Friday, July 29, 2011

Cuts, Signings, Farewells

After having to go months without football, everyone knew it was going to be a frenzy once things got started. The Steelers headed into the day somewhere in the ballpark of $10 million over the $120 million salary cap. We all knew this would mean cuts, and the biggest of which broke last night, when media sources reported that the Steelers planned to release left tackle Max Starks.

Starks was due over $7 million this year and saves us about $5 million in cap room. Max wasn't always the best player on the offensive line, but he earned his keep with the kind of effort and attitude Steelers fans have come to expect in their players. After being drafted in the 3rd round, Starks came in and played right tackle, a position that was not as natural for him as left tackle because he is left-handed. Then, after the Steelers drafted Willie Colon and Starks lost a training camp battle to Colon for the starting job, rather than whine and complain, Starks did everything he could to help the team, learning both tackle positions (eventually filling in at Left Tackle for an injured Marvel Smith) and spending time on special teams on the field goal and field goal block units. Starks was never considered one of the best tackles in the league, and he did struggle at times, but he also went on streaks where he was almost unbeatable, like when he shut down Elvis Dumervil and Jared Allen in back-to-back weeks in 2009.

The Steelers also parted ways with Antwaan Randle El, who was due $2.3 million this year. Many people assumed Randle El would be a salary cap casualty, as he was beaten out by both Manny Sanders and Antonio Brown last year, falling from the #3 WR to #5 by the end of the season.

On the other side, the Steelers inked contracts with two players today. Tackles Willie Colon and Jonathan Scott each signed contracts to stay with the team.

Willie Colon's deal was for 5 years and $29 million. Reportedly, the Bears offered him $3 million more than the Steelers, but he took the hometown discount to stay here. For those of you that have read the blog for a while, you'll know I haven't been Colon's biggest fan. He's a mauler in the run game but he gets absolutely roasted by speed rushers off the corner and is prone to committing at least 1 false start penalty per game (and usually a holding penalty too).

Re-signing Jonathan Scott was a good move. While he's not the greatest lineman in the world, he isn't terrible either. He's a mediocre player, but he's capable of getting the job done. He stepped in at both right tackle and left tackle last year, playing left tackle after Max Starks went down for the year. Scott will likely be the top backup at the tackle position and can step in if needed into a starting role. Hopefully, for all our sakes, we don't need Scott to start a plethora of games this season like we did last year.

The Departed

Nick Eason

Defensive End Nick Eason signed a deal with Pittsburgh West to become a member of the Arizona Cardinals. In all honesty, good for Nick. With the drafting of Cam Heyward, he was probably going to be the odd one out along the defensive front. He has been a solid backup/rotational player in the past for the Steelers and we wish him all the best in Pittsburgh West.

Matt Spaeth

Spaeth was a highly regarded 3rd round pick when he originally was drafted by the Steelers, but he never panned out into a dual-threat tight end like we had hoped. For his huge frame, he wasn't a stellar blocker and often got called for holding penalties. Initially, he looked like he had a great set of hands, and had one set of games early in his career when he filled in for Heath Miller where he caught everything thrown his way. But a lack of reps in the passing game seemed to set him back and his hands were never the same. This past season, when forced into action to fill in for Heath, Spaeth dropped a handfull (no pun intended) of balls against the New York Jets, including two passes in the end zone at the end of the game that could have won it for the Steelers. He now heads to Chicago where Mike Martz does basically nothing with tight ends, so he should fit in.

No comments: