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» Week 2 DVOA Ratings

Stomping the Jags leaves Washington No. 2 behind only Denver. But what can we really learn from one big win early in the season, before we are applying opponent adjustments?

27 Feb 2007

Four Downs: AFC North

by Jeff Bathurst

Baltimore Ravens

Lame Duck to Big Bird

Coming off a seven-win improvement to 13-3, the Ravens re-signed Brian Billick to a four-year contract extension that takes him through 2010. Billick is tied (with Andy Reid) for the third-longest tenure among NFL head coaches, but when the extension was first announced it was widely reported to be for just one year at $5.4 million. The fact that it's actually a four-year deal takes away one of the major templates for beat writers -- the coach with only one year left on his contract. I'm sure there will be plenty of other stories to write. Such as...

...the decision not to franchise Adalius Thomas, probably the highest-profile player NOT to get the franchise tag last week. He would have been guaranteed $7.2 million for 2007. With the Ravens' salary-cap woes (just $5.7 million available), it likely makes sense to trade off some of FO's No. 1-ranked defense to help out the No. 14-ranked offense, especially the No. 24 rushing offense. Except...

...that the Ravens "expect to rebound next season with virtually the same roster," according to an Associated Press article about the ascension of Rick Neuheisel to offensive coordinator. This raises the question of whether that could possibly literally be true, with Jamal Lewis' huge cap number on the books and a host of questions at running back: Backup Musa Smith is an unrestricted free agent and starting fullback Ovie Mughelli will also hit the market, and neither is expected back. Mike Anderson is the only experienced running back under contract, and he was given the ball only 39 times last season.

Lewis is due a $5 million bonus on Saturday, and the early off-season speculation was that the Ravens would simply cut him. But media reports last weekend indicated that Baltimore and Lewis were working on some kind of restructured deal. The question is, why? Lewis ranked 40th in DPAR among running backs last season, actually improving from -10.7 to 3.8 DPAR but not producing at all like the Lewis of old. If Brian Billick is still calling the plays (and he says he is), you have to think he'll look for someone else to give the ball to. Sure, Lewis has Super Bowl bona fides, but they'll be seven years old this season.

Who Could Leave?

Baltimore has 10 unrestricted free agents, plus the possibility of cutting Jamal Lewis for some salary-cap room. Besides Thomas, the top Raven to hit the market will be RT Tony Pashos, who was above average this season and might be out of Baltimore's price range. Thomas is almost certainly gone, possibly to San Francisco to reunite with former Ravens defensive boss Mike Nolan. New England is also in the mix; nobody loves versatile linebackers like Bill Belichick, and the Patriots' frugal reputation doesn't necessarily match their past actions. Just ask Rosevelt Colvin.

The wild card could be Jonathan Ogden, who has said he is ready to walk away if the team is not making enough progress toward a Super Bowl. He will decide before draft time, so he likely won't "Roaf" the Ravens at the last minute. Ogden said he wants to see the Ravens bring back veteran linemen Mike Flynn (who is in decline and may be a backup) and Edwin Mulitalo (who the Baltimore Sun says might be released or asked to take a pay cut). Funny he didn't mention Pashos, who is expected to draw interest in a light market for tackles. The Ravens' O-line ranked 19th in Adjusted Line Yards, but led the league in Adjusted Sack Rate, yielding only 17 sacks on the season.

Another Raven who might go is Kyle Boller, who could draw interest from other teams as a starter, after throwing five TD passes in limited time. Baltimore is looking, and rightly so, to life after Steve McNair, but if Boller can bring them something in a trade the Ravens could settle on someone else as a backup to groom.

Whom Should They Sign? (Projected Cap Space: $5.7 million)

Since Adalius Thomas was the top non-franchise-tag story, he is of course the top who-replaces-him story in Baltimore. There has been early talk about pursuing the Colts' Cato June, but the more likely scenario is to re-sign UFA Jarret Johnson to replace Thomas and give some of Thomas' old responsibilities to Bart Scott et al.

As far as running backs go, the Ravens need to upgrade, and outside of bringing back Lewis for any important duty, they could join the Michael Turner sweepstakes, although he is a restricted free agent. Among unrestricted backs, you've got Ahman Green (16th in DVOA, 23rd in DPAR) -- probably looking for too much money -- and (perhaps) Corey Dillon (20th, 21st). Dominic Rhodes is another possibility; he would make more of a complementary back to returning Mike Anderson or Jamal Lewis.

Cincinnati Bengals

Lining Them Up

One important move the Bengals have made is retaining quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese, who interviewed for the offensive coordinator's job in Carolina earlier in the off-season. San Francisco was reportedly interested in Zampese to replace Norv Turner, but Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis denied them permission to talk to Zampese, saying the Bengals were already too far into preparations for 2007 to let him go.

Zampese had previously turned down Eric Mangini and the Jets last off-season. He is credited with Jon Kitna's big year in 2003 and with helping Carson Palmer develop.

The Bengals have also made big moves so far, locking up DE Robert Geathers for as much as six years with a $14 million signing bonus after a season in which Geathers piled up 10.5 sacks, the first Cincinnati lineman to do so since Alfred Williams in 1992. Wow.

Last week, they slapped the franchise tag on the other defensive end, Justin Smith, meaning he will make $8.6 million for 2007 if he signs. "With being a franchise player comes a lot of responsibility," Marvin Lewis said. "That means you're the bell cow."

The Bengals entered the season with all five offensive linemen facing contract years, and re-signed Willie Anderson, Levi Jones, and Bobbie Williams from a group that ranked 10th in Adjusted Line Yards and 11th in Adjusted Sack Rate. Center Rich Braham retired, which leaves left guard Eric Steinbach as the likely candidate to depart.

Who Could Leave?

Lewis on Steinbach: "The chances of Eric coming back are difficult. It's because he and his representation feel that they should be compensated at a certain level." With three guys on the line re-signed, and cap money needed to invest in defense, Steinbach is likely gone. He was a Pro Bowl alternate at guard, but his best spot could be tackle.

Cincinnati intends to re-sign several of a bevy of its own UFAs and RFAs. CB Tory James is probably not going to be back next season, and WR Kelley Washington will take his ball and go, well, somewhere else.

Other guys who might leave, but the Bengals would prefer they wouldn't, include TEs Reggie Kelly and Tony Stewart, S Kevin Kaesviharn, and RB Kenny Watson, who is insurance against Chris Perry's instability.

Whom Should They Sign? (Projected Cap Space: $28.8 million)

The Bengals are a little less flush with cash after re-upping with Geathers and tagging Justin Smith, and re-signing their own guys might eat up even more space.

The defensive backfield, which ranked 31st according to the NFL's stats but 28th against the pass in DVOA, needs some help, with Tory James likely gone and Johnathan Joseph probably stepping in opposite Deltha O'Neal. Nate Clements and Nick Harper are the top names available among cornerbacks, but there are also guys like David Macklin from Arizona who are out there.

Linebacker is also a question mark, with David Pollack's catastrophic injury and the unlikely return of suspended Odell Thurman. Randall Godfrey and Kawika Mitchell are among the veteran names they could look at.

And at tight end, where Kelly and Stewart are solid but unspectacular, the Bengals might consider someone like Eric Johnson, who will be bypassed by Vernon Davis in San Francisco.

Cleveland Browns

Big Win ... Right? ... Right?

