Things Heat Up In Cowboys And Redskins Grievance Against The NFL - March 26, 2012 by indyfootballreport

Comments from New York Giants co-owner John Mara are inflaming the salary cap fine issue with the Cowboys and Redskins.

When the NFL fined the Cowboys million in cap space and fined the Redskins million the day before free agency opened, for all intents and purposes they made it sound like a done deal. It almost came across that this was a cut-and-dry case of the two teams violating the rules and paying the price. At least that’s the way the NFL tried to make it sound. Immediately, members here at BTB, and across the media landscape, started looking closer and it was clear there was something fishy going on. Questions immediately surfaced; what rule had been violated specifically? Why would the NFLPA agree to this? Why did the NFL approve the contracts at the time? Doesn’t the rationale behind the fine sound a lot like collusion?

As time has passed, those issues, along with others, have come to the surface, and now we got a full-blown confrontation. As we noted yesterday, the Cowboys and the Redskins have filed a grievance to get an independent arbitrator to rule.


Related: Dallas Cowboys And Washington Redskins Open Fire On NFL


Why are the Cowboys and Redskins keen on getting the case in the hands of an independent arbitrator? One, to get it out of the hands of Roger Goodell. The other? Because of comments by John Mara, owner of the New York Giants and the chair of the NFL Management Council.

By the way, thanks to Dan Graziano and ESPNDallas for their great work in following this case. Check it out here.

“I thought the penalties imposed were proper,” John Mara, the New York Giants’ owner and chair of the NFL Management Council, which imposed the penalties said Sunday. “What they did was in violation of the spirit of the salary cap. They attempted to take advantage of a one-year loophole, and quite frankly, I think they’re lucky they didn’t lose draft picks.”

More…

In violation of the spirit of the salary cap? What the heck is that supposed to mean? Either they were in violation of a rule, or they weren’t. Basically, what he’s saying is they were in violation of the spirit of a collusion deal the owners had struck, not in violation of a specific rule. In fact, I’ve never seen anyone mention a specific rule they were in violation of. It seems to me the NFL is getting themselves into a bigger mess as thing rolls along.

More comments from Mara:

There was no salary cap in 2010. This is a fact. Mara repeatedly brushed that aside during questioning Sunday, irritated at the fact’s mere existence. “We’ve had a cap for 29 of the last 30 years,”…

“This has nothing to do with collusion. It has to do with teams attempting to gain a competitive advantage through a loophole in the system. They attempted to take advantage of it knowing full well there would be consequences.”

The “gaining competitive advantage” argument is one that the NFL keeps bringing up. But Dan Graziano had a good response to that.

If this penalty was rooted in common sense, the NFL’s owners would be mad at teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who spent well below the level where the salary floor would have been. If this were really an issue of future competitive balance, as the ruling establishing the punishments claims it is, then teams that didn’t spend enough in 2010 would be punished as well. But the fact that they’re only going after the two teams that overspent in 2010 — or restructured contracts to take short-term hits in an effort to allow them to spend more down the road — indicates that this is not a competitive balance issue. It’s a salary restriction issue.

It’s a collusion issue. And the longer the NFL drags out this fight, the more likely that’s going to become a central issue, whether in a lawsuit, or with Congress stepping in. And just to add insult to injury, ProFootballTalk has this little nugget to add:

As we already know, the agreement regarding the imposition of the penalties was struck between the NFL Management Council Executive Committee and the NFLPA, making it a revision of the CBA without a vote of the league’s owners or union leadership. That deal happened even though Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was and still is a member of the NFL Management Council Executive Committee. It’s one thing for the so-called CEC to use its delegation of authority to work out side agreements with the union. It’s quite another for the CEC to do so without knowledge of one of the men who has secured membership on the CEC.

This could get very ugly.



Blogging The Boys

WWE Royal Rumble: 11 Things I Loved and Hated - January 30, 2012 by indyfootballreport

Last night saw the 25th anniversary of the Royal Rumble. Sheamus came out victorious in the namesake match, earning himself a title shot of his choosing at Wrestlemania 28.

