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Archive for May, 2010

So sad, LT.

May 07, 2010 By: Admin Category: Players

I know that I usually only write about the Steelers, but I thought that Lawrence Taylor’s latest problems deserved a mention.

As most of you have heard by now, Lawrence Taylor was arrested for allegedly raping a 16-year old runaway.  The runaway was apparently beaten by her pimp before being delivered to Taylor’s room at the Holiday Inn.  Taylor allegedly paid her $300 for sex.

The reason that I even mention this story is not because I am interested in tabloid journalism.  I think we’ve all had enough of that with the whole Ben Roethlisberger issue.

No, I write about this because Lawrence Taylor falls into a very small list of players who played for other teams that I respected, and even admired.

Hall-of-Fame LB Lawrence Taylor

Make no mistake.  I bleed black and gold.  In my opinion, there are two kinds of NFL players; Pittsburgh Steelers, and players who don’t deserve to be on the same field as the Pittsburgh Steelers.  But there are a few exceptions to this general rule.

Over the course of my years as a football fan, a few non-Steelers have actually earned my respect and admiration.  Lawrence Taylor is one of them.  The others who quickly come to mind include Barry Sanders, Jim Brown, Peyton Manning (yeah, I admit it), Reggie White, and Walter Payton.

Lawrence Taylor may have been the most dominant defensive player of all-time.  He was certainly the most dominant linebacker.  Sure, there have been many great linebackers over the years, and many of them have played for our Pittsburgh Steelers.  But Lawrence Taylor was different.  Lawrence Taylor redefined the position.   Anyone who was fortunate enough to see Lawrence Taylor play knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Taylor was a joy to watch.  Opponents feared him.  Offensive coordinators had to plan for him.  Offensive linemen couldn’t stop him.  I hated him.  But it was a hatred that was based on respect.

It’s sad to see such a great player struggle so greatly off the field.  As good as Taylor was on the field, he has been equally bad off the field.  He’s had multiple run-ins with the law.  He has a well-documented history of struggling with drug addiction. 

Far too often, fans place professional athletes on a pedestal.  We idolize them, and expect them to be more than human.  Unfortunately, far too frequently they remind us that they are very human.  Big Ben reminded us of that lately.  Now Lawrence Taylor has done the same.

I was fortunate to have spent many years working in the athletic footwear industry.  I met hundreds of professional athletes, and signed many of them to endorsement contracts.  During that time, I got to see many of them outside of the playing field.  And all too often, the person that I saw was a flawed shadow of the person that fans thought they were.

Many (most?) of the athletes that I met were poorly educated.  Most of them had a sense of entitlement.  A great percentage of them used illegal drugs.  And most of them cheated on their wives and girlfriends.  It’s not the way that we want to think of our heroes.  But it’s how far too many of them are.

I want to remember Lawrence Taylor as the dominant player that I used to admire on the football field.  But to separate that person from the one who now finds himself in trouble with the law (again) would be wrong.

At some point, fans have to understand that most of their heroes are terribly flawed.  This point has been driven home lately by the Ben Roethlisberger situation.  Despite the fact that Ben was not found guilty of a crime, I’m sure that there aren’t many out there who condone Ben’s behavior. 

I pray that Lawrence Taylor, Ben Roethlisberger, and many other professional athletes will become great men, and not just great athletes.  But the sad truth is that that is not likely to happen.  That’s why I think we all need to appreciate how lucky we are to have players like Troy Polamalu, Hines Ward, Heath Miller, and Aaron Smith playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Pro sports is populated by far too many Lawrence Taylors, and far too few Troy Polamalus.

Troy Polamalu

LT is in my prayers.  Perhaps his story will ultimately end up as a tale of redemption.  But I thank God that we have players like Troy to show us what character looks like, both on and off the field.

What does Sweed’s injury mean for Steelers?

May 03, 2010 By: Admin Category: Draft/Free Agency, Players

This was going to be Limas Sweed’s year.  I really believed that.

Sweed, a second round draft pick out of Texas, was going to be entering his third season with the Steelers.  The 3rd season has often been a turning point for Steelers wide receivers.

If we look at former Steelers wide receiver Nate Washington, his career had many parallels with Sweed’s.   Washington was a fast receiver who had lots of physical talent, but who just couldn’t seem to master the mental aspects of the game early in his career.  He would get great separation from his defender, but then he would drop a perfectly thrown pass.  This (very frustrating) scenario played out repeatedly during Washington’s first two years on the team.  He just couldn’t seem to hold onto the ball.  But then, in his third season, something just seemed to click in Washington’s brain, and the drops turned into catches.

I was optimistic that the same transformation was going to happen for Limas Sweed this year.  He came into Steelers mini-camp with a renewed focus, after being placed on injured reserve for the final two games of the 2009 season due to emotional problems.  Limas seemed to be working hard, and he had even changed his jersey number to indicate that he was looking for a fresh start.  But then on the final day of mini-camp, Sweed injured his left achilles tendon.  The extent of the injury has not yet been announced, but it is thought to be potentially serious.

Steelers WR Limas Sweed

A major achilles tendon injury could easily cause a player to lose an entire season.  That would be a big disappointment, both for Limas Sweed and for the Steelers.  But injuries happen.

Sweed was probably the leading candidate to become the Steelers’ #3 wide receiver.  Despite bringing back Antwaan Randle El, Sweed was the favorite to win the job.  Sweed is taller and faster than Randle El, and we all know that Ben Roethlisberger likes tall wide receivers.  That’s why the Steelers drafted Sweed in the first place.

With Sweed out, the door is suddenly open for a few players to work their way into the wide receiver picture.  Arnaz Battle was brought in primarily as a special teams player, but he will now get a closer look at wide receiver.  Tyler Grisham spent most of last season on the practice squad, but he was activated for the final 4 games of the season.  He will also have an opportunity to work his way up the depth chart.  And of course, the Steelers drafted two rookies who both had prolific college careers.  Both Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders will have an opportunity to try to win a spot in Bruce Arians’ passing offense.

While Sweed’s injury is unfortunate, it definitely shines a spotlight on several players that I didn’t expect to make much of  a contribution this season.  The question is, “which one will rise up and snatch the opportunity?”  If I were a betting man, my money would be on……….


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