The Steelers signed Greg Warren to another one-year contract, returning their long-snapper for a 12th NFL season, all with them.
Warren played in 165 games since he joined the Steelers as an undrafted rookie free agent from North Carolina in 2005, fifth-most among active Steelers players. He is one of four current Steelers who earned two Super Bowl rings with them. The others are Ben Roethlisberger, Heath Miller and James Harrison.
Warren has signed a series of one-year contracts with the Steelers in the past.
Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple (Paul Vernon/Associated Press)
Beginning today and continuing periodically throughout draft season I’ll offer up a four-round mock draft for the Steelers. It will inevitably change over the course of the 2 1/2 months as teams gather more information on prospective draft choices. But with the NFL scouting combine set to commence in less than two weeks, here goes:
With the No. 25 overall pick, the Pittsburgh Steelers select…
1. Eli Apple, cornerback, Ohio State. He is the long (6-1, 200) athletic corner the Steelers like to have at their disposal. And he’s from Ohio State, where the Steelers love to scout first-round picks. They’ve chosen Cam Heyward (2011) and Ryan Shazier (2014) in recent years. There are some drawbacks. His is a redshirt sophomore who is coming out early and is not as polished as other corners projected to go in the first round. But in time he could be an ideal outside corner to pair opposite William Gay (if he is re-signed) or Senquez Golson, last year’s second-round pick. Apple won’t turn 21 until August, but that hasn’t been a concern for the Steelers, who have selected young players in the first and second rounds several times over the past few years. Stephon Tuitt was 20 when he was drafted out of Notre Dame in 2014 and Shazier was 21. Both saw the field as rookies.
2. Darian Thompson, free safety, Boise State. Another big player to revamp the secondary. Thompson is 6-2, 215 and was a ball hawk as a junior and senior with a combined 12 interceptions. Some mocks have him going to the Steelers in the first round, but he’s probably not a first-round talent unless he kills it at the combine. He has the size and versatility NFL coaches covet. Had a strong performance at the Senior Bowl. If the Steelers get Thompson they would move Mike Mitchell from free safety to strong safety.
3. Josh Garnett, guard, Stanford. Why not go back to Stanford to find a guard? The previous time the Steelers selected one from the Pac-12 school in 2012 it worked out pretty well. David DeCastro earned All-Pro honors last season and is in line for a contract extension. Garnett could be a plug-and-play starter from Day 1 assuming the team does not re-sign Ramon Foster. Garnett would have to learn quickly to earn a starting job, but offensive line coach Mike Munchak would be a perfect tutor for him.
4. Scooby Wright, inside linebacker, Arizona. Top reserve Sean Spence is an unrestricted free agent and Vince Williams, another reserve, is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Plus, Lawrence Timmons isn’t going to play forever. Wright was one of the top run defenders in the Pac-12 when healthy and could be a nice value pick at this point in the draft. He could play special teams as a rookie, and depending upon his development, might be a replacement for Timmons in two or three years. At the very least he’s a depth player at a position the Steelers will need to address in the coming years.
The next four-round mock draft will be after the combine. Post your comments below.
The NFL scouting combine is less than two weeks away. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock released his top five players at each position on Wednesday.
Others have unveiled their position rankings and mock drafts in recent weeks.
This mock draft from Sports Illustrated yesterday had the Steelers taking a safety with their first pick at No. 25.
There will be many more position rankings and mock drafts in the next few months. Some of them will change drastically after the combine and after teams have their doctors check over the prospects.
Remember, last year at this time Pitt tackle TJ Clemmings was a first-round prospect by many of the draft experts. However, a medical condition made him slip all the way to the fourth round.
Speaking of Pitt players, receiver Tyler Boyd isn’t on Mayock’s top five receivers. He is, however, projected by SI to go at No. 36 overall in the second round.
It’s officially mock draft season. Enjoy the links and these below:
Daniel Jeremiah’s top 50 prospects
USA Today’s latest mock draft
And the latest mock from nfldraftscout.com
With a projected salary cap for each team at $155 million and change, the Steelers are under it at this point in the year for the first time in awhile.
According to Over The Cap, they are about $6 million under (for the top 51 salaries, which are all that count in the offseason) and that does not include from what I can see any carryover from 2015, and they had some.