Alongside the main event match, there were two title defenses, a grudge match between John Cena and Kane, a Diva’s tag match and yet another Brodus Clay squash.

The PPV itself got a mixed review from me, here’s the things I loved and hated about this year’s event.

Begin Slideshow

First Regime

Bill Callahan Is Dallas Cowboys OC, Stephen Jones Speaks Out, Jon Kitna Retires, And Other Random Things - January 13, 2012 by indyfootballreport

Stephen Jones seems to be more out front lately.

The Jason Garrett mantra about process is a bit of a running joke around here, but sometimes there is truth in humor. The Dallas Cowboys are engaged in the process of correcting the problems from last year, and I saw some things today that I found interesting in that light.

One of the big topics of discussions around here has been the need to hire an Offensive Coordinator to help Jason Garrett out. Well, turns out that happened already with the announcement that Bill Callahan is now the Dallas OC as well as the O Line Coach. The play calling is still up in the air.

Callahan was named the offensive coordinator but it’s not known if he’ll call plays, something Jason Garrett has done since joining the Cowboys.

This is still a positive move, I would think. Callahan has head coaching experience at both the NFL and college level, and made it to the Superbowl with the Oakland Raiders. He certainly has a lot to bring to the table in developing the offensive strategy and game planning. Assuming that Jason Garrett is on board with this and it’s not being forced on him by Jerry Jones, it would seem to show that the focus is on doing whatever it takes to fix the problems. It is likely that the OC position was part of the negotiations to bring Callahan to Dallas and was part of the overall plan all along. I don’t know that for certain, of course, but it seems to fit the way things have been run ever since JG5000 took over the reins. At the very least, that’s one thing we no longer have to gripe about in the comments threads.

More after the jump

The other coaching hire, Secondary Coach Jerome Henderson, is getting talked about by the management a lot.

“I think he is going to be a really nice coach for us,” Jones said Thursday during a radio interview on The Ticket (1310-AM). “Fans, anybody could see that we have struggled, in particular on the back end of our defense. We have to improve ourselves. That makes it two years running now we have struggled. We have to get better back there.”

That is not news to anyone, I think. But I was struck by one thing. The Jones referred to is not Jerry, but Stephen. (You may have suspected that because the statements were clear, concise and easy to understand.) I got to noticing that Stephen has been popping up in the media a lot lately. In addition to his comments on Henderson, he also addressed the draft, free agency and the salary cap in the same interview.

“We’ve got all the running room to improve our football team, whether that means going after a high-powered free agent if that’s what we want to do. We can draft, we can move up in the draft, we can do all the things we want to do. And that’s what’s important at the end of the day.”

That is a big and very encouraging statement. With all the holes on the team, it is encouraging to see that the team is prepared to go after personnel to fix things, and that the ownership thinks that they have the money issues well in hand. The announcement today that Jon Kitna will retire will undoubtedly help a little with that, too.

Cowboys backup quarterback Jon Kitna has informed the team he will retire, a move that was expected after he went on injured reserve Dec. 14 with a back injury. Kitna did not return phone call or email messages.

His experience and leadership will be missed, but I think everyone can see the wisdom of his decision.

But beyond just the financial maneuvering, it is also encouraging to see Stephen out front on these topics. Above and beyond the fact that you don’t have to reread his quotes several times to figure out what he is actually saying, it at least hints at him taking a more active role in the decision making, something most of us here would see as a positive step. He has also been speaking out on other topics a lot lately, including developing a “killer instinct” with the team and on Dez Bryant’s ongoing legal hassles.

I do not buy into the Jerry Jones as dictator and manager by whim meme. In the relatively brief time I have been deeply immersed in trying to figure out all things Dallas Cowboys, I have come to believe that JJ talks too much, but does not rule with an iron hand. I think the promotion of Jason Garrett was a major step in JJ admitting tacitly that the team needed some other leadership influences, and I think the suspected growing role of Stephen is evidenced by these recent statements. Clearly, he is speaking for the team here, and I hope he continues to do so, both because it shows his growing influence, and because he does not require translation. I even have some unfounded speculation that he had something to do with getting Callahan named Offensive Coordinator, just because it would fit my hopes for what is happening with the team.



