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Troy Polamalu Changed Pittsburgh Steelers History

When Chuck Noll released a player, he told him that it was time to get on with his life’s work.

No one had to say that to Troy Polamalu, because the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t have to go through the pain of releasing him.

Ten days shy of his 34th birthday, Polamalu told Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider that he’s retiring after a 12-year career.

While it wouldn’t be surprising to see Polamalu do significant work in his post-football life and maybe even make the world a better place, he’s already done quite a bit of work that merits a look back.

Polamalu won two championship rings, made eight Pro Bowls, was a four-time first team All-Pro and the 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

But those are just lines on a resume.

What Polamalu really will be remembered for is the way he played the game. It was a thrill to watch him dart around the field like a pinball and return interceptions with his hair flowing out of the back of his helmet like the tail of a comet.

No one should expect what happened in the 1970s to ever happen again. But as the Steelers went to three Super Bowls in a six-year period, winning two of them, Polamalu blended the spirit of Franco Harris and Mean Joe Greene.

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Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 Mock Draft 3.0: Post-Free Agency Analysis for All 7 Rounds

Unlike last year, March was quiet on the free-agent front for the Pittsburgh Steelers. But enough happened to affect their board for the 2015 NFL draft.

The most stunning news of the month came when Jason Worilds retired. James Harrison and Arthur Moats will be back, and the Steelers are waiting for Jarvis Jones to break out. Outside linebackers should be on their draft radar.

Cornerback was the Steelers’ most glaring need, and it became even more of a need when Brice McCain signed with the Miami Dolphins. McCain tied for the team lead last season with three interceptions. Not taking a cornerback on one of the first two days of the draft would be almost as inexcusable as Pete Carroll’s play-calling in the final minute of Super Bowl XLIX.

The best news of March came when the Steelers signed running back DeAngelo Williams from the Carolina Panthers. Williams, who will turn 32 on April 25, has 6,846 career rushing yards and has averaged 4.8 yards per rush in his career. The Steelers don’t necessarily have to dip into the draft for someone to start in place of Le’Veon Bell if Bell is suspended for his pot arrest.

In addition to those developments, compensatory picks have been handed out, and the Steelers were awarded one at the end of the sixth round. Barring trades, the Steelers will have eight picks this year after having nine picks in each of the last three years.

Scouting reports from NFL Draft Scout and NFL.com were used in this mock draft. Selections in our previous mock drafts are listed with the 1.0 pick first followed by the 2.0 pick.

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Top 10 Quarterbacks in Pittsburgh Steelers History

Now that Ben Roethlisberger has signed a five-year contract that likely will keep him a Pittsburgh Steeler for the rest of his career, what better time to rank the top 10 quarterbacks in Pittsburgh Steelers history?

This doesn’t mean the Steelers have had 10 good quarterbacks in their 82-year history. There might be if they had been a little more patient with some of them, but Johnny Unitas and Len Dawson will not appear on this list because they went on to become great quarterbacks with other teams.

Still, we’re including 10 quarterbacks here because some at least provided Steelers fans with a few pleasant memories. Also, the longer this article is, the more the suspense builds.

Everyone knows the top two on this list, but who’s No. 1? It’s become one of the more riveting modern-day sports debates.

So resist the temptation to scroll down to the bottom. It will be worth it to wade through the riff-raff and wait for the big revelation.

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Steelers Linebacker Jason Worilds Gets On With His Life

There was a lot of hand-wringing this winter over Jason Worilds.

It became increasingly clear that the Pittsburgh Steelers weren’t going to re-sign the outside linebacker. Would it be a mistake to let him go?

Turns out that it would have been a huge mistake for the Steelers, or any other team, to sign Worilds. They would have thrown a lot of money at a guy who no longer has a desire to play football.

While the Steelers and their fans held their breath hoping that Troy Polamalu would retire so the team wouldn’t have to release him, it was the 27-year-old Worilds who announced his retirement in the middle of the night.

