Team checklist: Pittsburgh Steelers

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Rosenthal has been doing team-by-team checklists for several weeks now.  Almost as long as I’ve been telling him I’ll pitch in and help.

To date, I haven’t.

Today, I do.

I’ll start with a team that doesn’t need to do much more than stay the course.  If “staying the course” also includes finding a way to score on the final drive of the Super Bowl.

1.  Find a third-down back.

Mewelde Moore has handled the duties for the last three years, but he’ll be a free agent when the lockout ends.  Though the Steelers may decide to re-sign Moore, who has been capable but not spectacular, some other team could be willing to pay Mewelde more (I really didn’t plan that one) than the Steelers have budgeted for a position that is among the more fungible in the sport.

And so the question will be whether the Steelers can find someone better than Moore for the money it may take to keep him.  With Tiki Barber making a comeback and Reggie Bush possibly available, the Steelers could have some intriguing options.

2.  Consider bringing back Plaxico Burress.

Several years ago, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger riled up Hines Ward by publicly asking for a tall receiver.

The Steelers acquired one that year, in 6-4 Limas Sweed.  Who has done nothing in three NFL seasons.  Also on the roster is 6-8 Wes Lyons, a Pittsburgh native who didn’t do enough during his time at West Virginia University to even get drafted.

Though the Steelers currently have Ward, Mike Wallace, and Antonio Brown, none of the three is listed as taller than six feet.  As Roethlisberger said in 2008, “Hines is going to say he’s 6 foot, but he’s 5-11.”

Burress, whose final year in Pittsburgh coincided with Roethlisberger’s first, would give Big Ben the large target he covets.  Though the move would be controversial, don’t underestimate coach Mike Tomlin’s affinity for guys from Eastern Virginia.

3.  Give Daniel Sepulveda the boot.

In March, the Steelers extended a restricted free agency tender to Sepulveda, a four-year veteran who under a new labor deal very likely will be an unrestricted free agent.  Though the Steelers thought enough of Sepulveda to use a fourth-round pick to acquire him in Tomlin’s first year on the job, he has torn the ACL in his right knee three times.

With plenty of punters available, taking an annual chance that he’ll rip the thing a fourth time and leave the team scrambling to replace him doesn’t make sense.  Especially if he’s looking for a bigger pay day than most punters ever see.

4.  Let Ike Taylor walk.

Cornerback Ike Taylor has said he wants to stay in Pittsburgh.  And he has said he wants to test the market.  If he wants market value, he simply won’t get it from the Steelers.  As with Moore, someone will pay for the fact that Taylor brings a Super Bowl ring (in Taylor’s case, two) into the locker room — and in turn eats away at the defending AFC champion’s roster.

The Steelers need to accept the fact that, if Taylor insists on top dollar in a slim cornerback market, he won’t be back, and they need to plan accordingly to replace him.  With the strength of the defense in the front seven and the secondary anchored by Troy Polamalu, they can get by with a lot less than the second coming of Rod Woodson.

5.  Improve depth at safety.

Speaking of Polamalu, he has emerged as one of the most important players on any team.  When he’s healthy, it becomes virtually impossible to outscore the Steelers.  When he’s out due to injury — or, as he was late in 2010, playing with an injury — the team becomes vulnerable.

Though they’ll never find another Polamalu to back up Polamalu, the Steelers need to make the No. 2 position at strong safety a priority, even if it means overpaying a guy who could start elsewhere.  Given Polamalu’s reckless style (which makes him so damn effective when he’s at 100 percent), more injuries are inevitable.  Moving forward, the Steelers need to view Polamalu’s understudy as the equivalent to the backup quarterback.

32 responses to “Team checklist: Pittsburgh Steelers

  1. Getting rid of Taylor would be the best way to guarantee that the Steelers don’t even sniff the Super Bowl next season.

  2. No mention of the shotty OLine that leaves Big Ben on his back more than any other quarterback in the league.

  3. Pittsburgh desperately needs to have help at safety. When Troy P is out, they are helpless.

    I agree with the rest sans the Plaxico analysis.

