(Discuss Jim's blog entry here on the South Side message board.)
To read entries from Daily Buzz VII, click here.
THURSDAY, APRIL 23
8:20 a.m.: Finally, a 4-3 defensive end has graced the South Side. Preston Smith, the 6-4.7, 271-pounder from Mississippi State visited the Steelers on Wednesday, but I'll have more on him in tomorrow's draft series.
Another interesting visitor Wednesday, the final day allowed for prospect visits, was Alabama safety Landon Collins. He's 6-0, 228 and ran a 4.48 40 at the Combine. He's long been considered the No. 1 safety in the draft, but his support has waned since the end of the season when a shoulder injury hampered his Sugar Bowl and caused him to skip the bench press at the Combine. At his pro day some, scouts said Collins appeared to be out of shape. That may be nothing more than an intelligent and confident college player pacing himself for a grueling year ahead, or it could indicate someone who's not fond of the weight room.
Either way, Collins is a strong safety, and the Steelers -- if they're looking for a safety at all -- need one who can play center field, since even their center fielder, Mike Mitchell, has more strong safety attributes.
The Steelers brought in another cornerback but Dexter McDonald out of Kansas might just be another Shaquille Richardson, a big, fast corner who came from out of nowhere and was then cut.
McDonald is 6-0.6, 203 and ran a 4.43 40 at his pro day with outstanding jumps of 40.5 vertical and 11-2 broad. But he did only 10 bench reps, which matches his poor run support on tape, and his short shuttle of 4.56 matches his poor agility skills in coverage.
Also visiting was Chattanooga DE Davis Tull, who at 6-2.3, 246 projects to outside linebacker in a 3-4. His 42.5 vertical and 11-0 broad jump topped his position at the Combine. He had 37 sacks and eight forced fumbles during his four-year career in the Southern Conference.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 22
8:30 a.m.: Of the 25 visitors so far this draft season, eight, or about a third, have been cornerbacks. Yesterday the Steelers brought in two -- Eric Rowe and Doran Grant -- along with a mid to late-round outside linebacker from DI-AA, Kyle Emanuel.
Rowe has been on my second-round radar since the bowl season, but his Combine performance lifted him into the first round on several media draft boards.
Reportedly, Rowe was timed on some watches at the Combine at 4.37. If one of those teams was the Steelers, the 6-0.5, 204-pound former safety would surely be a first-round candidate.
Rowe started three years at safety for Utah and moved to CB last year. He has only three career interceptions but at the Combine ran an official 4.45 40 with 19 reps, 39 VJ and tremendous agility times of 6.7 in the 3-cone and 3.97 in the short shuttle.
Rowe showed plenty of ability to play press man, which would make him an ideal replacement for Ike Taylor. However, he's still knocked as "too much of a tweener" because of his lack of downfield coverage skills as a cornerback who needs to turn and chase better. But with a nickel defense crying out for better run support, Rowe could very well be their guy if they can't find any physicality up front.
Grant is a true zone cornerback who is one of the top run-game players at his position. At 5-10.3, 199, Grant ran a 4.44 40 with 21 reps. His 4.33 short shuttle time was affected by a calf strain that also kept him out of the 3-cone.
As a four-year letterman, two-year starter and national champion at Ohio State, Grant has nine career interceptions. Because he doesn't flash and quietly goes about doing his job, Grant could be one of the sleeper picks of the second round.
Emanuel (6-3.2, 255, 4.76) is the Buck Buchanan Award winner as the top player in Division I-AA out of North Dakota State. The last BBA winner to reach the NFL was Steelers starter Arthur Moats, who was drafted by Buffalo in 2010.
Emanuel has won four FCS national championships, was a team captain, has a degree, a non-stop motor and 35.5 sacks in four seasons. But he had the shortest arms (31) and wingspan (74.5) of any defensive lineman at the combine.
TUESDAY, APRIL 21
6:15 a.m.: Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports One sent shockwaves through Pittsburgh yesterday with his report that Antonio Brown is skipping the just-begun volunteer workouts, and that he'll also skip on-field OTAs, and "maybe" mandatory minicamp and training camp if he doesn't get a new deal.
Many Steelers fans are upset because Brown has three years left on a contract he happily signed after Mike Wallace turned it down in training camp 2012. Since that day, Brown has been paid $17.5 million in signing and restructure bonuses and three years of minimum-wage salary. Brown is scheduled to make $6 million this year, $8.25 million next year, and $8.71 million in 2017.
On the other hand, Brown and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, are upset because they believe Brown has outperformed his contract. And he has. Last season Brown led the NFL in both receptions (129) and receiving yardage (1,698), smashing team records in both categories. In the last two seasons, Brown has caught 239 passes for 3,197 yards and yet is only the 14th-highest paid receiver in the NFL with an average pay of $8.392 million.
Obviously both sides can make strong arguments, so even though Brown has three years remaining on his contract, the Steelers shouldn't take a hard line and summarily reject his proposal. The Steelers should listen, talk and make some progress while impressing upon the hard-working Brown that they understand why he would make such demands and that they can begin talking in earnest about a new deal next year.
See how that works. After all, it's only April 21.
* The Steelers hosted a trio of mid to late-round cornerbacks yesterday. The big name is Steven Nelson, the 5-10.1, 197-pounder from Oregon State. I wrote about him two weeks ago in the story Corners With 'The Dog' In Them.
Also visiting was an interesting under-the-radar cornerback from Rice, Bryce Callahan, a 5-9 1/2, 184-pounder who wasn't invited to the Combine, but at his pro day ran a 4.35 40 with 15 reps, a 36 1/2 vertical jump and 11-0 broad jump. In 43 starts at Rice, Callahan had 13 interceptions and then showed terrific man coverage skills during the week leading up to the Shrine Game. He's probably considered a slot corner-only at this point, and hasn't shown much physicality against the run, but I would take him in the fourth round. And there's a good chance he'll be available.
Darryl Roberts of Marshall attended the same Lakeland (Fla.) High School that the Pouncey brothers did. The 5-11, 187-pound corner intercepted only five passes at Marshall, but had an outstanding pro day: 4.38 40, 23 reps, 39 VJ, 6.66 3-cone, 4.06 short shuttle.
For a complete list of draft visitors and my draft projection for each, go to this thread on the message board.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 15
8:15 a.m.: Almost forgot that the Steelers brought in another punter yesterday, their third in fact, so the pressure is on Brad Wing.
Joining the Steelers' roster yesterday was another Aussie, Jordan Berry, a 6-5, 211-pounder who punted collegiately at Eastern Kentucky and had his best gross average, 43.4, as a senior in 2013.
Berry didn't play last year, and neither did the other Steelers' punter, Richie Leone, who's also a kickoff specialist. Leone was signed in January.
7:45 a.m.: The Steelers brought their first 3-4 DE candidate in for a visit yesterday when they hosted Washington State's Xavier Cooper.
Cooper (6-2.7, 293) isn't tall and has short, 31 1/2-inch arms, but he just might be the best 5-tech candidate in the draft. He was one of the quickest at the combine with a 4.86 40 (1.68 10) and did a respectable 29 bench reps. But it's the tape that stands out for Cooper, who made 34 starts at Washington State with 121 tackles and 13 sacks. He can penetrate and he can hold the point as a two-gapper and would make for an outstanding second-round pick for a team that has a massive hole at the position on the depth chart.
On the down side, Cooper -- a former sprinter and basketball star in high school -- has a learning disability that was diagnosed in the ninth grade. But I love this quote that appeared in The Seattle Times on Feb. 22:
"I'm not going to get up here and say academics was easy. I struggled. But that's part of life. As I continue to fail, I continue to grow. So I appreciate all the struggles I've had."
At that time, Cooper was eight credits shy of a degree in Criminal Justice. He said he hopes to some day earn a Master's Degree and become a principal in the inner city of his hometown of Tacoma.
* Jeff Heuerman (6-5, 254) could be the first tight end drafted. But he has his critics, who say he's injured too often and can't block.
Heuerman did have injury troubles at Ohio State. He injured his left foot during 2014 spring drills -- after catching 26 passes for 466 yards and four touchdowns in 2013 -- and struggled with a stress reaction to the surgery throughout the 2014 season. First it was his right hamstring, and then his right ankle, which kept him from performing most Combine drills. He did bench 26 reps, and at his pro day ran a 4.81 40 (1.63 10) with a 34 1/2-inch vertical jump. He caught only 17 passes in 14 starts last season as his role changed to more of a move blocker in Urban Meyer's spread offense.
Personally, I thought Heuerman was a strong blocker on the move and would be a fit for the Steelers. But, many others seem to see things differently.
Kennard Backman (6-3.2, 243) is a move tight end out of UAB who impressed scouts at his pro day with a 4.66 40 (1.65 10) and a 35 1/2-inch vertical jump. He also pushed up the bar 17 times. At UAB, Cooper caught 96 passes for 979 yards and nine touchdowns.
TUESDAY, APRIL 14
7:30 a.m.: The Steelers brought in three players Monday who didn't interest me much, but each made me think of another recent prospect who perked me up a bit.
* Sammie Coates (6-1.3, 213) was the Auburn deep threat who averaged 21.4 yards per each of his 82 career catches. He'll run fly patterns and break blocks on screens, but that's about it. He needs to learn the route tree, and, if my keen instincts while watching the Senior Bowl are correct, needs a bit of an ego check. He struck me as a me-first diva, which is pretty common at that position. But what athletic ability. At the combine he ran a 4.43 40 (1.56 10) with 23 reps, a 41-inch vertical, a 10-11 broad jump, and a 3-cone time of 6.98. I wouldn't use a premium pick on Coates, but if he falls to the fourth round -- which he might -- I would be interested. And I think I wrote the same thing about Martavis Bryant last year.