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Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 Mock Draft 2.0: Post-Combine Analysis for All 7 Rounds

Now that the NFL Scouting Combine is shown on the NFL Network, it’s become a must-see for Pittsburgh Steelers fans suffering the interminable wait until the next meaningful Steelers game.

The sight of Steelers scout Mark Gorscak directing the 40-yard dash is the only Steelers fix we’ll get until Roger Goodell announces the team’s first-round draft pick on April 30.

This year’s combine was held Feb.17-23. Like every year in Indianapolis, the combine numbers turned the big board into a game of Chutes and Ladders with the draft stock of so many players rising and falling.

Here is our latest Steelers mock draft based on the reshaped board.

NFL.com was used for players’ heights, weights, combine results and scouting reports. CBSSports.com also was used for scouting reports.

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Le’Veon Bell Suspension Could Have Silver Lining for Steelers

It’s looking more and more like we can just chalk up an 0-2 start for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2015.

Unless the Steelers figure out a way to win without Le’Veon Bell, that is.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Bell likely will be suspended for the first two games of the season under the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Bell was arrested last year for marijuana possession and driving under the influence.

Since the Steelers chose Bell with the 48th pick of the 2013 NFL draft, they’re 0-4 without him. He was voted by his teammates as the Steelers’ most valuable player in 2014.

Bell’s value was painfully apparent when a hyperextended knee kept him out of the AFC wild-card game against the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field. The Ravens won a playoff game at Pittsburgh for the first time, beating the Steelers 30-17. Bell also missed the first three games of 2013 with a foot injury, and those were the first three of four straight losses to start the season.

The Steelers need a Bell suspension like the Heinz Field turf needs a monster truck rally.They have the NFL’s toughest schedule in 2015, according to CBSSports.com. It includes road games against both Super Bowl XLIX participants, the Patriots and Seahawks.

As the Super Bowl champions, the Patriots will host the 2015 season opener on Thursday, Sept. 10. The tradition of the defending champs opening the season at home on a Thursday night began with the Patriots in 2004, and the Steelers are prime candidates to be the guests on Sept. 10 when the Patriots unfurl their championship banner at Gillette Stadium.

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5 Free Agents the Pittsburgh Steelers Must Target

The Pittsburgh Steelers were uncharacteristically bold in free agency last season, and they got burned.

No one needs to be reminded of the LeGarrette Blount saga. Safety Mike Mitchell, signed to a five-year, $25 million contract, broke up three passes and intercepted none after breaking up eight and intercepting four with the Panthers in 2013. Pro Football Focus ranked Cam Thomas dead last among all 3-4 defensive ends last season. Lance Moore caught 14 passes and Darrius Heyward-Bey caught three.

Arthur Moats and Brice McCain made some nice contributions. Both started nine games. Moats had four sacks and McCain made three interceptions.

Moats and McCain are the types of under-the-radar free agents the Steelers traditionally sign. They need to return to that philosophy in 2015. The big-name signings didn’t work out so well.

The free-agent signing period for the 2015 NFL season officially begins at 4 p.m., on March 10.

The Steelers are projected to be about $4 million over the salary cap, according to Spotrac. They have to dump salary over the next four weeks to make room for a few role players in free agency.

Here are some players who should get a look.

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Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 Mock Draft: Analysis for All 7 Rounds

For the fourth straight year, Pittsburgh Steelers fans had to suffer through another Super Bowl that didn’t involve their team. There was a time not too long ago when the Steelers were in the Super Bowl just about every other year. They went three times from 2005 to 2010.

What’s worse is that in 2015 the Steelers have to play both the Super Bowl-champion New England Patriots and NFC-champion Seattle Seahawks on the road, with the possibility of playing the Patriots in the Thursday-night season opener.

Getting back to the playoffs in 2015 won’t be easy. That’s why the Steelers have to find players in the 2015 draft who make an immediate impact.

Now that the NFL offseason has officially begun, here’s an early Steelers mock draft.

