If I Were A Carpenter ...

The Steelers re-signed Barrett Brooks to a minimum-wage contract, but instead of pondering the magnificence of that move, I'm re-printing a classic column today. <br><br>This one goes way, way back. It was a column that spawned hundreds of follow-up columns over the last 60-plus years, and the legend continues to grow:

November 6, 1941 Pittsburgh Press

Stanley Frank Reports:

How Rooney Won $256,000 in Day


If wishes were horses, beggars would ride … It all started when someone, hearing that Army and Notre Dame were drawing a quarter of a million dollars worth of customers today, wistfully wondered out loud what he would do with a small piece of the house. A quarter of a million for a football game. Quite a touch.

"I don't know," Joe Madden said casually. "I seen a guy win more than that on four races. Seen him, hell. He wins $256,000 at Saratoga because I got friends."

The cynics gave Madden the horse-laugh and the skeptics hooted derisively. Madden smiled reminiscently; he continued to talk and presently the cynics and the skeptics piped down. For Madden was telling the story of the most fabulous afternoon any better ever had in the history of racing, any time, any where.

This was the story of the afternoon Art Rooney, an unknown gambler out of Pittsburgh, broke the bookies' hearts at Saratoga on the first day of the 1937 meeting and won $256,000 on four winners in six races. When Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh professional football team, made his record killing, off-hand estimates of his winnings ranged from $50,000 to about $100,000.

Madden's authoritative story now makes it plain that Rooney's daring was calculated to make much apocryphal plungers as Bet-A-Million Gates, Pittsburgh Phil, Dave Johnson, McCarron and Blumenthal look like deuce betters with a show ticket on an odds-on favorite.

"Rooney Was Young, Quiet – Not Much Flash"

"I am thinking of Rooney all day," Madden went on, "because this is getaway day at Empire and Rooney starts his record score on the last day of the summer meeting at Empire four years ago. He wins 21 G's, but nobody is excited. Nobody ever hears of Rooney. He is a young, quiet guy and he doesn't make much of a flash. In fact, he looks like a bum. He is wearing a thousand-miler, one of them blue flannel shirts, and he has one suit to his name.

"Rooney is planning to duck back to Pittsburgh but he hears Saratoga is opening on Monday. ‘You know,' he says, ‘I never make Saratoga. You want to see what goes on up there, Buck?' This is Buck Crouse, a welterweight fighter 20 years ago, a little punchy now, but a very good fellow and the most religious guy I ever see. Buck spends 16 hours a day in church.

"We leave in my car at 10 o'clock that night, but the jalopy breaks down three times and we don't arrive until six in the morning. It's Sunday and Buck won't let us have any breakfast. We got to go in church with him. We go to church so much I think we're going to miss the first race the next day, but we finally make it.

"Rooney says Saratoga is the most beautiful place he ever sees. I never see Saratoga look worse. It is raining cats and dogs; there is thunder and lightning all over the joint. The night before lightning strikes Max Hirsch's barn and kills a couple of horses. But Rooney thinks it is wonderful.

"We are standing around waiting to hear something when Jack Kearns, the trainer for the Milky Way Farms, tells me he has something good going in the first race. He don't know Rooney from a hole in the wall. Rooney bets two thousand across the board on this nag and he gets 8-1 to win, 3-1 to place, 8-5 to show. This is in the days of the bookies, remember.

"The horse wins by himself and Rooney cleans up $25,000 on the race. I like to die when I hear how much he bets.

"Raining So Hard You Couldn't See Horses"

"Waiting for the second race, we are standing with Tim Mara, who knows Rooney from pro football, of course. But some guy -- I forget his name – whispers they got a sure thing in the jumping race. Rooney is on the earie and he gets down 10 thousand at 6-5. If I didn't know how it happened, I'd of sworn it was a boat race. The horse wins by 16 lengths and now Rooney is ahead $37,000.

"He blows four grand on the third race. We don't get no information – but before the fourth, old Johnny Moran, who is buddies with Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, tells me Fitz has something good going. ‘Fitz likes this horse to win and he'll be in the money even if he breaks a leg,' old Johnny tells me. The price on the horse is 7-1.

"Rooney bets 10 G's with Frank Erickson. By this time it is raining so hard you can't see the horses from the rail. There are five horses in the race and they're so close you can throw a blanket over them at the wire. The flash goes up for a photo finish. I've got a pretty good score myself and I'm so excited I can't stand still.

" ‘How the hell can they take a picture when we can't even see them?' I yell. Rooney says he's going to the men's room. ‘You got 80 thousand going on a picture and you're going to the men's room,' I scream. Rooney shrugs his shoulders. ‘I can't do anything about it,' he answered and walks away.

"Our horse is Number 5. They flash the official result on the board and it comes up Number 5. I let out a scream you can hear in Albany and rush to tell Rooney the news. What do you think he's doing? He's telling the groom in the men's room he has the greatest football player in the world. He means this Whizzer White. The groom is saying ‘Yassuh, yassuh,' like he's humoring a drunk. He thinks Rooney is a bum and you can't blame him. That rain does Rooney's clothes, which weren't good to begin with, no good at all.

"Artie Treats to Three Banana Splits"

" ‘Artie, we win,' I holler. "How nice,' he says. ‘We were lucky,' and he goes on bending the groom's ear about the football team. Rooney says he's hungry. This guy has all the dough in the world now and what do you think he does? He munches on three hot dogs while waiting for the fifth.

"Rooney doesn't like anything in it – maybe because he doesn't hear anything and he loses two grand. Now the last race is coming up. This is the pay-off. I said Rooney wins $256,000. He would of gone home with the track if he could of gotten all his bets down.

"We hear a Marshall Field horse, this Quel Jeu, is loaded. I don't like the horse, he's a notorious quitter and that rain is coming down harder than ever. Rooney listens for a minute, then walks up to Erickson and, quiet-like, says, ‘I want to bet 90 thousand.'

" ‘Did you say nine, Artie?' Erickson says.

" ‘No, ninety … nine-oh,' Rooney answers. ‘It's your dough. Do you want it?'

"Erickson throws up his hands. ‘You're too tough for me,' he says. ‘I never backed down in my life, but you're making me quit. All I can take is thirty thousand.'

"Rooney places 10, 12 G's more around the ring at 3-1 on Quel Jeu. The horse comes out of nowhere at the last sixteenth pole and wins by 10 lengths.

"You know how we celebrate that night? Rooney, the guy who breaks Saratoga, treats us to three banana splits at 15 cents apiece in some jerk village. That night his clothes are such a mess he has Buck wash out his shirt, underwear, handkerchief and socks in the hotel room. Yeah, the guy who has won $256,000."

There was a long thoughtful silence. "How much did he give back the next day?" Madden was asked.

"He blows 25 G's on a jumping race when his horse takes a dive at the water jump right in front of us. I know we're getting the business so I walk off the course and make Rooney follow me."

"How is Rooney doing now?"

"He ain't got a dime," Madden said, "but don't worry about Artie. He'll get lucky again."


March 17, 2005 - Perhaps it's the luck of the Irish that Adrian Klemm, he of the 10 starts in 5 years, signed with the Green Bay Packers last night.

Klemm of course was in town this week seeking a spot with the Steelers, who are looking for depth at both the tackle and guard positions. The injury-plagued lineman somehow squeezed an $800,000 signing bonus from the Packers, who'll start Klemm and former Steelers practtice-squadder Grey Ruegamer in the middle of their once-proud offensive line.

Forget that QB Brett Favre should've announced his retirement last week, what about running back Ahman Green? The only back deserving of that offensive line might be Najeh Davenport. Speaking of whom, "The Amazing Craphesto" is the lone remaining client of one Michael Harrison, which that takes us into ...

THE PLAXICO DIARIES


Weighing in today on the continuing Plaxico Burress saga is Dr. Z . His column this morning supports the tale Beano Cook is scheduled to tell on Stan Savran's show this afternoon, that the Giants withdrew their offer from Burress because they felt he was negotiating only for a number he could shop to the Minnesota Vikings. That may be, as rumor has it, Burress irritated Giants recruiter and star runner Tiki Barber by looking out the window the entire time Barber made his pitch.

Burress of course fired Harrison last weekend and hired Drew Rosenhaus.

We go from Dr. Z to a very special guest this morning: Rick "Dream" Weaver, something of a legend in Pittsburgh sportswriting circles. Weaver writes a decent column in the Indiana Gazette about Burress and the receiver's relationship with Pittsburgh reporters. The Dream is on the money here, but it's nothing you haven't read if you've kept up with this site.

To give you some background on Dream, who's grandfather apparently owns jumping cattle, he's considered a bit "out there", or in Zelienople as he might say. But he's one of the more unique football writers. Others may deem him "uncool" (most reporters are real cool you know) but I think of him as something of a genius, or maybe savant is the word I should use. He has amazing recall. I sit next to him in the press box and if I need to know, say, a player from the CFL in 1959, bingo, Dream has it. A unique fellow to be sure, and one I was pleased to find this morning while zipping around the 'net.

PASS RUSHIN' PRO DAY

As reported in our site's Draft Diary today, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau scouted defensive end Justin Tuck at Notre Dame yesterday. The only news I've been able to find comes from another blog, The Great Blue North Draft Report.

Tuck, 6-5, 265, ran 4.68 and 4.74 40s, benched 225 24 times and had a 37.5 vertical jump. Those are outstanding workout numbers. I know I get a little excited with each passing workout, but this is the guy I'm targeting for pick No. 30. He may not make it after posting those numbers, but someone will have to drop. The other target at this point is Justin Miller, the cornerback from Clemson, but I doubt he'll drop to No. 30 either.

In other workout news, Maryland 3-4 OLB Shawne Merriman (6-4 3/8, 272) ran a 4.6 40 and had a vertical jump of 40 inches.

Tennessee OLB Kevin Burnett ran a pair of 4.6s  but weighed only 230, down 9 pounds from his combine weight (weigh in big, lose weight and run faster later) and is now too light to play linebacker for the Steelers.

By the way, The Tennesseean has another story about the improprieties of Tee Martin's college days in today's issue.

He's not a pass rusher, but Utah QB Alex Smith had a great workout Wednesday and it may have elevated Smith to the top of the draft board.

NOW WHAT?

Not that Klemm was a critical loss, but the Steelers are running out of bodies in their search for a back-up swingman on the line. Left on the board is Victor Riley, a two-year starter at RT in New Orleans. He's been a disappointment, but may not be at the point in his career where he'd settle for back-up money.

Those who would? Ugh. There's Bob Whitfield, who, to my surprise, did not retire two years ago. There's Ethan Brooks, the former back-up in Baltimore. You may remember this exchange with The Answer Man last September while Jonathan Ogden was questionable for the Steelers game with an injury:

JW: Did the loss of Jonathan Ogden last week play a big part in that?
AM: Yeah. Kenard Lang had three sacks. And then you can't run to that side. Ethan Brooks is not very good.
JW: Won't Ogden be less than 100 percent this week?
AM: Eighty percent is still a lot better than Ethan Brooks.