* Cameron Clear (6-5.3, 277) was dismissed from Tennessee early in his career for stealing laptops from teammates, according to ESPN.com. The police found him with a laptop of a baseball player after Clear logged the machine onto the school's system. The felony theft charge was pled as a misdemeanor and Clear took the JC route to Texas A&M. But that's not why I thought of former Steelers great Larry Brown. I thought of the former TE-turned-RT because Clear played tight end and the Steelers are looking at him to play tackle. I'm just not sure why they're wasting their time even considering an addition of this kind of resume to a locker room that's lost so much strength of character the last few years.
* Quinton Spain (6-4.1, 330) impressed scouts at West Virginia's pro day last month when he ran a 5.08 40 at that weight. Spain started his college career as WVU's LT but moved to LG in the middle of his junior season and showed he could pull and get to the second level. Scouts love his size and length but knock him for slow hands and, according to NFL.com's Lance Zierlein, "a stiffness that creates severe anchor issues for him." Clear strikes me as a guy the Steelers will tag as a sixth-rounder and might be able to sign after the draft. Like Ramon Foster in 2009.
MONDAY, APRIL 13
7:30 a.m.: Landon Collins was starting to reach Bud Dupree levels as the reflexive choice in mock drafts. But the re-signing of Will Allen -- who never should've had to wait this long anyway -- makes the choice of the big Alabama strong safety less likely.
Collins was mainly a choice of national media, who just assume the Steelers need a first-rounder to replace Troy Polamalu. But since the organization traded away a third-round draft choice for the right to draft Shamarko Thomas in 2013, they weren't going to be left with egg on their faces by using another premium pick on a strong safety in 2015. At least not without giving Thomas a shot.
No, Shamarko will get his chance. One of the few Steelers youngsters who hasn't been prematurely shoved into the starting lineup the last few seasons, Thomas is a small package of speed and power who has shown his wares in preseason games and on special teams. An injured ankle cost him two games as a rookie and a hamstring injury caused him to miss five during a six-game mid-season stretch last season.
Thomas had used Polamalu's wisdom, home and training facilities last summer to overhaul his conditioning, and told me during the season that he didn't believe it had anything to do with the problematic hamstrings that have bothered him since college ball at Syracuse. Thomas said he planned to continue the Polamalu/Marv Marinovich regimen this off-season.
The guess here is that Allen was made to wait to re-sign not so much for the official departure of Polamalu, but to signal a change on the depth chart with Thomas. Allen started four games last season, and played well. But I have no doubt Thomas will get first crack at the strong safety spot this spring and summer.
Allen gives the Steelers four safeties along with Thomas, Mike Mitchell and Robert Golden, so it's unlikely they'll draft a player such as Collins, who struggled with shoulder problems late in his college career. The better option would be to draft one of the handful of big cornerbacks with either safety experience in their past or, as in the cases of Alex Carter, Quinten Rollins and Josh Shaw, in their future due to their build and playing style. The other top CB/S hybrids are Eric Rowe and Byron Jones.
* As for the visitors on Friday, the Steelers actually brought in a quarterback, Tyler Murphy from Boston College, to compete with the four already in hand. I'll have more on Murphy later today.
The Steelers also brought in WR Breshad Perriman, the rare player who may have vaulted into the first round with the help of a pro day time that's generally accepted as being in the 4.2s. The son of former NFLer Brett Perriman, Breshad will drop a few, but with that size (6-2, 212) and speed he'll catch plenty of big ones, too.
The club has also been scouting tight ends with fervor, as we learned on the first day of the combine. On Friday they visited with Wes Saxton (6-3.3, 248) out of South Alabama. He's more of a flex tight end but really one who isn't much of an offensive threat (one career touchdown catch). It must be the 4.65 40 and 36-inch vertical jump at the combine that has bloggers excited about his visit.
The guy I'm excited about is Jeff Heuerman, the Ohio State flex tight end who announced on Twitter that he's visiting the Steelers early this week.
THURSDAY, APRIL 9
2 p.m.: Marcus Peters is an enigma but Mike Tomlin is doing his best to figure him out.
Tomlin met with Peters at the NFL Combine, sent DBs coach Carnell Lake and scout Mark Bruener to the Washington pro day, and today had Peters, CB Alex Carter and OLB Max Valles in for a visit at the South Side practice facility.
Considered by many -- including me -- to be the best cornerback prospect in the draft, Peters was kicked off the Washington team this past season for what best can be described as a poor attitude. The Combine media took its best shot at figuring it, and him, out. You can try for yourself here with the Q&A transcript.
Peters is a fast and physical press corner who turned 22 this past January. At the Combine he measured 5-11.5, 197, ran a 4.53 40, with 17 reps, a 37 1/2 vertical jump and times of 4.08 in the short shuttle and 7.08 in the 3-cone.
Carter matched or bettered all of those numbers. Out of Stanford, Carter will still be 20 years old at training camp. At the Combine he measured 6-0.1, 196 pounds, ran a 4.51 40, did 17 reps, had a 40-inch vertical jump and agility times of 4.07 and 7.05.
Carter isn't quite the cornerback Peters is, or has been, but is two years younger, smarter, and has a better attitude. He looks more like a safety, which would give him a fallback if he fails on the corner.
Valles, also 20, came out of Virginia after his redshirt sophomore season, and most view it as a mistake. He's 6-4.5, 251 and carries a late-round grade after running a 4.83 40 at the Combine, with agility times of 4.37/7.59. However, Valles did record nine sacks last season at UVA.
11 a.m.: Adam Schefter tweeted this morning that Le'Veon Bell has been suspended for three games by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for driving under the influence of marijuana last August. Schefter also reported that Bell will appeal.
It's just another outrageous decision by Goodell, who feels the need to provide a second level of law enforcement in the NFL after Bell had already been accepted into a Pennsylvania A.R.D. program and begun paying for his crime.
I felt at the time Bell should've appealed the DUI citation, which, for marijuana, does not have the established standards of proof that come with a DUI for alcohol. Bell instead relented to law enforcement and so now he must deal with Goodell's peculiar brand of justice.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 8
2:45 p.m.: The first batch of visitors showed up on the South Side today, including the topic of today's feature on cornerbacks, Ole Miss CB Senquez Golson. Joining him were OLBs Eli Harold and Nate Orchard, and TE CJ Uzomah.
Check our Draft Visitors thread on the message board to join the discussion.
7 a.m.: The NFL didn't announce why it suspended LeGarrette Blount for a 2015 game yesterday, but we can assume it was for the Aug. 20 arrest for marijuana with Le'Veon Bell, while the two were on their way to the airport to depart for a Steelers preseason game with the team.
Hey, for all we know Blount may have had a previous occurrence on his record, or it may have had to do with him leaving the sideline of a game, his last with the Steelers.
If it didn't, it should have because that's an area in which the NFL should police its players.
But that's doubtful, because the NFL fancies itself a quasi-law enforcement agency, which leaves itself wide open to criticisms of ridiculous decisions such as suspending Ben Roethlisberger for four games for something that lacked evidence for a formal charge, or for suspending Ray Rice for only two games for knocking out a woman on an elevator tape.
The latter is the penalty Bell is likely to receive, since he was driving the car in which he and Blount were cited. Expect that decision to be handed down any day now.
* The Steelers wrapped up their pro day visits yesterday at the University of Florida, where OLB Dante Fowler, a 20-year-old wunderkind, wowed scouts once again, according to multiple sources.
Even though one of the Steelers' linebackers coaches worked Fowler out, there's no sense getting excited about a player who will be a top-10 pick.
That's probably why the Steelers brought along O-line coach Mike Munchak, who watched first-round left tackle D.J. Humphries (6-5.1, 307), team captain Max Garcia (6-4.6, 309), humongous right guard Trenton Brown (6-8.5, 353) and out-of-shape right tackle Chaz Green (6-5, 314) work out.
Humphries is a candidate to land with the Steelers, I suppose. I've already made a case for the more versatile La'el Collins in the first round, but I can't see them looking at a LT-only. They need depth across the line and that's why it made sense they met with -- according to Tony Pauline -- Garcia, a center who can also play guard and even tackle in an emergency. Garcia is a slow-but-strong reserve type whom they could draft in the middle rounds. The other two linemen -- Green and Brown -- will be available in the seventh round, or even after the draft.
The Steelers also reportedly had dinner with Florida RB Matt Jones, a 6-2 1/4, 235-pounder who can block and catch but who didn't impress me running the ball behind the aforementioned quartet of pro prospects. The Steelers no doubt view Jones as a third-down back, one I hope they'll leave alone until the fourth or fifth rounds.
FRIDAY, APRIL 3
9 a.m.: And a Good Friday to you as the Steelers have announced their organizational schedule for the spring:
Friday, May 8 – Sunday, May 10: Rookie Mini-Camp
Tuesday, May 26 – Thursday, May 28: On-Field OTA’s #’s 1-3
Tuesday, June 2 – Thursday, June 4: On-Field OTA’s #’s 4-6
Monday, June 8 – Thursday, June 11: On-Field OTA’s #’s 7-10
Tuesday, June 16 – Thursday, June 18: Mini-Camp
And to hopefully satisfy your holiday weekend draft jones, here are a few thoughts I posted on the message board. Happy Easter, everyone.
SUNDAY, MARCH 22
12:45 p.m.: The Steelers signed James Harrison to a two-year contract today to further complete my personal plan for the Steelers' OLB position this off-season. But the longshot Part 4 awaits.
To review, I wanted the Steelers to re-sign Arthur Moats for depth, pass on Jason Worilds, re-sign Harrison and draft Owa Odighizuwa.
At this point, anyone they draft will complete the plan, because the main point is that I did not want mediocrity -- such as Worilds or any of the free-agent OLBs -- standing in the way of a rookie who could -- should -- become a productive starter (hopefully a star) by 2016 opposite Jarvis Jones.
