• Ward listed as doubtful vs. Arizona

    Hines WardTests on Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward show that he has a sprained knee and he is being listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game at Arizona.  Ward was walking without a limp during while reporting to a team meeting on Monday; however he was on crutches later. 

    Ward was injured while being the intended receiver on consecutive plays during a drive in the 3rd quarter during the 49ers-Steelers game last weekend.   Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has not yet ruled Ward out of the game; Ward has missed only 3 games due to injury in 10 NFL seasons.

  • Reed and Sepulveda a plus for Steelers

    Jeff ReedDaniel SepulvedaEveryone who knows anything about the Steelers knows that their bread and butter is their running game and their strong defense.  One area that has been overlooked has been their special teams – specifically their kicking game; in this case the kicker and punter.

    Kicker Jeff Reed, who is notrious for his lack of touchbacks on a seasonlong basis, booted three of his seven kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.  Statistically, Reed only had 4 kickoffs all of last season as touchbacks; on the flip side, Olindo Mare of then the Miami Dolphins, booted 24 of 64 kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.  Why the sudden improvement?

    Reed told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that it was his mental approach, adding, “I’ve always been capable of that. Sometimes, I just get out there and try too hard.  I did that one kick and it actually worked out in our favor.  It could have gone out of bounds, the one that looked like a power squib.  But, I want to get more consistent.  I feel comfortable with field goals and extra points, even on kickoffs.  But I want to be more consistent everywhere.”

    Meanwhile, punter Daniel Sepulveda only averaged 37.2 yards per punt against the Browns; however, 5 of the punts were downed and 1 was a fair catch, so situational punting worked well for the Steelers on Sunday.  The return game on the other hand, was a bit sub-par.  Newly signed return specialist Allen Rossum had some difficulty with his returns; he totalled only 7 yards on 2 punt returns and 44 yards on 2 kickoff returns.  Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, sensing some optimism in the return game, told the Post-Gazette, “I would have liked to get Allen a little more room in some instances, but we’re a developing football team.  You can’t knock that performance.”

    Tomlin has emphasized special teams almost since Day 1.  And from the looks of what Reed and Sepulveda did on Sunday, the extra work on that aspect of special teams seems to be working.  Only some tweaking of  the return game may be necessary in order to have an above-average special teams unit.

  • Rossum to Return Kicks Sunday?

    These days, one would have to think that Steelers wide receiver/return specialist Willie Reid is either getting no respect or is simply being outplayed during the team’s training camp – or both.  Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is reporting that recently signed CB Allen Rossum could very well be returning kicks this Sunday for the Steelers as they play the Cleveland Browns.

    Team head coach Mike Tomlin hasn’t committed to either Reid or Rossum yet, but after Reid’s mediocre results this preseason, the signing of Rossum may have been the beginning of the end for Reid on doing kick and punt returns – at least for right now.  Tomlin at his news conference on Tuesday did say that Reid and Rossum will compete for those spots this week in practice; Tomlin added this about former Atlanta Falcon Rossum: “His resume speaks for itself.  I’ve got a great deal of respect for what he’s capable of.”

    That certainly sounds like an endorsement to me as it appears that Tomlin isn’t quite ready to let Reid handle kick returns.  There was a brief notion of perhaps WR Santonio Holmes returning kicks, but that was thrown out the window almost immediately as Tomlin wants Holmes to concentrate on receiving duties instead.  Rossum has in his career returned seven kickoffs or punts for touchdowns, so you can assume that was in Tomlin’s mind at the time of the signing.  But the way things are shaping up, it looks more than likely that Rossum will be the return man on Sunday instead of Reid.

  • Polamalu looking to sign, but when?

    Here’s a two-part question for you: How much do we really know about veteran agent Marvin Demoff, the agent of Steelers safety Troy Polamalu? Considering his track record, how much do we want to know? Certainly enough to know that anything is possible with Demoff – ranging from a speedy contract resolution between Polamalu and the Steelers, to a prolonged contract stalemate, and all the possibilites in between. In other words, expect the unexpected.

    Demoff is what you’d consider an old-school negotiator based in Los Angeles who has a history with the Steelers, although not necessarily a great one. He represented Rod Woodson when he was drafted in the first-round back in 1987. Woodson held out, missed his first NFL training camp and didn’t sign until October. Now on the other hand, Polamalu, the Steelers’ first-round pick in 2003, didn’t hold out, signed in July and participated in his first NFL training camp. Demoff, depending on the client in question and the client’s needs, can be either accomodating or stiff.

    Polamalu’s original contract ends following the 2007 season. The Steelers really don’t have to do a thing. They can permit him to play out his deal and then slap a franchise tag on him for the next two seasons if he doesn’t agree to their terms. Not exactly a nice way of conducting business with one of the Steelers’ best and most popular players, yet the price that one sometimes must pay to do business. Especially with a smaller-market team such as the Steelers.

    Demoff is attempting to hammer out a deal for Polamalu this offseason since the Steelers typically do not negotiate deals during the regular season. Keep in mind that Polamalu has a year left on his current contract, so basically what happens between right now and WEEK 1 vs. Cleveland may be revealing. Not signing Polamalu this offseason doesn’t mean a new deal won’t get done. But at the same time it could possibly send the wrong message to players and fans.

    Considering that linebacker Joey Porter was released after not securing the contract he wanted, and given that unhappy Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca has already promised to leave when his contract runs out after next season, the Steelers need to re-sign Polamalu as a sign of good faith, if anything else. So far, Polamalu is adopting a low-key, goodwill approach in negotiations. That could change if Demoff, who’s already shown the Steelers that he can drive a hard bargain, is unable to secure Ed Reed type of money for Polamalu. So the $64,000 question is this: Which Demoff do we get this year – the Woodson or the Polamalu version? Only time will tell.

  • Report Says Fourth Round Pick DE McBean Signs

    The Pittsburgh Press-Gazette has learned that the Steelers have signed rookie defensive end Ryan McBean to a three-year contract. McBean, from Oklahoma State, was selected by the Steelers in the fourth round of the 2007 draft. He is 6-5, 285 pounds. He is the third player signed from the 2007 draft.

    Here is the scouting report on McBean:

    The good: McBean is a big, athletic lineman who had a fine two-year career in the Big 12 after starting his career at Hinds Junior College. He is a tall, angular lineman with the athleticism to start at several spots on a pro front line and either defensive scheme. He began to flash big-play ability as a junior. He filled a tackle spot where he was allowed to use his quickness to penetrate and make plays. He has some lateral quickness and enough speed to close on the passer. He is a sound tackler who wraps up very decisively. He is a tough, physical competitor that plays with a sense of urgency.

    The bad: He needs some technique refinement because he has a tendency to play too upright at times. He needs to play with better pad level. He needs definite strength work to hold the point of attack against the inside run game. He has good weight room strength in the upper body, but he must utilize it better.

    Outlook: He has the upside to warrant a middle-round grade, and he could be a first-day selection off his play last season. He is a marginal top-100 prospect with a big upside. He probably fits the end spot in a 3-4 best, and that may be the only place he can develop into a pro starter.


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