Latest Steelers Buzz

Insider Only Latest whispers on Hartwig, Sanders, Burnett & QB situation

The Latest Steelers Buzz
Highlights of Story: Is the smarter move to keep Hartwig?; Burnett intriguing in nickle back role; Big weekend ahead for wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders when it comes to his chances of being active on week 1; Dixon’s trade value increasing;
Final roster cuts will be made on September 4th and indications are the Steelers would like to keep Justin Hartwig and have little interest in cutting him outright.
It should be remembered that this is a player the Steelers just gave a four year extension last September.
There’s a possibility that the team listens to trade offers like they did two seasons ago with Sean Mahan but Mahan requested a trade and his agent was granted permission to seek one.
Some evaluators believe the smart move is to keep Hartwig. While reserve center/guard Doug Legursky has made great strides in his development, he’s unproven.
The concern from some is that Legursky looks good in spurts but struggles to maintain consistency and eventually gets overpowered. Are the Steelers comfortable enough to have Legursky starting if Pouncey goes down with an injury?
That’s going to be the deciding factor, not the $2 million a year Hartwig is owed. For now Hartwig’s camp is saying he won’t request a trade but things could still change in the coming days.
*The Steelers cornerback situation is intriguing. Keenan Lewis has established himself as the No. 3 cornerback and is pushing Bryant McFadden for a starting spot.
He’s currently the primary backup to replace McFadden or Ike Taylor but if McFadden holds on to his starting job, Joe Burnett could be the 2nd year cornerback that has the most impact early in the season.

There’s a lot of intrigue centering around Burnett’s his ability as a nickle back. He’s reminded some in the organization of a young Deshea Townsend. Burnett has some playing making skills and is suited for a role inside against slot receivers.
William Gay is currently the primary nickle back, with Burnett making a strong push for that spot.
Meanwhile, Lewis is suited to play on the outside due to his size. He doesn’t have the speed and elusiveness to play the nickle back role effectively.
*This week in practice the Steelers switched wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to flanker and he will be the primary backup to Hines Ward against Denver.
Sunday’s game is being tabbed as a very important game for Sanders. The Steelers only make 4 receivers active on game days and how Sanders performs could go a long way to whether he gets a “hat” on week 1.
He is currently battling Arnaz Battle for that 4th spot. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians praised Sanders blocking ability yesterday. That’s another area he must show he’s capable of doing well to get on the field.
With a lack of playmakers at the wideout position, there is some “hope” that Sanders develops into a contributor this season.
*The most ridiculous notion this week was that Mike Tomlin is holding Dennis Dixon back because the Steelers don’t want Dixon to get “too good”, therefore they would have to make a difficult decision regarding Ben Roethlisberger’s long-term future.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk has even labled it a conspiracy theory. Here’s what Florio said this week.
“All that said, we’ve got a feeling that the Steelers don’t want Dixon to play because they don’t want him to improve and they don’t want to have to put him on the bench once Roethlisberger is cleared to return and they don’t want to have to listen to Dixon’s agent complain that the one-time Heisman candidate could be the best option to help the Steelers win, even with Roethlisberger on the depth chart.”
“Though Dixon’s departure will be inevitable if the Steelers ultimately decide that Ben remains the long-term answer at the position, the inevitable could come a lot sooner if Dixon plays with the first string in the regular season the way he performed with the backups in the preseason on Saturday night.”
“So if Roethlisberger doesn’t play well in the last 12 games of the 2010 season, don’t be shocked if Big Ben gets the bum’s rush, just like the Eagles did when they realized that, if they didn’t find a way to elevate Kevin Kolb, they’d risk losing their chance at ensuring quality quarterback play deep into the current decade.”
Those in the organization tell me, what held Dixon back was his poor performance on-and-off the field during organized team activities. For those who attended OTA practices, they would know where this is coming from. Dixon struggled mightily at grasping the offense and it really put him behind the eight ball and in the end, likely cost him a legitimate chance to open the season as the Steelers starter.
Meanwhile, the Steelers are fully committed to Roethlisberger for the long-term no matter what (assuming he stays out of trouble). A strong performance from Dixon through four games is not going to change that by any means.
The Steelers also have no reason to hold Dixon back as he’s becoming potential trade bait. League contacts strongly believe a team will take a chance on Dixon and Pittsburgh will get compensated.
Seattle Seahawks backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst is a prime example of that. The Seahawks and San Diego Chargers completed a trade last March that sent third-string (at the time) Chargers quarterback Charlie Whitehurst to Seattle for draft picks.
In the trade, the Seahawks swapped the 40th pick in the second round with San Diego’s 60th pick and also sent the Chargers a third-round pick in the 2011 draft.
Pittsburgh is in the situation where they’re are going to go with the quarterback who they believe gives them the best chance to win during Roethlisberger’s suspension.
There’s no conspiracy about that.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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