Steelers Player News

Steelers player news is news relating to former and current players in the Steelers’ organization. This includes news about the players during and after each season. Player news could involve injuries, suspensions, and position battles. The players are the most important asset to every pro-sports organization. Therefore, player news is an important topic for anyone covering any team. The Pittsburgh Steelers have a long history. The current and former players have a lot to do with the importance of this team.

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Steelers, Le’Veon Bell May be Headed Toward Holdout

In February, the Steelers Le’Veon Bell was hit with the franchise tag. That meant two things. First, Bell, who was paid $1.13 million in 2016 is getting a 1200% pay raise next season. It also meant the Steelers are able to keep their running back, and one of the best offensive players in the NFL, around for another season.

Franchise tags, however, also have negative impacts for both the team and the player. For the Steelers they are stuck with a $12 million cap hit for 2017. As for Bell, he wants a long-term deal. Many pro sports players only get a chance at one big contract. This, as Bell has shown his importance to the Steelers offense, is his chance.

As of right now Bell has not shown up to any of the Steelers off-season activities. He, likely, will try to avoid the field until he is under a new contract.

Why Le’Veon Bell Wants to Sign an Extension

Le’Veon Bell wants to get locked into a long-term deal with lots of guaranteed money. Who wouldn’t want that? Also, you have to factor in Bell’s injury history so far during his NFL career. Another knee injury or other major injury in 2017 could have a massive impact on a contract for Bell next off-season.

Of course, that is the worst case scenario, but when it comes down to millions of dollars you have to look at the worst case scenarios. Bell wants to be locked in before stepping back on the field and it is hard to blame him.

Fans often get angry with players who are holding out. I can remember when Mike Wallace was in the middle of his holdout and Steelers fans wanted to run him out of town, but put yourself in that situation. I would want my money also and wouldn’t want to risk losing the amount of money that Bell could risk losing by joining the Steelers for minicamp and training camp.

Why the Steelers Want an Extension Done

When the Steelers drafted Le’Veon Bell he was supposed to be the new franchise running back. I don’t think anyone really expected him to become the kind of weapon he has become. At this point in his career Bell is one of the top players not only on the Steelers, but in the NFL.

Therefore, the Steelers would be dumb not to want to sign him to an extension. When you can lock-up a duo of offensive threats like Bell and Antonio Brown, and do so for the next four years, you kind of have to do it.

Another reason for the Steelers to get this deal done is to spread out Bell’s cap hits over the course of a contract. As things stand currently Bell will be the highest paid running back in 2017 by a margin of $4 million.

Why the Steelers May be Hesitant

Running backs are not as highly valued as they used to be. In fact, running backs are being drafted lower on average in the NFL Draft and are not making as much money in free agency. One of the reasons for this change is the move to more passing in NFL offenses. Another reason is that running backs don’t last as long as players at other positions.

There is a lot of wear and tear on NFL running backs. That leads to teams moving on from running backs, for the most part, around their 30th birthday. A positive to this situation is that Bell just turned 25. So, a four or five year deal would still allow the Steelers to avoid the dreaded highly-paid thirty-year-old running back.

Why Le’Veon Bell Could be Hesitant

The Steelers do not overpay. And they will try not to overpay Bell with a new deal. Another team, however, may be willing to overpay for Bell if he were to hit free agency. One drawback is that the Steelers could choose to franchise tag Bell again next off-season.

That, however, would require a 120% pay increase. A pay increase of 120% would bring Bell’s contract to $14.4 million. The Steelers are unlikely to go to that number, but they could use a second franchise tag to give them another chance to sing Bell to a long-term deal and that would put Bell in the position of playing out another year and risking injury.

Since a second franchise tag is unlikely that would mean Bell would hit free agency. In that scenario, there are plenty of teams with a lot of salary cap room that may be willing to sign Bell to a large deal. Any team would be excited to have Bell. He is the type of player that could excite a fan-base and ignite a franchise.

Expected Outcome

The Steelers do not negotiate during the season. That gives Bell and the Steelers about two months to get a deal done. Another reason to expect a deal to get done is the Steelers cap situation. They have $12 million to work with as Bell’s current contract on the franchise tag. They also have another $16 million of cap space to add to the scenario.

That gives them all the money they need to get a deal done. The only question now is whether the two sides can agree to terms. Bell previously talked about wanting $15 million a year, but those demands seem to be a past issue. The Steelers are probably looking in the range of $8 million, that is the same as LeSean McCoy, the second-highest paid running back currently behind Bell. If the sides have a difference of $4-7 million that could cause some major issues in negotiations.

