With the start of another glorious season a mere 9 days away, your Pittsburgh Steelers have made some last minute moves sure to affect the shape of the team now and for years to come.
We’ll begin with the good news. DE Brett Keisel has been re-signed to a five-year contract. I’m mostly happy about this, except for Mrs. Lintleman at Haine Elementary drilling the saying “i before e except after c” into my head as a child causing me to constantly misspell Brett’s last name. Keisel is a solid if unspectacular player, although he played his best ball in 2008. At 30 years of age, there should be several more quality seasons left in him.
Most importantly, this takes another potential free agent off the board for the uncapped off-season of 2010. Coming into this year, almost half our starters were in the final year of their contracts. Thanks to some preemptive strikes, that number has dwindled to a mere handful. As it currently stands, and I don’t expect any more extensions at this point, the only big name players the Steelers may lose next year are Casey Hampton, Willie Parker, and Ryan Clark.
And now the bad news. RG Darnell Stapleton is done for the season. I’m not Nostradamus but I kinda hinted at this possibility back when I posted about his “minor surgery” a month back. Stapleton’s entire game is based on footwork, mobility, and Predator-like dred locks. A bad wheel or unfortunate haircut make him pretty much useless. Even though head coach Mike Tomlin claimed the Stapler would return “in two or three weeks,” I had a feeling he was done. I understand Tomlin not wanting to discuss injuries but if some knucklehead (but rakishly handsome) blogger can figure this stuff out, I’m pretty sure he ain’t foolin’ too many other NFL coaches.
The starting RG job will fall to fifth year man Trai Essex. I’ve only seen one preseason game so the jury is out on if he can handle the truth job. He hasn’t played much thus far in his career because his ability to play every position on the OL has always made him more valuable as an emergency backup. He re-signed with the Steelers during the offseason because he said he felt he could start for this team. We’ll have to see if that means he’s that good or our line is just that mediocre.
Finally, in minor news, the Steelers made their first cuts on the road to whittling the team down to the final roster. The only notables were veteran C Alex Stepanovich, who was brought in mostly as insurance and likely signals that Penn State grad A.Q. Shipley at least makes practice squad. The other notable cut was WR Martin Nance, who was the college teammate and favorite target of Ben Roethlisberger. Nance was on the Steelers practice squad last season and had a chance to be in the mix for a WR spot this year. He was hurt early in camp and you can’t make the team from the hydrotherapy pool.
The remainder of the roster cuts will come later this week, on Black Friday. That is when the Steelers will face the thankless job of trimming the 70 or so guys who remain down to the final 53 man roster. Unlike some of the players who remain on the bubble, I can hardly wait. I’m ready for some football.