It has been a somewhat slow news week compared to the last two. No big deal usually, but it's getting a little tough psychologically for Steelers fans. At my day job I regularly run into three diehard Steelers fans who come in once a week. These three people don't know each other, yet they each express the exact same sentiments; they are more than pleased at the outcome of the draft and other off season developments and are impatient for the start of the regular season four months from now. Admit it; have you ever been this antsy about football in May?
So, for me at least, news has been nourishment; finger food to tide me over until more meaty fare such as training camp shows up. This week the appetizers include the following:
If you paid attention to such things in the past you have certainly noticed the rather brisk, pain free pace at which our draftees have been signing their rookie contracts. You can credit this to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The way things played out last summer I don't think many people were going over the CBA with a fine tooth comb analyzing its provisions; we were just glad that we would be having a full season of football. One of the benefits is that the contract process has been standardized to the point that things are being resolved with very little fuss. According to a report on ESPN on Friday morning most if not all the rookies around the league may be signed by the end of the month. The clear advantage here is that all first year players have a chance to hit the ground running so to speak; and that will, hopefully, translate into quality contributions from these players to their respective teams at an earlier time.
What this means for Pittsburgh is that as of Friday afternoon, 2nd rounder Michael Adams, 4th rounder Alameda Ta'amu, 5th rounder Chris Rainey, 7th rounders Toney Clemons, Terrence Frederick, David Paulson and Kelvin Beachum are all signed and on board barely a week after the conclusion of the rookie minicamp. Only 1st rounder David DeCastro and 3rd rounder Sean Spence remain unsigned among the current rookie class. It is possible, even likely, that the Steelers will enter OTAs with only restricted free agent Mike Wallace not under contract. We can live with that I think.
The Steelers minicamp for rookies and selected first year players concluded this past Sunday. These things don't yield much in the way of football information beyond some snippets of Tomlin Speak if you're into that sort of thing. Most of the stories are of an introductory human nature kind of focus.
We were introduced to Safety Myron Rolle (Florida State) a Rhodes Scholar whose family has a strong NFL pedigree and who spent last season on the Tennessee Titan's practice squad.
We will be rooting for local (Pittsburgh area) products 7th round draft pick Toney Clemons WR (Colorado and Valley High School, New Kensington), UDFA Connor Dixon WR (Duquesne and South Park High School), and UDFA Brandon Lindsay LB (Pittsburgh and Aliquippa High School).
We also learned that David DeCastro and Mike Adams roomed together as they attended the camp. They also are well acquainted as they trained together in Arizona as they prepared for the draft. We learned that Chris Rainey exudes confidence and is not at all daunted by the fast pace of instruction. We learned that Alameda Ta'amu really doesn't have much of a weight problem. And we learned that Kelvin Beachum is a pretty bright guy who served as a student member of the Trustees Board of Southern Methodist University.
But the best news to come out of the minicamp was...
The rapid and amazing recovery of the Steelers Running Back Coach continued with his appearance on the field at Friday's practice. This is clearly the best news to come out of camp.
And while still on the subject of human interest stories...
Big Ben gets his BA
What a difference two years makes. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger walked and received his undergraduate diploma from the University of Miami (Ohio) this past weekend. Ben has now gone from Public Enemy in the minds of many to a source of inspiration by completing his education.
Of even greater interest to Steelers fans like me is an interview conducted later in the week with Rich Eisen. It was in this conversation that we began to get our first clues about Todd Haley's new offense. Among the things mention was that 90% of the offense is new, and that in spite of all the talk of de-emphasizing the pass, they have been spending a lot of time on the no huddle offense. Of course we should also be mindful that given this is a huge national forum that Ben may also be engaged in an exercise of misdirection. But, as we said at the top, its news and a good thing.
And speaking of good things...
If you link the Steelers.com website you'll come across something you won't see every day; Hines Ward in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform. No, the Pirates haven't become that desperate (at least not yet). Ward was honored with throwing out the first pitch for Thursday's game with the Washington Nationals at PNC Park. It seems that Hines is getting into the swing of this retirement thing (He also participated in batting practice). Last week he was interviewing with various networks, and it may not be long before we see his smiling face as an analyst for one of the national sports operations. Good for him and good for us.
Kurt Warner, Cris Carter and Bill Romanoski
In non-Steelers related news, the fallout from Bountygate continues as NFL alumni argue among themselves. Kurt Warner was accused of biting the hand that fed him in some quarters for remarks he made last week about doubts he had supporting his children playing football in light of recent revelations concerning concussions as well as the death of Junior Seau. Chris Carter confessed that when he was allegedly threatened by Bill Romanoski before a game that Carter placed a bounty on Romanoski as an act of self-protection. Romanoski responded by ridiculing Carter (of course) and denying the accusation. If you missed any of this don't worry, there is much more coming.
ESPN's Outside The Lines has just completed a series on the concussion issue. There is much more coming; it's at least four months before the start of the season.