I do expect some issues in these negotiations, but I also expect it to get done. It would surprise me if the Steelers and Bell were in a long hold-out situation this off-season. Instead, I think a four or five year deal will be signed sometime in July to keep Bell from spending too much time away from the team.

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Bud Dupree is Poised For Breakout Season in Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Steelers have always been known for their defense. A big part of that defense, especially during the Steelers Super Bowl runs in 2006, 2008 and 2010, was the team’s pass-rush. They like to get after the quarterback, which, in turn, makes life easier for everyone else on the defensive unit. During those runs the Steelers relied on guys like Joey Porter, Clark Haggans, LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison, Harrison is still around, but the Steelers are now ready to turn to a new face, Bud Dupree.

Dupree, the Steelers first-round pick in 2015, looks like he is ready to follow in the footsteps of those before him. Although he missed the first half of the 2016 season with an injury, he was able to return and play a key role in the Steelers seven game sin streak down the stretch. Playing in only seven games Dupree totaled 24 tackles and 4.5 sacks. Now, Dupree will be looked at to take on a full-time starting job at outside linebacker in year three.

Double-Digit Sack Numbers

Image result for bud dupreeDupree, while sharing time at outside linebacker, racked up 4.5 sacks in only seven games. If he can stay healthy in 2017 and earn a full-time starter job there is no reason to think that he can’t put up double-digit sack numbers this season. In fact, Dupree looks like a player who is truly ready to breakout. Watching him play down the stretch he looked very good and he should continue to improve, especially with another off-season under his belt.

Dupree, and the team’s other young outside linebackers like TJ Watt and Keion Adams, also have a great mentor in James Harrison. Harrison, although only a step away from turning 40, is still one of the leagues best pass-rushers. He also has a work ethic that would be hard for anyone to match. For players just starting their careers he is a great role model to show them what it takes to be successful in the NFL.

Potential Impact on the 2017 Season

Just for fun let’s say that Bud Dupree has a similar season to LaMarr Woodley’s third year in the league. During the 2009 season Woodley had 13.5 sacks and 62 tackles. That also, unfortunately, happened to be Woodley’s best season as a pro. Now, if Dupree can put up numbers similar to those it would have a huge impact on the defense as a whole. Early in Woodley’s career he was a force to be reckoned with and constantly put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

After his career was derailed with injuries, however, the Steelers have been looking for a replacement to play opposite Harrison. Jarvis Jones was drafted to be that guy, but that never worked out. Now, the Steelers are turning to Bud Dupree and TJ Watt to be the next outside linebacker duo in Pittsburgh to wreck havoc on the league. Watt may need a year or two to get to that level, but Dupree should be ready to go.

Another huge impact that Dupree could have this season is making life easier on the secondary. The Steelers secondary struggled in 2016, especially in the AFC Championship game, but if the Steelers can put more pressure on the quarterback this season it will cause two things. First, quarterbacks will have to make quicker decisions resulting in more opportunities for interceptions and knockdowns. Second, it will result in more hits on the quarterback, which are shown to have a major impact as a game wears on.

Preparing for Year Three

Dupree knows that he has to improve to become the player he wants to be. During the off-season he has used boxing as a way to work on speed, footwork and it should help with that quick punch to get around the edge.

Dupree, as well as the other young Steelers defenders, are also using their loss in the AFC Championship as motivation. They know they need to get better if they want to reach their ultimate goal. They also know that they continued to grow during the 2016 season and should only get better as time moves on.

“We’re going to be a way more mature defense,” Dupree said of Pittsburgh’s defense. “We’re just going to continue to blossom. It’s going to be something to watch next year.”

 

 

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Steelers May Have Found More Impact Rookies in the 2017 Draft

The running line in Pittsburgh for years has been that the Steelers don’t play rookies much, if at all, making their number of impact rookies low from year to year. They let them learn and when they are ready they are inserted into the lineup. That is a product of being a successful organization. When the Steelers draft a player, typically, they don’t need that player to step in to fill a hole or turn things around for the team. That is also one of the reasons why the Steelers have more successful drafts than other teams.

Image result for browns draft pick failsThe Browns are the perfect example to show what I am talking about. When the Browns are consistently drafting in the top 5 of the NFL Draft they have to look for a player to turn things around. They have drafted multiple quarterbacks and most have failed to bring any success to Cleveland. That, however, is not because all of those players didn’t have the skills to be NFL players. Instead, they are brought in as rookies and looked at to be saviors. The fan base rejoices at the sight of the new player and hopes they can turn it all around. That, unfortunately for teams like the Browns, is too much pressure to put on a young player. And, as we have seen for years, is not a good way to welcome a young player into the NFL.