Blogging The Boys

SEC Championship: 5 Things We Learned About Georgia’s Loss Against LSU - December 4, 2011 by indyfootballreport

Georgia entered the SEC Championship Game as a trendy upset pick, having won 10 straight and being beneficiaries of playing in their own state.

For approximately a quarter-and-a-half, those calling for an upset seemed as if they were onto something. Then, turnovers and special teams put the Dawgs at a disadvantage, and they were unable to finish.

They only have one game left, most likely a New Year’s Day Bowl somewhere in Florida. But what did we learn about Georgia today that we didn’t already know? What can we now reference in regards to the Dawgs as they prepare for their bowl game?

Read on…

Begin Slideshow

First Regime

Week 12 Patriots vs Eagles: 5 Things to Review - December 3, 2011 by indyfootballreport

#65 Nick McDonald is the Patriots 5th center of the depth chart, behind Dan Koppen (IR), Dan Connolly (Groin), Ryan Wendell (Calf), and Donald Thomas (more of a guard, but is on the active roster). McDonald has been getting first team snaps on offense due to injuries. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

1. Injuries – The Patriots played without Chad Ochocinco, Dan Connolly, Brandon Spikes, Pat Chung, and Devin McCourty. The Eagles played without Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin, and while Nnamdi Asomugha suited up, he played an extremely limited role on their defense. In the absence of Ocho as the Patriots “third” receiver, Deion Branch and Aaron Hernandez stepped up to complement the typically solid performances of Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker. While Taylor Price was pushed down the depth chart, it was good to see the Patriots still be able to pass the ball. Ryan Wendell played very well at center and looked more control than Connolly has in a few weeks. Tracy White played linebacker over Gary Guyton, which was a great coaching move, as White prevented LeSean McCoy from having a large impact on the game. After the first five minutes of the game, Kyle Arrington and Antwaun Molden combined for a solid game of play and prevented Vince Young from developing a rhythm. The Patriots did a great job of compensating for injuries, while the Eagles were unable to overcome their injured players. A win for the Patriots.

2. LeSean McCoy – Yep, McCoy was eliminated. The defense held one of the best running backs in the league to 31 yards and one touchdown on 10 carries- and 22 of those yards were on one play. That means beyond that one fantastic run (not to take it out of consideration), McCoy rushed 9 times for 9 yards. Yeesh. McCoy was also limited in the passing game with 4 receptions on 7 attempts for 30 yards and two dropped passes. In total, McCoy had 14 touches on 17 attempts for 61 yards and a touchdown, or 4.3 yards/play (3.6 yards/attempt). In comparison, he has averaged 5.5 yards/play (5.3 yards/attempt) on the season, which means that the Patriots made McCoy perform at a level far below his expected level. In other news, running back Tom Brady averaged 5.6 yards/run attempt. A win for the Patriots.

3. Pick Young – I was worried when the game opened up and Young threw a pair of beautiful deep catches. Of course, I was lucky and saved my butt by saying, “As long as the defensive backs can run with the Eagles receivers, then they can be in position to take advantage of errant throws.” There was no way Arrington was going to defend that first throw, although the Patriots should have had a safety in the vicinity. The miscommunication between Antwaun Molden and Sterling Moore allowed the second big gain. Beyond that, the Patriots hassled Young and made him look awful (until he padded his stats on the final drive). Molden came down with one of the bad throws, but Young was throwing such difficult throws for his receivers that literally no one on either team was in the area of a few of his other bad tosses. The Patriots didn’t really take advantage of turnovers by not putting points on the board, but they did force Young to win the game for the Eagles- and he had no chance. A win for the Patriots.

4. Receivers – Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski show up to play every week. The Patriots offense has made a point of involving Aaron Hernandez on five or so passes every game and he is continuing to grow as a reliable target. Deion Branch finally had a good game after putting up some pretty unspectacular performances. These are the only four players who caught a pass- and that’s totally fine, as long as they’re the open receiver. When the Patriots play with a blocking tight end (ie: Nate Solder), there’s only space for four skill players on the field (+Brady and the offensive line), so if those four players can continue to contribute, this offense could succeed where the past few offenses have struggled: the playoffs. A win for the Patriots (although I’d like to see some running backs catch some passes out of the backfield).