Of course, the hope is the Steelers will move Harrison over to Worilds' spot on the strong side and draft my guy Odighizuwa to learn under Harrison's tutelage.
I realize so many of you don't believe Owa is a fit, but I love his speed-to-power, his hand strength, his overall strength, his discipline, his intelligence, and his motor. I prefer him to those who would seem to be better 3-4 fits, and that's why I believe he remains a longshot since the Steelers are likely to draft someone such as Bud Dupree or Eli Harold. But, I'm holding on to hope.
FRIDAY, MARCH 20
8:45 a.m.: Good morning from Las Vegas. I know I'm off to a late start by Pittsburgh standards this morning, but trust that I got up early to provide Steelers fans with Scout.com coverage of the Missouri pro day.
Of course, Mike Tomln, Kevin Colbert, Keith Butler and others were there. So was Nate Latsch, the publisher of our St. Louis Rams site, GridironGateway.com. Nate provided us with video of interviews with Shane Ray and Markus Golden. And here's the story Nate wrote on Golden.
As for the workout, Ray didn't run the 4.4 he promised Tomlin. In fact, NFL.com reports that his time of 4.68 was slower than Golden's 4.66.
I'm not sure it will hurt Ray's first-round status, but as I answered so many questions about him yesterday, I'm not sure he's the top 10, top 15, even top 22 guy everyone seems to believe. Beyond the question some have about his skills, I don't know that he's the strong-side OLB for which the Steelers are looking. And that rather ordinary time precludes him from being the must-have Best Player Available in spite of position.
But just to temper the disappointment of Ray not reaching his lofty expectations, a 4.6+ isn't bad for a 249-pound edge rusher. I believe Lawrence Timmons also ran a 4.68 40 at a lighter weight before the Steelers drafted him first in 2007, and Timmons is plenty fast on the field.
Golden, on the other hand, is the 260-pound strong-side OLB the Steelers might consider. Even after he ran a 4.9 at the combine, I considered him a value pick in the third, and maybe even the fourth, round. With the improved time, I would make him more of a third-round target at this point.
* The other pro day standout yesterday was Penn State safety Adrian Amos, who, according to the Baltimore Sun, ran a 4.39 40, an improvement over his 4.56 combine time. Amos should be a solid value pick at a thin position in the mid to late rounds.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 18
7 p.m.: Hopefully you checked my twitter feed on the side of the page and saw the news from this morning that Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert headed up a large Steelers contingent at the Michigan State pro day. Obviously they were looking at cornerback Trae Waynes, who improved on his poor short-shuttle combine time of 4.39.
After a month -- presumably -- of working on it, Waynes timed at 4.19 today. He also explained that he was dealing with cramps at the combine. Still, even the 4.19 is average, and an indication, at least to me, of something I just don't like about Waynes -- he seems too stiff.
Of course, I'm far from a scout, but I just wasn't all that impressed with Waynes this past season, and his stiffness was a part of that. He's also skinny, and the Steelers have always wanted a more physical player at cornerback. Waynes seems to have the attitude to be physical, but not the, well, physical ability to be physical.
OK, I'm babbling now.
Still, he has Steelers first-round characteristics: He's just a tick under 6 feet (186 pounds) and ran a blistering 4.32 40 at the combine, a rarity in that his 40 time was faster than his 20-yard shuttle. But that's all track nonsense. Watch the tapes of Waynes against Oregon, Ohio State and Baylor, and maybe you'll be as unimpressed as I was. (Or maybe you're a scout and know what you're looking at.)
As for the other Michigan State prospects, my favorite remains RB Jeremy Langford, about whom I wrote in this article on March 2.
Langford's older than Le'Veon Bell but was his backup after moving in from a mix of WR/CB upon his arrival at MSU. I feel Langford would be an outstanding mid-round addition for the Steelers. At today's pro day he did 19 bench reps, ran shuttles and did drills.
Here's a quality report from the workout by the Detroit Free Press.
TUESDAY, MARCH 17
7:15 a.m.: It's almost as if the Steelers expected Patrick Robinson to ask for too much money, since they scheduled a meeting with another cornerback, Sterling Moore, for today.
Robinson left Monday without a contract and the Steelers now turn to Moore.
Good question. Baltimore Ravens fans remember him as the cornerback who broke up what looked like an AFC Championship Game-winning touchdown pass to Lee Evans in the 2011 playoffs. Baltimore missed a field goal on the next play and instead the New England Patriots went to the Super Bowl.
But the Patriots cut Moore, for a second time, the following Halloween. He was picked up by the Dallas Cowboys on Nov. 30, 2012 and became their dime back. He remained on the roster until the following August, when Moore was cut to make room for fourth-round pick B.W. Webb.
Moore was re-signed the following November and remained with the Cowboys through the 2014 season. He even made seven starts and led their DBs with 14 pass breakups last season. Yet, the Cowboys didn't offer Moore a tender in restricted free agency this month. It seems that's the neverending story of disrespect for the undrafted corner out of SMU.
"Not a very long build, squatty," was how Scout.com's Mike Fisher described the 5-10, 202-pound Moore. "Scrappy and smart; a weight-room guy who still holds all the SMU records for DBs."
Fisher explained that Moore made many plays for the Cowboys "but was also thrown at a lot" and that Moore "faded a bit in the way he graded out once Dallas got to the playoffs."
That's the main reason the Cowboys failed to tender Moore, who's been cut four times by three teams since coming out of SMU in 2011.
"Clearly the coaching staff doesn't like him," Fisher said, "though it's not because he's a jerk or anything."
It's likely the Steelers will offer Moore a minimum-wage contract, and maybe a cup-of-coffee type of bonus on top of it. They have two starters, plus Webb and Antwon Blake, so with the Steelers Moore would again be fighting with Webb for playing time as the fourth corner.
* Speaking of Blake, the restricted free agent was arrested for public intoxication in Oceanside, Ca., early Sunday morning. According to reports, Blake wasn't involved in a specific incident.
MONDAY, MARCH 16
11 a.m.: The Post-Gazette reported the official cap numbers of the Ben Roethlisberger contract as:
Here's what our capologist Ian Whetstone had to say: "The surprise in those numbers is probably the big hit in 2016. Either they plan to take that big hit next year to keep the 2017 hit relatively low, or they'll do a modest restructure next year to lower that number."
SUNDAY, MARCH 15
7:30 a.m.: As more numbers come in, SCI capologist Ian Whetstone deduced that the signing bonus for Ben Roethlisberger is close to $31 million with guaranteed money of close to $60.75 million. He explains his calculations for the entire contract here.
SATURDAY, MARCH 14
12 p.m.: What we know about the Ben Roethlisberger contract is that it's worth $99 million over the five years with a new-money Average Per Year of $21.85 million, or just below Aaron Rodgers' APY of $22 million and above Matt Ryan's APY of $20.75 million. That's what our resident capologist, Ian Whetstone, has been predicting all along.
It's also being reported that Roethlisberger can escalate the contract to $108 million via performance bonuses.
Whetstone believes that since the total guaranteed number hasn't been released, it's likely to be on the low side. "That's normal for Steelers deals," he said. "But expect a big signing bonus and strong three-year cash."
Whetstone doesn't expect the deal to change this year's Steelers cap number much. "The bigger impact," he said, "is how the cash outlay impacts the cash budget for the year. There are still deals to be done with Cam Heyward and maybe Kelvin Beachum."
FRIDAY, MARCH 13
5 p.m.: The Steelers have extended the contract of QB Ben Roethlisberger and signed free-agent RB DeAngelo Williams. I'm at the press conference right now and will update with quotes here as we go along.
* Ben's here with his wife Ashley and babies Ben Jr. and Bailey, Tomlin, Colbert, Kahn, two Rooneys.
* Five-year deal.
* Ben: "Kind of hard to contain a smile when you're here in a place like this, home."
* "Fair deal for both sides. ... My agent told me it was an easy deal to get done. Those are usually fair deals."
* "Last two years I've played every snap till coach pulled me out. ... I feel healthy right now."
* Art Rooney II: "Ben called it a fair contract. That's an accurate description. I'm confident we can continue to be competitive. ... We're comfortable with the way the contract has been structured."
11:45 a.m.: Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert are in Columbus at the Ohio State pro day, so don't expect any news on visiting free agent DeAngelo Williams until later in the day.
The guys in whom I suspect they're most interested are TE Jeff Heuerman and CB Doran Grant. They won't be able to miss DT Michael Bennett. I would certainly be interested in him, but then again I'm hoping they pick him up for a better 4-3 look next season. That doesn't seem to be in their plans any more. Both Heuerman and Grant are third-round prospects, in my opinion.
* In free agency news, CB Chris Culliver and DE Karl Krug have been signed by other teams, so take them off the wish list below.
7:45 a.m.: My man in Charlotte is telling me that DeAngelo Williams is hopeful and excited to sign in Pittsburgh today, and as long as he's not expecting much of a contract it will get done.
That's fine by me, and actually causes me to wonder if the Steelers would even draft a running back in the middle rounds. Perhaps they could wait until the fifth round or later to see what falls from this deep class. Some of you on the message boards have been hoping for squat sparkplug Josh Robinson of Mississippi State, and a guy like that would suit me fine.
But I'm not here to talk about the draft this morning. Let's instead talk about the second wave of free agency.
My only semblance of a plan coming in was to sign James Harrison for one year, move him over to the strong side, and draft a rookie to learn under him. With the Tennessee Titans signing Brian Orakpo this morning, that plan remains in effect.
I know, that wasn't much of a plan, but I didn't have high expectations for the Steelers in free agency. Although, they do have enough money ($7.2 million, according to Ian Whetstone) to make an interesting mid-level signing or two. So let's review some of the other free-agency plans from our writers and see what's still available:
Matt Steel wanted to re-sign Arthur Moats and Matt Spaeth, and also Brice McCain if he was interested in remaining the slot CB. He was not. McCain saw an opportunity to start in Miami and left. Matt also called tendering the three RFAs "a no-brainer." And it was done.
