Hines Ward, his release and when it’s time to change

It should not be a surprise that Hines Ward’s career with the Pittsburgh Steelers has come to an end.

Deep down — or perhaps closer to the surface, depending on your level of realism — we all knew it was going to happen much sooner rather than later, and the only detail that was left to be determined was whether it was going to happen on his terms in the form of a retirement, or if it was going to happen on the Steelers terms with a roster move.

As we found out on Wednesday afternoon, the Steelers are the ones making the decision, as Ward seems to still believe he has something left in the tank to offer an NFL team in 2012.

It just won’t be the Steelers. Some fans have a problem with that. Others accept it for what it is. Either way, it’s still a little weird.

But Ward’s playing career in Pittsburgh isn’t going to end when the paperwork is filed with the league and the release becomes official. It actually ended, in a practical sense, long before that. It was Week 8 of the 2011 season, to be exact, when the New England Patriots came into Pittsburgh and Ward spent the game on the sidelines, essentially a healthy scratch, as the coaching staff determined that they did not need him, the all-time leader in just about every receiving category in team history, to beat the best team in the AFC.

And in the end, they didn’t.

For the remainder of the season — and I admit that this this will seem harsh — Ward was pretty much a charity case as the Steelers forced bubble screen after bubble screen to him an effort to reach 1,000 career receptions, almost as if they knew they had to get him that milestone before the end of the season because this was going to be it.

And I’m not afraid to admit that kind of bothered me a little bit.

Not because I didn’t want him to reach that milestone (because I absolutely did want him to get there). But because, more than anything else, I simply want the Steelers to win football games, and I knew that was much more likely to happen when the football was in the hands of players like Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Heath Miller.

Also because it seemed to go against everything that helped to make Hines Ward what he was as a player. Nothing was handed to him. Nothing was given to him. He had to fight for, and earn, everything that he received on the football field.

Passed over 91 times in the 1998 draft, Ward wasn’t selected until the very end of the third round, after 13 other wide receivers were taken off the board. It is a list that, after Randy Moss, includes a rather forgettable collection of players ranging from Kevin Dyson in the first round, to E.G. Green and Larry Shannon just before him in the third round. According to Pro-Football-Reference’s Career Approximate Value Rating, he is the sixth best player to come out of that draft, trailing only (in order) Peyton Manning, Moss, Alan Faneca (you remember him, I’m sure), Charles Woodson and Fred Taylor. He’s also tied with Andy Russell for 10th on the All-Time Steelers list between Rod Woodson and Donnie Shell, and ahead of L.C. Greenwood, Greg Lloyd, Dermontti Dawson, John Stallworth and Troy Polamalu, just to name a few.

During his rookie year he was primarily a special teams player, and there were even rumors that the Steelers flirted with the idea of making him a full-time safety, not a wide receiver (how would THAT have changed Steelers history). It almost seemed as if the Steelers were determined to do everything in their power to keep him off the field, using first-round picks over the next two years on wide receivers Troy Edwards and Plaxico Burress, and sending passes (more than they should have) in the direction of players like Bobby “Superman” Shaw and Courtney Hawkins.

In the end, Ward outlasted them all. He was better than them all. He was more valuable than them all. He was more dependable than them all.

With his ferocious (and, if you’re a fan of a rival AFC North team or a defensive player in the NFL, controversial) style of blocking he changed the way people look at the role and responsibilities of a wide receiver when the football isn’t traveling in its direction.

He re-wrote the Steelers record book for wide receivers despite playing his prime years on a team that was a run-first offense and quarterbacked by players like Kent Graham, Kordell Stewart and Tommy Maddox. Keep in mind, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense as we know it today didn’t come into play until Ward was already in his 30s.

You knew that on every key third down Ward was going to be the primary target, and he was going to get whatever amount of yardage he needed. For all of the talk about how great of a red zone threat the 6-feet-6 Burress was, or should have been, Ward was always the one that outperformed him inside the 20 and near the goal line.

Everybody pictures the touchdown pass from Antwaan Randle El in Super Bowl XL as perhaps his signature moment, and the play that earned him the MVP (as a quick note: there have only been six wide receiver Super Bowl MVPs, and three of them played for the Steelers — Lynn Swann, Santonio Holmes and Ward). But for me the biggest play of that game was the third-and-26 play late in the second quarter that set up the Steelers first touchdown (the one that Mike Holmgren is still complaining about today, seven years later). His best play that postseason may have been in the AFC Championship game when he tipped a pass to himself around Champ Bailey and somehow held on despite taking a crushing hit from John Lynch. That ball was inches away from being a pick-six in the other direction, a play that could have sent that game — and season — in a completely different direction.

He became the face of the franchise for the better part of a decade-and-a-half, and an argument can be made that he is the most popular Steelers player of all time. Would fans have flocked to a reality TV show and flooded the voting lines to help Jack Lambert or Terry Bradshaw win a dance contest, and then celebrate his win on said show as if it were a Steelers victory?

I can’t believe that they would. Frankly, I still can’t believe they did it for him. But they did. And that is amazing.

In 20 years, Ward jerseys will be worn to games the same way Lambert and Ham jerseys are worn today. But the same way fans that loved the Greene, Ham and Lambert Steelers learned to love the Lloyd, Woodson and Lake teams, the Hines Ward era fans will move on and love the Wallace, Brown and Sanders Steelers.

Professional sports is a brutal, tough industry. It’s not an incorrect statement to say that there is no loyalty, from the team side or the player side. And let’s face it, there shouldn’t be. There can’t be. Especially in this situation.

The Steelers entered this offseason pressed against the salary cap (actually, they were over the cap more than any other team in the NFL) and have to find a way to keep restricted free agent wide receiver Mike Wallace. The Steelers simply have better, younger players at the position that have already shown to be more valuable to the team when it comes to winning games at the present time.

