sins now.

The Steelers have a few needs outside of OL, but they've got to sell out completely in this offseason if they want to have any chance in 2008.

Joe Staley would have been a good pickup but the jury is still out on Timmons. Going into last season the biggest need was to address the lack of depth at LB. I think they did that. I do agree that Spaeth was a reach in the 3rd round though.

Going into the 2008 season the o-line is the number 1 priority. Let's see how they address it.

As far as having any chance in 2008 I think you are overstating things a bit. The Steelers did win the division and as of this moment only Cleveland seems to have their crap together. The Steelers (as well as the rest of the AFC North) are going to have tough schedules next season. It will be extremely important to do well against the other teams in the division.

What AFC and NFC divisions do we play next year? I know we get NE, IND and SD due to them winning their division, but was curious about our 2 matchups that would be different that the rest of the AFC North.
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I don't know how many of you remember me railing against the Steelers draft this year and you all arguing with me that we had a great draft...

How many of you would prefer to have Joe Staley in a Steelers uni to Timmons right now? The Steelers should have been addressing their O-line deficiencies TWO drafts ago, but ignoring it last year was a travesty. We're paying for our sins now.

The Steelers have a few needs outside of OL, but they've got to sell out completely in this offseason if they want to have any chance in 2008.

Joe Staley would have been a good pickup but the jury is still out on Timmons. Going into last season the biggest need was to address the lack of depth at LB. I think they did that. I do agree that Spaeth was a reach in the 3rd round though.

Going into the 2008 season the o-line is the number 1 priority. Let's see how they address it.

As far as having any chance in 2008 I think you are overstating things a bit. The Steelers did win the division and as of this moment only Cleveland seems to have their crap together. The Steelers (as well as the rest of the AFC North) are going to have tough schedules next season. It will be extremely important to do well against the other teams in the division.

What AFC and NFC divisions do we play next year? I know we get NE, IND and SD due to them winning their division, but was curious about our 2 matchups that would be different that the rest of the AFC North.
Home: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants

Away: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins

http://www.steelersgab.com/2008/01/06/stee...2008-opponents/

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I don't know how many of you remember me railing against the Steelers draft this year and you all arguing with me that we had a great draft...

How many of you would prefer to have Joe Staley in a Steelers uni to Timmons right now? The Steelers should have been addressing their O-line deficiencies TWO drafts ago, but ignoring it last year was a travesty. We're paying for our sins now.

The Steelers have a few needs outside of OL, but they've got to sell out completely in this offseason if they want to have any chance in 2008.

Joe Staley would have been a good pickup but the jury is still out on Timmons. Going into last season the biggest need was to address the lack of depth at LB. I think they did that. I do agree that Spaeth was a reach in the 3rd round though.

Going into the 2008 season the o-line is the number 1 priority. Let's see how they address it.

As far as having any chance in 2008 I think you are overstating things a bit. The Steelers did win the division and as of this moment only Cleveland seems to have their crap together. The Steelers (as well as the rest of the AFC North) are going to have tough schedules next season. It will be extremely important to do well against the other teams in the division.

What AFC and NFC divisions do we play next year? I know we get NE, IND and SD due to them winning their division, but was curious about our 2 matchups that would be different that the rest of the AFC North.
Home: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants

Away: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins

http://www.steelersgab.com/2008/01/06/stee...2008-opponents/

Thanks.

So the AFC North and AFC South get to beat up on each other next year. The 1 division that had BOTH wild card teams and the division that had the other 10-6 team ... ouch.

So, we get NE and SD where as CLE gets BUF and DEN.

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I don't know how many of you remember me railing against the Steelers draft this year and you all arguing with me that we had a great draft...

How many of you would prefer to have Joe Staley in a Steelers uni to Timmons right now? The Steelers should have been addressing their O-line deficiencies TWO drafts ago, but ignoring it last year was a travesty. We're paying for our sins now.

The Steelers have a few needs outside of OL, but they've got to sell out completely in this offseason if they want to have any chance in 2008.

Joe Staley would have been a good pickup but the jury is still out on Timmons. Going into last season the biggest need was to address the lack of depth at LB. I think they did that. I do agree that Spaeth was a reach in the 3rd round though.

Going into the 2008 season the o-line is the number 1 priority. Let's see how they address it.

As far as having any chance in 2008 I think you are overstating things a bit. The Steelers did win the division and as of this moment only Cleveland seems to have their crap together. The Steelers (as well as the rest of the AFC North) are going to have tough schedules next season. It will be extremely important to do well against the other teams in the division.

What AFC and NFC divisions do we play next year? I know we get NE, IND and SD due to them winning their division, but was curious about our 2 matchups that would be different that the rest of the AFC North.
Home: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants

Away: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins

http://www.steelersgab.com/2008/01/06/stee...2008-opponents/

I also just realized that it means we play all 6 playoff teams from the AFC, and 3 of the 6 playoff teams from the NFC.