The Browns won a huge victory last week by triumphing over Tampa Bay in the coin toss for the No. 3 overall draft pick. Two years ago, Cleveland selected Braylon Edwards with the third pick. He's had 93 catches in two seasons but ranked 65th in DPAR this season because he caught only 61 of 123 passes thrown his way.

"I think Braylon will respond very well this off-season. Once we have a chance to sit down, talk to him and lay out what our expectations are -- not what the media, fans or anyone else -- but what the Cleveland Browns' expectations are from him, I think we will be a step ahead of the game with him." -- Browns general manager Phil Savage on Edwards.

As for this No. 3 pick, the Browns are widely said to be considering Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson, who has a long but not overly serious injury history.

The Browns are already reeling from the news that last year's free agent coup, C LeCharles Bentley, will probably miss the 2007 season, as well, as he recovers from a torn patella tendon. He will undergo surgery in May or June that may end his career, but Cleveland will keep him on the roster because of the cap hit they would take immediately.

And oft-injured Kellen Winslow underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee last month to remove scar tissue and repair cartilage. He may not be back on the field until June or July, after a season in which he caught 89 balls and was sixth among tight ends in DPAR (16th in DVOA).

Who Could Leave?

With the pessimistic update on Bentley's injury, C Hank Fraley -- discarded by the Eagles before last season -- now becomes a priority to re-sign, since he is an unrestricted free agent. Interior lineman Lennie Friedman is also a valuable backup the team wants back.

RG Cosey Coleman and RDE Alvin McKinley are almost certainly gone as the 4-12 Browns look to upgrade. WR Dennis Northcutt's prowess as a punt returner can't mask his deficiencies as a pass-catcher, so he is likely to leave as well.

FS Brian Russell, the nominal leader of a secondary that performed about at league average, will be allowed to leave as well. The Browns have promising youngsters Brodney Pool and Sean Jones to cover the safety spots.

The Browns have never used a franchise or transition tag on one of their free agents, and this certainly isn't the year to be setting that precedent.

Whom Should They Sign? (Projected cap space: $33.3 million)

At offensive tackle, Ryan Tucker had his problems last year, so signing a lineman such as the Ravens' Tony Pashos or the Bengals' Eric Steinbach would bolster the line. Being able to move Kevin Shaffer to right tackle if need be is a plus.

Quarterback: Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson are expected to contend for the top job in training camp, but after a season in which they teamed up for 15 TDs and 25 INTs, plus each ranked 40th or lower in DPAR, bringing in some sort of competent presence would seem to be in order. Pie in the sky: Damon Huard, who could step right in (although at 33, he wouldn't be around for too long). High in the sky: Jeff Garcia. Been there. If all else fails? A guy like Tim Rattay, perhaps (third in DVOA in limited time in Tampa Bay).

At defensive end, Orpheus Roye was troubled by injury, Alvin McKinley won't be re-signed, and more help would free up hot rookie Kamerion Wimbley (11 sacks) even more. Jared Allen is looking for his freedom in Kansas City and is requesting a trade, but his character issues (and the Chiefs' lack of interest in letting him go) might keep him there.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Clock Ticking on Big Ben?

After struggling through his third NFL season, Ben Roethlisberger is probably the key to any turnaround for the Mike Tomlin-led Steelers. Former offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt (now the Arizona Cardinals head coach) told the reporters gathered in Indianapolis this weekend (including two of FO's own) that the after-effects of the QB's horrific motorcycle accident, together with his emergency appendectomy on the eve of the season, consipired to make the quarterback apprehensive last season.

"When we started the season, even in training camp, it didn't seem like it would have an effect," Whisenhunt said. "But, at the end, and when you look at it again, I am convinced it did. Not because of his health, he is a tough kid and he did a good job coming back and being prepared. But from the standpoint of being in the pocket and facing the rush, certainly there was some trauma with him that maybe we all underestimated, and I think it took him longer to get over that than we all thought."

According to the newspaper, it is the first time someone from the Steelers' staff last season acknowledged that Roethlisberger was affected on the field from his injuries off of it. Various reports indicate that Tomlin will have to "light a fire" under Roethlisberger or "crack the whip" to make him work harder, which seems to be a recurring theme. If true, that could be worrisome.

A closer look at last season shows that maybe it wasn't that bad. Roethlisberger threw for 18 TDs and 23 INTs, for a passer rating of 75.4. But he also had to throw 174 more passes than he did in his rookie year and 201 more than in 2005. According to FO's stats, Big Ben ranked 14th in DPAR and 15th in DVOA -- not great, since he was third in DVOA the last two seasons, but not a season-killer, either.

Who Could Leave?

Joey Porter, perhaps? The Steelers have a bunch of unrestricted free agents, none of whom were starters, and right tackle Max Starks is a restricted free agent. But Porter is drawing more scrutiny than the rest of them. He is due a $1 million bonus on March 6, and with Mike Tomlin likely transitioning into a 4-3 defense as the 2007 season progresses, Porter may be the odd man out. The outside linebacker, who turns 30 in March, is due $4 million for the upcoming season. Tomlin's cryptic comments? "I have no thoughts on that regard," Tomlin said. "I talked to Joey just like I talk to every other player. He's under contract. He's a Pittsburgh Steeler."

Center Jeff Hartings has already retired, giving the Steelers a little salary-cap space. The Steelers will give Starks some kind of free-agent tender, meaning they will get a first- or second-round pick in return if he signs elsewhere.

Running back Najeh Davenport, who became the backup to Willie Parker, might draw some interest around the league.

And in general, no one should feel safe: "We were an 8-8 team," said director of football operations Kevin Colbert. "For us to think we can stand pat and be any better than that, I think would be naive on our part."

Whom Should They Sign? (Projected Cap Space: $3.3 million)

With not much to work with, but no starters to replace, the Steelers can work to improve their depth at outside linebacker or on the defensive line in advance of the eventual shift a 4-3 defense. Among veterans, the top linebackers available -- Adalius Thomas, Cato June -- are likely out of range, which leaves guys like Na'il Diggs.

Another place of weakness is at wide receiver, where by traditional stats there seems to be a big dropoff after Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes. But third WR Nate Washington nearly matched Ward in DPAR last season and had a much higher DVOA. Still, adding a guy like Dallas' Patrick Crayton would allow the Steelers to take advantage of new offensive coordinator Bruce Arians' plans for more four-wideout sets.

As far as the "Jerome Bettis" role to complement Willie Parker, T.J. Duckett has been mentioned as a possibility, should Najeh Davenport go elsewhere.

Next: AFC South by Aaron Schatz.

FO thanks Jeff Bathurst, a former copy editor at the sports desk of the Philadelphia Inquirer, for helping us out with Four Downs this off-season.

Posted by: Guest on 27 Feb 2007

91 comments, Last at 20 Mar 2007, 4:09pm by Gerela\'s Gorilla

Comments

1
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 1:15pm

Tim Rattay would be a good pick up for a team looking for a starting QB or a mentor. Remember, the Pats almost selected him instead of Tom Brady and the guy has had some success with bad teams in the league so far. If I were a team in the market for a QB, I would look at every tape of " the rat" that I could get my hands on.

I think Brian Billick and Marvin Lewis are overrated as coaches. I was a big Jamal Lewis guy ( I watch a lot of Baltimore), but the guy hasn't been the same since prison.

2
by el plaga (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 1:15pm

ladell betts isn't unrestricted he just signed and extension in the middle of the season like 3 months ago.