So that leaves the Steelers with available guys such as Ryan Young and Mark Dixon. They may as well give Barrett Brooks a call. If they wait much longer, the Steelers will be down to Mathias Nkwenti.


March 12, 2005 - Ty Law? Come on. Are you kidding me? The 31-year-old cornerback with the career-threatening foot injury and the presumed expensive sense of worth showed up at Steelers headquarters Thursday and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau called it "encouraging."

Flabbergast me some more, but why can this be? These are not the Cincinnati Bengals, or any other team prone to wishing in one hand and spitting in the other. These are the patient, prudent Pittsburgh Steelers. Why are they wasting time with such a longshot?

A caller to the Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley morning show on Fox 970 AM introduced himself Friday as a friend of Bill Cowher's and said this has been in the works for some time, and that Law will sit out the 2005 season and sign with the Steelers in 2006. Well, perhaps, but crackpots often call with such stories that never pan out. Then again, the Steelers did admit to making a mistake when they allowed Rod Woodson to leave the organization. Could Law fall into that same category as a future, wily free safety?

I left my sick daughter with a babysitter for a quick trip to the South Side to find out. I asked a source this question: Why?

"Why not?" was the reply. "You know, not everything is a conspiracy. You listen to too much Neil Young."

Oh.

I did some quick work and left. The Post-Gazette, I find out this morning, listens to Neil Young, too. The headline asked the same question: Why?

Turning to the Tribune-Review, always my second choice, I found the answer. "He was here to visit his mother," said Dan Rooney.

Case closed.

EYE ON THE MEDIA

I have to hand it to Mike Prisuta of the Trib. He did a good job last week. After the paper fell on its face on the opening day of the NFL's new fiscal year -- fencing instead of football -- the paper has done a better job than the P-G.

Prisuta, first of all, had the numbers right in the Chad Scott-Jay Riemersma releases, then reported Cedrick Wilson's visit. Prisuta was also the only reporter with the Law visit, as well as the only explanation, albeit a day later.

Now, Prisuta is also the guy who warned Pittsburgh that Plaxico Burress is Randy Moss and that fans will rue this day -- the first day of free agency -- but he's allowed some of that nonsense since he and Plax went to the same college.

SPEAKING OF WHICH ...

Burress's bizarre behavior in New York was chronicled in Friday's papers. The Bergen Record reported  that Burress said he was ill Monday, showed up late Wednesday and refused to take a physical Thursday. The reporter believes the behavior forced the Giants to walk away with only a million dividing the two sides.

The New York Post reported  that the Giants also brought in Tiki Barber in order to persuade Burress, and that Barber was impressed with Burress. But, alas, no deal.

Burress left Minnesota on Friday for Philadelphia without an offer. Several reports this morning insist Burress is running out of suitors, but this is the week several teams -- such as Jacksonville, who'd been staying out of the derby for financial reasons -- will jump in and try to sign Burress on the cheap.

STEELERS NEEDS

With the Baltimore Ravens signing Keydrick Vincent  for a mere $1.25 million bonus, the Steelers are turning their attention to Seattle's Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack to fill the back-up guard-tackle swing spot.

Ardent followers of the draft remember the nickname. Pork Chop (6-4, 333) went to the Seahawks in the fourth round in 2001 and started 22 games, most of them at guard, over the last four years. He also filled in at right tackle when Chris Terry was hurt. Womack will turn 27 on Nov. 15, which is my birthday too.

Me and the Chop, hangin' out. I can see it.

The other position the Steelers would like to bolster before the draft is tight end. Shad Meier was scheduled to visit, but signed with Tennessee. Another target, Anthony Becht, is on the verge of signing with Tampa Bay.

The Steelers may as well draft a tight end on the second day. This guy has size, speed and a cool name: Jimmy St. Louis  from Murray State. He runs under a 4.6, and that's all I know about him. Again, the Steelers always have Jay Riemersma to fall back upon.

Yesterday, Cowher went to Morgantown for West Virginia's pro day . He spent time with Rasheed Marshall, the quarterback-turned-receiver. Marshall measured a fraction under 6-feet tall at the combine, but ran a 4.51 and did the same at his pro day. The eye-popping stat Friday was his 41-inch vertical jump. My understanding is he's a bright guy and a leader. He'd fit that fifth receiver spot as a Steelers project.

There was no word, however, on Kay-Jay Harris. I'm taking an interest in this running back. Because he played minor-league baseball he's 26 years old, but he weighs 243 and can run inside or outside. He'd be a solid third or fourth-rounder.

STATE OF THE UNION

For the most part, the Steelers have stood pat this off-season. The trade-off of Cedrick Wilson for Burress, I believe, will be positive. Wilson is an overachieving team player who gives the Steelers receiving corps a New England Patriots look, both on paper and in the locker room. QB Ben Roethlisberger will improve. I re-watched the AFC Championship game and believe he played rather well. Perhaps the disappointment felt at the time, after those three interceptions, overshadowed the skills he showed in that game. Trust me, he's still got it, and has been at the practice facility working out and watching tape with LeBeau, the defensive coordinator, in an attempt to master pro defenses.

I'm confident the Steelers's passing game will improve, but I'm beginning to worry about the running game. It's not the right side of the line that bothers me. I appreciate that the team is looking for a veteran back-up such as Womack as a fallback for Max Starks at RT, and RG Vincent played a poor final game here. My worries are at running back. I'm worried that even if Jerome Bettis comes back, he won't match the condition he was in last year. It's just a gut instinct. And with Duce Staley's injury problems last year, and Verron Haynes's injury problems every year, I'm beginning to think they need a good, solid draft pick at the position.

Now, the review of the AFC Championship game only revived my fears about the deep defensive middle. When left alone, cornerbacks Deshea Townsend and Willie Williams can be exposed. And since Troy Polamalu is an in-the-box safety, perhaps free safety should be upgraded. Signing a guy like Darren Sharper, I think, would be the type of addition that Staley was last year. Sharper would be the player the team could market as one who'll put them over the top. But he'd cost them. I'm sure I'm wishing in one hand and spitting in the other.


March 8, 2005 -Fans aren't taking to the negotiations with WR Cedrick Wilson, but I like the Steelers's intention here. He's only 26, is by all reports a solid player with solid character and heart. What's not to like?

That he's only 5 feet 10? Why does a receiver have to be tall? And why am I asking so many questions? Will I stop long enough to finish this blog entry?

Whew. That was close. For a minute there it looked like I'd been caught in that March Madness black hole I've been hearing so much about. Back to Wilson, again I like the move -- when it's completed, of course. Antwaan Randle El will play split end and Wilson will be the third receiver. You weren't expecting them to bring Derrick Mason in and keep Randle El on the bench?

I'm telling you for the 115th time, Randle El was spectacular last training camp but it went under-reported because Plaxico Burress had a great first day in his return from ... from ... from -- well, I don't know where he was last summer, but the reporters stopped working after that first day. It's a common phenomenon called close-mindedness. A story develops early and becomes the story for the rest of camp, no matter what happens. It was beat over our heads, when in my mind Randle El went on to have the better camp of the two receivers. Randle El then showed those wares again in his final two starts when he caught 12 passes for 230 yards and 2 touchdowns. He's a playmaker with the ball in his hands and should be on the field every offensive snap. It wouldn't have been smart to spend big bucks in free agency when you have that kind of potential on the bench. Nobody's upset about Matt Starks replacing Oliver Ross at right tackle, and I believe the same scenario is unfolding at split end.

With Wilson, the Steelers would have a corps comprised of one star, one potential star, a solid third receiver and a veteran fourth receiver in Lee Mays who should be hitting his stride as an athlete. That leaves one spot open, and there's camp surprise Zamir Cobb coming back from injury; 6-4 practice-squadder Walter Young; and a draft pick to compete for the fifth spot. So it'll be a decent corps for Ben Roethlisberger, and therein lies the key to the passing game, not the split end. It's the quarterback, and he's in town working on it right now. Speaking of which, I can't remember the last time I saw a sweaty quarterback in the lunch room in early March, but that sweaty quarterback was Roethlisberger on Monday.

So with the solid Wilson soon to be on board, the Steelers won't have to draft a receiver in the first round. Really, the only hole in the lineup is the second tight end. If they have enough cap room left, after signing Wilson, to sign Anthony Becht this coming week, the Steelers will have filled their holes and will enter the draft unencumbered by any particular need. They can simply draft the board.


March 7, 2005 - The Steelers returned late from the combine last week because they didn't want to miss any part of the show put on by the DBs. That ought to tell us something about their interests this draft season.

The Steelers returned late from the combine last week because they didn't want to miss any part of the show put on by the DBs. That ought to tell us something about their interests this draft season. Anyway, reports are coming in and I have plenty of fresh and accurate information today, an otherwise bland news day for your favorite team. We also have a great interview about DeMarcus Ware.

RUNNING BACKS

The halfbacks ranged in size from Darren Sproles (5-6 1/8, 187) and Anthony Davis (5-6 5/8, 200) to Brandon Jacobs (6-4 1/4, 267). Although I'm biased against little backs, I like both Davis and Sproles. I didn't like Fred Russell (5-7, 195) last year, and he didn't make a roster. ... North Carolina fullback Madison Hedgecock (6-3, 266) topped all backs with 29 reps but lacks athletic skills. ... WVU's Kay-Jay Harris weighed in at 243. He's a nice-sized slasher type who had a strong Senior Bowl. ... Maurice Clarett's best time was 4.75. He also ran in the 4.8s and opted out of the agility and position drills. Word is he went from a fourth-rounder looking to move up to a fifth-rounder at best, probably a sixth or seventh-rounder. ... The duel between Auburn teammates Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams excited scouts. Brown was judged the most fluid and explosive in position drills. The 233-pounder ran a 4.44, with some hand-helds clocking him in the 4.3s. The 217-pound Williams ran 4.45, but topped Brown's reps with 19 (to 18). Williams showed fine pass-catching skills, too. Scouts love the competitiveness of these two backs. Williams didn't have to play in the Senior Bowl, but did. Neither "star" had to run at the combine, but did. Cedric Benson did neither, and is judged to be lagging behind the Auburn backs as a competitor because of it. ... With Brown and Williams around, little wonder Jacobs transferred from Auburn to Southern Illinois. Scouts say Jacobs is raw and lacks wiggle, but was impressive in interviews and has good skills. The 267-pounder also ran a 4.59 40. ... The disappointments were Lionel Gates, T.A. McClendon, Bobby Purify and Walter Reyes; those who didn't time were Marion Barber, Benson, Ciatrick Fason, Frank Gore, Ray Hudson and Vernand Morency; the injured was Cedric Houston (hyperthyroid). ... The favored fullback is Keith Joseph (6-1 7/8, 254, 27 reps, 4.69), a fluid pass-catcher.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Braylon Edwards he showed scouts he has more than skills. While receivers aren't asked to bench press, Edwards interrupted the second group of running backs and, in front of what was described as "a confused, yet energetic crowd", put up 22 reps and received "a raucous ovation as he departed the room." Edwards's action set off a run of others who weren't required to lift. Is Edwards ultra-competitive? Or is he a part of the new NFL Network generation? Perhaps putting the combine on TV was the move scouts needed to force more "stars" to workout. ... Matt Jones didn't impress with his route running, but his soft mitts amazed scouts who are judging the converted quarterback. Jones (6-6 1/4, 242) also ran 4.38 and 4.39 40s. His arms are 33 1/2 inches long. USC's Mike Williams's arms are the longest of the receivers, 34 1/8 inches. ... Troy Williamson (6-1 3/8, 203) ran 4.38 and 4.39. He ran smooth routes and showed good hands and moved ahead of Williams ( 6-4 5/8, 229, 4.59) on some boards, although scouts were pleased with Williams. ... Community College product Larry Brackins (6-4 3/8, 205) disappointed with his 4.66 40, poor route-running, intelligence and work ethic. ... Utah's Steven Savoy disappointed with his 4.65 40. ... Edwards didn't run. Neither did injured receivers Crag Bragg (hamstring), Lance Moore (shoulder), Craphonso Thorpe (hamstring) and Roddy White (hamstring). Geoff McArthur had a family emergency. ... White has the smallest hands at 7 5/8 inches.

