Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Punters are defenseless?

Remember former Steelers punter Daniel Sepulveda?  All 6'3", 230 lbs. of former college linebacker? He used to pride himself on covering kicks and making solid tackles. On more than one occasion, he blew up returners.

Somewhere along the way, the NFL apparently declared punters "defenseless."

On Sunday night, Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber kicked a short punt that Antonio Brown got a running start on and shot upfield on his way to the end zone. Huber was more or less on Brown's route and unfortunately, for him, did not have his head on the proverbial swivel as he turned directly into a textbook block by Steeler linebacker Terence Garvin.

Huber was eyeballing Brown, didn't see Garvin coming, and got flattened. Cue the hue and cry.

A number of people, especially in Cincinnati, are crying that Garvin should have been flagged and will be fined. There was no flag, and we'll let the NFL suits debate a fine.

Just about anybody who's played football has been flattened like that, too. We feel bad for Huber that he suffered a broken jaw and, reportedly, a cracked vertebrae. It's a violent game, a collision sport, and we're not saying Huber should have seen Garvin coming, but Garvin was doing his job. What was he supposed to do? Fling himself sideways? Cut Huber at the knees, which could jeopardize his career? Ask Daniel Sepulveda about knee injuries. He's out of football because of them.

That looked like a good block, and we'd say the same thing if it were the Steelers' Mat McBriar on the receiving end.

The Big Linebacker Question

When healthy, LaMarr Woodley proved he can be a dominant player, a beast, good enough that the Steelers signed him to a $61.5 million contract.

It remains to be seen how long Woodley's latest calf injury (the other calf) will keep him out of the lineup. If it's the rest of the season, he will have missed five games this year.

Woodley missed three games with a hamstring injury in 2012 and six games the year before that.

In the 11 games in which Woodley has appeared this season, he's had five sacks and been in on 36 tackles (20 solo tackles; 16 assists). There were four games in which he had zero tackles.

The Steelers' decision last off-season to move on from James Harrison signaled a changing of the guard in the linebacker corps. After years as one of the great Steelers, Harrison's age and salary conspired against his future employment with the Steelers. Age and salary had caught up previously with outstanding linebackers such as Joey Porter, Jason Gildon and Greg Lloyd.

The same may be happening with LaMarr Woodley. Already.

The seventh-year veteran is only 29, but that means the wrong side of 30 is just around the corner. His 2013 salary is $3.6 million. His 2014 salary is to be $8 million (with a $14 million salary cap hit).

The Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette has been talking about that issue lately. In his Q-and-A on the Post-Gazette's website the other day, he was asked about it the other day:
  • Question: Ed, Since it will cost the Steelers $14 million to cut Woodley, he does not seem like a reasonable cap casualty, so where does that leave this team? Should they cut Troy? How can they resign Worilds with so much dead money in front of them?
  • Ed Bouchette: I keep hearing about that $14 million figure, but that would be if they cut him before June 1. If they designated him for June 2 or cut him then, he would count only $5.5 million on their cap this year and SAVE them $8 million in cap room and real money.