Now, looking back at the Steelers, it is easy to see how their draft picks find more success. Players are drafted and allowed to learn the nuiances of the NFL before being thrown into the fire. Players aren’t drafted to change the fortunes. Rather the Steelers draft players to be replacements. They are given time and, when they are ready, they step in to fill a hole or to replace a veteran. That is the recipe for success, but it has also led to some criticism. Fans often complain that the Steelers need to find better impact rookies. The fact is, though, that they probably have had many players that could have been impact rookies, but they were given time to develop first.

The 2016 Rookie Class

Then, in 2017, the Steelers broke their mold a bit. In need of help in the secondary the Steelers turned to rookies Artie Burns and Sean Davis to help. Burns started the year as a rotational player, but eventually became a full-time stater and looks like he can become a very good outside corner. As for Davis, the Steelers 2016 second round pick, had an excellent rookie season. Davis looks like he can be an All-Pro level safety.

Perhaps he will never reach the level of Troy Polamalu, but Davis should help to alleviate the hole left by the future Hall of Famer.

 The Next Impact Rookies:

Now, the Steelers are preparing to enter training camp for the 2017 season. After a successful 2016 season the team will look to build on what they did a season ago. Part of that will be bringing along another draft class and, once again, looking for a couple of impact rookies to make a difference on defense.

Typically teams turn to their first round pick to be an impact player. For the Steelers, however, it may be their second and third round picks that will have the real impact in 2017.

Juju Smith-Schuster

When the Steelers saw Juju Smith-Schuster on the board in the second round they had to pull the trigger. Wide receiver wasn’t a need for the Steelers, but a player of Smith-Schuster’s ability is hard to pass up at the end of the second round. Smith-Schuster also adds a new component to the Steelers offense. He is a big-bodied receiver who can make catches in the middle of the field. He should find plenty of open room with teams focusing on Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant.

Smith- Schuster’s ability to play in the middle of the field should also help to replace the departed Ladarius Green. Another key to Smith-Schuster’s game is his willingness to block. He is not afriad of contact and will help to block down-field and spring big plays. Just look at this hit, he kind of looks like a young Hines Ward:

Cameron Sutton

Image result for cameron sutton steelersThe Steelers are also looking to third round pick Cameron Sutton to help solidify their secondary. Sutton has, during OTAs, opened a few eyes with his play. According to reports he gets his hands on the ball a lot. Sutton can play inside and out as a corner and could be another mid-round find for the Steelers.

Dale Lolley of the Observer-Reporter said:

“I’m really liking what I’m seeing from rookie cornerback Cameron Sutton.He had a nice interception this week, leaping high to come down with a pass. The young corner has shown good aggression in jumping routes and making plays on the football. He gets his hands on the ball – a lot.

I think Steelers fans are going to be very happy with him, as well. He looks like a player.”

TJ Watt

Watt also has the ability to make an impact early in his career, but the Steelers have typically been slower to develop their pass-rusher. He will likely only be used as a situational pass-rusher, similar to how the Steelers used Bud Dupree, Jarvis Jones and LaMarr Woodley during their rookie seasons. That, however, still gives Watt a chance to have an impact and show what he can do moving forward.

As a rookie, in limited time, Woodley had 4.5 sacks and showed the Steelers that they had a player who could take a starting hob in his second season. Hopefully Watt can have a similar, if not better, rookie season and come back ready to play full-time in his sophomore season.

 

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The Steelers Extra Second Round Pick, Senquez Golson, is Ready

Senquez Golson was drafted in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft to help bolster the Steelers secondary. He was looked at as a player that could step in right away and help in the slot and in the nickle defense. Then, a shoulder injury derailed his rookie season before it ever really starter. When year two rolled around, Golson again lost his season, this time to a foot injury.

“This,’’ Golson told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “is my third ‘first’ year.”

Golson is one of the lucky ones, though, despite missing his first two seasons with injury he still has a roster spot and he is still competing for a job in Pittsburgh. It is said all of the time that the NFL is a business and that is the truth. Talking with a friend the other day he told me about a story of a friend of his that was in training camp with an NFL team. On his first day of off-season activities the coach said “We aren’t your family. Your family won’t cut you and never look back, but we will if you don’t show us what we are looking for.” That is the reality of pro sports.