3
by Crushinator (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 1:25pm

1

I've always liked Rattay, to be honest. Some team that needs to keep a seat warm could sign him - Cleveland maybe?

4
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 1:51pm

Well why do I have to watch a Tavaris Jackson develop and throw for less than 100 yards in a game when a guy like the rat has played alright for some bad teams.

Think about the cost/benefits trade off. If a team drafts a QB high, they have to pay him high, train him, and suffer through growing pains for a guy that might not even turn out to be average.

On the other hand, you can take a guy with some experience, like Rattay, or Damon Huard who will play for a modest salary, and you should be able to expect at least average results. If Rattay could be alright in SF in 04, or TB last year ( with that horrible line) then why couldn't he be at least average else where?

Then, instead of drafting a QB with such a high pick, a team could bring in stud skilled position players or build up the defense.

How effective would it be for a team like Minny or GB to take a QB in round 1 (GB) or 2 ( minn) and then maybe have to select Brady Quinn with the 7th pick this year?

5
by bengt (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 1:56pm

The Steelers biggest concern should be the offensive line, because of

- Jeff Harting's retirement (and not having drafted Nick Mangold last year)
- Max Starks being the only free agent among starters (albeit a restricted one)
- the OL being/getting old in general
Any concern about depth at LB/DL or the WRs pales in comparison to that, IMHO. Whether this need is best adressed via free agency or the draft is another matter, however.

6
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 2:17pm

Maybe it's just me, but it seems inappropriate for Whisenhunt to be talking in any detail about Large Ben's injury. I know he used to be the Steelers OC, but he's the coach of the Cardinals now.

7
by Jimbo (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 2:22pm

Hard to believe Kyle Boller will be going anywhere -- he's in the last year of his rookie contract so he's cheap. Besides that, the Ravens seem along among NFL teams in their belief that he could be a legit starting QB.

8
by dmb (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 2:23pm

2: Yes, the Redskins signed Ladell Betts to an extension towards the end of the season, but I'm not sure why that's relevant . . . Jeff mentioned a former Redskins backup RB, Kenny Watson . . .

9
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 2:25pm

Cutting J-Lewis would free up about $8 mil in cap space. I mean, how can they not do it? If he comes to camp for anything more than the veteran minimum I'm going to go crazy.

I don't think the Ravens are worried about losing Pashos, Terry was a talented project 2 years ago who's worked hard ever since, and in the 2 games he played last year (at LT for Ogden) he did quite well. He can certainly hold down the fort at RT.

And call me crazy, but I'd love to see if the Ravens could lock up Boller for the next few years on the cheap. He played pretty well in the 2 games he was in this year, and finished 05 strong, so it is possible he turned the corner. He is a good backup QB, and he might end up being a serviceable starter when all is said and done.

I think the Ravens main mission this season should be to sign Suggs to an extension. He is their best player (tied with Reed maybe) and would be a free agent next year, and only 24 years old.

10
by Todd S. (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 2:35pm

#4 The answer to your first question (I'm assuming you meant it as a question despite the lack of punctuation) is the wisdom we've gained from Will Carroll:

Health is a skill.

I think Rattay can be an average QB, but he needs to stay healthy long enough to prove it.

11
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 2:38pm

Well why do I have to watch a Tavaris Jackson develop and throw for less than 100 yards in a game when a guy like the rat has played alright for some bad teams.

Could you at least just say "watch a Tarvaris Jackson develop"? At least then it doesn't sound completely silly (just mostly silly). He threw for less than 100 yards in a game in one start.

Players that have thrown for less than 100 yards in a single game in their first year:

Donovan McNabb
Eli Manning (27 yards!!)
Tom Brady
Philip Rivers (last year!)

Even Peyton Manning was only 37 yards away in one game his first year.

I swear, it's like that one game stole your children and beat them up in a back alley or something. He wasn't that bad. He was above replacement in his first game (~2 DPAR), way below replacement in his next game (-10 DPAR) and likely a little below replacement in the last game (~-2 DPAR or so).

Eli Manning looked about as bad in his first few starts, and the only thing bad with Eli is that he cost the Giants a bajillion dollars.

12
by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 2:49pm

I am very confused about the "eventual" switch to the 4-3. Did I miss a press conference or something? Last I heard there had been no comment about it, and simply saying that the switch will happen seems a tad bit inappropriate without something more.

13
by Adam H (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 2:51pm

Don't forget the three picks Eli cost the Giants that became pro-bowlers for San Diego. Heh, I love that story.

14
by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 2:57pm

The wild card could be Jonathan Ogden, who has said he is ready to walk away if the team is not making enough progress toward a Super Bowl

Jeebus, you'd think he plays for the Lions. By any measure, the Ravens entered the playoffs a top three team.

15
by DWL (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 3:09pm

Which AFC North team does Tavaris Jackson play for again?

16
by John (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 3:11pm

Re: 4 and then what do you accomplish? Being a mediocre to slightly above average team with no shot at winning the superbowl? You might as well suffer with the young QB and hope he develops. If he doesn't, at least you got some high draft picks out of the deal.

17
by db (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 3:16pm

Buying a used QB is a lot like buying a used car (or possibly Carr). It isn't just the age, its how many miles are on the odometer and how many major hits it has had. Thats why McNair is basically close to the end and Huard has 3-4 good years left even though they are the same age. For Crennel who has to win now Huard would be a great pick up. Given their history together in NE it is a good fit. If the Browns draft a QB Romeo is toast.

18
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 3:34pm

Chris (4):

The reason why teams take chances drafting and developing flashy QB's instead of picking up serviceable, proven but not flashy guys on the cheap, is that every team (or more specifically, every GM) dreams of being the one that picks up the next Peyton Manning. Yes the costs and the risks are a lot higher, but you have almost zero chance of acquiring a future HoF QB by going after unsuccessful FA's (I say "almost" because you occasionally find a guy like Steve Young).

19
by Ilanin (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 3:41pm

12 - yeah, me too. Come on, people. Pittsburgh is not transitioning to the 4-3 this year and may not be ever. Link in my name to back that one up, and it's the sort of thing I'd not expect FO to have missed.

Tomlin, for what it's worth, has been making lots of comments along the lines of "scheme is over-emphasised" and little else. I'd been taking that to mean "get over your attachment to the 3-4 already" but it might have meant "Yeah, I ran a 4-3 in Minnesota. Dick LeBeau ran one in Cincinnati, too. Doesn't mean much to me really."

20
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 3:58pm

I think Boller can be decent also. The guy was in an anemic offense and was the youngest starter in the league while he was starting. The team brings in former MVP Mcnair and he isn't exactly lighting it up either.

There was a lot made of Billick firing Jim Fassel, but I believe Billick didn't let Fassel run the offense like he wanted. He wanted Fassel to run the same boring, conservative offense that Billick ran, only after it failed yet again, he fired Fassel as a scape goat.

If you follow that model I spoke of in #4, you might not win a super bowl ala Peyton Manning or a high powered Rams offense, but you could win a SB the way Tampa Bay and Baltimore did. If you look at who else was sandwhiched in there, Brady wasn't exactly a top pick either.

I was listening to Charlie Casserly on the Brian Mitchell radio show at lunch today, and something that he spoke of jumped out at me. He was specifically said that Calvin Johnson should be a good player FOR A LONG TIME in the same way he said the same things about Mario Williams.

