Fear and Loathing in Pittsburgh

Hines Ward, a former Steeler that once called out his team’s two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback on national television for not playing with a concussion, joined the circle of seventh grade girls that has been the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room this offseason and chided the current team for airing its dirty laundry in public.

This is not what the Steelers do, you guys.

“Guys calling out other guys, that’s not the Steeler way,” Ward said on NFL Network last Friday in response to numerous players talking about what went wrong with the team in 2012. “We have always kept things in-house.”

It was November, 2009, and the Steelers were in the middle of a season-crushing six-game losing streak and preparing for a key Sunday night game in Baltimore. Starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sidelined with a concussion he suffered in the previous week’s loss at Kansas City, and on the Saturday before the game was officially ruled out for the contest after being questionable most of the week. His backup, Charlie Batch, was also injured in that previous game in the most Charlie Batch way possible — on a play where he handed the ball off.

That left the Steelers in the unenviable position of having to go into one of the toughest environments in the NFL (Baltimore on a Sunday night) with Dennis Dixon and former University of Pittsburgh quarterback Tyler Palko, a player who had been picked up off the street that very Saturday, to man the position. And they — somehow — very nearly pulled off a win only to lose in overtime when Dixon made his only mistake of the game, throwing a terrible interception to Ravens rookie linebacker Paul Kruger.

But the real fireworks came before the game when Ward went on NBC’s pre-game show and did the exact opposite of keeping things in house. The focal point was on whether or not Roethlisberger, who was no stranger to head injuries, both the result of opposing defenders and the front of end of cars on Second Avenue, should play in the game.

“This game is almost like a playoff game,” Ward told NBC’s Bob Costas. “It’s almost a ‘must’ win. So, I can see some players or some teammates kind of questioning like, ‘Well, it’s just a concussion. I’ve played with concussions before. I would go out there and play.’ So, it’s almost like a 50-50 toss-up in the locker room. You know, should he play, shouldn’t he play. It’s really hard to say.

“I’ve been out there dinged up. The following week, [I] got right back out there. You know, Ben practiced all week. . . . To find out that he’s still having some headaches and not playing and it came down to doctor’s didn’t feel that they was gonna clear him. . . . It’s hard to say, unless you’re the person. . . . I’ve lied to a couple of doctors saying ‘I’m straight, I feel good,’ when I knew I’m really not straight. But I don’t think guys really about the future when they’re playing currently in the NFL. . . .

“Trust me, the players, they wanna go out there because these games, you don’t get back. You’re never gonna get this Baltimore-Pittsburgh game back.”

If that’s keeping things in house, then that house must have been consumed by a raging couch fire only to be extinguished with gasoline. Quite honestly, that interview seems 10 times more outrageous today than it did at the time just three short years ago. Hines Ward, professional football player, actually used the phrase “it’s just a concussion.” Crazy times.

This all came up recently because an anonymous Steeler called out linebacker Lamarr Woodley to Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, saying he was “awful” in 2012 and that he wasn’t in shape during the season. Normally I find anonymous quotes to be useless (I would never use an anonymous quote — I’d tell the player to either attach his name to it or don’t talk to me) but assuming a Steeler really did say it, he wasn’t lying because Woodley was all but stealing money last year. But this still started a firestorm of chaos around the Steelers.

Larry Foote accused his teammates of being too friendly with the Ravens and talked about how the team went from trying to fight them outside the bus (remember that time Joey Porter was outside the Ravens bus screaming “He’s got a knife!” and then Ray Lewis tried to fight him? Good times.) to wishing them well in the Super Bowl.

Antonio Brown said that too many players in the locker room were more concerned about personal numbers than the team, a statement that might have been damning had it not come from one of the biggest underachievers on the roster in 2012. One that not only made more big plays for the other team (fumbles and turnovers) than his own, but one that also repeatedly brought attention to himself by running backwards into the end zone on two separate occasions — on plays that were negated by penalties.

All of this has led to the Steelers’ leadership being questioned, and concerns that locker room is fractured.

Maybe the Steelers, a team that has lost several key players and personalities in recent years to the salary cap, retirement, and free agency, are missing the leadership that players like Alan Faneca, Hines Ward, Aaron Smith, James Farrior, and Joey Porter provided. Perhaps they just lost too many respected veterans that could police the locker room and keep shit from getting out of hand.

Yeah. Maybe that’s it.

You could believe that. It would be complete bullshit. But you could believe it if you wanted to.

The Steelers aren’t missing leaders like Faneca, Smith, Ward, and Farrior. What they’re missing is the type of TALENT that Faneca, Smith, Ward, and Farrior had when they were in the prime of their career’s and helping the Steelers make repeat trips to the Super Bowl.

Every team has their internal issues over the course of the season. With 53 different players, personalities, and egos of varying degrees you’re never going to have a situation where everyone is farting rainbows and puppy dogs and singing around the campfire. There will always be disagreements, fights, and “chemistry” issues. They just get talked about more when the team loses.

And things brings me to my concern with the 2013 Steelers. Where the hell is the talent going to come from?

Another roster purge is inevitable given the salary cap and free agency situation, and we already know that the team’s most talented wide receiver (Mike Wallace) and running back (Rashard Mendenhall) won’t be back. It’s also possible that Keenan Lewis played himself into a big contract elsewhere. And that’s to say nothing of the cuts that have to be made in order to get the team under the salary cap and the returning players that will simply be another year older (James Harrison, Troy Polamalu, Heath Miller, Ike Taylor, Brett Keisel, Casey Hampton — assuming they’re even on the team when the season begins and not part of the upcoming roster cuts.)

The Steelers find themselves in this position because they’ve made a habit out of restructuring contracts and pushing their salary cap concerns down the road. I don’t blame the Steelers for doing it because it helped them put together the second-best era in the history of the franchise, a run from 2004-2012 that saw them play in four AFC Championship games and three Super Bowls, winning the whole damn thing twice. It was worth it. But when you do that you eventually have to pay the piper. And now he’s here to collect.

It’s far too soon to write off the 2013 Steelers before we even know what the team will look like. Especially when they still have one of the five best quarterbacks in the NFL, and anytime you have that you should — in theory — have a shot. Teams in worse positions have turned themselves around in one offseason. But they need a big-time draft and some savvy free agent additions that their cap situation will alow, and a couple of bounceback seasons (I’m looking at you, Antonio Brown) wouldn’t hurt either.

