Tuesday Morning Blitz

Draftniks across the nation unite. Join hands and raise your eyes to the heavens; let the bright morning sun warm your faces, for today is your day. Today is April Fool's Day. I say this not in jest but with great sincerity, for you are the brunt of a myriad of jokes and pranks brought upon you by everyone from self-proclaimed draft experts of varying and often questionable qualifications, to agents pimping their clients as the football equivalent of sliced bread.

Heck, the coaches and high-ranking front office decision-makers themselves are getting into the act, as well. And you, my friends, are the suckers.

The Internet is a wondrous place with enough information, useless and otherwise, to choke a horse. But as in politics, you've got to be wary of what you are being fed. Deciphering fact from opinion, rumor from news, smokescreen from flat-out disinformation can be quite a dicey proposition. Considering the source is rule number one, but even that fails when two guys who work side-by-side in the same front office contradict each other.

For example, Steelers Head Coach Bill Cowher made the following statements about the team's approach to this month's roster rebuilding/reloading party from the owner's meeting in Phoenix. His view of the secondary issues and its apparent woes:

"With our corner situation, Chad Scott and Dewayne Washington, I feel good about it. They are big guys in a league that is going with big receivers. That doesn't mean we won't address the depth at that position in the draft, as well … I feel good about our secondary. I feel good about bringing Darren Perry in to help in developing some of the younger guys. I'm not as concerned as some other people are … Hopefully, we'll be able to address the speed element in our secondary with some youth, one way or the other."

Right, good…so we need to get faster in the secondary -- we all knew that, but now its been confirmed -- and we will address that in the draft, yes? Whoa, not if you ask the team's director of football operations, Kevin Colbert:

"The speed thing just drives me crazy. I still think players are players. Everybody gets hung up on speed. Yeah, everybody wants fast, big, all this other stuff. But to say your team is slow or anything like that ... I don't get caught up in all the 'Oh, we're not fast enough.' Well, we're pretty good in some areas; let's not discount that. So I don't sit here saying we have to get faster. To me, faster's not always better."

Right, thanks Kev. So who do you believe? These are the top dogs here, and they don't even agree. When the draft comes down just weeks from now, fisticuffs in the Steelers war room over two-tenths of a second may be on the undercard.

The Good

No worries, it'll all be ok; so long as you stick with us, and avoid the other, ahem, experts out there. The truth is, they are both right. Fix the secondary? Yes, it will absolutely happen, or at least the effort will be there to do so. Add speed? Of course, but a 4.3 forty while nice is not necessary, or as Colbert has alluded, a guarantee that the guy can play. Lee Flowers in street clothes already makes this team faster, simple addition-by-subtraction. But the fact remains that there are just three cornerbacks and two safeties on the roster on April 1st that are for the most part a given to be there on September 1st. And that assumes Mike Logan is healthy.

The Bad

Now that that's cleared up, lets assume there are other positions to be addressed, as well, because, well, there are. Scan the Internet and you can find an argument for every position from quarterback to linebacker to running back. And that's just the first round pick. Hey, the Steelers are good, very good even, but they have needs, and will have needs in the future. All of those things are a consideration. What they will contribute as a rookie, and more importantly, what they are expected to contribute, is the most important factor to consider, no matter what that other pay site tells you. And please, avoid any print media that was published before today; guaranteed it's already past its expiration date.

The Ugly

Most upsetting perhaps, are the generally reputable sites that try too hard to give you everything, even the stuff they know nothing about. The last thing you need is somebody guessing, at least not any more than is the norm. After all, there's a big difference between hypothesis and horse manure. Recently we had a good laugh over a popular website whose Steelers outlook had the team parting ways with defensive stalwart Aaron Smith, as well as Scott and Washington. Cutting your young, recently signed, stud defensive end is, at best, fodder. And the starting corners are not the problem, not yet and certainly not this year.

The Outlook

The truth? The truth about this month's draft will be told the Monday after, and even then there will be inaccuracies. More likely, the truth will come out as the seasons pass, as it does with every draft. Some of what you have clung to will come to fruition, making you every bit the draft expert that the rest of these folks are. The word is that the Steelers are keeping a tight lip on their intentions, and despite the frustration that may cause yours truly, as a fan I wouldn't want it any other way. Get your guys Cowher and Colbert, and for the love of all that is holy, be right.

Random thoughts

:: Four-time Pro Bowler Zach Thomas was scheduled to enter the final year of his contract in 2003. He recently signed a five-year extension that keeps him in Miami through the 2008 campaign. The new contract totals $33.75M and includes an initial signing bonus of $6M and then a subsequent option bonus of $4.5M that is due next spring. The base salaries are $655K (2003), $2.845M (2004), $3.5M (2005), $4.95M (2006), $5.65M (2007) and $5.65M (2008). Good for you, Zach.

:: Middle linebacker Keith Brooking and the Falcons recently agreed to a 7-year, $41M contract. Brooking's career numbers are 423 tackles and 7 sacks in 5 years. The contract included a signing bonus of $10.5M. Good for you, Keith.

:: So what? Well, young Kendrell Bell, ankles willing, will be a better player than both of them. He enters the final year of his rookie contract in 2004, and those numbers will be the goal of his agent of choice. Looking at the roster and the cap numbers in the years ahead, something has to give or Bell will end up in Seattle.

:: Why Seattle? Well, first there was Chad Brown. Then Levon Kirkland. Now the tackling machine, Earl Holmes may land there. Bell, however, is the best of that bunch, ankles willing. My guess is he stays, at the expense of another Steelers LB that will remain nameless, for now.

:: To that end, think LB depth from the third round on. In fact, or rather, in my opinion, it will be the position addressed more than any other, besides defensive back, of course.

Let this one marinate …

On April 26th the Steelers brass will be looking for a few good men. Young men of character. Leaders, quiet and vocal all the same. Keep that in mind as you peruse the draft rankings and write-ups. The Steelers love guys like Bell and Casey Hampton; guys who work hard, lead by example, and leave it all on the field. For the last several years the leaders in the lockerroom were Jerome Bettis and Jason Gildon, but as they age and their play declines, young vets will take their place, if they have not already. Currently, Joey Porter and Hines Ward are the most visible, and perhaps the most effective in that role, and there will be others. Character is big here, and I will be shocked to see a Ken Hamlin, and his dual-DWI driving record, in Pittsburgh no matter how good he may be. That is truly a reason to let the sun warm your face, and that, my friends, is no joke.

Donny Drummond


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