Change is inevitable in this industry. The Steelers aren’t a worse team without Hines Ward. They’re a different team. But sometimes that has to happen. Embrace it.

This entry was posted in Free Agency, Offseason, Wide Recievers and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.
  • TO

    This is a nice start.  Hopefully next will be Smith, Farrior, Kemo, and I’m still holding out hope for Hampton.   Unclear where the PS are going to get there 4th and 5th WRs from.  I assume one draft pick and one almost worthless journeyman vet.   So essentially if there is an injury, particularly to one of Wallace, Brown or Sanders, they are in big trouble and will be praying that Ward is sitting on his couch waiting for a call.

    • Cols714

      Farrior (or Foote) and Hampton will be on the team next year. Smith and Kemo probably not. 

      The Steelers have done a good job of getting rid of guys when they no longer can help the team. Farrior played well enough last year that he can still provide depth, same with Hampton.

      • Rob D

        WE have no real, credible NT to take over from Hampton at the moment, IMO. I don’t see McClendon as a starter and Hoke retired. The talk of Ziggy playing the nose has died down since a lot of experts don’t think he’s even suited for DE in a 3-4 (can’t command the double team). That doesn’t leave us with much. Unless they draft Poe or something along those lines, I think “Casey will be our starting NT next year and its almost a lock.

        Ward was a great player. The Steelers, if they were cold blooded would have cut his butt before last year’s start of the season since they seemed to already know his catches were going to be very limited. They used him sparingly, got him his milestone catches etc and basically you can see that was his swan song in Pittsburgh. He seems to know he was well treated..but he still wants to play. Good for him but its not going to be with the Steelers. Sanders stays healthy and he’s a much better and younger player. He’s not Hines Ward in his prime but who is? Hines is one of the most unique WR’s in NFL history. 

        • TO

          No need for a credible NT, or at least an NT of the past.  This is a passing league now.   A 360lb ogre does no good in a league of 3 step drops.  Especially when that ogre is in his mid 30s, is coming off a bad injury, and already has two rings.  The Steelers won plenty of games with McClendon playing a lot and they also won 90% of the games Hoke started – a NT who weighed only 300lbs.

          • Rob D

            And if McClendon..an undersized guy, goes down early,,who do you have left? 
            Exactly.That’s why Casey is coming back. Because you still have to stop the run in this league.We’ve just got used to teams being unable to run on us because we had the best 3-4 in the league. And your statement that there is no need for a credible NT in a 3-4 defense is..ahem….debatable…lol..

          • TO

            So your solution is to pay a backup who is well past is prime $6 million a year?  That is genius! 

            And your comical attempt to refute my dismissal of the NT is so typical of a know-nothing burry your head in the sand steelers fan.   The game has passed this fan base by.  Hopefully it won’t continue to pass the FO and staff as well.  The trajectory is not good.

          • Canadian Steeler

             L O L

            The Steelers use more base 3-4 defense than most teams in the NFL, which you have to say has been successful for them given the high standard of defensive play under LeBeau. Now, I’d argue the ends can be just as (if not more) important than the NT given a bit more scheme versatility. Clearly, the front office agrees, considering they’ve spent 2 of their last 3 firsts on ends. Personally, I’m not ready to give up on Hood. It was just a year ago he was a key member of one of the best run defenses of the last decade.

            The NFL is changing, and LeBeau’s found a way to deal with it while mostly using a base defense. We did have the number 1 pass defence last year.

            Regardless of a passing league, we’re still in a division that requires significant run stopping ability. I’d gladly take the ball out of Ray Rice’s hands and put it in Joe Flacco’s. If we can’t stop Rice, that never happens. Now, potentially that requires a different, more dynamic athlete at the nose tackle position (like a Poe or Ngata), but it does require a nose tackle.

            I will gladly keep Hampton around instead of having McClendon and an unproven draft pick as our options at nose tackle. The last time (that I remember) us paying 6 million for a backup was Max Starks. And he stepped in on a Super Bowl team. Depth is a good thing. And it’s non-existant at the nose tackle position were we to cut Hampton.

          • Anonymous

            Ray Rice is a really bad example. He’s far more dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield than as a runner.

          • Canadian Steeler

            He’s very dangerous doing both, but to say he hasn’t been dangerous as a runner against us is extremely disingenuous. The first play of both games this past year were extremely long Rice runs, one of which – a touchdown – was only called back on a hold.

            Only once has he had more receiving yardage than rushing in a game against us, and that was in his rookie season when he had under 10 yards rushing I think. His receiving high against us is like 42 yards or so.

          • Anonymous

            I just mean in general. Considering just Steelers games is too small a sample to be instructive, I think. I don’t really disagree with your main point that a good NT is still very important to a 3-4 defense.  I don’t, however, like arguments about “this division” because that only accomplished so mucc. And I’m not sure that Casey Hampton is going to be worth the rather sizable cap hit considering his marginal value and other places that money could be spent.

      • Canadian Steeler

        Intropy, I’m responding here so the rest of our conversation isn’t vertical haha.

        Obviously I’d love Hampton back at a lower number, but he kind of has all the power. We could ask him to rework his deal and take less, but there’s no real motivation for him to do so. And, unlike with players like Hines, Farrior and Kemoeatu, we can’t say ‘re-work or you’re cut’, because we don’t have good enough backup at the position.