TIGHT ENDS

The only blue-chipper at the position, Heath Miller, didn't work out because of a sports hernia. ... Only Joel Dreessen (6-4 1/4, 260) ran under 4.7 with a 4.69 40. He also did 22 reps and improved his stock. ... The injured who did not run were Alex Smith (knee bruise), Kevin Everett (shoulder) and Jonas Crafts (ACL). ... Smith did not impress during pass-catching drills. ... Adam Bergen (6-4 3/8, 265) caught 50 passes last season at Lehigh, but disappointed with a 4.83 40. ... Dave Kashetta (6-3 3/8, 247) ran a 4.91. ... Don't lose Jay Riemersma's number.

QUARTERBACKS

Jason Campbell is being criticized for not working out at the combine as the battle continues over the third spot in the QB rankings. Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith of course are the top two. ... Adrian McPherson (6-3 1/2, 218), who was booted off Florida State's team for gambling allegations, is the workout warrior of the bunch. He followed Braylon Edwards's lead and benched 225 22 times. He had the fifth-best QB 40 time at 4.69, behind Stefan Lefors (4.53), Josh Haldi (4.65), Dustin Long (4.65) and Bryan Randall (4.68) but is at least an inch taller than all of them. McPherson might also have the strongest arm, but is erratic. ... Timmy Chang (6-1, 211, 5.15) is considered the best late-round sleeper. ... My favorite sleeper, Sonny Cumbie of Texas Tech, was not invited.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

The first player the Steelers interviewed after losing to the Patriots was Syracuse tackle Adam Terry at the Senior Bowl. At the combine, Terry measured (6-8, 330 with 32 1/2-inch arms and 10 3/4-inch hands. He didn't lift (or play in the Senior Bowl) because of a strained oblique muscle, but ran a 5.31 40. ... Khalif Barnes (6-5 3/4, 305) was the only tackle to run under five seconds. He ran a 4.93 and impressed scouts during position drills. His work ethic is questioned. ... Jammal Brown (6-5 7/8, 316) had the next-best tackle time at 5.06. He and Barnes are considered late first-rounders at this point. ... Marcus Johnson (6-6 1/2, 321) disappointed scouts with his footwork and may be not be able to play tackle in the league. ... The consensus top tackle, Alex Barron (6-7 1/2, 320), has the longest reach with 37 1/2-inch arms. ... Pitt's Rob Petitti embarrassed himself when he weighed into the Senior Bowl at 361, but was down to 347 at the combine. He didn't run because of a toe injury. Didn't lift either. ... Other injured tackles were Michael Watson (shoulder), Erik Pears (torn labrum), Wes Britt (fibula), Chris Colmer (shoulder), Joe Dunn (pectoral), Trai Essex (hamstring), David Stewart (hamstring) and Ray Willis (ankle). ... Willis, with 35 1/2-inch arms, put up 27 reps. ... Evan Mathis (6-5 1/4, 304) had the best 40 time (4.91) of the guards and put up 35 reps. He played both guard and tackle at Alabama and would be a great third-round pick for the Steelers. ... If not Mathis, Logan Mankins (6-4 1/4, 307, 4.99) is another guard-tackle who'd fill the Steelers's need for a back-up swing man. ... For pure physical potential, some team will take a chance on Maryland guard Clinton Brooks (6-5 1/2, 309, 36 3/8-inch arm). Scouts feel he has he frame to put on more weight, but his work ethic is questioned. ... BYU guard Scott Young (6-3 5/8, 312) put up 43 reps with long 34 3/8-inch arms. He also ran a 4.93 40. ... Nebraska center Richie Incognito (6-3 1/4, 305) ran the top 40 (4.91) of any lineman, and also put up 29 reps, but injured his knee in a pass-protection drill. He's not on the Steelers's radar screen anyway because of a history of team suspensions. ... The top center in the draft is Michigan's David Baas (6-4 1/2, 319, 29 reps, 5.09 40), who's developing rapidly at the position after moving from guard early in his senior season. Scouts loved his lateral movement and balance during drills. ... Ole Miss's Chris Spencer (6-2 7/8, 309, 33 1/2 arms, 26 reps, 5.18 40) is another Day One center prospect and North Dakota's Rob Hunt (6-3 3/4, 301, 31 reps, 4.93 40) is the top sleeper at the position.

READ OF THE DAY

Since I won't have any news on defensive players until the middle of the week, this interview about DeMarcus Ware will have to suffice. I see Ware tantalizing the Steelers at pick 30 as they decide whether to draft a wide receiver or a cornerback.

To Read Februarys Issues of,  If I Were A Carpenter ... Click here


Steel City Insider Top Stories

\r\n\r\nNovember 6, 1941 Pittsburgh Press\r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nStanley Frank Reports:\r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\nHow Rooney Won $256,000 in Day
\r\n\r\n \r\n

\r\nIf wishes were horses, beggars would ride … It all started when someone, hearing that Army and Notre Dame were drawing a quarter of a million dollars worth of customers today, wistfully wondered out loud what he would do with a small piece of the house. A quarter of a million for a football game. Quite a touch.\r\n

\r\n\"I don't know,\" Joe Madden said casually. \"I seen a guy win more than that on four races. Seen him, hell. He wins $256,000 at Saratoga because I got friends.\"\r\n

\r\nThe cynics gave Madden the horse-laugh and the skeptics hooted derisively. Madden smiled reminiscently; he continued to talk and presently the cynics and the skeptics piped down. For Madden was telling the story of the most fabulous afternoon any better ever had in the history of racing, any time, any where.\r\n

\r\nThis was the story of the afternoon Art Rooney, an unknown gambler out of Pittsburgh, broke the bookies' hearts at Saratoga on the first day of the 1937 meeting and won $256,000 on four winners in six races. When Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh professional football team, made his record killing, off-hand estimates of his winnings ranged from $50,000 to about $100,000.\r\n

\r\nMadden's authoritative story now makes it plain that Rooney's daring was calculated to make much apocryphal plungers as Bet-A-Million Gates, Pittsburgh Phil, Dave Johnson, McCarron and Blumenthal look like deuce betters with a show ticket on an odds-on favorite.\r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\"Rooney Was Young, Quiet – Not Much Flash\"\r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\n\"I am thinking of Rooney all day,\" Madden went on, \"because this is getaway day at Empire and Rooney starts his record score on the last day of the summer meeting at Empire four years ago. He wins 21 G's, but nobody is excited. Nobody ever hears of Rooney. He is a young, quiet guy and he doesn't make much of a flash. In fact, he looks like a bum. He is wearing a thousand-miler, one of them blue flannel shirts, and he has one suit to his name.\r\n

\r\n\"Rooney is planning to duck back to Pittsburgh but he hears Saratoga is opening on Monday. ‘You know,' he says, ‘I never make Saratoga. You want to see what goes on up there, Buck?' This is Buck Crouse, a welterweight fighter 20 years ago, a little punchy now, but a very good fellow and the most religious guy I ever see. Buck spends 16 hours a day in church.\r\n

\r\n\"We leave in my car at 10 o'clock that night, but the jalopy breaks down three times and we don't arrive until six in the morning. It's Sunday and Buck won't let us have any breakfast. We got to go in church with him. We go to church so much I think we're going to miss the first race the next day, but we finally make it.\r\n

\r\n\"Rooney says Saratoga is the most beautiful place he ever sees. I never see Saratoga look worse. It is raining cats and dogs; there is thunder and lightning all over the joint. The night before lightning strikes Max Hirsch's barn and kills a couple of horses. But Rooney thinks it is wonderful.\r\n

\r\n\"We are standing around waiting to hear something when Jack Kearns, the trainer for the Milky Way Farms, tells me he has something good going in the first race. He don't know Rooney from a hole in the wall. Rooney bets two thousand across the board on this nag and he gets 8-1 to win, 3-1 to place, 8-5 to show. This is in the days of the bookies, remember.\r\n

\r\n\"The horse wins by himself and Rooney cleans up $25,000 on the race. I like to die when I hear how much he bets.\r\n

\r\n \r\n\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n\"Raining So Hard You Couldn't See Horses\" \r\n

\r\n \r\n\r\n\"Waiting for the second race, we are standing with Tim Mara, who knows Rooney from pro football, of course. But some guy -- I forget his name – whispers they got a sure thing in the jumping race. Rooney is on the earie and he gets down 10 thousand at 6-5. If I didn't know how it happened, I'd of sworn it was a boat race. The horse wins by 16 lengths and now Rooney is ahead $37,000.\r\n

\r\n\"He blows four grand on the third race. We don't get no information – but before the fourth, old Johnny Moran, who is buddies with Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, tells me Fitz has something good going. ‘Fitz likes this horse to win and he'll be in the money even if he breaks a leg,' old Johnny tells me. The price on the horse is 7-1.\r\n

\r\n\"Rooney bets 10 G's with Frank Erickson. By this time it is raining so hard you can't see the horses from the rail. There are five horses in the race and they're so close you can throw a blanket over them at the wire. The flash goes up for a photo finish. I've got a pretty good score myself and I'm so excited I can't stand still.\r\n

\r\n\" ‘How the hell can they take a picture when we can't even see them?' I yell. Rooney says he's going to the men's room. ‘You got 80 thousand going on a picture and you're going to the men's room,' I scream. Rooney shrugs his shoulders. ‘I can't do anything about it,' he answered and walks away.\r\n