ETA: outside of our division, we do not play any team with a record less than 8-8 from this year.

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So the AFC North and AFC South get to beat up on each other next year. The 1 division that had BOTH wild card teams and the division that had the other 10-6 team ... ouch.So, we get NE and SD where as CLE gets BUF and DEN.

All of the AFC North teams have a rough schedule but these two games make it brutal.
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Whoever the ST coach is.....he needs to be firedAnd our schedule is ridiculous next yearHere is looking at 8-8 at best

8-8? I doubt that, unless you mean 8-8 and division winners. The other AFC North teams have tough schedules as well and all are worse teams than Pittsburgh. Baltimore and Cincinnati are falling apart, and Cleveland benefited from an extremely easy schedule that included many very close wins, and their QB tailed off badly at the end of the year. I don't see anyone but the Steelers taking the AFC North in 2008.
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I started a thread the day after the playoff loss.

Here's my take.

Lots of emotion after a loss like last night, but an objective look is in order.

I think the Steelers were an average team that took advantage of a really weak early schedule. A good team gets stronger as the season goes on, but the Steelers did the opposite, especially on defense. Over the past 6 games, the defense really collapsed. They allowed an average of 28 points over that span. You can't win football games giving up 28 points. Their biggest problem was that they didn't pressure the QB enough. Woodley and Timmons need to make big strides before next season and become the pass rushers they were drafted to be. Getting Aaron Smith back will help. A healthy Troy will make a big difference too. Some offseason help here is needed, but isn't the highest priority. Another good db would help, along with some depth at d-line.

On offense, the Steelers have the skill position players in place to be a great offense. Roethlisberger, Parker, Holmes, Ward, Miller, etc., are good enough to get the job done. But if they don't make significant progress on the o-line it won't matter. Mahan has to go. I know we've been spoiled at center. I've watched Webster, Dawson and Hartings anchor the Steelers o-line over the past 33 years, and you won't always have a center of that quality. But they need someone better, and they need him now. Because without Faneca next to him next year, Mahan will look even worse. Their first 2 or 3 draft picks in April need to be o-linemen.

Special teams were a complete embarrassment. Both coaches should be gone. The scary part is how much Tomlin stressed special teams from day one. What would they have looked like if they didn't work on them every day? They need to find a return man. Rossum looked good early, but overall he really didn't impress me. Willie Reid should be cut.

Tomlin performed about how you would expect a rookie head coach to perform. He had his good days and his bad days. Overall I'm still impressed. But he needed to have a veteran offensive coordinator next to him. That was painfully clear with 3 minutes to go in the playoff game. Brutal play calling there. Not sure if I'd bring Arians back. But maybe you give him another shot. Lebeau can stay as long as he likes. He's earned that, and continues to do a fine job.

Disappointing end to the season, but 20 other teams were home watching the playoffs, so I can't be too upset.

And hey, the Pens have won 15 of their past 20 16 of their past 21. :lol:

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Whoever the ST coach is.....he needs to be firedAnd our schedule is ridiculous next yearHere is looking at 8-8 at best

8-8? I doubt that, unless you mean 8-8 and division winners. The other AFC North teams have tough schedules as well and all are worse teams than Pittsburgh. Baltimore and Cincinnati are falling apart, and Cleveland benefited from an extremely easy schedule that included many very close wins, and their QB tailed off badly at the end of the year. I don't see anyone but the Steelers taking the AFC North in 2008.
I'll take that action. Assuming average offseasons for all 4 AFCN teams, my money is on the Bengals who were surging at year end and have a 3rd place schedule. Browns and Steelers fight for second at 7-9, 8-8 and the Ravens occupy the basement.
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Whoever the ST coach is.....he needs to be firedAnd our schedule is ridiculous next yearHere is looking at 8-8 at best

8-8? I doubt that, unless you mean 8-8 and division winners. The other AFC North teams have tough schedules as well and all are worse teams than Pittsburgh. Baltimore and Cincinnati are falling apart, and Cleveland benefited from an extremely easy schedule that included many very close wins, and their QB tailed off badly at the end of the year. I don't see anyone but the Steelers taking the AFC North in 2008.
I'll take that action. Assuming average offseasons for all 4 AFCN teams, my money is on the Bengals who were surging at year end and have a 3rd place schedule. Browns and Steelers fight for second at 7-9, 8-8 and the Ravens occupy the basement.
The Bengals surging at the end of the year? What are you basing that on? The only impressive win they had towards the end of the year was the 35-6 win vs the Titans. Sfter that they were handled by the Steelers and 49'ers. Their 3 wins in December came against 2 of the worst teams in the league vs St. Lous and Miami (neither of which they handled impressively) and the win over the Browns was one of the worst wins I have ever seen. The Bengals were dominated by Cleveland but were handed the game by Derek Anderson's abysmal INT's.Cincinnati is overrated every single year and I'm honestly struggling to see why they will change their ways next season. Their talent isn't as good as people think... the defense is not very talented at all, and the only players who really stand out on offense are Palmer and his 2 WRs, and CJ may want to leave and Palmer has been having INT problems. I would be shocked if the Bengals did any better than 7-9 next year.So yeah, basically I believe the entire division takes small steps back next year (except Baltimore but they really can't get too much lower) but Pittsburgh is still the team in best position to win the AFC North next year. The Steelers will still have a top 10 defense, a solid run game as usual and Ben Roethlisberger at QB... that just sounds like a good formula to reach the playoffs. Pittsburgh certainly is by no means a perfect team, but they don't have big holes like the other divisional teams do.
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2007 should be remembered as the year the Steelers rediscovered their franchise quarterback

