PITTSBURGH - AUGUST 18: Byron Leftwich #4 of the Pittsburgh Steelers throws a pass against the Philadelphia Eagles during the preseason game on August 18, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
The quantity of stories was actually down this week, but not the quality. We have finally moved from speculation to reality and, boy, what a reality! The Draft has become the vehicle of Hope for NFL fans. For Steelers fans it delivered in just one round more hope than I suspect most of us could have imagined. So let us begin with...
We got a pony for Christmas
That is how BTSC's resident sage, Homer J. described the selection of Stanford Guard David DeCastro by the Steelers in the first round of the NFL Draft. Given the circumstances, Homer's enthusiasm was understandable. The reference to Christmas was a metaphor, but it was actually Homer's birthday, and it was quite a gift for fans of the Black and Gold; equivalent to a Pony. It was a joyous time on this site late Thursday night. Neal Coolong and seton hall steeler were ecstatic. Regular and not so regular commenters were all pretty much beside themselves with glee. Living as I do in the DC Metro area, it was one of those rare moments when both Redskin and Steeler Nation both felt like they had just won Mega Millions. The difference, of course, was that we were so happy because we had just scored a guard. Here are some of the things I learned through this experience.
Reality trumps fantasy. Real life can yield stranger results than the scenarios that we dream up in our minds. If someone had presented a mock draft that had DeCastro being picked by the Steelers at 24 that person would have been hooted off the site for being unrealistic. Yet that is exactly what happened. This is one important reason why the whole mock draft thing leaves me cold. I guess speculation is its own reward, because at the end of the day accuracy doesn't seem to matter much. In spite of the fact that pretty much nobody came even close to predicting how the first round would play out after picks one and two, there are now mocks emerging over rounds two and three. And there are mocks for 2013. Why? Why not just go to Vegas and throw your money away playing Keno?
Once again Steelers management has proven that they know what they are doing, and once again so many others have proven that they don't know what they're talking about. I was watching the festivities on NFL Network because I suppose I hate them less than ESPN. Mike Mayock wasn't doing a bad job of predicting who was likely to be chosen with each pick until, that is, they got to Pittsburgh. When asked who the Steelers would pick, Glenn or DeCastro, while probably all but a few of our fans were screaming ‘DeCastro', Mayock muttered "Glenn". After the pick when Steeler Nation was pretty much literally swooning with joy, NFLN, with the exception of Charlie Casserly, ignored Pittsburgh for the rest of the night. Friday night has been a little different as the Steelers are in the running for having the best draft for the first three rounds. What I can't understand is that if there is a franchise with an unmatched record of success and stability over a period of two generations, how can it be that the media, and others, aren't deeply interested in how that team conducts its business. Now, granted, the camera shy Steelers may collude in the misunderstanding precisely because they don't jump through the kind of hoops that others fall over themselves to get to. But these media types, and many fans, are not self-aware enough to entertain the idea that this sort of reticent, private behavior may be an important factor in the organization's success.
Nor is it just the media that seems to misunderstand and occasionally disrespect the Steelers organization. Some of the same people who were typing that Kevin Colbert is ‘Da Man' over the past twenty four hours after the first round were castigating him and the organization moments before the first pick because they wanted them to trade up in the draft. Sadly, many who claim loyalty to the Steelers do not understand how the team conducts its business. Sadder still there are those who do understand, but don't agree, that wish the Steelers would behave like other teams do because they have bought into what they think is a method of success that is in contradiction to what screams out from the evidence. However, after the DeCastro announcement Steeler Nation was on the same page for one glorious day. Unfortunately, the honeymoon came to an end when they picked...
Michael Adams, Tackle, Ohio State in the second round
It seems that though Adams possesses first round talent, he has some ‘issues'. ‘Pothead' was the term most frequently bandied about on one of the threads. The same front office that had been rock stars were now, once again, idiots, assholes, naïve, crazy, whatever. I checked out the press conference concerning this pick at Steelers.com, and I suggest that if you are feeling mystified or betrayed be this selection, that you view it as well. I think it will alleviate some of your concerns. There is certainly risk involved, but the Steelers have not abandoned their principles, and this young man is on a very short lease.
