12 Steelers to Watch in 2012. Part 1.

James Farrior sees the future. Courtesy of balljunkie

The purgatory between Christmas and New Year’s Day is an awkward time.  It’s like standing outside the apartment after that first date; you’re wondering how you did and what your chances are of being invited up for a cocktail.  2012 is looming.  Let’s look at twelve Steelers and see who gets to come up and spend the night and who gets the uncomfortable hug on the sidewalk.  Your first six suitors have arrived.

Rashard Mendenhall.  Mendenhall was to be the rare balance of power and speed when he came out ofIllinois.  He has shown flashes of greatness and the ability to run hard and run fast but not consistently.  The offensive line, the Super Bowl fumble, and his statements about OBL have not helped his campaign. The biggest upside for the Steelers is that he is entering the last year of his contract.   Rashard will be using the 2012 season to impress somebody in the NFL. Date-ability factor:  One more movie and we’re moving on.  No matter how nice his Tweets are.

Hines Ward.  The ultimate long term relationship……and he can dance too!  Fifteen years of highly consistent service is worth something.  Rumor has it that the Steelers’ front office is up for keeping Ward around for the last two years of his contract as long as he’s up for restructuring but that the coaching staff would like to move on.  I say keep him!  This is an all time Steeler here and he has something left to give.  Cotchery only signed a one year deal and will probably be moving on.  Questions abound as to the durability of Emmanuel Sanders.  Wallace and Brown look solid but still rely on Ward’s mentoring.  Play ball with Hines and just watch how well he plays ball for you!  Date-ability factor:  He’s dreamy!

Marcus Gilbert.  This fella got forced into the line up earlier than projected due to injuries along the offensive line and played like he got forced into the line up earlier than projected.  There are very few Maurkice Pouncey’s out there!  Naturally talented and intelligent, Gilbert is long on potential but his second and third seasons really tell the tale for any O lineman.  Date-ability factor:  Interesting….. Let’s see where this leads.

James Harrison.  If you are looking for something nice to say about James I guess it would be that he absolutely loves to contribute to the NFL Charities Foundation.  Fined, fined, fined, injured, suspended is a hard fall for the former defensive player of the year but damn when he’s playing within the rules, he is best outside backer in the business.  Date-ability factor:  He will punch holes in your walls and then bring you flowers.  There is either wedding bells or a restraining order in your future.

James Farrior.  The light toHarrison’s dark side for sure!  Potsie keeps his cool and calls the D.  I have no idea what the Jets didn’t see in this guy; maybe they didn’t want to pay him for fifteen years!  Their loss has been the Steelers gain.  Farrior is solid and smart for sure but not able to cover backs and tight ends like he used to.  He may retire at the end of this season; he’s mentioned it.  If he stays, I could see him contributing in first and second down situations.  Date-ability factor:  Not the sexy smoove guy but he will keep you laughing for years!

Weslye Saunders.  This guy snuck under the radar as a free agent signing this summer.  An imposing physical specimen at 6’5” 270 lbs. Saunders had a couple of scrapes during his college career atNorth Carolina.  He also was contacted by an agent prior to being eligible to do so.  All of that business affected his draft status greatly.  He could be the next Steelers’ bargain bin treasure.  He can learn volumes from Heath Miller who is still playing at a high level.  The next season or two will tell but I’m hoping Saunders is a Steeler for a long time.  Date-ability factor:  He’s got a bit of a bad boy image but he’s a cheap date.  Let’s see where this goes.

Dreamboats or shipwrecks; you decide.  But get some sleep, you have six more dates this week.

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  • Skiboy95

    There is a list of folks I’d like to see retire in order to create some cap room:

    Casey Hampton. No longer the stud who could push centers around like they were on roller skates. Hopefully he retires, or his contract is restructured to free up cap space.

    Aaron Smith. With Ziggy Hood beginning to come more into his own, and the absolute raw athletic ability of Cameron Heyward, as much as I’ve loved Aaron and what he’s brought to the team through his career, he is no longer what we need at left end. I hope for Heyward and Hood to split snaps at Smith’s regular spot, with Keisel staying in his, and possibly some nose tackle play from Hood.

