You would think that the top story of the week would have been Ben's knee surgery, or the unprecedented early signings of all but one of the Steelers' 2013 draft picks, or maybe the death of an NFL great. But the top story involves a violation, an intrusion of the violent realities of everyday life into the escapist landscape of sports. Its hard to reach a consensus in Steeler Nation, but one thing that pretty much all agree upon is that in spite of the disturbing nature of the incident that the outcome was fortunate, and hopefully will largely forgotten and behind us by the time that the team convenes at Saint Vincent for training camp.
Mike Adams gets cut (literally)
In one sense if you dwell on it you can get quite depressed. The offensive line that has led the league in improvising lineup changes due to injury conjured a particularly creative method to keep that streak going. Early Saturday morning Steelers second year offensive tackle Mike Adams was assaulted and stabbed in an attempted carjacking on Pittsburgh's South Side. All things considered the incident had a relatively upbeat ending given all the possible alternatives. The assailants also pointed a gun at Adams, the stab wounds did not involve any vital organs and consequently his recuperation should conclude without him missing any of training camp, all the the alleged assailants have been identified and two are currently in police custody.
It is likely given the history of how Adams came to the Steelers that there was some initial concern as to how he may have contributed to the incident. While I saw a couple of early comments questioning the wisdom of his being out and about late at night, But as the details of the encounter were clarified the only credible debate was over Adams response to the provocation. The news of his recovery and the level of support that he has received from the team and the community has all been completely positive. The football implications appear to be minor. Adaptions had to be made for the remainder of OTAs and mini camp next week, but Adams is expected to be fully recovered in time for the commencement of training camp in July.
Hombre de Acero points out that June has been something of a hard luck month for the Steelers. Ben's motorcycle accident and Willie Colon's ruptured Achilles both occurred in June, just to cite two examples.
What I'm curious about is the fate of his assailants. I keep remembering what happened to Tommy Maddox and his family after he threw an interception in overtime in a 2008 game against the Jaguars. How much worse could it be for these guys. They are Pittsburgh residents and their pictures have been plastered in the papers. An acquaintance suggested that they might be elected to the city council in Cleveland. But they ain't in Cleveland. I am reminded by that line from the movie Silverado, a fair trial followed by a first class hanging. Only I'm not so sure about the trial.
Ben gets cut (literally)
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger underwent a surgical procedure on his knee this week that sidelined him for the conclusion of OTAs and likely that of mini camp as well. But the procedure is considered 'minor' and the expectation is that like Adams, Ben should be fully recovered and available for training camp in July.
Beachum and Gradkowski
The short term beneficiaries of Mike and Ben's difficulties are Kelvin Beachum who took over the starting right tackle position in place of Adams and Bruce Gradkowski who took Ben's reps at quarterback.You can feel the stock of the second year tackle rising as its clear that the coaching staff is comfortable saddling him with increasing levels of responsibilities. The challenged him last week by having him attempt to master the center position. And this week's assignment would seem to establish him, for the time being at least, as potentially the first option off the bench to replace any of the first unit linemen who go down. As SteelCityRoller has pointed out as it relates to the offensive line (and the quarterback position as well) the short term misfortunes of Adams and Roethlisberger may yield long term benefits for the team as it provides opportunities for other players down the depth chart to get reps at higher levels and show what they are capable of doing. Gradkowski and the Steelers receivers should be helped with the extra work as the backup quarterback becomes more familiar with the system and the receivers with him. If there is a casualty it would be the experiment to determine which side of the line Adams and Maurice Gilbert are better suited.
In a related item Doug Legursky signed a contract with the Buffalo Bills on Wednesday. Given that Legs was the number one backup to Maurkice Pouncey at center, this would seem to further cement the notion of rising confidence in Beachum (though getting additional help on the line from free agency is still a possibility as well). Neal Coolong also points out that like Arizona in the west Buffalo is becoming somewhat of refuge for former Steelers as well; a Pittsburgh Northeast.
The last week of OTAs began and ended with certain peculiarities. On Monday, continuing a Steeler tradition, practice was cancelled and the team bused over to Dave and Buster's on the Waterfront in Homestead for what was described as a team builder, a day friendly arcade competition. On Thursday the team held practice at Heinz Field in the rain which provided according to coach Tomlin a nice simulation of what conditions may well be in the Fall months during the season.
Rookie contract signings
In what has been described as an unprecedented development the Steelers have signed all but one of their 2013 draftees including first and second round picks Jarvis Jones and Le'Veon Bell here, here and here. Only Landry Jones remains unsigned as of this writing. By contrast, in the past first round picks usually were not signed until July, often just days before the opening of camp. With this phase largely behind them some are speculating whether the team will dabble in the free agent market moving forward.
Defensive end Brett Keisel mused on the responsibilities of veteran leadership this week. Five players remain from the Super Bowl XL champions and a dozen from the Super Bowl XLIII squad. These players are trying to help their younger teammates start their own championship legacy.
The retired Steeler defensive end will be rejoining the team this summer on a scouting internship. Smith will be following a career path that has been successfully traveled by former Steelers Mark Bruener and Chidi Iwuoma.
Another NFL great passed away this week when David "Deacon" Jones succumbed to natural causes in California this past Monday. Jones was best know as a defensive end on the legendary Fearsome Foursome of the Los Angeles Rams of the 1960s. As Anthony Defeo points out in this tribute, many believe Jones to be the greatest pass rusher of all time and he coined the phrase 'sack' as the term that described the tackling of the quarterback in the process of the pass rush. Jones, as were line mates Rosey Grier and Merlin Olson, was colorful and interesting beyond the field as well. One of my favorite memories of Jones was during the course of an interview on the NFL Network with Rod Woodson, Warren Sapp and Rich Eisen when he was asked how he would react to Terrell Owens. His response was that Owens would get his legs broken.
These are tough times professionally for Tim Tebow and former Steeler Limas Sweed. Neal Coolong raised the question and stimulated a lively debate as to whether Tebow is being blacklisted due to the circus like atmosphere and attendant distractions that may accompany him when he latches on to a new team. Sweed has been suspended by the Roughriders of the CFL.
The Steelers Chairman was inducted into the Irish American Hall of Fame this week along with eight other inductees.
The campaign continues. Hombre points out that the cookies at the ESPN site that prevents repeat voting times out after a time so that if you have voted before it is possible after an interval to vote again.
Expanding instant replay
The case is made here for adopting the NHL model of replay review. The author helpfully points out that those who would complain about the extra time that such an expansion would take, reminds the reader what moving the draft to May will do in terms of time expansion.
Helping the fan
This week Jack Bechta takes on the issue of improving the fan experience. His suggestions include making 'ala carte' games available to fans without necessarily having to purchase a satellite package or repairing to a sports bar, and giving the public more control over the revenues of publicly financed stadiums.
Bill Barnwell has a fun piece in Grantland on financing improvements for several NFL teams.
Finally, also in Grantland, a little love to the Pirates and their palace on the Allegheny (lets not talk hockey today).