My biggest concern as we sit now is how pedestrian the offense looks around Roethlisberger. Part of that is Todd Haley’s system (I hate it) and the fact there are no real gamebreakers at any of the skill positions.

My feelings on the replaceability of running backs aside, the current crop has nothing that resembles a big-play threat and the options in free agency aren’t really intriguing. Honestly, their best bet might be to sign a talented reclamation project coming off a down year to a bargain contract. A classic case of buying low and going for a big reward. But the guy that best fits that description is Rashard Mendenhall, and unfortunately that ship appears to have already sailed.

There is no use in banging the Mike Wallace drum any longer because he’s gone, and the worst-case scenario would have him going to Cincinnati (a team that’s looking for somebody to play opposite A.J. Green) to torch the Steelers twice a year. But with him goes the explosiveness that the Steelers offense used to have. It seems that Steve Breaston is the likely replacement if we’re to believe recent reports, and that’s a huge drop in talent and production. Breaston is going to be 30 years old (bad news for a receiver) and has no history of making the type of big plays a team needs to win in the NFL. Going into the season with a top-three of Brown, Breaston, and Emmanuel Sanders does little for me.

There is cause for concern when it comes to the 2013 Steelers. It’s not because players are calling each other out publicly (or anonymously).

It’s because they no longer have the talent they used to have.

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  • dennisdoubleday

    This seems a little too pessimistic to me. The defense is in pretty good shape except at ILB; I expect them to re-sign Lewis (and, if they don’t, Cortez showed he can play), I believe a comeback year is in store for Woodley. I also think Cam Heyward will get his chance and based on the limited things I have seen of him, he will be good. I’m not a Ziggy fan, though.

    Maybe they can address ILB and S depth in the draft.

    On offense, the Wallace loss will hurt–I expect them to draft a big receiver early. Mendenhall is our best back, no doubt, be he contributed next to nothing last year so you can’t really say there will be a dropoff without him. As you say, as long as we have BB we are in it. We WERE in it last year, until he got hurt. We can hardly have a worse performance running the ball than last year, so that will be a plus this year–leading to a 10-6 season.

    It’s all good.

  • Cols714

    Yeah, count me in as being way more optimistic than this. The Steelers are going to lose some guys, but none of them are great players besides Wallace.

    And the whole locker room thing to me is just a byproduct of an 8-8 season. When you are winning, everyone is happy and the locker room concerns are gone. Winning makes the locker good, losing makes the locker room bad. It’s not a bad locker room caused them to lose it’s the other way around.

    And I don’t think they’ve screwed up by restructuring contracts. The Steelers wont he Super Bowl in 2008, then went 12-4 in 2010 and almost won it again. They then went 12-4 in 2011 and were one miracle Joe Flacco drive from having the #1 seed in the AFC that year. I don’t think you give up those opportunities to have salary cap room. It’s winning that matters and it doesn’t seem like the Steelers are hamstrung by the cap so much as Wallace just wants more money than the Steelers are willing to pay. They set a value on him and he values himself higher (there’s nothing wrong with this and I don’t begrudge him wanting to get all the moneys).

    Last year was a downer, but they’ve managed to rebuild the OL and the DL and the CB position over the past few years. The defense is a bit older, but Timmons and Woodley are good and young. Troy was healthy finally and Clark had his best season last year. Those two guys still have at least one and probably two or three good seasons in them.

    The one other guy is Harrison. I think he spent most of last year getting healthy. I think he has one more good run in him and we will see that in 2013.

    I am worried about the RBs. I wish Mendenhall would just sign here. I am also worried about the receivers without Wallace. But the Steelers are usually good at filling in holes and Big Ben can make WRs look better than they actually are.

  • http://www.facebook.com/randy.steele.583 Randy Steele

    Frankly, I’m so shocked at seeing a new post on this site that I can’t think straight. I might even be concussed. Whoa! I’m feeling woozy. Everything is spinning… I gotta sit down. No wait, I am sitting down. I think. No wait… I… I…

    Give me a minute and I’ll get back to you.

  • David

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

    We were a punt return, a missed 54 yd fg, and two INTs from possibly being 12-4 instead of 8-8. And that’s not including the, to quote Vinny, “Maybe the Laws of Physics Don’t Exist” game in CLE, where the football had a mind of its own. That’s 13-3, maybe.

    Yeah, yeah, woulda, coulda, shoulda, But it’s not like we were blown out every game. We weren’t blown out any game, come to think of it.

    Improve the O-line and keep Ben upright, improve the D-line and we’ll be fine.
    According to EB, our O-line is set with L-R: Gilbert, Beachum, Pouncey, DeCastro, Adams. The only part that worries me is LT.
    With that said, my money is on D-line, WR, RB for Rds 1-3 in April.

    We’ll be fine.

  • Cols714

    OK
    I’m going with the safety in the first round. Kenny Vaccaro.
    Then WR, RB, OLB in the next 3 rounds.

  • http://www.facebook.com/randy.steele.583 Randy Steele

    Lots of good points here, but I didn’t think the offense looked “pedestrian” before Rothlisberger’s injury

    In fact, if I remember correctly, it was moving so efficiently that there was quite a bit of serious talk about Ben Rothlisberger being named league MVP. Then he got hurt, and coupled with several injuries along the offensive line, the offense never got back in sync the rest of the season.

    As unhappy as we all are with the finish last season’s team displayed, much of the blame can legitimately be placed on injuries, many of them to key players. You can’t dismiss that.

    And as far as Steve Breaston is concerned, no one is claiming he’s Mike Wallace’s replacement. The Steelers need at least two new WRs to start next season, and Breaston, if he signs (a big “if”) will be situated no higher than the No. 3 slot.

    • Rob D

      I agree , Randy..I think we need to give Haley an opportunity to show what he can do in his 2nd year ..this time with a healthy and talented (and young) O-line. I have no opinion on Haley’s offense until he has the personnel to run it. He didn’t have that along the O-line last year..in fact, it was musical lineman from game to game.

      I believe they’ll find enough WR talent and a RB in this draft to push them back into contention for the division, if not the conference. The D needs to start playing Heyward, Cortez, McClendon, Curtis Brown, and Golden (my choice for suprise player in the secondary…love that kid) more. We are definately taking a safety/corner in this draft and I agee with Cols about Vaccaro in the first. I’d be happy with him, one of the DLine guys or the WR Patterson in that slot. We should have someone really good fall to us at that spot, especially if Miami picks up Wallace as has been rumoured…

      We need to improve exponentially on ST’s..that’s largely a function of the draft and finding players who can start out there. I think we’ ll improve with a new coach and an emphasis by the STeelers in that area where they embarrassed themselves on a weekly basis.

