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A Look Back At Some Of My Earl Offseason Reactions and Thoughts About the Steelers Roster

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Random, verbal vomit musings really only contain any value if you go back and see how your questions have been answered. Let's take a look back at some of my thoughts and questions following the release of Jerame Tuman, Clint Kriewaldt, and Allen Rossum in late February. One might initially think that those holes - 3rd string TE, reserve LB and ST head-hunter, and return man - don't have that much impact on a team. There's an element of truth to that, but actually, when you think longer and deeper, it's easy to realize that these are little ways in which we can improve our 53 man roster and become slightly more competitive in 2008. Sure, our chances largely ride on Big Ben taking even one more step forward, Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley emerging, Hampton and A. Smith being healthy, etc. But still, 3/53 is nearly 6%. You wouldn't throw away 6% of your income willy-nilly. Why would you do so with an NFL roster?

1.

Tuman is of course expendable, but let me remind you that rookie TE Matt Spaeth struggled staying healthy last year. I forget the exact context, but I remember Tomlin basically saying that 'Spaeth is going to have to get tougher. Injuries are something you learn to deal with in the NFL.' Tuman's services weren't dirt cheap, but they weren't exactly exorbitant either. He may be a step slower than he was 3-5 years ago, but this is still a guy that played a big role in us having one of the more successful running attacks this past deacde. Tuman was slated to earn $1.45 million in '08, plus a prorated signing bonus sum of $300,000. The Steelers will eat that dead space, but what will they do with that roster spot? Surely they won't waste a draft pick on a TE, will they? If not, do you bring in an undrafted FA rookie and let him sit on the practice squad in case of an emergency? Do you select that player with an eye on his ability to contribute on special teams and only use him in the event of an injury to Spaeth or Miller? It'd be quite the (dumb) gamble to only carry two TEs on our squad and practice squad this year, so unless we're looking for a bargain basement that we plan on not using this year, I don't necessarily see this move as one that definitely frees up a bunch of money. What do you guys think we'll do with the #3 TE situation?
Evaluation: Yet to be determined. We haven't resigned Tuman as was speculated by some, and we haven't grabbed a reserve in FA. Perhaps in the draft? I doubt it. More likely an undrafted FA rook, or a journeyman scrub waiting for a phone call. No names come to mind, but I'd guess there's a few out there still.

2.  

What to make of releasing Rossum? Does the move mean we intend to look for help in the draft? You guys have been touting the ability of several return guys that might be worth a look in rounds 3-6. Do we hand over the duties to Willie Reid and/or Cedrick Wilson? Speaking of Wilson..is his future in Pittsburgh secure for '08 given that he wasn't included in this initial series of cuts? Perhaps too early to make such a definitive proclamation, as there are still potential free agents to be had, as well as diamond in the rough WRs in the later rounds of the draft. We'll see. Anyway, it seems clear that the coaching staff doesn't want to expose Santonio Holmes to the injury risk that comes with return duties, so who's next in line? God help us if it's Najeh Davenport again. I'm sorry, Davenport contributed lots last year, but great teams simply don't concede mediocre-to-barely above average field position in the return game with guys like Najeh. Can someone please explain to me how our change-of-gear power-back is also supposed to be our explosive kick returner? Seems like beyond twisted logic to me. You don't have to have a dynamite return game to be competitive in this league, but when you have an offensive line that surrenders lots of sacks, it sure wouldn't hurt to upgrade in this department. Color me curious to see the final outcome to this question mark.
Evaluation: Enter Mewelde Moore. For those relatively new to the site, you can see the conclusion I came to about his signing here. It's still not clear who might handle the KR duties, but I'm pleased we got Moore for PR assignments, not to mention what he might bring as a 3rd down back, and in the event of an injury to FWP, even as a fill-in feature back. My basic theme on Moore: one man's trash is another man's treasure.

3.  

Finally, Mr. Kriewaldt. A two-time special teams captain and a reliable back-up and locker-room guy. Hard to kick good guys to the curb, but that's the nature of the business. Kriewaldt is no spring chicken and frankly, his value as a special-teams head-hunter has diminished in recent years. Paging Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley. We officially have our future invested in you producing, not only on defense, but on special teams as well, at least in the case of Timmons. We'll eat a hair over $250,000 grand by cutting Kriewaldt, but that's no big shakes. Hell, we're still on the hook for $212,000 to Chris Gardocki in 2008. That's depressing, I know. Anyway, we may see the Steelers draft a LB in the middle rounds this year, have him get stronger and learn the ropes for a year or two behind Harrison, Woodley, Timmons, Farrior and Foote, then have him be ready to fill in for the aging Farrior in '10. Then again, we may just hitch our wagon to those four, hope John Trucks is ready in case of an emergency, and find a cheap reserve that's a touch more athletic and nasty for special teams purposes. We shall see.
Evaluation: Enter Keyaron Fox. I'd probably be more concerned if Fox was forced into a starting role than if Moore were, but I'm still more pleased to have him than Kriewaldt. I mentioned in a previous post that I was tired of terms like 'upside' when discussing blue chip prospects. Fox is clearly not that, nor has he ever been. But as I discovered, he potentially fits the mold of an undervalued sleeper coming out of his rookie contract that the Steelers are so good at identifying and acquiring. He shined in his few opportunities to start, and more relevantly, he's been willing and succesful at banging heads on special teams. You can review his background info (including in the comments section) and his special teams accomplishments in KC here.

*******

Mind you, we're not even to the draft yet. There are still players to be claimed off waivers, and of course, the draft is still looming. Even if we were at the end of the offseason and had no more maneuverings available to us, I'd still say that we've done a solid job upgrading in a few important, if not critical, areas. The fact that we still have ample time to continue to get better should get you even more exicted. It certainly has for me.