        You’re probably right about my division argument, but I did feel that last year our run defense (1st BAL, HOU, SF) cost us more games than the pass defense (2nd BAL, DEN). Throwing out our nose tackle isn’t a solution, and in all likelihood worsens the situation. I’m all for taking Poe (although it seems like a stretch he’ll be there now) in the 1st or Ta’amu in the 2nd. In fact, I might put it second in terms of need only behind ILB. Our guard play is at best inconsistent, but the 1 or 2 games we had of Legursky and Foster looked decent enough.

        • Anonymous

          Possible. I certainly don’t have 100% confidence that I’m right here. Hampton has been a tremendous asset in his years, but his play has fallen off quite a bit. To my eyes, he wasn’t _that_ much better than McClendon last season – though I think they’re fairly different style NTs. Cutting Hampton would save a bit under 6 million off the cap, which is a pretty big number. You can go shopping with that, and if it’s the difference between matching some team’s offer sheet on Wallace I pull that trigger pretty quick. Plus Hampton is coming off a major injury. Will he start on the PUP? When he comes back will he be even more diminished? It’s a lot of question marks for six million dollars. If you’re really concerned with your NT situation, and I admit it makes perfect sense to be, can you spend some of that savings on a one year stopgap contract while you develop the draft pick I hope they end up getting?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UR6KXGPFIFYZSVJNCXCJNHDQJQ Bob Costas

    I was really upset about it until I saw the Brady’s.  Then I understood.

    In all seriousness, Ward has been a great player both in terms of on field production and in what he brought to the team in toughness and leadership.  I think Ward’s persona was a major stabilizing presence for all of the talented but otherwise not high character young receivers (Burress, Holmes, et al).  They didn’t dare pull crap with Hines there as an example and that helped keep them in line and productive while they were here.  And that became clear once those guys left for other teams and got out of control. 

    It always sucks when one of your favorite guys hits the end of the road but it comes with the territory.  It’ll be strange seeing Ward in another jersey but a in 2-3 years that image won’t even be a memory.  Hines Ward will always be synonymous with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

  • Yoni

    The whole thing just doesn’t sit well with me. I understand the “it’s a business” argument, but there are some players and some franchises where loyalty ought to be the priority. Hines was Mr. Steeler for 14 years. Fourteen years. He was the consummate Pittsburgh Steeler — talented, tough, a good human being, and a winner.  

    To just kick him to the curb after 14 years and not even offer him a paycut….that’s just not right.

    I take pride in the identity of the Steelers organization. I absolutely LOVED the fact that our core from SB XL was very much intact 5 years later. Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, Troy, Farrior, Harrison, Starks, Ben, Hines, Keisel, Heath, Foote, Randle-el, Ike…hell even Kemo as much as he pisses me off sometimes.

    I understand the organization can’t be loyal to everyone. There’s just not enough money to go around. But Hines deserved better. Yes, we are a better team without him, and yes he is pretty washed up. But sometimes loyalty trumps winning.

    If we can’t show loyalty to Hines freaking Ward, then the Steelers are no different than any other team that happens to win a lot.

    • UB D

      I, along with many other fans are saddened by the passing of another Steeler star as he inevitably declines in effectiveness. It happens in every endeavor in life. It happens in life itself after 60, 70 80 years as we all will die. In sports, it just happens in 8, 11, or in this case 14 years. It happens in companies when employees lose their effectiveness in 50, 60, or 65 years and must retire.

      But the notion that teams, companies or other organizations are somehow obligated to keep paying an eneffective employee doesn’t wash. Organizations have responsibilities to their constituants – whether stockholders, followers, or fans – to provide the very best; and if a member of that organization does not contribute to that objective, in their opinion, then the relationship ends.

      Obviously, the team has an obligation to fair and proper treatment to a player when he is employed. The Steelers seem to fulfill that obligation more than the vast number of other organizations. This is easily seen in the fact that almost all their players love the place. They often play for less (but fair) money to stay. Then you have testimonies from others like Cotchery about the Steelers. Finally, Hines himself testifies to the quality and fairness of the Steelers.

      So, in spite of all of our sadness in seeing one of our stars leave, we can still feel good obout the Steelers and thank Hines for a great run. 

    • DrObviousSo

      “but there are some players and some franchises where loyalty ought to be the priority”

      They did.  He got more play time this year than his performance dictated.  They kept him active all year, and got him to 1,000.  They didn’t have to do that.  

      • Yoni

         That’s sort of the point. They didn’t *have* to keep him last year, and they don’t *have* to keep him this year. My argument is that as long as he is willing to put on the shirt and play hard, then his place on the team *should* be guaranteed until retirement given his past contributions to the organization.

        It’s not like he’s a massive drain on our cap (it’s not his fault we are up against it right now), and it’s not like he’s completely incapable of playing in the NFL. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that they let him hang around for another year or two and let him retire as a Steeler.

        • Cols714

          Why is it on the Steelers to keep him around as long as he likes?

        • Cols714

          Why is it on the Steelers to keep him around as long as he likes?

          • Yoni

             It’s not “on the steelers” or on anyone for that matter. That’s the point. Hines is not “owed” anything. But if we consider the Steelers organization to be a bit “exceptional” in terms of how they treat their players and their fans, then I would expect the Steelers to extend that courtesy to a player who was a loyal servant for 14 years.

            If the game is all about wins and losses and cap figures, then it doesn’t mean much does it? Part of the privilege of being a Steelers fan has been the class and integrity with which the organization has conducted itself for all these years. We win AND we do it the right way, by treating the players and the fans above and beyond what they “deserve.”

          • Cols714

            OK, but I’ll argue that the Steelers did do it the right way. They won and got Hines is milestone catch without hampering the team. The cut throat way would have been to not play Hines after it was obvious that he was no longer productive.

            The Steelers achieved the goal of winning while allowing Hines to still play a small role and get him his stats. 

