I wrote earlier today about Antonio Brown being released by the Raiders. After I published the post I went to some of the other Steeler blogs and in the comments sections about Brown being released there was a really popular theme among my fellow Steeler fans, please don’t let AB end up with the Patriots. Steeler Nation saw it coming folks and there it is, the only consolation is that the Steelers won’t see AB on the field against them in week 1 as he won’t be eligible to play until week 2. Looks like ESPN is reporting that the deal is a $9 million dollar signing bonus with the potential to earn another $6 million in incentives.
In the NFL, talent rules, if you’re good enough you get special treatment. If you’re good enough you can throw tantrums, live post a team meeting on Facebook, knock over water coolers, quit on your team, not play in the final game of the season and demand a trade which you get. Not only do you get what you want for your bad behavior, you get rewarded with a trade to a team you want to go to and then get a multi-million dollar contract extension as a reward.
But apparently there is a line, apparently blowing off OTAs, then missing camp because you idiotically burned your feet in cryotherapy, then throw a tantrum over your helmet, lose two grievances over said helmet, throw a tantrum in practice over fines, bitch out the strength quote and bitch out and threaten to punch the GM, still in fact wasn’t the line. All you have to do is make a quick apology and you’re back in the line up.
Antonio Brown is an incredibly talented receiver AND a massive prima donna. A friend posted this morning, somewhere today Mike Tomlin is grinning, I’m betting Kevin Colbert’s morning coffee tasted awfully damn good this morning.
Everyone’s job is important, no one is indispensable. ~ Chuck Noll
Seems like the drama will continue through the off-season.
Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster
I’m sure by now you saw that AB is running his mouth about JuJu and he decided to return fire. A lot of folks have come out to condemn AB’s classless behavior including former Steeler Ryan Clark. It’s a shame that someone who was so adored by Steeler Nation has turned into such a giant asshat. I speculated in a recent Bell and Brown post that jealousy over the attention JuJu has been getting was part of the problem, looks like I was right on the money. It’s a damn shame someone as talented as Brown has such a fragile ego and honestly, although I wish we’d gotten more for it, it’s a good thing he’s gone.
Another Running Back
I think it’s pretty clear that the Steelers will be in the market for another running back before the start of camp. And I don’t mean just a camp body but someone who could be a third string back and provide some meaningful help if there’s an injury to James Connor or Jaylen Samuels. This would be similar, but perhaps even a more limited role than DeAngelo Williams had a few years back. By the way, in scouting the web for this quick piece I bumped into an interesting ranked list of all Steeler running backs, what do you think?
In looking around the league and the now defunct AAF, I can’t get one name out of my head, Trent Richardson. I know, the Browns drafted him – strike one, he flopped with the Browns – strike two then flopped with Indy, strike three – bust. However, you don’t get drafted number one without talent, he played behind a Browns offensive line and then for Indy and he was leading the AAF in rushing touchdowns. Although he didn’t make it in the NFL on his first try, his career rushing average is 3.3+ yards per carry and his receiving average was 8.1 yards per catch. Absolutely not number one pick numbers, maybe not starting numbers but pretty good for a number three back. He’s desperate to get back to the NFL so he’s highly motivated to perform, so I say sign him to a one year league minimum and see what he can do in camp. Along with of course a late round draft pick. I’ve seen a couple of mock drafts that suggest Benny Snell might be available in the fifth round, if so that would be a bargain draft price for a really good running back. Playing at Kentucky he was under the radar, but Benny Snell can ball.
The NFL Draft
We all love NFL Draft Day and we all hate NFL Draft Day. That first round is either the joy of watching David DeCastro drop in our laps or watching our team fail to trade up or get an inside linebacker and instead picking Terrell Edmunds. Not kicking Edmunds here, I thought he did a good job in his first season and showed some flashes that he could take a nice first year jump into a very solid piece of the defense. This year’s draft is all about the Devins, will we trade up, will Devin Bush fall in our laps? I read an interesting piece that suggested if we want Devin Bush to fall, we need to see trades for quarterbacks and both bigtime tight ends to get chosen up high, sounds about right.
In thinking about the draft, I’ve been all in on the idea of dropping whatever picks we need to go up to number nine and get Devin Bush. However, the more I’ve been thinking about it, the more I don’t like that idea. We tried that last year and failed, as Bob Labriola always reminds us, it takes two to make a trade and the Bills might not be looking to move down, and anything higher might be too rich for our blood. Given the signing of both cornerback, Steven Nelson and linebacker, Mark Barron our starting lineup is in pretty good shape. We desperately need someone with youth and range at both positions as backups or even starters but we could survive a year without it, it’s still better than last year with Burns and Bostic. Joe Haden is also likely gone after the next season or so and it would be nice to get his heir in place.