  4. Number 6: Conduct intensive clinics on more peaceful ways to block and tackle so as not to put the entire opponents’ rosters on IR within four quarters; and

    Number 7: Realign the Steelers to the AFC West so that the other three teams actually have a chance.

    Could I get another order of sour grapes and a beer please?

  5. This will get a ton of thumbs down, but if the Steelers DO in fact let Taylor walk, I think we will see one of their other corners (Lewis, Butler, Brown, Allen) emerge as a starter. The front office and coaching staff know what they are doing… if Taylor goes, it is because they are OK with him doing so.

  6. If Ike Taylor leaves you got William Gay as the most experienced CB. That’s just sad. Aaron Rogers torched the Steelers 2ndary w/ Polamalu AND Taylor. What happens if one of the two leave?!

  7. why don’t you just add “lose every game to the list” since it already includes signing tiki barber & plaxico burress & not resigning taylor?

    barber is 34 freaking years old & was a team cancer even when he last played. why again would we want him?
    who will burress play over? definitely not heath miller, hines ward, or mike wallace. then also we have 2 rookies last year that showed a ton of promise (brown & sanders) and obviously deserve game time. that’s not even touching on possibilities of randle el or limas sweed playing a role.
    so i guess you’re suggesting we start willie gay or a 3rd rd rookie (after a shortened/non-existent offseason)? HA. if taylor insists on signing the biggest contract he can, then yeah he won’t be back. but the steelers will make him a fair offer.

    leave the write-ups to greg.

  8. You are right on with the concern over Troy Polamalu, but they got by with half a Troy last year, all the way to the Super Bowl. They lost to the Packers because the offensive line was just plain horrible. Injuries decimated an already suspect unit, and by the time they got to the Super Bowl they were calling up guys from the practice squad. Ben’s early pick-6 was a direct result of no pass protection.

  9. t1mmy10 says:

    I would bet that they would leave it to Lewis or Allen, 2nd year players before they left it to a rookie. I never, NEVER, question the front office. They have shown consistently that the Steeler way is a successful strategy for putting a competitive team on the field year in and year out.

  10. Very nice analysis if the goal was to make me breathe easier, but I still have a couple of concerns …

    Perhaps Gilbert will resolve our ongoing issues at o-line, but I won’t stop worrying until the questions are answered in a game. Colon, who I’ve always thought was overrated anyway, is likely gone via free agency, and Flozell isn’t a young guy. He struggles on pass protection. Essex is a free agent. I’ll just feel better when they fully congeal as a unit.

    Second, I have been crying for a new Rod Woodson (though Rod is irreplaceable) because Troy’s playing style makes him more vulnerable to injury as he gets older. When he’s out, the rest of our secondary seem like sitting ducks. Of course, depth at safety is essential. But having a shutdown corner would help take up some of the slack when Troy is out and make us darn near invincible while Troy’s in play. Ike’s good, but he’ll never be great. Since there aren’t even many good corners on the market, it would be in our interest to keep him, but only if the price is right. I agree with steelerspiratesbruins that if Colbert/Tomlin let him go, it’s because they know something we don’t about the guys waiting in the wings.

    Limas will be coming off his injury and it will be interesting to see how he’s progressed in his mental game. Great route-runner if he can conquer his catching demons. But I’d be thrilled to give Plax a chance if it works for our budget. Yes, I agree it’s time to let Sepulveda go.

    With his wedding upcoming next month, I’m also concerned about Roethlisberger’s prep time. So far, I haven’t seen any reports on PFT about Steelers workouts. I hope Ben continues with the QB coach he hired during his suspension. Brady is a perfect example that you can never be too prepared. If Ben would develop Tom’s discipline for studying film and the craft of his profession, he could become more than a guy with a lot of natural talent.

