Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Prospect Visits: Day 3

Every year, each team gets to bring in 30 draft prospects for individual meetings and workouts with the team. For an insider's look at what goes on during these Player Visits, check out this podcast from former Ravens & Browns scout Daniel Jeremiah at Move The Sticks. (Here's a full list of his podcasts -- you can also find them on iTunes under "Move The Sticks"). To try to give you all the most information possible about the prospects the Steelers are bringing in for workouts, we compiled rankings from four different scouting websites: Draft Breakdown, Mocking the Draft, NFL House, and Scar Draft. We highly recommend all of them as a go-to sources for draft information. You can find quick-links to all of our recommended draft sites under the "Draft Resources" tab at the far right of the menu bar at the top of the page. You can also find a log of all the draft prospects the Steelers have brought in under the "NFL Draft Preview" tab.

Today was the first day the Steelers brought in players that are viable candidates for their first round selection. Kyle Wilson (CB-Boise St) is considered by many to be the top man-on-man cover corner in the draft. Kareem Jackson (CB-Alabama) also has first round talent, and is one of's Red Star Players.

"Players Receiving the Draft Breakdown Red Star are considered by us to be the "complete package." These are all around football players that have limited to no off-field issues and can step in and make an immediate impact on any team; even as a special teams or situational player." - Draft Breakdown Rankings Page

Kyle Wilson (CB-Boise St)
5'10" 194 lbs
Draft Breakdown: #20 overall, #2 CB
Mocking the Draft: #29 overall, #2 CB
NFL House: #19 overall, #3 CB
Scar Draft: #11 overall, #1 CB

Projected Round: 1st

Kyle Wilson is one of the top CB's in this draft, and it's great to see the Steelers bringing him and Kareem Jackson in. What does this mean? It means that the team is taking a serious look at improving the secondary early in the draft. Wilson is the best cover corner in the draft and could definitely excel in the Steelers system. As an added bonus, he has some experience with returning kicks. Wilson is very high on our wish list, and we would love to see him in black and gold next year.

Kareem Jackson (CB-Alabama)
5'10" 196 lbs
Draft Breakdown: Red Star Player, #33 overall, #4 CB
Mocking the Draft: #48 overall, #5 CB
NFL House: #82 overall, #8 CB
Scar Draft: #59 overall, #5 CB

Projected Round: 1st-2nd

Jackson is widely considered one of the top 5 corners in the draft and could go anywhere from the mid-20s in the first round to the end of the second round. Chances are he'll go late in the first or early in the second, as there are a lot of teams at the back end of the draft that could use help at cornerback. The Steelers pick at 18 may be a little too early to take a player like Jackson (because there will likely be better players available). However, if he falls to the Steelers in the second round, we would be landing a solid player that could step in right away, particularly on Special Teams.

Nolan Carroll (CB-Maryland)
5'11" 204 lbs
Draft Breakdown: #26 CB
Mocking the Draft: unranked
NFL House: unranked
Scar Draft: #34 CB

Projected Round: 5th-Undrafted

Carroll was considered one of the better cover corners in the nation entering last season, but he suffered a broken leg in the second game of the year. He did not attend the combine and the Steelers likely brought him in so they could get a sense of how well he has recovered from his injury. He posted a sub-4.4 40 at his pro day, and if he proves to scouts and teams that he is well on the way to a full recovery, he could be a steal in the later rounds of the draft.

Joe Webb (WR/QB-UAB)
6'3" 222 lbs
Draft Breakdown: #33 WR
Mocking the Draft: #20 QB
NFL House: unranked
Scar Draft: #277 overall, #31 WR

Projected Round: 6th-undrafted

Webb played QB at UAB and is attempting to make the transition to Wide Receiver for the NFL. The Steelers already brought Antwaan Randle El back, so drafting Webb would give them two of these conversion-type players. Given the Steelers depth on their roster, there isn't room on the 53-man roster for a "project" player like Webb. If the Steelers do draft him, it's likely he would spend the first year on the practice squad.

Albert McClellan (LB-Marshall)
6'2" 252 lbs
Draft Breakdown: unranked
Mocking the Draft: unranked
NFL House: #34 DE
Scar Draft: #22 3-4 OLB

Projected Round: 7th-undrafted

McClellan is a classic "Tweener." He played DE in college, but projects more as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. The Steelers have two great 3-4 OLBs in Harrison and Woodley, but they lack depth behind them. Harrison is 32, and despite the contract extension he signed last year, it wouldn't hurt for the Steelers to attempt to add some depth behind the two.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

NFC East Draft Outlook

Over the next few weeks in the run up to the NFL Draft on April 22-24, we will be previewing the draft needs of all 32 teams. We continue today with the NFC East. Check out the NFC West, NFC South, and NFC North previews as well.

2009 Record: 11-5
NFC East Champions, Lost 34-3 to Minnesota in NFC Divisional game

Draft Picks: 27 (1-27), 59 (2-27), 90 (3-26), (4-27), (6-27), (7-27)

Is it odd to say a teams biggest need is a kicker? This very well might be the case with Dallas. They need some help along both lines and in the secondary, but their most glaring need is a kicker that can routinely make short field goals and extra points. Chances are, the Giants won't take a kicker until the 6th round, but they are one of the leading contenders in that market.

The Cowboys have a definite need to get younger along their O-line, and many believe that LT Flozell Adams is now more of a liability than an asset. If the Cowboys want a top-tier offensive lineman, they may have to trade up in the draft to grab one.

2009 Record: 11-5
Wild Card, Lost 34-14 to Dallas in NFC Wild Card game

Draft Picks: 24 (1-24), 55 (2-23), 70 (3-6), 87 (3-23), (4-23), (6-31)

At the beginning of last season, everyone was crowning the Eagles as NFC Champs. They didn't even win their division after an utter flop against Dallas at the end of the season. To make matters worse, they came out and flopped again in the playoffs. Philly let RB Brian Westbrook go, and is still searching for a back to complement Shady McCoy. They also need some help on defense - particularly at safety. We really don't like Taylor Mays, so we're hoping that Philly is dumb enough to draft him. Chances are he'll continue failing in coverage at the NFL level. Philly may draft him with the notion of moving him to linebacker.

Our Take:

2009 Record: 8-8

Draft Picks: 15 (1-15), 46 (2-14), 76 (3-12), (4-17), (5-16), (6-15), (7-14)

The Giants came out of the gate strong last year, but their once-strong defense got torn apart, both on the ground and through the air down the stretch. The Giants need some serious help on defense, particularly in the secondary. That being said, the only place the Giants really don't need an upgrade is at DE. Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora are great bookend rushers.