For all of these reasons I’ve come around to this position. We have 10 draft picks. Sit and wait for the 20th pick. If Devin Bush is available pounce, if by some miracle Devin White should be available at 8 or 9, trade the house for him. But if neither are there at 20, take the best corner available (I know we’ve sucked at picking corners in the draft) or if again some super stud DL or edge guy is there pick them, don’t pick a wide-receiver, there are plenty in the later rounds. Then in the second or third grab an ILB for depth as well as grabbing an edge guy, find a receiver, add an OL depth guy and late in the 5th, 6th or 7th a running back.
The fact is, I’m pretty excited about the Steelers possibilities for next year, but Spring, on the NFL calendar, is always a time for hope.
Well, we all know about the Le’Veon Bell hold out saga. And as we have been told by Bell himself, the reason he was sitting out was to save his body for free agency where he could get a better offer with more guaranteed money than he could get from the Steelers. Recently, Bell has been doing some interview and has been piling on Ben Roethlisberger adding to the comments Antonio Brown has been making. The most telling comment I thought was after Bell talked about how Ben was a factor. He then agreed that if the Steelers had offered him more guaranteed money, he would have signed. A flat-out admission, regardless of anything else he’s said, it’s all about the benjamins for Le’Veon Bell.
Now, that’s great, he’s entitled to that type of attitude and it’s his life. As I’ve said before, what I dislike is the bullshit Bell has thrown around his stand. If you’re going to be a mercenary, be upfront and honest about it. Well, as they say, Karma is a bitch. So after holding out and refusing a 14 million dollar payout, and a contract offer at the same level. Bell signed with the New York Jets for less money per year, but with a bit more guaranteed money. Given that most Steelers get every dollar of their contracts, especially high value players, Le’Veon Bell certainly will be earning less with the Jets. Once you include the $14 million in lost wages, Bell has certainly gotten less money, to play on a worse team, with a less chance to win the superbowl than if he had just stayed in Pittsburgh, played and accepted the offer he was given. Ooops, welcome to Karma Mr. Bell and good riddance.
We’ve seen all of the complaints that Antonio Brown has about the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger didn’t respect him enough, the owner didn’t know enough about his personal life, the team played favorites, etc… However in my opinion, Antonio Brown got his feelings hurt because of a couple of things. First, he wanted more money than he was making. Secondly, he wasn’t being treated as the sole savior of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I think the popularity of Juju Smith-Schuster was a huge factor. Since arriving in Pittsburgh, Juju has become a fan favorite, a rising star, absolutely benefited from having Brown on the other side of the field to put up huge numbers and was named the MVP by the team this year. I think this, more than anything else, is what set Antonio Brown off, he was no longer the biggest, most popular star on the team.
So, he absolutely utilized the leverage he had to get to a team he wanted. He was able to get the Steelers screwed a bit on the price and he got the new bigger contract he wanted. However, he will no longer have big Ben throwing him the ball. Carr is a good quarterback but he’s not a hall of fame lock and he sure is not throwing from behind a line like Ben is in Pittsburgh. So I think Brown’s ego might be a bit hurt when his numbers dip. Then, Karma reared its head in that the Raiders went out and signed Tyrell Williams as well. So, Brown will now have a quarterback who isn’t as good, behind a less talented line, trying to throw him the ball. Then, he’ll have another younger, taller receiver on the other side benefiting from Brown being double teamed and the focus of the defense. Ben would still find windows to hit Brown even under double teams, I doubt Carr will, and will likely opt to throw at Williams. Then, if the Raiders are losing, Brown and his big contract will start taking heat. I wonder how Mr. Big Chest’s ego will handle being in the same situation he was in with the Steelers, but with lower numbers and less winning. Not to mention that as of today, he has to look across the locker room at the guy who tried to take his head off, his new teammate, Vontaz Burfict.
So, both Brown and Bell got what they want, both of them are in far worse situations and it may be petty, but I hope both of them get to watch their teams pick very highly in the 2020 NFL draft.
As the Steeler World Turns: The End of the Killer Bs
I believe the game is designed to reward the ones who hit the hardest – if you can’t take it, you shouldn’t play! ~ Jack Lambert
Well Steeler Nation, we almost had it but it got away from us. What you ask? The only thing that matters, our next Lombardi Trophy. I say we, no we the fans don’t suit up, don’t hit, surely don’t get paid, but the reason we’re the best fan-base in any American professional sport is because we live this damn team. So yeah, it may not be earned, but it’s we.
We seemingly had it all in our pursuit of the Superbowl. We have a gun slinging franchise quarterback who has thrown for over 5,000 yards in a season. We had a running back who arguably changed the way running backs play the game. He of the patient pause and explosion, pretty routes and good hands. Le’Veon Bell was a Swiss army knife of an offensive weapon, part runner, part receiver. Then on the outside we had a receiver who may currently be the best in the game. A guy who might be the hardest working player in the NFL, great routes, great hands, able to separate or take a shallow crossing route to the house. On top of it all, a near psychic connection at times it seemed with Ben.