  11. The Steelers coaches were very high on Crezdon Butler during training camp/pre season last year. I think he contends for more playing time this year. In addition, Keenan Lewis actually started the preseason game in Denver (along with the rest of the starters), but he had a little meltdown and was seemingly in Tomlin’s doghouse the rest of the season. I think both certainly will contribute this year, possibly pushing McFadden and Gay from their current roles. Lastly, Coach Tomlin/Coach Lake…please please please do NOT let Anthony Madison get any defensive reps.

  12. I think evh12345 had the best post here. If Pittsburgh doesn’t get a ton better on their O line, Mr. R may be enjoying the taste of turf more often than his regular diet. Also, the D line is getting very long in the tooth and Aaron Rogers did, in fact, shred the Steelers’ secondary. But for a couple of badly timed drops, Green Bay would have put up 41 in that game. As a Browns fan, I just hope the Steelers hurry up and get older faster. 🙂

  13. Hines was 6-0 when he had had hair. He thinks what the Steelers really need is a shorter quarterback.

  14. Nice effort,

    – If Ike wants more than $8mil per season- he’s gone. He likely has 2 or 3 more productive seasons. His game is entirely based upon his speed. Once that goes- so does he.

    – Richard Marshall watch that name- If Ike goes. Maybe even if he doesn’t. Steelers would love competition for McFadden’s spot.

    – Butler has the potential- lets see if he has learned the defense- and if he is ready in run support.

    – rookie Brown will step in at Dime, and Nickle by mid way.

    – Keenan Lewis moved to FS, maybe tried at SS- to back up Troy.

    – 3rd down back comes down to Dwyer, Baron Batch.

    – Steelers won’t offer Plax the best contract, so even though they could use him, he won’t be in Pittsburgh. He’s gotta make up for lost time.

    – Really hoping Sweed makes it back from the achilles injury.

    – Stevenson Sylvester will challenge for time.

    – Offensive line, is what it is. Coach Kuggs will have them playing as best as they can. They take lots of heat for sacks caused by the QB holding the ball too long.

  15. #6 – learn how to tackle without leading with your helmet.

    #7 – buy some kleenex and quit your whining

    #8 – have Big Ben undgo facial surgery by inserting a steel plate in his jaw, so if seymour ever slaps him again he won’t break his glass chin

  16. Burress? You mean the guy as a NY Giant, who dogged it in practice, missed team meetings and had an attitude worse than Albert Haynesworth. That’s like recommending Bernie Madoff as a financial advisor.

    Get a kicker, have Ike prove that he can actually catch a ball (or cut him) and rebuild the offensive line.

  17. The Steelers need to find a way to play Polamalu maybe 10 less snaps a game. That gives him a much better chance of entering the post-season healthy. Surely they can finds situations where his athletism is not all that necessary. Maybe give him days off of practice as they do with Ward.

  18. If the Steelers had any young corners that showed potential in actual season games on the roster I’d say the Steelers could let Ike “Swaggin” Taylor go …but they don’t. Just sign him to a contract similar to the deal that Leigh Bodden signed when he resigned with the Pats last year. And that contract was 4 yrs $22 million with $10 million of it guaranteed and a $6 million signing bonus. And Taylor will be worth every penny! If he wants a lot more than that …then he may be gone, but I expect Swaggin to sign a similar deal.

  19. “4. Let Ike Taylor walk.

    Cornerback Ike Taylor has said he wants to stay in Pittsburgh. And he has said he wants to test the market.

    With the strength of the defense in the front seven and the secondary anchored by Troy Polamalu, they can “get by” with a lot less than the second coming of Rod Woodson.”

    = = = = =

    “Getting by” is not the standard in Pittsburgh. We had great defenses in the ’90’s and settled for “getting by” with O’Donnell and Stewart at QB —> sure, we “got by,” but we never “got it done.”

    Our key weakness is at corner. Ike has held up his end well – not so much on the other side.

    The Steelers have had a lot of post-season losses primarily attributable to elite QBs like Brady and Rodgers taking advantage of this.

    Ike wants to stay in the ‘Burgh. Make it clear Ike is respected and appreciated from the Rooneys down through the roster plus tap his competitive interest in getting a third Ring – and we have a shot at keeping him.