I believe fans/ media are biased towards offense in general ( reggie bush), and throw in the fact that you might only get 5-7 years out of a back in todays NFL. Then you have a man child like Mario Williams who could build up your crappy defense and be a pro bowl player for say 10 years.

Would you rather have an anchor on Defense like Julious Peppers, terrorizing quarterbacks for 10-12 years, or a stud RB like LT for say 5-7 years?

Given that most FO readers will agree that RB's are overrated in general, and the premium added to a solid pass rush... If Mario Williams is who you think he is, and Reggie Bush is who you think he is... Williams is the better pick. But then again super mario could end up as the next Steve Emtman.

21
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 4:01pm

I think Casserly is a smart guy and I'm glad that he was thinking about the long term. He once again stressed the milage he would expect to get out of these players, instead of just looking at them all in a giant meat market and picking up who ever looks best.

He was also talking about how he didn't put much emphasis in the 40, but instead his staff would grade a player with a " play speed". The 40 to him was more of a matter of double checking his work, instead of a barometer. He said the college game tape is the most important factor for a team.

22
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 4:29pm

Other than quarterback, there is no position which can more singlehandedly dominate a game than a defensive lineman, so if you are convinced that a guy is the next Reggie White, you take him, even if you are convinced that the other guy is the next Walter Payton. If Casserly made a mistake, it'll be because Mario Williams just isn't good enough, not because Casserly had his positional priorities screwed up.

23
by steelersalarycap (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 4:54pm

steelers

With or without Porter, the aging LBs need to be addressed this offseason. This has to be priority #1.

Although the Steelers may not switch to the 43, they will not automatically pass on certain players...namely 43 DEs or 43 LBs.

I see them looking at players who could do both...be a down DE and OLB.

Also, they only have Parker and Haynes as signed on their roster. Davenport is a UFA. They need to have more RB depth. Tomlin has been quoted a number of times as saying he likes the two back system. I look for them to address RBs. Maybe Duckett, as this article has stated, but perhpas via the draft.

click my name for the Steelers salary cap page.

I look for them to extend some players (they have many UFAs in 2008) - like Polamalu, maybe Faneca, maybe Aaron Smith.

It will be an interesting offseason for the Steelers...compared to most Steelers' offseasons.

24
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 4:58pm

22- right on

25
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 5:26pm

22: I think the primary motive for Texans criticism isn't that people don't appreciate linemen. They just think Reggie Bush was more dominant in college, and is more likely to dominate in the future.

If you had a choice between getting Julius Peppers and LaDainian Tomlinson as rookies, and you already knew how good they would end up being, you might be pretty smart to take Peppers. But if it's a choice between, say, Will Smith and LaDainian Tomlinson, your priorities might change. And they definitely would change if it were Courtney Brown and Tomlinson. You need to take into account both the quality of the player, and the importance of that position when making a draft pick. I'd rather spend my third-round pick on the best kicker of all time than spend it on a bad linebacker. But I'd rather get a good quarterback than get a very good safety.

Oh, and so I'm not threadjacking the AFC North thread with non-AFC North comments:

Cut Jamal Lewis. Seriously.

26
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 5:39pm

Yaguer-

Peppers vs Tomlinson, Will Smith vs Tomlinson, but what about Peppers vs Ron Dayne?

27
by sam (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 5:47pm

don't have time to read the whole article right now, but i love the fact that you used Roaf as a verb. Awesome.

That is all.

28
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 5:48pm

Well, that's a pretty easy question, isn't it?

When you're looking at two players of two different positions, a good way to think about it is asking yourself who these players will most resemble in 3 years, and then asking yourself which of those two you'd rather have. If people think Reggie Bush is the next Marshall Faulk, and they think Mario Williams is the next Kineche Udeze, then you could understand why they'd be upset.

29
by MilkmanDanimal (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 5:49pm

Peppers and Mario Williams can't really be compared. Peppers was a monster in college and won both the Bednarik (top defensive player) and Lombardi (top lineman/linebacker). He had great college production. Mario Williams had a few good games and some not so good games for a not-particularly-good defense, and then had a great combine performance.

Given a choice between Julius Peppers and Tomlinson, you can make an argument either way, since both were quite productive in college. Mario Williams was a pretty good college player, but it was his workouts that got him drafted. Between Mario Williams and Tomlinson (or Bush), I'd take *the player with actual college production*.

30
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 5:51pm

Yaguar! Udeze is just storing up his sacks for future use!!

31
by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 5:53pm

You know who are awesome? Teams in the AFC North. Yeah. Big fan of talking about them.

:P

32
by John (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 6:00pm

Re: 26 well isn't that the whole point? It's a crap shoot and you make your best judgment based on how good you think they are, the value of the position, and the teams need. Since they're all quite subjective, you get a nearly endless supply of possibilities. There's no advanced formula to make it all work. Back to your points about QB's and young high pick with growing pains versus a veteran, this is also highly dependent on the state of the rest of your team. If you've got a shitty team that's going to take several years to develop, why bother making your team a few wins better with a n OK veteran QB? You might as well go looking for that "QB of the future." and if they haven't worked out by the time the rest of your team has risen it's level of play, well then go get yourself a veteran QB and try to win like Baltimore/ Tampa (although until the last 2 or 3 years i always thought brad johnson was very underrated). Also, from an economic POV, star QBs put butts in the seats, and drive jersey sales.

33
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 6:23pm

To be AFCNorthcentric, yes, Jamal Lewis is done, at least at the kind of money he is willing to play for. The Steelers really need to have their offensive line play better, more than anything this year, if only to get Roethlisberger back on track. The Bengals' dbs must flat-out suck, if the Bengals have two good pass rushing defensive ends, and the team is still 28th in passing DVOA. I hope the Browns disinfect competently.

34
by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 6:37pm

Damon Huard has re-signed with KC.

35
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 6:44pm

John, but what happens if you put a young QB on a bad team... Even if the player is pretty good, it's hard for him to learn or do anything when he is surrounded by trash.

On the other side of that, what happens if you put say an average, or above average quarterback ( or ben hamburger) onto an otherwise solid team?

What I forgt to add to the mix with the Texans was Dom Davis. Let's say he is capable of rushing for 1300 yards. Now would you want to draft a Bryan Westbrook type player who could be better, but by how much? Or you could draft a huge DE/ Manchild that could be the next Julious Peppers ( or consequently courtney brown) to add to JV high school defense. Everybody always SAYS that defense wins championships, but Casserly practiced the theory when he added 2 potential corners stones of a defense in Super Mario and Demeco Ryans.

Also remember the off field stuff that was lingering for Bush, the contract stuff, and the fact that Mario Williams could potentially play for twice as many years.

36
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 7:09pm

Chris, I don't think anyone's actually arguing with you.

It's all about money, though, not "defense wins championships". There hasn't been a first overall RB selected in the draft since 1995. 2005 was the first draft since 2000 that two RBs went in the top 10. Top RBs are rarely drafted in the top half of the first round anymore. It's just too much money for an RB.

37
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 7:28pm

It's just something I think about. If somebody wants to chime in that's cool.

Speaking of RB's drafted high. People turned their opinion on Carnell " Cadallac" Williams pretty quickly. People aren't so high on him anymore but have you seen how horrible that line has been in Tampa?

My other point is that people say " let the young QB play and get experience", but if his experience is bad/average people just dismiss him as being crap and they want a "new" quarterback.

