Tuesday Morning Blitz

The party is just breaking up at my house, some ten days after the Steelers' uncharacteristic trade-up in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft. The reason? For the party -- and the aggressive trade, for that matter -- is none other than Southern Cal's very own Troy Polamalu. After all, the kid is far and away the best thing the fine state of California has offered up since the Napa Valley.

Perhaps that's a bit carried away. But this Polamalu cat is going to be good, very, very good. How good? You too should still be partying; that's how good. With Troy Polamalu comes great promise. That's not to say we should expect much from him in 2003; he is just a rookie. He'll certainly get his chance though, just as the first round selections in each of the last three years have. Bill Cowher will get this kid on the field from the get-go, and has said as much. Heck, the Steelers even moved his only real competition -- second-year safety Chris Hope -- to free safety. Smart move considering the Steelers brass wants them both starting come September.

Keeping expectations in check however is difficult this time of year. Fans in particular tend to get emotionally attached to players leaving their hearts exposed should said player start slow. The word "bust" is sure to be uttered during the preseason -- the freaking preseason -- should the inevitable rookie mistakes litter an early performance. Me? Heck yeah, I'm a fan. And heck yeah, I've got enormous expectations, especially for the resident Trojan. In fact, they can be summed up in five words.

Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Like I've said, he's that good, or at least, he will be. Am I a bit emotional? Absolutely. No shame in that, I would think. Besides, DROY Polamalu has nice ring to it. The kid's been compared to Junior Seau, for reasons all too obvious, and Kendrell Bell, for reasons that will be readily apparent once the hitting begins. I'll compare him to the star of "X2: X-Men United" though, the compact-but-powerful Wolverine. Fast. Instinctive. Intense. Devastating. If only he had that healing thing going for him.

The Good

I like what the Steelers did on draft day. They targeted their guy, then went and got him. You've got to love that if you are a fan, and if you've got faith in the guys making the decisions. Their second pick Florida State defensive end Alonzo Jackson was a surprise. But the more you read on him, the more you like. If he follows the success of recent Steelers second-rounders, he'll be Jason Gildon…or better. The other guy you can't help but love is fourth round selection Ivan Taylor. Ike, as he prefers to be called, is the type of kid you line up on special teams and call him a weapon. He's got speed for days, and will tattoo a ball carrier. Plus, he's a great kid, as are the lot of them.

The Bad

There is no bad, its only May for crying out loud. But if there's anything its that the Steelers drafted another Tommy Maddox in the fifth round. I've seen the best and worst of Boston College quarterback Brian St. Pierre, and I can't tell you which is closer to the truth. He is however every bit the immobile, overconfident, noodle-armed passer that Maddox is, and will make the same throw-it-into-double-coverage errors that he did in 2002. He being both of them; after all they are one in the same. But there's a silver lining to his story, as well. He's not 32 years old, and we didn't make the mistake of drafting him in the first round.

The Ugly

Like bad, there is no ugly. Too early for all of that. The addition of Georgia fullback J.T. Wall however could bring to an end the Steelers career of a personal favorite -- halfback Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala. Should Wall make the cut, which is no given for any player selected in the seventh round, then second-year fullback Verron Haynes will most certainly be moved to halfback, making for a crowded rotation. It'll be a sad day when this bad ma'afala moves on, injuries be damned. For the time being I'll stick to the belief that a name is worth $700K per year, and that Wall's addition is more insurance against the departure of unrestricted free agent-to-be Dan Kreider. Kreider put up a fight in negotiations as a restricted free agent, and may have an inflated opinion, or rather value, of himself. Call it Sammy Knight disease.

The Outlook

The outlook is bleak, and rosy, and will change a dozen times between now and September 7th. The big questions I see are as follows. Will Polamalu knock himself out more than he does the opponent? Will Jackson be productive where needed most, as a rush end in the dime? Will Taylor be the special teams terror this team is so desperately wanting for? Will St. Pierre even dress? Will Wall signal the end of Dan the Man or Fu? The answers? No, yes, yes, most likely, and neither. Those too are subject to change.

Random thoughts

:: The undrafted restricted free agent signings were a disappointment to yours truly for two reasons: Northern Colorado's Anthony Dunn signed with the Denver Broncos, and Georgia's Terrence Edwards reneged on his agreement with the Steelers to become an Atlanta Falcon. Maybe we need flashier uniforms.

:: More likely, we need more roster openings; after all, guys go undrafted for a reason, and it takes talent to make this team. That means you too, Danny Boy.

:: To that end, why the need for even more rookies? Or rather, draft picks? Do we really need another Lavar Glover in camp? As it stands, the Steelers have one of the smallest rookie pools in the league. That bodes well for a team with lots of high salaries and little cap room. The release of a few overpaid/under-talented vets like linebacker John Fiala should be expected post-June 1st, as well as another contract restructure or two. One guy who appears to be safe is pedestrian free safety Brent Alexander. The sheer numbers in the secondary seem likely to save him, at least for now.

:: Mark Bruener too could be a goner, and it would appear that the writing is indeed on the wall with the addition of receiving TE Jay Riemersma and his ridiculous salary. Something tells me though that the casualty at tight end will again be Matt Cushing. And that he'll be resigned in November or thereabouts.

Let this one marinate …

With the rookie orientation in the books, now starts the cold, information-devoid portion of the off-season. A minicamp in June will save your sanity, and then the desolation will continue, until the rookie contract signings in late-July signal the start of training camp. Now is the time, dear Steelers enthusiasts, to cling to the sources that have served you well till present, and to each other. I for one am holding on tightly with clenched fists. After all, a starving fan has got to eat.

Donny Drummond

Steel City Insider Top Stories