Circus hits town; More draft opinions

Please forgive my absence from the recent Tommy Maddox's Agent's Dog-and-Pony show. I didn't get the e-mail that apparently made the rounds to the rest of the media, so I'll try to catch up.

Now, the agent said Tommy didn't expect the Steelers to draft a quarterback, and when they did he got mad. Real mad. He wanted a meeting with the bosses of the Steelers right NOW!

So the media got wind of this. They didn't have enough to do with the draft and all, and since there hasn't been a franchise quarterback drafted in 34 years, they really didn't know how to react.

They figured they should start by polarizing the candidates the day after the anointed one was drafted. Plus, they saw how the Cincinnati Bengals waited exactly one year to dethrone the incumbent for the No. 1 pick of the entire draft, and the media apparently believes the Bengals are the NFL truth.

So the postulating -- through an agent -- began. And the lead newspaper was supported by the lead sports radio station, of which the lead 'caster is employed by the lead paper. And the second paper, which pays for lesser talent and tries real hard, followed on the heels.

What would Tommy's agent say next?

Well, apparently that his boy's too emotional to come in.

So now everyone's involved. The ex-Raider of an agent actually thought it might be a good idea to characterize his client as feisty, but Maddox instead came off as whiny. Thus, the fans took up the cause. Pictures of babies crying were plastered throughout the Internet, and the loudmouths in the media were being lauded as hardcore cynics in a steely city.

Maddox is a brat! We can't have no brat! My daddy worked for a nickel an hour!

Maddox blew off a meeting or two (forgive me the lack of wrong details here) and finally showed up and -- Harrumph! -- left without speaking to the media. But the ex-Raider of an agent spoke. And he told the lead paper just how EMOTIONAL that meeting with Bill Cowher went. And the city's No. 2 paper wept because it did not have the details that were made up by the ex-Raider of an agent. And the people wondered if Maddox was going to enlist Casey Hampton and enact a bloody coup on the organ-I-zation.

Then Maddox spoke. Instead of firing his agent, he good-ol'-boyed his longtime friend.

Ah, you know how these ex-Raiders can be, Tommy said.

And then we were reminded that neither he nor Dan Rooney ever really scheduled a meeting, that the kid from Miami of Ohio isn't Terry Bradshaw yet, that the job of mentoring the kid and staying in a town he likes, and maybe making a lot of money later in his career by doing things the right way, really isn't such a bad of idea. Oh, and once again we were reminded about the $400K in easily-to-achieve bonuses that have made him higher paid than Charlie Batch all along, and we remembered once again not to ever be caught up in dog-and-pony shows, particularly those orchestrated by agents and media.

Folks, Ben Roethlisberger is a No. 1 draft pick. He is not the starter, the savior, the love of your life. He is potentially an outstanding quarterback who will need more than one year to live up to that potential, even if the Cincinnati Bengals say otherwise. Please, stay calm and understand this situation for what it is.

MORE OPINIONS ON DRAFT CLASS

Immediately after the draft, a scout warned me not to downgrade this incoming crop of rookies based on my poor opinion of the second day. He felt pretty good about the second-day class and pointed to tight end Matt Kranchick as a beacon.

"He was getting a lot of calls," the scout told me. "He was on the verge of being picked. We had to taken him then."

Other opinions from the Steelers' personnel department support the high opinion of Kranchick, but not of the second-day class. One told me "Kevin (Colbert) just lost his focus on the second day."

The draft began brilliantly with Roethlisberger and cornerback Ricardo Colclough. Third-round pick Matt Starks isn't highly regarded but does have potential and is considered the best the Steelers could've done for that position at that time. Nat Dorsey is lazy; Kelly Butler was off the board for character issues; Adrian Jones and Travelle Wharton were "just guys."

OK, we can live with Starks. He's considered slow and might have too many outside interests to have real passion for the game (a criticism, by the way, of his father, Ross Browner), but Starks is still an even-money pick to take the right tackle job by mid-season.

In the fourth round, the Steelers' choice would likely have been running back Mewelde Moore, but the pick had been sacrificed in order to secure Colclough.

Fifth-round pick Nathaniel Adibi isn't receiving much support from the people I've talked to since the draft. The Steelers needed a back-up outside linebacker, but after Reggie Torbor and Shaun Phillips were drafted in the fourth round, word is the drop-off to Adibi was significant and the Steelers only selected him reflexively.

Bo Lacy, the 6-A pick, was the anti-Mathias Nkwenti because of his work ethic, but the consensus seems to be that he doesn't have any skills to match that work ethic and will be lucky to make the team.

This team. This line.

Ugh.

Kranchick is considered a keeper and could enjoy a career similar to that of Jay Riemersma, the Steelers' starting tight end who was once a compensatory seventh-round pick.

The choice of Drew Caylor, however, is receiving thumbs-down all around. The long-snapper was snapped up after the team gave current long-snapper a Mike Schneck a $100,000 bonus. If there was a point to drafting Caylor, it was to develop him on the practice squad, and that's no way to stock your team, particularly one that needs backups at linebacker, running back, safety and possibly even wide receiver.

A player such as Quincy Wilson, the hard-running back from West Virginia, may not have as much "upside" but solid, late-round back-ups like Wilson do sometimes surprise and become more than back-ups. A player such as Caylor is a long-snapping longshot lark in the dark.

The choice of seventh-round pick Eric Taylor made sense -- for about 36 hours. That was the time it took the Steelers to re-sign Kendrick Clancy.

Was Taylor drafted to pressure Clancy into a minimum-wage contract? That's doubtful.

Was he drafted to provide insurance against a camp injury? Not with Chris Hoke on the roster.

Or was Taylor drafted to be cut and then added back to the practice squad? Well, you tell me.

On the undrafted free-agent front, the early word is the players with the best chances of making the team are 6-4 1/4 wide receiver Huey Whittaker of South Florida and defensive end Dedrick Roper of Northwood, a D-2 school in Northern Michigan. Roper will be looked at as an outside linebacker, and in my opinion will give Adibi a run for his fifth-round money.

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