The Giants are in play to take any defensive player on the board, regardless of position. They made a big splash in free agency by signing Safety Antrel Rolle from Arizona. With the departure of MLB Antonio Pierce, the Giants will look for a leader who can step in in the middle of the defense. This puts Missouri LB Sean Weatherspoon clearly in play for New York. While 15 might be a little high for Spoon, he is also a possibility for the Steelers and Falcons, so the Giants would likely lose out if they traded back. The Giants have been active in draft-day trades before, so don't be surprised if they make a move to move up or down.

2009 Record: 4-12

Draft Picks: 4 (1-4), 37 (2-5), (4-5), (5-4), (7-4)

Washington is a prime candidate for a team to be picking at the top of the 2011 draft. Surprisingly, they haven't thrown money around in Free Agency like many expected they would. Their biggest signings have been QB Rex Grossman and RB Larry Johnson. Jason Campbell will likely be the starter again, and with the retirement of All-Pro tackle Chris Samuels, the 'Skins offensive line needs help this offseason. Campbell can be an effective quarterback, but he needs a running game to support him. When the Redskins started the 2008 season 6-2, their offense ran through Clinton Portis. During their collapse, they had poor offensive line play, which led to more sacks and an inability to run the ball. Last year, well, the team was a disaster.

Kevin from HogsHaven dropped some knowledge on us about the Redskins situation. The Hogs Haven folks are on Twitter as well.

1. What do you see as the biggest need(s) for your team to address this offseason?

Without question the OLine. Jason Campbell got consistently creamed and the running game was non-existent. The Redskins didn't have a RT last year, started 8 different right guards last year, and lost their book-end LT, Chris Samuels, to retirement. The problem cannot be ultimately fixed in one off-season, but the Left Tackle MUST be addressed.

2. Have they addressed any of these so far in Free Agency? Which do you think are better addressed in the Draft?

They have not. They signed Artis Hicks, but he is not a bookend LT or RT, two empty positions right now in Washington

3. Who is on your draft wish list?

Russell Okung.

Our Take:

Mike Shanahan was brought in in the offseason to turn things around. It starts with the draft. He needs to land 2 NFL-ready players with his first two picks, because the Redskins don't have many picks in the draft and have a ton of holes. Popular opinion says they need to take either a QB or OT with the #4 overall pick. If Russell Okung is taken in the top 3, Washington might be better off to trade down to try to acquire some more picks. Or draft Bradford or Clausen and groom them as the heir apparent to Campbell. If they do land Okung at #4, they will be in great position to take Colt McCoy at the top of the 2nd round.

Day 2 of Player Visits

Every year, each team gets to bring in 30 draft prospects for individual meetings and workouts with the team. For an insider's look at what goes on during these Player Visits, check out this podcast from former Ravens & Browns scout Daniel Jeremiah at Move The Sticks. (Here's a full list of his podcasts -- you can also find them on iTunes under "Move The Sticks"). To try to give you all the most information possible about the prospects the Steelers are bringing in for workouts, we compiled rankings from four different scouting websites: Draft Breakdown, Mocking the Draft, NFL House, and Scar Draft. We highly recommend all of them as a go-to sources for draft information. You can find quick-links to all of our recommended draft sites under the "Draft Resources" tab at the far right of the menu bar at the top of the page. You can also find a log of all the draft prospects the Steelers have brought in under the "NFL Draft Preview" tab.

Jacques McClendon (G-Tennessee)
6'3" 324 lbs
Draft Breakdown: #15 G
Mocking The Draft: unranked
NFL House: unranked
Scar Draft: #28 G

Projected Round 7th-undrafted

McClendon doesn't have a player profile on Scar Draft didn't rank him in his top 300 prospects. There are 255 picks in the draft. Chances are, McClendon isn't going to get drafted. He wasn't at the Combine, so it's likely that the Steelers brought him in in order to give their scouts a chance to evaluate him. He's a candidate to be picked up as an undrafted free agent if the Steelers like what they see.

Rodger Saffold (T-Indiana)
6'4" 316 lbs
Draft Breakdown: #52 overall, #7 OT
Mocking The Draft: #65 overall, #7 OT
NFL House: #95 overall, #9 OT
Scar Draft: #39 overall, #7 OT Player Bio
Projected Round: 2nd-3rd

There are 6 tackles widely identified by every scouting site that have the potential to go in the first round: Russell Okung, Brian Bulaga, Trent Williams, Anthony Davis, Bruce Campbell, and Charles Brown. Saffold is on the 3rd tier of tackles. He's not an elite prospect, nor is he worthy of a first round pick. He lacks the size to be an effective LT in the NFL, but he could move to RT or even inside to guard. He has good size and good quickness off the ball. To be honest, you won't hear us complain at all if the Steelers take an offensive lineman, regardless of the round. They need help on the line, and we trust Kevin Colbert to find the talent this team needs.

Monday, March 29, 2010

First Prospects in Town

Every year, each team gets to bring in 30 draft prospects for individual meetings and workouts with the team. For an insider's look at what goes on during these Player Visits, check out this podcast from former Ravens & Browns scout Daniel Jeremiah at Move The Sticks. (Here's a full list of his podcasts -- you can also find them on iTunes under "Move The Sticks"). Generally, there are a few different "types" of prospects that the Steelers will bring in. First, they will bring in players that they are looking to take in the first few rounds of the draft. Second, they will bring in guys that either didn't go to the combine or didn't do certain workouts at the combine to try to get a better evaluation on them. Finally, they will bring in guys that have had some injuries in their past to get them evaluated by their team doctors.

To try to give you all the most information possible about the prospects the Steelers are bringing in for workouts, we compiled rankings from four different scouting websites: Draft Breakdown, Mocking the Draft, NFL House, and Scar Draft. We highly recommend all of them as a go-to sources for draft information. You can find quick-links to all of our recommended draft sites under the "Draft Resources" tab at the far right of the menu bar at the top of the page.

Navorro Bowman (LB-Penn St)
6'1" 231 lbs
Draft Breakdown: #49 overall, #5 OLB
Mocking The Draft: #52 overall, #4 OLB
NFL House: #1 OLB
Scar Draft: #67 overall, #2 4-3 OLB

Projected Round: Late 1st-mid 2nd

Bowman is the biggest name that the Steelers brought in on the first day of prospect visits. Bowman has had a few injuries in the past, and it's likely that the Steelers wanted their doctors to check him out. To be honest, I have no idea where the Steelers would fit him into their system. Bowman is the prototypical 4-3 OLB. He's about 15 pounds too light for the ILB position in the Steelers 3-4, and I'm not sure how well he projects as a 3-4 OLB. That being said, Bowman has incredible instincts and sideline-to-sideline quickness. His natural position is in the 4-3 and while I love him as a player, I really don't see the Steelers picking him.

