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Archive for February, 2010

The Combine Fallacy

February 28, 2010 By: Admin Category: Uncategorized

The NFL Scouting Combine began on Thursday.  It is an annual ritual in which scouts, coaches, and team general managers come to Indianapolis to watch potential NFL players do a bunch of things that have almost nothing to do with football.

“Nothing to do with Football?!!!”, you say,  “The 40 yard dash has everything to do with football.  We need to see if the guys that we draft are fast!”

That statement might be true if you were Al Davis.  But for the rest of the sane world, the 40 yard dash is a useless measure.  How often does a football player run 40 yards?  Not many.  How often does an offensive lineman run 40 yards?  Never.

Don’t believe me?  Let’s take a look at the season that just ended.  During the 2009 regular season, Peyton Manning completed a total of 8 passes for 40 yards or more.  That’s right, 8.  Out of 571 pass attempts.  That’s 1.4% of his passes.  Drew Brees completed 11 passes for over 40 yards.  Kurt Warner completed a whopping 3 passes for 40 yards or more.

We all know that Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is in love with the long pass, but even Ben Roethlisberger only completed 14 passes for 40 yards or more.  That’s out of 506 pass attempts.  Starting to get the picture?  NFL players don’t run 40 yards.

A waste of time

Even kick returners and punt returners don’t break many returns for 40 yards.  And when they do, is it ever in a straight line?  Do they ever start from a track runners’ starting position?  Nope.

How about the shuttle run?  Does that drill emulate anything that you’ve ever seen in a football game?  Didn’t think so.

Same with the vertical leap.  When was the last time you saw a player jump straight up in the air from a standing position?  What insight will we gain about Terrence Cody when we see that his vertical leap is an awe-inspiring 4 millimeters?

And I don’t even want to talk about how stupid the Wonderlic Test is.  Click here to see a sample Wonderlic Test.  Now tell me what the #$%*[email protected]!# that has to do with football?  What would you have done if your job had made you take that test before they hired you?  Does the term “go postal” sound familiar?

Yet despite how silly the NFL Scouting Combine really is, it has become a made-for-TV event that is aired on NFL Network.  People actually stay home from work so they can watch this crap.

Message boards all over the internet will be littered with discussions about how fast a certain receiver is, or how many times a certain linemen bench pressed 225 lbs.

I remember a couple of years ago the Steelers picked up a guy named Mike Kudla who did an amazing 45 reps on the bench press.  Steelers fans on message boards were doing backflips over the guy.  I remember several Steelers fans even predicting that Kudla was a sure Hall-of-Famer.  Unfortunately, Kudla never played a regular season game in the NFL.  It’s too bad the NFL doesn’t use a bench press competition to determine the winner of overtime games.  If they did, Kudla would still be in the league.

I also remember Steelers fans tirelessly advocating that the Steelers select Jarron Gilbert with their first pick last year.  Most of them had never actually seen him play.  Not a single down.  But what they had seen was a YouTube video of Gilbert jumping out of a swimming pool.  Yeah, players do that all the time during the course of a game.  In case you’re wondering, Gilbert started no games this season, made appearances in 4 games, and accumulated a total of 1 tackle.  So much for jumping out of swimming pools.

It’s one thing when casual fans make the mistake of falling in love with workout wonders.  But it’s a sin when NFL officials do it.  That’s exactly what happened last year when the Oakland Raiders made Darrius Heyward-Bey the first receiver drafted.  Heyward-Bey ran a blistering time in the 40 yard dash, and that was all Al Davis needed to see.  However, if Davis had bothered to review actual game tape of Heyward-Bey, he would have noticed that he can’t catch.  That’s a bit of a problem for a wide receiver………..even if he is fast.

Fortunately for Steelers fans, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin don’t seem to fall into the trap of falling in love with workout wonders.  They are very disciplined in their approach and seldom make early round draft mistakes.

I just wish they could say the same thing about their later round picks.