\r\n\"Our horse is Number 5. They flash the official result on the board and it comes up Number 5. I let out a scream you can hear in Albany and rush to tell Rooney the news. What do you think he's doing? He's telling the groom in the men's room he has the greatest football player in the world. He means this Whizzer White. The groom is saying ‘Yassuh, yassuh,' like he's humoring a drunk. He thinks Rooney is a bum and you can't blame him. That rain does Rooney's clothes, which weren't good to begin with, no good at all.\r\n

\r\n \r\n\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n\"Artie Treats to Three Banana Splits\"\r\n

\r\n \r\n\r\n\" ‘Artie, we win,' I holler. \"How nice,' he says. ‘We were lucky,' and he goes on bending the groom's ear about the football team. Rooney says he's hungry. This guy has all the dough in the world now and what do you think he does? He munches on three hot dogs while waiting for the fifth.\r\n

\r\n\"Rooney doesn't like anything in it – maybe because he doesn't hear anything and he loses two grand. Now the last race is coming up. This is the pay-off. I said Rooney wins $256,000. He would of gone home with the track if he could of gotten all his bets down.\r\n

\r\n\"We hear a Marshall Field horse, this Quel Jeu, is loaded. I don't like the horse, he's a notorious quitter and that rain is coming down harder than ever. Rooney listens for a minute, then walks up to Erickson and, quiet-like, says, ‘I want to bet 90 thousand.'\r\n

\r\n\" ‘Did you say nine, Artie?' Erickson says.\r\n

\r\n\" ‘No, ninety … nine-oh,' Rooney answers. ‘It's your dough. Do you want it?'\r\n

\r\n\"Erickson throws up his hands. ‘You're too tough for me,' he says. ‘I never backed down in my life, but you're making me quit. All I can take is thirty thousand.'\r\n

\r\n\"Rooney places 10, 12 G's more around the ring at 3-1 on Quel Jeu. The horse comes out of nowhere at the last sixteenth pole and wins by 10 lengths.\r\n

\r\n\"You know how we celebrate that night? Rooney, the guy who breaks Saratoga, treats us to three banana splits at 15 cents apiece in some jerk village. That night his clothes are such a mess he has Buck wash out his shirt, underwear, handkerchief and socks in the hotel room. Yeah, the guy who has won $256,000.\"\r\n

\r\nThere was a long thoughtful silence. \"How much did he give back the next day?\" Madden was asked.\r\n

\r\n\"He blows 25 G's on a jumping race when his horse takes a dive at the water jump right in front of us. I know we're getting the business so I walk off the course and make Rooney follow me.\"\r\n

\r\n\"How is Rooney doing now?\"\r\n

\r\n\"He ain't got a dime,\" Madden said, \"but don't worry about Artie. He'll get lucky again.\"\r\n

\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n
\r\nMarch 17, 2005 -\r\nPerhaps it's the luck of the Irish that Adrian Klemm, he of the 10 starts in 5 years, signed with the Green Bay Packers last night.\r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\nKlemm of course was in town this week seeking a spot with the Steelers, who are looking for depth at both the tackle and guard positions. The injury-plagued lineman somehow squeezed an $800,000 signing bonus from the Packers, who'll start Klemm and former Steelers practtice-squadder Grey Ruegamer in the middle of their once-proud offensive line. \r\n

Forget that QB Brett Favre should've announced his retirement last week, what about running back Ahman Green? The only back deserving of that offensive line might be Najeh Davenport. Speaking of whom, \"The Amazing Craphesto\" is the lone remaining client of one Michael Harrison, which that takes us into ...\r\n \r\n

THE PLAXICO DIARIES
\r\n \r\n

Weighing in today on the continuing Plaxico Burress saga is Dr. Z\r\n. His column this morning supports the tale Beano Cook is scheduled to tell on Stan Savran's show\r\n this afternoon, that the Giants withdrew their offer from Burress because they felt he was negotiating only for a number he could shop to the Minnesota Vikings. That may be, as rumor has it, Burress irritated Giants\r\nrecruiter and star runner Tiki Barber by looking out the window the entire time Barber made his pitch.\r\n

Burress of course fired Harrison last weekend and hired Drew Rosenhaus. \r\n

We go from Dr. Z to a very special guest this morning: Rick \"Dream\" Weaver, something of a legend in Pittsburgh sportswriting circles. Weaver writes a decent column in the Indiana Gazette\r\n about Burress\r\nand the receiver's relationship with Pittsburgh reporters. The Dream is on the money here, but it's nothing you haven't read if you've kept up with this site.\r\n

To give you some background on Dream, who's grandfather apparently owns jumping cattle, he's considered a bit \"out there\", or in Zelienople as he might say. But he's one of the more unique football writers. Others may deem him \"uncool\" (most reporters are real cool you know) but I think of him as something of a genius, or maybe savant is the word I should use. He has amazing recall. I sit next to him in the press box and if I need to know, say, a player from the CFL in 1959, bingo, Dream has it. A unique fellow to be sure, and one I was pleased to find this morning while zipping around the 'net.\r\n \r\n

PASS RUSHIN' PRO DAY\r\n \r\n

As reported in our site's Draft Diary today, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau scouted defensive end Justin Tuck at Notre Dame yesterday. The only news I've been able to find comes from another blog, The Great Blue North\r\n Draft Report. \r\n

Tuck, 6-5, 265, ran 4.68 and 4.74 40s, benched 225 24 times and had a 37.5 vertical jump. Those are outstanding workout numbers. I know I get a little excited with each passing workout, but this is the guy I'm targeting for pick No. 30. He may not make it after posting those numbers, but someone will have to drop. The other target at this point is Justin Miller, the cornerback from Clemson, but I doubt he'll drop to No. 30 either.\r\n

In other workout news, Maryland 3-4 OLB Shawne Merriman (6-4 3/8, 272) ran a 4.6 40 and had a vertical jump of\r\n 40 inches. \r\n

Tennessee OLB Kevin Burnett ran a pair of 4.6s \r\nbut weighed only 230, down 9 pounds from his combine weight (weigh in big, lose weight and run faster later) and is now too light to play linebacker for the Steelers. \r\n

By the way, The Tennesseean has another story about the improprieties of Tee Martin's college days in today's issue.\r\n

He's not a pass rusher, but Utah QB Alex Smith had a great workout Wednesday and it may have elevated Smith to the top of the draft board.\r\n \r\n

NOW WHAT?\r\n \r\n

Not that Klemm was a critical loss, but the Steelers are running out of bodies in their search for a back-up swingman on the line. Left on the board is Victor Riley, a two-year starter at RT in\r\n New Orleans. He's been a disappointment, but may not be at the point in his career where he'd settle for back-up money.\r\n

Those who would? Ugh. There's Bob Whitfield, who, to my surprise, did not retire two years ago. There's Ethan Brooks, the former back-up in Baltimore. You may remember this exchange with The Answer Man last September while Jonathan Ogden was questionable for the Steelers game with an injury:\r\n

JW: Did the loss of Jonathan Ogden last week play a big part in that?
AM:\r\n Yeah. Kenard Lang had three sacks. And then you can't run to that side. Ethan Brooks is not very good.
JW: Won't Ogden be less than 100 percent this week?
AM: Eighty percent is still a lot better than Ethan Brooks. \r\n\r\n

So that leaves the Steelers with available guys such as Ryan Young and Mark Dixon. They may as well give Barrett Brooks a call. If they wait much longer, the Steelers will be down to Mathias Nkwenti.\r\n

\r\n\r\n
\r\nMarch 12, 2005 -\r\n\r\nTy Law? Come on. Are you kidding me? The 31-year-old cornerback with the career-threatening foot injury and the presumed expensive sense of worth showed up at\r\n Steelers headquarters Thursday and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau called it \"encouraging.\"\r\n

\r\nFlabbergast me some more, but why can this be? These are not the Cincinnati Bengals, or any other team prone to wishing in one hand and spitting in the other. These are the patient, prudent Pittsburgh Steelers. Why are they wasting time with such a longshot?\r\n

A caller to the Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley morning show on Fox 970 AM introduced himself Friday as a friend of Bill Cowher's and said this has been in the works for some time, and that Law will sit out the 2005 season and sign with the Steelers in 2006. Well, perhaps, but crackpots often call with such stories that never pan out. Then again, the Steelers did admit to making a mistake when they allowed Rod Woodson to leave the organization. Could Law fall into that same category as a future, wily free safety? \r\n

I left my sick daughter with a babysitter for a quick trip to the South Side to find out. I asked a source this question: Why?\r\n

\"Why not?\" was the reply. \"You know, not everything is a conspiracy. You listen to too much Neil Young.\"\r\n

Oh.\r\n

I did some quick work and left. The Post-Gazette, I find out this morning, listens to Neil Young, too. The headline asked the\r\n same question: Why? \r\n

Turning to the Tribune-Review, always my second choice, I found the answer. \"He was here to visit his mother,\" said Dan Rooney.\r\n

Case closed.\r\n \r\n

EYE ON THE MEDIA\r\n \r\n

I have to hand it to Mike Prisuta of the Trib. He did a good job last week. After the paper fell on its face on the opening day of the NFL's new fiscal year -- fencing instead of football -- the paper has done a better job than the P-G. \r\n

Prisuta, first of all, had the numbers right in the Chad Scott-Jay Riemersma releases, then reported Cedrick Wilson's visit. Prisuta was also the only reporter with the Law visit, as well as the only explanation, albeit a day later. \r\n

Now, Prisuta is also the guy who warned Pittsburgh that Plaxico Burress is Randy Moss and that fans will rue this day -- the first day of free agency -- but he's allowed some of that nonsense since he and Plax went to the same college.\r\n \r\n

SPEAKING OF WHICH ...\r\n \r\n

Burress's bizarre behavior in New York was chronicled in Friday's papers. The Bergen Record\r\n reported \r\nthat Burress said he was ill Monday, showed up late Wednesday and refused to take a physical Thursday. The reporter believes the behavior forced the Giants to walk away with only a million dividing the two sides. \r\n

The New York Post reported \r\nthat the Giants also brought in Tiki Barber in order to persuade Burress, and that Barber was impressed with Burress. But, alas, no deal. \r\n

Burress left Minnesota on Friday for Philadelphia\r\nwithout an offer. Several reports this morning insist Burress is running out of suitors, but this is the week several teams -- such as\r\n Jacksonville, who'd been staying out of the derby for financial reasons -- will jump in and try to sign Burress on the cheap.\r\n \r\n

STEELERS NEEDS\r\n \r\n

With the Baltimore Ravens signing Keydrick Vincent \r\nfor a mere $1.25 million bonus, the Steelers are turning their attention to Seattle's Floyd \"Pork Chop\"\r\n Womack to fill the back-up guard-tackle swing spot.\r\n

Ardent followers of the draft remember the nickname. Pork Chop (6-4, 333) went to the Seahawks in the fourth round in 2001 and started 22 games, most of them at guard, over the last four years. He also filled in at right tackle when Chris Terry was hurt. Womack will turn 27 on Nov. 15, which is my birthday too. \r\n