    Farrior. Love the guy to death, he’s been amazing, but he’s just too slow now, and even though he’s incredibly smart, he just no longer fits our defensive schemes.

    Larry Foote. He falls into a category with Farrior, he’s just too slow. Look for Stephenson Sylvester to take Farrior/Foote’s spot in the middle next season alongside Timmons, as he’s shown his athleticism on special teams, and that he’s ready to step up, a lot like Keyaron Fox did recently, before leaving in free agency.

    This is about all I have to list on here for potential retirees I’d like to see go, and if this worked, I’d love to see the steelers bring in a premier offensive Guard, to really solidify the line a bit.

  • dbuzard

    Foote has been a nice stop gap until someone else can step up and step in. Carter looked good in the few plays he was in for Woodley. He is dinged up now too though. Aaron Smith said at the beginning of the season that someone will have to tell him when he’s done. I think that conversation is due quick if it hasn’t happened yet.

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  • Skiboy95

    There is a list of folks I’d like to see retire in order to create some cap room:

    Casey Hampton. No longer the stud who could push centers around like they were on roller skates. Hopefully he retires, or his contract is restructured to free up cap space.

    Aaron Smith. With Ziggy Hood beginning to come more into his own, and the absolute raw athletic ability of Cameron Heyward, as much as I’ve loved Aaron and what he’s brought to the team through his career, he is no longer what we need at left end. I hope for Heyward and Hood to split snaps at Smith’s regular spot, with Keisel staying in his, and possibly some nose tackle play from Hood.

    Farrior. Love the guy to death, he’s been amazing, but he’s just too slow now, and even though he’s incredibly smart, he just no longer fits our defensive schemes.

    Larry Foote. He falls into a category with Farrior, he’s just too slow. Look for Stephenson Sylvester to take Farrior/Foote’s spot in the middle next season alongside Timmons, as he’s shown his athleticism on special teams, and that he’s ready to step up, a lot like Keyaron Fox did recently, before leaving in free agency.

    This is about all I have to list on here for potential retirees I’d like to see go, and if this worked, I’d love to see the steelers bring in a premier offensive Guard, to really solidify the line a bit.

  • dbuzard

    Foote has been a nice stop gap until someone else can step up and step in. Carter looked good in the few plays he was in for Woodley. He is dinged up now too though. Aaron Smith said at the beginning of the season that someone will have to tell him when he’s done. I think that conversation is due quick if it hasn’t happened yet.

  • DomDiTolla

    @dbuzard Nice article Dave. Always great to get some humor involved in these. I agree with your above stance on Foote too. Also excited to see what Carter can do. I remember in ’99 and ’00 the Steelers took two former WAC DE’s in the middle rounds named Joey Porter and Clark Haggans (Colorado State was in the WAC until ’99). With a bit of seasoning (more so for Haggans) those two worked out well for Pittsburgh.

    Should be interesting to see what the Steelers do in April regarding the ILB spot. Courtney Upshaw or the issue ridden but talented Vontaze Burfict at ILB are thought to be solid Round 1 [rps[ecys. Whether or not they pursue an ILB high should be a gauge of where they see ‘Vester starting down the road, but his value on Special Teams is top-notch.

    Overall, nice job. Can’t wait for Part II.

  • DomDiTolla

    @dbuzard Nice article Dave. Always great to get some humor involved in these. I agree with your above stance on Foote too. Also excited to see what Carter can do. I remember in ’99 and ’00 the Steelers took two former WAC DE’s in the middle rounds named Joey Porter and Clark Haggans (Colorado State was in the WAC until ’99). With a bit of seasoning (more so for Haggans) those two worked out well for Pittsburgh.

    Should be interesting to see what the Steelers do in April regarding the ILB spot. Courtney Upshaw or the issue ridden but talented Vontaze Burfict at ILB are thought to be solid Round 1 [rps[ecys. Whether or not they pursue an ILB high should be a gauge of where they see ‘Vester starting down the road, but his value on Special Teams is top-notch.

    Overall, nice job. Can’t wait for Part II.

  • runningyankee

    Great post!

  • runningyankee

    Great post!