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Steelers sign Hampton, tag Reed

February 25, 2010 By: Admin Category: Draft/Free Agency

First I want to thank all of my readers for being patient while I was on hiatus.  Writing this blog takes a lot of time, so I usually take a vacation from the end of the season until the start of the NFL Scouting Combine.  The Combine starts today, so Steelers Today will officially start our 2010 coverage.

The most important news coming out of the Steelers organization is the signing of Casey Hampton.  I was certain the Steelers would use the franchise tag on Hampton.  After all, Hampton will be 33 years old this coming season, and he has struggled with physical conditioning at times.  Because of this, I thought the Steelers would place the franchise tag on Hampton to get one more year out of him.  In the meantime, I thought that they would draft a nose tackle to become Hampton’s long-term replacement.

But instead of doing what I anticipated, the Steelers have signed Hampton to a 3-year contract that is worth more than $21 million.   ChaChing!

Nose tackle Casey Hampton

By signing Hampton, the Steelers were left with the option of using the franchise tag on Ryan Clark or Jeff Reed.  The team chose Jeff Reed.

Reed’s agent was probably looking for a huge payday for his client, since the Oakland Raiders reset the price of kickers when they gave Sebastian Janikowski a ridiculous four-year, $16 million contract with $9 million guaranteed.  That’s waaaaaaaaaaaay too much to pay a kicker.

By franchising Reed, the Steelers will have to give him a one-year contract at the average of the highest 5 salaries at his position for 2009.  That will be much cheaper than matching the Janikowski dollars that will now become the asking price for decent kickers.

By making Reed the franchise player, the Steelers get a first-refusal right to match any offer sheet given to Reed by another team.  If the Steelers choose not to match the offer, they would receive two first-round draft choices as compensation.

With Hampton and Reed both locked up, Ryan Clark becomes the only veteran free agent still to be signed.  Word is that the Steelers have not even started negotiations with Clark’s agent.  This may be an indication that they may be considering taking a safety in this year’s draft.

gear

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I’m in the tournament

February 10, 2010 By: Admin Category: Uncategorized

Sean’s Ramblings (a very good blog that I highly recommend) is holding their second annual Best Pittsburgh Sports Blog Tournament to determine which Pittsburgh sports blog is #1.

There are some great blogs in this tournament, and I am honored to be nominated as one of the best of the ‘Burgh.

The tournament is set up just like the NCAA tournament.  There are two brackets.  Steelers Today is a #6 seed, and I am up against Bucs Dugout, a powerful #3 seed.  I’m asking my readers to go and cast a vote for Steelers Today so I don’t get completely embarrassed.

To cast your vote, click here and then scroll down to the box that has Steelers Today and Bucs Dugout.  Hopefully,  while you’re there, you’ll check out some of the other great blogs that have been nominated for the tournament.

Thanks for your support.

Dick LeBeau named to Hall of Fame

February 07, 2010 By: Admin Category: Uncategorized

After waiting for what has probably seemed like an eternity, Dick LeBeau was finally voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. LeBeau was added by the HOF veterans committee after being by-passed for Hall of Fame induction for decades.

LeBeau played cornerback for the Detroit Lions from 1959 - 1972. He played 170 consecutive games at cornerback, which is an NFL record at the position. LeBeau had 62 career interceptions, which was third most in NFL history at the time of his retirement. His numbers have been surpassed by several players since then, but he is still among the top 10 in interceptions in NFL history.

LeBeau played in the Pro Bowl in 1965, ’66, and ’67. He also was named Second-Team All-Pro 3 times.

After finishing his playing career, LeBeau turned to coaching, and has coached in the NFL for 37 years. LeBeau is best known for being a coaching innovator, and is credited with creating the zone blitz, which is now common in the NFL.

Dick LeBeau

Also being inducted in the NFL Hall of Fame class of 2010 are two other players with Pittsburgh connections, Russ Grimm and Ricky Jackson.

