I was originally going to name this article “Random Thoughts from a Left-handed Steelers Fan,” but then I realized, by revealing I’m a lefty, no coach would ever let me start at quarterback.
I also concluded a title like that would tread dangerously close to Bryan Anthony Davis’ “Random Thoughts From a Black and Gold Mind” series, and you might think I was stealing his premise.
However, I only plan on doing this once, with my ultimate goal being to make it so awesome, you’ll be clamoring for me to make it a regular feature and say things like, “This wasn’t as good as your last installment, Anthony Defeo,” the next time Bryan publishes a “Random Thoughts” article.
Also, these thoughts aren’t random, as I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to say since Monday, when I first decided to rip Bryan off.
Anyway, with roughly five weeks left before training camp, I thought it would be cool to offer some opinions on an offseason that flew by way quicker than many have in recent memory. But, then again, I’m now 45, so most of life kind of flies by these days—even the Steelers offseason, which used to be so agonizingly slow before things like omnipresent draft coverage and player suspensions made February, March, April, May and June just zip by, baby!
(By the way, if you’re 25, you think I’m old. If you’re 75, you likely want me to go to hell for thinking I’m old.)
- Ladarius Green.
Yes, the Steelers obviously didn’t properly vet the former Chargers tight end, when they signed him to a pretty decent contract in March of 2016. But admit it, you were about as excited as I was, when you thought Pittsburgh was finally getting a tight end with size and speed who could make life miserable for opposing defenses, instead of the other way around.
And how could they properly vet the head-injury history? Sure, they may have known about Green’s multiple concussions he suffered in 2014 and 2015, but how would they have known he was still suffering from concussion-related headaches? They should have asked him, obviously, but what was he going to say, yes? After all, he was looking for a lucrative deal.
Unless they brought a doctor on board to ask Green his name and where he was during the free-agent courting process, there was no way the Steelers brass could have prevented being duped.
After all, when it comes down to post-concussion related symptoms (especially with concussions that occurred months prior), it’s up to the player to be forthright.
Therefore, any team could have been duped in the spring of 2016—it just so happened to be the Steelers.
Feel better? Probably not.
- It’s clear to everyone with an ability to read that Pittsburgh went for high-character players when picking its latest round of prospects in the sort of recently-concluded 2017 NFL Draft.
For some reason, whenever people think high character, they often assume it comes at the sacrifice of talent.
Newsflash: Just because a player doesn’t have a criminal record, never got suspended for the weed or isn’t your garden variety jerk/malcontent, doesn’t make him less talented.
As Roger Staubach once said when discussing his life compared to Joe Namath’s: “I enjoy sex just as much as Joe Namath does. I just do it with one girl.”
- Speaking of recent Steelers draft picks, I’m really excited about second round pick JuJu Smith-Schuster from USC. In addition to being compared to a choir boy, the rookie receiver has also drawn comparisons to Hines Ward and Anquan Boldin. Are those perceived similarities valid? Just as valid as any other comparison before a rookie even takes his first rep in training camp. But if Smith-Schuster can have a career half as good as his previously-mentioned NFL predecessors (and can win most of his contested reception battles—something he was known for in college), it will be a draft pick well worth its weight in gold.
- That, of course, brings me to Martavis Bryant. From a strictly business standpoint, I’m hella excited about what the newly-reinstated after missing all of 2016 due to a drug-suspension receiver can add to the Steelers offense in 2017. If it’s true, that the ultra-talented Bryant has added 10-20 pounds of muscle to his frame this offseason without sacrificing his world-class speed, well, Antonio Brown can forget about those double and triple teams in 2017.
Has Bryant truly cleaned up his act? I’m skeptical, since the fourth-year man out of Clemson isn’t exactly one of my favorite Steelers. But why don’t I like him? Is it because he’s a jerk or because he’s a multi-time drug policy offender? Depending on who you are, Bryant is either a horrible person or a victim of a dumb NFL stance on marijuana.
But if he can truly get on the straight and narrow and maximize is exceptional talent, Bryant won’t be the first Steeler to do so.
About 25 years ago at this time, Hall of Fame cornerback Rod Woodson was gong through the last of his three arrests for various transgressions that included theft and a domestic incident involving his family. Yet, he never missed a game, and, today, depending on who you talk to, Woodson is regarded as one of the best or the best cornerback in franchise history.