Look at a guy like Boller, Harrington in Det or Patrick Ramsey. Lets say he gets a 1-2 years chance to " learn and be the young starter". If he didn't do too much after that time, people think he sucks and they want to throw him off the stage. They forget the whole concept of "learning".

If another team actually does start to see the guy come around, the player is like a used car in that you can obtain him for cheap. Not only did you get a 1st round draft pick for cheap, but he has some EXPERIENCE. One of your competitors trained the guy and dumped him.

Now many of these guys won't turn out to be so great, but how many quarterbacks ( high picks or not) ever do?

What IF the Raiders could get Byron for a 3rd round pick or maybe Matt Schaub for that 3rd rounder and say Jerry Porter? Do you take Byron and Calvin Johnson, or do you still draft Jemarcus and hope he will be better?

What if Atlanta stills wants more and says straight up, Matt Schaub for the 33rd pick in the draft?

38
by PaulH (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 7:41pm

I have a question for you guys...

What do you think about Bruce Arians as the offensive coordinator with the Steelers?

I really don't know a great deal about him, but what I do know is not positive.

He was hired as the offensive coordinator in 1997 at Alabama, Mike Dubose's first year. It was an absolute train wreck, to say the very least. He installed a pass heavy scheme, despite the fact that we did not have a very good passer at quarterback (it was Freddie Kitchens, now an assistant with Arizona, recently the TE coach of the 'Boys). Moreover, the receivers were average-at-best, the linemen struggled to pass block, and Kitchens had the mobility to make Drew Bledsoe look nimble and elusive. Meanwhile, a sophomore running back, fresh off of a great freshman season in which was capped by a 291 yard and 4 touchdown performance against LSU in Tiger Stadium, off of just 18 carries, rode the bench and didn't get on the field very often. You've probably heard of him before, Shaun Alexander.

Finally, at the end of the season, we were playing Auburn and Arians called a fullback screen on third and short with under a minute to go. We had the lead, and only needed to run the clock; Auburn would have needed to get the punt and then go 40-50 yards with no timeouts and only a few seconds left to kick the game-winning field goal, but instead Arians called the screen pass to the fullback. It was completed, but the fullback fumbled, Auburn recovered, and then hit the chip shot field goal for the win a few seconds later.

That was the straw that broke the camel's back and he was subsequently fired a few days later. That was the big thing, but not the only thing; apparently his ego clashed with a lot of the assistants, which didn't hurt. Plus, it was the worst season we had endured in 40 years, so someone had to get the axe, and he was one of the chosen that did.

Like I said, I haven't followed his career and I really don't know anything about him, aside from how poorly we did with him as our OC. He may have gotten much better over the years, but if he didn't, look out Pittsburgh.

39
by CA (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 7:44pm

Big question: Does anyone know if NFL teams forecast and measure formal quantitative returns to player production? I'm talking about dollar returns and financial analysis. Players' costs are readily measurable in their salaries along with a few lesser factors, but I wonder if teams quantify the benefits that accrue or are expected to accrue from each player. I suspect that they do, as something along these lines should be standard business practice. If so, I wonder how they forecast player returns and measure player performance and what discount rates they use for future production. Any insights?

40
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 8:04pm

CA- It is difficult to forecast " returns" on players for the same reason it is so hard to evaluate players... there are just so many variables.

Did Danute have good stats in Minnesota because of Moss, or because he was good? That debate right there sums up the whole point.

I guess there are other things you can use besides individual statistics and team statistics. One of the ways I've seen people look at past drafts for instance is " games started". If you think about it, the reason why somebody starts is because they are better than their alternatives. Now in some instances that might not be true ( a young quarterback for example), but it's true in general. Why else wouldn't you start the best player? I guess the redskins had that dillema as well when Heath Shuler was a top 5 pick making top dollars, but Gus Ferotte the late round draft pick was out performing him.

I don't know how many stats and personel guys these teams employ, but I believe a lot of those statistics could go a long way for a team.

For example, what if a team realized the importance of a Left Tackle while everybody else just thought they were just another lineman?

What if a team could find out that the marginal productivity of a runningback really wouldn't help their team that much, but that say their defense was even worse than their statitics suggested?

41
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 8:09pm

Re #39
Wouldn't we like to know.

I'm sure many teams perform formal analyses of what sort of production players are likely to provide over the course of their contract, as well as ranges of expected performance. I'm also sure that whatever factors and precisely how the calculations are done by teams are trade secrets.

This actually raises an interesting point. While listening to Michael Lewis give interviews about The Blind Side, his impression is clearly that statistical analysis has a long way to go to make significant inroads in the the decision-making and processes of NFL coaches and executives. I'm not sure if he was referring to things like ZEUS or Moneyball-type concepts in general, but I've long operated under the assumption that coaches are doing something with their 100 hour weeks and that among those things they do are analyses as to tendencies, player performance, and suchnot. But, I don't know for sure.

The great complicating factor, in terms of quantitative analysis, is that, rather than baseball, where you have a bunch of parts largely operating individually that can be broken down atomistically, football present a complex chessboard where different players fulfill different roles in various plays.

42
by Ilanin (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 8:28pm

Can we talk about the AFC North, please?

Right, Bruce Arians. Good topic.

Arians is talking a lot about four-reciever sets, which is a system that's worked for Pittsburgh to some extent last year (and would probably have worked better if various recievers hadn't missed time injured). He's also committed himself to rewriting Pittsburgh's playbook, which is an interesting move but probably a good one as apparently it was still the same one brought in by Cowher's first OC in 1992, just with a bunch of additions.

A lot of what he's saying sounds sensible to me. A Mike Martz sort of spread-'em-out offense could work really well with Pittsburgh's current personnel (though the fanbase would go beserk) - three good wideouts, an underused TE with potential, a speed back who can make use of the gaps created in the field. The only problem is that the QB is required to make good decisions fast, which has never been Ben's strong point (as an aside, I like hiring a former WCO QB, Ken Anderson, as QB coach as it seems like somebody who'd concentrate on improving his decision-making). Also, it would be a big departure for the line which has ranked 25th, 23rd, 28th, and 23rd in adjusted sack rate the last four years. I think it's more something that Arians is looking to mix in rather than a new philosophy.

In conclusion, I like what he's saying, I'm worried he's moving too fast, and I really hope he's planning to use Heath Miller more in the passing game (maybe in a Dallas Clark slot reciever style if he absolutely has to line up with 4 WRs), something he's been very quiet about. But he could be good. Oh, apparently he was Peyton Manning's first QB coach after he was drafted, which has to be something of a good sign for Roethlisberger's development.

43
by Ilanin (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 8:40pm

Completely unrepentant double-post. I'm actually talking about the AFC North.

See those line stats up there for Pittsburgh? They SUCK. The ALY are marginally better, being 22nd, 12th, 4th, and 26th, but I think we can see a clear trend there. Time to draft linemen, possibly more than one on the first day (especially if the bucketload of money Tennessee threw at Chris Hope turns out to be worth a 3rd as a comp pick instead of a 4th). Position is fairly flexible - I'd say we want one tackle and one interior lineman, but the position doesn't matter hugely as Simmons can play C or G.

Pittsburgh's other needs are in pass defense. Either a corner (our safeties rock) or a pass rusher or both. The cornerbacks were awful last year, but there's some hope Ike Taylor can bounce back and be an elite guy. Since we gave him an extension may as well try anyway. The alternative is to beef up the pass rush, which for Pittsburgh basically means OLB. I think this is what the Steelers are going to do with the 15th overall pick, not sure if I agree.

