Steelers: T to Z

With the season in the books, here's the final chapter, Part V – T through Z – of Jim Wexell's five-chapter analysis of the Pittsburgh Steelers' pre-draft roster.

65. Alameda Ta'amu, NT – He'll go on trial April 4 for his well-chronicled drunken rampage through the South Side last October, and if he does receive any jail time it'll likely be served on weekends during the off-season. But why wasn't he cut? Well, he was cut and completely off the team for two days, but that could've happened even without the incident when the Steelers needed to put David Gilreath on the active roster. No one claimed Ta'amu and he was put back on the Steelers' practice squad and eventually the active roster for the final game of the season (game-day inactive, as he had been all season). In the preseason, he made only 2 tackles and didn't show much other than raw strength. But he's well-liked among teammates, and it appears the coaching staff, too, as Steelers appear as if they'll give him the second chance they didn't give Chris Rainey.

66. Ike Taylor, CB – The Steelers could save $2.55 million by cutting the soon-to-be 33-year-old, or they could fully restructure his contract and save $2.53 million. It's a solid guess that if they do either it would be the latter. Taylor is back working out after missing the final four games last season with a hairline fracture in his lower right leg. The injury occurred on the first defensive play of the win over Baltimore, and the following week Taylor was forced to end a streak of 135 consecutive games played. Always in shape and always a positive force in the locker room, Taylor had matured into a legitimate shutdown corner, as evidenced by his work last season on A.J. Green (1 catch, 8 yards), Torrey Smith (1-7) and Santonio Holmes (3-28 in 11 targets). Taylor still doesn't produce many turnovers (1 interception, 0 forced fumbles, 0 fumble recoveries last season), but his work ethic and leadership are genuine. Ask Keenan Lewis, who credited Taylor with teaching him how to become a pro.

67. Lawrence Timmons, ILB – There continue to be whispers in the media that Timmons could move over to replace James Harrison at ROLB. But that's not what LB coach Keith Butler said after his disastrous decision to move Timmons over for 4 starts in 2011. Timmons returned to his 2010 form (149 tackles) last season by staying at home at the weak-side mack ILB spot and becoming the first player since Joey Porter in 2002 to lead the team or tie for the team lead in tackles (134), sacks (6) and interceptions (3). Also noteworthy was that his first career NFL touchdown, a 53-yard interception return against Cleveland, was the Steelers' first defensive touchdown in a loss since 2003. Could Timmons move over to the playcalling buck ILB spot and replace free agent Larry Foote next season? The move was tried early in preseason and Timmons didn't impress his coaches. But there's nothing wrong with keeping a shoulda-been Pro Bowler at a position from which he recorded 5 sacks in his final 3 games.

68. DeMarcus Van Dyke, CB – On his first snap with the Steelers, Van Dyke downed a punt on the Denver 1-yard line. But his season rolled downhill from there. A cornerback whom coach Mike Tomlin coveted in the 2011 draft, Van Dyke was signed a year later and incurred more penalties (4) than special-teams tackles (3) with the Steelers. He didn't see the field as a cornerback. In fact, Van Dyke was active in the San Diego game when Tomlin instead used Josh Victorian – a player he had released from the practice squad less than two weeks earlier – to replace Curtis Brown. Van Dyke's season ended the following week in Dallas when he suffered a dislocated shoulder on the first punt of the game.

69. Ross Ventrone, DB – Tomlin has mentioned his admiration for former Patriot and current Brown special-teamer Ray Ventrone, so he signed his younger brother Ross on Jan. 2. Ross Ventrone also came out of nearby Chartiers Valley High School and played collegiately at Villanova. The 5-8, 195-pound defensive back was signed after the 2010 draft by the Patriots, the first of his 29 roster moves with the team.

70. Josh Victorian, CB – Cut from the practice squad Nov. 28, he was a starter against the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 16. He didn't play all that well, but Victorian showed some spunk and toughness, and gained experience for what will be an improved competition for the No. 5 CB job this off-season.

71. Mike Wallace, WR – The Steelers aren't going to pay Wallace elite WR money because of his holdout, according to a recent report. What nonsense. They're not throwing cash at him because he had a lousy season, a season that could've made his holdout moot. Wallace's 6 drops led the team and his unwillingness to fight for the ball in his fourth year made Tomlin's old public catcalls of "one-trick pony" come off as insightful. Wallace wants to test the market for a monster deal, and that's his prerogative after gambling against injury during the final year of his contract. And he looked like he was worried about that injury, too. Good luck to a guy who provided so much excitement to Steelers fans over the years.

72. Greg Warren, LS – One of the 11 remaining players who were part of the roster for all three Super Bowls (played in two, on IR in 2008), Warren enters free agency as a reliable long-snapper, so the possibility exists he could entice another team. As a ninth-year player, the Steelers would need to pay him a minimum of $840,000, of which $555,000 would count toward the cap.

73. Kion Wilson, ILB – I'm going to write more about this "camp body" than I will LaMarr Woodley, but This is the time of year for That. I really liked Wilson coming out of South Florida for the 2010 draft. At 6-0.3, 239, he was a bit small, but, as his defensive coordinator once said, "He's the toughest player I ever coached." He ran a pedestrian 4.89 at the combine, so he wasn't drafted. He was signed by San Diego and played in 3 games as a rookie. Wilson was cut the following September and signed with Carolina, where he played in 5 of the Panthers' last 7 games in 2011. Wilson was one of the last cuts last September and remained unsigned until the Steelers signed him early last month. All I can say is that I've always liked him and that I wouldn't count him out of the expected derby for inside LB jobs this year.

74. LaMarr Woodley, OLB – "Everybody's in media; everybody's a star." I think Ray Davies of The Kinks sang that once. Or something like that. But anyway, all of this interaction in media these days led one reporter to write to his followers that he asked Woodley directly if he was out of shape, and then reported his un-findings to much interactive acclaim. Hey, there have been questions about Woodley's size and ability to play OLB since he was a DE at Michigan. He's always looked too big. Now that he's been ripped apart by injuries the last two seasons, he's being ripped apart by pop football experts who say he's grossly out of shape. I wouldn't write him off by any means. He was still the greatest "killer" on the team last camp and he will be again. And his jumbo size allows the Steelers to get away with thinking that a Kion Wilson, Brian Rolle or Sean Spence can play the buck these days.

75. Al Woods, DE – Finally made a team coming out of a camp, and Woods played in the first 12 games. Because he played a position that was the only position on the team not reeling from injuries, Woods was inactive for the final four games. Ability is not his threat anymore. Salary is. Woods is in line to make $630,000 this year, so the Steelers could save a quarter million by keeping a rookie in his place.

76. Jason Worilds, OLB – The debate over Worilds's skill level is tiresome, so I'll spare you my take, other than I still like that pass-rusher's burst of his. If James Harrison is released, as expected, Worilds will battle Chris Carter for a starting job. And then the real hatred can begin.


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