      • Intropy

        Vaccaro seems like a reasonable choice, but I think at least one of the top edge rushers is going to be available. I’d really like to get Jarvis Jones. Another surprising option that could be available would be Lotulelei. Either he’s going to play football next season or he isn’t. If he’s going to play and he’s on the board, I’d take him.

        I like WR Justin Hunter in the third. Pretty fast, tall, and quite productive.

        • Rob D

          So..you are not in the growing camp of STeeler fans who think trading down in the first is a good option? Cool..cause I believe there aren’t a ton of explosive talents in this draft but we could still find a really good player at 17. I’m not hung up on what the position of said player should be..just liking the idea of staying at 17 and picking him up.

          Agree about Hunter too….

          Jones, with his physcial problems, could really slide. I would think the STeelers would have a REALLY hard time passing him up given Harrison’s age/injuries and Woodley’s well chronicled “year of the hamstring”.

          Seems a lot of draft observers think this is a good year to draft D-linemen. But the STeelers seem happy with Hood, Keisel and I guess, McClendon at NT if Hampton leaves as expected. I’m not excited by that group, unless Heyward has a massive breakout year. But he’d have to beat out Keisel. I think the weak link is Hood but I am holding my tongue since he seems to be a guy who realized late what it takes to excell at the NFL level. Big year for him coming up. Too bad Ta’amu went all “lets play pinball with cars’ on the friendly streets of Pittsburgh. IT would be nice to know what we have with him. If he’s not a factore anymore, NT is probably a possibility at some point in this draft, I would guess.

          • http://www.facebook.com/randy.steele.583 Randy Steele

            Every team wants to trade down this year, the Steelers are probably no exception. But trading partners will be few and far between, and they won’t offer much in return. It’s better to plan on picking at 1.17 and making sure it’s a solid choice.

            Which brings me to Jarvis Jones. Anyone who is considering drafting him should do a little research on the condition from which he is suffering, spinal stenosis. It’s ain’t pretty. From what I’ve read, I wouldn’t take the chance. He may be relatively fine right now, but in a year or two you could easily be wondering why we wasted the pick.

            I think the D-line will be fine. Maybe in won’t be the famous anvil chorus that we had become accustomed to, but we act as if Aaron Smith never got beat. I remember not too long ago that several fans argued that Brett Keisel was little more than a punching bag.

            A solid offensive line and a bowling ball of a running back are at the top of my wish list for next season. If we can just escape a major injury bug (which I think has a lot to do with conditioning), this team should be in the play-offs.

          • Intropy

            I wouldn’t trade down right now, but depending on who is available how close to 17 I might. If there is nobody they absolutely need available but five guys who would be a lot of help, then by all means trade back eight spots, pick up one of those five and use the extra pick later.

            Yeah a real shame about Ta’amu. I though he was an absolute steal last draft with a shot at being one of if not the best NT in the NFL.

            My realistic ideal right now would be Jarvis Jones, Manti Te’o, Justin Hunter in 1, 2, 3.

  • David

    Holy $h#&! Flacco is now the highest paid player in the league.

    Does anyone else think this seems like a Larry Brown type deal?
    My Lord, $20 mil per yr.

    • EasyLikeSundayMorning

      They didn’t announce the guaranteed money or the structure of the deal. So it is possible that this isn’t horrible for the Ravens. If he regularly plays like he did in the postseason, he could be worth a huge contract (although by that measure, I thought Kaepernick was better). But if he plays like he has the rest of his career, he won’t. It is amazing that the highest paid player had a disappointing regular season and has been to as many Pro Bowls as I have.

      • EasyLikeSundayMorning

        Flacco’s deal included $52mm in guaranteed money, compared to around $36mm in Ben’s deal. Wow.

    • http://www.facebook.com/randy.steele.583 Randy Steele

      Good. That contract will help keep Baltimore strapped for cap cash for years.

      • Intropy

        Everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it, except Joe Flacco.
        –Publilius Syrus

      • David

        Exactly. And ESPN says the contract is cap friendly for the first year.

        Also, of the other 6 that received $100+ mil contracts, none have even seen half of it.
        The biggest surprise is how Ozzie and Co. relented and paid him, based on one playoff run and a prayer.
        Freeman over at CBS Sportsline is a believer, as he writes that the Raisins are set to be the Patsies of the early 2000′s: a dynasty

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    I tend to think of Ben as young, but I’m pretty sure he’s been in the league longer than any other guy under contract on our offense.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Lots of reports about Willie Gay pulling a McFadden. Hopefully this doesn’t preclude Keenan Lewis re-signing. http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/sports/steelers/william-gay-appears-to-be-returning-to-steelers-677772/

    • Canadian Steeler

      I think it would be a good depth signing. Brown looked really out of his depth last year, but if he’s improved enough to be better than Gay, he’ll still play. Gay was actually an above average nickel corner for us. I think Cortez is better for sure, but if we can’t re-sign Lewis, we’d have been one injury away from Brown starting on the outside.

      • Rob D

        I still like Brown but he needs more coaching. I don’t mind William coming back at all..he’s a decent player. I guess we all really hope that Keenan re-signs with us. I’d feel really good about our corners if we had Taylor, Keenan and Cortez as linchpins.

        • http://www.facebook.com/randy.steele.583 Randy Steele

          Rob,
          If the Steelers’ coaches felt confident about Curtis Brown’s playing ability, I doubt the front office would have re-signed William Gay.

          • Rob D

            I reserve the right to still like Curtis…lol..

            One of the things I have to battle in myself is the idea that every player reveals himself immediately as a competent NFL player. Patience is sometimes rewarded..see Harrison, James…

            Of course, C.Brown could reveal himself to be as bad as his worst outing on the field would seem to suggest. Part of the fun of the NFL is rooting for a guy despite his shortcomings.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning
  • http://www.facebook.com/randy.steele.583 Randy Steele

    From the looks of things, Ryan doesn’t write for this site anymore, but if you want to read some of his well-thought analysis of state of the Steelers, take a gander at this:

    http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/blog/eye-on-football/21817283/2013-nfl-free-agency-preview-pittsburgh-steelers

  • Intropy

    Okay, so this is only tangentially Steelers related, but any advice on where to get Penguins tickets? I’m visiting Pittsburgh in a few weeks.