44
by Matt Weiner (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 9:29pm

Ilanin, I get the sense that you're right and OL is a big priority -- particularly because I'm not sure if Okobi can step in. I don't know if the fan base would be so unhappy with four-wide sets though; didn't we deal with Erhardt's empty sets OK in 1995? Of course we went to the Super Bowl that year, that always helps.

45
by Trevor (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 9:56pm

What makes Steinbach better suited for OT than OG? I wondered why everyone was saying he'd get tackle $$$. also 22, that's the most reasonable comment on the whole williams/bush thing i've seen.

46
by Ilanin (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 10:09pm

Pittsburgh have resigned DE Aaron Smith to a five-year, $25 million deal. Smith has never played in the 4-3 as a pro and probably wouldn't fit well at either DE or DT in it, so this looks like another sign the Steelers are committing to the 3-4 for the near future.

The deal is believed to give the Steelers some extra cap room, probably around $2 to 3 million, which doesn't make much difference to their FA strategy of not doing much, but might help w/extending Polamalu.

47
by Ilanin (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 10:11pm

Oops. Forgot to link to the source (via JJ Cooper at AOL Fanhouse, who is *really good* for Steelers news).

Link in my name this time.

48
by Random Bengals Fan (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 11:47pm

#33--on the subject of Bengals DBs: Tory James is god-awful and Bengals fans will leap about in joy when he's gone, Deltha O'Neal played like he didn't care (Lewis has publicly called him out; he's staying in Cinci to train in the offseason), and Jonathan Joseph didn't have that much college experience, so he came in raw, but he really impressed. Madieu Williams had a down year (no idea if this is a bug or a feature; he had a good year, then he missed a year because of injury), and Dexter Jackson did pretty well, but he was injured off and on. I see us taking a corner on the first day, probably the first round, unless an insanely good safety falls to us.

Also, we really need to get another RB, either through FA or on the second day, as Rudi needs help...Chris Perry, being made of glass as he is, may not ever be that help. Rudi is great, but he's limited--he's consistent, rather than explosive, so we need a lightning-style back on the roster. Kenny Watson was a godsend on third downs, especially in terms of receiving (Carson is personally lobbying for him to be re-signed), but I don't feel good relying on him and the untested Quincy Wilson. It isn't clear if Perry will even be able to play this coming season. In an interesting wrinkle, we acquired Skyler Green--LSU WR, Dallas' fourth-round pick last year--and may convert him to a RB.

What centers are to the Browns, middle linebackers are to us. We ostensibly started with Odell Thurman, and then played musical chairs with the following: Brian Simmons (not his main position), Ahmad Brooks (showed promise, was raw, and was pulled for seemingly contradictory reasons), Caleb Miller (we went on our second-half win-streak with him, but he has some sort of issues), and I think even Landon Johnson played at one point. We also have fifth-rounder AJ Nicholson waiting in the wings; he didn't get much playing time. I'm hoping Brooks wins the job. Though OLB Rashad Jeanty performed admirably for a rookie (we got him from the CFL, he's physical, but not that good in coverage), we'll probably take another OLB, maybe in the second.

Though we need another DT (fourth-round pick Domata Peko has done great, but I think they'll be cutting at least one of our other DTs), I doubt we'll take a DE, unless it's in a later round. We already have Geathers and Smith, and last year's third-rounder, Frostee Rucker (one of our many criminals), was injured all year, so he's something of an unknown quantity. Also, we finally got DT/DE Jonathan Fanene back from IR, and I think they want to see how the two of them hold up before committing to another mid-round DE pick.

49
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 12:20am

That's a huge steal for Pittsburgh. To get a premier DE who fits your scheme perfectly for that kind of money is excellent.

50
by oldnumberseven (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 1:56am

Ilanin,

(42 and 43) I agree with your posts. I would go offensive linemen all the way in the later rounds. For the first pick I have read in a few mock drafts Jarvis Moss at 15 to the Steelers, so, I am sure it will not happen.

Also, if Northcutt gets dropped by Cleveland, I would pick him up if he is cheap. If Cleveland drops him, well he wont be running any punts back against the Steelers this year for Cleveland, but if the Steelers pick him up, he wont be running any back against the Steelers. I look at Northcutt as kind of like Quincy Morgan.

51
by Jerry (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 4:20am

Re #44:

Ilanin, I get the sense that you’re right and OL is a big priority — particularly because I’m not sure if Okobi can step in.

They're also talking about the possibility of moving Kendall Simmons to center and starting Chris Kemoeatu at right guard. Simmons apparently impressed some people when they used him as an emergency center last year, although all of those coaches are gone.

I don’t know if the fan base would be so unhappy with four-wide sets though; didn’t we deal with Erhardt’s empty sets OK in 1995? Of course we went to the Super Bowl that year, that always helps.

Exactly. Any fanbase is happy when things work, whether it's running five-wides or the wishbone.

Re #46:

Smith has never played in the 4-3 as a pro and probably wouldn’t fit well at either DE or DT in it, so this looks like another sign the Steelers are committing to the 3-4 for the near future.

From Tuesday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
"In a 4-3, end Aaron Smith can move to tackle and play what they call the 3-technique, which would line him up on the outside shoulder of the guard with Casey Hampton slanting over the center."

Either defense (or both) won't surprise me.

52
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 5:31am

Hmm, a Steeler team physician purchased $150,000 worth of roids and HGH last year on his own credit card. 2006 Steelers = 2003 Panthers?

53
by Kachunk (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 7:02am

With Hartings retired what's the general though on Okobi? Is he good enough? I don't remember seeing anything about him.

54
by birk (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 10:20am

"And oft-injured Kellen Winslow underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee last month to remove scar tissue and repair cartilage."

"Microfracture surgery involves drilling holes into bone in the knee to promote blood flow and form scar tissue, which replaces any damaged cartilage."

The first quote is from the article, and the second is from the Winslow article on FoxSports.com. Obviously, there is a big difference between the two that doesn't really affect Winslow's timetable but should be known. One suggests removal of scar tissue, and the other suggests promoting creation of scare tissue.

I believe the second is right, but I could be wrong.

55
by John (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 11:08am

Re: 54 yes, if he had microfracture surgery it's the second quote. Many (I'd say most) athletes are never the same, and I believe it's ended a number of careers. I had this surgery a little over two years ago (I was 26 at the time) and I was told to never do any running related activities again. I can ride a bike and that's about it. Now, clearly I'm not a professional athlete, and my cartilage was fairly messed up (they drilled 3 or 4 holes, I don't remember) but you get my drift. There's a good chance Winslow will never match the production he had last year, and if he does, probably only for a year or two.

56
by Walt (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 12:08pm

Ah Chris Perry…

The Bengals traded down in the first round twice in 2004 and then drafted Chris Perry who can’t stay on the field. St. Louis made the second trade and moved up two spots to take Stephen Jackson. Obviously I think Jackson has worked out better than Perry but comparing the additional players involved with the two extra fourth round picks the Bengals acquired from Denver (moving from 17 to 24 in Rd 1) and St. Louis (moving from 24 to 26 in Rd 1) were these good trades or not?

Bengals got Chris Perry, Robert Geathers, and Stacey Andrews. St. Louis got Stephen Jackson and Denver picked DJ Williams. Overall the Bengals made a good moves with Geathers and Andrews and got a lemon with Perry. Better move for the Bengals might have been to stop after the trade with Denver and take Jackson and Geathers but I’m interested in other opinions.

