Monday, April 29, 2013

He is Miami's problem now

Darren Rovell retweeted a thought that former Steeler Mike Wallace shared regarding Monday's announcement from Jason Collins that he (i.e. Mr. Collins) is gay: has more.

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Draft wrap-up, looking back to look forward

Not sure how we managed to miss this in the run-up to the draft but the New York Times has a very cool, interactive tool that allows for looking at past 18 drafts (i.e. 1995-2012) to determine when the most productive players were chosen.

Oddly enough, using the criteria for productivity established by the Times, the most productive players go in the earliest picks.  But the 1999 draft features two of the best value picks from that period: Joey Porter (pick #73) and (one of our all time favorites) Aaron Smith (pick #109).

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Draft wrap-up, other opinions

At least one draft expert thinks that Le'Veon Bell is going to run for more than 1,000 yards during the 2013 season.

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Draft wrap-up

The grades for the performance by each team in the NFL Draft continue to come out (Mel Kiper gives the Steelers a B, while the Ravens and Bengals each get an A-, and Cleveland got a C+), and we thought we would share some quick thoughts on the Steelers haul of new players.

Sure we identified Tyler Eifert as the Steelers' guy, but you cannot fault the team for selecting Jarvis Jones (concerns about spinal stenosis notwithstanding) -- he excelled in the best collegiate football league, is very familiar with the 3-4 defensive scheme, and has the potential to be an impactful player from day one. We give the pick a thumbs up.
Player the Steelers should have taken instead?  No change.

The choice of Le'Veon Bell with the 48th overall pick is a little bit more of a head scratcher for us -- and not because we believed that the signing of LaRod Stephens-Howling almost certainly meant the Steelers would not take a running back on day two of the draft -- but mostly because none of the resources we consulted leading up to the draft identified this young man as being a second round talent.  Indeed the draft experts at ESPN had Mr. Bell rated as the 89th best player overall.  Yes, he fills a need, and yes he is a physical running back, but overreaching this way is a cause for concern.
Player the Steelers should have taken instead? Arthur Brown, OLB, Kansas State.

Markus Wheaton, the 79th overall selection, intrigues us greatly.  We are familiar with Pac-12 football, and love Mike Reilly's pro-style, gadget laden offense, and the coverage reads that Mr. Wheaton was expected to make in the Oregon State offensive scheme are certain to help ease his transition to the NFL. Mr. Wheaton has speed to burn but he is very slight of build, and we believe can be physically dominated by stronger, bigger DBs at the line of scrimmage.
Player the Steelers should have taken instead? Jonathan Franklin, RB, UCLA.

As for the fourth round selection of Shamarko Thomas, all we can say is"wow."  The Steelers trade with a divisional opponent to move up to the 111th pick to get a player of real value (ranked 79th overall by ESPN).  We did not see a lot of Big East football in 2012 (frankly, it's unwatchable, but that is a post for another day), so Mr. Thomas' play is something with which we are relatively unfamiliar.  We like the physical dimensions of the player (a little shorter than we would prefer), and the reported . . . ferocity with which he supports the run. However, he has suffered from at least two concussions in the past two seasons, including a very scary incident last season versus Pitt.  On the human interest side of things, Mr. Thomas has a very compelling, albeit tragic, personal story.
Player the Steelers should have taken instead? Barrett Jones, C, Alabama.

Four choices later the Steelers get a quarterback, and a pretty decent one at that, in Landry Jones.  Some have questioned the choice, but we agree with Randy Fichtner -- it is time to "freshen the room" where quarterbacks are concerned.  Charlie Batch has been wonderful, and we always root for our hometown guys, but Landry Jones has the ability and experience to be an A+ backup and spot starter in the NFL.
Player the Steelers should have taken instead?  No change.

The selection of Terry Hawthorne -- a mediocre cover, good run support cornerback, with decent speed -- may yield dividends in the long run (after Carnell Lake has had some time to work with him) but the hope here is that he can have an immediate impact on special teams.  He is fast and likes to hit people, and there is always a place for someone like that on the team.
Player the Steelers should have taken instead?  Joshua Evans, S, Florida.