Every team is looking to get better at all times. Only the true star players are really safe at any given time. And sometimes even those players aren’t safe due to their large cap numbers and salaries. Just look at what Kevin Colbert, the Steelers GM, said regarding Golson earlier this year:

“Through no fault of his own, he has been injured two years in a row,’’ Colbert said. “And in all honesty, I worry about a defensive back coming off of a foot injury because you don’t know what he’s going to be like and we won’t know until we get into the OTAs and mini-camps, and things of that nature.”

Basically, Colbert was saying that Golson will be given a chance to show what he can do, but they aren’t relying on him or expecting anything from him. That means anything Golson can do will be an addition to the team, but again the NFL is a business first. If Golson doesn’t show anything during this training camp, or if the injury bug hits again it could be the end.

Image result for senquez golsonAn Extra Second Round Pick with “Experience”

Now, lets look at this situation in a positive light and hope Golson comes into camp healthy and stays that way. He still has second-round talent. He is only 23 years old (he will turn 24 on July 7th) and he feels as though his previous injuries have not changed him as a player.

Senquez Golson also has one advantage over the incoming players and rookies in the secondary. Although he hasn’t gotten the on-field experience in his first two years, he has been in the meeting room with the other defensive backs. He has had two full years of learning the playbook and those two things give him a lot of experience. Even if it isn’t on-field experience.

“At this point, the only thing I’m missing is in-game experience,” he said. “I pretty much have the basics down. I don’t feel any hitch, no falloff, nothing like that.”

A New Battle

Battling through injuries is a new battle for Senquez Golson. To make it to the NFL a player has to be the best player in High School and one of, if not the best, player at their respective college. Most of these players have also avoided major injuries that could have derailed their path to the NFL at any time. Now, imagine being injury free, making it to the NFL, and then the injuries you have avoided your whole life finally show up. That has been reality for Golson.

“Never in my life — ever — never missed a season, never missed time, never had an injury, never had surgery,” he said. “This is all new to me, but it’s kind of gotten familiar.”

Hopefully for Senquez Golson, and the Steelers who could use the depth in the secondary, this is the beginning and end of injury problems for Golson. If he can stay healthy he could be another solid addition to the Steelers secondary. The team added rookies Artie Burns and Sean Davis a season ago. Now, they have Cameron Sutton who is already looking like he could be a player during OTAs. Adding a healthy Golson to the mix would just be the icing on top.

Golson will have that chance and he is ready.

I’m still the same guy they drafted,” Golson said.

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The Potentially Huge Steelers Addition That No One is, Or Will, Talk About

Two years ago the Steelers had defensive ends Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt playing an unprecedented number of snaps. To help shoulder that load the team added Ricardo Matthews in free agency. During the 2016 season the Steelers were still relying heavily on Heyward and Tuitt as Matthews battled some injuries. After Heyward, himself, suffered a season-ending injury the Steelers were forced to turn to LT Walton and Johnny Maxey.

Image result for tyson alualuDuring this off-season, however, the Steelers went for a more proven player to join the mix. Tyson Alualu was never meant to be drafted as high as he was. Perhaps that stigma stuck with him during his career in Jacksonville, I can’t say for sure. Now that he is in Pittsburgh, however, I can say that the Steelers signed him to be exactly who he is. Which is a solid defensive lineman who can play at the tackle position in a four-man front and at the end position in a three-man front.

Alualu also comes with a lot of experience, something that Walton and Maxey, who are also still on the roster, do not have. Walton and Maxey are players that can add depth on the roster. They can also step in for reps when needed, but Alualu gives the Steelers something they have been missing. He is a player that can step in and the team won’t miss a beat. He is the type of player that can start in place of Heyward and Tuitt and no one has to worry about what they might get out of him.

The Former Top-Ten Pick

Alualu was projected as a late-first, or early second round pick in 2010. Then, the Jacksonville Jaguars surprised everyone by drafting him with the tenth overall pick. Alualu had his most productive season a year ago and now joins the Steelers defense with a chance of being a big-time contributor.

The defensive ends in the Steelers defense serve a vital role, but they don’t always get the credit that they deserve. Aaron Smith, who played for the Steelers for 13 years, was a huge part of the Steelers defense, but I don’t think he is always remembered alongside players like Troy Polamalu, Joey Porter and James Harrison. Brett Keisel was more well-known, but a lot of that probably came from the beard.