57
by birk (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 12:11pm

55

Actually, there are quite a few players that have come back and been productive. Click on my name for a list. My guess is that the procedure and rehab have become much better over the last few years. The list contains guys like Jason Kidd, Amare Stoudemire, Willie Anderson, and Bode Miller, who have been pretty productive after the surgery.

58
by John (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 12:42pm

Re 57 Oh, certainly there are players that have. I'd say Jason Kidd is probably the best example (although I think his high level of basketball smarts have helped him compensate for his reduced physical ability). Frankly, I don't think Amare Stoudemire is the same player anymore (in terms of his lateral movement and explosion off the floor).
I've got no clue if the surgery has gotten better (seems a little unlikely though, drilling holes is drilling holes). My surgery was december 2004. I think one possibility is that articular cartilage damage is being caught and microfracture surgery performed while the damage is less severe (thus less trauma and better recovery). Cutting things off at the pass as it were. Certainly pro athletes have way better rehab, since that becomes their defacto job, and have access to top notch therapists and treatment.

59
by MikeW (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 1:21pm

RE: 44 and 51:

Simmons to Center? No way. He had a hard enough time with his man without having to worry about snapping the ball first.
I saw his emergency C play last year. In was a whole lot of botched snaps and an inability to get up after the snap which resulted in DT's crawling over top or slapping him away.

Simmons days in Pitt are over. IMO, the starting line barring FA or rookie explosion is Smith, Faneca, Okobi, Colon, Starks.

60
by Chris (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 1:39pm

Max Starks is a beast. Any team that wants to employ a power run game should look at him.

61
by DWL (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 1:46pm

"I’ve got no clue if the surgery has gotten better (seems a little unlikely though, drilling holes is drilling holes)."

To the contrary, I suspect the surgery has improved. The field of medicine is predicated on building up and improving upon procedures and treatments. Holes may be holes, but placement, depth, size, number, etc. are all factors that off of the top of my head than can be varied in an attempt to improve the procedure.

Additionally, adding a variety of other procedures or interventions, such as certain medications, could yield additional improvements, and nevermind that strides are continually being made in the areas of rehab that result in improved procedure outcome.

62
by John (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 3:05pm

My point is simply that Winslow was on the verge of being a truly stand-out player and his chances of attaining those heights have been dealt a significant blow. The reason I suspect the surgery hasn't improved all that much recently is because the impression that I got from my surgeon (who does knee surgeries for the University of Michigan football team) is that you drill the holes, do the rehab, and hope for the best. I also assume that if there were medications to assist the healing process, I would have received them.

63
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 3:51pm

The story about the Steelers' doctor buying loads of testosterone and HGH is linked. Lots of fun to be had here, but one thing really jumped out to me. He is allegedly claiming that the stuff was for patients from his non-Steelers practice. Why, then, did he purchase all this stuff on personal credit cards instead of setting up an account for his practice, or using a business credit card? Is there some incentive (tax break or something) to do so that I'm not aware of? If not, it sounds kinda fishy.

I would certainly hope that microfracture surgery techniques/results are improving. Tommy John surgery was once a last-ditch desperation move, now it's improved so much that some pitchers are pressured to get it before they're ever injured. ACL surgery was once a total crapshoot - I can remember it being a huge deal when guys like Mark Price came back from it to make an All-Star game. Now it's so commonplace, we all know the rough timetable for recovery and what to expect when an athlete comes back, and complications are so rare they only happen to major Cleveland free agent signings. I would hope that microfracture would similarly change from a last-chance, "let's see if this works" technique with unpredictable results into something much more consistent and beneficial.

64
by Ilanin (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 4:15pm

63 - but why would he put it on his credit card if he *was* 'roiding up Steelers? Wouldn't his practice be a much better cover for buying in the drugs (which do after all have medical uses)? This doesn't make any sense either way.

65
by Chris (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 4:23pm

They should rename Heinz field " Balco Field". Change the name from the Steelers to the Stealers or better yet the "lab rats". Don't sell Rothlisburgers but Roided beef hamburgers. Big ben should be refered to as Roid Ben. Joey Porter should be given estrogen to calm the guy down.

66
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 4:27pm

His practice probably wouldn't approve the purchase if there wasn't any medical need for the product. If he had a slew of patients who needed HGH then the practice would probably cover it.

67
by beedubyuh (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 6:26pm

Per the Baltimore Ravens website, Jamal Lewis has been released. The team hopes to resign him, though.

68
by Chris (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 7:11pm

Lewis was a best early on. He was a 230 pound back that could run a 4.3 40 yard dash. There were questions coming into the draft about his injury history, but you can't ignore that combination of size/speed.

I don't understand how Ray Lewis could participate in a bar fight that results in a killing and get off, while Jamal Lewis's cell phone was used in a drug deal ( not him) and he gets to spend the summer in jail?

Lewis wasn't the same after the jail time. He gained weight and not only that but he gained body fat and lost muscle mass. Being stuck in a jail cell will really kill your speed. He clearly looked slower and more sluggish when he ran.

This past season he supposedly worked out real hard to regain his form but he wasn't that same guy with was a Train when he had a full head of steam his rookie year ( SB year). Remember, he was the starting back while Priest Holmes was backing him up. At this point in his career, I'm not sure we ever see that same Lewis again.

69
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 7:17pm

Right - drugs purchased for the practice would theoretically come under some scrutiny, maybe an occasional check to see who they're being prescribed for, either from a federal agency (FDA?) or his insurance companies or something. If he had a legitimate reason to get them for that practice (i.e. he was actually prescribing them for his patients), it's hard to imagine a reason to make them a personal purchase rather than a business one. By getting them through another route, it makes me think he 1) didn't need them for his practice at all, or else he'd just have gotten them through the easier, more legitimate route, and 2) probably wanted to hide these purchases from whatever oversight his practice has.

70
by Jerry (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 9:00pm

They should rename Heinz field � Balco Field�. Change the name from the Steelers to the Stealers or better yet the “lab rats�. Don’t sell Rothlisburgers but Roided beef hamburgers. Big ben should be refered to as Roid Ben. Joey Porter should be given estrogen to calm the guy down.

Yup. While the Steelers are clearly using steroids/HGH, every other team's huge fast players, especially including Chris' favorite team, got that way by mere weightlifting and milkshakes.

71
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 10:03pm

re: 68
I think it was the fact that Jamal had ankle surgery and then went off to jail (so he couldn't properly rehab) that most contributed to his downfall.

I think he can still run effectively between the tackles when he hits the hole hard. His stutter step routine worked great before 2003, but he has to abandon it immediately if he wants to stay in the league.

The other main problem is that he doesn't have the speed to make any plays outside the tackles, so LBs can confortably clog the middle of the field when he's in the game and not worry about sweeps. As long as he runs hard and decisively he could be used by Denver or Houston.

re: 70
I actually assumed Chris's favorite team was the Steelers, I thought he was parodying the overzealousness of some people regarding steroid allegations.

72
by oljb (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 10:22pm

One thing to keep in mind is that this Steelers doctor has some other background that could provide a variety of possible connections who would want HGH or testosterone. If what I read was correct, he himself was an Olympic athlete and his sports medicine specialty presumably extends beyond attending to injured Pittsburgh players on gameday. His status as a prominent Pittsburgh-area sports medicine practitioner makes his presence as a Steelers physician somewhat unremarkable.