Justin Brown, the 186th selection, is someone who quit on Penn State (i.e. transferred after the imposition of NCAA penalties against the program), so we are inclined to just not like him.  But putting that aside, Mr. Brown went into Norman and became a favorite target of the Steelers' newest quarterback, Landry Jones (66 catches 822 yards, four touchdowns during the regular season).  Mr. Brown has good size (6'3", 207 lbs.) and decent speed.
Player the Steelers should have taken instead?  Stacy McGee, DT, Oklahoma.

As for Vince Williams, the 206th choice, we believe that this was a steal.  A solid inside linebacker who is strong against the run, effective in short to medium pass coverage, and great football instincts.  Despite some injury concerns in previous seasons, Mr. Williams played in every game of the 2012 season.
Player the Steelers should have taken instead?  No change.

Last, but not least is the project that is Nicholas Williams. He has above average physical tools, but is still relatively new to the game of football (i.e. just one year in high school). This is an inspired choice, and if the Steelers can keep this Mr. Williams on the practice squad for a season we may see a defensive contributor in the future.
Player the Steelers should have taken instead?  No change.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Guess the Steelers did not like Ahmad Bradshaw's foot after all

Adam Schefter, prohibited by ESPN from tipping picks in last night's first round of the NFL draft reports that the Steelers have signed free agent running back LaRod Stephens-Howling:

One might reasonably speculate that this signing reduces the possibilities of the Steelers drafting a running back, at least in rounds two and three.

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The reason Jarvis Jones wasn't a top ten pick

To hear Kevin Colbert talk about  Jarvis Jones one might think the Steelers had drafted James Harrison in his prime.  But if the young man is such a great player -- and we're not saying that he isn't -- then how did he get to #17?

As alluded to by Mr. Colbert, the slow 40-yard dash time certainly helped.  But the other part of the story is the condition spinal stenosis, which Mr. Jones suffers from.  Indeed, the football factory at Southern Cal was concerned enough about it to prohibit him from playing football.  So what is spinal stenosis and how concerned should Steelers fans (and Mr. Jones himself) be?

The simple explanation, as we have all heard, is that spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal column.  More specifically, according to the Mayo Clinic, the condition "can put pressure on [the] spinal cord and the nerves that travel through the spine."  Sounds like it could be painful, but the Mayo Clinic points out that some people have no symptoms whatsoever.  But those who do can suffer from "pain, numbness, muscle weakness, and problems with bladder or bowel function."

But, based upon the examination by both NFL and Steelers medical staff, it would seem that Mr. Jones is one of the lucky individuals who is symptom free -- good news, right?  If there is one cautionary bit of information for all concerned there is this factoid: "Spinal stenosis is most commonly caused by wear-and-tear changes in the spine related to aging."  So, the fact that a young man already has the condition does not auger well for Mr. Jones given the severe wear-and-tear of aging in the National Football League.

Further, there has been at least one study that demonstrated that football players with spinal stenosis were more likely to suffer from so-called "stingers" or "burners."  And another study found that such injuries are the second-most common injury amongst football players, and that "congenital spinal stenosis has been found in over 50% of players with this condition."

There is a lot of happiness within the Steelers community over the pick of Mr. Jones, and Mr. Jones himself seems quite pleased. But the trajectory of his career is a long way from being known, and we can only hope that the physical condition that contributed to pushing him down the draft board does not negatively impact his ability to contribute on the field.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

It's draft day!

A couple more mock drafts -- best to get them out now because the shelf life on these things is minimal -- for your consideration.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Mark Kaboly says it will be Kenny Vaccaro for the Steelers. What interests me about this mock draft is that Mr. Kaboly has both Sheldon Richardson, the DT from Missouri, and Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame still on the board when the Steelers make their selection.

Both Richardson and Eifert are evaluated as better athletes than Mr. Vaccaro, as well as being more impactful at the respective positions.  One cannot argue with Mr. Kaboly's thinking (i.e. with Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark both getting older it is time to bring in an eventual replacement), but emphasizing need over best athlete is how teams get into long-term trouble.