Thursday, January 10, 2008

By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Had the Steelers not won their first division title in three years with a new coach, had they not earned a playoff game at home, had they not improved by two games over 2006, the past season would have been a success for one reason:

The return of Big Ben Roethlisberger.

After the 2006 season, doubts swirled around Roethlisberger and whether he could ever return to the form of his first two pro seasons. He was the first quarterback in NFL history to compile a 13-0 starting record in one season, and became the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl.

His third season turned disastrous in many ways, on and off the field. Not only did Roethlisberger fall from rising star, but he also fell hard. He was downgraded in many evaluations, to as low as ninth among NFL quarterbacks by Peter King of Sports Illustrated before the start of the season.

Roethlisberger returned in a big way under a new head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He eclipsed Terry Bradshaw's record with 32 touchdown passes, third most in the NFL; cut his interceptions by more than half with 11; had the second-best passer rating in the league at 104.1, breaking his own team record; and made his first Pro Bowl.

He did all this while under siege much of the season from a pass rush that sacked him 47 times, second most for a Steelers quarterback.

Perhaps management still was optimistic about its quarterback one year ago, but the Steelers have every reason to believe today that he will remain among the NFL's elite for a long time to come.

The next-best thing about 2007 was the sense the Steelers picked a good coach. Mike Tomlin might have made all the right moves and impressed everyone in his interviews last year, but until he went through a full season on the job, the Steelers could not be sure what kind of head coach they had. He passed that test while walking through potential land mines that included resentment by some players that Cowher left and Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm were passed over for that job, by the release of popular teammate Joey Porter, the acrimony over Alan Faneca's contract status and the questions surrounding Roethlisberger.

Tomlin made some rookie coaching mistakes but nothing major. For example, he challenged seven officials' calls and only two were reversed by instant replay. Going for a 2-point conversion from the 12 in the playoff game against the Jaguars also was a debatable call.

The main problems this season were a lack of big plays from the No. 1-ranked defense in yards allowed, a lack of big stops by that defense at the end of games, and an offensive line that rarely gave Roethlisberger much time to throw and did not get the kind of consistent push to generate a good short-yardage ground game.

The Steelers' 11 interceptions tied with Houston for the fewest in the league. One reason they did not have more interceptions was that they concentrated on not allowing deep passes, which they accomplished for the most part.

Last year, football operations boss Kevin Colbert said one of the goals would be to improve their pass rush, yet their sack total dropped from 39 to 36.

LaMarr Woodley should help that. He showed how good he can be as a pass rusher with six sacks, including two in the playoff game, in a limited role as a rookie. He will move into Clark Haggans' job at left outside linebacker next season.

Their other prized rookie linebacker, first-rounder Lawrence Timmons, will compete with Larry Foote to start at the "mack" position inside. Although they said Timmons was an outside linebacker after they drafted him, his future is inside.

They also need another big defensive lineman, not so they can switch to the 4-3, but because Aaron Smith turns 32 in April and they need to groom someone and rotate him into the line on both sides. Casey Hampton also turns 31 before the start of next season and his backup, Chris Hoke, turns 32 in April. Their top backup end is Travis Kirschke, who will be 34.

The Steelers have no plans to switch to a 4-3 defense, even though that's what Mike Tomlin had coached previously. Their outside linebackers are not suited for that defense, for one thing. For another, they were happy with their defensive play this season -- except for the end of four games.

That would include losses to Jacksonville in which the Jaguars had late drives to win twice at Heinz Field. The others came at Denver and at the New York Jets.

There were two changes in the starting offensive line last season and there will be more in 2008. First, All-Pro guard Alan Faneca will leave as a free agent and perhaps tackle Max Starks will join him. The Steelers won't make Faneca the kind of offer that will bring him back. They should make one to Starks before free agency begins in March, sign him and return him to his old job as the starting right tackle.

Next, move right guard Kendall Simmons to center. Sean Mahan, in his first season as the Steelers' center, was overpowered by nose tackles and that had a domino effect on the line. Mahan can compete to start at one of the guard spots and, at the least, serve as the top backup at center and guard.