That may not seem like much with some of the contracts they need to do or try to do. There are free agents such as Kelvin Beachum, Ramon Foster, William Gay, Steve McLendon and some others they may try. There also are extensions such as Le’Veon Bell, David DeCastro, Jarvis Jones, Markus Wheaton and perhaps more they may want to extend as they enter their final season.
So, let’s take a look:
First, they can wipe out $6.8 million of cap space by releasing Cortez Allen ($4.4 million salary) with a June designation and releasing/trading Shaun Suisham ($2.4 million). Understand that as one player is removed from the top 51 salaries, another must replace him, so barring expensive free agent signings or new contracts, that would be a $450,000 first-year minimum player. So in the example above, the Steelers would save $5.9 million by removing Allen and Suisham and not their $6.8 million in salaries.
While they would not have that extra cap space from Cortez Allen until June, that can be used to go toward extensions, such as one they likely plan to give Bell.
Nevertheless, we just doubled the Steelers salary cap space to about $12 million.
Then there is the 2016 cap of $8 million in the books right now for DeCastro. That will be reduced when the Steelers sign him to a multiple-year contract. By how much is a guess because it will depend on how much they want him to count this year. But if he receives a new five-year contract with a, say, $12 million signing bonus, that would count $2.4 million annually to be pro-rated against the cap. Then add salaries and roster bonuses. Either way, his cap for this year easily can be reduced by $2 million, maybe even $3 million.
That brings their cap space to at least $14 million. And that ends the easy part of this work sheet. The rest is all business. Do they ask Lawrence Timmons to take a reduction from his $8.75 million salary for 2016? Do they sign any of their free agents? Extend Bell or others? Sign other teams’ free agents? Give Antonio Brown another $2 million advance on his 2017 salary as they did his 2016 salary last year?
All that will eat into that cap room.
One area in which they do not have as much room to work to create cap room as they have in the past is by redoing vets’ contracts as they have done so often this time of year. They could still do that with Ben Roethlisberger, who has a $17.75 million salary in 2016 and a cap number of nearly $24 million. Mike Mitchell, who has a $5 million salary in 2016 and is signed through 2018, also could be a possibility for that kind of restructure that does not cost the player a penny but creates cap space for this year (and pushes more into the future).
So there is room to work for the Steelers, but they will have to make even more if they want to go head-first into signing any big-time free agents.
Some more Stuff:
--- For all the complaining some Steelers fans do about the state of their team and what they need to do this offseason to be contenders, others see them as one of the best in the NFL.
Indeed, most odds have them as the co-favorites along with New England to win the AFC next season.
In this example, the Steelers, Patriots, Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks are all 10-1 to win the Super Bowl next season. Others I have seen have the Steelers, Pats and Seahawks tied at 8-1. Cincinnati is next in the AFC at 18-1.
Now, if the Steelers can only shore up that secondary!
--- Yesterday here I gave Cam Newton the benefit of the doubt for hesitating to go after his late fumble in the Super Bowl. Then later in the day, he acknowledged he did not go after it because he feared injury so I take all that back.
Some post-Super Bowl Stuff, then onto a few Ask Ed questions. Chat today at 1:30.
— The Steelers today signed guard Cole Manhart, an undrafted rookie last year who was on the off-season rosters of the Eagles and Saints before finishing on the practice squad of the Oakland Raiders. Manhard started three seasons at left tackle for the University of Nebraska-Kearney.
--- As Steelers linebacker James Harrison contemplates whether to return to play another season at age 38, Kevin Greene offers up some advise. Greene retired after 15 NFL seasons with four different teams. He played his final season at 37 years old and recorded 12 sacks in a 4-3 defense in Carolina.
Harrison will be 38 this year.
“Actually, I had a pretty decent year my last year,’’ Greene told me. “I wanted to go out on a high note and be productive.
“I don’t know where James is and the scheme of things. I look back at my career, the Super Bowl escaped me but I had a peace about my production and what I brought to every team I played for, not only production but leadership.
“I wanted to call my shot when I wanted to leave the game. I didn’t want a coach to tell me, ‘Kevin we’re going to cut you, Kevin you’re too slow.’ I wanted to go out on my own terms.
