Steelers Have Cap Room, Can Create More

By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about 17 hours ago

Good morning,

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.


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Steelers Sign Offensive LIneman

By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 1 day ago

Good morning,

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.

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Newton didn't dab, he McNabbed

Ray Fittipaldo 2 days ago

The Steelers felt like they let one get away when they lost to the Broncos in the AFC division round game three weeks ago. Now they have to deal with the added layer that the Broncos went on to win Super Bowl 50.

The morning sports shows are pointing out the Broncos beat Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and 2015 MVP Cam Newton in their playoff run. It was an impressive performance by a good defense, but it should be noted that Roethlisberger threw for 339 yards and the Steelers offense totaled 396 yards without All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell or DeAngelo Williams in the 23-16 loss at Mile High Stadium.

If not for Fitzgerald Toussaint’s fumble in the fourth quarter that led to Denver’s go-ahead touchdown with three minutes remaining the Steelers probably would have faced New England in the AFC championship game and there wouldn’t be any talk of Peyton Manning riding off into retirement with a Super Bowl in tow.

The talk would be of another choke job and an early playoff exit from an all-time great quarterback.

*Speaking of choke jobs, how about the performance of Newton?

There was a Super Bowl prop bet of how many times Newton would do the “dab” in Super Bowl 50.

Who knew Newton would instead “McNabb”?

From his huffing and puffing throughout the game – how are you out of shape for a Super Bowl? – to his failure to go after his own fumble when the game was still within reach, it was one of the sorriest performances from a supposed big-time player in the game.

Not that he received much help from his offensive line or offensive coordinator, who never seemed to grasp that his offensive tackles couldn’t block Von Miller or Demarcus Ware.

Still, an NFL MVP who is known for his running as much as his passing never threatened the hard-charging Broncos defense.

The Panthers totaled 315 yards, but only managed 10 points. Newton was 18 for 41 for 265 yards. He threw an interception and lost a fumble.

Afterward, his postgame news conference lasted three minutes when he simply announced it was over and walked away.

Kind of like he did when the fumble lay on the grass when his team still trailed by only six points later in the fourth quarter.

He walked away.

If Newton never gets an opportunity to play in another Super Bowl that play will define him.

*On Saturday night, Tony Dungy was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If Dungy is a Hall of Fame coach Bill Cowher should join him.

Here are their resumes:

Dungy: 139-69 regular season record (.668), 9-10 playoff record, 1 Super Bowl win

Cowher: 140-90-1, regular season record (.623), 12-9 playoff record, 1 Super Bowl win

Yet Cowher’s name almost never comes up for the Hall of Fame.

Here is another resume for a head coach in the Hall of Fame.

143-112 regular season record (.561), 11-8 playoff record, 0 Super Bowl wins

That resume belongs to Marv Levy, and Cowher beats him too, with one more Super Bowl win, a better regular-season record and virtually the same playoff record.

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Steelers tied for NFL lead in goal line TDs

Ray Fittipaldo 5 days ago

The seven shots drill Steelers coach Mike Tomlin installed last year with hopes of improving his team’s ability to score and prevent opponents from scoring near the goal line turned out to be a great success. The Steelers opened every offseason and training camp practice with seven plays from the 2-yard line. It was a competitive drill between the offense and the defense designed to help both units improve their efficiency near the goal line.

The Steelers finished the season among the top 10 teams in scoring defense and led the NFL with seven red-zone turnovers. The improvements for the offense were just as impressive.

The Steelers and Patriots tied for the most touchdowns from inside the opponent’s 10-yard line with 28 apiece. That’s a huge jump from the 20 touchdowns the Steelers scored from inside the 10 in 2014.

Not only did the Steelers improve their production they were much more efficient. They scored touchdowns on 28 of their 76 snaps inside the 10 for a 37 percent touchdown rate. In 2014, the Steelers scored on just 20 of their 74 snaps (27 percent).

The 20 touchdowns ranked 12th in 2014, but the 27 percent represented the 27th-worst offense in the league in terms of goal line efficiency.

Scoring eight more touchdowns on only two more snaps is a huge jump from one season to the next. Over the final six games, including games against top defenses such as Seattle, Cincinnati and Denver, the Steelers performed at a 50 percent clip (13 for 27) inside the 10.

Unfortunately, for the Steelers they didn’t get to show off their goal line offense in the playoffs. After averaging almost five snaps inside the 10 per game during the regular season they did not penetrate the Cincinnati 10-yard line in the AFC wild card game and only had one snap inside the 10 in the AFC division round loss in Denver.

The Steelers scored on that only snap against the Broncos, but their inability to get closer to the goal line prevented them from advancing to the AFC championship game.

Some of the playoff woes can be explained away by weather conditions and injuries. The playoff game against the Bengals was played in a torrential downpour, and running back DeAngelo Williams did not play after injuring his foot in the regular-season finale at Cleveland. In Denver, the Steelers had to play again without Williams and All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown, who had a concussion.