Right tackle Willie Colon had his ups and downs because he has shorter arms than most tackles, which often prevents him from keeping the big pass rushers off him. He belongs at guard, so put him at Simmons' old spot.

That leaves left guard, where Mahan, Chris Kemoeatu and either a draft pick or free agent can compete.

Good linemen are hard to find in free agency and, when available, are often cost prohibitive, especially when there's a franchise quarterback to sign. That's another reason for them to sign Starks, even though he won't come cheaply.

Marvel Smith not only will be OK after back surgery in December, but it also should help him next season. It was minor as back surgeries go and repaired the disk problem that was causing him so much pain. Trai Essex played well as his replacement in two games and should be their top backup.

Even all that might not correct the problems in the line. It would involve four more changes in the starting lineup, although one of them would put Starks back where he should have stayed this past season.

It's hard to determine if Willie Parker, the NFL's leading rusher heading into the final two games, will be the same after his fibula was broken. Parker relies on speed and quickness and no one can say how a broken leg will change that until he's out there running again.

The Steelers changed their approach to the running game by abandoning their power attack for a more finesse approach that sometimes worked and sometimes did not. They won't pass up a good running back if they can find one.

Of course, they need to improve their special teams, and not just on kickoff coverage. They need a good return man, unless Willie Reid finally can handle that job. It should not be as difficult to cover kicks as they made it out to be this year.

And, they need a good, solid draft -- particularly in both lines. They shouldn't throw away good draft picks on punters and backup tight ends. Spending a seventh-rounder to get a return man wasn't a bad idea; spending it on one whose best performances came three years ago was the bad idea.

The Steelers have paid little attention to their offensive and defensive lines in the drafts recently, and that has to change this April.

The case can be made that the Steelers should still be playing this weekend, but it would be hard to make one for them beating New England in a rematch.

This season might not be remembered as another failure in the playoffs at home, but for two more important ingredients -- a good start to the Mike Tomlin era and reclaiming the franchise quarterback.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

2008 free agents

How the Steelers will look going into free agency next month:

Unrestricted: Guard Alan Faneca, linebacker Clark Haggans, offensive tackle Max Starks, defensive end Travis Kirschke, fullback Dan Kreider, linebacker Marquis Cooper, defensive end Nick Eason, running back Verron Haynes, quarterback Brian St. Pierre.

Restricted: Offensive tackle Trai Essex, offensive guard Chris Kemoeatu, wide receiver Nate Washington, long snapper Greg Warren, linebacker Andre Frazier.

Exclusive rights: Linebacker Arnold Harrison.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com.

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First year leaves Tomlin wanting more

Friday, January 11, 2008

By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Too late for Christmas and the playoffs, Mike Tomlin has a wish list for the 2008 season: Better play in the Steelers' offensive and defensive lines, and better coverage on kickoffs and punts.

That means more and younger players for those units, whether it's through the draft, free agency or some of his own players improving by next season.

And while his team won a division championship for the first time in three years and earned a home playoff game, Tomlin said he was not satisfied with his first season as a coach.

"I will always be disappointed when I don't win the World Championship," he said.

"I'm not big into moral victories. We did some good things. We won 10 games. We won our division. It starts there, but it wasn't as well as I would have liked. The goals I set for myself, I am not bashful about.

"One of the things that has bugged me the most since Saturday night are people with great intentions saying, 'Great start' and 'Great year.' ... I appreciate that, but there is something we are chasing here and we never will cease that chase."

Toward that end, the Steelers need players. Tomlin said each good special teams unit has four core players, such as Chidi Iwuoma and Sean Morey from Steelers past. Tomlin said this team had "not enough dynamic playmakers that you can build a core unit around," and that's one reason the kick and punt coverage teams played poorly.

"Our coverage unit is one glaring thing that has to improve," Tomlin said. "The protection of our quarterback has to improve. ... You always need big strong men in the interior on the rise."

The Steelers are getting old on their three-man defensive line, with two of three already in their 30s, plus the top backups.

"We're older in those positions," Tomlin said. "That will be our intentions, along with all areas of course. But in terms of having the personality that we want to have, there is no secret that we want to run the football and run it big time. We want to smash the run, so it starts inside and up front ...

"We could use young people, young developing people in a lot of areas. If I could identify anything at this point, I would say we need young big people."

Tomlin cited the inability of his No. 1-ranked defense to close out games at the end -- specifically, in regular-season games against Jacksonville, Denver and the New York Jets and their playoff against the Jaguars.

"We've got to be better in terms of rising up in moments late in football games. We got behind in some football games that we lost and fought our way back, but we weren't able to close the door in terms of energy, focus and ability to finish.

"When you look back at it, we have to execute better at crunch time. That's what great teams do. That's probably why we are not a great team at this point. We're a good team. That's what 10-6 teams are, what division champions are. We've got to be great."

He also cited their inability to run on offense when they had to, even though Willie Parker led the league in rushing after 14 games.