  20. I still think Deb beats all the posters here!

    But that’s just my personal opinion.

    (Would insert a smiley face here if myballs would share his/her secret!)

  21. The Steeler secondary desperately needs Ike, there is arguably no other starting quality CB on the roster. Gay isn’t it and McFadden is a #2 at best. Adequate development of depth has not happened. Its plain ugly.

  22. @ tomosbornesretirementcostjoepaatitle

    i do have faith in the front office but there is a complete difference between wanting to let a player walk and being forced to let a player walk because we can’t afford him. this would be the latter.

    2 years ago the FO wanted to re-sign mcfadden, but the cardinals offered him more guaranteed money than we could match due to the cap. thus we were forced to start willie gay although the FO wanted McFadden back and we all know how that turned out. the steelers have repeatedly said they want ike back thus this is another situation where we don’t have someone whose ready in the wings to take over. even our FO isn’t good enough to always get what it wants.

    and it’s absurd to believe lewis (who hasn’t been good enough to ever start a game), allen (who’s a SAFETY), or butler (who only dressed in 4 games with zero starts) have showed anything to prove they’re able to replace ike.

  23. @deb
    antonio brown has said to local media ben and most of wrs practice a couple times a week. no reports of who though. this was during dwts so no hines.

  24. @steelertom …

    Thanks for the update!!

    @brownsfrown …

    You’re a sweetheart 😉

    @paulieorkid …

    Well, hello there. I’m sure your assessment of the Steelers’ needs is brilliant given your long history “on the field” as an NFL player. That is the standard you require for commenters, correct? That they be former NFL players? Can’t wait to hear details of your playing career. Do tell.

  25. Let’s get one thing straight on the Super Bowl loss to the Packers:

    The Steelers defense did its job. Period. It gave up fewer points than the Steelers offense scored.

    The pick-6 from Roethlisberger was the difference. End of story.

    Anything else is pure guess work. That one play put the points on the board that were the difference in the end. It wasn’t any thing the Steelers defense did or didn’t do. It wasn’t Clay Matthews ending a drive on a play he saw coming because Arians was too greedy. It wasn’t Roethlisberger’s inexplicable decision to ignore a red hot Hines Ward on all but one play of the final drive.

    The difference was, plain and simple, the 7-points that the Steelers offense handed to the Packers in a game that everyone knew would take a perfect game from the Steelers defense to win. Well, the Steelers defense played as perfectly as any defense could against one of the best Super Bowl performances by a QB ever and the offense gave it away in one stinking play.

  26. And by the way, the pick-6 was on the entire offense. It was a terrible play call at a terrible time. The execution was atrocious and the tackling was nonexistent. Arians never should have called the play. Roethlisberger never should have thrown down field. And the offensive line should have grabbed anything they could. Even a safety would have been a better outcome.

    Maybe Tomlin should have put together a film on tackling on an offensive turnover like he put together a film on blocking on a defensive takeaway before Super Bowl 43.

  27. Literally the worst.
    #1 Find a CB
    #2 Develop younger CB’s
    #3 Figure out right side of O-line (Adams, Colon, new 2nd round pick, or possibly foster )
    Those are the only holes the Steelers have and they are legitimate holes. WR depth is fine and 3rd down we should be good with Redman (remember Ravens game catch and the man can pick up the blitz)..I have no idea on Dwyer’s blocking ability, route running, or catching. Let the Steelers medical staff find out of we need to get rid of Sepulveda…you have no idea what his knee looks like and whether he is more likely to injure it in the future. Mundy filled in at an average to above average level at strong safety and can play free as well so I don’t know what depth issues you are reffering to. Let me know if you want me to write anything else/do your job for you any other time…

  28. for all the negative press the O-Line gets how is it that their running back gets 1300+yds and 13 tds and their quarterback gets 3900 yds and 20 tds in only 12 gms. as for the secondary with a healthy polamalu the packers dont win that gm sorry packer fans. the steeler organization knows what its doing otherwise they wouldnt have 6 Lombardi’s in their trophy case.

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