Matt, like me, didn't want Jason Worilds. And Worilds saved the Steelers from themselves by quitting the game. Matt was hoping for the Steelers to sign either Brandon Graham, Pernell McPhee or Jabaal Sheard to replace Worilds, and to draft a cornerback in the first round. But those OLBs are gone. Matt may have to live with my plan of bringing back Harrison, drafting an OLB first and a CB second.
Again, Dale didn't expect much from the Steelers in free agency, although his top cornerback, Chris Culliver, remains available and the Steelers probably can afford him. But they're reportedly looking into the next guy on Dale's list, Patrick Robinson, a guy I never liked, even as a Florida State senior. But, what do I know?
Dale's D-lineman, Karl Klug, is still out there and would give the Steelers more depth on their defensive line, although the Steelers seem determined to prove everyone wrong about Cam Thomas. Of course, we all think the Steelers are wrong.
On offense, Dale's list of still-available players includes TE Tony Moeacki, RB Daniel Thomas and the more likely pair of offensive-line reserves, Garry Williams and Garrett Reynolds.
THURSDAY, MARCH 12
11:45 a.m.: Mike Tomlin is with OLB coach Joey Porter at the University of Kentucky pro day today to watch freakish OLB Alvin "Bud" Dupree. I'll have more on this tomorrow morning, but know that Dupree was the classic workout warrior at Indianapolis with a 4.56 40, a vertical jump of 42 inches and a broad jump of 11-5 -- stunning times and distances for a man who checked in at 6-4, 269.
7:45 a.m.: Want a red-zone threat? Mike Tomlin must. On Monday night he dined with Louisville's outstanding wide receiver, DeVante Parker, according to our Scout.com affiliate CardinalAuthority. The next day at Parker's workout, Tomlin was spotted chatting with Parker's parents.
Parker is a 6-3, 209-pounder with long, 33 1/4-inch arms and exceptional high-point skills. He ran an official 4.45 40 at the combine with a 1.56 10-yard split. He also repped 17 times and had a vertical jump of 36.5 inches. Parker is considered by most to be the No. 3 WR in the draft and would likely be available at pick 22.
7:30 a.m.: Lost in the free-agent frenzy of the last few days have been the pro days. Let's start with video of an interview with Owamagbe Odighizuwa, or "O" as the media covering UCLA calls him: Odighizuwa.
* In an another interesting pro day, Rutgers tight end Tyler Kroft finally got the chance to work out. The 6-6, 246-pounder only benched at the combine (17 reps) but yesterday ran a 4.72 40. Here's the report from Scout.com's ScarletReport. Kroft is considered a mid-round prospect, and the Steelers of course have been scouting tight ends closely this off-season.
5:45 a.m.: James Harrison's agent told The Tennessean yesterday that his client wouldn't mind playing for the Steelers, or Dick LeBeau and the Tennessee Titans.
"James feels very, very strongly about Coach LeBeau, and I know Dick feels the same way," agent Bill Parisi told the paper. "It's a natural thing. I'm sure the Steelers are still in play, too. It will probably be one of those. I hope it's one of those. We are not ruling anybody out, but the two logical fits are Tennessee and Pittsburgh. Those are the team teams that make the most sense."
Harrison is currently in training to play one more season, and Parise added that "He's in great shape ... Everything is good. His plan is to play this year. I would say something would happen in the next couple of weeks."
The Steelers watched Jason Worilds retire and Jabaal Sheard sign with the New England Patriots yesterday. Still available is Akeem Ayers, whom defensive coordinator liked coming out in the 2011 draft. He was the seventh pick of the second round by the Titans, who traded Ayers to the New England Patriots last October for a flip of late-round picks. Ayers, in fact, was the man who raced off the field when nickel back Malcolm Butler came on just before Butler's Super Bowl-saving interception. Ayers will turn 26 in July.
Another interesting 3-4 OLB candidate available in free agency is O'Brien Schofield, a 6-3, 260-pounder who had only three sacks as a reserve for Seattle the last two years after compiling 12 sacks in the previous two seasons with Arizona. Schofield will turn 28 in April.
The better fit, of course, is Harrison, who might get shut out of Tennessee if the Titans sign Brian Orakpo, who spent last night with Titans players in Nashville and is meeting with the team today.
The Steelers also lost a cornerback yesterday when Brice McCain signed a two-year, $5.5 million contract with the Miami Dolphins yesterday in the hope he can fill an opening in the Dolphins' secondary. McCain was unlikely to receive such a chance with the Steelers with William Gay and Cortez Allen returning this season.
The 6-1 Allen, of course, was replaced in the starting lineup by the 5-9 McCain in the eighth game last season, and Allen was then placed on injured reserve before the 12th game. Allen had been playing poorly under a new contract and will be given a $3 million roster bonus next week, meaning the Steelers must believe secondary coach Carnell Lake can help Allen turn his game back around.
The Steelers also made a $1.54 million tender to restricted free agent Antwon Blake, a 24-year-old who played well as the team's third cornerback down the stretch, and they also have veteran B.W. Webb on their roster. The Steelers are reportedly looking at former first-round draft pick Patrick Robinson, a 27-year-old who's underperformed with the New Orleans Saints.
MONDAY, MARCH 9
6:15 p.m.: At 4 p.m. tomorrow, the Steelers must have their 51 highest-paid players under the $142.8 million cap number.
The Steelers are an estimated $2.72 million under the cap, and can gain another $3.8 million in cap room once it completes the restructuring of Maurkice Pouncey's contract.
The estimated cap number includes the three-year, $7.5 million contract signed by Arthur Moats and the two-year deal signed by Matt Spaeth on Monday. Those contracts will eat up an estimated $2.5 million in cap space this season.
Also included in the cap number are the three $1.542 million one-year contracts tendered to restricted free agents Antwon Blake, Robert Golden and Will Johnson. The tenders mean the Steelers can keep the player by matching any offer.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 4
8:15 a.m.: The first question I had after Tony Pauline broke the news yesterday that Steelers GM Kevin Colbert was at the Auburn pro day was this: "What the heck?"
My first thought was that he was watching Gabe Wright. So instead of watching buttkicking 4-3 defensive end Preston Smith at the Mississippi State pro day, Colbert was watching more nose tackle sludge.
But then it hit me: Colbert was looking for someone to compete with Dri Archer for the Steelers' fastest man competition and of course all that goes along with it.
Corey Grant, a 5-9, 201-pound transfer from Alabama, who carried only 60 times for 382 yards for Auburn last season, ran his 40 yesterday in a reported range of 4.16 to 4.30. Pauline wrote that the consensus among scouts was 4.27.
Not that I'm a believer in pro day 40 times. I believe that to gauge true speed, all athletes should run on the same track at the same place to avoid a track bias. But the thing is, Grant wasn't invited to the combine.
That's what NFL.com's Mike Mayock asked Grant about, but Mayock's more interesting question in this video was whether Grant was a track guy. Grant answered with a history that included an "unofficial" 100 time of 10.3 and "five state championships in high school in the 100 and 200." And Grant finally said, "Yeah, I'm a track guy."
Mayock gave him another chance.
"I'm a football player who just runs track," Grant said as Mayock laughed.
Grant also explained that he's a punt gunner and return man, which left me thinking that the well-muscled Auburn back would certainly give the 173-pound Archer a run for his roster spot. Archer went in the third round, but I'm thinking that in this rich crop of running backs, Grant might be able to last until the Steelers pick in the sixth round.
* The Steelers also showed up at Pitt's pro day in the person of O-line coach Mike Munchak, who no doubt was watching Pitt OT T.J. Clemmings.
Clemmings reportedly fared well, but I have my doubts that he's going to be able to overcome his poor performance during the practice week leading up to the Senior Bowl and then in the Senior Bowl itself.
Until that point, Clemmings was riding high on media draft boards, but he performed so awkwardly in one-on-one drills, and then at both left and right tackle in the game, I find it hard to believe the Steelers would consider drafting him with pick 22.
TUESDAY, MARCH 3
6:30 a.m.: Lance Moore, who reportedly asked the Steelers for his release last month, was finally jettisoned as the Steelers chopped his $1.5 million salary from the 2015 payroll. The loss does leave the Steelers without much behind Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant, but this year's draft crop is deep at the position. This will put the Steelers approximately $11 million under the cap, counting Maurkice Pouncey's restructuring.
Another player who could meet a similar fate is reserve defensive lineman Cam Thomas, who would make $2 million this season.
Speaking of the draft crop, the Steelers -- as initially reported from the combine -- followed up on their interests in Virginia pass-rusher Eli Harold. Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams, and Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson.
Johnson received the most Steelers interest yesterday as Kevin Colbert, Carnell Lake, pro personnel director Brandon Hunt, and veteran southern scout Dan Rooney Jr. (Art's younger brother) attended the workout at Wake Forest. I've posted combine quotes from an interview I did with Johnson, whom was one of the featured corners in my earlier report on second-round interests. The 6-0, 188-pounder ran a 4.52 40 at the combine and reportedly looked good in field drills yesterday.
Harold, who told me he met with "the whole organization," also told me at the combine that his favorite team growing up was the Washington Redskins, and the Redskins showed up en masse to watch Harold yesterday. As he did at the combine, Harold reportedly looked good in linebacker drills yesterday. He also had a vertical jump of 34.5 and repped 24 times on the bench. The Steelers sent a scout to the workout to watch the edge rusher, who is considered a late first-round prospect.
I've been told the Steelers sent tight ends coach James Daniel to Minnesota to watch tight end Maxx Williams, who like Harold and Johnson is also a late-first/early-second prospect. Williams reportedly looked good in pass-catching drills, at least according to veteran pro-day reporter Tony Pauline.
Here's a Scout.com report with video on Williams' performance.
