Harrison to Skip White House Visit

Fanhouse reports that James Harrison will skip the Steelers’ visit to the White House next week.

Over the years it became White House tradition to invite the championship NFL/MLB/NBA/NHL winning team for a visit. I’m not sure when this all started, but President Nixon was known for at least calling the champion after victory was secured.

More from Fanhouse: [...] But unlike last year’s Giants, who were spurred more by their 18-0 opponent than a chance to spend an afternoon with the most unpopular president in a half-century, some players [...] are using the opportunity to stand with Barack Obama on the South Lawn as motivation to win the Super Bowl, according to NFL.com’s Adam Schefter.

harrison-at-white-house

So Harrison wants to skip the visit. What’s the big deal? Sure, many would consider such a visit an honor under most circumstances. Obviously, Mr. Harrison is not among that group. Perhaps he’d rather avoid the pomp and circumstance. Perhaps he values his privacy. Perhaps he’s allergic to politicians. Who knows? In the end, who cares? Enjoy your day off, James Harrison, you earned it.

Update: According to Ed Bouchette of the Post Gazette, Mr. Harrison’s avoidance of the White House is a secondary effect of his fear of flying. With only eight regular season road games per year, Harrison certainly picked the right sport of the big four. Maybe John Madden can swing by in his cruiser? Yeah, that’s the ticket!

Who Must the Steelers Resign for 2010?

The list of free agents after 2009 is a long one. According to the Post Gazette, under the current player’s union agreement, many can seek new contracts after the upcoming season including Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel, Ryan Clark, Willie Parker, Heath Miller, Jeff Reed, Max Starks, Willie Colon and Justin Hartwig.

That’s a long list, but not all of those players are “must-haves.” Actually, accounting for the players already resigned this off season, there are only two who the Steelers shouldn’t allow to get away just yet: Casey Hampton and Heath Miller.

Considering the number of teams that have recently switched to a 3-man front, the nose tackle position anchored by Hampton will be especially difficult to fill. And while the Steelers have an adequate backup in Chris Hoke, the defense would be dimished with out the presense of Big Snack. Hampton is a pro bowl player who excells at his job and demands a double-team each snap.

The tight end has seemingly been an under appreciated position for the Steelers, but don’t be fooled. Heath Miller is a vital cog in the offensive machine. He’s an outlet straight up the seem and must be accounted for in the red zone. And while the run game was substandard last season, can one imagine how poor it would have been sans Miller? Shudder to think.

It’s likely that the Steelers will be able to resign more than two of their free agents next season, but getting all of them is doubtful. However, Hampton and Miller are top priorities.

Harrison’s Contract, 3 Year Deal?

James Harrison’s new contract with the Steelers was announced as a six-year, $51.175 million deal. Now we get more details from James Walker’s AFC North Blog.

In the first three years Harrison will be compensated roughly $21.5M through the signing bonus, base salary and other bonuses/incentives. “In years four, five and six Harrison’s salary balloons to $5.315 million, $6.32 million and $7.325 million, respectively.”

Folks, that’s a three year deal if’n I’ve ever seen one! Truthfully, this contract is fair to both sides in that Harrison will average over $7M per season for the next three years. If he plays out the contract, he’ll get the full $51.175M value to which he agreed. And the Steelers will have the ability to cut Harrison after three seasons (when the contract becomes less cap-friendly) should his play no longer warrant the high salary, but they’ll also have the ability to negotiate a restructured contract to generate cap room if such is needed at the time.

Foote Released, Other News

Linebacker Released

Former Steelers Linebacker Larry Foote

Former Steelers Linebacker Larry Foote

The question regarding linebacker Larry Foote’s future was partially answered on Monday when he was released by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Foote had been seeking either a release or trade and finally got his wish. The Steelers got almost $3M in cap space for the 2009 season.