            If Ward wants it to end with him a Steeler the thing to do would be retire. He doesn’t want that (and I don’t blame him!) so he’s free to sign with another team.

            I really don’t blame him, if I’m a player at the end of my career I’d want it to last as long as possible too. Even if that means leaving an organization that I spent my entire career with I’d for sure do it.

          • UB D

            I’m one of the biggest Hines fan to be found and just as big a Steeler fan because of their integrety. I can’t see him in another uniform.  

            But how was he a “loyal servant?” He was an employee making millions of dollars playing a kids game as an adult. The Steelers were as loyal to him as he was to them.
            They supported him, treated him with respect and paid him what he was worth when he had the opportunity at free agency.

            I truly wish he was still a Steeler, but have no problem with the greatest franchise in pro sports in my opinion. 

          • Yoni

             How much money he made is irrelevant. They supported him, treated him well, and paid him well sure. But that’s what every organization does if you produce. I think this was a scenario in which the organization should have gone above and beyond for Hines, even if it might hurt the performance of the team.

          • countertorque

            Can’t agree here.  One of the things I really value about being a Steeler fan is having a smart front office.  I think keeping an over the hill veteran player on the roster “even if it might hurt the performance of the team,” is the opposite of being smart.  So, I definitely do not want them to keep Ward on the roster if he can’t produce.

            I’m a huge Hines Ward fan.  His jersey was the first one I ever owned.  And when I bought it, he was so little known that I had to use the “pick your own name” feature at nfl.com to get it (I don’t live in the Pittsburgh area).  Ward was the only WR on the team that could catch in those days.  I’m going to hate seeing him in another uniform.  But, it can’t last forever.

          • Yoni

             It’s not “on the steelers” or on anyone for that matter. That’s the point. Hines is not “owed” anything. But if we consider the Steelers organization to be a bit “exceptional” in terms of how they treat their players and their fans, then I would expect the Steelers to extend that courtesy to a player who was a loyal servant for 14 years.

            If the game is all about wins and losses and cap figures, then it doesn’t mean much does it? Part of the privilege of being a Steelers fan has been the class and integrity with which the organization has conducted itself for all these years. We win AND we do it the right way, by treating the players and the fans above and beyond what they “deserve.”

  • Randy Steele

    Nicely done, Mr. Gretz.

    I’m especially glad you noted Ward’s performance within the red zone, which is a particularly important skill of his that I’ve always thought was overlooked. And I’ve yet to see any of the Young Money boys really prove themselves adept at those situations, which causes me a bit of concern.That said, time marches on. The Steelers did the right thing.

  • Cols714

    Farrior thinks he’s next. Which means they are likely going to keep Foote around another year. I wonder if they are waiting to cut Kemo so he’s not on the cap in 2013?

  • Lance

    Very thoughtful and true.  Well said

  • Cols714

    And Aaron Smith is gone as well. Probably a year too late. He was great though and would get HOF votes if they voted on more than just sacks. As it stands, he’s probably not getting in.

  • Cols714

    Kemo reportedly is being cut too. Good riddance to that guy. One of the worst contracts we’ve given out in recent memory.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UR6KXGPFIFYZSVJNCXCJNHDQJQ Bob Costas

      I am surprised, I figured they’d wait till June 1st on this one to spread out the damage.

      • Mike L

        Word is he was told he is not going to be back with the team.  They did not say he is being cut before March 13.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Adam, I enjoyed this piece.  

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    QOTD: if another team signs Wallace to a contract that we don’t want to match (because it is too much money), should we use one of the two first round picks we’d then have to sign Arian Foster, who is also an RFA?

    • Cols714

      Nope.
      We have Redman, Batch, and Mendenhall next year. No need to spend the money needed for Foster.

      This question screams Ryan-bait. He’d have a fit if the Steelers were to do this.

      • EasyLikeSundayMorning

        Mendenhall might not play next year and Batch has never played in the NFL.  I understand not wanting to use a first round draft pick on an unproven RB (nodding towards Ryan), but Foster is clearly one of the best in the NFL.  Plus, Mendy is a FA after this year, so we’ll be looking for a back anyway…

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UR6KXGPFIFYZSVJNCXCJNHDQJQ Bob Costas

          There are several problems, in my mind, with signing Fosters.

          1. Too expensive in terms of both the first round pick and the money

          2. Running backs age poorly and the Steelers have already missed about half of Foster’s prime years

          3. Foster is a prototypical one-cut running back that works well with small, agile cut blocking lines like the Texans and Broncos have used.  I don’t know how well his style would fit with the Steelers offensive line.

          4.  Somewhat related to 3, how much is Foster’s success is due to the quality of the Texans offensive line?  Ben Tate put up very good numbers this year when Foster was out.  Style issues aside, how would a back like Foster fare on a team with a much lower quality line?  If there aren’t holes there, will he still be effective?

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UR6KXGPFIFYZSVJNCXCJNHDQJQ Bob Costas

            On a related thought, I’d much rather the Steelers use their money/picks to improve the offensive line.  I think it’s fairly clear that an excellent line can make an average back look very good.  Conversely, outside of an exceptional back like Barry Sanders, running backs rarely outperform their line.  So instead of chasing flashy running backs, I’d rather they get unglamorous lineman.  There are so many good running backs available through the draft that you can be quite successful with a good, not great, running back as long as you have a quality offensive line.

          • EasyLikeSundayMorning

            Good points in both posts. I’m convinced.

  • Cols714

    Farrior gone.
    So Ward, Kemo, Farrior, McFaddon, Smith, Battle are all gone. On the field we won’t miss any of these guys, but it’s sad to see Farrior, Smith and Ward go. Those guys were pretty much the leaders of the team the past decade. 

    What a fantastic signing Farrior turned out to be. 