In other words, people can grow up. Maybe Martavis Bryant is currently in the process of doing just that.
If Bryant is all grown, I pity those opposing defensive backs.
And like most fans, I’ll be the first one in line to buy a No. 10 jersey (because that’s what we annoying and hyper-critical fans often do—we change our minds and just hope the player doesn’t remember what we wrote or screamed).
- It seems as if people have long-since written off 2015 second round pick Senquez Golson, a corner from Old Miss, who the team was counting on to do some real damage before injuries during his first two training camps got in the way.
Entering his third year, Golson, who has barely taken any reps in training camp and has never participated in a down of professional football, has sort of become an afterthought in Pittsburgh’s secondary, what with Artie Burns, Sean Davis, Cameron Sutton and Brian Allen having been added to the mix in the previous two drafts.
Afterthought or not, it wasn’t as if Golson suffered catastrophic injuries, when shoulder surgery wiped out his rookie season and a foot sprain took care of the second.
There was a reason the Steelers coaching staff was high on Golson coming out of college, and he might yet prove it this upcoming training camp.
- Takes plays off. Doesn’t give 100 percent. Is hated by the media. Never likes to take a hit. I’m talking about your average NFL receiver, such as the Steelers Antonio Brown, right? Nope. I’m actually referring to Penguins forward Phil Kessel.
During the Penguins’ postseason march to a second-straight Stanley Cup, Kessel was caught on camera ranting and raving on the bench. Yet, instead of fans being up-in-arms or the media making a big deal out of it, positive social media memes were made of the incident, and the fans mostly thought it was amusing.
I have one theory that is too controversial to mention (read between the lines when comparing Kessel to your average NFL receiver). Another theory is that, hey, winning cures all, and Kessel, who was generally despised by the Toronto media during his time with the Maple Leafs—an organization that is revered in the sport of hockey but hasn’t won a Cup since the 1960’s—has been given more latitude in Pittsburgh thanks to the multiple titles he has helped the Penguins win.
In other words, Brown could Facebook Live himself scoring a game-winning touchdown, and people wouldn’t care—just so long as the game-winner occurred in the Super Bowl.
- The difference between the Le’Veon Bell contract situation and the Alejandro Villanueva contract situation is leverage. Bell, a multi-time Pro Bowler, has long-since established himself as one of the NFL’s best offensive weapons and unquestionably the best running back. What will happen if Bell doesn’t come to an agreement with the Steelers, doesn’t sign the $12 million franchise tag and misses all of 2017? Provided Pittsburgh doesn’t franchise tag him again, Bell would sign the biggest free-agent contract for a running back in NFL history next spring.
As for Villanueva, despite his current status as a starting left tackle and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s blindside protector, he’s still trying to prove he’s not just a 28 year old converted tight end with less than three dozen starts under his belt.
So why has Bell, not under contract, missed all of the offseason activities, while Villanueva, who has also yet to sign Pittsburgh’s free agent tender, been present for everything so far?
Back when Steve Harvey was living out of his car, trying to make it as a comedian, do you think Eddie Murphy, who had long-since established himself as a megastar as both a comedian and actor, may have fussed about his hotel quarters before appearing on The Tonight Show—and got away with it?
And to continue my comedian theme: It’s like what Chris Rock once said about Jim Carrey: Anyone could have done the Truman Show, but there was only one person who would have turned Ace Ventura into a hit.
In other words, there are plenty of Alejandro Villanueva’s floating around (just ask Kelvin Beachum), but there’s only one Le’Veon Bell.
- I don’t have a 100 percent frame of reference, but if I had to rank the worst post-AFC Championship game loss fan moods in Steelers history, I’d have to say it was the most-recent defeat at the hands of the Patriots on January 22—and I remember the loss to the Chargers in January of 1995.
- Speaking of perhaps enjoying the ride more, I’m not sure if I have ever seen a fan base revel in something as much as the Nashville faithful enjoyed their Predators’ ride to their first Stanley Cup Final against the Penguins.
True, the Predators lost in six games, but I get the feeling Nashville fans will cherish their runner-up season a lot more than Penguins fans will cherish the team’s second consecutive Cup.
There’s something to be said for just experiencing a championship ride for the first time.
That’s all I have.
Hurry up, the rest of the offseason!