Recent Posts

  • Hard Count: The case of Randy Gregory

    Hard Count

    Randy Gregory is a 6’6, 240 lb. man child from the University of Nebraska. He is projected to be a top-10 pick in this year’s NFL draft. Some organization will invest millions into his potential. In his first year for the Cornhuskers he had 10.5 sacks. The way the NFL game is played today edge rushers are at a premium. You have to get guys that can rush the quarterback. Randy Gregory, talent wise, has the skills to do that. All Gregory had to do was go to the Combine and run a respectable 40 time and he was guaranteed a top-10 draft spot. He risked it all for marijuana.

    A fluke positive drug test during the most important interview of his pro career speaks volumes of his decision making. Gregory may end up being a great productive member of society one day. Who am I to judge? We all make mistakes, but as of now he can’t be counted on. He could go on to be an All Pro player and a future Hall of Famer, but if he was still on the board when the Pittsburgh Steelers select at 22, I don’t care how talented he is and whether he fits a need for the Steelers in the worst way. His immaturity might have just cost him millions of dollars and a top spot in the Draft.

    People in Pittsburgh know this story all too well. If it sounds familiar – the same thing happened to Mike Adams who’s turned out to be a bust thus far on the offensive line. Adams, too, was considered a first round prospect and ruined his chances with a failed drug test right before the Combines. Adams wrote a letter to the Steelers and Mike Tomlin felt that he was sincere and apologetic and took a chance on the young player in the second round.

    I fully believe in second chances, but in this case Pittsburgh has to learn from its mistakes. Kevin Colbert has to get this draft right and the Steelers need major help on defense.

    In the 2012 draft, Pittsburgh took a chance on Alameda Ta’amu, Chris Rainey and Mike Adams. All of those guys had off the field issues and all failed miserably for the Steelers. Adams is the only pick that’s on the Steelers roster as we speak. These past draft mistakes could be the very reason why it’s been tough for the Steelers to develop players recently.

    My advice to Kevin Colbert is if Randy Gregory is on the board at 22 – pass.

  • Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey To Remain With Steelers In 2015

    Darrius Heyward-Bey Pittsburgh Steelers

    The Pittsburgh Steelers announced on Thursday that they have made a one-year deal with receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey to remain with the team through the 2015 season.  The move was similar to the one-year contract Heyward-Bey signed with Pittsurgh in April 2014, entering the roster after five seasons with the Oakland Raiders (2009-12) and Indianapolis Colts (2013).

    “It’s great to be back,” said Heyward-Bey after signing his latest contract.  “I just wanted to stay here and be a part of a great organization and play for a great coach.  That is what Coach (Mike) Tomlin is.” Heyward-Bey reinforced the fact that free agency can be difficult for players.  “For some guys it’s tough dealing with the unknown, but I knew what I wanted…In this business of the NFL for (the Steelers) to be very honest with me, what they expect from me and me telling them what I expect…It’s an honest partnership.”

    Heyward-Bey was not utilized much during the 2014 season, watching Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant take the top three receiver spots.  Heyward-Bey and Lance Moore were more often brought in on four-receiver sets or to give one of the starters a two-down breather.  Moore was released by the Steelers earlier in the offseason.  Heyward-Bey recorded just three receptions for 33 yards, but the former number one draft pick didn’t allow his absence from the offense get in his way.  Instead, he put his heart into special teams.

    “I recognize a lot of people in my position wouldn’t want to do that,” Heyward-Bey said, “but I am a different type of personality.  It’s all about the team.” He went on to add, “If they need me to go out there on special teams and perform, I will do that.”

    Heyward-Bey has 172 receptions for 2,413 yards and 12 receiving touchdowns for his career (regular season stats) and started 65 of 88 games.

  • Blast Furnace: Prom Date Rule has nothing to do with toughness

    Blast Furnace

    Welcome to the inaugural installment of The Blast Furnace. Moving forward, I will use this space to analyze anything and everything that strikes a nerve with me about the on- and off-the-field issues facing the Steelers in their quest to capture their seventh Lombardi Trophy.

    At this point, those of you who have read my posts in the past might be wondering what makes The Blast Furnace different from what I’ve been writing for the past two months. Honestly, the content won’t change. My passion for all things Steelers is unwavering, and my sincere hope is that you’ll find my writing as comforting as a fridge full of I.C. Light on game day. Whether you do or you don’t, let me know in the comments.

    For the first installment of The Furnace (that’s what the cool kids are calling it), I want to delve a little deeper into the so-called Prom Date Rule that came to light earlier this week during a radio interview with former Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden. During a discussion about the early retirement of 49ers linebacker Chris Borland, McFadden shared that he and his teammates didn’t want to show weakness by having to get “prom escorted” off the field after a particularly jarring hit.

