NFL Team Report - Pittsburgh Steelers - INSIDE SLANT
The Steelers say they are ready for the season. Their record and their play to date says they are not.
Preseason records are just that - the Steelers went 0-4 in the 2004 preseason and followed that with a 15-1 record - but they have not shown a lot in their three games, all losses.
"We better get it fixed quickly because obviously we're running out of time," Mike Tomlin declared.
Among the fixes needed is a ground game that seems to have little focus, especially with rookie Le'Veon Bell set to start the season on crtuches. Bell, who looked headed to become their starting halfback, has a small tear of a ligament in his right foot and could miss the first month of the season.
As a whole, the Steelers averaged 3.5 yards per carry in the first three games. With Bell out, Isaac Redman looks like the starter but he has played in just one game and carried just twice in that one. They traded for Felix Jones and there's no telling what role, if any, he might have.
Their line is learning a new outside zone blocking scheme and so far, it's been with mixed results. They have no touchdowns rushing, although Jonathan Dwyer did catch a TD pass from Ben Roethlisberger for 13 yards Saturday against Kansas City, the only TD scored by the first team in three games.
Even that score came on a broken play in which Roethlisberger had to dance away from pressure. He's been on the move a lot this summer. He's been sacked four times while attempting 33 passes in three games, and been hit and flushed from the pocket on many other occasions.
As it stands, Redman and Jonathan Dwyer look to be their top two backs to open the season with Bell on the sideline. That's how it was last season too when Rashard Mendenhall was injured and did not play the first three games of the season. The Steelers finished 26th in the NFL in rushing yards.
Jones, the Dallas Cowboys' first-round draft pick in 2008, faded last season with them and they did not try to re-sign him this year. The Eagles signed him to a one-year contract as a free agent, but he fell to fourth in a backfield where Philadelphia planned to keep only three backs. Jones ran 8 times for 29 yards Saturday, one day after the Steelers sent linebacker Adrian Robinson to the Eagles for Jones. He should get even more carries Thursday night in Carolina. The Steelers cut third-year vet Baron Batch Sunday, so Jones is a threat to make the roster.
"We had an opportunity to acquire a guy that's a known commodity in the NFL," Tomlin said. "We got him in here at the eleventh hour. I thought he did a nice job in terms of preparing and being able to do something for us in the game. We'll continue to get to know him."
What they cannot do is continue to muddle their ground game.
NFL Team Report - Pittsburgh Steelers - NOTES, QUOTES
--The Steelers placed LB Sean Spence on reserve/PUP, put DE Nick Williams on IR, waived G Justin Cheadle injured, and waived LB Stevenson Sylvester, RB Baron Batch, CB DeMarcus Van Dyke, QB John Parker Wilson, OT D'Anthony Batiste, OT Mike Farrell, WR David Gilreath, WR Tyler Shaw, WR J.D. Woods, TE Peter Tuitupou and RB Jeremy Wright.
--Perhaps the best competition still ongoing is at punter. It appeared the Steelers signed veteran NFL punter Brian Moorman, named to the first all-decade team of this century, to take Drew Butler's spot, but Butler outkicked his older competition Saturday night. Moorman clanked a punt out of bounds for 31 yards as each took a full half.
Butler has a 47.3 gross average with a 33.5 net through three games. Moorman is 40.5 and 37.9 Both made it through the first cut, a sign they have not yet decided which one to keep.
--Jarvis Jones was carried off a stretcher Saturday night and taken to a hospital for basically having the wind knocked out of him.
"He's just going to hear from a lot of guys about how soft he is," veteran linebacker Larry Foote said, kidding Jones.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We felt like we were disrespected with Andy Reid going for it on fourth-and-one that far toward his end zone." -- Safety Ryan Clark after the first-team defense stopped the Chiefs on that play for no gain at the KC 21 on their second series Saturday night.
NFL Team Report - Pittsburgh Steelers - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
BIGGEST QUESTION TO BE ANSWERED: Can this offensive line block?