5. Protect Brady – The good news had to end. Tight end Rob Gronkowski had a stellar game blocking. Brian Waters was his usual consistent self. Ryan Wendell had a solid opening performance. Beyond that? Yikes. The Eagles pass rush was relentless and abused the Patriots cornerstones. Matt Light, bum ankle and all, was taken to school by Trent Cole and the Eagles pass rush. Logan Mankins was moved around by Cullen Jenkins. Juqua Parker and Jason Babin had a field day pass rushing against Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder. For whatever reason, the Patriots continue to struggle to establish any consistency with their blocking. Their average level of play forced Brady to move around the pocket and into the open field where, while Brady played exceptionally well against the Eagles, he cannot be expected to perform against top talent in the playoffs. The offensive line needs to solve its issues very quickly. A loss for the Patriots.

Overall, the Patriots took this game 4/5 points. The question still floats about the Patriots’ offensive line and their inconsistencies. Was this past game a result of Matt Light’s ankle (or Trent Cole’s typically high level of play)? Where is Logan Mankin’s mean streak as a blocker? Will the right tackle position ever settle down this season? Look for the answers to these questions next week against Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.

That could get ugly.



Pats Pulpit

Week 2 Patriots vs Chargers: Five Things to Review - September 19, 2011 by indyfootballreport

Fired up. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

1. Who Stops Antonio Gates? – So “Gates is much, much better than Fasano.” Well, Sergio Brown and the defense took Gates out of the game. Gates is Philip Rivers‘ safety blanket, so removing him from the game was feat the equivalent of taking out Wes Welker. Since Gary Guyton sat out the game, the Patriots used Brown and defensive looks to take away all attempts to Gates. Rivers threw one pass to Gates the entire game and it was intercepted by Brown. Patriots win this match-up.

2. Can Tom Brady Thrive? – A big question was if the Chargers would be able to stifle Brady like they did last season. While the Patriots put up plenty of points and Brady put up large numbers, there was a period of time (the entire third quarter and part of the fourth) where it seemed as if the Patriots couldn’t move the ball on offense. So I’ll give the Patriots a 75% victory on this match-up since the Patriots left plenty of points on the field.

As for the weapons, three receivers had 7+ catches (Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez) and four receivers (add in Rob Gronkowski) had 60+ yards. Tom Brady managed to spread the ball and prevented the Chargers from eliminating any of his targets.

3. Can Special Teams Be Special? – The non-story of the Special Teams could be a story. The Patriots were unable to make many plays in the return game as the Chargers looked competent on special teams. On the other side, Zoltan Mesko was fantastic with two punts before being injured. He dropped one punt on the 5 yard line and kicked the other one 54 yards where Matthew Slater took the return man down immediately. Stephen Gostkowski made all of his kicks and kickoffs, which should be expected. I’d say this point was a push since neither team really won this battle.

4. How Will The Patriots’ Secondary Play? – While some would say that the Patriots are testing Ras-I Dowling by fire by starting him as a rookie, others could look at Devin McCourty and say the same. The Patriots are throwing McCourty pretty much on an island against the opposing teams #1 receiver. Those who are expecting McCourty to perform like Darrelle Revis as a sophomore will be let down, but McCourty never looked out of place (other than on the touchdown to Vincent Jackson). He was always in the correct position, but sometimes an elite quarterback like Rivers can make every throw to a large receivers like Malcom Floyd and Vincent Jackson.

While Rivers was throwing the ball where only his receivers could make the play, he made a point of picking on Kyle Arrington when he was on the field. That said, Rivers was completing passes to Jackson in triple and quadruple coverage. Since Floyd was out with an injury, Jackson was his only receiver to put up numbers. The other two top receivers were his running backs Mike Tolbert and Ryan Mathews. Because of that, I’d say the secondary did a pretty good job. They took away Gates and every other receiver. The running backs fall to the coverage of the linebackers. I’d give the Patriots 50% of this point for removing every part of the field, except for where Vincent Jackson was standing.