Me and the Chop, hangin' out. I can see it.\r\n

The other position the Steelers would like to bolster before the draft is tight end. Shad Meier was scheduled to visit, but signed with\r\n Tennessee. Another target, Anthony Becht, is on the verge of signing with\r\n Tampa Bay.\r\n

The Steelers may as well draft a tight end on the second day. This guy has size, speed and a cool name: Jimmy\r\n St. Louis \r\nfrom Murray State. He runs under a 4.6, and that's all I know about him. Again, the Steelers always have Jay Riemersma to fall back upon.\r\n

Yesterday, Cowher went to Morgantown for West Virginia's\r\n pro day . He spent time with Rasheed Marshall, the quarterback-turned-receiver. Marshall measured a fraction under 6-feet tall at the combine, but ran a 4.51 and did the same at his pro day. The eye-popping stat Friday was his 41-inch vertical jump. My understanding is he's a bright guy and a leader. He'd fit that fifth receiver spot as a Steelers project. \r\n

There was no word, however, on Kay-Jay Harris. I'm taking an interest in this running back. Because he played minor-league baseball he's 26 years old, but he weighs 243 and can run inside or outside. He'd be a solid third or fourth-rounder.\r\n \r\n

STATE OF THE UNION\r\n \r\n

For the most part, the Steelers have stood pat this off-season. The trade-off of Cedrick Wilson for Burress, I believe, will be positive. Wilson is an overachieving team player who gives the Steelers receiving corps a New England Patriots look, both on paper and in the locker room. QB Ben Roethlisberger will improve. I re-watched the AFC Championship game and believe he played rather well. Perhaps the disappointment felt at the time, after those three interceptions, overshadowed the skills he showed in that game. Trust me, he's still got it, and has been at the practice facility working out and watching tape with LeBeau, the defensive coordinator, in an attempt to master pro defenses. \r\n

I'm confident the Steelers's passing game will improve, but I'm beginning to worry about the running game. It's not the right side of the line that bothers me. I appreciate that the team is looking for a veteran back-up such as Womack as a fallback for Max Starks at RT, and RG Vincent played a poor final game here. My worries are at running back. I'm worried that even if Jerome Bettis comes back, he won't match the condition he was in last year. It's just a gut instinct. And with Duce Staley's injury problems last year, and Verron Haynes's injury problems every year, I'm beginning to think they need a good, solid draft pick at the position. \r\n

Now, the review of the AFC Championship game only revived my fears about the deep defensive middle. When left alone, cornerbacks Deshea Townsend and Willie Williams can be exposed. And since Troy Polamalu is an in-the-box safety, perhaps free safety should be upgraded. Signing a guy like Darren Sharper, I think, would be the type of addition that Staley was last year. Sharper would be the player the team could market as one who'll put them over the top. But he'd cost them. I'm sure I'm wishing in one hand and spitting in the other. \r\n

\r\n\r\n\r\n
\r\nMarch 8, 2005 -Fans aren't taking to the negotiations with WR Cedrick Wilson, but I like the Steelers's intention here. He's only 26, is by all reports a solid player with solid character and heart. What's not to like?\r\n

\r\n\r\n That he's only 5 feet 10? Why does a receiver have to be tall? And why am I asking so many questions? Will I stop long enough to finish this blog entry?\r\n

Whew. That was close. For a minute there it looked like I'd been caught in that March Madness black hole I've been hearing so much about. Back to Wilson, again I like the move -- when it's completed, of course. Antwaan Randle El will play split end and Wilson will be the third receiver. You weren't expecting them to bring Derrick Mason in and keep Randle El on the bench? \r\n

I'm telling you for the 115th time, Randle El was spectacular last training camp but it went under-reported because Plaxico Burress had a great first day in his return from ... from ... from -- well, I don't know where he was last summer, but the reporters stopped working after that first day. It's a common phenomenon called close-mindedness. A story develops early and becomes the story for the rest of camp, no matter what happens. It was beat over our heads, when in my mind Randle El went on to have the better camp of the two receivers. Randle El then showed those wares again in his final two starts when he caught 12 passes for 230 yards and 2 touchdowns. He's a playmaker with the ball in his hands and should be on the field every offensive snap. It wouldn't have been smart to spend big bucks in free agency when you have that kind of potential on the bench. Nobody's upset about Matt Starks replacing Oliver Ross at right tackle, and I believe the same scenario is unfolding at split end.\r\n

With Wilson, the Steelers would have a corps comprised of one star, one potential star, a solid third receiver and a veteran fourth receiver in Lee Mays who should be hitting his stride as an athlete. That leaves one spot open, and there's camp surprise Zamir Cobb coming back from injury; 6-4 practice-squadder Walter Young; and a draft pick to compete for the fifth spot. So it'll be a decent corps for Ben Roethlisberger, and therein lies the key to the passing game, not the split end. It's the quarterback, and he's in town working on it right now. Speaking of which, I can't remember the last time I saw a sweaty quarterback in the lunch room in early March, but that sweaty quarterback was Roethlisberger on Monday.\r\n

So with the solid Wilson soon to be on board, the Steelers won't have to draft a receiver in the first round. Really, the only hole in the lineup is the second tight end. If they have enough cap room left, after signing Wilson, to sign Anthony Becht this coming week, the Steelers will have filled their holes and will enter the draft unencumbered by any particular need. They can simply draft the board.

\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n
\r\n

March 7, 2005 - The Steelers returned late from the combine last week because they didn't want to miss any part of the show put on by the DBs. That ought to tell us something about their interests this draft season. \r\n

\r\nThe Steelers returned late from the combine last week because they didn't want to miss any part of the show put on by the DBs. That ought to tell us something about their interests this draft season. Anyway, reports are coming in and I have plenty of fresh and accurate information today, an otherwise bland news day for your favorite team. We also have a great interview about DeMarcus Ware.\r\n

\r\nRUNNING BACKS\r\n

\r\nThe halfbacks ranged in size from Darren Sproles (5-6 1/8, 187) and Anthony Davis (5-6 5/8, 200) to Brandon Jacobs (6-4 1/4, 267). Although I'm biased against little backs, I like both Davis and Sproles. I didn't like Fred Russell (5-7, 195) last year, and he didn't make a roster. ... North Carolina fullback Madison Hedgecock (6-3, 266) topped all backs with 29 reps but lacks athletic skills. ... WVU's Kay-Jay Harris weighed in at 243. He's a nice-sized slasher type who had a strong Senior Bowl. ... Maurice Clarett's best time was 4.75. He also ran in the 4.8s and opted out of the agility and position drills. Word is he went from a fourth-rounder looking to move up to a fifth-rounder at best, probably a sixth or seventh-rounder. ... The duel between Auburn teammates Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams excited scouts. Brown was judged the most fluid and explosive in position drills. The 233-pounder ran a 4.44, with some hand-helds clocking him in the 4.3s. The 217-pound Williams ran 4.45, but topped Brown's reps with 19 (to 18). Williams showed fine pass-catching skills, too. Scouts love the competitiveness of these two backs. Williams didn't have to play in the Senior Bowl, but did. Neither \"star\" had to run at the combine, but did. Cedric Benson did neither, and is judged to be lagging behind the Auburn backs as a competitor because of it. ... With Brown and Williams around, little wonder Jacobs transferred from Auburn to Southern Illinois. Scouts say Jacobs is raw and lacks wiggle, but was impressive in interviews and has good skills. The 267-pounder also ran a 4.59 40. ... The disappointments were Lionel Gates, T.A. McClendon, Bobby Purify and Walter Reyes; those who didn't time were Marion Barber, Benson, Ciatrick Fason, Frank Gore, Ray Hudson and Vernand Morency; the injured was Cedric Houston (hyperthyroid). ... The favored fullback is Keith Joseph (6-1 7/8, 254, 27 reps, 4.69), a fluid pass-catcher.\r\n

\r\nWIDE RECEIVERS\r\n

\r\nBraylon Edwards he showed scouts he has more than skills. While receivers aren't asked to bench press, Edwards interrupted the second group of running backs and, in front of what was described as \"a confused, yet energetic crowd\", put up 22 reps and received \"a raucous ovation as he departed the room.\" Edwards's action set off a run of others who weren't required to lift. Is Edwards ultra-competitive? Or is he a part of the new NFL Network generation? Perhaps putting the combine on TV was the move scouts needed to force more \"stars\" to workout. ... Matt Jones didn't impress with his route running, but his soft mitts amazed scouts who are judging the converted quarterback. Jones (6-6 1/4, 242) also ran 4.38 and 4.39 40s. His arms are 33 1/2 inches long. USC's Mike Williams's arms are the longest of the receivers, 34 1/8 inches. ... Troy Williamson (6-1 3/8, 203) ran 4.38 and 4.39. He ran smooth routes and showed good hands and moved ahead of Williams ( 6-4 5/8, 229, 4.59) on some boards, although scouts were pleased with Williams. ... Community College product Larry Brackins (6-4 3/8, 205) disappointed with his 4.66 40, poor route-running, intelligence and work ethic. ... Utah's Steven Savoy disappointed with his 4.65 40. ... Edwards didn't run. Neither did injured receivers Crag Bragg (hamstring), Lance Moore (shoulder), Craphonso Thorpe (hamstring) and Roddy White (hamstring). Geoff McArthur had a family emergency. ... White has the smallest hands at 7 5/8 inches.\r\n

\r\nTIGHT ENDS\r\n

\r\nThe only blue-chipper at the position, Heath Miller, didn't work out because of a sports hernia. ... Only Joel Dreessen (6-4 1/4, 260) ran under 4.7 with a 4.69 40. He also did 22 reps and improved his stock. ... The injured who did not run were Alex Smith (knee bruise), Kevin Everett (shoulder) and Jonas Crafts (ACL). ... Smith did not impress during pass-catching drills. ... Adam Bergen (6-4 3/8, 265) caught 50 passes last season at Lehigh, but disappointed with a 4.83 40. ... Dave Kashetta (6-3 3/8, 247) ran a 4.91. ... Don't lose Jay Riemersma's number.\r\n

\r\nQUARTERBACKS\r\n

\r\nJason Campbell is being criticized for not working out at the combine as the battle continues over the third spot in the QB rankings. Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith of course are the top two. ... Adrian McPherson (6-3 1/2, 218), who was booted off Florida State's team for gambling allegations, is the workout warrior of the bunch. He followed Braylon Edwards's lead and benched 225 22 times. He had the fifth-best QB 40 time at 4.69, behind Stefan Lefors (4.53), Josh Haldi (4.65), Dustin Long (4.65) and Bryan Randall (4.68) but is at least an inch taller than all of them. McPherson might also have the strongest arm, but is erratic. ... Timmy Chang (6-1, 211, 5.15) is considered the best late-round sleeper. ... My favorite sleeper, Sonny Cumbie of Texas Tech, was not invited.\r\n