FIRST ROUND (No. 22)

Quinten Rollins, CB, Miami of Ohio

The Steelers can’t afford any more mid-round misses on cornerbacks. In this mock draft, they take one in the first round for the first time since they drafted Chad Scott in 1997. They haven’t drafted one in the first two rounds since they chose Bryant McFadden in 2005.

It worked out pretty well the last time the Steelers drafted a player from Miami of Ohio. Like Ben Roethlisberger, Quinten Rollins also ran the offense at Miami. It just wasn’t the football team’s offense.

The 5’11”, 193-pound Rollins played point guard for four years on the basketball team, and finished second in school history with 214 career steals, according to CBSSports.com. He also stole some balls on the football field, intercepting seven passes for the Redhawks and garnering MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors despite playing just one year of college football. He played high school football, then had one year of eligibility remaining after playing basketball and used it to return to the gridiron in 2014.

Ike Taylor turns 35 in May and didn’t look a day younger than that after returning from his arm injury in 2014. He likely saw his last action as a Steeler when A.J. Green repeatedly toasted him in Week 13 at Cincinnati. Like Taylor, Brice McCain is a free agent. He and Antwon Blake are scrappy contributors, but can be exposed over the long haul. Cortez Allen remains a mystery.

The Steelers ranked 27th against the pass in 2014 and gave up 15 plays of 40 or more yards, second-most in the league. It’s time for them to draft for need in the first round instead of taking the best player available, and cornerback is their most glaring need.

SECOND ROUND

Anthony Harris, SS, Virginia

The work on the secondary continues in the second round. Shamarko Thomas and Ryan Mundy are the only safeties the Steelers have drafted since Mike Tomlin became head coach in 2007. They haven’t drafted one in the first three rounds since they took Anthony Davis in 2006. That has to change this year.

Harris, a 6’1″, 190-pound senior, led the NCAA with eight interceptions in 2013 and made 80 tackles. He intercepted two passes in 2014, but increased to tackles to 109.

The Steelers probably will have to replace Troy Polamalu in 2015. They traded up to draft Thomas in the fourth round in 2013. Thomas and Robert Golden have contributed on special teams, but have shown little evidence that they’re ready to step in at strong safety.

All the attention the Steelers devoted to the offensive line in the early rounds of the draft in 2010, 2011 and 2012 finally started paying off in 2014. They need to do the same for the secondary this year.

THIRD ROUND

Jesse James, TE, Penn State

The Steelers enjoyed a breakthrough season on offense in 2014. They ranked seventh in the NFL in points scored and second in yards, their highest rankings since 1995 and 1979, respectively.

But the Steelers can’t stand pat. They’ll eventually need a replacement for 32-year-old Heath Miller. At 6’7″, 254 pounds, Jesse James fits the mold of the modern-day behemoth tight end. He caught 11 touchdowns in three years at Penn State, a school record for tight ends.

The junior is from Glassport, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh.

FOURTH ROUND

Jeremy Langford, RB, Michigan State

Any chance the Steelers had for a deep playoff run ended when Le’Veon Bell hurt his knee in the regular-season finale. Bell has become their most indispensable player not named Ben Roethlisberger.

Since Bell’s career began, the Steelers are 0-4 without him. The Steelers need insurance in case he goes down again. Who better than his backup at Michigan State?

Bell and Langford both entered Michigan State in 2010, but Langford red-shirted as a freshman while Bell ran for 605 yards. Langford carried the ball just nine times in his first two seasons, but took the most of his opportunity after Bell left for the NFL. The 6’0″, 211-pounder ran for 2,944 yards and 40 touchdowns in his junior and senior seasons.

FIFTH ROUND

JaCorey Shepherd, CB, Kansas

If this mock draft comes to fruition, it would be the third straight year the Steelers have drafted a cornerback in the fifth round. They’ve taken a corner in the fifth round in five of Mike Tomlin’s eight drafts.

They would need Shepherd to work out more like William Gay, who they took in the fifth round in 2007, and less like the rest of their fifth-round cornerbacks. That forgettable lot includes Joe Burnett, Crezdon Butler, Terry Hawthorne and Shaq Richardson.