A fourth prospect, Davis Tull, an edge rusher who met with Joey Porter at the combine, worked out at the Chattanooga Pro Day. A phenomenal athlete who struggled with injuries this past season, Tull was said to have performed well in field drills in spite of hamstring and shoulder issues that are not expected to be long term.
WEDNESDAY, FEB. 25
4:15 p.m.: According to Jason LaCanfora, the Steelers have also restructured the contracts of Maurkice Pouncey and Mike Mitchell to free up a total -- including the restructure of Marcus Gilbert earlier today -- of $9.5 million. According to our site capologist Ian Whetstone, that puts the Steelers at least $10 million under the estimated salary cap as the open free agency approaches on March 10.
The restructuring of Mitchell raised my eyebrow initially, since it adds to his cap hit in subsequent years. In my opinion he played poorly in his first season with the Steelers. However, this shows that the Steelers believe in him, and that should be reassuring to those of us who aren't in "the room" with the team.
The Steelers will need that money to tender restricted free agents Antwon Blake, Robert Golden and Will Johnson approximately $4.6 million. They also have expressed interest in re-signing some of their own free agents, such as Jason Worilds, Will Allen, Matt Spaeth, Brice McCain and Arthur Moats.
11:30 a.m.: The Steelers restructured the contract of RT Marcus Gilbert to clear $3.764 million in cap space in anticipation of the March 10 fiscal new year that kicks off the start of league-wide free agency.
The restructure was just about the max amount they could squeeze out of Gilbert's contract, and will add close to $940k to Gilbert's cap hit for each season through 2019.
Other likely candidates for a contract restricting, with the maximum cap space that can be cleared in parenthesis, are Antonio Brown ($3.3 million) and Maurkice Pouncey ($3.8 million). Numbers are courtesy of Ian Whetstone.
Unlike in the last few years at this time, the Steelers aren't up against the expected cap number and are likely making room to clear space for future signings.
MONDAY, FEB. 23
5:45 a.m.: James Harrison made a smart move to announce he's going to play another season, because it puts the onus on the Steelers, who can see and hear that the general public wants them to re-sign the great outside linebacker.
Harrison announced via twitter yesterday that he plans to return to the game for another year. But he's not under contract with the Steelers, who have until March 10 to re-sign him before the market opens for all teams in free agency.
But the Steelers are turning the page defensively. They have a new defensive coordinator in Keith Butler and have 2013 first-round draft pick Jarvis Jones waiting in the wings to play the position at which Harrison excels. The same scenario existed last year and the Steelers opted for Jones instead of re-signing Harrison. But Jones dislocated his wrist in the first month of the season and Harrison was signed and played extremely well.
However, Harrison he will turn 37 in May and the Steelers no doubt want to move on to the next phase, even the next era, with Jones, whom they believe can become an effective blind-side pass-rusher.
Of course, that remains a projection, whereas Harrison, with his 5.5 sacks, 14 quarterback pressures, and superb play against the run last season, is a proven commodity. And that's why the Steelers are now up against the PR wall with Harrison's announcement.
But I just don't see the Steelers bringing Harrison back for one more season at Jones' expense.
Yes, the strong-side OLBs, Jason Worilds and Arthur Moats, are free agents, and that remains a possible opening for Harrison, if he agrees to be moved to that side. But I see that only as a last option if the Steelers can't sign either Worilds or Moats. And I don't see them moving Jones, whom they want and need to find success.
Another factor working against Harrison's return to Pittsburgh is an upcoming draft that's rich with outside linebackers. Harrison isn't about to come back to provide depth on the bench, and that's where a draft pick or two will help the team next season, in my humble opinion. So the Steelers are going to have to weather the PR storm and bid Harrison farewell. Once again.
SUNDAY, FEB. 22
11:15 p.m.: It's been pointed out to me that another website has gone through all of the work below and reported the following player meetings without attribution at their website. What makes this even more odd is the person attributed the information to another website, so that makes this thief a liar as well. I have no choice but to have someone look into this. Hopefully we find the thief and expel him from the site.
SATURDAY, FEB. 21
4:15 p.m.: I've got to get outta town so this will be the last update.
Shane Ray finally showed up, and made his presence felt. At least with me. The 3-4 OLB from Missouri has a lot of energy and his enthusiasm is infectious. And he's interesting the Steelers, too. Ray told me in a one-on-one that he met with Mike Tomlin and said, "He's a great coach. I hope they like me. He talked to me about my 40 and said, 'If you run that 4.4 like they say, I'll come get you myself.' I said, 'Coach, I can do that for you.'"
And with that it's sayonara to Indy. I just hope they finally plowed the roads.
4 p.m.: OK, I just found the exact quote from Kristian "Cody" Prewitt. The Ole Miss free safety was asked for whom he patterns his game after.
"First and foremost would be Troy Polamalu. I say that because of the intelligence he plays the game with. The intelligence he plays the game with allows him to play the game fast, and that's what I try to do. I try to learn the game as much as I can, learn the opponent as much as I can to allow me to play at maybe a faster speed than my opponent."
3:45 p.m.: Quinten Rollins, the former basketball player at Miami (Ohio) who decided to go play football for the first time since high school last year, told me he has a formal meeting scheduled with Mike Tomlin. I asked Rollins if he knows who the greatest player in Miami Ohio history is.
"Oh, yeah, that's Big Ben," he said.
Rollins is an intelligent guy who held the media captive as he walked us through his move to football after becoming the No. 2 all-time steals lead in school basketball history. I'll have more on Rollins later, and the same with OLB-DE Eli Harold and CB-S Eric Rowe. Both have had formal meetings with Tomlin and would make solid 1-2 picks for the Steelers in the draft.
3:30 p.m. Kevin White, the TCU cornerback, was involved in one of the more humorous exchanges when asked about covering Kevin White the WVU wide receiver.
Q; One of the best matchups I watched this year was Kevin White vs. Kevin White. Going in were you inspired because he was considered THE Kevin White?
KW: "Yeah, it was a fun game. It was on GameDay so there was already a lot of hype around it. We were pretty good; they were pretty good. It was fun to go against him. Having the same name, that was just kind of weird."
Q: Was that your best game of the year?
KW: "I would say so, yes."
Q: You were supposed to be little Kevin White but you seemed to get the better of it against the big Kevin White. Do you think you impressed people that day?
KW: "I think I did. Most guys my size (5-9) aren't expected to compete with those bigger guys and try to be as physical with them. But with me, man, I like to be physical. I like to play bigger than my size. I look forward to those challenges against those big guys."
Q: Has anybody gotten you guys confused here?
KW: "All the time, man. When I checked in they were like, 'Man, you already checked in.' I was like, 'Noooo.' (Laughs) When I got to the medical tests they were all like, 'Yeah, you already did it.' I was like, 'Noooo.' So, there's a lot of confusion going on. I mean, we got the same name."
Q: Are you the other Kevin White or is he the other Kevin White?
KW: (Laughs) "Um, I would say he's the other Kevin White because we beat them and I had a pretty good game, so right now I'm the top Kevin White."
So this Kevin White, the corner, told me he met with Tomlin at the Senior Bowl.
3 p.m.: By my unofficial tabulations, the Steelers have talked to more of the top 3-techs than they have top safeties here. Michael Bennett of Ohio State just told me he met with D-line coach John Mitchell. If you read yesterday's report you know Coach Mitch also met with Grady Jarrett.
2 p.m.: Interesting dichotomy between two of the more physical cornerbacks in college football this past season. Texas' Quandre Diggs, a "mean little sawed-off sucker," as Mike Tomlin once called a camp running back, said he's the most physical corner in the game, and he looked the part. Or at least he looked just plain mean, as he sat there with a surly disposition for reporters. Not that I have any problem with that whatsoever. In fact, I kind of respect it. I asked him why he seemed so serious. "I just be chillin'," he said. I pressed and asked him if he has a chip on his shoulder. "Definitely," he said. "I don't feel I get the respect I deserve." As for being physical and not crossing the line with penalties, Diggs said he's never been penalized for a hit. "I know how to play the game," he said.
The other physical corner, Washington's Marcus Peters, who was dismissed from his team for "miscommunications" with his coach, had a smile plastered to his face from the minute he stepped into the media room all the way through the final question, and he treated every reporter's question with respect. Poor guy.
Peters, of course, has to prove he's a good guy. Diggs doesn't. Diggs has no "record" of disobeying coaches or being a problem child, and in fact has a reputation for being a quality leader.
Peters, who was coached in high school by his father, has his work cut out for him if he's to regain his status as the top cornerback in this draft. He, of course, was kicked off his team in the middle of last season. He'll get the chance to prove himself to the Steelers, who have NOT taken him off their board. Peters told me has has a formal meeting scheduled with Tomlin tonight.
Diggs, a mid-rounder, met informally with Steelers scouts earlier in the week.
* Other cornerback notes of interest: Senquez Golson met with Tomlin at the Senior Bowl and Louisville's Charles Gaines met with Carnell Lake here. P.J. Williams, Trae Waynes and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu all said they were unsure about their scheduled meetings, but they were also being hounded by so many reporters that they really didn't have much time to think about the question. I can say that all three came off as intelligent during their podium interviews.
* Wake Forest's Kevin Johnson said he has a meeting scheduled with the Steelers, but wasn't sure if he'll meet with Tomlin. I hope so, because he could be the steal of the second round -- if he lasts that long.
* Oregon State's Steven Nelson said he has no meeting scheduled with the Steelers and Florida State's Ron Darby and UConn's Byron Jones both said they were unsure.
* It's noteworthy that the Steelers haven't or won't meet with SS Landon Collins. He gave me a flat "no," but of course a scout may have talked to him informally. Still, I'm surprised the best safety in the draft hasn't been scheduled to meet with Tomlin. In fact, none of the safeties with whom I spoke said they had anything more than an informal talk with a Steelers scout.