In football there are some positions that, at times, get overlooked. When a quarterback hits a receiver for a 70 yard touchdown we look at the receivers and quarterback stats, but we often overlook the offensive line that gave them the time to get the play off. Defensive ends play a similar role on defense. They take up blockers and open lanes so that the linebackers can get to the quarterback. When the linebacker is celebrating the sack, however, we don’t always pay attention to the defensive lineman that made the play possible.

Improved Pass Rush in 2017

Image result for cameron heyward steelersThe development of Bud Dupree and TJ Watt will be important to improving the pass rush in 2017, but the play of the defensive line will also be vital. Javon Hargrave, Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu should see a lot of snaps this season. It will be their job to open lanes and take on blockers to help give the linebackers lanes to the quarterbacks. They are also working towards the same goal, tackling the running backs or sacking the quarterbacks, but many times they play a thankless role.

When the Steelers defense was putting up big sack numbers in the mid 2000’s guys like James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Joey Porter and Clark Haggans got much of the credit. They all were benefitted greatly, though, from playing alongside guys like Aaron Smith, Kemo von Oelhoffen, and Brett Keisel. Now, the Steelers have a new era of solid defensive lineman and those players should be able to make life easier for guys like Dupree, Watt, Ryan Shazier and Vince Williams.

If Hargrave, Heyward, Tuitt and Alualu can open gaps and take up blockers the Steelers pass-rush should be more potent during the upcoming season. To do so that group will need to stay healthy. The addition of Alualu should help with that as he can take up snaps and keep Heyward and Tuitt from wearing down.

Defensive Line Depth Chart for 2017

Javon Hargrave will be the top Nose Tackle. He will also be the first lineman brought in for sub packages. The Steelers top defensive ends will be Heyward and Tuitt. Behind them will be Tyson Alualu as the primary back-up and then some combination of L.T.Walton, Johnny Maxey, or some other players brought into compete during camp.

As for the back-up nose tackle, that job currently belongs to Daniel McCullers, but there are a decent number of young players, who will be in camp, that can take that job for themselves if McCullers doesn’t show improvement in year three.

 

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Marcus Gilbert is Out of Headlines and That is Big Deal

Some players are always in the headlines. Antonio Brown will fill up headlines for the rest of his career. As will guys like Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell. Other players, guys like Johnny Manziel, make headlines for the wrong reasons. Then, you have the players that never want to see their names in the headlines. That includes guys like Colin Holba, Alejandro Villanueva, Chris Boswell, Jordan Berry and Marcus Gilbert.

Special Team Aces Avoid Headlines

Kickers, punters and long-snappers want to avoid headlines. Long-snappers only make the headlines if they have a bad snap that causes a missed kick or a lost game. Punters and kickers only make headlines when they miss a kick or have a bad kick. Every once in a while a kicker makes a headline for a big-time game-winning kick, but those times are rare and they would probably rather stay out of the headlines altogether.

Offensive Lineman are in the Same Boat

Offensive Lineman also would, likely, rather stay out of the headlines. When Le’Veon Bell runs for 150 yards the stories don’t talk about the blocking up front, but if Ben Roethlisberger gets sacked 10 times you better believe they will talk about those guys, and they would rather avoid that.

Guys like Marcus Gilbert staying out of the headlines is a good thing. When you hear too much about lineman it isn’t good and Marcus Gilbert has finally gotten out of the headlines.

Gilbert’s Early Years

Gilbert moved between right and left tackle. He battled with guys like Mike Adams year-in and year-out for a job. Injuries plagued his early career and fans called for him to be released time and time again, but now, a few years later Gilbert is the only one of them still around and there are no longer questions about whether or not he belongs.

In fact, Gilbert now finds himself as the for-sure starting right tackle. And is part of an offensive line that should rank somewhere in the top five of the entire NFL.

Becoming a Leader

It is hard to believe that Marcus Gilbert is already entering the seventh year of his career. He has finally locked up a starting job and has taken on a leadership role with guys like Al Villanueva, but he is also very competitive. When Myles Garrett, the Browns first round pick, said he most wants to sack Ben Roethlisberger, Gilbert took it as a challenge.

“Of course I saw it,” Gilbert said last Thursday. “It was on every news outlet. To us, we look at it as a challenge. Who wouldn’t want to go up against a future Hall of Fame quarterback? When you look at our division, Ben stands out alone. I can see why he would say that. But then again, that was a challenge. He wrote a check. Whoever challenges one of our guys, or our team, we’re going to step in and be ready for the battle.”

Although Gilbert has finally found his role with the Steelers, he is still looking for something else. He used to want Pro Bowl honors, but now it is all about winning it all.