"We have to run the football more effectively and more often and later in football games," Tomlin said, "so we can wear people down and win games on our terms the way we like to."

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 47 times the past season and 93 over the past two. Tomlin acknowledged that's unacceptable. Besides trying to improve a line that likely will lose guard Alan Faneca and perhaps No. 3 tackle Max Starks, they will need to infuse it with more talent.

"We have to play better," Tomlin said. "We have to get better technicians. We have to communicate better. We have to coach better."

The coaching staff will take a break next week, then hit the road for the Senior Bowl and begin preparations for the April draft, and possibly signing a few free agents starting in March.

"I am pleased with a lot of things," Tomlin said. "I am dissatisfied with some things. We are going to address those things."

Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com.

First published on January 11, 2008 at 12:00 am

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  • 2 weeks later...

Standoff at Steeler player's home disrupts Pine neighborhood

By Jeremy Boren

TRIBUNE-REVIEW

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A nearly 12-hour standoff in Pine home of Steelers wide receiver Cedrick Wilson ended peacefully early this morning when police took his girlfriend into custody, police said.

Lindsey Paulat, 26, of Tarentum has been charged with aggravated assault and recklessly endangering another person, said Robert Amman of the Northern Regional Police Department.

She was taken into custody at 12:48 a.m. today. The standoff began at 1 p.m. Saturday and resulted in the evacuation of residents in the housing plan.

"We were looking for a peaceful resolution. We did not move quickly to enter the home. We wanted to end the confrontation peacefully," Amman said.

Amman said that Wilson and Paulat got into an argument at 7 a.m. yesterday morning, and Wilson left the house at about noon. Paulat's mother came to the house to talk to her, and two shots were fired from a .35mm handgun owned by Wilson.

No one was injured.

Paulat's mother left, and police were called.

Amman said that Paulat initially did not want to talk to police or negotiators. She had only one demand, and that was to talk to Wilson. Wilson returned to the scene at 5 p.m., but did not speak to Paulat.

"He's OK; he's fine," said Steelers spokesman Dave Lockett.

Wilson could not be reached last night for comment.

During negotiations, Paulat became upset and distraught, Amman said. She threatened to harm herself. She was alone in the house. Paulat is the mother of an infant, but the infant was not with her, Amman said. It was not immediately clear if the infant is Wilson's child.

"She was extremely upset and not being forthcoming with us initially, so it took some time to get through to her," he said.

Paulat was watching television coverage of the standoff and police cut her satellite TV service. Authorities cut the gas service at 10 p.m. yesterday.

"It ended peacefully. It was a good operation. And it was good cooperation between three major departments -- our department along with Ross Township, their CERT team, Allegheny County Police and city police," Amman said.

Paulat was taken to the Northern Regional Police station, and authorities were trying to determine where she should be taken.

County 911 dispatch said law enforcement learned of trouble at 131 Blue Heron Drive when it received an emergency call about a female in the house.

Gretchen Dunn, who lives about 10 homes from the Wilson house, said she was evacuated at 2 p.m. By 10 p.m., police presence in the neighborhood had increased sharply, Dunn said.

"There are at least 10 more police cars that have come in, and also an armored Allegheny County Police vehicle," she said.

"They are parking so they cannot be seen from the house with the problem. They are also all turning their headlights off. It's like a ghost town," she said.

"This started at 1 p.m. At first, the police were nonchalant about it. An hour later, they went door to door, evacuating people," she said.

At least four police departments responded: Northern Regional, Franklin Park, Allegheny County and Pittsburgh. The Allegheny County Sheriff's Office also was on scene. The Allegheny County SWAT team and the county sheriff arrived at 8:20 p.m.

More than a dozen police cars sat at the entrance to the housing plan, some with their lights on. They had barricaded the street just beyond the first cross street in the plan.

Dunn said police allowed her back into her house at about 6 p.m. But even several hours later, about 40 homes in the neighborhood remained evacuated, she said.

"People have said this was a domestic dispute. This seems like much more than a domestic dispute. I don't understand why they have evacuated the whole development. I feel bad for people who cannot get in," Dunn said.

The first homes in the development, located on the southern edge of Pine, opened about three years ago, and there are homes still under construction there.

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Am I the only one who thinks Bruce Arians should get the boot?The playcalling all season was vanilla at best, and the crucial 3rd and 6 rush vs. the jags will never be forgotten.

I absolutely HATED the 3rd & 6 QB rush play -- it was one of the stupidest calls I can remember.However the offense overall this season wasn't bad and Ben seemed to thrive in it. I am willing to give Arians another season. Lets hope they get that o-line straightened out though...
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Am I the only one who thinks Bruce Arians should get the boot?

The playcalling all season was vanilla at best, and the crucial 3rd and 6 rush vs. the jags will never be forgotten.

I absolutely HATED the 3rd & 6 QB rush play -- it was one of the stupidest calls I can remember.