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    That’s a lot of veteran leadership walking out the door at one time.  Hopefully lots of other guys can step up in the locker room. 

    So, has anyone estimated how much cap room the Steelers will have after all the “terminations?” Along with the money they’ll have to use to sign draft picks, how much (if any) money will they have left over?  I don’t expect them to go on a signing spree, but I can’t tell if they’ll have any money at all.  Anyone know a good source on this?

    • Cols714

      This sounds like a good question for Ted to answer.

    • Yoni

       check out dave bryan’s posts over at steelersdepot.com His breakdowns of the salary cap situation are thorough and informative. Sometimes I think he’s Omar Khan in disguise…

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Is there a difference from a cap perspective if Smith (or Farrior) retires rather than being cut?

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Was there any punishment for the Ravens’ bounty program to injure Steelers players?  I don’t seem to recall any repercussions for them (despite Mendenhall being lost for a season while the bounty was in place).

  • Cols714

    Yo Ted
    How about Hightower in the 1st and Taamu in the 2nd?
    Sound good?

    • Anonymous

      That’s become my favorite of the likely scenarios. Probably Kelemete or Brooks will be available in the 3rd to help out with that OG need.

    • TO

      Don’t really get the love for Hightower.  A short, heavy, slow plodder in a passing league.   would render the Steelers LB crew essentially worthless against the pass.  They should simply pick BPA minus QB, RB and possibly DL. 

      • Anonymous

        First, he was productive in college. I think that weigs more than physical attributes. Second, with Farrior gone, I think Timmons moves over to his more natural mack position. That means that the ILB position the Steelers need to fill is the buck, the guy who’s supposed to be heavier and take on blocks.

      • Cols714

         Well duh they should pick BPA with respect to need, they always do that.

        I’m betting that Hightower will be pretty close to BPA when they pick.

  • Cols714

    OK, I know the Steelers pretty much always sign the guys they want to keep. However, I’m now officially nervous that we are going to lose Wallace. If he gets to FA, why wouldn’t NE sign him up?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UR6KXGPFIFYZSVJNCXCJNHDQJQ Bob Costas

      Because they can sign Brandon Lloyd for cheaper and without giving up the first round pick.  Also, they still have to sign Welker.

      • Cols714

        Yeah you are likely correct. Just getting nervous…

        And I know that every fan of every team overvalues their team’s free agents, but Wallace seems like he’d be good pretty much everywhere.

        • EasyLikeSundayMorning

          In addition to Lloyd, there are an unusually large number of good UFA WRs on the market this year including Vincent Jackson, Marques Colston, Laurent Robinson, Mario Manningham and Reggie Wayne.  If you said we could have Jackson or Colston and a 1st round pick for Wallace, I wouldn’t complain (at least not too much). And I’m the guy who wrote the pro-Wallace post during the season.

          • countertorque

            I’ll agree that is a compelling trade.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Yes, drafting BPA in an area of need would clearly be best.  But what is our “need?”

    There should be roughly 12-14 positions in which
    a new player could make the roster.  I
    put them into three tiers.  My definitions for the tiers are:
    Tier 1: new starter need by 2013 and depth
    also needed now
    Tier
    2: backup depth needed in 2012
    Tier 3: depth spots that are either currently empty
    or could use an upgrade

    Tier 1: NT, ILB, OG
    Tier 2: WR4, WR5, OT4, OG4, DE4
    Tier 3: TE3, S4, RB4, RB5/WR6, CB6, QB3

    Some
    of these slots may be filled by guys already on the roster or likely to be
    signed, like Will Allen / Cromartie-Smith, Clay / Baron Batch, Leftwich / Charlie Batch / Troy Smith,
    Jamon Meredith, Chris Scott, Max Starks, Trai Essex and Al Wood.  And
    it would be nice if we could re-sign Jerricho Cotchery.  But it would not be surprise if any of these
    guys weren’t on the roster in September.  So the draft, UDFAs and UFAs signings need to
    be done for each of these slots, at least for camp competition.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/TCWAYT5OWSCGSV4H7KVEIZZVBU Don Mosebar

      Very nice summing up, Easy…

      I would be happy if they got one starting guard out of this draft. 

    • EasyLikeSundayMorning

      Cotchery, Essex and Pope cover 3 of these spots. I now think RB will be a higher priority than I had previously thought. It arguably could be in tier 1. Hell, maybe we should trade up in round 1to take an RB! (yes, that’s a not-so-subtle attempt to provoke Ryan to say something…)

  • Cols714

    So much for all of the cap worry for the Steelers. They got under it pretty easily.

    I’d like to see them sign a veteran QB to take the backup QB job away from Batch. It’d be nice to have someone back there who they actually had some confidence in so when Ben goes down, they don’t have to bring him back early.

  • Cols714

    The latest embarrassment of the league taking away cap space from the Redskins and Cowboys seems to show that the NFL under Goodell is disfunctional.

    Every fine and punishment seems to come out of nowhere and seems totally random.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UR6KXGPFIFYZSVJNCXCJNHDQJQ Bob Costas

    Draft QOTD: Which Brady should the Steelers draft?
     
    I know a lot of people will want to draft Greg because he has the best measurables but with Roethlisbergers injury history I think they should draft Peter Brady. He ran a pro style offense and is renowned for his deep ball:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k04Wv0fydvU

    • Anonymous

      Quinn

  • David

    Anybody else not sold on RG3? Man, the Deadskins gave up a lot to get him, also.

    • Cols714

      They did, but if you think he’s going to be great (I do) then it’s worth it.