* FS Cody Prewitt did tell me he met with someone from the Steelers. That stuck out to him because he said Troy Polamalu is his favorite player in the NFL. I asked Prewitt if he'll continue growing his already long hair, and he said yes. "I'm going to see how far the hair takes me," Prewitt said.
10:45 a.m.: Up until this point I've had little reason to complain. Yes, it's been cold, but I brought extra sweatshirts. And the weather forced my daughter's soccer tournament in Cincinnati to be cancelled and I hated that I would've had to miss her games in the first place. The cancellation not only spared me that agony, but also saved me a couple hundred in her hotel/food bills. So, the bitter cold was, well, not good, but OK.
Until last night, when a much-anticipated snowstorm hit Indianapolis. Apparently they don't know how to plow roads around here, but even that's OK because I know how to drive and I got to the stadium in time. And all of my Pittsburgh competition left yesterday to beat the storm, so I have the DBs all to myself today.
But, I found something, finally, about which to complain: My good computer just melted down and I have interviews in there that I now cannot access on my backup computer. That bugs me because now I can't put out any new copy for you, except to update the blog.
So I will be doing that today with any DB info, and I expect reams of it. And I can wait all afternoon for these guys while the road crew -- I would assume -- gets out there and plows Route 70.
So, anyway, I apologize for this is a long, overdrawn whine to explain why my combine stories will be coming out later as next week unwinds. If you can wait, it won't be a bad thing, because, well, as I mentioned, the competition is gone and I have some unique Steelers-related stuff that I'm hoping you will enjoy.
So, be patient with me today, just as I am patiently awaiting the first DB to enter the building. I'm also waiting for these Hoosiers to get up and plow the roads. I know it's Saturday, but I'm sure the overtime pay will be worth it.
FRIDAY, FEB. 20
4:45 p.m.: Last update for the day, and it's a good one. OLB Lorenzo Mauldin has a formal meeting scheduled tonight with Mike Tomlin, which reinforces my belief that the Steelers are more interested in strong-side OLBs than blind side. Mauldin says he's a 4-3 end at heart, but enjoyed playing linebacker this season at Louisville. He has the tomahawk strip-sack skills and strength to suit me at whichever position he lines up.
The Steelers met informally last night with strong-side OLB Hau'oli Kikaha from Washington. I didn't even want to try to pronounce his first name, and once almost said, "Hey, Troy" by accident because he looks so much like Troy Polamalu. He even spoke softly and respectfully like Polamalu and had some similar facial mannerisms as well.
I told Kikaha that, and he said, "Oh, if you would've called me Troy, even by accident, that would've been an insult to Troy." I told Kikaha that if Troy retires and the Steelers draft him ... "I would get all of his hair commercials," he said in finishing my sentence.
In a development that surprised me a bit, D-line coach John Mitchell met with one of my favorite prospects, Grady Jarrett of Clemson. He's a 3-tech who would fit best in a 4-3 front, but Jarrett told me "He talked about the kind of guys he likes in his room."
I asked Jarrett what kind of guys those are.
"Hard-working guys, guys who are going to come to work every day, so that's right up my alley. We had a really good conversation last night," Jarrett said.
Doesn't Mitchell run a 3-4?
"We talked about that," Jarrett said. "I come across a lot as a 3-technique but at the end of the day I'm just a defensive lineman. If the match is there, and he likes it, I'm ready to play."
Again, much more on all of these Steelers-related prospects to come as I unravel my recorder.
3:30 p.m.: Jameis Winston didn't exactly set a pick for me. Let's just say he took on blockers, as in the entire room here at Lucas Oil Stadium. Winston showed up, sucked up the media and opened the door for me to get some coffee, stretch my legs, and interview a pass-rusher from Tennessee-Chattanooga named Davis Tull, all by myself. And that was a good thing. No, Tull's not related to Steelers minority owner Thomas Tull, although he did say he has an uncle named Tom. But more importantly, Tull met with Steelers OLB coach Joey Porter last night and told me it was a great meeting.
This seemed to unlock the floodgates because in walked Owa Odighizuwa, who said he has a meeting with the Steelers tonight. Owa said his hips checked out, medically, and on Sunday he's going to find out if his hips check out in coverage as an OLB. He rarely dropped at UCLA but teams want to see if he can play OLB and I'm glad the Steelers are one of them.
Alvin "Bud" Dupree also said he had an informal meeting with the Steelers last night. He's weighing 269 and I already know he can drop into coverage. He's better in coverage than he is at the point, but he plays the strong side, which is what the Steelers will need if Jason Worilds leaves in free agency.
Also meeting with the Steelers tonight is Trey Flowers, another strong-side player, but one who may have a difficult time in coverage, although he said he dropped plenty as a sophomore and junior and will work with the OLBs on Sunday.
Some of the other pass-rushers weren't sure about potential meetings with the Steelers, citing room numbers only, and Markus Golden said he wants to keep the info private.
I'll have much more on all of these defensive prospects as draft season unwinds and I unearth nuggets from my overstuffed digital recorder.
2 p.m.: Preston Smith is the kind of defensive lineman NFL teams covet in this era because of his versatility.
"I feel like I can play both defensive end or outside linebacker," he said. "I can play inside, 5-technique in the 3-4, outside linebacker 3-4, defensive end 4-3. I can play multiple positions."
It's just a matter of kicking someone's ass, isn't it Preston?
"Yeah," he laughed. "That's all it is."
Smith also played over the nose on pass downs for Mississippi State.
"I just want to be where I can make plays," said the 271-pounder with the easy smile.
He played mainly 4-3 defensive end the past two years. Last year he was moved from the left side to the right side.
Where do NFL teams see him?
"A lot of teams tell me they see me as a hybrid defensive end to outside linebacker type of fit," Smith said. "Or they feel I can put my hand in the dirt on first and second down, or a stand-up person on third down and rush the quarterback."
It doesn't seem to matter to a player who's gaining momentum as a first-round prospect. Smith said he isn't sure if he has a meeting scheduled with the Steelers. He pulled his assignment card out for me and said, "Just a bunch of times and room numbers. Sorry."
He's a guy I'd like to see come to Pittsburgh, but I told him he needed a nickname, that Preston isn't "bad-ass" enough.
He laughed. "I can't just go shank somebody and get a tougher nickname," he said.
1:30 p.m.: Eddie Goldman, the defensive tackle from Florida, was an offensive tackle in high school until his father, Eddie Goldman Sr., had him moved to defensive tackle. And dad would pick young Eddie up from practice and teach him about some of the great defensive tackles from the NFL's past.
"The reason I used to wear 81 because of Carl Eller for the Purple People Eaters," young Goldman told the national media today. "But my dad's favorite player was Mean Joe Greene. That was his guy."
"Cause he was one of the meanest guys ever," Goldman said. "I always thought it was funny that his last name was Greene and his college team was named The Mean Green. I thought that was kind of interesting. But my dad is just a big Steelers fan."
"I'm a Redskins fan."
Goldman played over the nose at Florida State but he's better suited for a 4-3 defense. Maybe that's why the Steelers haven't scheduled an interview with him.
Goldman isn't the only front-seven defender here to have been ignored by the Steelers. Victor Beasley, Carl Davis and Henry Anderson all said they haven't been contacted by the Steelers.
So I asked some of the offensive tackles that are coming through here a few days later than expected. All of them -- T.J. Clemmings, Jake Fisher and Ereck Flowers -- said the same thing: "No, sir."
Lot of guys yet to come through, and many of them are pass-rushers.
12:30 p.m.: Vic Beasley, as colleague Dale Lolley just said, looked the part today. He weighed in at 246 pounds, which is a relief to those teams who want him to set the edge in the run game. Beasley said he's added 10 pounds since the end of the season and also said NFL teams are most concerned with his ability to drop into coverage as a 3-4 OLB.
Well, can you drop into coverage?
"I'm comfortable with that," Beasley said. "We'll see Sunday."
I asked Beasley if he's comfortable on either said. He said he played on the right side at Clemson "90 percent of the time" but doesn't care which side he lines up on, which will be important to a Steelers team that's giving Jarvis Jones first crack at the right side this season.
Has Beasley met with the Steelers? Or does he have a meeting scheduled?
"I don't think so," he said.
THURSDAY, FEB. 19
5 p.m.: Late-arriving tight ends Jeff Heuerman and Alex Derby both told me they met with Steelers tight ends coach James Daniel earlier in the day. I'll have more on both players later in the draft season, but both are all-around tight ends who can run, catch and block. It seems as if the tight end group has been overly maligned this draft season. I think the Steelers will find a quality player at the position later in the draft.
Like Blake Bell, Derby was a quarterback who moved to tight end prior to this past season. Derby, from Arkansas, said he learned all about former QB Heath Miller and his switch to tight end from Daniel.
4 p.m.: The running backs are everywhere and most of those I asked said they've met with the Steelers, which was, as expected, a departure from the wide receivers I spoke to.
Obviously the Steelers have a big need at running back. T.J. Yeldon said he met with Mike Tomlin, and Yeldon -- who ran so much like Le'Veon Bell while playing for Alabama -- said that Bell is the running back in the NFL whom he most tries to emulate.
"I pretty much like Le'Veon Bell's running style," Yeldon told the national media. "I watch his highlights and just look at him a lot."
Yeldon is a pass-catcher in the Bell mold and also showed great vision and explosiveness in Alabama's outside-zone running scheme.
Tevin Coleman, the highly touted prospect from Indiana, met with Steelers running backs coach James Saxon on Wednesday, and Minnesota's David Cobb has a meeting scheduled with the Steelers on Friday. Northern Iowa's David Johnson, another Bell clone, was set for a meeting with the Steelers tonight. Others, such as Duke Johnson and Jeremy Langford, said they had so many meetings scheduled (listed as room numbers only) that they weren't sure if the Steelers are included or not. They most likely are.