\r\nOFFENSIVE LINEMEN\r\n

\r\n\r\nThe first player the Steelers interviewed after losing to the Patriots was Syracuse tackle Adam Terry at the Senior Bowl. At the combine, Terry measured (6-8, 330 with 32 1/2-inch arms and 10 3/4-inch hands. He didn't lift (or play in the Senior Bowl) because of a strained oblique muscle, but ran a 5.31 40. ... Khalif Barnes (6-5 3/4, 305) was the only tackle to run under five seconds. He ran a 4.93 and impressed scouts during position drills. His work ethic is questioned. ... Jammal Brown (6-5 7/8, 316) had the next-best tackle time at 5.06. He and Barnes are considered late first-rounders at this point. ... Marcus Johnson (6-6 1/2, 321) disappointed scouts with his footwork and may be not be able to play tackle in the league. ... The consensus top tackle, Alex Barron (6-7 1/2, 320), has the longest reach with 37 1/2-inch arms. ... Pitt's Rob Petitti embarrassed himself when he weighed into the Senior Bowl at 361, but was down to 347 at the combine. He didn't run because of a toe injury. Didn't lift either. ... Other injured tackles were Michael Watson (shoulder), Erik Pears (torn labrum), Wes Britt (fibula), Chris Colmer (shoulder), Joe Dunn (pectoral), Trai Essex (hamstring), David Stewart (hamstring) and Ray Willis (ankle). ... Willis, with 35 1/2-inch arms, put up 27 reps. ... Evan Mathis (6-5 1/4, 304) had the best 40 time (4.91) of the guards and put up 35 reps. He played both guard and tackle at Alabama and would be a great third-round pick for the Steelers. ... If not Mathis, Logan Mankins (6-4 1/4, 307, 4.99) is another guard-tackle who'd fill the Steelers's need for a back-up swing man. ... For pure physical potential, some team will take a chance on Maryland guard Clinton Brooks (6-5 1/2, 309, 36 3/8-inch arm). Scouts feel he has he frame to put on more weight, but his work ethic is questioned. ... BYU guard Scott Young (6-3 5/8, 312) put up 43 reps with long 34 3/8-inch arms. He also ran a 4.93 40. ... Nebraska center Richie Incognito (6-3 1/4, 305) ran the top 40 (4.91) of any lineman, and also put up 29 reps, but injured his knee in a pass-protection drill. He's not on the Steelers's radar screen anyway because of a history of team suspensions. ... The top center in the draft is Michigan's David Baas (6-4 1/2, 319, 29 reps, 5.09 40), who's developing rapidly at the position after moving from guard early in his senior season. Scouts loved his lateral movement and balance during drills. ... Ole Miss's Chris Spencer (6-2 7/8, 309, 33 1/2 arms, 26 reps, 5.18 40) is another Day One center prospect and North Dakota's Rob Hunt (6-3 3/4, 301, 31 reps, 4.93 40) is the top sleeper at the position. \r\n

\r\nREAD OF THE DAY\r\n

\r\nSince I won't have any news on defensive players until the middle of the week, this interview about\r\n DeMarcus Ware will have to suffice. I see Ware tantalizing the Steelers at pick 30 as they decide whether to draft a wide receiver or a cornerback.\r\n

To Read Februarys Issues of,  If I Were A Carpenter ... Click\r\nhere\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":" \r\n\r\nNovember 6, 1941 Pittsburgh Press\r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nStanley Frank Reports:\r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\nHow Rooney Won $256,000 in Day
\r\n\r\n \r\n

\r\nIf wishes were horses, beggars would ride … It all started when someone, hearing that Army and Notre Dame were drawing a quarter of a million dollars worth of customers today, wistfully wondered out loud what he would do with a small piece of the house. A quarter of a million for a football game. Quite a touch.\r\n

\r\n\"I don't know,\" Joe Madden said casually. \"I seen a guy win more than that on four races. Seen him, hell. He wins $256,000 at Saratoga because I got friends.\"\r\n

\r\nThe cynics gave Madden the horse-laugh and the skeptics hooted derisively. Madden smiled reminiscently; he continued to talk and presently the cynics and the skeptics piped down. For Madden was telling the story of the most fabulous afternoon any better ever had in the history of racing, any time, any where.\r\n

\r\nThis was the story of the afternoon Art Rooney, an unknown gambler out of Pittsburgh, broke the bookies' hearts at Saratoga on the first day of the 1937 meeting and won $256,000 on four winners in six races. When Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh professional football team, made his record killing, off-hand estimates of his winnings ranged from $50,000 to about $100,000.\r\n

\r\nMadden's authoritative story now makes it plain that Rooney's daring was calculated to make much apocryphal plungers as Bet-A-Million Gates, Pittsburgh Phil, Dave Johnson, McCarron and Blumenthal look like deuce betters with a show ticket on an odds-on favorite.\r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\"Rooney Was Young, Quiet – Not Much Flash\"\r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\n\"I am thinking of Rooney all day,\" Madden went on, \"because this is getaway day at Empire and Rooney starts his record score on the last day of the summer meeting at Empire four years ago. He wins 21 G's, but nobody is excited. Nobody ever hears of Rooney. He is a young, quiet guy and he doesn't make much of a flash. In fact, he looks like a bum. He is wearing a thousand-miler, one of them blue flannel shirts, and he has one suit to his name.\r\n

\r\n\"Rooney is planning to duck back to Pittsburgh but he hears Saratoga is opening on Monday. ‘You know,' he says, ‘I never make Saratoga. You want to see what goes on up there, Buck?' This is Buck Crouse, a welterweight fighter 20 years ago, a little punchy now, but a very good fellow and the most religious guy I ever see. Buck spends 16 hours a day in church.\r\n

\r\n\"We leave in my car at 10 o'clock that night, but the jalopy breaks down three times and we don't arrive until six in the morning. It's Sunday and Buck won't let us have any breakfast. We got to go in church with him. We go to church so much I think we're going to miss the first race the next day, but we finally make it.\r\n

\r\n\"Rooney says Saratoga is the most beautiful place he ever sees. I never see Saratoga look worse. It is raining cats and dogs; there is thunder and lightning all over the joint. The night before lightning strikes Max Hirsch's barn and kills a couple of horses. But Rooney thinks it is wonderful.\r\n

\r\n\"We are standing around waiting to hear something when Jack Kearns, the trainer for the Milky Way Farms, tells me he has something good going in the first race. He don't know Rooney from a hole in the wall. Rooney bets two thousand across the board on this nag and he gets 8-1 to win, 3-1 to place, 8-5 to show. This is in the days of the bookies, remember.\r\n

\r\n\"The horse wins by himself and Rooney cleans up $25,000 on the race. I like to die when I hear how much he bets.\r\n

\r\n \r\n\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n\"Raining So Hard You Couldn't See Horses\" \r\n

\r\n \r\n\r\n\"Waiting for the second race, we are standing with Tim Mara, who knows Rooney from pro football, of course. But some guy -- I forget his name – whispers they got a sure thing in the jumping race. Rooney is on the earie and he gets down 10 thousand at 6-5. If I didn't know how it happened, I'd of sworn it was a boat race. The horse wins by 16 lengths and now Rooney is ahead $37,000.\r\n

\r\n\"He blows four grand on the third race. We don't get no information – but before the fourth, old Johnny Moran, who is buddies with Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, tells me Fitz has something good going. ‘Fitz likes this horse to win and he'll be in the money even if he breaks a leg,' old Johnny tells me. The price on the horse is 7-1.\r\n

\r\n\"Rooney bets 10 G's with Frank Erickson. By this time it is raining so hard you can't see the horses from the rail. There are five horses in the race and they're so close you can throw a blanket over them at the wire. The flash goes up for a photo finish. I've got a pretty good score myself and I'm so excited I can't stand still.\r\n

\r\n\" ‘How the hell can they take a picture when we can't even see them?' I yell. Rooney says he's going to the men's room. ‘You got 80 thousand going on a picture and you're going to the men's room,' I scream. Rooney shrugs his shoulders. ‘I can't do anything about it,' he answered and walks away.\r\n

\r\n\"Our horse is Number 5. They flash the official result on the board and it comes up Number 5. I let out a scream you can hear in Albany and rush to tell Rooney the news. What do you think he's doing? He's telling the groom in the men's room he has the greatest football player in the world. He means this Whizzer White. The groom is saying ‘Yassuh, yassuh,' like he's humoring a drunk. He thinks Rooney is a bum and you can't blame him. That rain does Rooney's clothes, which weren't good to begin with, no good at all.\r\n

\r\n \r\n\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n\"Artie Treats to Three Banana Splits\"\r\n

\r\n \r\n\r\n\" ‘Artie, we win,' I holler. \"How nice,' he says. ‘We were lucky,' and he goes on bending the groom's ear about the football team. Rooney says he's hungry. This guy has all the dough in the world now and what do you think he does? He munches on three hot dogs while waiting for the fifth.\r\n

\r\n\"Rooney doesn't like anything in it – maybe because he doesn't hear anything and he loses two grand. Now the last race is coming up. This is the pay-off. I said Rooney wins $256,000. He would of gone home with the track if he could of gotten all his bets down.\r\n

\r\n\"We hear a Marshall Field horse, this Quel Jeu, is loaded. I don't like the horse, he's a notorious quitter and that rain is coming down harder than ever. Rooney listens for a minute, then walks up to Erickson and, quiet-like, says, ‘I want to bet 90 thousand.'\r\n

\r\n\" ‘Did you say nine, Artie?' Erickson says.\r\n

\r\n\" ‘No, ninety … nine-oh,' Rooney answers. ‘It's your dough. Do you want it?'\r\n

\r\n\"Erickson throws up his hands. ‘You're too tough for me,' he says. ‘I never backed down in my life, but you're making me quit. All I can take is thirty thousand.'\r\n

\r\n\"Rooney places 10, 12 G's more around the ring at 3-1 on Quel Jeu. The horse comes out of nowhere at the last sixteenth pole and wins by 10 lengths.\r\n

\r\n\"You know how we celebrate that night? Rooney, the guy who breaks Saratoga, treats us to three banana splits at 15 cents apiece in some jerk village. That night his clothes are such a mess he has Buck wash out his shirt, underwear, handkerchief and socks in the hotel room. Yeah, the guy who has won $256,000.\"\r\n

\r\nThere was a long thoughtful silence. \"How much did he give back the next day?\" Madden was asked.\r\n

\r\n\"He blows 25 G's on a jumping race when his horse takes a dive at the water jump right in front of us. I know we're getting the business so I walk off the course and make Rooney follow me.\"\r\n

\r\n\"How is Rooney doing now?\"\r\n

\r\n\"He ain't got a dime,\" Madden said, \"but don't worry about Artie. He'll get lucky again.\"\r\n

\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n
\r\nMarch 17, 2005 -\r\nPerhaps it's the luck of the Irish that Adrian Klemm, he of the 10 starts in 5 years, signed with the Green Bay Packers last night.\r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\nKlemm of course was in town this week seeking a spot with the Steelers, who are looking for depth at both the tackle and guard positions. The injury-plagued lineman somehow squeezed an $800,000 signing bonus from the Packers, who'll start Klemm and former Steelers practtice-squadder Grey Ruegamer in the middle of their once-proud offensive line. \r\n