Michael Neal (DT-Purdue)
6'4" 302 lbs
Draft Breakdwon: #12 DT
Mocking the Draft: #126 overall, #16 DT
NFL House: unranked
Scar Draft: #83 overall, #8 3-4 DE

Projected Round: 5th-7th

Neal doesn't have the size to play nose tackle in the 3-4, but he could be a good fit at the DE spot. The Steelers are old along the defensive line, with only Ziggy Hood and Ra'Shon Harris (both chosen in last year's draft) the only players under 30. In the search to get younger along the defensive front, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Steelers use a mid-to-late round pick on a player like Neal. He has a high upside as a 3-4 end with good explosiveness and wouldn't be asked to step in right away and start, giving the coaches some time to mold him into a playmaker in the defensive line rotation.

Chris DeGeare (OG-Wake Forest)
6'4" 335 lbs
Draft Breakdown: unranked
Mocking the Draft: unranked
NFL House: unranked
Scar Draft: #280 overall, #17 G

Projected Round: 7th-undrafted

DeGeare was a highly touted prospect coming out of college, but was redshirted his junior year, and Steelers probably want to see if he's fully recovered from injury. The Steelers found Ramon Foster (OL-Tennessee) who started a few games for them on the O-line last year in the undrafted free agent market. I would be shocked to see the Steelers use a pick to take DeGeare, and if they do I doubt it will be before the 7th round. That being said, adding players to a weak O-line is never a bad thing, you never know when you'll find a steal in the late rounds.

Darrell Stuckey (S-Kansas)
6'1" 205 lbs
Draft Breakdown: #10 S
Mocking the Draft: #91 overall, #4 SS
NFL House: #13 S
Scar Draft: #93 overall, #9 S

Projected Round: 5th-6th

Stuckey is a rangy safety that is a very good tackler. The Steelers had some big-time problems with tackling in the secondary, particularly at the safety position, last year with Polamalu out. It's highly unlikely that Tyrone Carter comes back, particularly since he's on the wrong side of 30. Chances are the Steelers will look to continue to add youth to their secondary. With the addition of Will Allen from Tampa, any safety drafted would be the #2 backup and get some time to learn the system. We would love to see the Steelers take a safety in this draft, but we're hoping that they do it before Saturday.

Friday, March 26, 2010

NFC North Draft Outlook

Over the next few weeks in the run up to the NFL Draft on April 22-24, we will be previewing the draft needs of all 32 teams. We started with the NFC West and NFC South and continue today with the NFC North. Compensatory draft picks have been awarded, but we're too lazy to look them up for each team.

Big props to Ty from Lions in Winter and Ismael from Bears Hibernation for helping us out with these previews. Check out their blogs and on twitter (Ty) (Ismael).

2009 Record: 12-4
NFC North Champions, Lost 31-28 to New Orleans in NFC Championship Game

Draft Picks: 30 (1-30), 62 (2-30), 93 (3-30), (4-30), (5-30), (6-30), (7-30)

Minnesota's reign on the NFC North is dependent on what Brett Favre decides to do. In other words, he's coming back. Adrian Peterson needs to address his fumbling issues, and don't be surprised to see Minnesota go after another RB in the middle rounds of the draft to spell Peterson now that Chester Taylor has moved on. The biggest need is still at quarterback. They are obviously not sold on Tavaris Jackson and need to acquire a young gun to groom to replace Favre. On defense, they need some help in the secondary, specifically at cornerback.

Vikings bloggers were too busy trying to decide whether or not they would return to blogging to answer our questions. In the mean time, you can probably catch them doing Wrangler commercials.

2009 Record: 11-5
Wild Card, Lost 51-45 to Arizona in NFC Wild Card game

Draft Picks: 23 (1-23), 56 (2-24), 86 (3-23), (4-24), (5-23), (6-24), (7-23)

Aaron Rodgers is one tough dude, but he got sacked more than any other quarterback in the league. Green Bay needs to address their O-line in the draft, specifically their tackle situation. They could use some help on defense, specifically in the pass rusher department with the departure of Aaron Kampman. With Minnesota poised to be quarterback-less and Aaron Rodgers coming into his own, this division is Green Bay's for the taking.

We tried to get a Packers blogger to drop some knowledge on us, but they were too busy getting sacked by opposing defenses.

2009 Record: 7-9

Draft Picks: 75 (3-11), (4-11), (5-10), (6-12), (7-11)

Chicago is still living through the ramifications of the Jay Cutler trade. With no picks in the first two rounds of the draft, Lovie Smith will have his hands full trying to re-build this team into a contender. They obviously still need help on the outside at wide receiver. Their defense is only a shell of its former self and needs a complete reboot. Unfortunately for Chicago, they lack the draft picks to be able to get younger on the defensive side of the ball, and they lack anything of real value that could be traded for more picks.

Ismael Seguban, Chicago Bears Correspondent for who runs Bears Hibernation, was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about the Bears. If you'd like more info, check Ismael out on Twitter.

1. What do you see as the biggest need(s) for Chicago to address this offseason?

At the end of the season, the Bears needed to improve their pass rushing, blocking and depth at running back. On the first day of free agency, the Bears filled their biggest needs by acquiring Julius Peppers, added an extra blocker for Jay Cutler in adding Brandon Manumaleuna and bolstered their running game with Chester Taylor. The first day of free agency was the Bears draft this year as they don't have a first day draft pick to work with. The Bears still need to address the safety positions and possibly add depth to the cornerback position. With the splash they made on the first day of free agency I highly doubt the Bears will acquire another big name. Greg Olsen could possibly be on the trading block so I wouldn't be surprised if his name keeps floating in the rumor mill until the draft.

2. Have they addressed any of these so far in Free Agency? Which do you think are better addressed in the Draft?

In addition to acquiring the big 3 on the first day of free agency, acquiring a safety, cornerback or offensive line would also be in order although they might have enough money to get the big names that are still left like a Darren Sharper. I expect the Bears to take care of these needs by drafting a safety, cornerback and offensive lineman.

3. Who is on your draft wish list?

As a fan, I'm pretty happy with what the Bears did by acquiring Peppers, Taylor and Manumaleuna. As long as the Bears look to fill needs in their secondary and add depth to the offensive line, I'd be happy. It's kind of hard to project that late in the draft so I'm not really targeting anyone.