“At this point of my career winning a Super Bowl is most important,” he said. “Adding one Pro Bowl to your resume? OK. But I’m going into my seventh year. It’s time.”

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William Gay, the Odd Man Out, and Camp Hasn’t Even Started Yet

There are a lot of signs pointing to the end of William Gay’s career in Pittsburgh. First, he did not have a good day at the office during the AFC Championship. Tom Brady and Julian Edelman picked on Gay all day and that is enough for many to want him gone. Next, you can factor in the signing of Coty Sensabaugh. Sensabaugh fits into the Steelers defense as a slot corner, the position Gay plays, he is also the Steelers only major free agent signing.

A Move to Safety

There have been rumors that Gay could move to safety. Perhaps the signing of Sensabaugh and the drafting of Cameron Sutton and Brian Allen was to shore up the cornerback position and to replace Gay. Replacing him could be in terms of a move to safety, though, rather than Gay being cut.

The problem, however, is that Gay is not going to be replacing Sean Davis at safety. Davis played very well as a rookie and should only continue to improve year-by-year. Free safety, a spot currently taken by Mike Mitchell, would be a better fit for Gay, but again Mitchell doesn’t seem likely to be replaced.

Mitchell has also been in the rumor mill this off-season. Questions about whether he will complete his 5-year deal in Pittsburgh have been posed. Cutting Mitchell in favor of Gay, though, seems like an odd choice to make. Gay would be a newcomer at safety and Mitchell has played well in that spot, although not great.

Gay Still Standing Strong at OTAs

During the Steelers first round of off-season activities William Gay was playing with the starting defense. He is currently playing as the team’s third corner. Gay plays in the slot while Artie Burns and Ross Cockrell play outside. That is the same set-up that the Steelers used last season. Perhaps fans aren’t too excited to hear that as the secondary struggled last year.

We do, also, have to remember that this was the start of OTAs. The team isn’t going to put a free agent signing or rookie into the mix right off the bat. Someone is going to have to take that spot from Gay. Whether it is Senquez Golson, Cameron Sutton, or Coty Sensabaugh, that player is going to have to earn the spot and take it from Gay. The Steelers aren’t going to be handing out any starting jobs this summer.

PFF Praises Gay for His Play in 2017

First, PFF praised Gay for his stats as a slot corner. This stat sheet proves something we already knew. Gay is not a great outside corner, but he does stack up well as a slot corner.

Next, we have these stats marking William Gay as the top coverage corner in the AFC North last season.

Now, take these, and any other stats from PFF, with a grain of salt. There is a lot to look into with these stats. For instance, Gay being the best AFC North corner is ranking the players on stats based on coverage snaps. The problem with this data is that the wide receivers outside are usually more dangerous, and receive more targets than the wide receivers in the slot.

That means that Gay’s yards-per-coverage-snap stats would be skewed by the position he plays. Artie Burns and Ross Cockrell, who play against the better wide receivers, should have worse stats in this area. Just think about the Bengals. They throw the ball to AJ Green a lot more than anyone else. That means that every snap Gay plays where the ball goes to Green counts as a positive for Gay.

So, even though some of the stats look nice, they don’t tell the whole picture. Even so, Gay probably gets more heat than he really deserves.

Better Pass-Rush = Better Secondary

Whether or not William Gay makes the Steelers 53-man roster in 2017 they do have to fix the secondary. One of the most important things they can do to help is increase pressure on the quarterback. I am under the impression that pressure on the quarterback makes everything easier for the defense.

A better pass-rush up front will make things easier for all of the corners and safeties. That, in turn, will make the defense better. James Harrison, Bud Dupree and TJ Watt will be called upon to improve that pass-rush and make the defense better.

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Ryan Shazier Opens Up About a Major Issue, Bullying

It doesn’t matter if you are an NFL linebacker or a loner in school, everyone can be the victim of bullying. Ryan Shazier recently shared a great piece on The Players Tribune titled “Bruh.” In the piece Shazier shares his story of growing up with alopecia. Alopecia is a condition that causes the immune system to attack hair follicles, resulting in hair loss.

Alopecia can occur in one or more sports, but it can also cause complete hair loss. Ryan Shazier started losing his hair as a child and had to live through the bullying of being “the bald kid.”

“When I was nine, we moved from Ft. Lauderdale to Waco, Texas, so my father could complete his divinity degree and become a pastor. That meant I was going to be the new kid in school. Easy target.

I heard every insult you can think of …. Cueball. Patches. Chia pet.”