I believe a healthy Dowling will go extremely far this season and most reports say that he could have played if needed. He’ll most likely have a safe week and prepare for Buffalo.

5. Who Will Spy The Backfield? – The Patriots lost this battle. No question. The goal was to remove Tolbert and Mathews from being productive receivers out of the back field. While Guyton was inactive, I thought that either Dane Fletcher or Rob Ninkovich would be used in coverage. Instead, it seemed as if the Patriots were so focused on removing the pass to Gates and the other receivers down the field, they let the Chargers pick up as many yards underneath as they wanted. While Tolbert ran 9 times for only 10 yards, he caught 8 passes for 73 yards. Mathews ran 12 times for 64 yards and a touchdown, and caught 7 passes for 62 yards. Patriots lost this battle and they need to find a way to stop dangerous weapons from leaving the backfield.



Pats Pulpit

Steelers Vs. Seahawks: Pittsburgh Should Level Record at 1-1 Provided They Do Two Simple Things - September 16, 2011 by indyfootballreport

Photo

As I alluded to in my short write up about Seattle Seahawks star safety Earl Thomas, there’s no argument to be made when it comes to whether or not the Seahawks can match the Pittsburgh Steelers person for person when the two teams meet at Heinz Field on Sunday afternoon. Pittsburgh may turn out to be too old, or slow, or banged up to ultimately make as much noise as we thought at the outset of the season, but there’s no question that they still have the team to beat up on lesser opponents in 2011, of which there are several on the schedule.

Seattle would be one of those teams. In fact, there’s really only two ways that Seattle can win this game:

  1. Special Teams: Yeah, yeah, kickoff rule, schmick-off rule. There were three kickoff return touchdowns on Kickoff Weekend, the most in NFL history. I guarantee you Leon Washington will take some chances in the return game at the instruction of his coaches. Seattle absolutely has to get any edge they can in the return game. They’ll need to punt well, cover well, and perhaps even try something creative like a fake punt or FG.

  2. Turnovers: The Steelers were +17 in the turnover department a year ago; Seattle finished at -9. After turning the ball over 7 times in the season opener, it’s hard to imagine Pittsburgh finishing too far in the black again this year, but so long as they win the TO matchup most weeks, that;s okay. Interestingly enough, Seattle is ranked 31st so far in turnovers (-3), with only the Steelers carrying a worse differential into Week 2. Ben Roethlisberger must protect the ball, trust the offense and his reads, and get rid of the ball quickly. Two fumbles big Big Ben last week; can’t have that again this coming Sunday.

I don’t want to oversimplify a game as nuanced as football, but really those two things should be what determines whether the Steelers get a win on Sunday. Seattle just doesn’t have the offensive firepower to hang with the Steelers unless they’re aided by good field position from turnovers or splash plays on special teams. Frankly, I think the Steelers should try to run the ball 35 times on Sunday and keep Ben Roethlisberger in the 20-25 passes range. But a part of me is concerned that Bruce Arians and Big Ben will try to build back the confidence offensively by airing it up more often than might be prudent. More on that later.



Behind the Steel Curtain

Week 1 Patriots vs Dolphins: Five Things to Recap - September 14, 2011 by indyfootballreport

New England Patriots' Dan Connolly (63), Wes Welker (83), Danny Woodhead (39), Deion Branch (84), [Da?] Gronkowski (8X), and what appears to possibly be Nate "Neat" Solder. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

Word of the Game: “Control”

1. Patriots Defense vs Miami’s Running Game – The Patriots were tasked with stopping the Dolphins‘ potentially potent running game. All of their running backs have the ability to be a game changer at any time and Reggie Bush was asked to pace the game. On the opening drive, it appeared as if the Patriots couldn’t stop the Dolphins from moving the ball as Reggie Bush picked up yards at his own leisure. Add the fact that Chad Henne waltzed into the end zone and it seemed as if the night was going to be a long one.