2009 Record: 2-14

Draft Picks: 2 (1-2), 34 (2-2), 66 (3-2), (4-2), (5-18), (7-7)

Detroit started their rebuilding process in the right way: firing Matt Millen. Without him running the team into the ground, the Lions rebounded from an 0-16 season to a 2-win year last year. With Matthew Stafford at the helm and Calvin Johnson on the outside, the Lions need to add playmakers to take the pressure off Johnson. On defense, the Lions still suck. Luckily for them, with the #2 pick in the draft they will be able to take either Ndamukong Suh (DT-Nebraska) or Gerald McCoy (DT-Oklahoma). Rumors have them tied to Russell Okung (OT-Oklahoma St), but their brass would need checked into a mental asylum if they pass on Suh. Their defense was dead last overall and 25th against the run last season. They have already addressed the pass-rushing aspect by adding Kyle Vanden Bosch at DE and now have to address their need on the interior.

Ty from Lions in Winter who deserves some kind of award for still blogging about the Lions despite the fact that they haven't had a winning season since 2000 was kind enough to answer a few questions for us. We also recommend following Ty on Twitter for everything Lions, general sports talk, and good humor.

1. What do you see as the biggest need(s) for your team to address this offseason?

Wow, where do I start? How about with the worst defense in the NFL for two years running?

The defensive line needs to be rebuilt. Outside of raw 2009 4th-rounder Sammie Hill, and inconsistent 2008 3rd-rounder Cliff Avril, the Lions have no defensive linemen who both fit what the Lions want to do on defense, and are under the age of 33. The secondary is in a similar position. 2009 2nd-round safety Louis Delmas is the only building block, and inconsistent veteran CB Philip Buchanon is . . . well, inconsistent. If MLB Larry Foote is not brought back, and 2009 third-rounder DeAndre Levy becomes the starter, OLB depth behind Ernie Sims and Julian Peterson is a need as well.

On offense, 2008 3rd-rounder Kevin Smith is exactly one step too slow to be a three-down feature back. Further, his midseason knee blowout means the Lions will have only Maurice Morris and 2009 6th-rounder Aaron Brown at tailback until Week 1 at the earliest. It sounds like drafting an explosive back is something the Lions would love to do, though I don't know if one will be available at the Lions' current slots. One of 2009's few young veteran additions, WR Bryant Johnson, was a total washout. Teams double- and triple-teamed Calvin Johnson with impunity; #2 WR is a huge need. OT Jeff Backus is coming off of a very solid year, and deserves to play next to a legitimate starter at left guard--incredibly, that's something he's never done. They'll look to finally fix that spot, too.

2. Which positions of need do you think would be better addressed in Free Agency? In the Draft?

Rookie WRs rarely make an impact, and 2009 3rd-rounder Derrick Williams was a total disappointment. I think a free agent WR like Nate Burleson would make a ton of sense. Rookie CBs usually have some ramp-up time, too, but I don't see a vet who'll be available. At RB I'd prefer to see the Lions bring in a cheaply available Willie Parker-type to compete with Maurice Morris and Aaron Brown--but as I said, the word is that the Lions are ready to throw down on an elite young talent. I'd love to see a rookie guard like Mike Iupati finally come in and lock down that revolving door for the next ten years.

Frankly, the Lions are a threat to take any position in any round, with the possible exceptions of QB and TE in the first few rounds--after that, depth pickups are an option there, too. Expect the Lions to continue to take the best player on their board.

3. Who is on your draft wish list?

With the Lions, the list of who I don't want is probably shorter. There's been a lot of drooling over DTs Gerald McCoy and Ndamukong Suh--and there's consensus that that's the biggest need. However, I worry about both of their long-term prospects within this defense (which emphasizes size and strength up front). I think the Lions will have serious reservations about drafting either guy if they don't weigh into the Combine at a lean 300+. Lots of people are going crazy over Eric Berry, but building the defense around two rangy, gambling, big-hitting safeties with enormous contracts seems like putting the cart before the horse.

I love CB Joe Haden, and MLB Rolando McClain--neither of them at #2 overall, though. The Lions would have to trade back a bit for that. In the second round and beyond, I like OG Mike Iupati, DT Geno Atkins (yeah, I know he's small, too), OL Ciron Black, and CB Kyle Wilson. WR Jordan Shipley would be a nice pickup if the Lions can't attract a veteran #2--or even if they can. There are a truckload of nice safeties that might be available at the top of the third or fourth rounds, too. Finally, a full-time kick returner would be really, really nice; bonus if he plays corner.

Our Take:

The Lions have done a good job in Free Agency addressing their needs - they picked up Kyle Vanden Bosh to play DE and traded for Corey Williams to play DT. That said, they need a big body in the middle to solidify the run defense and Suh or McCoy would fill that role perfectly. The Lions picked up Nate Burleson in Free Agency to step into the #2 receiver role to take some of the pressure off of Calvin Johnson. Don't be shocked if the Lions take a running back (either Jonathan Dwyer or Toby Gerhart) at to top of the 2nd round. Adding depth at cornerback is also a must for the Lions in this draft.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Compensatory Picks

The NFL meetings this week are very important for the upcoming season. Amongst other things, the schedule will be decided upon and released later this week.

Today, the NFL announced the Compensatory Picks for this year's draft.

For those of you who might not be familiar with Comp Picks, here's how they work. The NFL uses a formula of playing time, pay, etc to gauge the relative value of players a team lost in Free Agency in a given year vs the value they gained in Free Agency. After these values are determined, teams that are deemed to have lost more than they gained are awarded extra picks. There are 32 Comp Picks in all, and they can be awarded for any round between the 3rd and 7th. If less than 32 Comp Picks are able to be awarded, the rest of the remaining picks are awarded to the teams at the top of the draft, as if the first round were starting over.

This year, due to the losses of Bryant McFadden, Nate Washington, and Byron Leftwich, the Steelers were awarded 3 compensatory picks. They were given two 5th round picks (picks #164 and #166) and a 7th round pick (pick #242). A full list of the picks can be found here.

Unlike regular draft picks, comp picks can not be traded. However, given that the Steelers now have 3 picks in the 5th round, it is possible they may try to use their 5th round pick in a trade package if they want to move up in an earlier round of the draft. The Steelers have been active in draft-day trades over the past decade, and it would not be surprising to see them make a move this year, either to trade down to acquire more picks, or to trade up to take a player they really want.

Over the next few weeks, the Steelers will be able to bring in up to 30 players for visits. They have already scheduled visits with a few including Idaho guard Mike Iupati, Penn State linebackers Navarro Bowman and Sean Lee, Illinois WR Arrelious Benn, Oregon RB LeGarrette Blount, and Texas FS Earl Thomas. We'll be posting a more in-depth analysis of each player once they come for their visit. We obviously don't have the kind of access to know what goes on in these visits, but we intend to give you a little bit of player background as we did with our Draft Preview series last year.