  • David

    Hey, also, Levi Brown’s been released now. Just sayin…

  • Cols714

    Anyone else think that Vincent Jackson’s overrated? I bet his contract looks pretty bad after this year.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UR6KXGPFIFYZSVJNCXCJNHDQJQ Bob Costas

      The bigger issue is, how will that contract affect contract negotiations with Wallace?

      • Cols714

        I was wondering that as well. But the Steelers generally sign guys on their own terms and don’t get burned too often.

        Of course on the OL it’s different. Mahan, Starks, Kemo, Simmons all signed big FA contracts and were subsequently cut. I worry now about Colon.

        • David

          True, but this is how we lost Fanceca. The NYG paid some OG outrageous $$, Faneca wanted similar $$, our FO said no, then he said goodbye.

          However, Faneca was considered the best. Wallace isn’t, especially due to his dropoff in production the last half of the yr, so that may help us.

  • David

    Ryan, nice article on CBS Sportsline. That list of WR’s is exactly why I don’t think we have a chance at signing Wallace anymore.

    I mean, Laurent freaking Robinson, 32 mil? Geez.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    A source says Casey Hampton restructured, giving another $3mm or so in 2012 cap space. What’s that put us at, about $15mm under the cap?  http://www.macsfootballblog.com/2012/03/steelers-nt-casey-hampton-restructures.html

    Also, seeing the contracts for Vincent Jackson and DeSean Jackson, I wonder whether we should sign Wallace to a long-term deal or not.  $50mm for 5 years seems like a lot of money for a WR, no matter how good he is. 

    And Ryan (or David), feel free to post a link to that article on CBS.  I couldn’t find it after Googling and searching the site. 

  • Cols714

    So it seems we go into the draft with a starting NT in Hampton back, Larry Foote starting at ILB, and Legursky at LG.

    If that’s who ends up starting in 2012, that’s still a pretty good team. I bet they find replacements for all of those guys in this draft, but those replacements may not play a big role in the upcoming season.

    What a great job by the FO so far this offseason. Kept Wallace and made the necessary cuts to get under the cap and didn’t hurt the team seemingly at all.

    I’d like them to sign some veteran WR, Cotchery if possible, a veteran TE of some sort and maybe a backup safety.

    • Rob D

      I think Hampton will be fine for another year. Some people think McClendon will be the starter next year (as in- the 2013 season) and I guess that’s possible but he looks kinda small for a NT..he’s built more like a DE to my eyes. Foote isn’t anyone’s choice for most exciting player on the team but he’s still a capable guy who has learned a lot from playing next to Farrior. I fully expect Hightower to be our first round pick and to be playing full time very quickly. Legs at LG ..I guess we’ll see. He’s hard to dislike and the coaching staff seems to love him. I think he’s a limited role player when it comes to G but he’s a very able C and with Pouncey’s injury history so far, we can’t ignore having a capable and relatively cheap backup to plunk in there. I worry about Pouncey and Sanders..both seem to have chronic problems already with ankles/feet. Hopefully it’s just an early setback for two guys who should /could play huge roles going forward.

      Yep..Cotchery seems to be well liked by just about everyone. Very versatile guy and a vet who can provide some leadership with all the younger guys. I hope Saunders is a Steeler after his suspension is over..I still don’t have a clear idea about why he was suspended but it apparently wasn’t for street drugs etc as had been rumoured. He’s a special talent and the type of athlete the TE position seems to be headed for in the NFL. Apparently a lot of the CB’s in this draft are going to be converted to safety at the NFL level according to Mayock..he did a long piece on this subject for NFLN and I can’t find it online to post a link. IT was an excellent piece..I will post if I find it. 

      Hope all you guys are doing well and enjoying the spring..WE basically didn’t have a winter here in Kingston, Canada…and the temps are expected to hit the 70`s this weekend. A great weekend to take a walk and get some air in these older lungs. Can’t wait for the draft and for the STeelers to sign Wallace..

  • Cols714

    Is Brandon Lloyd the next New England free agent bust? Probably.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Intropy made an interesting observation that Timmons might move into Farrior’s mack role and Foote would move into his natural buck role.  This seems to make sense and it would utilize Juan’s quickness and athleticism more in various ways.  Has this been reported anywhere?

    If that’s happens, the 2013 open starter slot would be ILB buck (not mack), but we probably won’t make that pick in r1.  Few (if any) 3-4 bucks have ever been r1 picks.  We did pick Kendrell Bell at 39 in 2001 and Levon Kirkland at 38 in 1992, though, and they both turned out pretty well, even if Kendrell wasn’t very good in pass coverage.  http://www.nfl.com/draft/history/fulldraft?position=LB&type=position

    • Cols714

      True. But I think Hightower is better than Bell and just as good as Kirkland. So if we have to get him a little bit early, that’s OK.

      Should we migrate these discussions elsewhere? No offense to the Steelers Lounge guys, but SteelersDepot updates quite often if we wanted to have discussions there.

      Once again, no offense to Ryan, Adam, JJ, and Ted, I totally understand the free nature of this blog and that you get paid elsewhere.

  • Rob D

    Hines Ward retires..

    “He was a man, take him for all in all,I shall not look upon his like again.” 

  • Yoni

    Selfishly I’m glad Hines retired, so that he ends his career as a Steeler-for-life. That’s the way it should be. I just wish he had retired before he got cut. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UR6KXGPFIFYZSVJNCXCJNHDQJQ Bob Costas

    If true – yikes!

    • Anonymous

      Kind of depends on what it means to surpass 8 years for 120 million. I’d definitely sign Wallace to a 60 year, 300 million contract with twenty guaranteed.

    • EasyLikeSundayMorning

      If it is true, his agent isn’t giving him very good advice or it isn’t sinking in.  He has minimal leverage this year and next (if we franchise him).  If I were him, being set for life with a $15mm guarantee today would be more valuable to me than possibly being guaranteed $25-30mm two years from now.  And total contract value only matters if you have the maturity of a high school or college kid.