Sweed Impresses in Mini Camp

Sweed Impresses in Mini Camp

Sweed Impresses in Mini Camp

If I had to pick one player I was most impressed with (outside of the obvious), I would have to say second-year receiver Limas Sweed. Everyone is aware of his struggles last season. But during this three-day camp, Sweed received a lot of reps and made a lot of plays. The 2008 second-round pick will be relied upon this season and it looks like he’s making significant strides.
AFC North Blog, James Walker

Parker Wants to Remain with Steelers

Willie Parker enters the last year of his contract in the 2009 season. Did he consider a hold out?

“That will take care of itself,” he said of his contract situation. “The Steelers gave me a chance and I am proud and happy to be a Steeler. That’s all I can say about that. Whatever happens, happens. As of right now, I am just getting ready for this season and have to make the best of it.”
Post Gazette

Larry Foote Released? Traded?

According to an ESPN.com report, the Steelers have released linebacker Larry Foote.

Steelers linebacker Larry Foote takes in the atmosphere.

A five year starter, Foote played in every game for six straight seasons. Along the way he collected two Super Bowl rings and numerous accolades. But last season he split time with first round pick Lawrence Timmons who showed much greater range than the veteran.

Add in the fact that Foote’s cap hit will be around $3M and it all adds up to Mr. Foote becoming a free agent.

But, the Post Gazette reports that In a mysterious twist, however, the release is not planned over the next several days and Foote will be kept on the roster for this weekend’s required minicamp, sources said.

This lends itself to speculation. Clearly, the Steelers were not planning to release this news immediately and were possibly angling for a trade, perhaps with the Detroit Lions, Foote’s hometown team.

Time will tell, folks. But this story is not complete.

Steelers 2009 Draft Recap

Day One

As the offensive linemen most experts had the Steelers targeting flew off the board, the Steelers stood pat and, one must assume, stayed true to their board. With the 32nd pick of the first round, the SB XLIII Champions selected defensive tackle Evander “Ziggy” Hood from Missouri.

(1.32) Evander Hood, DT, Missouri

According to SI.com

Hood is an athletic defensive tackle who has the physical skills to be used in a variety of positions at the next level, and he offers starting potential. He played well as a senior, and he really watched his game take off in the post-season. Hood could be a surprise selection in the late part of round one, based on his performance in the past six months.

Sounds like a guy the Steelers can work with on the defensive line. And make no mistake, while many consider the offensive line the greatest weakness, the defensive line is aged and needs an injection of youth.

On CBSSportsline.com, Pete Prisco assigned a grade of “A” for the Steelers’ first pick.

For round two, the Steelers did a little trading with Denver. They swapped (3) 64 and (4) 132 for (3) 79, 84.

Their remaining picks are
(3) 79, 84, 96
(4)
(5) 168, 169
(6) 205
(7) 226, 241

Day Two

The beginning of day two saw more “Steelers guys” selected by other teams. Who would be left on the board? What about the offensive line? There goes another tackle. Curses! Two more guards off the board.

(3.79) Kraig Urbik, G, Wisconson

Large, versatile blocker with a solid game. Strong at the point, stays square, and jolts defenders with good hand punch. Powerful, knocks opponents off the line, and works blocks hard. Keeps his feet moving, anchors in pass protection, and plays with a nasty attitude. Displays good vision and works well with line-mates. Breaks down well, and to his credit, consistently plays with good knee bend. Can slide laterally in a small area.

(3.84) Mike Wallace, WR, Mississippi

Game breaking receiver that consistently makes big plays from the line of scrimmage. Quickly gets into pass routes, displays a burst of speed and runs away from defenders in the open field. Nicely makes the reception running full speed and looks the pass into his hands. Gets vertical, grabs the ball from the air and returns to the field on balance then continues running after the reception. Solid athlete who nicely adjusts to the errant throw and makes the catch in stride.