Russ Grimm played his college ball at Pitt, before joining the NFL’s Washington Redskins. Grimm was part of the Redskins famous “Hogs” offensive line. Grimm made the Pro Bowl four times, and played on 3 Super Bowl championship teams. Following his NFL career, Grimm also spent time as an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers before leaving for his current position with the Arizona Cardinals.

Like Grimm, Ricky Jackson also played his college football at Pitt. In the NFL, Jackson played for the New Orleans Saints and the San Francisco 49ers. Jackson played outside linebacker for the Saints from 1981-1993, where he made 6 Pro Bowl teams. He played his final 2 seasons at defensive end for the 49ers.

gear

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My mom picks the Super Bowl winner

February 06, 2010 By: Admin Category: Uncategorized

I know that there are a lot of gambling degenerates out there.  You know who you are.  You’re the guys who just can’t seem to enjoy a game unless you’ve got your entire 401K  riding on the results. 

Since you have so much riding on the game, I’ve decided to help you out.  I know someone who knows just about everything.  Whenever I need advice, it’s the first place that I go.  That’s right, I’m talking about my mom.

To be fair, my mom isn’t much of a sports fan, but I think the gambling losers……errrrr, I mean gamblers might benefit from her insight.  After all, gamblers will usually take advantage of any insight they can get their hands on.

So because I always try to meet the needs of my readers, I am going to have my mom share her insight on the big game.

Steelers Today:  Hi mom.  Thanks for agreeing to to this interview.

Mom:  Anytime, son.

ST:  Let’s start out by finding out who is your favorite team of all time.  You can pick a team from any era.

Mom:  Oh that’s easy.  Luke and Laura.

Luke & Laura

ST:  Luke and Laura.  That’s a pretty good pick.  They did make a great team.  But personally, I prefer Sonny and Carly.  (Bonus points to any Steelers Today readers who got that reference).

But let’s get right to the matter at hand; the Super Bowl.  Do you know which 2 teams are playing in this year’s Super Bowl?

Mom:  Oooh, I know that one.  Ummmmmm, the Saints.

ST:  That’s right Mom, the Saints are in the Super Bowl.  Do you know who the other team is?

Mom:  I’m not sure.  Is it the Steelers?

ST:   I wish.  But no, the Steelers won’t be playing in the Super Bowl this year.  It’s actually the Colts who will be playing the Saints.

Mom:  Oh, Okay.

ST:  Can you name any of the players from either team?

Mom:  Shaquille Whatshisface?

ST:  No, Shaq won’t be playing in this year’s Super Bowl, but that was a pretty good guess.

So let’s get right to the matter at hand.  We’ve got a nation full of gamblers who are looking for an edge in picking tomorrow’s winner.  That edge is you, Mom.  So tell us, which team is going to win tomorrow?

Mom:  The Saints.

ST:  Okay, you heard it here first!  The Saints are going to win the Super Bowl! 

And what do you think the final score is going to be, Mom?

Mom:  2-0.

ST:  2-0?  That’s an odd score.  Oh wait, I understand.  Two home runs by the Saint, right?

Mom:  Exactly!  How did you know?

ST:  I know you well, Mom. 

But let’s talk about something a little more close to home.  Since the Steelers aren’t in the Super Bowl this year, I want you to tell me which Pittsburgh team will be the next one to win a world championship, the Steelers, the Penguins, or the Pirates.

Mom:  The Pirates.

ST:  The Pirates?  That’s a bold pick.  Care to explain?

Mom:  I like Willie Stargell.  He’s such a great player.  I think he can lead them to another championship.

Willie "Pops" Stargell

ST:  Ummmmm, you do realize that Willie Stargell is………… Oh nevermind.

Now that I think about it, probably the ONLY way the Pirates will win a championship is if Willie Stargell comes back and leads them to it.

Well that’s all the questions I have for you.  Thanks for agreeing to do this interview, Mom.

Mom:  You’re not going to print this in that stupid blog, are you?

ST:  No Mom, I’d never do that.  But thanks for the encouragement.

Mom:  You’re welcome, son.

gear

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