As a High School teacher I can say that kids can be very cruel. They don’t think about how their actions and words affect other people. That is why it is so important for people like Shazier to share his story. Kids need to hear from people like Shazier to know that the bullying and name-calling doesn’t have to hold them back, even if it is painful.

“When we moved back to Ft. Lauderdale three years later, I was once again in that same situation. New school. New bald kid. New insults. Guess what? Florida kids aren’t any different from Texas kids.

Magic 8 ball. Cancer boy. Professor X (that one was kind of dope).

It just went on and on. And you know what I would do every time they fired off a new insult? I’d just laugh.

That’s how you win against a bully. That’s how you really piss them off.”

This was my favorite part of this article. Last year I was coaching the Freshman football team at my High School. We went into the locker room at halftime and the kids started telling me about the name calling and bullying that was occurring on the field coming from the other team. I told them, “don’t worry about it just smile and laugh and don’t say a word.” In the second half of that game the other team had four 15-yard penalties called against them for pushing or hitting my players after the play.

Each and every time my players would come off the field saying “I just smiled at him and he got pissed and hit me.” Bullies are just trying to get a rise out of you, but if you smile along with them you take all of their power away.

The saddest part of the article by Shazier, however, is the thought that bullying has gotten even worse with social media. People are willing to say anything over social media. Especially, considering these are things that they would never say to the person’s face.

If you haven’t yet read Shazier’s article, you need to. The article was written about Shazier having hair start regrowing. James Harrison noticed the hair growth in an elevator after the Cowboys game last season.

“Then he says, ‘Bruh …’

You know that feeling when someone is just staring at you all wide-eyed and not saying anything? It’s the worst.

I’m like, ‘What? Bro, what?’

He says, ‘Bruh … I think your hair’s growing out.'”

For someone like Shazier, who has not been able to grow hair for most of his life, this would have been a miracle. Shazier grew out what little hair was coming back in. He then had an appearance on NFL Network and the comments and attacks on Shazier via Social Media are extremely depressing.

Ryan Shazier is a top-flight NFL linebacker, but even he was attacked by internet bullies. Just imagine what unpopular kids must go through on a daily basis on their Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Especially, if someone as famous and successful as Shazier can be a target.

For all of the kids out there that deal with bullying on a daily basis just remember these couple of things: Many of us have been in your shoes, it hurts and it affects you daily, but you will get through it. Even people as successful as Ryan Shazier go through the same things you are going through. And most importantly, who you are is the most important thing and no one can take that away from you. Just smile, laugh and be yourself; doing those things will take all of the power away from the bully.

“I had some hair again. And I have no idea why. Like, this isn’t supposed to happen. I haven’t been doing the shots or the cream or anything for years. My hair just decided to grow back on its own, I guess.

And you know what? It didn’t change anything. I was amazed for like a day, but then I woke up the next morning, and I was still me, and I was like …

That Ezekiel Elliott, man. Damn.”

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Martavis Bryant’s Return Could Have Huge Impact on Antonio Brown

It would be easy to think that Ben Roethlisberger is the happiest person in the Steelers locker-room to have Martavis Bryant return. It may, however, be Antonio Brown who is the happiest guy to see number 10 back on the field. Martavis Bryant’s impact on how defenses play Brown could be extensive and that is a scary thought for defensive coordinators.

Antonio Brown’s Best Season

Image result for antonio brownDuring the 2015 season, his only season with Martavis Bryant lined up opposite him, Antonio Brown put up absolutely ridiculous numbers. He had 136 receptions for 1834 yards and 10 touchdowns. Those are Madden numbers. No one is supposed to put up numbers like that in real life, but Brown did. One of the reasons was that defenses had to be cautious of putting too much emphasis on shutting him down.

If a defense chooses to focus their attention on stopping Brown they put themselves in a tough spot. First, they have to worry about Le’Veon Bell in the backfield. Then, you have to worry about guys like Eli Rogers, and now Juju Smith-Schuster, getting open underneath. Now, the Steelers get to add Bryant back into the mix. Get to worried about the players mentioned above and you run the risk of leaving Bryant in single-coverage. Do that and you will see six-points going up on the scoreboard.

Bryant is the type of deep-threat and big-play receiver that gives defensive coordinators nightmares. Add Antonio Brown into the mix and you may just have the best wide-receiver duo in the NFL. The return of Bryant should take some emphasis off of Brown, which means Brown will just make more plays. Either that or we will see Bryant absolutely break out this season if teams choose to overlook him in an effort to shut down Brown. Whatever choice they make it means good things for Pittsburgh.