However the offense overall this season wasn't bad and Ben seemed to thrive in it. I am willing to give Arians another season.

Lets hope they get that o-line straightened out though...

So much so that this post is the first time I have spoken or written about that game. Seriously. Not with friends, family, on this board - nothing.
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Am I the only one who thinks Bruce Arians should get the boot?The playcalling all season was vanilla at best, and the crucial 3rd and 6 rush vs. the jags will never be forgotten.

I agree. Arians and special teams coach should be canned.
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Heres an article from the Post Gazette that Ben has allegedly come out saying he wants taller recievers, and it hurts Hines Ward's feelings... an interesting read...

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Ward blindsided by Big Ben's comments

Former Super Bowl MVP says Brady, Manning haven't requested taller receivers

Friday, January 25, 2008

By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Hines Ward spends his time these days at home in Atlanta, recovering from postseason surgery on his right knee. A different kind of hurt was delivered by his own quarterback last week.

Ben Roethlisberger called for the Steelers to acquire a tall wide receiver, specifically to help inside the 20 and for a bailout target when he's under pressure. He said he had that with 6-foot-5 Plaxico Burress, but not since after the 2004 season.

"I'm always going to ask for a tall receiver," Roethlisberger said in an interview with the Post-Gazette. "That's just me. Our receivers are unbelievable, but our tallest guy might be Hines. Or Santonio [Holmes]. Hines is going to say he's 6 foot, but he's 5-11."

That stung Ward, the most decorated Steelers receiver in history.

"I don't hear Tom Brady or Peyton Manning asking for that," Ward said yesterday.

"I don't know, whatever he says. I have no idea. To me, it's a rare combination of receivers out there who are good and tall. We won a Super Bowl, we didn't have a tall receiver then. I don't see Tom Brady caring about who's tall or not. He got Randy this year, but he did it before without him.''

Randy Moss, who is 6-4, is Brady's first good, tall receiver in New England, which is trying to win its fourth Super Bowl in the past seven seasons. Moss joined the team this year after a trade and set an NFL record with 23 touchdown receptions.

Reggie Wayne, one of Manning's stable of Indianapolis Colts receivers, led the NFL with 112 receptions and 1,510 yards this season. Like Ward, he is listed at 6 feet. So, too, is Marvin Harrison, who long has been Manning's favorite receiver.

"To me, I have enough problems to worry about than what Ben wants -- I can't give him the contract,'' Ward said, referring to Roethlisberger's wish to have a contract extension as soon as possible. "He wants a tall receiver? Why did we draft Santonio?"

Holmes, who stands 5-11, led the Steelers with eight touchdowns and 942 yards receiving last season, on 52 catches. His 18.1 yards per catch were higher than any of the top 50 receivers in the NFL. Ward led them with 71 receptions despite playing much of the season with a sprained knee and caught seven touchdown passes. Nate Washington, who stands 6-1, was third with 29 catches.

"I don't buy into height,'' said Ward, one of four finalists for the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year award that will be chosen next week. "Look at my red-zone touchdowns -- I have as many as anyone in the league.''

Since 2002, Ward is tied for second in the league in percentage of touchdowns in the red zone, described by the NFL as inside the 20. Moss is first with 36 percent and Ward, Harrison and Terrell Owens are tied with 33 percent.

That's why Roethlisberger's appeal for a tall receiver to help in the red zone hurt Ward, who holds most Steelers receiving records to go along with his four Pro Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl MVP award.

"In the red zone, it's nice to have a guy like that,'' Roethlisberger said of wanting a taller receiver. "Obviously, we have a guy like Nate who can jump out of this world, he can jump so high. It's nice to have that.

"But to have a big guy who can create mismatches -- the same thing happened when Plax was here. So much presence went to Plax's side just because he's a big, good receiver, that Hines was always open or Antwaan [Randle El]. I just think it would open stuff up for us a lot more."

Said Ward, "I don't buy into the hype you have to be tall.

"You throw the ball up and give somebody a chance to make a play, I'll make as many catches as anyone.

The Steelers do have two tall receivers in 6-5 Heath Miller and 6-7 Matt Spaeth, both tight ends.

"If Ben wants a tall receiver to make him feel comfortable or whatever, maybe the organization will get him one,'' Ward said.

"To me, I like the four guys we have. This is Ben's first year with [coordinator] Bruce Arians, and he had a tremendous year, a Pro Bowl year. I think he's coming into his own. We have weapons, let's gel together a couple more years and let's see what happens.

"If they go and get a tall receiver in the first round, someone's got to lose a job. Now we had all these weapons around us, now what are we going to do?

"I was here with me, Plax and Antwaan; we had three deadly weapons. Did that win us a Super Bowl? No, the year we won the Super Bowl we had me, Antwaan and Cedrick Wilson. If there's a formula for bringing a tall guy in to win, I don't buy that."