3 p.m.: Two years ago I asked cornerback B.W. Webb to name the greatest alumnus to come out of his school, that bastion of American freedom, the College of William & Mary. "Mike Tomlin," said Webb as he picked a football coach over Thomas Jefferson and several other prominent historical figures.
Webb, of course, ended up with Tomlin and the Steelers this season when he was plucked off the waiver wire.
So, when I heard that William & Mary wide receiver Tre McBride was in the house today, I figured I would ask him the same question.
"Mike Tomlin," McBride said without hesitation.
McBride is one of the top sleepers -- perhaps one of the top players -- at his position, and he said he's talked with Steelers scouts, but not Tomlin. I asked him if he answered with Tomlin because he's a football player looking for work at a football job fair.
"That's part of the reason," he said with a laugh. "But he played at William & Mary, he was a receiver just like I was, and now he's a head coach for a team that's in the playoffs and he has a really good track record for his career. Obviously we've had presidents. We had Thomas Jefferson and all those guys. But I'll stick with Mike Tomlin."
Another wise man from William & Mary, for sure.
2 p.m.: The Steelers certainly aren't going to make wide receiver a priority early in this draft but I asked a few of them about the top cornerbacks in college football. Here's what Ohio State speedster Devin Smith had to say:
"It's hard to tell because a lot of corners played off. They were threatened by my speed, so I really didn't go against press much last year. But from watching different corners on film and on the other side of the ball, Cyrus Jones from Alabama is pretty good with his hips and he's pretty physical."
Jones isn't out for the draft this year, so I asked Smith about his teammate, Doran Grant.
"Doran Grant is one of the best corners in the Big Ten, if not the nation, in my opinion. He's very fluid with his hips. That's my cousin as well, so I know him a little bit. But he's a competitor. He's very, very strong and he's fast as well."
Dres Anderson of Utah said the best cornerback he's faced was "the S.C. corner, number 13." That would be Kevon Seymour, another junior who's not out for the draft.
Devante Parker, the first-round prospect out of Louisville, finally gave me something with which I could work.
"P.J. Williams for Florida State," Parker said.
"Because of the different types of techniques he uses, like the bump/bail technique. He just has different bits, so you had to re-adjust to what he was doing."
Of course, P.J. and the rest of the cornerbacks won't be available to the media until Saturday.
WEDNESDAY, FEB. 18
4 p.m.: I've been waiting all day for the tight ends, and, wouldn't you know, they're coming in droves in the final hour of the work day.
Maxx Williams was a fiery type who wants to emulate Jason Witten. Maxx (second x added "to be unique") said he has a formal meeting set up with Mike Tomlin in the next couple of days.
Blake Bell, the former wildcat QB at Oklahoma, moved to tight end full time and has become one of the sleepers at the position. He dropped his weight from 262 to 253 in order to get his 40 time under 4.8, so, yes, speed might be an issue for him as a tight end. Bell told me he has a meeting scheduled with the Steelers, and believes it to be a formal meeting with Tomlin.
I didn't get to talk to Penn State's massive tackle, Donovan Smith, as much as I would have liked. But he did tell me he met with Tomlin at the Senior Bowl. I wanted to ask Smith why he played so well at the Senior Bowl after such an inconsistent three years in State College, but Mad Maxx entered the room and I've been assigned transcript duties for him and had to leave Smith's table. Hopefully someone else asked Smith about "turning on the switch" at the Senior Bowl and hopefully his answer will be in his transcript.
2 p.m.: LSU left tackle La'El Collins, ranked No. 18 on my most recent "Asskickers" list, told me he has a meeting scheduled this week with the Steelers, but he didn't know whether that meeting will be with Mike Tomlin/Kevin Colbert or Mike Munchak/Shaun Sarrett. There's usually a big difference, but with Munchak being such a prominent assistant perhaps it won't matter in this case.
Anyway, I asked Collins about the defensive mentality he seemingly uses as an offensive lineman, and he agreed.
"When I started playing football," he said, "I played defense more than offense. I made the transition to offense in high school and I always had a mentality of a defensive guy. I was able to bring that over to the offensive side but also bring intelligence over in order to play the offensive line position. So for me to be able to go out there with the mentality to just really get after it is something I bring to the table."
The big man seemed pretty bright so I felt I could joke around with him and followed up by asking him if he feels most defenders lack intelligence.
He laughed. "I'm not going to say that," he said before laughing again.
I talked briefly with Collins after the formal interview and I like his personality quite a bit.
12:30 p.m.: It's still mainly coaches and GMs at the podium so far. But when I walked back into the main media room, I couldn't help but noticed a big media crowd around a player at one of the many tables awaiting players today. I asked someone who this was and the answer was "Sam Ficken."
That was an awful lot of coverage for the Penn State kicker, but my guess is it's due more to him being the first and only player to enter the premises than any amount of interest in his kicking.
Noon: I forgot one topic from the first Kevin Colbert appearance this morning. I like what he said about the AFC North:
"We think it's the most competitive division in the National Football League and I think that was proven out by the records of all four teams this year and having three playoff teams. So we know it's a very, very competitive, tough, physical division, and we think it's the toughest, so you want to get as many good players as you can to compete in that division. It's certainly been a tough division. It's been that way for a lot of years."
* After Colbert finished with the national media, he talked to a few local writers here. I wanted to follow-up on the previous question about evaluating character and if the grading is stricter this year following a year of major off-the-field issues among players.
"No," he said. "We've always tried to place an emphasis on the character issues. Really, what happens throughout the league in any given year doesn't influence us because we think we're doing the right things and we think we've been doing the right things for a long time. No more stringent than we've tried to be in the past."
Can you give me some of your guidelines? What merits a drop of a round or an eradication from your board?
"You try to quantify intangibles, and it's hard. You can verify how fast a guy is, how big a guy is. That's easy. But to verify a guy's character is next to impossible because there are so many intangible issues that go into a person, let alone a player. So we have to sort through and figure out what's real information, what's fabricated, what degree of risk -- once we verify what's real and not real -- do we want to put on that player, that person. It's just something you try to put together as you do this whole evaluation process."
* Colbert was also asked about benched cornerback Cortez Allen, specifically where Allen will start the new season.
"I think Cortez enters the season where he left off and that we have to find out about Cortez and whether he can accept the challenge of being a starting NFL corner. He showed signs of that in the past. He was productive in spurts for us in the past. You invest in players we think can be good players. He had difficulties early in the 2014 preseason. He lost his starting job, he was working his way back, then he broke the thumb and had work done on his knee as well. You can't figure that he's just going to come in and be the guy. He has to work his way back to be that guy. We have confidence that he can. I always talk about Ike Taylor, and we're talking about Cortez, and I think Ike right around the same period of his career faced some difficulties and lost his starting position as well. He had to fight his way back as well and he showed the mental toughness to do that, and we hope that Cortez does the same thing."
* Has Colbert spoken to the quartet of veterans -- James Harrison, Brett Keisel, Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor -- about their immediate futures with the team?
"Those meetings went well. As we go through a position in free agency, we talk about our own players. We've done that. We'll get through this week and have more information on the college group. Then we can sit down. We'll know more about this group at the end of the week then we did going into it. So we'll put the two -- free agency and the potential draft -- together and map out a plan for the spring. At that point we'll be working through pro days while free agency is occurring. Sometimes we have to make decisions on the fly. That will continue to evolve."
10:30 a.m.: Kevin Colbert took the podium this morning in front of the national media. I didn't expect much different from the 40-minute interview he granted a group of us last week, but here are some notable comments:
* On his second-team running back:
"The depth situation is what it was. Josh Harrison did some nice things on our practice squad and we picked him up late in the process when Le'Veon (Bell) was hurt ..."
Josh Harrison of course is a valuable Pittsburgh Pirate. It was Josh Harris who was called up from the Steelers practice squad.
That's OK. I often call him Tuff Harris after a safety the Steelers picked up years back.
Colbert also praised this year's running backs crop, but I'm sure readers already know about the strength of this year's class. In my opinion the Steelers will be able to find great value as late as the fifth round, and find someone to make their team all the way through the seventh.
* On last year's wide receiver crop in comparison to this year's:
"I think it's stacking up favorably. Last year's wide receiver class was unique. It was unique in terms of numbers; it was unique in terms of impact players. We really felt that at this time of the year last year. So I think this group is coming together again. I'm not sure it'll have quite the impact of last year's class, but in all honesty not many will because that was a special group of players. It's coming together. I'm not sure it's going to have the same amount of impact guys."
The Steelers will need a wide receiver late in the draft to presumably take the place of Lance Moore. But the top three spots on their team are solid and young.
* On why the group of declared underclassmen is smaller than last year's, Colbert said it had to do with this year's underclassmen seeing so many of last year's underclassmen going undrafted.
"I also think the change in the college advisory committee was big. Now we only tell a player if we think he's a first or second-rounder."
* Does Colbert look for a particular size in an outside linebacker prospect?
"No. Everybody looks at the size. Everybody wants bigger, faster. I look at James Harrison who's just 6-foot today, 5-11 tomorrow. He's been a great player. Elvis Dumervil with the Ravens is another guy who doesn't fit the 6-3, 263-pound mold. What did he have this year, 17 sacks? I never look for any specific size requirements."
* Does he place an emphasis on the player's character?
"Yeah, off the field the character issue has always been a big issue for us. It's something that starts when you talk to their college coaches, trainers, equipment managers, and then it continues at the all-star games. We'll start interviews with the players and it continues here with 60 personal interviews and extended interviews with the assistant coaches. It'll continue with the background check that the NFL will run on them here. It'll continue into the spring when we visit some programs with parents, meet with families, spending more time with the players. I think as many exposures as you can get will help you learn better. Even when you get them in-depth we still find things out after we draft them and we just keep our fingers crossed that we selected good players who will be great citizens."