Finally! The Steelers address two areas of need on the interior offensive line and the return game. Urbik should push immediately for a starting position and provides depth in what has become the youngest position grouping on the team. Wallace instantly changes the return game and can push Limas Sweed playing time at the receiver position. Additionally, he provides extreme speed with times ranging from 4.28 to 4.33 in the 40 yard dash. This guy is a burner.

(3.96) Keenan Lewis, CB, Oregan State

Nice-sized cornerback who displayed a lot of improvement in his game over the past two seasons. Fluid pedaling in reverse, quick flipping his hips in transition, and does a nice job positioning himself against opponents in man coverage. Runs downfield with receivers, shows a burst to the action and good hands for the interception. Fights with receivers throughout the action, and rarely challenged by opposing quarterbacks.

Again, the Steelers address depth issues and select a corner back, presumably to push William Gay for Brian McFadden’s vacated starting position. The ranks were getting thin in the defensive backfield where Lewis is a welcome addition.

(5.168) Joe Burnett, CB, Central Florida

Solid cover cornerback who brings the element of a return specialist to his game. Physical, aggressively comes up the field to defend the run or mixes it up with opponents out of routes. Displays good awareness, has a burst of closing speed, and possesses good ball skills. Quickly breaks to the pass, and he is a hard hitter who lays his body on the line to stop opponents.

Coach Tomlin said Burnett is a very productive corner back and nice return man for both punts and kicks.

(5.169) Frank Summers, RB/FB, UNLV

Explosive, well-built ball carrier best running north-south. Patient back who waits for blocks to develop and finds the running lanes. Runs with an aggressive style, turns his shoulders up the field, and drives through the hole, running over opponents. Keeps the play in bounds working to pick up as much yardage as possible and a punishing runner on the inside. Follows blocks everywhere on the field, and displays a good amount of quickness. Powerful in his lower body, breaks arm tackles to pick up yardage off initial contact, or falls forward when tackled. Nifty for a 240-pound back.

Goal line rusher, anyone? Summers is a punishing and physical runner who immediately upgrades the goal-to-go and 3rd and 1 offense. Tomlin assigned the nickname, “Frank the Tank.”

(6.205) Ra’Shon Harris, DT, Oregon

Powerful interior lineman who clogs the middle of the field. Breaks down well, plays with good pad level and easily holds the point of attack. Constantly doubled in the middle of the line, flashes the ability to bull rush opponents off the ball, and chases hard to get involved in the action.

(7.226) A.Q. Shipley, C, Penn State

Explosive and hard-working lineman who plays smart football. Built low to the ground, bends his knees and gets leverage on opponents. Moves well on his feet, and effective blocking in motion. Fights with his hands, extends them into defenders and adjusts to ride opponents from their angle of attack. Good jolt and pop at the point of attack. Quickly gets into blocks, stays with the action, and shows ability as a position blocker.

(7.241) David Johnson, TE, Arkansas State

Relatively athletic tight end who flashes skill on the field. Breaks down well playing with good knee bend, quickly releases off the line into pass routes, and effectively uses his hands to get off jams, then separates from opponents. Adjusts to the errant throw, gets vertical in midair for the difficult reception, and extends to make some outstanding receptions. Solid position blocker with above-average strength at the point. Turns opponents off the ball, and effective when he stays with assignments.

Some of these draftees will make the roster, some the practice squad and some will be invited to continue their life’s work elsewhere. Good luck to them all!

You Am Choose Watch NFL Draft

Greet. It is draftings for Player to the profession. Come end week we sit waiting, observe the player people is waiting picks.

And pick first are Lions and choosing is the Stafford, being QB. Much riches and succeed! Yes, many big succeed with enormous money!

Next is choosing to Rams, the Smith, being offensive. Large is much need for Rams and the pick is good.

Soon comes Chefs and picking Curry. Funny! Spicy! Pick!

And Sanchez QB chose the Seahawks in Seattle.

Browns having chose to Crabtree, tall and running with hands. He receiving and now losing many times.

The Bengals do not know offensive Monroe? Yet him they the picking. Monroe is friend, yes?