The 5’11”, 190-pound Shepherd was second in the Big 12 with 13 passes defended in 2013. He intercepted two passes, including a pick-six, and three passes in his senior season.

Shepherd also led the Big 12 with 773 kickoff return yards in 2014.

This would be the third time during the Tomlin Era that the Steelers have chosen two cornerbacks in the same draft. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to double up on their most urgent need.

SIXTH ROUND

Geneo Grissom, OLB, Oklahoma

Even if the Steelers re-sign Jason Worilds, they need depth at outside linebacker. James Harrison and Arthur Moats also are free agents. Jarvis Jones is their only outside linebacker under contract, and he has three sacks in his first two seasons. Injuries prevented him from making significant strides in 2014. Jones isn’t immune from the bust discussion.

The 6’3″, 264-pound Grissom, a senior, had four sacks and an interception in both 2013 and 2014. He returned both interceptions for touchdowns.

SEVENTH ROUND

Brett Boyko, OT, UNLV

The Steelers offensive line came a long way under Mike Munchak, but Ben Roethlisberger was sacked five times in the Steelers’ 30-17 playoff loss to the Ravens. So there’s still some work to be done.

The 6’7″, 310-pound Boyko was a four-year starter at left tackle for UNLV, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal. He moved to guard for the final five games of 2014 and allowed just one sack for the season.

Boyko, from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, is dealing with an elbow injury but is hoping to be ready for the NFL Scouting Combine.

He could at least provide an upgrade over Mike Adams as the Steelers’ top backup tackle.

Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets

 

 

Steelers Fans Didn’t Hide Their Love for Dick LeBeau

There’s a place in New York City where dozens of people, men and women both, proclaim their love for Dick on Sunday afternoons in the fall.

The patrons at Hibernia, a Steelers bar in the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan, shouted “We love Dick! We love Dick! We love Dick!” in unison whenever Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau first appeared on the TV screen during Steelers games.

There has been no such affection for Todd Haley and, to my knowledge, no “Bruuuce!!!” love for Bruce Arians when he was offensive coordinator.

LeBeau has been the only Steelers assistant coach to get such rock-star treatment at Hibernia. The regulars at that bar, and Steelers fans everywhere, will miss LeBeau. The 77-year-old told the Urbana Daily Citizen Saturday that he is resigning.

He made it clear that he’s not retiring. The Steelers PR brass had their ducks in a row this time, learning their lesson from three years ago when the word was that Arians retired when in fact he just wasn’t being brought back. Arians landed in Indianapolis as Colts offensive coordinator days later, and he’s gone 21-11 in the last two seasons as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

This time, the coordinator departure is being branded as a “mutual parting.” So the Steelers won’t have egg on their face if LeBeau gets a DC job somewhere else.

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2014 NFL Playoffs: Steelers Fans Stuck Watching Ravens, Patriots and Blount

When the fourth quarter of the AFC wild-card game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers began last Saturday, NBC came out of the commercial and played the beginning of “Ah! Leah!” by Donnie Iris.

Since Iris is from the Pittsburgh area, it was meant as a salute to the city. But it turned out to be a commentary on the Steelers’ dire situation.

“We both know we’re never going to make it.”

The Steelers were down 20-9 at the time, but they rallied. They always do when they lose these wild-card games. But their late run wasn’t enough to overcome three bad quarters of football against the Jaguars in 2007 or the Broncos in 2011, and it wasn’t enough to climb out of the hole they dug for themselves against the Ravens.

So now our Terrible Towels are stored in the sock drawer until September, and we have to watch yet another Ravens-Patriots playoff game.

“Here we go again,” as Donnie Iris would say.

It’s the fourth time in the last six years that the Ravens and Patriots have met in the playoffs. Each time, the Steelers have either been eliminated from the playoffs or missed the playoffs entirely.

At least if the Steelers were still playing, we could look forward to getting a crack at the team that wins this game. Instead, we have to stomach the fact that one of the Steelers’ two main antagonists of the 21st century will move a step closer to another championship.

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