Act of desperation

Barrett Brooks?<br><br> I suppose there are as many opinions about the Steelers' latest roster shuffling as available offensive linemen in the NFL. The player selected should not be the topic of discussion; it is the decision to place Mathias Nkwenti on IR in the first place.

Todd Fordham and Oliver Ross are both healthy. If we are to believe the intention of our original roster, both are playing this week and Faneca is still at guard. Don't get me wrong; I feel that moving Alan Faneca to tackle is a brilliant move. "I can't believe I didn't think of that myself." Under this circumstance, you still have Keydrick Vincent filling in for Alan with Chukky Okobi and Fordham able to back up the guard position. Sliding Jeff Hartings to guard and Okobi to center is also an option leaving Fordham and Ross as possible tackles.

We have a talent issue on our hands right now. We had one the moment Nkwenti was given the starting nod at RT didn't we? Not to ignore the efforts of Mathias or the accomplishments of Russ Grimm's nurturing, I remind you, he would have been back in six weeks. After deciding he is the second best tackle on the team, (which is exactly what has been done) you play "go fish" for a better tackle than Fordham or Ross at the expense of not allowing his return for week 14.

I don't like it for several reasons.

Marvel Smith might be back next week but, even if he is, he will never unseat Alan Faneca at LT at which point you should be much more concerned about bringing in a guard given the performance of Simmons and the absence of Faneca at the position. I would have much rather saved the limited cap space for our "next emergency".

If you feel a player MUST be brought in, next week would have been a better time. This ends the PUP extension for allocated roster spots and there are always NFL-worthy talents bumped off squads to make way for premier talent brought back from preseason injuries. I think we could have survived one week, with Brooks we have to anyway. If you see Brooks on the field Sunday, we are done.

If you absolutely need a better tackle than Ross or Fordham, cut Ross or Fordham. We are not allowed to cut Ross (if you were wondering), we do not have the cap space. We can cut Fordham and still sign a pretty darn good player because the annual salaries are prorated for the remainder of the season. Again, I would not have made a move this week.

I do feel that Ross and Fordham are adequate provided you have a running game. Let's face it, without Bettis in there teams have figured out that they can cover-two us into sacks regardless of who is playing tackle. Bringing in a player who was not good enough to consider before the season started is not going to bring us to the "promised land"; a punishing drive blocker at RG might have, though.

No matter how you care to slice it, this it is an act of desperation. Unfortunately the PUP is only available through preseason. I truly wish the NFL would allow it through the first half of the season; the six to nine week roster exclusion would still apply to teams fortunate enough to reach the playoffs. Just a thought.

Of course there may be another issue provoking the front office to hope for a season-salvaging miracle from Brooks - the possibility that Simmons may not return to form and Smith may not return at all this year. This could happen and then you would really need Nkwenti available for the final games of the season.

Even under that dreadful yet very possible scenario I would use the cap space on some younger offensive lineman that we felt Russ Grimm could turn into something for us.

As good as the KC Chiefs offensive line is, they have a sixth round draft choice on their practice squad that I very much would like to have. Darnell Alford out of Boston college has been trapped behind an array of pro-bowlers and is every bit as good as Barrett Brooks. He's been around four years and is ready for the next level. KC runs the offense we have wanted to, but can't.

Michael Saffer was a starter for UCLA at tackle from the time he was a freshman. He frequently graded above 90% and was one of the best drive blockers in the Pac-10, proved to be very durable. He is rotting on the Atlanta Falcons practice squad.

Jamaal Jackson is 6-4 330-pounds of versatility able to play LT and center. Very strong and very durable, which I am beginning to think means something with the proper tutelage.

Guard Brad Bedell has been cut by Danny-boy-Snyder and has a working knowledge of our division from his two years at Cleveland. He's only a third year player that could really benefit from Russ.

Again, these players have been available and there will probably be better ones next week, at a variety of positions. I really don't have a problem with Brooks. His familiarity with Hartings from that 1999 season could be instant chemistry, but only if Jeff is moved back to guard and Okobi brought to center.

I just would have given it a week to better gauge our situation, and really give Nkwenti a shot for the final few games leading into the play-offs. There may be other players better to IR by then, and the cap is tight.

Steel City Insider Top Stories