He also did not buy Roethlisberger's opinion that because the 6-5 quarterback was throwing down to his smaller receivers, they got "killed" on occasion reaching up for passes. Roethlisberger said he'd like to throw to someone tall who is on his plane.

"A lot of that has to do with technique,'' Ward said. "If he wants to say it's height or whatever or he didn't see me -- I've caught 719 balls. I don't think me being short had anything to do with catching those balls.

"That's his opinion. Even with Plax and Kordell [stewart], I would be wide open in the red zone, but people get enamored of tall receivers -- 'I have to throw it to him, throw it to him.' Tom Brady looks at coverage. Me, I'd take a guy who will scratch and claw and do anything to get the ball rather than go with height."

Ward had surgery on his right knee Jan. 9 to repair a torn meniscus and said he will be good as new in about four weeks. He said the MCL and PCL in his right knee were torn Sept. 23 against San Francisco, causing him to miss two games. The meniscus was torn at St. Louis Dec. 20. He missed the season finale in Baltimore, then had his most productive playoff game with 135 yards on 10 catches in a loss to Jacksonville.

"I played all year on that one knee," Ward said. "As time went on, the knee got worse because I never let it rest ... That's why I didn't practice on Wednesdays and Thursdays, we were trying to let the PCL heal."

Ward said he talked to coach Mike Tomlin and his trainers about the option of surgery during the season vs. the risk of playing and making the knee worse. He preferred to play.

He said he'd like to play another three or four years and noted that at age 32 come March, he's only one year older than Burress, who turns 31 this year, and Moss; the same age as Torry Holt, and younger than Owens (34), Harrison (35) and Isaac Bruce (35).

"I have three, four good years left, I would like to think,'' Ward said.

"All these other guys are playing 12, 13 years and still going strong. Why can they go strong and 'Hines Ward will be the one to fall off.' I never could fathom that.

"There will always be question marks around me because I'm not the prototypical guy, not flashy. But I've shown you what I can do when they pass the ball."

"I was here with me, Plax and Antwaan; we had three deadly weapons. Did that win us a Super Bowl? No, the year we won the Super Bowl we had me, Antwaan and Cedrick Wilson. If there's a formula for bringing a tall guy in to win, I don't buy that."

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I don't think there was anything THAT bad about what Roethlisberger said.Hines Ward, as great as he is and as much as I love him, whines to the press like a b#$%h about something every offseason. Glad to see 2008 will be no different.

:shrug: I love Hines Ward, but the dude has very thin skin.
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Ed Bouchette on the Steelers: A history of Com-Plax-ityBurress' excellence in last week's NFC title game rekindles the debate over the decision the Steelers faced after the 2004 seasonSunday, January 27, 2008Pittsburgh Post-GazetteA four-year old debate re-appeared this past week because Plaxico Burress and the New York Giants landed in the Super Bowl.Should the Steelers have made a better effort to sign Burress to an extension in 2004, or before he became a free agent in 2005? As it was, they made little effort at all.Burress, a 6-foot-51/2 wide receiver, wanted a contract extension in the spring of 2004, his fifth and last year of the contract he signed as the eighth pick in the 2000 draft. When talks went nowhere, Burress skipped a required minicamp that May, which incensed coach Bill Cowher.Burress, though, reported to training camp on time and finished out his last season. He signed with the New York Giants as a free agent in March 2005 for $25 million over six years, including a $5 million signing bonus.The Steelers may not have tried harder to sign Burress because they did not think they could afford both him and Hines Ward, whom they wanted to sign in 2005 when he had one year left on his contract. They also knew that if they gave Burress a huge deal in 2004, they would have to give Ward a better one in 2005 or lose him.Basically, the Steelers believed they had to make a choice between Burress and Ward and they chose Ward. Since then, Burress has had good success with the New York Giants. He still has not made a Pro Bowl, but that does not mean he is not important to the Giants and quarterback Eli Manning.In the Giants' overtime victory in Green Bay in the NFC championship game, Burress caught 11 passes for 154 yards. He had his third-most productive pro season in 2007 with 70 catches for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns, fighting through a painful right ankle injury all season.It's the same kind of injury that Steelers halfback Barry Foster had in 1993. Foster, against the club's wishes, decided to have surgery on his ankle, ending his season, rather than waiting. Burress opted to play on.Although Burress has at times irked coach Tom Coughlin because he works out in Miami much of the offseason rather than in New York, Coughlin told me last March that he loves the guy. Coughlin said he and Burress not only get along but that Burress has been good in their locker room. Burress also was voted by New York writers as their version of the Chief Award for his willingness to assist them in their jobs.So, should the Steelers have tried to keep him? Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger after his rookie season and only year playing with Burress, asked them to keep him. They wound up signing Hines Ward that summer and then won a Super Bowl in 2005 without Burress.So, in that sense, they made the right decision. But they drafted Burress eighth, their second-highest draft choice since Terry Bradshaw was picked No. 1 in 1970. You'd think they might have tried a little harder to keep him. He showed how good he could be in 2002 when, with Ward setting a team record with 112 receptions, Burress caught 78 passes for 1,325 yards.Also, had they kept Burress they would not have had to draft a wide receiver to replace him in 2006, when they traded up to take Santonio Holmes in the first round. Instead, they might have drafted a center to replace Jeff Hartings -- Ohio State's Nick Mangold, drafted 29th by the New York Jets.Taller doesn't mean betterRoethlisberger's public plea for the Steelers to acquire a tall receiver elicited a predictable response from Ward -- who wasn't pleased.The quarterback said he could use a tall receiver in bailout situations -- when he's under a heavy pass rush -- and in the red zone. But the Steelers already provide him with those kinds of receivers. They have 6-5 Heath Miller and 6-7 Matt Spaeth. Perhaps they are tight ends and not wide receivers, but they ARE receivers.Tall wide receivers are difficult to find, at least good ones. The Steelers drafted one in the fourth round in 2005, 6-4 Fred Gibson, and they cut him before the season began. They drafted 6-3 Dallas Baker on the seventh round this year and he wound up on their practice squad.When the 6-5 1/2 Burress played here, he did not perform particularly well in the red zone anyway. The biggest misunderstanding was that he should be thrown the fade pass. They tried. Burress had terrible timing; he also did not jump very well and went down easily after the catch.Miller has the potential to be a great red zone receiver, and if they feel the need for someone taller, they should use him more often. But I can't remember a Steelers receiver who was so good at catching a ball inside the 10 and fighting his way into the end zone the way Ward has during his career.The bottom line is what counts: The end zone fade caught by someone 6-5, or the touchdown scored by the 6-foot receiver who fought through three tackles at the 5 to cross the goal line.Officially speaking, they've been awfulThe officiating in the Steelers playoff loss to Jacksonville earlier this month was terrible, but that's the way it's been throughout the postseason.The officiating in the playoffs has been worse than in regular-season games.A big reason, I believe, is because they split up the crews during the playoffs. A crew spends its entire season together, learning each other's work habits and pace and mannerisms, and calling games a certain way.Then the NFL assigns officials based not on how these crews perform as a group, but by grading each individual official. It then assigns officials to the playoffs based on those grades.Football likes to call itself the ultimate team sport, yet in the playoffs it breaks up its teams of officials -- and not for the better.