Go Steelers!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Blog Updates

Hey there folks. We have been in the process of trying to figure out how to better list all the blogs on our blogroll. After tossing around a lot of ideas and trying out a few failed HTML/JavaScript methods, we decided to add a "Friends" tab to our navigation bar at the top of the page.

We are proud to announce that after a morning of toiling with HTML and JavaScript, we have finally come up with a workable drop-down list. We were also able to categorize the blogs in our "Friends" list. So here's the deal: if the blog covers a specific team, they have that team's logo next to their blog name. If the blog is a general Pittsburgh blog, sports or no, they get an Eat n' Park Smiley Cookie next to their name. We wanted to do a Primanti's Sandwich, but when we shrunk the picture down you couldn't tell what it was.

To make our "Friends" list, there were basically two requirements.
  1. You have a blog that either relates to Sports or Pittsburgh
  2. You have talked to us before, either on e-mail or Twitter
Finally, a big shout-out to Pat from TeaCast for helping us figure out the JavaScript stuff (which apparently is different than Java). If you like drinking Tea, you should definitely check out his site. He has Podcasts, UStream videos and other things where he talks about Tea. Thanks Pat!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

NFC West Draft Outlook

Over the next few weeks in the run up to the NFL Draft on April 22-24, we will be previewing the draft needs of all 32 teams. We start today in the NFC West. We want to give some big-time shout outs to the folks at Rams Herd, Seahawk Addicts, Matt Maiocco from the Inside the 49ers, and Raising Zona for helping us out with these previews. As of right now, compensatory draft picks have not yet been awarded, so exact pick numbers after the 3rd round are not known. Our nomenclature for denoting picks works like this: (Round-Pick #). So (1-1) means First Round, First Pick. For the first three rounds, since the exact pick numbers are known, we give you the pick numbers too.

2009 Record: 10-6
NFC West Champion, Lost 45-14 to New Orleans in NFC Divisional

Draft Picks: 26 (1-26), 58 (2-26), 88 (3-25), 89 (3-26), (4-25), (6-26), (7-26)

Is there any team that lost more than Arizona did this past offseason? In addition to the retirement of Hall of Fame QB Kurt Warner, they traded away WR Anquan Boldin to the Ravens, and lost LB Karlos Dansby and FS Antrel Rolle to the Dolphins and Giants in Free Agency. With Matt Leinart due to step in at quarterback, the Cardinals will likely move to a more run-oriented offense next season. With the 26th pick in the draft, it's a guessing game as to who will be available for them to take.

Scott from Raising Zona, who should win an award the Coen Brothers reference, was kind enough to answer a few questions about the Cardinals for us. We decided to play nice and not ask him anything about Super Bowl XLIII. For more info on Pittsburgh West, give him a shout on Twitter.

1. What do you see as the biggest need(s) for your team to address this offseason?

They've started to address it already in free agency, however the draft is going to hopefully fill the holes left void by free agency. Those holes are in the secondary, they picked up Kerry Rhodes from the Jets after losing Antrel Rolle a day earlier. The biggest void is quarterback, however is it really a void? Matt Leinart is about to start his sixth season in the NFL. Coaches aren't convinced he's the guy though, no matter what is said publicly. They offered a contract to Charlie Whitehurst, but I think the answer may come in the draft. I just hope they stay away from Tim Tebow. He most definitely is NOT the answer.

2. Have they addressed any of these so far in Free Agency? Which do you think are better addressed in the Draft?

I may have just answered some of this in the previous question, but quarterback and holes at linebacker and secondary may be addressed. They will also most likely try to find an offensive lineman to fight Jeremy Bridges for a spot that was vacated by Mike Gandy's departure.

3. Who is on your draft wish list?

If we are filling holes, I like S Taylor Mays from USC, CB Devin McCourty from Rutgers, and QB's Max Hall from BYU, Colt McCoy from Texas, and Dan LeFevour from Central Michigan. It would be nice to see a good third or fourth round QB choice.

Our Take:

Larry Fitzgerald is one of the top 2 receivers in the league. You really can't differentiate between Andre Johnson and Fitz. They're 1a and 1b in our book. However, you need someone who can get him the ball. Matt Leinart will get his shot, but the Cards are going to have to help Leinart out with a solid run game as well. Beanie Wells can be a feature back in this league, and the formula that has worked for the Cardinals (throwing 85% of the time) won't work next year. The Whiz and Russ Grimm will have no problem running the ball out West, and Arizona will likely still have the best offense in the division. To beef up their run game, taking a look at some offensive linemen in the draft would be a smart move.

On defense, the Cards need help. After losing Rolle and Dansby, the Cards need playmakers that play both the run and the pass well. Inside linebacker, safety, and pass rushers (either DE or LBs - depending on if they play more of a 3-4 or 4-3 this year) will be the prime targets for the Cards. Their defense represents a serious weak point for the team, and this division could be wide open next year with Arizona's offense due to take a few steps back with the losses of Warner and Boldin.

2009 Record: 8-8

Draft Picks: 13 (1-13), 17 (1-17), 49 (2-17), 79 (3-16), (4-15), (5-14), (6-13), (7-17)

The 49ers have been a team on the verge of breaking through for more or less the last 4 years. In that time, they have posted two 7-9 records and an 8-8 mark. Will this finally be the year they get over the hump? The NFC West will likely be the worst division in football next year, and with Arizona on the decline, it could be theirs for the taking. San Francisco has built a strong team through the draft, and we like the way Mike Singletary manages the team. The biggest question is at quarterback, where they now have two #1 picks on the roster - Alex Smith and David Carr, who are always in the discussion of the biggest busts of the last decade. Frank Gore and Glen Coffee make up a formidable tandem at RB and with Michael Crabtree on the outside, the offense has playmakers at the skill positions, if someone can get them the ball.