  • David

    Well, Silverback’s gone now. Any guess on what positions we’re drafting in Rds 1-3?
    (HInt: we lost him now, we will lose Wallace and Mendy)

    • EasyLikeSundayMorning

      OLB and RB do seem likely to be in R1-3. I wouldn’t be surprised by WR, but I could also see ILB or S. Or BPA at a few others.

      • Intropy

        If we’re guessing: OLB, ILB, WR.

      • David

        Easy, I can definitely see us taking S Kenny Vaccaro as the future replacement of Troy. Then OLB and somehow acquiring two 3rd’s to get a RB and WR. I’m no GM, but maybe trade next year’s R2 pick to make this possible?

        We’ve gotten some great LBs in R2, a la Kirkland, and Brown(?). Of course, we’ve gotten some duds, like Davis, there.

        Wallace was a 3rd rounder.

  • David

    I’ll miss him, and I’ll never forget his personal story, where he couldn’t find a team, was about to become a bus driver, and made it with the Steelers.

    And I’ll always chuckle when I think of Wex’s story about him, on the way to NE stadium on the team bus. Wex offered congrats on the birth of his new son, James answers, “What? Who told you that? Well, thank you, I guess.” Wex then asks, “What did you name him?” He replies, “I named my boy JESUS!” Ty Carter, a couple of rows back, asks him, “Did you name your boy Jesus?” James turns with a mean look, “JAMES! My son’s name is JAMES!” Ty immediately looks away.

    Good luck, James, Sr.

    P.S. Please don’t sign with the Patsies or Raisins.

    • EasyLikeSundayMorning

      I wish Silverback were still playing at his peak, but he did not seem like he was close to that last year, even in his best games. So I’m sorry to see him go, but it is more about nostalgia for the DPOTY, rather than for what I’d expect him to contribute over the next few years. I was more upset when we cut Joey Porter, as he seemed to have much more left in the tank, and at the least we could have traded him for something (ELSM was an adaptation of Easy Peezy, which I started using at HSS when he was cut).

      One way of looking at it is that if cutting Silverback gives us he cap space to keep Keenan Lewis, it will be worth it. Keenan isn’t the elite talent that Harrison was, but he should contribute more over the next 3-4 years than Harrison likely will (at ages 35-37 or so). Unless Silverback buys some deer antler extract, that is…

  • David

    CBS Sportsline is reporting MIA is the team most interested in Wallace.

    EB is basically saying Lewis is gone.

    • Rob D

      Hope EB is wrong…but I suspect he’s right.
      Boldin for a 6th rounder to SF. Seattle loads up with Harvin, giving up a 1st.

      Ed Reed signing with an agency and the NFLN people seem to think he’s a candidate for San Fran as well. Sheesh…I think the bigger loss is Boldin, but then again, he’s unlikely to ever duplicate that magical run he and Flacco had this playoff season. Sure looks like the Ravens are significantly weaker but you never know. A lot of people are openly dismissive of the Steelers at this point,and I have a lot of optimism that the young guys we’ve brought in are ready to show something.

      This draft is critical though…Wish we had a pile of 2nd and 3rd round picks since there is a lot of depth in this one.

  • Intropy

    We all know the Steelers tend to go quietly through free agency, at least when it comes to shopping from other teams’ rosters. But if Wallace is going to be too expensive, and it looks like he probably will be, what about having a look at Denario Alexander? He’s restricted, but the Chargers just gave him an original round tender, and he was undrafted.

  • Canadian Steeler

    Ramon Foster re-signing for 3 years has to be good news. Potentially the best line under Tomlin, and should have significant amount of time to build here. Should at least be able to keep Ben (relatively) upright and open some holes for a young/untalented running back.

  • Rob D

    Woodley restructures..Hoping that the next news is they have signed Keenan. Which isn’t going to happen..sigh..he’s not a great player but he’s very very solid. Cortez looks like the real deal but injuries are a fact of life in ye olde NFL. The FA era has killed the depth factor and is probably the main reason teams can’t repeat success from year to year for the most part.

    Colon is free to sign with anyone after being advised that he will be a June 1st cut. They kept the better of the two in Foster, IMO. Colon can take all his false start penalties with him too. Foster could help himself by trimming down a tad.Steelers want smaller and quicker people along the line for their new scheme.

    Foote signs for 3 years….. Yep.

    Is it 4:00 yet? I’ m thinking Wallace signs with Miami at 4:01..

  • Cols714

    I don’t really get the Keenan Lewis love. Sure he had one good year and maybe he’ll replicate that, but I wouldn’t overpay for the guy. Especially with Cortez Allen looking like a stud the last few weeks of the season.

    The guy I want back is Mendenhall. We can probably get him cheap and he’s way better than any back coming out in the draft. Or free agency (Steven Jackson is better, but old).

    • Eric

      I agree with your point about Lewis but find it ironic juxtaposed to your comment about Mendenhall. Allow me:

      I don’t really get the Mendenhall love. Sure he never had one great year and
      he’ll almost certainly replicate that. Especially with the all the carries he’s had and the short careers of running backs.

      /fixed

      • Cols714

        Oh sure. I knew that as soon as I wrote it. I guess I see Mendenhall as a cheap guy who is still young and before he blew his ACL out in 2011 was looking good.

        Lewis had one good year only and now Steelers fans are acting like him leaving is terrible. I’m fine with the Cortez Allen/William Gay alternative.

        I don’t know what the alternative to Mendenhall is.

        • David

          If the rumors are true, the Browns are interested in Lewis. The Browns? Browns?

          Why the f@#$ would you want to leave to play for them?

          OK, I’m alright now.

          • Intropy

            $$

        • Eric

          I actually agree that Mendenhall might play well again and would be cheap to sign. I just don’t think him leaving is anything to be upset about. He hasn’t been anything special in his career and that is unlikely to suddenly turn into Adrian Peterson.

          The fact that he only signed a one year deal suggests there wasn’t much of a market for him.