TUESDAY, FEB. 16
6 a.m.: The short list of local NFL draft prospects heading to the combine this week in Indianapolis is led by a wide receiver who came from out of nowhere to draw comparisons to NFL star Julio Jones.
His name is Kevin White and he broke from anonymity this past season by making 109 catches for West Virginia University.
White came out of Emmaus High outside of Allentown, Pa., and spent two years at Lackawanna Junior College, where he caught only 36 passes for 535 yards in his final season. He moved on to WVU and caught 35 passes for 507 yards and five touchdowns in 2013 before breaking out this season.
White's 109 receptions rank third nationally and they went for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns.
White was named second-team All-America and is considered a potential top 10 draft candidate. He's drawn praise from some of the top media analysts, including former scout Daniel Jeremiah, who tweeted that "Kevin White is my top WR. He has the same traits as Julio Jones."
Jones is a star receiver for the Atlanta Falcons. He was drafted sixth overall in 2011 as a 6-2 3/4, 220-pounder who ran a 4.39 40 at his combine. So White may have to run a sub-4.5 40 to keep his top-10 status.
WVU teammates Mario Alford and Mark Glowinski will join White in Indianapolis.
Alford is a speedy return specialist/wide receiver who's listed at 5-9, 175. He was a former Georgia state 100-meter prep champion (10.77) and spent two years at Georgia Military College. Last season with the Mountaineers Alford caught 65 passes for 945 yards and 11 touchdowns and returned 26 kickoffs for 743 yards (28.6) and two touchdowns.
Glowinski is coming off an All-Big 12 season. He has started the last two seasons at right guard after transferring in from Lackawanna Junior College. From Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Glowkinski is listed at 6-5, 312.
After White, the next highest-rated draft prospect who'll appear at the combine from local colleges is Pitt's lone invite, offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings.
An All-ACC first-team right tackle, Clemmings was one of the darlings of the draft media after performing so well this season, only two seasons after moving from the defensive line. Clemmings checked into the Senior Bowl at 6-5, 307 but struggled throughout the practice week.
Clemmings was the backup right tackle in the game and allowed a strip sack to Preston Smith. He moved over to left tackle late in the third quarter and continued to struggle. He's still considered a late-first, early-second-round prospect.
Another massive tackle with great potential is Penn State's Donovan Smith, who started at left tackle in the Senior Bowl and outperformed Clemmings.
Smith checked into the Senior Bowl at 6-6, 341 after an up-and-down career in State College, where he was a three-year starter at left tackle.
Penn State will also be represented at the combine by strong safety Adrian Amos, placekicker Sam Ficken, linebacker Mike Hull, and tight end Jesse James.
Amos started 38 career games as a cornerback and strong safety. He intercepted seven career passes and measured 6-0, 209 at the Senior Bowl. He's considered a mid to late-round pick as a safety.
Ficken was named second-team All-Big 10 after making 24 of 29 field goal attempts this past season and scoring 100 points. He made a school-record 15 consecutive field goals in the 2012-2013 seasons, and also holds the school record for longest field goal (54 yards) by a Penn State kicker in a home game.
Hull is the reigning Big 10 Linebacker of the Year after the Canon-McMillan graduate led Penn State with 140 tackles, 65 more than the runner-up. Hull also had 10.5 tackles for loss in his second full season as a starting inside backer.
Hull checked into the Senior Bowl at 6-0, 231 but a sore knee became aggravated during the practice week and he was forced to leave. He's expected to be healthy for the combine, where Hull hopes to raise draft expectations out of the sixth round.
James, from South Allegheny High, left Penn State a year early after the tall tight end caught 78 passes for 1,005 yards (12.9 avg.) and 11 touchdowns as a three-year starter. James is listed at 6-7, 254 and could move up quickly in a thin TE class with a strong showing this week.
SATURDAY, FEB. 14
8 a.m.: In hoping to relay some ancillary notes to go along with my story about 4-3 DEs this morning, I set out to look at another couple of 4-3 pass-rushers I had ignored as non-fits throughout the season. But on the way, I ended up finding a mid-round gem of a 3-4 DE.
I suppose I can't help myself.
My intended task was to take a closer look at the Smith boys, Za'Darius Smith of Kentucky and Preston Smith of Mississippi State, and I remembered that Za'Darius was pretty much a wrecking ball in the East-West Shrine Game, so I put that on first.
And he was. Even Mike Mayock couldn't help but praise the first-half performance of the blind-side edge rusher in the bright blue Kentucky helmet. I had to be wary, of course, about the caliber of Smith's opposition, and I kind of wandered off between my notebook and my phone and what was on my TV until I was roused by the sound of a pad-busting jolt. I looked up and it was a tackle on a kickoff return I had just heard. I noted the tackler's number -- 91 in white -- and went back to looking for Smith's blue helmet. He was also playing for white.
It must've been a few defensive series later when I noticed No. 91 again. This time he was in the end zone begging the official to call a safety. No. 91 had lined up inside of Smith and shed his block and crushed a running back who was trying to get past the goal line. Sure looked like a safety to me, but as usual the official put the ball at the half-yard line.
So I started to watch No. 91, Derrick Lott of Tennessee-Chattanooga, and saw him exhibit the same exuberance at the line of scrimmage that he had displayed on special teams. He wasn't the most polished, particularly with his hand fighting, but he was a big, strong man who could run, and he seemed to enjoy the game a great deal. And he was coming off the snap much more quickly than my man Za'Darius. This Lott fellow was looking like an Asskicker to me, so I did some quick research.
Lott was a four-star recruit by the University of Georgia, redshirted his first year, played in only five games in the next two years, but then had two sacks and a safety in the 2012 spring game.
However, Lott was told he was still behind a loaded group of Georgia starters, so he transferred to Chattanooga, where he had two sacks in 2012. In 2013 he suffered a season-ending elbow injury in September and was granted a sixth year of eligibility this past season, when he had six sacks and drew raves after checking into the Shrine Game at 6-4 1/4, 298.
A story in the Chattanooga Times Free Press quoted three different sources on Lott's domination of practice that week, and Chris Kouffman of the Sporting News raved about Lott's special-teams work and called him "a more intriguing prospect than even Kentucky defensive end Za'Darius Smith."
After I looked all of this up, I noticed Lott being blocked a bit better during his second-half rotations. And when the camera closed in, I noticed the West's left guard was Adam Sheard, the four-year starter at Oklahoma who has size, strength and some serious power on the pull. I remember thinking Sheard to be a great mid-round sleeper earlier in the year, but forgot about him after a late-season knee injury.
So now I was watching for that dark red OU helmet, and noticed a sleeper tight end prospect that I have been meaning to catch up on: Blake Bell, an extremely physical 6-6 1/2, 263-pounder who was showing off some decent hands and route-running. We know him as OU's wildcat TD machine, but lately he's been getting a lot of buzz from the draftnicks as a TE prospect.
I realized then that I had a lot more tape to get through, because I already jotted down the name of Rice's Bryce Callahan as a possible sleeper CB from some of his fluid PBUs earlier in this Shrine Game.
As for Preston Smith, I never did get around to him. I guess that's another maze of football tapestry for another day.
THURSDAY, FEB. 12
7 a.m.: A few moments after the Hall of Fame Game between the Steelers and Minnesota Vikings was set for Sunday, Aug. 9 at 8 p.m., a writer from Cleveland tweeted: "Just what the ancient Steelers need, a 5th preseason game."
I wanted to take exception to the use of the word "ancient," but I had to agree with his larger point: Nobody needs a fifth preseason game, not the fans, the media and least of all the players.
The Steelers have participated in five previous Hall of Fame games, the most recent was in 2007 when the Steelers, who were in the midst of a two-year pause between championship seasons, infamously ran out of gas after the wheels came off.
It was Mike Tomlin's first season on the job and he later admitted to driving that team too hard before a 7-2 start turned into a 3-5 finish, which included a first-round playoff loss to Jacksonville.
Here are the rest of their Hall of Fame Game seasons:
* 1998 -- Coming off an appearance in the AFC Championship Game, the Steelers started 5-2 before a 2-7 finish resulted in a 7-9 record.
* 1983 -- Coming off a strike-shortened 6-3 playoff season, this Steelers team started 9-2 but finished 1-5, which included a 38-10 loss to the Raiders in the first round of the playoffs.
* 1963 and 1964 -- These were played back when the Hall of Fame Game gave teams six preseason games, or, as Tomlin might have put it, "long-term misery." The 1962 Steelers went 9-5 under Buddy Parker, but after a 2-0-1 start the '63 Steelers finished 7-4-3 overall and the '64 Steelers started 3-2 and finished 5-9 overall.
I'm not going to look at the starts and finishes of all teams that have played in the Hall of Fame Game. I'm merely pointing out what the Analytics Administrator of the team had better be pointing out to Tomlin:
Your team gets to open camp earlier than the rest of the league -- in this case July 25 -- but your season won't begin until the calendar in September reaches double digits. So don't run them into the ground.
My guess is Tomlin's quite aware of all of this anyway.
As for the Hall of Fame ceremony, Jerome Bettis will be inducted Saturday, Aug. 8 in Canton along with Mick Tingelhoff, Tim Brown, Charles Haley, Bill Polian, Junior Seau, Will Shields and Ron Wolf.
The next day the Steelers will play the Vikings and the NFL is already promoting this as some type of look back at Super Bowl IX, which was played after the 1974 season and which of course was won by the Steelers, 16-6.
The Steelers held the Vikings to 17 yards rushing, 9 first downs, and 119 yards of total offense that day. The latter two marks remain Super Bowl records, while the '85 Bears are the only team to allow their opponent fewer rushing yards (7).
A big part of the Steelers' defensive dominance that day was due to Joe Greene's dominance of Tingelhoff, the Vikings' center. But that's unlikely to be mentioned on Aug. 8.