Wednesday Apple Pie

Training camp is upon us and already there is trouble silently brewing upon the fabled hills of Latrobe. Very quietly, the Pittsburgh Steeler offensive line is suffering unforeseen setbacks that could alter the continuity of a rather healthy Jerome Bettis and Amos Zereoue.

Already without the services of Kendall Simmons, last season's first round pick, the Steelers now must contend with the increasingly alarming breakdown of Jeff Hartings' body and more specifically, knee.

Although Jim Russell reported that Hartings was "a little more nimble" on Tuesday and seemed to be "gaining confidence in his knee," I can't help but wonder how long it will take before Chuki Okobi sees heavy playing time.

Okobi figures to be the most important backup on offense this season. He'll be more important than Lee Mays, Charlie Batch, Vernon Hayes, JT Wall, Jerame Tuman, and a host of others. Without Kendall Simmons for the foreseeable future, the offensive line's right side will have a small crack. A hobbled Hartings turns that crack into a complete break and, all of a sudden, the line once again falls on the back of All-Pro left guard Alan Faneca.

It doesn't matter how good of a "mauler" Oliver Ross is at RT, without a "fleet of foot" Hartings at center, the right side of the line will be a mighty weak link on team void of mighty weak links. That is, until Kendall Simmons returns.

Some folks are trying to write this diabetes issue off as "no big problem." They say, "So he lost some weight, he has all camp to get better." Does anyone remember Amos Zereoue's long battle to return to form from his weight loss last season?

Simmons also is battling strength issues. The plan was for Simmons to increase his upper body power with a strenuous lifting regimen. We can safely assume Simmons has lost ground in that program.

And all of a sudden the worries on the offensive line stretch far beyond whether Marvel Smith can protect the back of quarterback Tommy Maddox.

Fruits of Labor (stock is rising)

Rotten Produce (stock is falling)

  • Jeff Hartings – That pesky knee is at it again. Suddenly the offensive line is a question mark…again.


  • While in Pittsburgh this past week, I saw my first Washington Wild Things baseball game. Boy could the Pirates learn a thing or two about the term fan-friendly from this organization. I'd like to send a special thanks to Tom Knight for the tickets and for making sure I saw the Fox Sports Babe reporting from the hot tub on the right field line.
  • Saturday is not only the fantasy draft but it is also the first pre-season game of the year. Make sure you watch the first 2 minutes of the game because you will only see about 10 plays that will be considered regular season worthy.
  • I will not be taking Michael Pittman with my first pick on Saturday, nor Jerome Bettis as some have pegged. Although, I hear that Rae Carruth guy is a real killer.
  • After I pegged the linebacking corps as lacking quality depth, Clark Haggans and Alonzo Jackson look quick and Jackson has "wiggle" according to reports from the three-headed monster of reporting Jim Wexell, Dale Lolley, and Jim Russell. Jackson sounds like the surprise of camp so far.
  • Speaking of that three-headed monster of the pen. Wow. That's some quick info from LAY-trobe. You'll hear the same info next week when SI comes to visit Camp Cowher.
  • Look, I sympathize with Kelci Stringer (wife of former Minnesota Viking Korey Stringer) and all, but her lawsuit against the NFL to stop the league from "forcing players to practice and play in high heat and humidity" shouldn't be upheld. Mrs. Stringer fails to mention anything about her husband's weight of 335 lbs. I'd have to think that had something to do with it also.
  • The suit further goes on to say the NFL's "coaches, trainers and doctors subject players to potentially fatal conditions by forcing them to participate in practices while wearing improper clothing for such conditions." I've played sports where I've been forced to run around for 45 minutes at a time in 100-degree heat and I'd have to say there is only so much the coaches, trainers, and doctors can do. It's a football player's job. Just as much as it is the job of a high-rise laborer to spend his days constructing large buildings. It comes with the territory. If anything, this tragic death has brought awareness to staff and players previously ignorant to such health-damaging possibilities. It's sad. But sad things happen. That's life. She should stop now before this thing spirals out of control and Korey Stringer's death is remembered more for long days in a legal courtroom rather than on the football field.

Ready for Picking

New York Jets vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
August 2nd, 8:00 pm ET (taped) at the Osaka Dome in Japan

The NFL opens its preseason with a trip to Japan. How many plays before the Joe Theismann says "I think there is a great chance we'll see these two teams meet in the Super Bowl"? Does Warren Sapp eat the Japanese out of house and home? Will Michael Pittman pass customs? So many questions, so little football.

Kansas City vs. Green Bay
August 4th, 7:00 pm at Fawcett Stadium

Just took my first visit to good ole' Canton. It's one of the few tourist attractions that does not charge for parking. The family and I parked side by side about 100 feet from the doors only because the front lot was all packed. Oh, the game? Um…it will be interesting to see if the Chiefs let Priest Holmes touch the ball. I'd say…no. But, it will be fun to watch Larry Johnson prove that all Penn State running backs after Franco Harris are once again doomed in the NFL. Let's call it "Franco's Italian Curse".

Post of the Week

Notorius Buck with a very observant comment on the state of the NFL's answer to affirmative action:

"Please someone help me out on this. Tony Dungy gets fired by T.B. The Colts knowing that he's the man for their coaching job does not interview any other minority coach and nothing is done it's OK.

The Lions go out and do the same thing but the coach they know that they want to hire happens to be white and the league steps in and fines them 200,000 for doing the same thing the Colts did. How is that not Racist in itself?"

Such is the life when the NFL tries to not hurt anyone's feelings.

John Biles

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