    Week-in and week-out, NFL players are lauded for their toughness, but popping a dislocated finger back into place on the sideline to get back into the lineup is far different than going back on the field after suffering a traumatic brain injury. With the myriad protocols now in place to keep athletes from returning to games when they exhibit concussion symptoms, it’s disturbing – but not really unexpected – to learn that players were operating under the Prom Date Rule as recently as 2008.

    Showing weakness – or “sleep”, as McFadden called it – on the field after a big hit shouldn’t be taboo, but in the man-up-or-shut-up culture that permeates sports at all levels, there’s no denying the fact that outward displays of being “soft” are frowned upon. Whether someone verbalizes it or not, players are expected to rub dirt on it and line up for the next play.

    No player wants to be taken off the field after having their proverbial bell rung, but let’s set aside the serious risk of long-term brain damage for a second. If a guy can’t see straight or keep his balance, isn’t the sideline where he belongs? Teammates might admire a guy’s grit or will to win for wanting to stay in the game, but it’s hard enough to defend against today’s high-octane offenses with 11 healthy guys. Doing it with 10 and a guy who can’t remember what day it is – let alone his responsibility on a specific defensive play call – is detrimental to the team.

    The most disconcerting thing to me is that this Prom Date Rule (or something like it) may still exist in NFL locker rooms today. It’s not like they were ever written down anywhere in the first place, so teams could still be operating under these types of unofficial tough-guy mandates in 2015. They’d be more difficult to abide by with team and league physicians stepping in to administer concussion protocol tests at the first sign of trouble during games, but I’m sure things still slip through the cracks.

    In the bigger, stronger, faster NFL that we’ve all come to know, the players who sacrifice their minds and bodies to delight the thousands of screaming fans in attendance and the millions watching at home are plenty tough. If they need a teammate or trainer to put an arm around them to get them off the field every now and then, so be it.

  • Cover One: Who Will Step Up And Be The Number One Steelers Corner?

    Cover One


    Heading into the 2015-2016 season the main concern for Pittsburgh Steelers fans clearly is the cornerback position. It is yet unknown which cornerback will step up and take on the top wide receiver of the opposing team each and every week. There are several candidates to look at as none of them are set in stone to be number one.

    One player that has to come to mind is Cortez Allen.  As bad as he was last season, Allen has no choice but to improve this upcoming season.  Allen was paid big money, and even though he has not yet lived up to the contract, the fact that the Steelers did not release him or trade him shows the team still has faith in him. Allen could stand to be a bit more physical in press coverage and not hesitate when he wants to make a jump on the football.  Allen’s athletic ability is not to be questioned, but it is the mental part of his game he must grasp. There was a time when longtime starter Ike Taylor was benched late in the 2006-2007 season, and it turned out to be the best thing for his career.  Allen’s may turn out to be a similar story.

    William Gay has defined consistency over the past two seasons with his play. Never known as a flashy player, Gay has contained some of the best wide receivers in the game with his sound technique.  The Steelers would prefer if he played more in the slot considering the fact he lacks elite speed. Gay has the tackling and leadership ability of a number one cornerback and was the the number one cornerback for the Steelers last season by default because of the disappointing play of Allen.  Best case scenario is Gay being the number two or three cornerback.

    There is also a strong possibility that a cornerback could be drafted to be the day-one starter. Certain candidates include Trae Waynes, Marcus Peters, Quentin Rollins or Josh Shaw.  If any rookie cornerback proves in training camp and the preseason that they are physical, and understand zone coverage, it will put them ahead of the curve.

    A capable rookie starter, a bounce-back season from Allen, paired with Gay playing the slot and a feisty capable backup in Antwon Blake – the cornerback position could evolve into an above average group.

  • Between The Hashmarks: Fan Take on Tomlin, Steelers Stance On Cornerbacks



    Pittsburgh Steelers fans have been concerned about the lack of depth in the Steelers’ defense for some time now.  The area of most concern has been in the defensive backfield – one that proved ineffective often during the 2014 NFL season.  Recent departures and a big question mark regarding Troy Polamalu (despite him being a safety and not a cornerback) have heated up the discussion, especially since the free agency signing period saw the front office pass on signing any outside free agent to give the team depth.  Comments from head coach Mike Tomlin and General Manager Kevin Colbert haven’t gone over well, either.  In this ‘Between the Hashmarks’ feature, I’ll take an in-depth look at the issue and what fans are expressing.

    Tomlin on cornerbacks:

    “I expect the guys that we have to continue to grow and get better…I expect to add credible, competent men to add to that mix to provide competition and put them in a competitive environment and see who comes out on top.  I’m completely comfortable that at the end of that we’re going to have above the line corner play.”

