Steelers sign former Titans center Velasco, kicker Graham
The Steelers, nearing a crisis point only one bad loss into a season that already looks unpromising, sent out a distress signal.
With their unfocused offense in disarray, their defense missing its on-field leader and a critical game in Cincinnati next, they spent a busy Monday adding center Fernando Velasco and kicker Shayne Graham, and bringing back running back Jonathan Dwyer.
Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey (torn ACL and MCL in right knee), linebacker Larry Foote (ruptured biceps) and running back LaRod Stephens-Howling (torn ACL in right knee) all went on the injured reserve list, officially ending their seasons.
There are 15 games remaining. How many are meaningful might depend greatly on how well they play Monday night in their favorite road stadium.
“It's frustrating, it is, any time you lose key contributors,” defensive end Brett Keisel said. “But it happens every year with every team. One man's misery is another man's opportunity.”
Misery loved company during a dismally played 16-9 loss Sunday to the Titans as the running game gained only 32 yards and the defense again failed to make game-altering plays, which worries safety Ryan Clark.
Counting the season-ending stretch of five losses in seven games last season and their 0-4 preseason, the Steelers have lost 10 of the past 12 times they've stepped on a playing field.
All of a sudden, the substandard is becoming the standard.
“If we continue to play like this, we'll continue to see the same results,” Clark said.
The Steelers haven't missed the playoffs in successive seasons since 1999-2000, but their chances of returning will diminish greatly if they don't beat the Bengals (0-1), who've lost 11 of their past 12 at home to Pittsburgh.
Since 1990, only 22 of 190 teams (11.5 percent) that opened 0-2 made the playoffs.
“We've got to bounce back,” Keisel said. “We've got a big divisional game next week, and hopefully we can.”
The Steelers didn't have much choice but get a veteran center once Pouncey went down. Their only options were backup lineman Kelvin Beachum, who hadn't played the position at any level until Sunday, or recently signed Cody Wallace.
Velasco, 28, started all 16 Titans games last season — 13 at center and three at left guard — but was let go after Tennessee signed veteran center Rob Turner. According to Pro Football Focus, Velasco graded out as the NFL's 11th-best center last season — one spot ahead of Pouncey.
Graham, 35, will temporarily replace Shaun Suisham, who injured a hamstring during the pregame warm-ups. Graham's 84.7 percent career success rate (227 of 268) is higher than Suisham's 80.9 percent (123 of 152).
Graham was cut last month by the Browns, who chose instead to go with oft-erratic Billy Cundiff.
Foote is expected to be replaced by Kion Wilson, who is with his third team since 2010 but wasn't in the NFL last season.
“Losing him is going to be hard,” Clark said of Foote. “I mean, who's behind him? I just learned (Wilson's) name like this week.”
Maybe these are the no-name Steelers.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.