Matt Maiocco from the SF Press Democrat detailed the 49ers offseason needs on his blog. The full post can be found here, and you can follow Matt on Twitter here. Here are some excerpts from his post:

As I see it, the 49ers must improve two spots. They need to find two players to fill roles to provide the team with an immediate improvement. As I see it, the 49ers' two biggest needs are:
1-Offensive tackle: With two picks in the middle of the first round, it would be surprising if the 49ers do not select an offensive tackle with one of those selections. The 49ers can still try to re-sign Tony Pashos, the player who would've been the right tackle for the bulk of the season if he had not gotten injured. But they need to add a young offensive tackle in the first round to take over, more than likely, on the right side, where Adam Snyder did not play at a high level.
2-Return specialist: The 49ers did not have a return specialist. Their lack of production, and turnovers, in the return game were big factors in losses at Houston and Seattle. The 49ers must add a player to make an immediate impact in the return game. It could be via free agency or a trade. Or it might take a second-round pick to get a player who fits that description in the draft. Arnaz Battle, who struggled with punt returns, is not expected back next season. And the 49ers need to find someone other than a starting wideout to return kickoffs.
After the top two priorities, it gets a little hazy as to where to arrange the 49ers' offseason needs...
Secondary- Depth in the secondary is always important. Shawntae Spencer will be back as a starter. Nate Clements is under contract, but after missing the final nine games (after being demoted for the game against the Colts), it's not a slam dunk the 49ers will opt to pay his $6 million salary to bring him back. Dre' Bly is an unrestricted free agent with an uncertain future. The 49ers should add a young cornerback. The addition of a player who can supply immediate help would also assist the 49ers at safety, where Michael Lewis is still very good when he's playing close to the line of scrimmage. Maybe the addition of a young cover corner would enable the 49ers to sub out Lewis on passing downs. Lewis and Dashon Goldson are a very good tandem, with their strengths and weaknesses working as a nice complement to each other. But Lewis had several scares last season with concussion problems. Goldson has good range and is a playmaker. I like the idea of keeping Lewis on the field for base downs and bringing in another cornerback in nickel situations.
Outside linebacker/defensive end: When the 49ers go to their nickel defense, their outside linebackers become defensive ends. So that's the position I'm listing. This position was a high priority - top 2 or 3 - until Ahmad Brooks moved into the 49ers' "starting role" in nickel situations. He played just six games in that role and finished the season with six sacks. The rotation of Brooks, Parys Haralson and Manny Lawson on third downs proved to be successful. Still, teams can never have too many pass rushers.

Are the 49ers set at Quarterback? No. But we're now waiting for the second part of Urban Meyer's prediction to occur. Remember, he said Alex Smith would really struggle until he knows a system inside-and-out. But Meyer also said once Smith "gets it, he gets it." So, now, we'll see. It appears as if Smith will be the starting 49ers quarterback in 2010.
The 49ers will try to figure out their offensive identity in the offseason. I think they're back to where they were a year ago. I don't see the 49ers investing much in another wideout (unless, he has amazing return ability). I saw Crabtree run some nice routes late in the season and get wide open down the field. The 49ers have good, young receivers who are only going to get better. At Running Back, Frank Gore is the prototype, and Glen Coffee is a no-nonsense No. 2. But, just as I noted with the receivers, ability in the return game is what could inspire the 49ers to take a running back in the first couple rounds.

Our Take:

With two picks in the middle of the first round, San Francisco might be very active in the trade market. If someone like Dez Bryant or Joe Haden slips out of the top 10, the 49ers phones might be ringing off the hook of teams looking to trade up. Given their needs, you have to believe that there will still be a stud offensive lineman available at 17. I highly doubt they draft CJ Spiller just for his return abilities. It's more likely they take someone like Dexter McCluster in the second round. The 49ers are solidly in the O-line market and they may take a look at adding some talent to their secondary early in the draft.

2009 Record: 5-11

Draft Picks: 6 (1-6), 14 (1-14), 40 (2-8), (4-6), (5-8), (6-7), (7-6)

After being the undisputed kings of the NFC West for 5 years running in the middle of the decade, the Seahawks bottomed out with 4-12 and 5-11 seasons the last two years. Both seasons were highlighted by Matt Hasselbeck injuries, rendering the Seahawks offense toothless. Coupled with the loss of Pro Bowl RB Shaun Alexander, the Seahawks lacked playmakers - and it showed. They had a top 10 offense 4 of the 5 years of their streak. The last two seasons they finished 28th and 21st in Total Offense respectively. The Seahawks are a team in need of playmakers. They started that process last year by drafting Aaron Curry on defense, but now the offense needs a boost.

Chris from Seahawk Addicts, which has one of the best blog logos you will ever see, was kind enough to give us his two cents on the 'hawks. Chris covers the 'hawks on their blog and on Twitter better than the Seahawks corners covered Hines Ward in Super Bowl XL.

1. What do you see as the biggest need(s) for your team to address this offseason?

The Seahawks are in a big time of transition about three years too late. There are few positions that don't have at least some level of need, but the glaring elephant in the room is Left Tackle. The Hawks must replace outgoing future Hall of Famer Walter Jones this year, so Left Tackle is at the top of the list. Matt Hasselbeck is getting older, has been injury plagued, and is entering the final year of his contract, so Quarterback is a pressing need as well. With two of the worst starting safeties in the NFL, pretty much everyone in Seattle is hoping to add at least one body in the secondary. Other needs include Defensive End WR, Guard, Running Back, DT and Cornerback. Gulp.

2. Have they addressed any of these so far in Free Agency? Which do you think are better addressed in the Draft?

The Seahawks' recently fired GM Tim Ruskell tried hard to built his team in free agency. He went after the big guns and usually got them, albeit with someone else's money. That led to 10-6, 9-7, 4-12, 5-11... In 2010, new GM John Schneider appears to be taking a very cautious approach in the mold of his mentor Ted Thompson in Green Bay (who has signed something like three free agents since 2001). There have been a lot of interviews, but to our knowledge, no offers made to a free agent.

These positions will be filled in the draft. I would be surprised if they don't bring in a backup quarterback prior to the draft, but whether that person will be on the 53-man come September is a different question. Carroll seems to think that many of the needed positions are less talent needs than coaching needs, and we're just praying he's right. Jim Mora was an unmitigated disaster.

3. Who is on your draft wish list?

If I were to find one person to fill each of the needs above, it would be these guys: Tackle - Charles Brown, USC; QB - Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame; Safety - Eric Berry, Tennessee, or Earl Thomas, Texas. This is a great draft for offensive and defensive tackle talent, terrible for QB and DE talent, and pretty solid throughout for the secondary. Not sold on many of the WRs, but if RB Ben Tate of Auburn somehow slipped to the fourth, I would jump for joy if the Hawks grabbed him.

Our Take:

Chris hit the nail on the head with his draft analysis. This draft is weak at the QB and DE spots, and pretty deep in the secondary and at the tackle spots. With no 3rd round picks, the Seahawks may miss out on a run on Safeties. The best bet for them might be to take a shot at someone like Morgan Burnett (S-Georgia Tech) at the top of the 2nd round.

The best case scenario for Seattle would be if either Russel Okung (OT-Oklahoma St) or Eric Berry (S-Tennessee) would slip to them at #6. If neither of them are available, the Seahawks may entertain some trade offers, knowing that they have another first round pick sitting behind them. Tackle is the biggest need, and there will certainly be a tackle available at #14, which means the Seahawks could take Jimmy Clausen at #6 to be their quarterback of the future. If they have the inkling to do this, they might find their phones ringing with calls from Buffalo looking to trade up. CJ Spiller is definitely in play for the Seahawks. As Chris Johnson has shown in Tennessee, a game-breaking running back can go a long way to turning a team around.