Well, as soon as Gary Guyton was replaced by Dane Fletcher, the Dolphins couldn’t run the ball. At all. They gained a total of 98 yards on the ground, which doesn’t sound like a shut out. However, quarterback Chad Henne was the team’s leading rusher with 59 yards. When their lead running back is held to under 40 yards and under a 3.5 yards/carry rate, it usually means the defense is stopping the run. Consider this battle won by the Patriots.

On the other hand, I also stated:

Hopefully, the Patriots can stop the Dolphins’ run game and force them to take to the air.

And we all know how that turned out…

2. Patriots’ Third Down Defense – Another success! The Patriots held the Dolphins to a 2/14 conversion rate on 3rd down. That’s enormous. Due to the large Patriots’ leads, the Dolphins went for it on 4th down a considerable amount and converted on 4/5 attempts, but that still means the Patriots were 6/19 on “Last Stand” downs. That’s 31.5% for those doing the math, which is years ahead of the 47% conversion rate of last year’s defense, and is right in line with their preseason conversion rate. Hopefully, the Patriots can keep opposing offenses around (or below) the 30% mark for the rest of the season.

3. Patriots’ Offensive Line – The offensive line was one of the biggest surprises for me. Tom Brady had so much time in the pocket that he wasn’t even stepping up into the pocket to throw around the pass rushers; he had so much space he was a statue. While Matt Light was pushed to the ground a couple times, he managed to keep Tom Brady clean the entire night. Logan Mankins looked like himself. The Dolphins wanted to test rookie Nate Solder against Cameron Wake and Solder definitely held his own against one of the league’s elite pass rushers. Brian Waters was awesome and looked much better than Dan Connolly at guard.

And while we’re speaking of Dan, he did a great job replacing the injured Dan Koppen at center. Connolly is much better off at center instead of guard because it allows him to be a complementary blocker, which is how he thrives. Koppen will definitely be missed, but I don’t believe the offensive line will miss a beat. It’s unfortunate that Koppen’s in a contract season, but don’t be surprised if this is one of his final seasons with the Patriots.

I stated:

However, if Light plays well (he normally chooses to deteriorate at the end of the season), Logan Mankins is his usual self, Koppen helps Waters to the right and Solder plays out of his mind, then the offensive line might not miss a beat. However, it’s unlikely for all of those cards to fall into place at the same time so watch for Brady to get hit a couple times.

Well, it seems as if Belichick stacked the deck in the Patriots’ favor. Win for the Patriots.

4. Tom Brady’s Accuracy – Brady had an okay day passing the ball. I guess. Preseason ended and he was no longer trying to force chemistry with the receivers and he stuck the ball where the players he could trust could catch it. Aaron Hernandez. Wes Welker. Rob Gronkowski. Deion Branch. Those four were key parts of the receiving game. Even Matthew Slater made an appearance. Chad Ochocinco remains a mystery, but he will be a valuable piece of the offense as the season grows older and he has more time in the system (although that line-up penalty was awful).

Brady also threw a ricochet interception that was a bad throw, but the interception was just a bad bounce. At least that streak is over and he can focus on scoring points. He looks like he hasn’t missed a regular season beat. Win for the Patriots.

5. Patriots’ Run Offense – The Patriots only posted 106 yards on the ground, but they averaged over 4.8 yards/carry and were moving the ball at will. When the Dolphins dropped players into the secondary, Danny Woodhead was there to take the free yardage. It definitely seems as if the run game was complementing the passing game (duh), but it also seemed like the Patriots never forgot about the run game, which is an improvement over last season. It seemed as if BenJarvus Green-Ellis or Danny Woodhead would get the ball right when the Dolphins were cheating backwards into coverage. Great balance, in my opinion. Slight win for the Patriots.

Overall, I’d give the Patriots around 9.5/10 on completing these tasks, with half a point missing from the run offense (it worked, but it wasn’t as dominant as the other facets of their game). Great work Patriots and hopefully there will be continued improvement heading into the Chargers game.