Meanwhile Mike Mayock at the NFL Network and has released his mock draft (on live television Wednesday evening no less), and he says the Steelers' choice will be Jarvis Jones (with Tyler Eifert at #13 to the Jets, Sheldon Richardson at #14 to Carolina, and Kenny Vaccaro going at #16 to the Rams.  That scenario makes the choice of Mr. Jones more sensible).

Last, but not least, the irascible Ed Bouchette  of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has released his mock draft (with only slightly less fanfare than Mr. Mayock), and he says the choice at #17 will be Jarvis Jones.  The shock, to us at least, about this mock draft is that Sheldon Richardson is nowhere to be found (i.e. he falls out of the first round).  Other aspects of Mr. Bouchette's mock draft have us wondering:
  • Sharif Floyd, DT, Florida, who most mock drafts have in the top five falls to #10 (Tennessee).
  • Eddie Lacy moves into the first round (#22, St. Louis).
  • Jonathan Cooper, an outstanding OG from North Carolina, falls to the Cowboys at #18.
  • Tyler Eifert falls to #30 (Atlanta).
Finally, we will just reiterate that our prediction for the Steelers is Tyler Eifert.

Enjoy the draft!

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Gerry Dulac gives us a heads-up

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac has posted a portion of his PG+ article on, and he wants us to know that the Steelers are looking beyond the obvious names.

How far beyond the obvious?  Try Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State (#36 in Mike Mayock's top 100) and Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State (#26 on that same list).

We respect all the Steelers' beat writers, and are fairly certain that they are far more knowledgeable than us, but if the team is to take an inside linebacker at that point in the draft then why not take Kevin Minter out of LSU?

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James Harrison made an expensive mistake

Jason La Canfora tweets the particulars about James Harrison's contract with the Bengals:

Giving away that kind of money, especially near the end of one's career, is breathtaking.

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With the seventeenth selection in the 2013 draft the Pittsburgh Steelers select . . .

We just are not up for the job of creating an actual mock draft, but thought we would take a moment to predict just who the Steelers will select in Thursday's first round.

After consulting myriad mock drafts, as well as player evaluations, here's who we think will be the top players still available when Pittsburgh makes their first round selection:

  • Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
  • Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
  • Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
  • Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
More than a few mock drafts have the Steelers addressing their need at the OLB position by choosing Mr. Jones, and we understand that.  But the physical issues (i.e spinal stenosis), combined with his age (24), and the perception that he is not as stout against the run as some might like do not make this selection a slam dunk.

Meanwhile, there is Tyler Eifert, the 6'5", 250 lb. tight end out of Notre Dame. With Heath Miller out for an indefinite period, and despite the re-signing of Matt Spaeth (really??), a selection of Mr. Eifert would provide a solution to two problems the Steelers face -- a depleted receiving corps and a lack of an impactful player at the tight end position.  The knock on Mr. Eifert is that he is a below average blocker, at least at this point, and that is a shortcoming that the Steelers are sure to consider very carefully.

With the advancing age of the Steelers' two safeties now might be the time to bring in a young player at that position, and Kenny Vaccaro -- a top 20 talent according to most evaluators -- could be that player.  Decent size, and strong to defend the run, he would seem to have many of the traits Dick LeBeau looks for.  On the downside, Mr. Vaccaro is seen as a "one speed" athlete who cannot maintain contact with elite receivers.

Finally, there is Sheldon Richardson.  On the surface a choice like this does not seem to make a lot of sense.  The Steelers have invested draft choices in the recent past to the defensive line, Steve McLendon has a new, three-year contract, and Casey Hampton could be re-signed.  But Mr. Richardson is perceived by evaluators as a top-10 talent, strong against the run and an above average pass rusher who could bring good pressure up the middle.

So who doe we think the Steelers will choose?  The guess here is that Jason Worilds is going to get his chance to replace James Harrison (the Steelers may look to later rounds for linebackers in order to address depth issues) meaning that Jarvis Jones will not be the selection.