    The issue with Tomlin’s statement, in my opinion, has to do with the fact that the Steelers appear to be complacent in their approach.  Whether that is the case or not, it has the air of trying to calm the waters.  Fans are mixed in how they view Tomlin’s take.  The Steelers finished 27th in the league against the pass in 2014.  That is an abysmal position to be located in today’s era of pass-often football.  Is Tomlin overlooking the ‘obvious’ – that the defensive backfield really stunk things up last season – or is he trying to project confidence that the team will be able to both draft competitive defensive backs and rely on relative untested players on the current roster?

    With just three cornerbacks with any real experience under their belt on the current roster, this area absolutely has to be addressed and if fans can see it, the front office should have it on their minds almost daily.  Despite the re-signing of Antwon Blake, who is expected to replace departed free agent Brice McCain, the Steelers have done little to garner confidence outside of their own inner circle.  Tomlin may be confident in Cortez Allen’s ability to rebound, but after seeing Allen benched last season, many fans do not feel the same.

    Fan Quotes:  (via Facebook)*




    * Last names removed only to protect identity of the fan, not to take away from their statements

    The comments above match a trend across the board.  Fans are expressing frustration in nearly every social media forum (including Facebook and Twitter), in comment fields on the Steelers’ official website and on other news sites, including here on Steelers Gab.

    Tomlin and Colbert regarding using the draft:

    Both Tomlin and Colbert stated that the Steelers were opting to add to the cornerback position via the draft.

    Tomlin said this on Tuesday:

    “We believe in the process that we go through and we also believe in the men that we have…I know some of the guys that we have on our roster at the position right now don’t have extended resumes.  That’s always the case.  How do you gain experience without going through the process of gaining experience?  These guys are driven and they want to be positive contributors to our efforts and reasons why we’re successful and some of those guys played key roles down the stretch last year.”

    Fan response:

    The number one response (as recorded via Facebook and Twitter) to Tomlin’s statement above was that the process needs to be a lot faster and produce much quicker if the Steelers are to be competitive in 2015.  The number two response was that it is unlikely the Steelers will be able to count on the guys on the current roster to become starters week in and week out.

    My take:

    With a disclaimer that this is my opinion and not the opinion of or any of its other writers, let me give you my take on the situation.  It isn’t completely improbable that the three corners on the current roster will improve.  In fact, they are in a must-do situation.  It seems unlikely that the Steelers will be able to draft two or more cornerbacks this year who can immediately step into a starting role.  Although it has been disputed, the cornerback class has not been particularly impressive across the board.  There are a few prospects that stand out, but the rest of the class is so-so.  Yes, Carnell Lake has been attending Pro Days at several colleges and universities where cornerback talent is higher (Michigan State most recently).  With Tomlin admitting that it will take time for guys to build “resumes” and “gain experience”, it reinforces the mindset that the team will not be able to field a strong defensive backfield at corner.

    I don’t like to speak for fans as a whole – but as a fan of the team myself, I think the statements by the Steelers, their staff and coaches leave me feeling more than uneasy about how the Steelers’ defense will fare against teams who love to stretch the field and attack corners.  To see a great Steelers offense struggle because their defense can’t get the other team off the field or prevent points on the scoreboard is worrisome.  I love to see the Steelers succeed.  Last season, I needed Pepto Bismol after nearly every game.  I was, admittedly, disappointed that the team did not immediately target McCain to re-sign.  McCain created turnovers and was more impressive to me that Allen and William Gay.  That makes me wonder if I am going to have a full-blown ulcer before the preseason is even over in 2015.

    I remain a loyal fan and understand it is unrealistic to think that every season is going to be Super Bowl-caliber despite my desire for the franchise to get another Lombardi Trophy.  However, the approach of wait and see screams desperation, not preparation, to me right now.  I am not giving up on the team.  I have been a die-hard fan since I was five and able to understand and enjoy football (and no, I am not going to age myself but I was celebrating the Immaculate Reception).  Fans want to see their team do well and handle bad seasons poorly.  It’s the nature of being part of ‘Steeler Nation’.  Steelers fans may be viewed as opinionated, rude, stubborn and overly-expectant but I think it is because a majority of Steelers fans have come to expect the very best from their team; right or wrong.  If the Steelers want to keep one of the most loyal fanbases in the world, they don’t necessarily have to take advice from fans – but they could take a lot away from what fans are saying.  Perhaps just a little bug in the ear heading into 2015.  An organization can’t cater to every individual fan and they can’t just throw out their overall plan, but the vibration they feel from fans right now should give them an indication that there are very high expectations.

    Want to express your take?  Leave a comment (please, not regarding me, but your personal opinion overall regarding the cornerback situation and Steelers) and/or take the polls.  Let’s see where Steeler Nation really stands on this issue.

    Note:  The comment box is below the ‘related links’ and to comment, you must click on the headline and open the article to fully view it as a new page. You cannot leave a comment if you do not open the individual link.  Thank you.






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