Okobi salary cap casualty?: Penguins in great position to upgrade their roster

There is a possibility Steelers center Chucky Okobi will be released if he doesn’t win the starting center job in training camp. Okobi has a 2 million cap hit and has made it known he will not take a pay cut this summer. The Steelers brought in offensive lineman Sean Mahan ( 4 years – 17 million) in free agency who can play guard and center. Mahan is expected to give Kendall Simmons a run for his money for the starting right guard position but Simmons had a excellent mini camp and has the edge for now. Another battle to keep a eye on is Max Starks and Willy Colon at right tackle. Tomlin has been very impressed Colon and will get a strong look to be the teams starting right tackle. On defense Deshea Townsend and Ike Taylor are the current starters at cornerback. Tomlins project this summer is to get Ike Taylor back to the player he was in 05. Taylor has responded thus far with a excellent mini camp and optional practices. His job is safe while Deshea Townsend will battle Bryant McFadden. Safety Anthony Smith is a candidate to replace Ryan Clark as the teams starting free safety. Smith a third round pick in 06 played very well down the stretch but has not been able to jump Clark on the depth chart.

The Penguins have without question, passed the Pirates in popularity in the past year. Are the Steelers next? Some say it can’t be done even if the Penguins win a couple Stanley Cups in the next five years, while the Steelers suffer 5 losing seasons. It’s very unlikely but in the early 90’s the Penguins not the Steelers were the talk of the town. Media figures like John Steigerwald say from (1990-1993) the Penguins did pass the Steelers during their three year run. I don’t see it happening but anything can happen.

Rob Rossi of the Tribune-Review wrote a very good article in today’s trib about Craig Patrick and Ray Shero ClickHere</a. At the beginning of their tenures Shero and Patrick have been blessed with the ability to build a team around the games greatest player. (Mario Lemieux 1989 – Sidney Crosby – 2006). Shero must be kicking himself everyday as to why he passed up the Boston Bruins offer to be their General Manager.

The Penguins budget will be around 40 million and leaves Ray Shero enough wiggle room to land another piece to the puzzle via trades. Whether Shero upgrades the team this summer or during the season, Shero has put the Penguins in a great situation to upgrade their roster. With a surplus of third and fourth liners, players such as Colby Armstrong and Ryan Malone have been mentioned as candidates to be traded during the season. As i reported this week, the Penguins are looking to move Armstrong but will only do so if it improves the team. They have not received any significant offers for Armstrong since the draft. Here’s why Armstrong could be moved sometime during the season.

(1) Ray Shero is not a fan of Armstrong. (2) There is no market for Ryan Malone at this moment as many general managers believe he is maxed out. (3) Armstrong is three years younger than Malone and from people i have talked to they believe Armstrong has value around the league.

As nice as it was seeing the Pirates win 9 out of 14 before the All-Star break, how can people get excited about them? The team was eight games under five hundred heading into the All-Star break and people were talking about them catching the Brewers. Unless your the Yankees, who in their right mind talks about a team contending for a division title when they are ten games under five hundred. It’s fun to dream but lets dream a little realistic every once in a while.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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