Sonny side up

The head coach of the Colorado State football program, Sonny Lubick, brought Joey Porter to Ft. Collins to play wide receiver. Porter looked great in practice, but he was a bust during the games. Porter would toil on special teams until his second year, when the coaching staff tried him out at defensive end. He filled in for an injured defensive end named Clark Haggans and never looked back.

Clark Haggans was an undersized defensive end, a walk-on at Colorado State. He quickly established himself as one of the best pass rushers in school history. However, Joey Porter eclipsed Haggans in just his second season at the position.

He helped show Porter the ropes, but all that changed when the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Haggans, the year after they took Porter.

"All the linebackers have been a big help, and Joey has been great. He's always been like a big brother to me," Haggans said as rookie at camp.

That would seem like a strange thing to say considering Porter is actually a few months younger than Haggans. Porter wasted no time in establishing himself as the prodigal son of Colorado State.

The student was now the teacher, "It's good that he's here, and I'm happy that he's here. I'm glad to be able to help him the way the veterans helped me out last season."

Porter was (and is) clearly the better talent. The only thing standing in his way was learning the position. Haggans, on the other hand, is a poor man's Joey Porter.

Haggans will once again start across the field from Porter. While this tandem terrorized the WAC, they likely do not strike much fear into the hearts of opposing quarterbacks.

Some fans are sure that Haggans can be what Gildon was not over the past couple of seasons. How could he be worse?

He needs to be better, much better, or the Steelers will be in trouble again, particularly with Chad Scott back starting at cornerback.

Certainly, Haggans made the most of his ability, but the difference in ceiling between him and Porter was obvious to most fans of the Rams. Haggans is not going to be much better than he has already played during his stint with the Steelers.

You might not believe our assessment, but you have to pay heed to the one of the Steelers. The coaching staff and front office have not exactly given Haggans a ringing endorsement.

The first public disrespect came during the 2003 draft. Reaching for Alonzo Jackson in the second round was a vote of no confidence for Haggans. A Day 1 OLB-project pick is one who should start. Jackson was not picked to replace Porter.

Like Porter during his first year in college, Haggans makes most of his contributions on special teams. The Steelers, like most teams, collect one or two players that make a career out of such duties.

Haggans has effectively replaced the likes of John Fiala, a player routinely given the "opportunity" to win a starting job in camp.

Both Fiala and Haggans have served as captain of the special teams. Haggans, however, may get a better shot at starting thanks to the slow start of Alonzo Jackson.

The Steelers certainly re-signed Haggans to start at OLB. Really, they had no choice. The second slap in the face for Haggans (and Gildon) was the all-out attempt to sign Marcus Washington.

When the Washington deal blew up in Colbert's face, the Steelers settled for a guy that at least knew the position. Don't tell Zo Jackson this, but the coaching staff is betting (hoping) that Jackson can beat out Haggans.

When the Steelers drafted Ricardo Colclough in the second round back in April, that said everything we need to know about how the staff views Deshea Townsend. Townsend is a great 3rd corner and Haggans is a wonderful backup and special teams player. Neither is really a great starter.

Think what you will of this week's critiques of the Steelers defense, but the actions in Pittsburgh speak much louder than any of our words. Haggans and Townsend are stopgaps, the pressure still very much on the stars such as Joey Porter.

Dick LeBeau can only do so much. He certainly can't raise the ceiling for Haggans.

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