One thing that should be put to bed with these first two selections is that all the whining about the team not doing enough to address the problems of the offensive line must end immediately. Four high draft picks (two #1s, two #2s) in three years. If this doesn't do it, and in spite of the high optimism these two guys haven't accomplished a damn thing yet, then you can't blame the organization for not making a commitment to achieving that end. So now you are saddled with the challenge of finding something else to bitch about. And while those folks are pondering the possibilities the draft continues with the selection of...
Sean Spence, Linebacker, University of Miami in the third round
The defense was thrown a bone with this selection. I freely acknowledge that I don't know much about this kid, but it appears to me that he is going to be a project, not likely to step in immediately in any significant way this year. This is okay given my belief that the concerns about the inside linebacker position have been a bit overstated. To be sure, losing Farrior is not insignificant, particularly in regard to leadership. But let us remember that Larry Foote has been a starter in the past for this team, is himself a more than capable leader. And besides, the other three starters are all Pro Bowl caliber talents. And as Neal illuminated for us with his profile earlier this week, Stevenson Sylvester is a promising rising talent who could possibly do the job as well.
I'm sure there will be those who may disagree, but I think this is a very promising start. The really good news is that we still have seven picks left and, of course, the UDFAs. And let's not forget, particularly as it relates to the offensive players, that they are receiving a new playbook with updated schemes. Probably no one outside of those who work at the Southside facility know what the changes and adjustments are, we do know that it will be different in some form or fashion. That should add to the sense of anticipation of what will be unveiled as Steelers football later this summer.
Because this was a special week and a special weekend there has been a delay in publishing the Check Down in order to include all the picks from the draft. And so we continue with...
Alameda Ta'ama, Washington NT 4th Round; Chris Rainey, Florida RB 5th Round; Tony Clemons, Colorado WR 7th Round; David Paulson, Oregon TE 7th Round; Terrence Frederick, Texas A&M CB 7th Round; Kelvin Beachum, SMU T 7th Round
Details on these players is available on the BTSC front page. I won't be redundant and repeat that information here. I spent a portion of part one of this piece dogging the NFLN and the media in general. Well, I have to give credit where it is due. On Saturday the NFLN folks acknowledged what most Steelers fans already know; that Pittsburgh hit it out of the park with this draft, as least on paper. Brian Billick gave the Steelers an A+. I think it is one of best Steelers drafts, and as folks who understand the history of this organization in relation to drafts, that is saying something.
When you consider the quality of the talent selected, how these players potentially contribute to the ability of the team to successfully compete and how they enhance the team in terms of depth, flexibility and expanded capabilities this was an extraordinarily successful draft. Responsibility demands that before going any further that I state that the actual value of this draft will not be known for years. There may be disappointments when forty times, bench presses and college performances collide with the realities of the NFL. Some of these guys are clearly at risk of sabotaging themselves, all are at risk of being unlucky in regard to injuries and the other stumbling blocks that are part of life in general and professional sports in particular. But with all that being said, this is really a special, impressive, potent group.
I think what is so stunning about all of this is that I don't believe anyone's expectations were anywhere near as high as the results. Who thought DeCastro would fall to us? Who believed that the possibility exists to see the same kind of turnaround with the offensive line that we witnessed with the defensive secondary last year? And didn't many of you think that by focusing on the O line in the first two rounds that the ambition to adequately address the issues on the defense would suffer as a consequence? And after all that who thought that we would add intriguing possibilities at running back, wide receiver and special teams. The only disappointment would be if your heart was set on getting a place kicker.
So Steeler Nation enters a period of daydreaming and anticipation unlike anything experienced in years. This is not to say that there won't be worries, concerns and pessimism. This is Steeler Nation after all, and there is always those who can find the dark lining to the silver cloud. One thing is certain, the off season isn't so boring anymore.
Byron Leftwich was resigned to a one year contract
There is a possibility that this may not be the final configuration of the quarterback corps for the Steelers, though I believe with the challenges of replacing key leaders as well as mastering a new offense that the retention of Batch and Leftwich are extremely wise moves. Both are good leaders, popular in the locker room and are more than capable of making the necessary adaptations in order to successfully direct a veteran team with high aspirations. If a more talented, savvy youngster emerges, fine. But until then I'll take these two guys and consider us fortunate.