Goal line offense is measured from the 9- to the 1-yard line. It’s a different statistic than the red zone, which is measured from the 19 to the 1.

The Steelers’ red-zone offense improved as well but not as much. The Steelers scored touchdowns on 57 of their trips inside the 20, a jump from 51 percent in 2014, but they still only ranked 13th in the league in red-zone efficiency in 2015.

Maybe this spring seven shots will begin at the 18-yard line.

Below is a game-by-game look at the goal line performance in 2015:

Steelers vs. Patriots

Snaps inside the 10: 8

Touchdowns: 1

Steelers vs. 49ers

Snaps inside the 10: 8

Touchdowns: 5

Steelers vs. Rams

Snaps inside the 10: 7

Touchdowns: 1

Steelers vs. Ravens

Snaps inside the 10: 1

Touchdowns: 1

Steelers vs. Chargers

Snaps inside the 10: 1

Touchdowns: 1

Steelers vs. Cardinals

Snaps inside the 10: 4

Touchdowns: 1

Steelers vs. Chiefs

Snaps inside the 10: 1

Touchdowns: 0

Steelers vs. Bengals

Snaps inside the 10: 3

Touchdowns: 1

Steelers vs. Raiders

Snaps inside the 10: 6

Touchdowns: 3

Steelers vs. Browns

Snaps inside the 10: 11

Touchdowns: 1

Steelers vs. Seahawks

Snaps inside the 10: 2

Touchdowns: 1

Steelers vs. Colts

Snaps inside the 10: 7

Touchdowns: 3

Steelers vs. Bengals

Snaps inside the 10: 5

Touchdowns: 2

Steelers vs. Broncos

Snaps inside the 10: 5

Touchdowns: 3

Steelers vs. Ravens

Snaps inside the 10: 3

Touchdowns: 2

Steelers vs. Browns

Snaps inside the 10: 5

Touchdowns: 2


Steelers vs. Bengals

Snaps inside the 10: 0

Touchdowns: 0

Steelers vs. Broncos

Snaps inside the 10: 1

Touchdowns: 1

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No stars and low stars in high school, several Steelers outperformed their recruit rating

Ray Fittipaldo 6 days ago

In honor of National Letter of Intent day I thought we’d take a look back at some Steelers to see where they were ranked on their signing day. J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans often cites his 2-star status as a high school player as motivation for young players who don’t pull down the 4 and 5-star rankings.

Watt isn’t alone in the NFL. In fact, 4- and 5-star rankings don’t really mean much when it comes to which players are getting drafted three and four years later.

Antonio Brown was a no-star recruit coming out of his Miami area high school. He had to go to Central Michigan, where he was teammates with Watt, to hone his craft. The Steelers saw potential in him and selected him in the sixth round of the 2010 draft. He is now a two-time All-Pro and regarded as the best receiver in the NFL.

Le’Veon Bell was a 2-star recruit coming out of his Groveport (Ohio) high school. He played at Michigan State, but on his ESPN recruiting page that still exists the other schools listed included Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan and Marshall. Now the player that Ohio State did not want is an All-Pro in the NFL and mentioned along with Adrian Peterson as the best running in the league.

The Steelers’ other All-Pros were ranked higher. Maurkice Pouncey was a 4-star recruit and chose from among Florida, Florida State and USC. David DeCastro was a 3-star center when he signed with Stanford.

Depending on the recruiting service, 5-star recruits are the players who are judged to be the top 50 players in their recruiting class, or for some in the top 25 or 30. Regardless, those 5-star recruits don’t always have a strong track record of landing in the first round when it’s their turn to be drafted.

Many lower ranked, whether they were underrated to begin with or simply developed their skills better in college, get drafted higher every year.

Watt or Pitt’s Aaron Donald are generally regarded as the top defensive linemen in the NFL. Many consider them to be the best defensive players in the league.

Like Watt, Donald wasn’t a highly rated high school recruit. He was a 3-star prospect coming out of Penn Hills and didn’t have the big name schools after him.

Four years later, he was the No. 14 overall pick in the 2014 draft.

In the same draft, Khalil Mack was the No. 5 overall pick by the Raiders. He was a 2-star recruit and played in relative anonymity at the University of Buffalo in the Mid-American Conference.

I can’t say for sure because I might have missed one, but I couldn’t find a former 5-star recruit on the Steelers.

Here are some other notable Steelers and where they ranked:

Cam Heyward: 4 stars

Jarvis Jones: 4 stars

Ryan Shazier: 4 stars

Martavis Bryant: 4 stars

Markus Wheaton: 3 stars

*In case you missed it, Dri Archer, the Steelers’ third-round pick in 2014, signed a futures contract with the Jets. There are no guarantees with a futures contract. Hundreds of players sign them every offseason as rosters expand to 90 players for OTAs, minicamp and training camp.

Archer, you’ll remember, had a chance to sign with the Steelers as a practice squad player after they cut him in November. He had a chance to sign with other teams and their practice squads and refused. Now he’ll be one of 30 or so nameless faces in Jets camp this summer trying to hook on like an undrafted free agent.

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