The Steelers have not had a great offensive line in a long, long time. They have not had a real good one either, in fact winning a Super Bowl in 2008 and advancing to another in 2010 with a mediocre line. They've since poured four top draft picks into it and they all will start, including three-time Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey (first, 2010). Others: Guard David DeCastro (first, 2012) and tackles Marcus Gilbert (second, 2011) and Mike Adams (second, 2012). Through three preseason games, they look no better than previous lines. Their quarterbacks have been sacked 14 times and their ground game averages just 3.5 yards per carry.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Jarvis Jones vs. Jason Worilds at ROLB -- Jones wound up in a hospital after he fell on a ball Saturday night and he probably will not play Thursday night. But he's OK, and he continued to display his talents all over the field, intercepting a pass that was called back by a penalty, helping stop a fourth-and-one run and putting heat on the quarterback. He could open the season as their starter.
--LB Jarvis Jones is OK after he spent a night in the hospital when he landed on a football Saturday. He will not play Thursday in Carolina.
--LB Sean Spence went on the reserve/PUP list and while he could possibly return later in the season, his 2012 preseason knee injury won't allow him to.
--RB Isaac Redman (stinger) did not practice Monday and may miss his third straight game.
--RB Le'Veon Bell (right foot sprain) is out indefinitely.
--TE Matt Spaeth (foot) is out indefinitely.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--QB Charlie Batch (not tendered as UFA).
--NT Casey Hampton (not tendered as UFA).
--LB Brandon Johnson (not tendered as UFA).
--P Jeremy Kapinos (not tendered as RFA).
--QB Byron Leftwich (not tendered as UFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: none.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED (all picks signed)
--LB Jarvis Jones (1/17): $8,705,502 all guaranteed/4 yrs, $4,711,272 SB.
--RB Le'Veon Bell (2/48): $4,120,600/4 yrs, $1,376,800 SB/$97,300 RB 2014.
--WR Markus Wheaton (3/79): $2,811,376/4 yrs, $591,376 SB.
--S Shamarko Thomas (4/111): $2,613,152/4 yrs, $453,152 SB.
--QB Landry Jones (4/115): $2,599,220/4 yrs, $439,220 SB.
--CB Terry Hawthorne (5/150): $2,350,052/4 yrs, $190,052 SB.
--WR Justin Brown (6/186): $2,264,072/4 yrs, (104,072 SB.
--RB Vince Williams (6/206): $2,238,680/4 yrs, $78,680 SB.
--DE Nick Williams (7/223): $2,217,848/4 yrs, $57,848 SB.
--WR Plaxico Burress: Potential UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--RB Jonathan Dwyer: Potential RFA; $1.323M/1 yr.
--LB Larry Foote: Potential UFA; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--G Ramon Foster: Potential UFA; $6M/3 yrs.
--TE David Johnson: UFA Steelers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--CB Justin King: Potential UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--NT Steve McLendon: RFA tendered at $1.323M with no compensation); $7.25M/3 yrs, $1.67M SB.
--RB Isaac Redman: RFA tendered at $1.323M with no compensation); $1.323M/1 yr.
--WR Emmanuel Sanders: RFA tendered at 1.323M with third-round pick as compensation); matched Patriots offer $2.5M/1 yr.
--LS Greg Warren: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--CB William Gay: FA Cardinals; $4.5M/3 yrs, $500,000 SB.
--QB Bruce Gradkowski: UFA Bengals; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--RB Felix Jones (trade Eagles).
--P Brian Moorman: UFA Cowboys; terms unknown.
--QB John Parker Wilson (waivers Jaguars).
--TE Matt Spaeth: FA Bears; $2M/2 yrs, $250,000 SB.
--RB LaRod Stephens-Howling: UFA Cardinals; terms unknown.
--OT Guy Whimper: FA Jaguars; terms unknown.
--S Will Allen: UFA Cowboys; $905,000/1 yr, $65,000 SB.
--RB Baron Batch (released).
--G Willie Colon (released/post-June 1 designation).
--LB James Harrison (released).
--C/G Doug Legursky: Not tendered as UFA/Bills; terms unknown.
--CB Keenan Lewis: UFA Saints; $26M/5 yrs, $6M SB/$11M guaranteed.
--RB Rashard Mendenhall: UFA Cardinals; $2.5M/1 yr.
--S Ryan Mundy: UFA Giants; terms unknown.
--TE Leonard Pope: Not tendered as UFA/Bears; terms unknown.
--RB Chris Rainey (released).
--LB Adrian Robinson (traded Eagles).
--T Max Starks: UFA Chargers; terms unknown.
--LB Stevenson Sylvester (released).
--WR Mike Wallace: UFA Dolphins; $60M/5 yrs, $11M SB/$30M guaranteed/$27M fully guaranteed.