Forget that QB Brett Favre should've announced his retirement last week, what about running back Ahman Green? The only back deserving of that offensive line might be Najeh Davenport. Speaking of whom, \"The Amazing Craphesto\" is the lone remaining client of one Michael Harrison, which that takes us into ...\r\n \r\n

THE PLAXICO DIARIES
\r\n \r\n

Weighing in today on the continuing Plaxico Burress saga is Dr. Z\r\n. His column this morning supports the tale Beano Cook is scheduled to tell on Stan Savran's show\r\n this afternoon, that the Giants withdrew their offer from Burress because they felt he was negotiating only for a number he could shop to the Minnesota Vikings. That may be, as rumor has it, Burress irritated Giants\r\nrecruiter and star runner Tiki Barber by looking out the window the entire time Barber made his pitch.\r\n

Burress of course fired Harrison last weekend and hired Drew Rosenhaus. \r\n

We go from Dr. Z to a very special guest this morning: Rick \"Dream\" Weaver, something of a legend in Pittsburgh sportswriting circles. Weaver writes a decent column in the Indiana Gazette\r\n about Burress\r\nand the receiver's relationship with Pittsburgh reporters. The Dream is on the money here, but it's nothing you haven't read if you've kept up with this site.\r\n

To give you some background on Dream, who's grandfather apparently owns jumping cattle, he's considered a bit \"out there\", or in Zelienople as he might say. But he's one of the more unique football writers. Others may deem him \"uncool\" (most reporters are real cool you know) but I think of him as something of a genius, or maybe savant is the word I should use. He has amazing recall. I sit next to him in the press box and if I need to know, say, a player from the CFL in 1959, bingo, Dream has it. A unique fellow to be sure, and one I was pleased to find this morning while zipping around the 'net.\r\n \r\n

PASS RUSHIN' PRO DAY\r\n \r\n

As reported in our site's Draft Diary today, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau scouted defensive end Justin Tuck at Notre Dame yesterday. The only news I've been able to find comes from another blog, The Great Blue North\r\n Draft Report. \r\n

Tuck, 6-5, 265, ran 4.68 and 4.74 40s, benched 225 24 times and had a 37.5 vertical jump. Those are outstanding workout numbers. I know I get a little excited with each passing workout, but this is the guy I'm targeting for pick No. 30. He may not make it after posting those numbers, but someone will have to drop. The other target at this point is Justin Miller, the cornerback from Clemson, but I doubt he'll drop to No. 30 either.\r\n

In other workout news, Maryland 3-4 OLB Shawne Merriman (6-4 3/8, 272) ran a 4.6 40 and had a vertical jump of\r\n 40 inches. \r\n

Tennessee OLB Kevin Burnett ran a pair of 4.6s \r\nbut weighed only 230, down 9 pounds from his combine weight (weigh in big, lose weight and run faster later) and is now too light to play linebacker for the Steelers. \r\n

By the way, The Tennesseean has another story about the improprieties of Tee Martin's college days in today's issue.\r\n

He's not a pass rusher, but Utah QB Alex Smith had a great workout Wednesday and it may have elevated Smith to the top of the draft board.\r\n \r\n

NOW WHAT?\r\n \r\n

Not that Klemm was a critical loss, but the Steelers are running out of bodies in their search for a back-up swingman on the line. Left on the board is Victor Riley, a two-year starter at RT in\r\n New Orleans. He's been a disappointment, but may not be at the point in his career where he'd settle for back-up money.\r\n

Those who would? Ugh. There's Bob Whitfield, who, to my surprise, did not retire two years ago. There's Ethan Brooks, the former back-up in Baltimore. You may remember this exchange with The Answer Man last September while Jonathan Ogden was questionable for the Steelers game with an injury:\r\n

JW: Did the loss of Jonathan Ogden last week play a big part in that?
AM:\r\n Yeah. Kenard Lang had three sacks. And then you can't run to that side. Ethan Brooks is not very good.
JW: Won't Ogden be less than 100 percent this week?
AM: Eighty percent is still a lot better than Ethan Brooks. \r\n\r\n

So that leaves the Steelers with available guys such as Ryan Young and Mark Dixon. They may as well give Barrett Brooks a call. If they wait much longer, the Steelers will be down to Mathias Nkwenti.\r\n

\r\n\r\n
\r\nMarch 12, 2005 -\r\n\r\nTy Law? Come on. Are you kidding me? The 31-year-old cornerback with the career-threatening foot injury and the presumed expensive sense of worth showed up at\r\n Steelers headquarters Thursday and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau called it \"encouraging.\"\r\n

\r\nFlabbergast me some more, but why can this be? These are not the Cincinnati Bengals, or any other team prone to wishing in one hand and spitting in the other. These are the patient, prudent Pittsburgh Steelers. Why are they wasting time with such a longshot?\r\n

A caller to the Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley morning show on Fox 970 AM introduced himself Friday as a friend of Bill Cowher's and said this has been in the works for some time, and that Law will sit out the 2005 season and sign with the Steelers in 2006. Well, perhaps, but crackpots often call with such stories that never pan out. Then again, the Steelers did admit to making a mistake when they allowed Rod Woodson to leave the organization. Could Law fall into that same category as a future, wily free safety? \r\n

I left my sick daughter with a babysitter for a quick trip to the South Side to find out. I asked a source this question: Why?\r\n

\"Why not?\" was the reply. \"You know, not everything is a conspiracy. You listen to too much Neil Young.\"\r\n

Oh.\r\n

I did some quick work and left. The Post-Gazette, I find out this morning, listens to Neil Young, too. The headline asked the\r\n same question: Why? \r\n

Turning to the Tribune-Review, always my second choice, I found the answer. \"He was here to visit his mother,\" said Dan Rooney.\r\n

Case closed.\r\n \r\n

EYE ON THE MEDIA\r\n \r\n

I have to hand it to Mike Prisuta of the Trib. He did a good job last week. After the paper fell on its face on the opening day of the NFL's new fiscal year -- fencing instead of football -- the paper has done a better job than the P-G. \r\n

Prisuta, first of all, had the numbers right in the Chad Scott-Jay Riemersma releases, then reported Cedrick Wilson's visit. Prisuta was also the only reporter with the Law visit, as well as the only explanation, albeit a day later. \r\n

Now, Prisuta is also the guy who warned Pittsburgh that Plaxico Burress is Randy Moss and that fans will rue this day -- the first day of free agency -- but he's allowed some of that nonsense since he and Plax went to the same college.\r\n \r\n

SPEAKING OF WHICH ...\r\n \r\n

Burress's bizarre behavior in New York was chronicled in Friday's papers. The Bergen Record\r\n reported \r\nthat Burress said he was ill Monday, showed up late Wednesday and refused to take a physical Thursday. The reporter believes the behavior forced the Giants to walk away with only a million dividing the two sides. \r\n

The New York Post reported \r\nthat the Giants also brought in Tiki Barber in order to persuade Burress, and that Barber was impressed with Burress. But, alas, no deal. \r\n

Burress left Minnesota on Friday for Philadelphia\r\nwithout an offer. Several reports this morning insist Burress is running out of suitors, but this is the week several teams -- such as\r\n Jacksonville, who'd been staying out of the derby for financial reasons -- will jump in and try to sign Burress on the cheap.\r\n \r\n

STEELERS NEEDS\r\n \r\n

With the Baltimore Ravens signing Keydrick Vincent \r\nfor a mere $1.25 million bonus, the Steelers are turning their attention to Seattle's Floyd \"Pork Chop\"\r\n Womack to fill the back-up guard-tackle swing spot.\r\n

Ardent followers of the draft remember the nickname. Pork Chop (6-4, 333) went to the Seahawks in the fourth round in 2001 and started 22 games, most of them at guard, over the last four years. He also filled in at right tackle when Chris Terry was hurt. Womack will turn 27 on Nov. 15, which is my birthday too. \r\n

Me and the Chop, hangin' out. I can see it.\r\n

The other position the Steelers would like to bolster before the draft is tight end. Shad Meier was scheduled to visit, but signed with\r\n Tennessee. Another target, Anthony Becht, is on the verge of signing with\r\n Tampa Bay.\r\n

The Steelers may as well draft a tight end on the second day. This guy has size, speed and a cool name: Jimmy\r\n St. Louis \r\nfrom Murray State. He runs under a 4.6, and that's all I know about him. Again, the Steelers always have Jay Riemersma to fall back upon.\r\n

Yesterday, Cowher went to Morgantown for West Virginia's\r\n pro day . He spent time with Rasheed Marshall, the quarterback-turned-receiver. Marshall measured a fraction under 6-feet tall at the combine, but ran a 4.51 and did the same at his pro day. The eye-popping stat Friday was his 41-inch vertical jump. My understanding is he's a bright guy and a leader. He'd fit that fifth receiver spot as a Steelers project. \r\n

There was no word, however, on Kay-Jay Harris. I'm taking an interest in this running back. Because he played minor-league baseball he's 26 years old, but he weighs 243 and can run inside or outside. He'd be a solid third or fourth-rounder.\r\n \r\n

STATE OF THE UNION\r\n \r\n

For the most part, the Steelers have stood pat this off-season. The trade-off of Cedrick Wilson for Burress, I believe, will be positive. Wilson is an overachieving team player who gives the Steelers receiving corps a New England Patriots look, both on paper and in the locker room. QB Ben Roethlisberger will improve. I re-watched the AFC Championship game and believe he played rather well. Perhaps the disappointment felt at the time, after those three interceptions, overshadowed the skills he showed in that game. Trust me, he's still got it, and has been at the practice facility working out and watching tape with LeBeau, the defensive coordinator, in an attempt to master pro defenses. \r\n

I'm confident the Steelers's passing game will improve, but I'm beginning to worry about the running game. It's not the right side of the line that bothers me. I appreciate that the team is looking for a veteran back-up such as Womack as a fallback for Max Starks at RT, and RG Vincent played a poor final game here. My worries are at running back. I'm worried that even if Jerome Bettis comes back, he won't match the condition he was in last year. It's just a gut instinct. And with Duce Staley's injury problems last year, and Verron Haynes's injury problems every year, I'm beginning to think they need a good, solid draft pick at the position. \r\n

Now, the review of the AFC Championship game only revived my fears about the deep defensive middle. When left alone, cornerbacks Deshea Townsend and Willie Williams can be exposed. And since Troy Polamalu is an in-the-box safety, perhaps free safety should be upgraded. Signing a guy like Darren Sharper, I think, would be the type of addition that Staley was last year. Sharper would be the player the team could market as one who'll put them over the top. But he'd cost them. I'm sure I'm wishing in one hand and spitting in the other. \r\n