Pats Pulpit

You Can Say a Lot of Things About the Steelers 2011 Draft, but You Can’t Say They Didn’t Address Their Needs - June 12, 2010 by indyfootballreport

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Like most Steelers fans, I was expecting the team to select cornerback Aaron Williams from Texas with the 31st pick in round 1 in-order to fill their most pressing need. But I must say that I wasn’t overly disappointed when they went a different direction and addressed another concern with defensive end Cameron Heyward from Ohio State.

From what I’ve read about Heyward from the many awesome contributors to BTSC and from what I’ve heard on the radio from Steelers insiders, most seem to be happy with the pick. I’m far from an expert on the 3-4 defense and don’t pretend to know a lot of about the 5-technique, but the experts are saying Heyward is the perfect fit for what the Steelers like in a 3-4 end.  I guess we’ll find out.

 I think we can all agree that the quickest way for teams to get into trouble is by reaching on first round selections. Even though Williams was the projected pick for the Steelers on several mock drafts before Thursday night, I didn’t sense great enthusiasm about him from fans and most draft experts. The consensus was that he wasn’t exactly the fastest of cornerbacks and I believe I heard it suggested by more than one person that he may be better suited at safety down the road. Those are the kinds of  things people used to say about Chad Scott. Remember him?

I know players like Williams, and Brandon Harris from Miami, graded out as end of the first round selections, but when it comes to grading players, I often wonder if a lot of it has to do with the needs of certain teams and where they happen to be drafting. For instance, would Williams or Harris be thought of as potential late first round prospects if a team like Pittsburgh (drafting 31st) didn’t need to seriously upgrade at the corner position?

And there’s a difference between addressing a position and being set at one. So many draft experts that you see on television talk in absolutes when a team drafts a player. For example: “The Carolina Panthers drafted Cam Newton at quarterback so they’re set at that position.” No, they’re not set, they’ve just addressed a need–two totally different things.

The Tennessee Titans had to draft another quarterback in the first round Thursday night because the Vince Young pick from a number of years ago failed miserably. They sure weren’t set at the quarterback position.  There are obviously no guarantees.

Some people are disappointed that the Steelers didn’t just roll the dice and draft a corner anyway in round one , but it isn’t as if the defensive line didn’t need to be addressed. The defensive line is probably the team’s 3rd most pressing need behind cornerback and offensive line. But just because the defensive line is their 3rd greatest need doesn’t mean they should automatically try to fill a greater need with a player that they feel grades out lower than the top DE on their board.

The age of the defensive line has been an obvious concern for the Steelers for a long time and it wouldn’t take long for it to go to the top of the list and become the team’s number 1 priority. By drafting Evander “Ziggy” Hood just two years ago and now Heyward this year, they’ve at least taken steps to reload at that position with players of high pedigree.

In the 2nd and 3rd rounds, the team went about addressing their top 2 needs when they selected right tackle Marcus Gilbert out of Florida. In the 3rd round, the Steelers did take a defensive back out of Texas after all in one Curtis Brown.

Some might say the Steelers addressed their top 3 needs in reverse order, but I’d say it’s fairly reasonable to expect 2nd and 3rd round selections to someday start in the NFL.

Along those lines, in my opinion, the drafting of Gilbert pretty much signals Willie Colon’s exit from the team. With Flozell Adams stating he’d like to come back for another year, that could be enough time to groom the young lineman and have him ready to start in 2012. The Steelers aren’t going to pay second round money for a right tackle if they are at all serious about signing Colon.

As for Curtis Brown, as I said, it’s not unreasonable to expect a 2nd or 3rd round choice to start and even if Brown only cracks the line-up as a nickel back in his first few years, it would still be a successful pick. As Michael, Maryrose, and many others have been stressing this weekend,  in today’s NFL, the nickel position is becoming more and more valuable.  If you remember back to the late 90′s, one Deshea Townsend cut his teeth as a nickel back in his first few seasons and eventually went on to have a great career with the Steelers.

As you know, it’s far too early to judge this draft, but I’m happy that the team used its top 3 picks to address their most glaring needs.  As a fan, that’s all I can ask for.



Behind the Steel Curtain