We further submit that, despite our arguments for Sheldon Richardson, Kevin Colbert, et al, will not select a defensive lineman.

Which leaves us with Tyler Eifert and Kenny Vaccaro. A look at the current roster reveals that there are 13 defensive backs on the Steelers' roster . . . there have to be a couple who are capable of stepping in for Ryan Clark and/or Troy Polamalu, right?  But with the loss of Heath Miller the tight end group might well be the weakest position on the Steelers.  That, combined with the loss of Mike Wallace, seems to point to Tyler Eifert as the choice this coming Thursday.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

More Mock Drafts

As we get closer to the start of round one of the NFL Draft our collective obsession grows.  Here are some more mock drafts (some more obscure than others) and the player they are predicting the Steelers will choose.

San Jose Mercury News: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia

Football Nation: Jarvis Jones.

The Wichita Eagle: Jarvis Jones. (seven rounds): Matt Elam, S, Florida., Kevni Minter, ILB, LSU. Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M. David Bakhtiari, OT, Colorado.  Stefphon Jefferson, RB, Nevada. David Bass, DE, Missouri Western.  Edmund Kugbila, OG, Valdosta State. Lawrence Okoye, DE, Great Britain. (Lawrence Okoye is a British track & field athlete who has never played American football.  To read more about him click here.)

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Who's the best of the best?

In our continuing run-up to the NFL draft we share a list of the Mike Mayock's top 100 players. The seventeenth best player available?  Kenny Vaccaro, safety, Texas.

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A mock draft rundown

We have never pretended to be experts on anything, and most of our musings have proven that fact.  So instead of throwing together a mock draft of our own, that would likely feature 32 incorrect picks per round, we offer a metadraft -- a view of what all the real "experts" are saying about this week's NFL draft and who the Steelers are likely to choose. We like Charley Casserly and Gil Brandt, but a few of the folks providing a prediction on picks are unknown to us.  Anyway, of the 11 mock drafts, only eight go as far as pick #17.  Five have the Steelers choosing a wide receiver, two an outside linebacker (Jarvis Jones), and one a cornerback.

SBNation: They are pointing to Cordarrelle Patterson, wide receiver from Tennessee, as the Steelers' guy. Six mock drafts, including one from Pat Kirwan.  Two have the Steelers taking a tight end (Tyler Eifert) and two have them take Jarvis Jones.

Los Angeles Times Bleacher Report: Nothing drives internet traffic like an NFL mock draft, and so it is no surprise that a major metropolitan newspaper (or ten) is getting into the act.  Their pick for Pittsburgh: Texas safety, Kenny Vaccaro.

DraftTek: This is a new one for us, and we are impressed with the fact that they "use a computer model to simulate a 7-round . . . draft."  Their computer model has the Steelers taking Jarvis Jones in the first round.

Scott Wright's Draft Countdown: One of our favorites -- good synopses for all the players, and a nice online layout -- has the Steelers choosing Cordarrelle Patterson in round one, and Eddie Lacy, running back from Alabama, in round two.

Ourlads: Nobody does player evaluation like these guys!  Indeed, there's more information available from them (much of it by subscription) than the average fan could digest.  Their choice for the Steelers is Keenan Allen, wide receiver from Cal.

Mel Kiper, ESPNInsider (subscription required): The Godfather of draft analysis, the man who launched a million mock drafts.  He sees Tyler Eifert as the man for Pittsburgh.

Don Banks, Sports Illustrated: Kenny Vaccaro, safety, Texas. Jarvis Jones.

Pro Football Weekly: Some of the best reporting on the NFL happens here, and their mock draft tabs Damontre Moore, LB/DE, Texas A&M as the Steelers' guy.

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OTA Schedule & Mandatory Minicamp

With the NFL draft this week it is good to be aware of when the newest Pittsburgh Steelers (whomever they might end up being) could be expected to begin their careers. With that in mind, here are the dates for organized team activities (OTAs):
  • May 21-23
  • May 28-30
  • June 3-6
All of that will point to a mandatory minicamp, scheduled to be held June 11-13.

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