Friday, July 29, 2011

Steelers Free Agency

Sorry for the lateness. A lot of things, including job searching and general laziness.  The best news of free agency, even though the Steelers don't do a lot of it, is re-signing Ike Taylor.  That's according to this bit of news, which was a couple days ago actually, but click on the highlighted wording within and it's according to a reporter that's it's for less money.  Frankly, I could care less if it's only for a $100, which he wouldn't need more since he made a lot in years past, but it's good that he's returning to the 'burgh.  Talk about overconfidence, so to speak, but the front office were serious about getting Ike back.  Now, granted, he's not Nnamdi or Cromartie or Johnathan Joseph who are all much better cover guys in terms of coverage skills and ball hawking style, but Ike's been consistently reliable.  Now we have to see if they can develop another corner in their rookies or, however unlikely, free agency.  Gay and Mcfadden aren't any good at all, and William Gay should just be in package situations like we've seen and a friend of mine, the founder of this blog, have said.  McFadden's ok, I guess, but he's not really reliable anymore since leaving Pittsburgh and I hope the Steelers can pull off miracles with the secondary.

Speaking of leaving, the official Steelers site has said so long to Randle El.  It's been fun.  Well, not really, cause he's not the receiving threat Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, and Antonio Brown are.  He's just too old in terms of playing, plus we've got other guys in special teams to do so.  He's just a mentor but it was good that he came back for less money, even though he didn't do a whole lot.  Max Starks is leaving too, if the reports are right. Personally, I can't say how well a guy does in blocking and pass protection cause it's really up close and I've never played football before.  You need, however, guys who won't just be stiffs and can move around to hold off pass rushers.  Starks probably just wasn't the player they thought he was but I can't say because you don't have stats for playing on the O-line, except for dumb penalties  (false starts, anyone?).  They may want Flozell Adams to be back in his original right tackle position if the Gazette's right and Starks is left tackle.  Shifting guys around isn't a great idea unless they can play multiple positions on the line, which is the case with Mike Pouncey.  Still, I prefer guys to play what they are best known for or at least most familiar with.  The o-line, however, had to do that cause of injuries so we'll have to see if the Steelers can develop their new offensive guys well enough to play average ball, at least, cause they need to stay in games if they want to win the Super Bowl.  The Steelers have improved the run game, even with a mediocre line, but Ben's still getting killed.  We'll see how the o-line turns out this season with the changes.

One thing the Post-Gazette mentions, however, is Aaron Smith's likelihood of returning to the team.  He's due for $4.5 million, I believe, this season but he's in talks to restructure his contract.  It'd be great to have him back, but injuries have affected him the past two seasons and it's easy to take for granted him just being there cause we've seen how the d-line has been affected by his absence a couple years back and this past season.  Granted, Ziggy Hood stepped up but he's no Aaron yet cause he's still young.  Aaron Smith should just retire as a Steeler cause that's what he should be remembered as and be a coach.  Who else to teach the new blood youngsters how to come off the line and get around blockers to pressure the QB and stop the run game?  In all seriousness, he's a leader for the team even though we generally don't see it.  I'd like to see one more year from Aaron Smith and have him leave as a Steeler and nothing else, but that's a pipe dream cause it's hard for guys to actually finish their careers with a particular team.

Another thing to consider is the fact that the Steelers have signed 21 undrafted free agents, according to the team's official site.  Granted, not many will make it in terms of playing on the team but they should at least be prepared for it.  The surprise for me, though, was John Clay, the running back from Wisconsin.  I thought he would've been drafted but he wasn't, probably because running backs aren't as highly sought after this year or as before cause it's all about passing the ball.  But he's definitely a good back, if not great.  Seeing him play a couple times on TV, he is definitely a bruiser type back as he showed against Ohio State last season and can be a workhorse.  He and Mendenhall should be a great combo if Clay can make the team.  It's just Mewelde Moore and Isaac Redman maybe the ones left out.  Hopefully we can keep them cause we could use Mewelde in special teams, Redman I don't know but he showed what he could do when handed the ball.  We'll have to see.

The Steelers have signed another QB, and he's from a small college in Illinois according to the team site.  I don't know why they signed one, but the team's official site said Dennis Dixon's a restricted free agent this year.  Don't know if he'll be traded but I think it's the case of being safe than sorry.  Another thing to notice is the Steelers signed a rookie punter,  Aaron Bates, who was also a holder at Michigan State University.  He had a punting average of 42.0 to go with 260 career punts while at the school.  Personally, punting isn't all that great when you consider where you're punting from (who wants to punt from their own end zone? Anybody?) and who's getting the ball (Devin Hester? Wes Welker?), so the punting average I have to be wary of cause those yards and air time depend on weather conditions if you're not in an indoor stadium and where on the field you're doing the punting from.  Still, field position is important, so if you're punting from midfield, you have a great chance for your punter to pin the opposing team deep within their own territory, preferably avoiding the automatic ball placing at the 20-yard line after the touchback and having it as close to their own 1 without going into the endzone.  Free agency wise, Daniel Sepulveda's an unrestricted free agent this year so it has to be a safety measure as he's likely to be gone.  Fortunately, the Steelers think ahead of these things but Sepulveda's had injury problems ever since he entered the league back in 2007.  He missed the rest of last season due to injury and he missed the Super Bowl winning year entirely in 2008-09 cause of injury.  I don't believe he was injured in his rookie year but I thought he was.  Still, the Steelers signing a rookie punter must mean a new direction, so we'll see how this goes.

In other bit of news, Matt Spaeth's gone to the Chicago Bears.  David Johnson's probably the guy to take his place, but I thought he was an O-lineman cause of his size.  He would've been great as a run blocker and pass protector.  Still, the Steelers also signed another undrafted free agent at tight end according to the official website.  We'll see how that turns out too cause Heath Miller's getting closer to 30 and we need people to step up for the old guys.  Still, it's not a huge loss but I sincerely hope Heath's not going to be dumped with all the responsibilities outside of the receivers like Hines Ward and Mike Wallace.  We could use another tight end who will help in their own way like Hines being a slot, route running type of guy while Wallace is the speedy deep threat who's still improving and showed it last season.  We need someone else to help take the focus off of Heath.  I'm sure Tomlin knows what to do, but we'll wait and see how the new guys learn from the veterans.

Sorry for this jumbled late post, but I wanted to recap free agency when it's not so hectic.  Still have some big names out there not yet signed, but I'll cover it when more news involving the Steelers pop up.  Look for another post, hopefully soon but one should be up later today.  Till then, peace out Steeler fans!

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