  • Eric

    Ravens are getting hit pretty hard in free agency. With the exception of Suggs, they’ve lost all of their starting LBers from last season (Ellerbe, Kruger and Ray-Ray)

  • Eric

    With the flattening of the salary cap a lot of veterans with some good years are left in them. I’m hoping that in the next couple of weeks, after the big money is gone, the Steelers can get some bargains. That’s what they managed to do with Ryan Clark, for instance.

    One name that caught my attention was Leon Washington. He was just cut by the Seahawks and has been an outstanding returner in his career. With Rainey gone and Brown probably needing to focus on WR, Washington might give the return game a big boost for probably a small salary.

  • David

    Well, Wallace is getting $12 mil per year for 5 yrs, $30 mil guaranteed.

    Congrats, man. Best of luck next year, except when you come back to Heinz (or is that game in London?).

    Hope the extra $2 mil per yr, as we offered $10 mil per yr, is going to be worth it.

    • Intropy

      That depends heavily on what the guaranteed amount was plus somewhat on year-by-year pay.

    • EasyLikeSundayMorning

      Brown’s $42.5 over 5 years with only $8.5 guaranteed looks like a much safer play for the Steelers. Wallace will have to significantly outplay Brown to justify more than 3.5x in guaranteed money.

      • Cols714

        Yep. I hate losing Wallace but he was right to hold out and not sign the contract we offered him. He got more money and probably more guaranteed. Smart move by him.

        I don’t really blame the Steelers for not offering that kind of cash. And I really liked Wallace.

        The only thing I hate about it is reading Steelers’ fans reactions. We can be such assholes sometimes.

        • Intropy

          I basically agree with you, but I’m going to pick on your comment anyway. Sorry about that.

          1. Wallace didn’t hold out. He just didn’t sign a tender while negotiating. I know it’s a bit nitpicky, but I think this mischaracterization was unfair to Wallace, led to irrational demonization, and ultimately contributed to him leaving. Say what you want about the monetary factors and you’ll probably be right. But these guys can read what’s written about them, and they will react to it.

          2. Hard to say whether it was the smart move. You have to judge a decision based on what you knew then not what you know now. He could have gotten hurt, but didn’t. He could have had a terrible season and instead only had a down but still decent season. He may have had no luck on the open market. He took a risk, and it looks like it’s paying off. But even then we don’t know what the Steelers offered either.

  • Cols714

    It’s nuts how the Ravens’ players all had awesome post-season runs after mediocre regular seasons. Paul Kruger? He wasn’t even that good and he got paid. Joe Flacco? Same thing. Boldin didn’t get paid but his reputation is through the roof now. All three had just OK regular seasons and then blew up in the playoffs. 2 of the 3 are now overpaid good but not great players. Boldin isn’t overpaid, but the 49ers are kidding themselves if they think they are getting a great player.

    • ROb D

      IF Anquan can make those tossup catches for them, they’ll be happy. Lots of weapons on that team.

      But I generally agree that Kruger (bad against the run..Baltimore already has his replacement on the roster) Flacco (terrific run filled with miraculous throws and catches and also to be fair..great play by him) and Boldin (can he possibly repeat that postseason?) are all a trifle overvalued.

      In Flacco’s case, we’d better hope so or the big edge we usually have against them in terms of QB’ing could be gone.

      • Cols714

        No doubt that Boldin is an upgrade for them and at that price he’s a perfect fit. My point was that Boldin hasn’t been all that good the last few years yet in the eyes of the commentators he’s been great all because of a nice playoff run.

        • Eric

          Sure, players reputations have always been “defined” by their last playoff game. That’s why Roethlisberger was a game manager for years after Superbowl XL and why Mendenhall was a fumbler after Superbowl XLV. People have short memories/attention spans.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Could you guys help summarize the off-season moves for the Steelers so far? My incomplete list is: Lost Wallace to Miami and Mendenhall to Arizona; cut Harrison and Colon; signed Bruce Gradkowski at backup QB and Gay as at CB to 3-year deals; re-signed Foster, Charlie Batch, Burress, Foote, David Johnson; low tendered Sanders, Dwyer, Redman, McClendon. Any transactions that I missed? Any that have been reported but haven’t yet been done?

    • Eric

      I don’t think Charlie Batch signed but other than that I think you’ve got them all.

      • Rob D

        Yep, I think EAsy has it correct so far.
        Lots of changes..and Keenan is in NO looking for an offer. NOt sure what their cap is like in NOrl but they sure need help for that putrid D they ran out there last year.

  • DJAnyReason

    Kinda hard to believe the Steelers couldn’t match 5 years $26M for Keenan…

    • Intropy

      I’m sure they could have, but I’d lean towards “not worth it” though it is close. Lewis was a decent #2 CB. But remember in prior seasons that wasn’t true. You can say the most recent season is the most representative and probably be right, but it’s a gamble. I think he got reasonable market value, and is probably more needed by the Saints, thus they paid him a bit more.

      • Cols714

        For a CB who had exactly one season that was any good and still had exactly 0 interceptions, I think that’s a lot of money. Cortez Allen looks like he has a bright future, I’m happy with him and Ike as the starting CBs. If we are going to lock up another CB, make it Allen.

        Lewis is being overrated by us.

        • EasyLikeSundayMorning

          Maybe. But Keenan played better than Ike all season. Ike’s cap hit will reportedly be nearly $20mm over the next two seasons with around $13mm in actual cash. I think I’d rather have cut Ike or reduced his salary and cap hit to keep Keenan for 5 years.

          • ROb D

            I think the only explanation that makes sense to me is he wanted to play in his hometown of NO..there’s a line in one of the articles out there that he gave them “somewhat of a hometown discount”.

            Some days I wake up and wonder if we are in for 2 years of pain. AT the moment, I’m not very excited by the talent level on this team. Significantly weaker in the running game with no true No. 1 RB, no true No. 1 WR, Harrison gone with no replacement close to his caliber on roster,Hampton probably done…not a fan of McC at NT. New scheme with mostly green O-line to implement it..New O-line coach, new ST’s coach..could all work out great but that’s what the LA Lakers thought at the start of this year too. Change isn’t always good.

            This draft isn’t chock full of difference makers according to the likes of Cosell and Mayock…so how much immediate help can we expect?

            It’s always darkest before the light….I’m not panicking..but ..come on draft day and make me feel better..lol..

          • Cols714

            Cheer up. We still have Big Ben and the RB situation was terrible last year and can only get better. Plus losing Harrison sucks, but he wasn’t Harrison for most of last year either.