    • EasyLikeSundayMorning

      If it is true, his agent isn’t giving him very good advice or it isn’t sinking in.  He has minimal leverage this year and next (if we franchise him).  If I were him, being set for life with a $15mm guarantee today would be more valuable to me than possibly being guaranteed $25-30mm two years from now.  And total contract value only matters if you have the maturity of a high school or college kid.

      • Anonymous

        I think it’s probably the age old technique of asking for a lot so you can negotiate downwards.

  • http://www.outsource-website-design.com/ outsourcing website

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  • Rob D

    It ain’t easy when you have to provide players not only for your own team , but ensure that other teams like Arizona, Cincy and Cleveland have the ability to field competent teams. It’s a burden but we can do no less!

    (ie) William Gay signs with the Cards.

     
    TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals and cornerback William Gay have agreed to a two-year deal.

    The team announced the agreement in a release Sunday.

    Gay spent the previous four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers,
    who selected him in the fifth round of the 2007 draft. He has appeared
    in all 80 regular-season games since entering the league, including 37
    starts.

    Last season, he started 15 games for the Steelers and
    finished the regular season with 56 tackles — 45 solo — with two
    interceptions.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    I’m not complaining, but why did we get 3 comp picks when we only lost Spaeth and Eason? 
    http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/sports/steelers/steelers-awards-three-compensatory-draft-picks-628116/

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UR6KXGPFIFYZSVJNCXCJNHDQJQ Bob Costas

       Keyaron Fox was the third player lost.

      • EasyLikeSundayMorning

         I’m amazed that we got a comp pick for either Eason or Fox.

        • Rob D

           What a steal! Someone said that it might really help up get a leg up on UDFA that we might be considering…if there’s a guy or two the Steelers are  really hot on…you can grab them in the 7th.

          I know…genius stuff..but its all I got today…

          Hope all is well with you guys..I was hoping to make it to Pittsburgh on a trip this summer but all my plans lie shattered on the ground. Relatives are visiting…pray for me! It’s going to be like National Lampoon’s Vacation and yes. creepy Randy Quaid-like character is a ‘coming..

        • Randy Steele

          True, but I’m surprised they only got a 7th for Spaeth.

  • Randy Steele

    If you don’t regularly check out the Pittsburgh Sports Daily Bulletin, you might want to today. There’s a good story (several, actually) from a long-forgotten Steeler tight end , Bob Adams.

    http://pittsburghsportsdailybulletin.wordpress.com/ 

  • Anonymous

    Hypothetical draft question. If DeCastro, Kuechly, Poe, and Reiff are all available at 24, what do you do?

    • Anonymous

      Okay I guess I’d try and deal rounds 1 and 2 for New England’s round 1 and 2, pick whichever of DeCastro, Kuechly and Reiff those isn’t taken and get Ta’amu in the second. On the off chance Poe is the only one of the original 4 left, I take him then Zeitler in the 2nd.

      If I can’t make such a trade, I think I’d take DeCastro.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    This study rates draft picks from rounds 1-3 over the last 10 years as home runs, triples, doubles, singles, outs or too soon to judge. In terms of home runs, he lists 29 from r1, 1 from r2 and 3 from r3. I would have expected some skew to r1, but not this much.

    The Steelers rate near the top despite being second lowest in average draft position.

    http://draftmetrics.com/files/PLAY%20BALL.pdf

    • Cols714

      Of course they are near the top. They should be #1. They don’t sign any FAs yet are one of the winningest teams over the past 2 decades. That’s pretty much the definition of great drafting.

  • Randy Steele

    An entire month without a new post. Has this site been abandoned?

  • Anonymous

    Deal-wise, I’m starting to like what I see in round 2 instead of round 1. The Patriots like to wheel and deal. What about trying to trade #24 (740) for #48, #63, and #128 (420 + 276 + 44 = 740). Would both teams be amenable to that? The Steelers could then use their late round picks to move up in earlier rounds depending on who is available when and still get a good quantity of players in camp.

    • EasyLikeSundayMorning

      I generally like it when the Steelers do deals on draft day.  If they trade up, it means they really like a guy (and they’ve had more Troys and Santonios than Ricardos), and if they trade down, they think they can get the guys they want at good draft value slots (like Casey).  That said, this year, we already have 10 picks.  So, all else being equal, I’d rather they use some of those picks to move up to get guys they like. 

      The Pats also seem like a team that more often trades down to get extra picks (to Bill Simmons annoyance).  So if we wanted to move down, they wouldn’t be our most natural partner.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Anyone know of a list of the college players who have visited the Steelers this offseason?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UR6KXGPFIFYZSVJNCXCJNHDQJQ Bob Costas

    Bot comments are starting to outnumber actual comments… not good.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Antonio Brown was on NFL Live.  He had a huge grin the entire time and seems like a genuinely nice guy.  Standing next to guys like Marcellus Wiley, though, AB looked like he was in about 5th grade.   Wikipedia lists him at 5’10″ and 186 and this seems generous by about 2-4 inches and 15-20 pounds.

  • Cols714

    Well guys, I think a month without a new post is about it. I’ll check back periodically, but I’m taking my talents to SteelersDepot for now. Hopefully I’ll see you all over there.

    • EasyLikeSundayMorning

      I’m surprised that ROBO saying he’s not returning didn’t provoke at least a comment from Ryan. 

      Also, while I would like to see more posts and podcasts as we move back toward the draft and actual football news, I’m also concerned that the comment threads are starting to die off, too.  There was a reduction in comments when HSS was replaced by SL and now things are slowing down even more. 

