Easter and Passover greetings everyone. If you read my last post you may question how many really big stories have transpired over the last week, but there has been some news. Like last week I want to begin with something that on first blush appears small, but has, perhaps, larger ramifications for the Nation.
Baron Batch medically cleared
Read Steel34D's piece on this issue in Fan Posts. This wouldn't rise to the level of news normally. A low-round draft pick that didn't survive training camp and has not participated in a preseason game much less the regular season is now ready to give it another shot. So what's the big deal? First the disclaimer; Baron Batch has accomplished absolutely nothing in football terms. Baron Batch is about promise. Some players win our hearts in training camp; Isaac Redman is one of the more prominent recent examples. But the better comparison in this case is with Antonio Brown. Batch had already been injured by the time I made it Steelers training camp in Latrobe. I did see how Brown stood out, in camp and in preseason games. He was, in fact, impossible to ignore. Reportedly, Batch made a similar impression in the short time that he was in view before his injury.
But competence on the football field, as much as it means, is only part of the story for Baron isn't it? We will be rooting for Baron Batch because we are hoping that he will fulfill his athletic potential and contribute in a significant way to the Steelers accumulating more Lombardi's; that goes without saying. But to be honest, Batch is the type of guy that you are inclined to root for regardless of what he's doing. You would root for him if he was applying for a job with your company or applying to attend your alma mater or marrying into you family. He may be one of those rare individuals who may be doing football a favor by his presence rather than the other way around.
However, the true significance here is that Batch may not be unique in character to others of the new or Tomlin Steelers. Brown and Batch are 6th and 7th round draft picks that have created an air of excitement that goes far beyond their relative modest credentials coming into the league. Add to that another player I am rooting very hard for because of character issues; safety Myron Rolle. Up to this point it would be hard to distinguish those players specifically selected during Mike Tomlin's tenure and those who came before. In the majority of cases they are just coming into their own as players and as such are hard to gauge as to how they might impact the team as leaders. Leadership has been a topic of discussion for the weeks since Hines, Aaron and James Farrior were released. Let's assume just for argument's sake that Batch makes it and becomes a big contributor to the team. Would he, along with Brown, be considered as part of the future leadership of this team? Could some common characteristics be identified that might be given the label Tomlin Steelers?
The ‘Bounty' story continues
The current phase of the story includes the appeals by Sean Payton and others of their suspensions by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The decision on those appeals have yet to made as I write this, but that aspect of the story has been overwhelmed by the release of an audio tape by filmmaker Sean Pamphilon of a defensive meeting presided over by Gregg Williams that is particularly damning. Adding additional spice is that Pamphilon's access came through former Saints player Steve Gleason who has ALS, is reportedly distraught because he gave no permission for Pamphilon to release the tape. One thing is certain, regardless as to how these particular aspects of this issue are resolved, the general mood of Saints Nation is not one of contrition. In fact, the reaction of Saints fans is reminiscent to me of how Steelers Nation generally reacted when the hammer came down on James Harrison and other Steelers players over the past two years. Adding more intrigue is the contract situation for quarterback Drew Brees and the possibility that Bill Parcells will play coach for a year due to Payton's absence. This one is just getting started, so stay tuned.
Demetrius Bell signs with the Eagles
The buzz was starting to build earlier this week that former Bills offensive tackle Demetrius Bell might be rejoining his former coach Sean Kugler with the Steelers. We may never know if Pittsburgh was seriously interested, but it is all moot now. With loss of tackle Jason Peters Philadelphia definitely had the greater motivation to get something done. Those who are concerned about the state of the offensive line are still at square one.
Sepulveda out. The Post-Gazette reports that unrestricted free agent Daniel Sepulveda says that the Steelers do not want him to return to the team. This should not come as a surprise given that 1) Sepulveda has had his season cut short by knee injuries during three of the last four years, and 2) his replacement, Jeremy Kapinos has done fine work in his place. This will probably be judged a failure for Kevin Colbert and the front office given the draft position of Sepulveda. In reality this is more a hard luck story rather than one of failure. We wish Daniel good health and better luck in future endeavors.
Preseason schedule released
We now know who the Steelers will be playing during August when the games don't count. The exact time of only one of those games have been announced so far, a home game against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, August 19th, on NBC. The game will be the likely coming out party for whomever the Colts draft in the first round, probably Oliver Luck. The other home game will be the, now traditional preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers. The preseason opener will be against the Eagles in Philadelphia, and an away game against Buffalo rounds out the schedule. These last three games will be broadcast by KDKA in Pittsburgh. If, like me, you don't live in Pittsburgh, if past practices are continued then the NFL Network will broadcast those games either live on tape delay or both.
New uniforms displayed
Nike and the NFL revealed to the world the new uniforms that will be worn by NFL teams this season. Depending upon whether you are a traditionalist you will either relieved or disappointed by what you see. Besides being more form fitting, and the addition of the Nike Swoosh, the Steelers uniforms have not changed a bit, which for a traditionalist like me is just fine. There is still a bit more drama. Given the fact that this year commemorates the 80th Anniversary of the team (The Year of the Fan; another news item that I am combining in this paragraph) there will be a new throwback uniform, the design of which has yet to be released. Check the Steelers website for more information on official team activities and contests related to this event.
Kirby Wilson visits the Southside Facility
This is the real feel good story of the week. Running backs Coach Kirby Wilson who was severely burned over 40 to 50 percent of his body during the week leading up to the team's playoff loss to the Broncos has returned to the team facility for the first time. His recovery is moving ahead of schedule by all accounts, and it seems likely that he will return to his duties with the team sometime during the upcoming season. This is great news for Coach Wilson and his family, the team and the Nation.
The Steelers come to Northern Virginia
You may have heard word of an autograph event occurring in Chantilly, Virginia, just a few miles from where I live in the Virginia suburbs of Washington DC. I honestly didn't pay much attention to it, but a report from my friend Arla, a Pittsburgh native and a member of the Steel City Mafia got my attention; particularly since she included photos in her email to me. It turns out that the Steelers contingent at this event would be impressive by any measure. Representing the 70s Steelers was Joe Greene, Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier. Soon to be Hall Of Famer Dermontti Dawson was also present. And representing the modern era were Hines Ward, Big Ben, Ryan Clark and Mike Wallace. Not bad for Chantilly.