2009 Record: 1-15

Draft Picks: 1 (1-1), 33 (2-1), 65 (3-1), (4-1), (5-1), (5-24), (6-1), (7-1), (7-19)

After going 1-15 last year, Rams fans are hoping they have seen their team hit bottom. To be honest, it couldn't be much worse than what they've seen the last few years. The Rams haven't had a winning season since 2003, haven't been to the playoffs since 2004, and are an almost unimaginable 6-42 over the last 3 seasons. Besides Stephen Jackson at RB and James Laurinitis at ILB, the Rams really need help everywhere. In theory, the Rams have done everything right in the draft the last few years, investing in a franchise DE (Chris Long, 2008) and LT (Jason Smith, 2009). That being said, they passed on Matt Ryan and Mark Sanchez, meaning there is increased pressure for the Rams to take a QB this year.

For a more in-depth look, we turn to our buddy Will from Rams Herd, who was awesome enough to answer a few questions about the Rams for us. For up-to-the-minute info from Will, follow him on Twitter.

1. What do you see as the biggest need(s) for your team to address this offseason?

Honestly, the Rams simply need impact players all over the field. They should not be approaching the draft as a “need”-based draft (i.e. “They need a quarterback of the future”) because they have every kind of need you can have, except at running back, and to a lesser extent, on the offensive line. They must get the best player available at every pick, and if possible, acquire more picks via trade. Last offseason, the Rams intentionally cut veteran players and went from one of the oldest teams in the league to one of the youngest. They’ve intentionally hit bottom, in other words, and in this draft they absolutely must rebound and generate upward momentum, by adding impact talent.

2. Which positions of need do you think would be better addressed in Free Agency? In the Draft?

Free agency doesn’t look good for many of the team’s needs, really for many teams period. It’s going to be a very slim year. That said, I think the Rams should aggressively target Aaron Kampman. The Rams’ entire defensive scheme is predicated on pass rush, and they didn’t get it last year. A D-line of Kampman, Suh, Cliff Ryan/NT rotation, and Chris Long could immediately transform the team on defense. I think we could also acquire depth on the O-line, particularly at guard; a pass-rushing Spagnuolo project at DE; and veterans at CB and WR would not be bad ideas. Chad Pennington as a backup QB would be a nice replacement for Boller, and insurance policy for whoever the next QB is.

The positions that the Rams should be most active in trying to acquire via trade are at Quarterback, weakside LB. The Rams should be gung-ho after Kevin Kolb, a Pat Shurmur protégé who is ready to make his mark on the league. If not him, then a lesser QB that fits the West Coast system, such as Jason Campbell, would be smart (if not exciting). Michael Vick is not an option, unless the goal is to simply have a circus and try to bring fans that way. At linebacker, I’d like to make a run at Kansas City’s Derrick Johnson.

In the draft, I look for the Rams to draft Suh first overall, and follow up with playmakers on offense in the next few rounds. Ideally, we could get a pass-catching TE, or a tall WR who can go up for balls — both integral threats in the West Coast offense, and both things the Rams have been missing.

3. Who is on your draft wish list?

Suh, obviously. And I harbor a huge crush on Mike Iupati, but there’s no way he drops to the Rams at #33. Same with TE Jermaine Gresham. I’m not really a draftnik, so I can’t give you a full accounting of my top-3-round guys, but I wouldn’t mind seeing WRs Arrelious Benn or Brandon LaFell, LB Sean Weatherspoon, TE Aaron Hernandez (potential Dallas Clark clone), and even (as a late round pick) big, tall & raw WR Danario Alexander. I also have an irrational desire to see a pure playmaker like Dexter McCluster in a Rams uni, but he doesn’t really fit the gameplan.

There is a small but vocal contingent that is pushing hard for Jimmy Clausen, especially if the Rams were to broker a trade down a couple slots to #3 or #4. Depending on the package of picks we get back, I’d be willing to sacrifice my #1 guy to see this happen.

Most importantly, though, the Rams need this draft to produce starters. Ideally, our still-young, still-unproven coaching staff finds one or two players with the tools to have a breakthrough year and become signatures of our commitment to player development.

Our Take:

The pressure is on for the Rams staff. They basically have 3 choices.
1. Draft Sam Bradford and hope he doesn't get killed behind their O-line that gave up 44 sacks last year. Remember, Bradford is coming off a season-ending shoulder injury.
2. Draft Suh. Suh, along with Eric Berry, seem like the most "sure thing" players in this draft. Suh can be an Albert Haynesworth-type that just clogs up the middle. The Rams were 27th in run defense last year and can use all the help up the middle they can get.
3. Trade down. This doesn't seem too likely unless there is a team out there that so desperately wants Suh that they feel the need to trade ahead of the Lions to take him.

If it were us, we would draft Suh. Bradford is enticing and the fact that he would have Steven Jackson alongside him in the backfield would take some of the pressure off. Chances are, the Rams will take Sam Bradford because of the increased pressure to win and win now in the league, and a franchise passer like Bradford would increase ticket sales, which is always something losing teams want to do. With 9 picks in the draft, the Rams can keep getting younger and better. The new management definitely has the right ideas behind how to build a competitor, and they very well may have the Rams competitive within the next few years.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ben Roethlisberger...ugh

With the recent antics of Ben Roethlisberger, the internet has become a firestorm of "wut should the Steelers do lol OMG?"

Let's set the record straight here. We do not approve of Ben's antics. Did he not learn anything from what happened to Tiger? You can be at the top of your sport, but that doesn't make you invincible. Dude needs to keep it in his pants. Period. We're not saying he's guilty, but he is known as a womanizer who sleeps around. And when you play with fire, you're going to get burned. He has a reputation amongst Pitt and Duquesne students (but not CMU students because they never leave the library) of being a bit of a skeezball. With that kind of reputation, well, it's not surprising that things like these accusations would come up. Honestly, is it too much to ask for a 28-year old who is going to be paid $55 million in the next 5 years to exercise a little self-restraint and to be accountable for his actions?

From a business perspective, Ben is due some huge money over the next few years. He is due $8.5 million in 2010, then $11.6 million per year from 2011-2014. Yikes. Obviously, the Rooney's aren't too happy with these shenanegins, and likely put their foot down with Ben (they had a meeting with him this past week).