      • Randy Steele

        Agreed. Come on, guys. Post anything. Don’t give up.
        Throw a dog a bone.

    • Rob D

      It’s the offseason, but I wish Ryan would at least say no posts for the next little while. I try to be loyal to my favourite sites and blogs but I am starting to think what’s the use as far as SL is concerned. I think many of us miss the old HSS atmosphere..it was a bit more fun. Then again, many blogs die off early as the originators move on to bigger and better things. Maybe I am just a NY Times kinda guy in the age of Huffington Post and TMZ…lol

      End mini rant..here’s a nice writeup by Zierlein on the Steelers.
      http://thesidelineview.com/columns/d…-1-steeler-way 

    • David

       Well, Yahoo Sports is reporting (guessing?) that teams are willing to trade for Wallace.

      Also, off topic, but stick a fork in the Penguins.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UR6KXGPFIFYZSVJNCXCJNHDQJQ Bob Costas

    Steelers signed TE Leonard Pope and re-signed Cotchery.  I don’t know much about Pope but I’m happy they were able to get Cotchery re-signed.

    • Robert Dewar

       Great news Bob! Pope is a guy that follows our OC around and he’s pretty good..I think he’ll look good catching balls in the EZ at 6′ 8″.
      Cotchery is a great signing…He’s one of those all around good guys…hands, routes, attitude, leadership, well liked in the lockerrom..that will help us a lot.

      Can’t wait for the draft..hope this site gets the lights turned on for it…lol

      • Randy Steele

        From what I’ve read about Pope, he’s a dreadful blocker and draws a lot of penalties, so let’s not pencil him in as the next Heath Miller quite yet.

        • Anonymous

          And for a pass catching TE he’s not been productive in the passing game. I  think he’s there to teach the system and if he wins a camp battle that’s a bonus.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Hightower and LaMichael James visited. Both seem like plausible picks for us.

  • David

    Wow, we have 10 games on primetime or late Sunday. We start with Peyton and the Broncos.

    • EasyLikeSundayMorning

      If there were schedule nerds the way there are draft nerds, they’d have a lot to chew on with ours. We have historical rivalries (Raiders, Cowboys), recent playoff opponents (Broncos, Ravens, Jets, Chargers), regional rivals (OH, PA), and QBs who have won 5 of the last 7 SBs (Ben, Eli, Peyton). 

      We usually play most of our games at 1pm on CBS, but the first game
      like that isn’t until week 12.  And there’s a decent chance that 1-3 of
      our 4 CBS 1pm games will be flexed to night (SD, CIN and even possibly the
      last game against CLE if it matters for the playoffs).

      Selfishly, it will be fairly easy to watch many of the games at home here in NYC without having to resort to work-arounds. The only game that I can say for certain won’t be televised in NYC on regular TV is at TEN because it is on the NFLN and we have Time Warner.

  • David

    And three games in Oct in 14 days. Geez.

    • GlennW

      Excluding byes every three-game sequence is played over approximately 14 days (e.g. our first three games Sep 9-23).  The only difference is there’s a Thursday game in October, but by now we should be used to playing one Thursday game every season.  Might even be better that it’s in October as opposed to Nov/Dec when the body count has piled up, although of course as always the opponent is dealing with the same “disadvantage” too.

      I really don’t like Thursday football, but that’s another matter.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    So, the 4pm deadline passed and reports are that no one signed Wallace to an offer sheet.  Eddie B seems to think that he’ll be gone after 2012 because they won’t sign him and won’t franchise him next year (although he provides no reason for saying this).

    • David

       Well, I think a big part of it is that he wants Fitzgerald money ($16 mil/yr). Ain’t gonna happen with us.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    With one post and no podcasts in over two months, it doesn’t seem likely that new Lounge content will be coming before the draft.  Can anybody suggest links to good Steelers pre-draft coverage and mock drafts?  I looked at SteelersDepot, but at least two of their writers had us picking a TE who isn’t an elite blocker, and that seems highly unlikely to me.

    • Rob D

      Seems like the best STeelers related sites don’t last long for whatever reason. I used to bounce around a few like postgameheroes, Mondesi;s House and the like. There’s still behindthesteelcurtain and STeelerDepot and some others that I find too serious in tone and too juvenile in the comments to hold my attention. Why do so many sports blogs harbour so many racists and sexists? LOL…I am always wondering why Attila the Hun’s nephew is posting in caps and dredging up the depths of his inner boor! 

      I miss HSS’s…it was a near perfect blend of humor, knowledge and manners where you could say something stupid or misinformed and not get flamed …but simply corrected. I really liked the idea of this new site but it never really seemed to take off and the managers clearly have better and probably more important things to do. Which I don’t blame them for or anything like that. But they should really just say its on hiatus or pronounce the last rites over it. I think I will check back once more and then say adios. 

      • Anonymous

        I liked Post Game Heroes, and that’s done. Steelers Lounge was the best. Now it seems to be gone. Steelers Depot is next and still alive, so that’s my new favorite. I seem to have room for two Steelers blogs, and the next best of the ones I’ve tried looks like Behind the Steel Curtain. Oh, and FootballOutsiders, but that’s NFL and NCAA football in general.

  • David

    OK, here’s what I hope happens for our 1st 2 rds:
    1. Get OG DeCastro in R1
    2. Trade up and get OT Adams in R2

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UR6KXGPFIFYZSVJNCXCJNHDQJQ Bob Costas

    Completely random and stupid thing I noticed – George Zimmerman was wearing a Steelers jacket after being released from jail.

  • Cols714

    Yuck
    Update the site already!

    I’m going with Nick Perry as the Steelers choice in the 1st round. Just wnated to get that out there before anyone else does.