            I’m excited to see Cortez Allen as a starting CB and new blood at RB. Although I will miss Mendenhall.

          • ROb D

            I will try, Cols…lol…I’ll no doubt feel better after the draft.

          • dennisdoubleday

            I don’t agree with that. You can’t compare the stats of the two, since Keenan didn’t cover the #1 receiver EVERY SINGLE GAME. On most teams, there is a huge dropoff from the #1 to the #2 receiver.

          • dennisdoubleday

            To clarify, I don’t agree with the statement that Keenan outplayed Ike

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Anyone who knows something about comp picks know what we might get next year? I assume we’d get something for Wallace and Lewis, but probably not much for Mendenhall or Mundy (and won’t have the compensation reduced for only signing Gay and Gradkowski).

    • Rob D

      I have no idea. except we never get what I think they SHOULD get..lol..It’s always some 7th round crap.

    • Eric

      It all depend. You have to lose more players than you sign. If that is true, than the compensation is based upon the size of the contracts signed.

  • Cols714

    Steeler Nation needs to calm down. We’ve lost so far:
    An older Harrison who has had trouble staying healthy the last couple of years. I actually think he could have one more good year in him, but we won’t lament his loss past 2013.
    A youngish CB who finally had a good year. But even in that good year didn’t have any interceptions. I liked Lewis, but I really think we’ve overrated him. He won’t be missed as long as Cortez Allen is the real deal. And judging by what he did last year, I think Allen is for real. If we are going to keep one of the two, I’d much rather they keep Allen around than Lewis. And no, cutting Ike was never really an option. He was tremendous for most of last year.
    An injury prone RB who has tons of talent but it didn’t seem like he was ever going to harness it in Pittsburgh. I actually think Mendenhall will turn out to be a steal for the Cardinals but I’m doubting if he would ever put it together in Pittsburgh.

    The biggest loss, IMO, is Wallace. Here is an actual star that we are losing. He will be missed.

    So yeah, we lost some talent. But this is nothing new around here. And most of it, outside of Wallace is replaceable. Even Harrison’s production from the last couple of years is replaceable. We’ll be OK.

    • EasyLikeSundayMorning

      Cols, although I hope you are correct, I don’t really understand why you are so confident about Cortez, who played a couple of good games, and are simultaneously somewhat dismissive of Keenan, who played well for 16 games. How come?

      • Cols714

        Cortez did it at a younger age in year 2, not 27 and year 4. Plus he showed a remarkable ability to create turnovers. This is something Lewis never did and is a desperately needed for the Steelers.

        • http://www.facebook.com/randy.steele.583 Randy Steele

          Wexell noted in a comment on the SCI site that one of his sources inside the Steelers’ front office said that the coaches and management questioned Lewis ability to grasp their defensive schemes. And, if I remember correctly, they think he’s a potential penalty-machine.

          I think its obvious that when forced to make a choice between Lewis and Cortez Allen, they chose Allen. Are they right? Time will tell.

          • http://twitter.com/rc21pitt Rob D

            Yep, the scuttlebutt is that they really had zero intention of offering the guy a contract..tells you a lot right there. I don’t think Lebeau would let a potential starter get away. I liked Keenan’s progress but I always figure a position coach/DC/HC know just a tad more than I do about a particular player’s potential..lol…Ike is a physical marvel for his age..we have Cortez who everyone seems to love and I am sure that we’ll find another guy for nickle or dime defensive sets in this draft.

  • http://www.facebook.com/randy.steele.583 Randy Steele

    A random thought: Is anyone else surprised that no one has mentioned a change in the labor agreement the NFL has with the players’ union that stipulates teams must now spend higher percentage of their total cap allotment each year?

    I can’t remember the exact percentage of the increase, but the result has dumped a lot of extra money into the free agent market.

    It’s more likely that I missed the story, but the effect of this change is having profound implications on teams that are traditionally budgeted tightly against the cap, such as the Steelers.

    Many of us think that the budgets among NFL teams are roughly the same, but this isn’t true. Because they were not forced to, many teams spent much less than their cap allotment and the owners pocketed the difference–several million dollars in many cases.
    Now they can’t do that, at least, they can’t do that as much.

    Teams such as the Browns or Jaguars must now spend those additional millions on players–their players or someone else’s. Obviously, because many of these teams aren’t very competitive, they wisely choose to spend this money on better players, players from good teams such as the Ravens and Steelers, for example. It created an unexpected inflation of salaries.

    Now your basic serviceable player who happens to be a free agent can command more money than previously suspected. In other words, not only has the cost of elite players increased dramatically, so has the cost of a lot of those good-not-great guys who fill out the roster.

    The Steelers’ front office is now wrestling with a new problem. Any of their young players who have proved that they can play at least adequately have become surprisingly expensive to keep. This is especially true of good YOUNG players.

    Because the Steelers always budget their payrolls to the maximum amount of money allowed, they are now finding it difficult to find the few extra million here or there that they need to keep players such as Lewis and Sanders.

    The NFL has once again found a way to snuff out a competitive advantage enjoyed, ironically, by teams that pay their players not only fairly but well, teams whose ownership spent money they could have otherwise kept for themselves.

    Talk about being punished for doing the right thing.

    It’s another example of the NFL and its pursuit of its holy grail: Parity.

    • Intropy

      It’s not unexpected. Increasing the average salary is exactly why the players wanted that in the bargaining agreement. The other goal was, as you said, parity. It doesn’t really hurt the Steelers. What it does is cause teams that were on-competitive because they underspent to be more competitive. That “hurts” any team that was more competitive and also spent near the cap I think most of the teams you think of as strong competition are all in that scenario, so they’re all handicapped equally with the result being no real change between them, just the relative improvement of formerly cheaper teams.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Dulac wrote a yesterday that Manny had signed an offer sheet with the Pats. Many national sites quoted his article. Today, he writes that Manny hasn’t signed an offer sheet with the Pats, despite “national reports” that he had. Ok, then.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    In the last 4 drafts, we’ve invested slightly more in offense. Picks in rounds 1-3: O 7, D 6.  Total picks: O 19, D 16.  But I think our return on investment has been significantly higher on O than D.  