Should the Rooney's decide to terminate Ben's contract because of his conduct, well, you really couldn't blame them. We believe that the Rooney's likely gave him some kind of ultimatum, something to the extent of "If you pull another stunt like this, you're out." Obviously, this is just speculation. On top of all that, who knows what the NFL will do. If they decide to step in and suspend Ben, well, that's their right and you can't say he didn't do anything to deserve it.

From a football perspective, it sucks. That's about the long and the short of it. Ben is the best quarterback we've had here since Bradshaw. Anyone who tells you the team could keep going without him needs hit with a stick. Obviously, those people haven't been paying attention to the incompetent play-calling that gets our QBs destroyed. If Peyton Manning was our quarterback, he would have been sacked about 800 times last season alone. Ben's mobility and ability to make things happen on broken plays is the only thing that keeps Arians' offense moving.

All that being said, to suggest the Steelers should draft a quarterback to "replace Ben" at the top half of this draft is asinine at best and a criminal offense at worse. To suggest that that quarterback should be Tim Tebow reaches a level of stupidity only before seen in Pirates General Managers.

This article, posted on Deadspin (basically the TMZ of sports web sites) suggests just that. The worst part of the article is that they site an article from the Bleacher Report like it's a legitimate source. Finding legitimate articles on the Bleacher Report is like finding a girlfriend from the classified ads in the City Paper.

But we're not here to talk about the article. The rationale for the Steelers drafting Tebow is like suggesting the School for the Blind should invest in a PS3 rather than books. What we want to talk about is the comments. This might be the greatest comments section in the history of the internet. Here are a few excerpts:

This would be a great pickup, since we already know that Jesus Loves the Steelers.

We brought in our resident helmet expert to deal with this one.

We can't argue with this one. It's obviously much harder to win an NCAA title than a Super Bowl. Tebow could teach Ben all about getting it done in one-and-done scenarios where the media selects you to play in the Championship game and you don't have to play your way through a series of opponents to get there.

So here's the deal: obviously Ben did something stupid. But that doesn't excuse anyone from trying to one-up him by posting something even stupider (we haven't even talked about how stupid people who want to draft Taylor Mays are). Of course, this is the internet, so you'll always get the people who think stars should be traded. Like the people who say the Pens should trade Crosby or Malkin. Sorry, they can't hear you over their Stanley Cup ring.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Back In Black: Highway to EL

The Steelers are typically not very active in Free Agency. Generally, the strategy is to bring in low-profile free agents that don't command huge contracts and have them develop into good players in the system. James Farrior was probably the biggest name player we brought in via Free Agency in the last decade.

However, the Steelers made a splash yesterday, not for signing a high-profile player, but for signing 5 guys in one day.

Obviously, the ownership knows what they're doing. Our team has holes, there's no doubt about that. Specifically, there are holes in the defense and offensive line. Additionally, given the "up in the air" nature of Limas Sweed's situation, the Steelers also were in the market for a 4th WR.

So what did the Rooney's do? They went out and signed 5 guys at positions of need. Add these 5 signings to the fact that they were able to re-sign Casey Hampton to a 3-year, $21 million deal (much, much cheaper than the deal Vince Wilfork got in New England), means the Steelers have taken steps to shore up the holes they had in the team. This will enable them to be more aggressive on draft day and be able to draft the best available player, rather than having to draft players at certain positions.

Without further ado, here are the newest members of the Pittsburgh Steelers:

Will Allen - Safety

Allen was a 4th round pick for the Bucs in the 2004 draft. Bob Pompaeni said there were some people in Tampa who considered him a draft bust. We're not really sure why. Looking at the 2004 draft, there was basically no depth at safety behind Sean Taylor and Bob Sanders. Do you see that "C" on his jersey? Allen was named the Bucs Special Teams Captain in 2008. He sat out most of '09 after being placed on IR with a thumb injury. At best, he's a backup safety that could step into a starting role if needed. On top of that, he's a special teams standout, and we all know we needed a lot of help there.

Arnaz Battle - Wide Receiver

Battle isn't going to astound anyone with the numbers he has put up. But let's consider something: he was playing in San Francisco. Even when pass-happy Mike Martz was there, they still gave the ball to Frank Gore a ton of times. On top of that, he had Alex Smith and Shaun Hill throwing him the ball. Not exactly Ben Roethlisberger talent there. Battle can be a very effective receiver for the Steelers. He signed a 3-year deal, but if he doesn't show up ready to go in camp, don't be shocked if the Steelers cut him. He has extensive experience on Special Teams as well, which very well might be what gets him on the team. Overall, this was a great pickup for the Steelers because of their need for a 4th WR.

Jonathan Scott - Offensive Tackle

Scott was acquired because new O-line coach Sean Kugler obviously saw something in him in Buffalo. Scott is a massive man at 6'6" 318 lbs. If he can press Willie Colon for the starting job at RT, this would give the Steelers O-line depth and improve our pass protection. Scott started 8 games last year for the Bills. The Steelers were 2nd worst in the league in sacks allowed last year, so any pickup to improve the depth of the line is a positive.

Antwaan Randle El

After 4 disappointing seasons in Washington, where he was never used to his full potential, Antwaan Randle El is back in Pittsburgh. It's hard to describe how ecstatic we were over Randle El's signing. With Randle El and Arnaz Battle, the Steelers have shored up their 4th and 5th WR spots, giving them good depth at the position should Hines, Tone, or the 60 Minute Man get injured. Randle El should also return to the position of Kick and Punt Returner. He's the best KR we've had here in the past decade, and he's much better at making moves in space and seeing the hole than Stefan Logan. Logan had more pure speed, but Randle El is a definite threat to take any kick to the house. He's also a very reliable receiver out of the slot - particularly on 3rd downs. We absolutely love this signing, and we're sure yinzers everywhere are busting out their old "EL YEAH!" shirts to celebrate.

Ryan Clark

When all hope seemed lost, Clark pulled a Mario Lemieux. He was in Miami visiting the Dolphins, then turned around and re-signed with the Steelers. That analogy would have worked better if it had been Kansas City. We were very critical of Clark last season, mostly because we believe him to be capable of much more. When a player is in position to make big interceptions, they need to have their eyes on the ball, not the receiver they are looking to lay out. We are of the opinion that Clark could have had at least double his interception total last year if he looked for the ball more often. We hope he is able to improve as a player during the offseason, because we want to see him back in 2008 form when he was one of the leaders of the #1 defense in the league, not his 2009 form.

On the whole, the Steelers did a fantastic job signing players at positions where they needed depth. Of the players they signed, only Clark will be in the starting lineup. Allen and Battle will improve the coverage teams, and Randle El will boost the return game. The Steelers brass knows that 2009 wasn't the type of product fans are used to seeing and it is encouraging to see them taking steps to bring the team back to contend for the Super Bowl.

Go Steelers!