That's not to say that there's no likelihood that he was providing Steelers players with such substances, but he probably knows a lot of other people in other areas of athletics who might be inclined to pick up some juice. Point being that he could probably do well reselling HGH whether or not other Steelers employees are his customers.

73
by Don M (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 10:26pm

Based on their upcoming 2007 opponents I think the upcoming season looks promising for the Bengals, Ravens and Steelers, the Browns schedule is even lighter, but they suck, so I expect them to suffer through a 6 or 7 win season.
I can't believe the Bengals aren't going to draft as many LBs at they can get their hands on because to me that was one of the main causes for the bad year that they had although really there were only one or two games they should have won and didn't (Tampa Bay, and maybe Denver) they had one of the hardest schedules in the NFL. I think this seasons opponents point to better things to come for them.

74
by smartmonies (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 3:35am

You have to appreciate the title of the Steelers write up, "clock ticking on Big Ben?"

Nobody hates on Ben more then the writers at footballoutsiders.com. Thy just can't figure out that he is the straw the stirs the drink in Pittsburgh and will be there for 14 years.

So after seeing the title, I debated about reading anymore. But I couldn't help spot

"But third WR Nate Washington nearly matched Ward in DPAR last season and had a much higher DVOA."

That was enough for me. Anyone or any stat that has Nate "I just dropped another pass washington" ahead of Hines Ward, then I can't read anymore. Of course maybe I am being to hard on the writers hear. After all, 2 years straight that they have had the SB wrong. Sad.

75
by Chris (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 11:11am

70- It was a joke. Duh

76
by MRH (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 11:52am

Nobody hates on Ben more then the writers at footballoutsiders.com.

A closer look at last season shows that maybe it wasn’t that bad. Roethlisberger threw for 18 TDs and 23 INTs, for a passer rating of 75.4. But he also had to throw 174 more passes than he did in his rookie year and 201 more than in 2005. According to FO’s stats, Big Ben ranked 14th in DPAR and 15th in DVOA — not great, since he was third in DVOA the last two seasons, but not a season-killer, either.

That's some serious hating there. I think the press reports cited on Ben's alleged bad work habits were from Pittsburgh papers. Roethlisberger's performance was off this year from the previous two, by any measure you want to cite (ok, his yds/rush were up from 2.2 to 3.1).

77
by Chris (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 12:52pm

But how come when a guy like Large Ben or Daunte Mcnabbfumblepepper plays poorly people say " he was still injured"? The guy was on the field and needs to take responsibility for his play. If your still hurt, then get off the field and let Joey or Batch play. They were both the Lions " quarterback of the future" at one point.

78
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 1:30pm

#77: Because an injured Roethlisberger should still be better than Batch.

79
by NYCowboy (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 3:16pm

Can't see Pittsburgh getting Crayton, why wouldn't the 'Boys bring him back, considering the rapport he has with Romo?

80
by rk (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 3:50pm

74: "Th[e]y just can’t figure out that he is the straw [that] the stirs the drink in Pittsburgh...."
Article: "Ben Roethlisberger is probably the key to any turnaround for the Mike Tomlin-led Steelers."

81
by Chris (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 6:31pm

Pat- Then if he was so hurt he shouldn't have played. If he was healthy enough to play, you can't use the excuse that " he was injured, forget all those dumb throws he made because he was hurt".

82
by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 6:32pm

Apparently the Steelers have released Porter. Link in my name.

83
by Ilanin (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 6:37pm

The Steelers have cut Joey Porter and Verron Haynes. Official announcement is linked.

The Porter thing had been coming for some time - he had a cap figure of $5.5m this year with a $1m roster bonus, and I'm not suprised the team decided that was too much for an aging outside linebacker whose performance dropped off this year. He's got to land somewhere in free agency though, hasn't he? New England could use a 3-4 linebacker or two, but he's not exactly a Belichick sort of player. Dallas, maybe? This reinforces that Pittsburgh are going LB in the draft, I think.

Haynes is an interesting cut - the Steelers are now down to Willie Parker and John Kuhn at RB, meaning they really need to be looking to resign Davenport or get somebody else in.

Astute readers of the link will note that the Steelers tendered Brian St. Pierre (why?) and Max Starks, though it doesn't say at what level and I can't find out anywhere else either.

84
by Jerry (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 10:16pm

Re #83:

A great day for James Harrison (Porter's likely replacement). Davenport or an equivalent RB will be easy to sign. And maybe they think that St. Pierre is the new Cliff Stoudt: a swell guy to have as long as he's not actually your starter.

85
by Jerry (not verified) :: Fri, 03/02/2007 - 4:20am

According to Thursday's Post-Gazette, the Steelers and Davenport have agreed on a two-year, $2 million contract, and they expect to re-sign Haynes before the off-season is over.

86
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 03/02/2007 - 12:10pm

#81: Then if he was so hurt he shouldn’t have played.

Why am I repeating myself again? If Roethlisberger, injured, is a better option than Batch, of course they're going to play him, even injured.

There are hundreds of similar situations in the NFL, where injured players keep playing because the coaches know that they, injured, are still better than their backup.

87
by Ilanin (not verified) :: Fri, 03/02/2007 - 2:48pm

Most of the complaints from Steelers fans about this were that Roethlisberger, injured, isn't better than Batch, who is one of the better backup QBs in the NFL (he lead all QBs who threw less than 100 passes in DPAR and DVOA, for what that's worth).

The most specific complaint is: "Batch could have beaten the frickin' Raiders. There was no need to send a concussed Roethlisberger out there just to get Nmandi Asamougha some national exposure."

88
by Fnor (not verified) :: Mon, 03/05/2007 - 10:33pm

I think it's useful to look at things using the Leftwich (the unit of average starting quarterbacking).

When healthy, say Roethlisberger is 2 Leftwiches. Let's say Batch is around .5 Leftwiches. The question is not "Is Roethlisberger hurt?" but "How many Leftwiches of injury has Roethlisberger sustained?"

Theoretically, anything between 0 and -1 Leftwiches worth of injury would make Roethlisberger a good play- he would at that point be twice as good as the backup (.5 Leftwiches vs. 1 Leftwich). The question really arises if the he has sustained a -1 to -1.5 Leftwich injury, then his value approaches Batch's. As Roethlisberger gets closer to parity, then resting him gradually becomes a better option, as that promotes faster healing and a faster return to his 2 Leftwich value.

So it's not a binary question of "uninjured:start::injured:sit." You have to figure out the impact of the injury. Unfortunately, we haven't come up with a Leftwichometer yet, so the best teams can do is go by players (who always want to play) and trainers (who have to deal with incomplete information) to guess how much the injury affects the player. It seems that in this case, they underestimated the effect of the injury. This is frustrating, but not particularly surprising; as I said, it is a very imprecise consideration.

89
by Bill Barnwell :: Tue, 03/06/2007 - 11:39am

Of course maybe I am being to hard on the writers hear.

I think you misspelled "hurr", young man.

90
by Tom (not verified) :: Thu, 03/08/2007 - 5:20am

Re 88:

That was seriously funny.

91
by Gerela\'s Gorilla (not verified) :: Tue, 03/20/2007 - 4:09pm

re: 46

Aaron Smith could play in any scheme -- he's no beneficiary of the 3-4 and he strikes me as a team guy who'd never bitch about assignment, Pro Bowl snubs, or individual sack numbers.