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Sunday, March 10, 2013

End Of An Era...Don't Say Rebuilding

I would be remiss and not much of a fan for that matter if I didn't address the off-season movement by my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers.

To start, the James Harrison era in Pittsburgh has ended.  On Saturday, the Steelers announced that they would not be resigning Harrison and that he would be released before the start of free agency this week.  Although the organization had given James credit for being a pivotal member or two championship teams, they felt his age and $10 million cap hit was too much to keep in in Black & Yellow forever.

For those that may not know, Harrison has for years been one of the most hated linebackers in football because of his intensity, high level of play, and his reputation for "playing dirty".  We aren't talking Ndamukong Suh level nastiness here, but enough to garner some unwanted attention from the league and his best friend, Commissioner Goodell.  He isn't the kind of guy that would willingly stomp a mud hole in somebody after the whistle but he will sure make a guy pay in between them.  In other words, Harrison was a beast.   

He was elected to five consecutive Pro Bowls and was a first-team All Pro.  They guy had 60 sacks between 2007 and 2012 but his production has been waning over the last few years.  He missed eight games over the last two years with injuries and I think that is mainly what kept him from being invited back to the team (although his constant diarrhea of the mouth didn't help his case either).  There were negotiations toward a contract but the team wanted a very incentive laden contract and Harrison wanted more cash as a guarantee.  So without an agreement, they let him go.

I guess what bothers me the most about this is that Harrison, despite the injuries, lack of production, etc., he was still a fixture on the team.  Together, him and LaMarr Woodley were probably one of the best linebacker duos in the NFL.  Just the thought of Harrison, staring you down from the opposite side of the field, scared the [BLEEP] out of offenses around the league.  And to let him go over money is always something that gets to me because I foolishly always think its a family affair and not a business when it comes to my Steelers.  But that's exactly what it is...a business.  Harrison said yesterday, "I definitely have three years left, possibly four, but I'm going where the wind blows.  You obviously want to play for a Super Bowl contender, that's the first thing. Good weather, that wouldn't be a bad thing. ... I'm not closed to playing for any team or any area."  James, if you are reading this, please go to the NFC.  Please.  I can't take watching you on another AFC team, or worse, a division rival.  

The only thing I can relate this too is the last time one of my favorite Steeler linebackers left the team for free agency and signed with Carolina for one year before retiring...

On the horizon, it's only going to get murkier when the free agency period begins in two days.  The Steelers have what most NFL "experts" consider to be the best free agent available in Mike Wallace.  This was the same issue last year and his legend has only grown with another year under his belt. 

Wallace is fast, period.  The guy blows the doors off most other defenders on the field and the only guy in the league that has proven to be faster is Darius Heyward-Bey from Oakland (and that's because he barely beat him at the combine their rookie season).  He isn't a huge receiver but he has still been able to amass over 4,000 yards in the four seasons in Pittsburgh, mainly due to the fact that he is THE deep threat on the team.  Using 2010 as a statistical example, about six times a game, Big Ben threw it to Wallace. About four times a game, Wallace would catch it. Every time he caught it, the Steelers gained an average of 21 yards, and every sixth catch was a touchdown.  As the Bleacher Report put it, "That's speed at its most lethal."

My only criticism of Wallace has always been that he pass blocks like my grandma and last year, he showed he wasn't immune to the "uncatchable" ball.  He had more drops in critical situations than I have seen since Limas Sweed.  It was starting to get highly frustrating at times when a normally routine route on a third and eight or red zone opportunity turned into a field goal or giving it over on a punt.  But still, Wallace has shown without a doubt that he was a big time player down the field.  He is going to be missed if they can't find a suitable replacement in the draft, and frankly, there isn't anyone.

Keenan Lewis may also seek another home in free agency.  Lewis became the starter when William Gay left for Arizona last year.  The Steelers still have Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen available, although I'm not sure Allen is starting caliber.  Knowing the potential for Lewis' departure, the Steelers made a couple phone calls and William Gay is now back in his old spot, signing a three year deal last week.  If the Steelers had any intention of keeping Lewis, I doubt they would have reached out to Gay. 

Keenan was a guy that I had a lot of hope for.  He was a highly touted in 2009 when the Steelers drafted him but I think that his slower development and lack of interceptions has led to his potential departure.  If I was to guess, I'm thinking you will see him suiting up next year for a division team, possibly the Browns or Ravens, which will suck, but is typical.

In other moves, the Steelers got Big Ben, Lawrence Timmons, and Antonio Brown all to restructure their contracts in order to add some cap space.  Add that to the already reworked deals for LaMarr Woodley, Ike Taylor, and Willie Colon and the Steelers could have enough room to go after a couple guys in free agency.  We always have a need on the O-line and with Harrison gone, there is a spot the might need some tweaking.  Plus, you can't forget about Big Ben and his health issues lately.  There is no denying the fact that quality backup QBs in this league are invaluable. 

I'm a little more concerned with the draft though.  The Steelers have shown that they are comfortable with older players but not committed to them by any means.  The last few seasons have shown a want by the team to start getting younger and developing talent.  The older guys have taken on the role of mentor, training their future replacements.  I'm all for that and I'd like to see some aggressive draft strategies so that we might finally be able to fill holes we need with quality draft picks and guys that could one day be "the next ones" and become franchise type players.

Is it football season yet? 


  1. wallace and mendennhal scare me. Both players take a lot of plays off, run their mouth, are inconsistant at best, AND the Steelers are content with letting them both just walk away.

    That last one scares me more than anything. If Pittsburgh managment can't keep these guys in line.....

    Some team is going to make a very expensive mistake.

    1. I can only hope that team hails from the great state of Texas...just kidding. Most likely it will be a division team if not another AFC team. But the front runners right now for Wallace are Seattle, New England, Denver, and now the latest reports are all but guaranteeing a new home in Miami.

      Mendy's best years are behind him. His injuries are going to catch up to him. Adam Shein from just said "I'd rather play with 10 men on offense than put Mendenhall at running back. He's been a bust as a player. He was suspended in 2012 for being a bad teammate. Mendenhall can't hold on to the football and can't stay healthy. Otherwise, it has all worked out." I thought that was pretty much it in a nutshell.

  2. I'm trying to wrap my head around the fact that Harrison might be a Raven. Business is business is all, but c'mon. Could this be the year Cincinatti finished first in the division?

    1. It is quite typical for players that are cut or allowed to leave to FA from the Steelers to go to division rivals. I'm almost immune to it. I didn't say I have to like it, but I am just getting used to it. It happens time and time again. Rod Woodson became a Raven (after the 49ers). Carnell Lake became a Raven (after Jacksonville). Dennis Dixon was on the Ravens practice squad. Kordell Stewart became a Raven (after the Bears). I could go on and on.


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