More offensive now is Smith and Raiders. Mummy is younger All Davis!

Jaguars did chose running and catching with speed and hands and feet one Maclin.

Packers now defensive and Raji. Big Raji.

Make happy Orakpo by choose 49ers. Defensive and offensive but chose defensive.

Thanks previous read upper 10 draft pickings! Soon many whores!

What the Steelers Might Be Thinking

This will be revised one final time.

I don’t necessarily agree with the NFLDS rankings, but they offer a framework. IMO, Gilbert is a late-R1, although Larry Zierlein’s son Lance, who blogs for the Texans and seems to have a decent sense of what teams want, has Gilbert going at 18 to Denver. Also believe Don Carey will go higher, seems like teams in the know (Steelers, Ravens, others) like him and will want to get him safely.

Breaking it down by rounds, using NFLDS plus some tweaks, these are the clusters. Bold are players of high interest to me, italicized are players who might be of higher value in a trade-down.

1.32

CB Vontae Davis,Illinois
DE Jarron Gilbert, San Jose St.
C Alex Mack, California
C/OG Eric Wood, Louisville
CB Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest
C/OG Max Unger, Oregon
FS Louis Delmas, Western Michigan

IMO, Davis may be a risk. Smith’s height makes me believe he’ll never be a CB on the outside, just a package player. Unger is not as strong as Mack or Wood, IMO. Delmas is a very interesting pick, but would be a better value in a trade down as well.

2.64

DT Fili Moala, USC
WR/KR Mike Thomas, Arizona
OT Phil Loadholt, Oklahoma
OG/OT Herman Johnson, LSU
CB/S Sherrod Martin, Troy

OLB Lawrence Sidbury, Richmond
CB/S Keenan Lewis, Oregon St.
FS Rashad Johnson, Alabama

It’s tempting to look at the number of CBs we’ve brought in and cry Overkill!, but some like Lewis and Martin (a couple of funny guys) could be groomed as FS. R2 looks like a solid confluence of talent, esp. at OG and DB. Martin’s age and injuries give pause. Sidbury is a boom or bust at a position we’re stocked at. If we go C in R1, does that mean we go D in R2?

3.96

OG Louis Vasquez, Texas Tech
DT Dorell Scott, Clemson
TE Richard Quinn, North Carolina

Hard to figure this group. Is Scott a light NT or a beefy DE? And Quinn is really just another blocker, but might be a reach at 3.96. This could mean we’ll see if any of the above cluster drop, or it could signal that we’re willing to trade out of this pick (up or down). Trade possibilities involving the 3.96 include: 2.64 + 3.96 –> 2.51 (Dallas) or 2.52 (NYJ); 3.96 + 4.168 –> 3.90 (Atl); 1.32 + 3.96 + 4.132 –> 2.47 + 2.58 (NE), or –> 2.45 + 2.60 (Miami). Of those scenarios, I find it less likely that we trade either R1 or R2; the trade with Atlanta could happen, if they want to increase the number of picks they have from 7, and we see a faller from that R2 cluster.

Otherwise, we may just go off the visit list and take a BPA. I’d be a little upset if we reached again for a TE in R3. Edit: I bumped Louis Vasquez up to R3. He’s a massively strong OG who I think won’t make it out of R4. Needs to show he can transition from that funky TT offense.

4.132

DT Sammie Lee Hill, Stillman

A cluster of one, IMO. Did not some of the R5 players, as I think R4 is too rich, even in trade-down. Hill is an interesting small school guy who looks to be a long-term project at NT. After Raji and Brace come NTs with all sorts of caveats. Of those, Hill and Vaughn Martin, W. Ontario (!) offer the most upside IMO. Terrance Taylor remains a turd, and is a bit smallish IMO. Terrance Knighton is too lanky and LOC is an issue. Chris Baker of Hampton has character flags. Roy Miller of Texas also might not have the frame. Antonio Dixon of Miami is an interesting FA who cannot stay healthy.

