How Bell finishes is now more important
Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell started the last two seasons poorly.
An injury early in training camp in 2013 kept him out of the team's first three games of the year. In Week 4, his first pro game, he put up a two-touchdown performance in a loss to the Vikings, his flip into the end zone drew the ire of a smaller segment of Steeler Nation.
That is easily forgiven when a player produces the way Bell did his rookie season.
He ramped up the level of offense, as well as production, in 2014. He and then-teammate LeGarrette Blount were arrested for marijuana possession, and Bell was hit with DUI, during the preseason.
All was forgotten when Bell announced his arrival as one of the top offensive players in the NFL. His 2,215 yards from scrimmage were the second-highest in the league.
It appears, based on the language of the new player conduct policy implemented in 2014, Bell is facing a two-game suspension for the charge, as well as his subsequent placement in a diversionary program and probation he was given in January. A source of ESPN's John Clayton says the Steelers expect him to be suspended for two games - the mandatory punishment for DUI judgements and assumptions of guilt.
A third straight blemish will likely appear on Bell's face to start the season. He'll pay his dues, he'll draw some criticism, but most importantly, he'll weaken his team at the start of the season - and this team is 1-3 in Weeks 1 and 2 the last two years.
It's likely, based on a marketing viewpoint, the Steelers will head to New England to take on the defending champion Patriots for the league's season debut. The visiting team has won that game once in the last 10 years.
The Steelers are 0-4 in games over the last two seasons when Bell hasn't played. Do the math here, odds are stacked heavily against the Steelers winning their second consecutive season opener.
It isn't just due to the likely strength of their opponent (the Patriots are facing little change in this offseason), but the Steelers will likely be Bell-less and unable to put their best foot forward, exactly like last season's playoffs.
DK calls Worilds' deal
Dejan Kovacevic of DK on Pittsburgh Sports is one of the most knowledgeable writers in the area. He's connected, and he's a pro. When he makes his opinion known, we can trust the information behind the reporting.
He wrote recently regarding pending free agent Jason Worilds, "Jason Worilds will get a multiyear offer, and he will sign it. Bank on both."
On its face, it's tough to argue with him. Worilds will most certainly play in the NFL next year, and doing so on a long-term contract means he wouldn't receive a tag, transition or franchise. The real question is whether the multiyear offer to which DK is referring will come from the Steelers. The options here are limited, but that doesn't mean they are bad.
Arthur Moats will be the name immediately thrown out as a replacement for Worilds. Look at the facts: Worilds was given the team's transition tag last year, strapping on $9.75 million in guaranteed money to a team that needed to be judicious in its spending. They did that with Moats highly likely to be available in free agency in just a few days.
They signed Moats to a one-year contract for the veteran minimum, knowing the situation with Worilds wasn't set beyond 2014.
It wasn't too long ago the team knew the end was coming for outside linebacker Joey Porter. To prepare for that, the team signed his back-up, James Harrison, to a three-year deal for a little above the minimum. That gave them insurance.
The team had the opportunity to sign either Moats or Worilds to a multiyear deal, and elected not to - or were rejected. All of these facts indicate the team's priority was getting Worilds signed long-term. It doesn't necessarily mean they are still committed to Worilds long-term, but if Moats is a simple solution to all of it, it's only fair to wonder why they didn't sign him to a two-year deal last year. Having Moats under contract for 2015 would present the Steelers with some leverage in negotiating with Worilds, as well as give them the security of having a player in place in case of Worilds' departure.
Perhaps Moats was offered a two-year deal and declined, but that doesn't seem likely, considering he only received the minimum amount for his level of tenure. His one-year deal was essentially a prove-it contract, leaving 2015 open to negotiation on even ground for both sides.
If we were to make a prediction on Worilds, he'll choose the best multiyear offer he gets, and it won't be the one the Steelers will give him. He will get one from his original club, but he won't play for it in 2015. Moats becomes the club's best known option, unless they want to make a few moves to free up cap space to go after a higher-priced player.
It seems more prudent, if they wish to spend, to do so on the devil they know instead of the devil they don't.
The Underwear Olympics
This is the script for Monday's Steelers' Two Minute Drill (reduced to one minute in the offseason):
The Annual Underwear Olympics - the NFL Scouting Combine - begins Tuesday in Indianapolis. The league's future stars will run, jump, preen and answer questions, most of the time in spandex, with TV cameras covering every inch.
Some say the physical aspect of the Combine isn't relevant. 40 times and bench presses don't have a direct effect on talent.
Some may disagree, but what should always matter is the team interview. Teams get a 15-minute speed date in which to make a determination of a player's character, love for the game and the desire to get better. Love and desire separated Manning from Leaf. It was part of the reason the Steelers took Antonio Brown in the sixth round.
If a player shows these traits, and demonstrates at least passable athleticism at the Combine, the Steelers will give him a hard look. If not, all the shuttle times and vertical jumps in the world won't help him.
Your Take: I'm on the fence with Peters if he doesn't interview well.
Honestly I'm not interested in any CB at 22, besides Waynes or Peters, pre-combine. I'm keeping quiet with my opinion on pass rusher until the combine hits, it can just shake up so much. Besides those two corners, I'm personally interested at only OLB and DL in the first right now.
My Take: Marcus Peters is clearly the front-runner for Most Intriguing Option for the Steelers with the 22nd overall pick. He's dynamic, he's fluid and he's competitive. He's got a bright future as an NFL cornerback.
Peters also has a spotty past, one in which he was thrown off his collegiate team. That's rare for a high-level player, considering the amount of money college coaches are paid and the absence of personal financial consequences for keeping problem players in their programs.
We won't know exactly how well Peters will interview at the Combine, or even how to measure the quality of such an interview. What we do know is that it's not too tough to rehearse a script in which a player accepts full responsibility for whatever it is that happened.
None of that changes what happened. None of it changes the fact Peters is an incredible talent, one who could find his way on the field early in his Steelers career.
Lots of intrigue.