Will Ferrell’s character Ron Burgundy from the Anchorman movies had a catch phrase that he uttered at the end of each broadcast. “You stay classy, San Diego!”
The Pittsburgh Steelers will attempt to do just that with their 2018 draft class. Except in the Steel City, of coarse.
The Steelers appear to place equal value on all the grading aspects of a potential draft pick; athleticism, intelligence/instincts, production, and character. The Steelers build their draft board accordingly, and refuse to reach for a highly rated player who may be falling down the draft board to their pick due to character concerns. The Steelers draft history confirms this team philosophy.
This tried and true philosophy may limit the quantity of the Steelers draft board, but not the quality.
I applaud the Steelers for their value system as it almost always results in high character young men we can all feel comfortable cheering for. Notice I added the admission almost always.
Some character concerns admittedly don’t reveal themselves till after a player has already been drafted. After they have more money than they ever imagined and they have reached celebrity status in the city they now call home.
Some players from smaller schools not considered a football factory were just getting used to being the Big Man on Campus. Now some of them suddenly become like Clint Eastwood in his prime. All the women want them and all the men want to be them!
I don’t know about you, but if all that had been thrust in my face at such a young age I have no idea how I would have handled it. I hope I would have handled all the fame well and remained true to my personal beliefs, but you honestly don’t know for sure unless you have been in that situation.
Look no further than our own Ben Roethlisberger. Ben had no known character issues when he was being drafted. His behavior issues and entitled attitude didn’t reveal themselves till he experienced almost legendary success right out of the gate. He was an over night phenom and was revered around the city and Steeler Nation. That is when the arrogance and immaturity raised it’s ugly head.
I had friends and work colleagues that lived in Pittsburgh giving me updates concerning his off the field behavior around the city. I tried to believe some of his antics were simply over the top rumors but many of the troubling stories were eye witness accounts from trusted acquaintances. His ego had lost touch with reality and he was getting ready to crash and burn.
Ben almost had to lose it all to finally realize what he had. Thankfully, Ben has grown into a respected team leader and the face of the franchise. He is a devoted husband, father, and teammate. A professed man of faith. He is one of my all time favorite players and I love to watch him represent our team, but his legacy was almost taken away by his own stupidity.
That is why it is so important for the team to do their due diligence and try to recognize obvious character flaws and distance themselves from those players. The results can have a devastating impact on a team, as it almost did for the Steelers.
The results of just such an issue continue to play havoc in the Baltimore Ravens organization. Specifically when Ray Rice decided to punch his then girlfriend, now wife, in a hotel elevator. This instantly regrettable moment in time was totally out of character for the widely respected Raven’s running back, but it’s impact is still being felt throughout the Ravens’ franchise.
The Baltimore Ravens are struggling to get the train back on the tracks. Suddenly Ozzie Newsome doesn’t appear to be in total control behind the scenes pulling the strings as the puppet master as he once was and John Harbaugh no longer resembles a Super Bowl winning coach on the rise.
Even worse for the Ravens is the fact it appears that Joe Flacco has forgotten how to throw a football. Now I know he has suffered a few injuries and the talent level has dropped around him, but I feel losing Ray Rice has had the biggest impact on Flacco’s decline.
Rice was a match up nightmare and this resulted in plenty of eight in the box looks from the defense. Flacco is seeing far fewer wide open throwing lanes and one on one match ups than when he had Rice in the backfield. Flacco is still a big strong armed QB perfectly suited for the AFC North division. In reality he was probably never as good as the Ravens believed he was when they made him the highest paid QB in the league after he got hot and played over his head throughout the playoffs on a team who possessed a strong running game and a superior defense, all the way to the Super Bowl championship. The Ravens window of success closed quickly the instance that Rice lashed out.
These uncharacteristic lapses in judgement are impossible to predict and can happen to any team in spite of their best efforts.
Some teams apparently place little value in the character of their players. The Bengals immediately come to mind.
Wonder how that philosophy has been working out for them?
Either way, the Steelers have put an emphasis on character players the past few years, and it seems to have been paying off. I fully expect this trend to continue throughout the 2018 NFL Draft.
As Ron Burgundy would say, “Stay classy, Pittsburgh.”