1. The lockout is coming close to an official end and NFL Free Agency is going to be chaos as teams will have a 72-hour window to resign their pending free agents before the frenzy begins with teams getting their rosters intact before training camp.
Due to players with 4 years of NFL experience scheduled to be free agents, it will also be a much larger pool of free agents.
The Steelers list of free agents, just to name a few, will include tackles Willie Colon, Jonathan Scott, cornerbacks William Gay, Ike Taylor, defensive tackle Chris Hoke, linebacker Keyaron Fox, kicker Shaun Suisham, punter Daniel Sepulveda, running back Mewelde Moore and tight end Matt Spaeth.
Quarterback Dennis Dixon is a restricted free agent and received an existing round tender before the lockout.
Every name on the list, expect for Keyarox Fox, are believed to be players the Steelers would like to retain to some extent.
The salary cap will be $120-$123 million and the Steelers are already a team with cap issues as they have over $125 million committed to their cap without any of their rookies signed and several pending free agents.
We’ll examine Steelers free agency much more indepth in the immediate future but here are three things I’d like to see from management coming out of the lockout:
Make their 2012 free agents the top priorities: The Steelers top priorities once the league is back into business should be their 2012 free agency class, most notably locking up star linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons.
The team also has to take into consideration, other key free agents from that group including Mike Wallace whose going to land a big pay day and Troy Polamalu who sources say has intentions on playing another 3-to-4 years.
Let Ike Taylor walkThere’s not a more pressing need for the Steelers than the cornerback position. On paper it makes little sense letting Ike Taylor walk but they should.
Taylor is a valuable corner but the Steelers can survive without him and will if he were to sign elsewhere. This is a defense that is based on their front-7 and they should think twice about committing another big contract into the 31 year old.
Make Willie Colon top priority:
There are great football minds among scouts who regard Willie Colon as one of the best right tackles in football. Fans seem to not get it but those inside the business truly regard Colon that highly.
The Steelers would be foolish not to make a strong attempt to resign Colon who wants to stay in Pittsburgh in the worst way and settle going into the season with 36 year old Flozell Adams and Jonathan Scott at right tackle, who will likely be resigned.
2. The Pirates escaped Houston with two much needed wins as they embark on a tough 13 game stretch that many believe is going to be a barometer for where this team is.
The Pirates get six straight games at home against divisional opponents in Cincinnati and St. Louis before a seven game road trip with four games in Atlanta and three games in Philadelphia to close out July.
I think anyone would take a 7-6 or 6-7 stretch, which would still have the Pirates and four to six games, respectively, above 500 after 106 games.
The key for the Pirates remains divisional play and with six games at home against the Cards and Reds, a 4-2 homestand would be big for the Pirates.
3. Rashard Mendenhall via twitter and Ben Roethlisberger via Merril Hodge have both said they don’t have a problem with James Harrison comments.
What’s been interesting is how both players sent out a link through their (official or affiliated) social media pages, with statistics in one of the key areas Harrison bashed them on.
Mendenhall on Wednesday posted an ESPN stats page of how he was 4th in the NFL in rushing attempts and only had 2 fumbles.
“And lastly, I dont have a problem with what @jharrison9292 said because I know him. But I want you guys 2 check this out http://t.co/I47fLpU, Mendenhall wrote on his twitter page.
Big Ben’s official website twitter page, which is endorsed by Ben but not ran by him, posted a link to ESPN’s article titled “Harrison wrong about Roethlisberger“, which showcased Roethlisberger having just 3 interceptions in his own territory to Peyton Mannings 12.
4. Neil Walker (.273 – 9 HR – 62 RBI) is in the midst of one of those streaks where hitters are just locked in.
Walker who takes an 11 game hitting streak into tonight’s game against Cincinatti, is hitting .447 with 1 home run, 10 RBI’s, 3 doubles, 1 triple and 8 runs scored during the streak.
5. Eleven years later, U.S. Women’s Soccer captivated the nation again in the World Cup. Yesterday’s U.S. – Japan Finals match got a reported 8.6 overnight rating, which is huge, even though the numbers are down from the 99 Final that drew a remarkable 13.3 rating.
There are a lot of people I know who pretty much never watch soccer were making plans to be around a tv yesterday to catch the game.