Martavis Bryant’s Impact on the Offense

Martavis Bryant’s impact on Antonio Brown should be huge. I expect to see a big season out of both players, but I also expect Brown to have an even easier time making plays now that Bryant is playing opposite him again.

The impact of re-adding Bryant to the offense, though, doesn’t stop with Brown. His return will have a major impact on the entire offense this season. Sammie Coates was the Steelers deep threat in 2016, but injuries derailed his season. Coates was a decent replacement, but he is not the same player that Bryant is and can be.

Adding a threat like Bryant should make things easier on everyone in the offense. The underneath routes will be more open, because teams will have to respect the deep-ball. Teams will struggle to stack the box against the run, which will make life easier on Le’Veon Bell. Just think, if a defense tries to put eight in the box, they leave three guys to stop Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. Good luck.

Bryant is Just Getting Started

Martavis Bryant RetrunThe most exciting thing about having Bryant back is that he is only 25 years old. He is just getting started in the NFL. Granted he missed 2016 because of his own mistakes, but all accounts this off-season are that he is a changed man. Now, whatever side of the Marijuana argument you may be on, it is still a banned substance in the NFL. Hopefully, the suspensions and off-field issues are behind him at this time.

If he can keep his off-field life from affecting his playing time and on-field production this is a player that could become very good. Bryant has the talent and ability to be a top 10 wide receiver in the NFL. That means two things. First, the Steelers could have two top-ten receivers on their roster for the next two seasons. Second, it likely means the Steelers will not be able to resign Bryant once he hits free agency.

That is the unfortunate part of drafting very good players. Due to the salary cap you can’t always keep them all, but a combination of Brown and Bryant should give Ben Roethlisberger good reason to play the next two seasons. With a solid offensive line, running back like Bell and this receiving-corps the Steelers have everything they need to make a run. Thankfully, Bryant will get to be a part of it again in 2017.

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Corner Coty Sensabaugh Looks to Get Back on Track in Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Steelers have never fared very well against Tom Brady. When the Patriots torched the Steelers secondary in the AFC Championship game it was clear that the Steelers defense needed to improve. There are two aspects to a solid pass-defense. First, the front-seven has to get pressure on the quarterback. Doing so assures that he can’t sit back and wait for a receiver to get open. The second key is a solid group of defensive backs that can cover long enough to let the front-seven get to the QB.

In that AFC Championship game the Steelers got to Brady twice for two sacks, but they only hit him one other time and put little pressure on him outside of those sacks. The defense also allowed Brady to go 32/42 passing. That type of performance is not going to cut and the Steelers have used this off-season to work towards getting better.

They added TJ Watt to the front-seven with their first round pick. Also in the draft, they added corners Cameron Sutton and Brian Allen. Cameron Heyward will be back; he missed that game due to injury. Another, potentially big pick-up, came in free agency with the signing of Coty Sensabaugh.

Sensabaugh’s NFL Career

Image result for coty sensabaughSensabaugh was drafted in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. It took him a couple of years to become a starter with the Tennessee Titans, but eventually he got into the starting line-up. After establishing himself he joined the Rams as a free agent and then finished the 2016 season with the Giants.

He has played in 72 NFL games, starting 29 of those. His best season came in 2015 with the Titans. In that season, Sensabaugh started 15 games and had 42 tackles and 2 interceptions.

Getting Things Back on Track

Coty Sensabaugh signed a big free agent deal with the Los Angeles Rams last off-season. Then, after only four games, he was released and signed with the New York Giants. Sensabaugh did not have a good start of the season with the Rams.

“Ah, man, things just didn’t go as expected,” Sensabaugh told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Thursday. “We had to part ways.”

He did, however, start to get back on track in New York. The Giants had hoped to resign Sensabaugh in the off-season, but he chose to join the Steelers.

“It just felt like a great fit,” Sensabaugh said. “It’s an A-class organization. I just wanted to come to be part of something special.”

How He Fits in Pittsburgh

Coty Sensabaugh brings one important factor to the Steelers cornerback group, experience. The group consists of two veterans, William Gay and Ross Cockrell, and a bunch of first and second year players. Also in the group is former-second-round pick Senquez Golson, but Golson has yet to play in an NFL game due to injuries. So, in a sense he is still a first year player.

Last season Sensabaugh played in the slot for the Giants. He should add depth inside behind Arite Burns, Ross Cockrell and William Gay. With the passing proficiency and weapons in the NFL there is always a need for more corners and Sensabaugh should help as a depth option in 2017.