Wexell: Writing On The Wall

From the notebook of a sportswriter who went to the South Side yesterday and paid attention to his surroundings AND the coach's CB search:

* I got a heads-up from another reporter before the Mike Mitchell press conference that Mitchell doesn't appreciate snide, snarky or joking comments about his alma mater, Ohio U, a school known more for producing sportswriters than football players.

* And in the ensuing press conference, Mitchell admitted that was his chip.

* They all have chips, it seems. Here's how Mitchell put his:

"I play with a very big chip on my shoulder. Just because you went to LSU and I went to Ohio, you're no better than me. And I look forward to proving that every single Sunday."

* I pointed out to him that the previous free safety went to LSU and his chip was that he wasn't drafted. Mitchell was drafted in the second round. That tells you what kind of a pure athlete he is.

* The Raiders aren't going to draft you that high unless you've proven you're a pure athlete. Maybe you're not such a good football player, but you can run.

* Mitchell proved he was a good football player last year after he got out of that mess in Oakland.

* Well-dressed, well-spoken, strong family background, hard-hitting, athletic, and all with a chip. Looks like a player to me, and all for a displaced cap value of less than $2 million.

* My guess is the Steelers will put that kind of a price tag on Alex Carrington, the defensive end from Arkansas State by way of the Buffalo Bills.

* After losing David Johnson, it's imperative that the Steelers keep their Red Wolf presence. After all, Mike Tomlin, Keith Butler, and Randy Fichtner have all coached there.

* Here are some of the draft notes I highlighted from the Pro Football Weekly book when Carrington was coming out: L3 fracture in low back as redshirt freshman ... 33.5 pressures and 19.5 sacks and 2 blocked kicks in his last two seasons ... lives in the weight room ... legit power ... 4.93 40 ... weight-room strength does not translate ... stood out in one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl ... lack of toughness and positional instincts ... third to fourth-round pick.

* As the eighth pick of the third round, Carrington beat those expectations by a bit.

* The Internet is full of complaints that it takes DL coach John Mitchell too long to get a defensive end ready to play. But when has he ever been forced to get someone ready right now? I mean, Ziggy Hood was just a miss. We all saw that from the start. Mitch, though, was high on him back then and tried too hard to be right about it. So, Mitch missed on that one. But does that mean he can't get a guy ready in a hurry?

* Mitchell has put three second-year players into full-time starting lineups with the Steelers: Brentson Buckner (1995), Aaron Smith (2000) and Hood (2010). In two instances, the Steelers went to Super Bowls. In the third, Smith became the greatest to play the position in team history.

* So this one's easy: Brian Arnfelt is your starting right defensive end.

* Just kidding. I think. Because my gut tells me they'll announce the signing of Carrington late Friday afternoon. Yes, if it's possible, that's when bad news is announced.

* It'll be bad news to the many of us who are Brett Keisel fans. I believe the bearded one has at least a good year left in him and would be an exceptional bridge and mentor to a rookie draft pick this year, say Taylor Hart of Oregon in the third or fourth round.

* But it doesn't appear that I'm going to get my way, in part because Keisel has made it clear that he won't accept minimum wage to return.

* It's easy for those of us who don't have to put our bodies on the line for minimum wage to say he should come back and take advantage of endorsement opportunities in a town that loves him. It's quite another to actually put the body on the line for money that he probably doesn't need.

* Hey, why hasn't an outdoors outlet hired Keisel to shoot their guns and cast their lines on TV? This IS Western Pennsylvania, isn't it?

* The loss of Al Woods is further proof that the Steelers just will not overpay for your basic guy. Yes, Woods was a basic guy at a couple of different positions, and has a great work ethic and attitude, but $5 million for two years is just too much.

* I realize we've become jaded to these figures of late, but you should be able to buy three Nolan Harrisons for that kind of money.

* Or three Cam Thomases.

* Cam Thomas, the 330-pound benched NT from San Diego, is also coming in for a visit today. Here's a look back at my underlined notes from his 2010 coming-out party: played basketball as a prep ... played through high ankle sprain as redshirt sophomore ... named team's outstanding lifter after junior season ... played with a broken hand as a senior ... started all 26 games last two seasons ... country-strong and powerful ... deceptively quick and athletic ... does not consistently play hard and motor tends to idle.

* That last note follows him out of San Diego. Perhaps losing his job and then his team are the jolts he needed.

* The new line of thinking among fans on the 'net is that the Steelers can draft Louis Nix and move Steve McLendon to end. But that wouldn't happen until 2015. There's no way the Steelers would count so much on a rookie as to tell their starting NT to lose weight so he can begin playing DE this spring.

* Nor should they. You don't give any rookie that kind of deferential treatment.

* I talked to someone who works for the team, a Notre Dame fanatic, about Nix. He said he likes Nix, but not at 15.

* I talked to someone else who works for the team, a man who typically has the answers, and he doesn't believe the Steelers will draft a nose tackle in the first round, nor, for that matter, a tight end in any round.

* Just so you know, neither of these employees is named Colbert or Tomlin. They were out scouting cornerback Justin Gilbert, a few days after scouting Darqueze Dennard, and a few days before presumably scouting Kyle Fuller at Virginia Tech's March 19 pro day.

* One of those will be the first pick. And a wide receiver -- Donte Moncrief, Davante Adams, Jordan Matthews -- will be the second pick.

* No one told me that. I'm just reading the writing on the wall.


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