It didn’t stop there, we had an offensive line with three pro-bowlers and two guys who worked their way to the top. Possibly the best offensive line in football, coached by the absolutely best line coach in football. Munchak not only has a yellow jacket, but knows how to teach what got him to Canton. At the end of the line, a tight end in Vance McDonald, who when healthy, has the ability to make ESPN top 10 lists with a stiff arm. Add to that a youngster receiver in Juju who might be nearly as good as AB and is on the rise. And to top it off, a kicker who looked like he was damn near money on every kick, in every situation.
With all of this, in a league that has absolutely committed itself to offensive success, I mean you can barely touch an offensive player these days and if you hit a quarterback you take your wallet into your own hands. All we had to do was score points and we looked like we could score at will. In this situation all we needed was a passable defense and we should have gone 12-4. And we had far more than a passable defense. A solid defensive line, with two first round OLBs, one who is a budding star in TJ Watt. Solid if not remarkable ILBs, a couple of young gun safeties. On one side a first round pick who seemed on the rise and on the other, an aging star in Joe Haden. Hell on both sides of the ball we even had depth.
But then it started, the soap opera that would steal our chance and sink our season. I won’t lay the blame on any one thing, but I’m going to name all the places the drama came from. There certainly is a lot of ego flying around on a talented team, the killer b’s are all superstars and have egos to match and egos need to be fed. Life in the NFL is a tough gig, with a few years to maximize your earnings, add in a little greed and the money thing can get in the way. Giving talent a little extra rope, which Tomlin and certainly the Rooney’s did, and you might just hang your team.
First of course it was Bell, and enough has been written about this saga. For me the saddest thing, next to him not being on the field, was the bullshit games he played. Had he straight up told the team he wasn’t going to play this season, the drama might not have been so bad. Next Artie Burns seemingly, and suddenly, forgot how to play corner. He hadn’t been great, but he’d been good and improving and then just went to shit.
Then, we tie Cleveland, honestly I think this was the beginning of the end. I think that game put doubt in every player and every coach’s mind about the impact of Bell and the risk to the rest of the season. Then the winning streak, it was great and when we used Conner, he was a monster. The balanced offensive attack we had lived up to its billing. With Conner running well, Juju turning into a star and a healthy Vance MacDonald running people over like a semi, it seemed for a few weeks like this was our year, even without Bell. Hell even Cody Sensenbaugh looked like a starting NFL corner.
Then, it just fell apart, we seemingly forgot to run the ball, our kicker became confused and apparently started aiming outside the goal posts, the play calling stunk. And the simple fact was, even a more than passable defense was not quite good enough to hold the line. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the coaching staff designs an amazing game plan against the Patriots, it was awesome. And all I kept thinking that entire game was where the hell have these coaches been the last four weeks. It was almost like we’d given up on every game for a month before the Patriots just to make sure we got it right against them. Then AB melted down, he believes he was disrespected and I’m guessing from the level of outburst he’s had those feelings for a while.
In the end, one more lousy win, or one less tie, and there were so many games that were a play a way, or a lack of an officiating error away that we could have won, could have hit the playoffs in stride. Could have been an underdog nightmare for anyone to face. But we didn’t, instead our team turned into a bad episode of the Kardashians and now it seems the killer b’s will be no more.
I don’t want to leave this piece on a downer. All football fans are eternal optimists but I think there is a reason to have some optimism. We know Mike Munchak is gone, but his replacement is solid and it’s a good line, whether or not we resign Ramon Foster and indications are the Steelers hope to do that. Ben’s contract is being negotiated to have him in place likely for three more seasons. Bell is gone, the Steelers announced today there will be no tag, he’s free to shop himself elsewhere. The organization has also said that they will work to trade AB, but won’t take a discount just to get him out-of-town. So in all likelihood, drama or not, his talent will yield a good enough trade. I saw an ESPN piece today that suggest a trade with San Francisco that would look something like this, the 49ers, second round (2019) and fifth round (2020) for AB and Pittsburgh’s sixth round (2020). Given the Niners are picking second that’s close to being a late first round pick. I think that or a straight up AB for one of the Raiders pick in the 20’s is most likely. We have Conner and Jaylen Samuels back and they should be a good tandem. I know it’s not a popular opinion but I like Washington and think he’ll make a second year leap. We will need Vance MacDonald to be more relevant, consistent and healthy this next season.
Add to that some help in the draft, hopefully talent at ILB, OLB and/or corner in the first two rounds and a receiver in the third or fourth. Finally, and I’ll write more about this soon, some veteran help. We need depth on the D-line and there are some good players on the backend of their career who will be free agents. Getting our in-house free agents in line would be awesome as well. I’d love to see LJ Fort, Chickilo, Jesse James, Xavier Grimble and Ramon back. And I think this year with the amount of cap money we have, with some more space without AB and a re-worked Big Ben contract we should do something we don’t do and that’s make a splash in free agency. I have two free agents in mind, one at corner and one receiver, but I’ll save the names for my next post.