“I was 37 and I went out as a starter playing all three downs.
“That’s the best any athlete can hope for -- play a long, productive career, healthy, play a lot of games and call his shot. I played my passion out.
“I don’t know where James is as far as peace on his career. He’s done good things. That pick-six in the Super Bowl totall changed the course in that game, a giant immense game. It was awesome.”
Greene said one of the biggest things a player like Harrison must consider when he’s deciding if he should return for one more season at his age is “if he can still be productive and play.’’
Harrison did that last season at age 37. Greene did it at the same age, then decided enough was enough.
--- People seem to forget that while, yes, the Steelers could have beaten the Denver Broncos and could have beaten the New England Patriots and could have won a seventh Lombardi Trophy, that was still a long way off from actually doing it. They were lucky to be playing in Denver after the Cincinnati Bengals gifted them that playoff win in the first game. And if that did not happen, this post-season talk around the Steelers might be how they again went one-and-done in the playoffs.
--- Or, maybe everyone still would be complaining how the Steelers did not make the playoffs for the third time in four years. Think about that. The Steelers received a gift to even make it into the playoffs thanks to the New York Jets and their quarterback bumbling in Buffalo. When all was on the line for the Steelers and things were in their own hands, they turned in their worst performance of the season in a loss to depleted Baltimore in game 15. And, by the way, that fumble by Fitzgerald Tussaint in Denver? It counts every bit as much as the fumble by Jeremy Hill of the Bengals in Cincinnati that gave the Steelers their unlikely comeback try.
--- Count me among those who did not think Cam Newton’s non-play on his own fumble was so egregious. He seemed stunned at first by the fact he fumbled, then moved to go after it, then hesitated. The hesitation was enough time to allow the ball to be knocked backward. But in real time, that hesitation seemed natural for a quarterback not used to pouncing on footballs the way defensive players are taught and have ingrained in their DNA – especially when those players are moving forward toward the ball to begin with.
--- Tony Dungy’s election to the Hall of Fame will rightfully begin the comparisons between his record and those of other coaches who won maybe just one Super Bowl, as he did. Ray Fittipaldo did a good job here yesterday comparing Dungy’s record to Bill Cowher’s. One thing, however, that is overlooked in those comparisons and is a big reason Dungy was elected: He was the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl, plus he had an excellent coaching career and winning percentage with two different teams.
Don’t kid yourself in the hurdles Dungy had to overcome because of that. We still see that racism today in many reactions to Mike Tomlin, whose record is among the best of active NFL coaches. Dungy was a trailblazer and as such deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
And now onto Ask Ed:
--- YOU: Hi Ed, I had a chance to view a recording of Troy P’s Polynesian HOF induction. He mentioned all of the football teams he played for except the Steelers, instead saying NFL. I have heard that the relationship between Troy and the Steelers is strained, what can you tell those of us who care about these kinds of things?
ED: My understanding is that it is strained and Polamalu has not shown up for any of the events the Steelers have had, including the 10th anniversary of Super Bowl XL. Apparently, he disagreed with the Steelers about their retirement plans for him last year.
--- YOU: As a youngster in the 1970’s I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the Steelers kicking game. When you watch NFL Films, especially the Super Bowls, the Steelers kicking game comes off as brutal. Bobby Walden dropping snaps, both on punts and FG’s, Gerela missing short kicks. Was this just a function of the era? Were they actually good? I know Gerela led the league in scoring at least once. What are your thoughts?
ED: The kickers back then were not nearly as good as they are today; Gerla was considered generally among the better ones. However, there was no excuse for Chuck Noll hanging onto Bobby Walden for so long. The Steelers were so frustrated by Walden that they even had a punter tryout – without Noll – at their Yonkers race track in New York one summer with the winner guaranteed a chance to compete in training camp at Saint Vincent.
Noll even went for it on fourth down late in Super Bowl X rather than chance that Walden would somehow mess up the punt – it came on fourth-and-nine at the Dallas 41 with 1:28 left; Rocky Bleier picked up only two yards and Dallas got one last chance to try to pull it out with a first down at its 39 with 1:22 to go and trailing by four. Walden fumbled a perfect snap on a punt early in the game that led to a Dallas touchdown and Chuck Noll did not want to chance it again.