    Here’s who we took who I believe are still in the league, give or take a player or two…

    Offense: Pouncey, Gilbert, Adams, DeCastro, Beachum, Urbik, Wallace, Brown, Sanders, Dwyer, Rainey, B Batch, D Johnson, Paulson

    Defense: Lewis, Worilds, Sylvester, Carter, Allen, Brown, Hood, Heyward, Spence, Ta’amu

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    We supposedly tried to sign OT Jake Long. I find this surprising on several levels. http://m.espn.go.com/general/blogs/blogpost?blogname=afcnorth&id=67324&src=desktop

    • Eric

      I couldn’t make sense of it either, if true.

    • Cols714

      Seems odd. But the Steelers could have solved their LT needs with one signing. I’m hoping that they will sign Bradshaw to be the RB for the next three years. He’s still only 27 and can catch too.

      • Eric

        I guess, but Long has some injury issues and wouldn’t come cheap. Plus then you are stunting one of either Gilbert or Adams. I’m holding out hope they can talk Starks into re-signing again.

        I agree with you about Bradshaw. He’s got all kinds of knee and foot problems but I still think he would be great in a platoon setup.

        • EasyLikeSundayMorning

          I agree on Bradshaw. At the right price, I think he’d be perfect for us, if he can play even half the games. Although I have to admit that at least 12% of the reason I like him is his last name.

          I’m not usually a conspiracy theorist, but the Long thing is so weird, I wonder if there was something else behind it. I don’t know what, but maybe making the Pats think we have the cap space to match on Manny. That seems outlandish, but maybe not as much as signing Long. I’m still scratching my head.

          • http://www.facebook.com/randy.steele.583 Randy Steele

            Easy, I agree with your sentiments about Long. It’s impossible for me to believe the Steelers were seriously in pursuit of him. The whole thing is just too goofy. There has to be more to the story.

            But I can’t sign on to Bradshaw bandwagon. Too many injuries. I like him a lot, and I know he’s only 27, but he’s taken a beating with the Giants, and last season he looked as if he were running on his rims.

            He’s a part-timer at best. The Steelers have a couple of those guys now. What they need is a true starting RB.

          • http://twitter.com/rc21pitt Rob D

            Yep, I really liked Bradshaw when he was healthy. I hope we can find some young legs to run behind this O-line. I’m excited that our new O-line coach seems so well regarded around the league and he has some great young talent to mentor. Have NO idea if there is a back worthy of starting status but we have to do find one. What we have now isn’t cutting it.

  • http://twitter.com/rc21pitt Rob D

    Let’s start a “revive SL for the upcoming NFL draft” rally!
    Huzzah!!

    • Intropy

      I’m in.

      • http://twitter.com/rc21pitt Rob D

        Well..that makes 3 of us..lol…90 odd posts in this old thread…it’s still got a pulse, all things considered.

    • Eric

      Do I write my senator?

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    In case you needed another reason to root for them: the FGCU head coach and his whole family are Steelers fans. Our families have been friends our whole lives and our moms were best friends growing up in Pittsburgh. It has been a fun run.

  • Eric

    I wonder if they can talk Harrison into resigning. The market is sluggish at best for pass rushers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/randy.steele.583 Randy Steele

    It’s been reported that the Steelers’ brass has had meetings with Ryan Griffin, and I thought you might like to read an exceptionally well-reasoned piece about him:

    http://mattwaldmanrsp.com/2013/02/04/tulane-qb-ryan-griffin-and-the-disconnect-between-evaluating-and-drafting-talent/

    • http://twitter.com/rc21pitt Rob D

      That was great, Randy..thanks!

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    There’s been talk about drafting RB, WR or OL early. But I’m hoping we have a very defense-heavy draft, especially early. Until Heath returns, Ben has 5 more years in the league than any other starter on offense. By contrast, there are 5 starters on D with more years of experience than Ben. And the eventual replacement for most (or arguably all) of those 5 starters on D are not currently on the roster (especially at S, where we have no real backups). This doesn’t even include NT, where Ta’amu is the only guy currently signed.

    • dennisdoubleday

      Hebron Fangupo is also signed at NT.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Anyone have a list of the college players who have been in for a visit with the Steelers?

    • http://www.facebook.com/randy.steele.583 Randy Steele

      Easy, here’s the list so far, as best as I know it:

      Jarvis Jones, outside linebacker; Jamie Collins, outside linebacker; Kasheem Greene, outside linebacker; John Simon, outside linebacker; Vince Williams, inside linebacker; Michael Mauti, inside linebacker; Malliciah Goodman, defensive end; Christine Michael, running back; Phillip Thomas, free safety; Jonathan Meeks, strong safety; Josh Boyce, wide receiver;

      • http://www.facebook.com/randy.steele.583 Randy Steele
        • EasyLikeSundayMorning

          Thanks, Randy. I appreciate it. I don’t know anything about him, but I think we should draft Christine Michael. Growing up with at name, he must be tough.

          • http://www.facebook.com/randy.steele.583 Randy Steele

            Yeah, whenever I hear the name Christine Michael, that old novelty hit by Johnny Cash, “A Boy Named Sue,” starts throbbing in my head.

            By the way, in case you don’t already know, you may add Johnathan Franklin, RB, to that list of Steeler visits, as well as Duke Williams, a probable late-round safety.

  • http://www.facebook.com/randy.steele.583 Randy Steele

    In case you missed it, Ryan is up to his new tricks on the CBS sports site…

    http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/blog/eye-on-football/21989655/steelers-face-most-important-draft-of-mike-tomlin-era

  • Canadian Steeler

    I realize Jarvis Jones’ injury issues are legitimate and may prevent the Steelers from drafting him, but I can’t be the only one who finds Steelers Depot’s argument that he won’t be drafted “because the Steelers don’t have success drafting OLB in the first round” ridiculous. Somehow drafting Huey Richardson over 20 years ago constitutes a lack of success, despite it being under completely different coaching and management. The same line of thinking should’ve prevented us from drafting Santonio or Plax since Troy Edwards busted.

    Personally, I’d be very happy with Jones-Minter-Markus Wheaton first two days. Definitely leaves us short at RB but Wheaton could play Wallace’s rookie role as deep threat. Minter would fit in great alongside Timmons athleticism, and I’m willing to take the risk on Jones.

    Anybody else have any predictions or favourites?

    • http://www.facebook.com/randy.steele.583 Randy Steele

      Other than his potential problem with spinal stenosis, my bigger issue with Jones is his running time at 40 yards, which was more than 4.9 seconds. That’s pretty dreadful for a linebacker. Also, he’ll be 24 years old this fall.