5.168
5.169

CB/S Don Carey, Norfolk St.
CB/KR Joe Burnett, Central Florida
CB Greg Toler, St. Paul’s (VA)

CB Donald Washington, Ohio St.
QB Nate Davis, Ball St.

Carey and Toler are getting serious attention from teams, and won’t last past here. These guys are all developmental CBs, some can play S or return kicks. It seems increasingly likely that we will draft a DB early and another late, for FS depth and CB depth. Is Davis another Omar Jacobs?

6.205
7.226
7.241

FB Frank Summers, UNLV
DT Ra’Shon Harris, Oregon
WR/KR Jason Chery, Louisiana-Lafayette

If I had to put my $37 on ONE GUY the Steelers will draft this year, it would be Frank Summers. Kirby Wilson loves him, and we need that short yardage punch that a better FB can provide. He also runs and catches well. Sign him up. Chery could be a nice addition in the KR role, and as an up-and-coming WR from Ike Taylor’s LL. Like Taylor, he could be a very nice developmental player with some decent upside.

FA

CB Tony Carter, Florida St.
DE/OLB Brandon Long, Michigan St.
CB/KR, Pete Ittersagen, Wheaton

On paper, Long should be a dominant OLB prospect. On paper.

From the visit list alone, and not trading up or down, I’d like to see them go:

1. Eric Wood
2. Fili Moala
3. Louis Vasquez
4. Sammie Lee Hill
5. Don Carey
5. Greg Toler
6. Frank Summers
7. Ra’Shon Harris
7. Jason Chery

FA
Brandon Long

New Look Steelers for 2009?

How much can change in one off season where the coaching staff remains the same, only a couple of players leave and only one low-tier free agent signs? Hopefully much because the status quo usually doesn’t get it done in the NFL.

After winning the SB XLIII the Steelers have placed the proverbial target on their backs and teams will be gunning for them more than usual. Copy cats are already competing for 3-4 linemen and outside linebackers. And playoff victims are scheming dastardly plans for revenge. Who knows what evil concoction brews behind the Ravens’ closed doors?

One thing is certain, if a team remains the same for too long the rest of the league can catch up and pass. And while the Steelers traditionally seem to stay the same, they’ve managed to tweak things, staying ahead of the wave.

So while we can expect more punishing defense, Dick LeBeau will devise new schemes to mix with the old ones. Players will know their roles better and younger blood will push the veterans to new heights.

Big Ben will again rally the troops, but now from a place of greater confidence and veteran wile. Players like Rashard Mendenhall and Limas Sweed will vie to make an impact. The offensive line will be a year older and wiser. New picks will seek their place in the mix and push for game time.

There may no great new look for the Steelers in 2009 but count on satisfaction from another hard fought division title and playoff run. Heck, those six Lombardis are probably looking lonely right about now.

Harrison Remains a Steeler

A collective sigh of relief was heard across Steeler Nation earlier today as news of James Harrison’s contract extension spread. Sure, Harrison was still under contract for one more season, but now the drama of playing out his last year with out an extension has been avoided.

The six year $51M contract is the largest ever for a Steelers defensive player. It blew away my prediction, “More than five years at $40M with $9M guaranteed would be surprising.”

Harrison's new contract knocked him to his knees.

Throw in the $20M signing bonus and Mr. Harrison should be one happy outside linebacker. The man earned it; he so far outplayed his contract the last two seasons, the Steelers can feel happy even if Harrison’s productivity declines after a few more campaigns. Some say he’s a young 31 considering the limited amount of play early in his career. That’s true. But in four years he’ll be 35 (long in the tooth for a position that depends on explosiveness) with two remaining on his contract.

Those are considerations for another time, though. The Steelers had to keep Harrison. It sends a positive message to the other players and destroys the trollish message board notion that !!!THEM CHEEP AZZ RONNEYS WONT SING NOBODYS!!1!1!