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Zabransky set to sign with Steelers on Monday

Taken from Scout's Steelers homer board...

Idaho Statesman

:thumbup:

Good signing, the guy has a legit chance to make the team.

I like it too!

As far as the taller receiver soap opera goes here is my take:

Ben: didn't say anything wrong. He was asked if he would like a tall receiver and he said yes. Next he'll be asking for a big lineman or two...

Hines: I am tired of his "I don't get no respect" routine.

Plax: Sure looked great against GB. His games like that with Pittsburgh were few and far between.

Pittsburgh Media: All of a sudden the Steelers made a mistake in not signing Burress? If the Giants would have lost last week this wouldn't even be a story.

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I don't think there was anything THAT bad about what Roethlisberger said.Hines Ward, as great as he is and as much as I love him, whines to the press like a b#$%h about something every offseason. Glad to see 2008 will be no different.

:sarcasm: I love Hines Ward, but the dude has very thin skin.
I love Roethlisburger, but there is a certain "high-and-mighty" overconfident feel about him when reading his press clippings. It might just be the same trait that makes him a good improvising QB, but he needs to be aware of the fragile nature of team chemistry fueled by the impressions of teammates and coaches. Even if it's true that you want tall WRs, it is better for the public and teammates to read and believe that you don't care how tall you WRs are as long as they have the guts to perform like the guys you have. Comment on what a wonderful year it was for the passing game, which supports that being tall is not as necessary as being strong... etc. etc. etc. Doesn't he have a PR guy?
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I don't think there was anything THAT bad about what Roethlisberger said.Hines Ward, as great as he is and as much as I love him, whines to the press like a b#$%h about something every offseason. Glad to see 2008 will be no different.

:thumbdown: I love Hines Ward, but the dude has very thin skin.
I love Roethlisburger, but there is a certain "high-and-mighty" overconfident feel about him when reading his press clippings. It might just be the same trait that makes him a good improvising QB, but he needs to be aware of the fragile nature of team chemistry fueled by the impressions of teammates and coaches. Even if it's true that you want tall WRs, it is better for the public and teammates to read and believe that you don't care how tall you WRs are as long as they have the guts to perform like the guys you have. Comment on what a wonderful year it was for the passing game, which supports that being tall is not as necessary as being strong... etc. etc. etc. Doesn't he have a PR guy?
Meh. He did complement Hines and his other receivers. This is just a case of nothing else to report and Hines overreacting a bit. It is no big deal an will soon be forgotten.
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