      That said, there’s really no one I expect to be available at 1.17 whom I think will be a game-changer for the Steelers, which is why I wouldn’t be unhappy with for a solid, if boring, pick like Cooper or Warmack, if they fall.

      • Canadian Steeler

        The 40 time is a red flag, but all it should do is make you go back and check his tape. Now that’s not something I’ve done beyond about 3-4 Georgia games on TV this year, but the experts say that tape is impressive. Something else that showed in the tape, like not being stout at the point of attack, could prevent the Steelers from drafting him for sure. But the reports out of the Georgia pro day were that despite the poor workout numbers, scouts said he looked good in positional drills (
        https://twitter.com/TonyPauline/status/314781292560527360).

        I’m with you that there doesn’t seem to be a game-changer (other than Jones, where our opinions differ) at 1.17. Initially I was against picking another guard, but after hearing experts like Greg Cosell rave about Warmack and Cooper, I’m certainly coming around to the idea. Maybe this is the year we finally trade back.

    • Intropy

      I’m still on board with Jones in the first. I’d be pretty happy rounding out the top three rounds with Te’o, Rambo, and Swope.

  • http://twitter.com/rc21pitt Rob D

    How would you like about 4 2nd round picks this year? It’s that kind of draft.

    • Canadian Steeler

      I could definitely come around to that. Think about getting one of the WRs like Hopkins if they fell into the 2nd, Franklin or even Lacy for RB, Minter for ILB and maybe Jesse Williams as NT? That’s obviously a dream scenario but there would be exciting possiblities with all our needs.

      • Rob D

        Indeed..I guess there are quite a few teams willing to trade back and it’s probably going to make it harder to do so. I’d still love to have even 2 2nd rounders in this one..good values to be had as you point out with your possible picks.

  • Eric

    The Pats signed Sanders to an offer sheet. I have no idea what I think about that.

    It’s a one year deal for reportedly ~4 million. I don’t honestly know how good Sanders is but I worry that Steelers might over pay for him because the WR depth chart is getting thin.

    • David

      If we pay him that amount, then I won’t know what to think. Let him go and let’s get that extra 3rd R pick.

      • Canadian Steeler

        At 2.5, it’s a lot harder of a decision. I can’t really fault them for going either way. Losing Sanders will hurt a lot in the short term, but there’s every chance he’s gone next year anyways. It would also leave us with Brown, Cotchery, Spaeth and Plax as the top 4 targets to start the year, but you could probably pencil in a rookie they’d take with one of those first four picks. I don’t know if I can fault the Steelers either way here.

    • Rob D

      I think he’s a dime a dozen talent..small, swift WR with decent speed. I liked him but I’ll take the 3rd rounder, please and thank you. Although I do admit this weakens us in the short term and definately hurts our depth. I predict he’ll look terrific in that Pats offense though..as long as he can hold onto the ball of course.

  • David

    BTW, I’m about to find a bridge to jump off of.
    The Raisins win the SB, and Louisville (Loserville to us Kentucky fans) win the NC.
    My only saving grace was the Pens, then Sid got hit with a puck in the jaw and is on milkshakes.
    Calgon, take me away!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/randy.steele.583 Randy Steele

    Amazing that a dead website can still ellicit 114 comments.

    • Rob D

      I wonder if one of the fabulous four have a friend who could pick up the ball and run with it? It’s a shame to let it die.I’ve looked around and there aren’t many places where you can express a considered opinion, have people disagree with it AND not be called an a-hole for having said opinion..lol..Seems simple but it’s rare. This is one of the more tumultuous offseasons in recent STeeler memory. A lot of change, a lot of youngish players walked out the door and a lot hinging on a draft that many feel is deep but not possessing many game changer type players. Lots to talk about. ARe we rebuilding, retooling or in serious decline? I’m starting to think the upcoming year will be a crucial one..Will they slide back or will some of that young talent start to show their stuff?

      • Eric

        I wonder if they even monitor the site anymore. It would be nice if there was someone to at least post new threads occasionally.

  • Intropy

    Desperation is a stinky cologne.

    Steelers matched Emmanuel Sanders’ offer.

    • Canadian Steeler

      I had definitely talked myself into the possibilities of having another third round pick, but I can completely understand the Steelers’ rationale here and think it will be justified IF they can re-sign Sanders long-term. If he’s gone next year, then it was foolish and completely short sighted. However, if they can keep him past this year, I can agree with the move as the risk of a 3rd round receiver scares me, as does creating another hole on what is already a patchy team. Losing Sanders could’ve meant taking a receiver in the first or second, which I believe would be a better time to take a pass rusher and nose tackle/inside linebacker (Jesse Williams/Minter).

      • Intropy

        I think the Steelers should at least be kicking the tires on Denario Alexander.

    • EasyLikeSundayMorning

      I was on the fence about which way to go, and I get the arguments against it, but I’m fine with matching. I think the successes of Wallace, Brown and Sanders has made some underestimate how hard it is to draft good receivers (remember Reid, Gibson, Farmer, etc.). The odds of getting someone as good as Sanders with the 91st pick is probably less than 50%. It seems like Sanders has been great on third down and, to me, that seems like it should be worth $2.5mm.

      • Intropy

        Sanders has been about average for a third round receiver. Say for the sake of argument that the Steelers decided that they would definitely spend pick 91 on a receiver (I know they wouldn’t really do that since its more valuable to be flexible). On average you should expect them to com away with your average 3rd round wide receiver.

        Which would you rather have, an average third round wide receiver for 2.5 million for 1 year, or an average 3rd round wide receiver for four years for a similar amount of money? Put another way, would you rather buy Sanders’ next season or all of his previous seasons combined if the two had the same price?

        • Canadian Steeler

          I was inclined to disagree and say that Sanders is in fact above average, but if you compare him to WRs taken in the 3rd round from 1990-2010 (Sanders’ draft year), it’s pretty similar (taking into account Sanders’ projection)

          Player CarAV Rec Yds TD

          Average 17.54 163.5402 2227 14
          Sanders 10 94 1290 5

          While you can project that after the next couple of years he will exceed most of those and excuse some lower production due to injuries, he should realistically still be exceeding those averages (if you want to consider him significantly above average). But the team’s clearly decided they think he’s better than those stats, and hopefully signs him long-term. For me, the duration of his stay is the key determinant. Only worth it if it means a long term deal.