\r\n\r\n\r\n
\r\nMarch 8, 2005 -Fans aren't taking to the negotiations with WR Cedrick Wilson, but I like the Steelers's intention here. He's only 26, is by all reports a solid player with solid character and heart. What's not to like?\r\n

\r\n\r\n That he's only 5 feet 10? Why does a receiver have to be tall? And why am I asking so many questions? Will I stop long enough to finish this blog entry?\r\n

Whew. That was close. For a minute there it looked like I'd been caught in that March Madness black hole I've been hearing so much about. Back to Wilson, again I like the move -- when it's completed, of course. Antwaan Randle El will play split end and Wilson will be the third receiver. You weren't expecting them to bring Derrick Mason in and keep Randle El on the bench? \r\n

I'm telling you for the 115th time, Randle El was spectacular last training camp but it went under-reported because Plaxico Burress had a great first day in his return from ... from ... from -- well, I don't know where he was last summer, but the reporters stopped working after that first day. It's a common phenomenon called close-mindedness. A story develops early and becomes the story for the rest of camp, no matter what happens. It was beat over our heads, when in my mind Randle El went on to have the better camp of the two receivers. Randle El then showed those wares again in his final two starts when he caught 12 passes for 230 yards and 2 touchdowns. He's a playmaker with the ball in his hands and should be on the field every offensive snap. It wouldn't have been smart to spend big bucks in free agency when you have that kind of potential on the bench. Nobody's upset about Matt Starks replacing Oliver Ross at right tackle, and I believe the same scenario is unfolding at split end.\r\n

With Wilson, the Steelers would have a corps comprised of one star, one potential star, a solid third receiver and a veteran fourth receiver in Lee Mays who should be hitting his stride as an athlete. That leaves one spot open, and there's camp surprise Zamir Cobb coming back from injury; 6-4 practice-squadder Walter Young; and a draft pick to compete for the fifth spot. So it'll be a decent corps for Ben Roethlisberger, and therein lies the key to the passing game, not the split end. It's the quarterback, and he's in town working on it right now. Speaking of which, I can't remember the last time I saw a sweaty quarterback in the lunch room in early March, but that sweaty quarterback was Roethlisberger on Monday.\r\n

So with the solid Wilson soon to be on board, the Steelers won't have to draft a receiver in the first round. Really, the only hole in the lineup is the second tight end. If they have enough cap room left, after signing Wilson, to sign Anthony Becht this coming week, the Steelers will have filled their holes and will enter the draft unencumbered by any particular need. They can simply draft the board.

\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n
\r\n

March 7, 2005 - The Steelers returned late from the combine last week because they didn't want to miss any part of the show put on by the DBs. That ought to tell us something about their interests this draft season. \r\n

\r\nThe Steelers returned late from the combine last week because they didn't want to miss any part of the show put on by the DBs. That ought to tell us something about their interests this draft season. Anyway, reports are coming in and I have plenty of fresh and accurate information today, an otherwise bland news day for your favorite team. We also have a great interview about DeMarcus Ware.\r\n

\r\nRUNNING BACKS\r\n

\r\nThe halfbacks ranged in size from Darren Sproles (5-6 1/8, 187) and Anthony Davis (5-6 5/8, 200) to Brandon Jacobs (6-4 1/4, 267). Although I'm biased against little backs, I like both Davis and Sproles. I didn't like Fred Russell (5-7, 195) last year, and he didn't make a roster. ... North Carolina fullback Madison Hedgecock (6-3, 266) topped all backs with 29 reps but lacks athletic skills. ... WVU's Kay-Jay Harris weighed in at 243. He's a nice-sized slasher type who had a strong Senior Bowl. ... Maurice Clarett's best time was 4.75. He also ran in the 4.8s and opted out of the agility and position drills. Word is he went from a fourth-rounder looking to move up to a fifth-rounder at best, probably a sixth or seventh-rounder. ... The duel between Auburn teammates Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams excited scouts. Brown was judged the most fluid and explosive in position drills. The 233-pounder ran a 4.44, with some hand-helds clocking him in the 4.3s. The 217-pound Williams ran 4.45, but topped Brown's reps with 19 (to 18). Williams showed fine pass-catching skills, too. Scouts love the competitiveness of these two backs. Williams didn't have to play in the Senior Bowl, but did. Neither \"star\" had to run at the combine, but did. Cedric Benson did neither, and is judged to be lagging behind the Auburn backs as a competitor because of it. ... With Brown and Williams around, little wonder Jacobs transferred from Auburn to Southern Illinois. Scouts say Jacobs is raw and lacks wiggle, but was impressive in interviews and has good skills. The 267-pounder also ran a 4.59 40. ... The disappointments were Lionel Gates, T.A. McClendon, Bobby Purify and Walter Reyes; those who didn't time were Marion Barber, Benson, Ciatrick Fason, Frank Gore, Ray Hudson and Vernand Morency; the injured was Cedric Houston (hyperthyroid). ... The favored fullback is Keith Joseph (6-1 7/8, 254, 27 reps, 4.69), a fluid pass-catcher.\r\n

\r\nWIDE RECEIVERS\r\n

\r\nBraylon Edwards he showed scouts he has more than skills. While receivers aren't asked to bench press, Edwards interrupted the second group of running backs and, in front of what was described as \"a confused, yet energetic crowd\", put up 22 reps and received \"a raucous ovation as he departed the room.\" Edwards's action set off a run of others who weren't required to lift. Is Edwards ultra-competitive? Or is he a part of the new NFL Network generation? Perhaps putting the combine on TV was the move scouts needed to force more \"stars\" to workout. ... Matt Jones didn't impress with his route running, but his soft mitts amazed scouts who are judging the converted quarterback. Jones (6-6 1/4, 242) also ran 4.38 and 4.39 40s. His arms are 33 1/2 inches long. USC's Mike Williams's arms are the longest of the receivers, 34 1/8 inches. ... Troy Williamson (6-1 3/8, 203) ran 4.38 and 4.39. He ran smooth routes and showed good hands and moved ahead of Williams ( 6-4 5/8, 229, 4.59) on some boards, although scouts were pleased with Williams. ... Community College product Larry Brackins (6-4 3/8, 205) disappointed with his 4.66 40, poor route-running, intelligence and work ethic. ... Utah's Steven Savoy disappointed with his 4.65 40. ... Edwards didn't run. Neither did injured receivers Crag Bragg (hamstring), Lance Moore (shoulder), Craphonso Thorpe (hamstring) and Roddy White (hamstring). Geoff McArthur had a family emergency. ... White has the smallest hands at 7 5/8 inches.\r\n

\r\nTIGHT ENDS\r\n

\r\nThe only blue-chipper at the position, Heath Miller, didn't work out because of a sports hernia. ... Only Joel Dreessen (6-4 1/4, 260) ran under 4.7 with a 4.69 40. He also did 22 reps and improved his stock. ... The injured who did not run were Alex Smith (knee bruise), Kevin Everett (shoulder) and Jonas Crafts (ACL). ... Smith did not impress during pass-catching drills. ... Adam Bergen (6-4 3/8, 265) caught 50 passes last season at Lehigh, but disappointed with a 4.83 40. ... Dave Kashetta (6-3 3/8, 247) ran a 4.91. ... Don't lose Jay Riemersma's number.\r\n

\r\nQUARTERBACKS\r\n

\r\nJason Campbell is being criticized for not working out at the combine as the battle continues over the third spot in the QB rankings. Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith of course are the top two. ... Adrian McPherson (6-3 1/2, 218), who was booted off Florida State's team for gambling allegations, is the workout warrior of the bunch. He followed Braylon Edwards's lead and benched 225 22 times. He had the fifth-best QB 40 time at 4.69, behind Stefan Lefors (4.53), Josh Haldi (4.65), Dustin Long (4.65) and Bryan Randall (4.68) but is at least an inch taller than all of them. McPherson might also have the strongest arm, but is erratic. ... Timmy Chang (6-1, 211, 5.15) is considered the best late-round sleeper. ... My favorite sleeper, Sonny Cumbie of Texas Tech, was not invited.\r\n

\r\nOFFENSIVE LINEMEN\r\n

\r\n\r\nThe first player the Steelers interviewed after losing to the Patriots was Syracuse tackle Adam Terry at the Senior Bowl. At the combine, Terry measured (6-8, 330 with 32 1/2-inch arms and 10 3/4-inch hands. He didn't lift (or play in the Senior Bowl) because of a strained oblique muscle, but ran a 5.31 40. ... Khalif Barnes (6-5 3/4, 305) was the only tackle to run under five seconds. He ran a 4.93 and impressed scouts during position drills. His work ethic is questioned. ... Jammal Brown (6-5 7/8, 316) had the next-best tackle time at 5.06. He and Barnes are considered late first-rounders at this point. ... Marcus Johnson (6-6 1/2, 321) disappointed scouts with his footwork and may be not be able to play tackle in the league. ... The consensus top tackle, Alex Barron (6-7 1/2, 320), has the longest reach with 37 1/2-inch arms. ... Pitt's Rob Petitti embarrassed himself when he weighed into the Senior Bowl at 361, but was down to 347 at the combine. He didn't run because of a toe injury. Didn't lift either. ... Other injured tackles were Michael Watson (shoulder), Erik Pears (torn labrum), Wes Britt (fibula), Chris Colmer (shoulder), Joe Dunn (pectoral), Trai Essex (hamstring), David Stewart (hamstring) and Ray Willis (ankle). ... Willis, with 35 1/2-inch arms, put up 27 reps. ... Evan Mathis (6-5 1/4, 304) had the best 40 time (4.91) of the guards and put up 35 reps. He played both guard and tackle at Alabama and would be a great third-round pick for the Steelers. ... If not Mathis, Logan Mankins (6-4 1/4, 307, 4.99) is another guard-tackle who'd fill the Steelers's need for a back-up swing man. ... For pure physical potential, some team will take a chance on Maryland guard Clinton Brooks (6-5 1/2, 309, 36 3/8-inch arm). Scouts feel he has he frame to put on more weight, but his work ethic is questioned. ... BYU guard Scott Young (6-3 5/8, 312) put up 43 reps with long 34 3/8-inch arms. He also ran a 4.93 40. ... Nebraska center Richie Incognito (6-3 1/4, 305) ran the top 40 (4.91) of any lineman, and also put up 29 reps, but injured his knee in a pass-protection drill. He's not on the Steelers's radar screen anyway because of a history of team suspensions. ... The top center in the draft is Michigan's David Baas (6-4 1/2, 319, 29 reps, 5.09 40), who's developing rapidly at the position after moving from guard early in his senior season. Scouts loved his lateral movement and balance during drills. ... Ole Miss's Chris Spencer (6-2 7/8, 309, 33 1/2 arms, 26 reps, 5.18 40) is another Day One center prospect and North Dakota's Rob Hunt (6-3 3/4, 301, 31 reps, 4.93 40) is the top sleeper at the position. \r\n

\r\nREAD OF THE DAY\r\n

\r\nSince I won't have any news on defensive players until the middle of the week, this interview about\r\n DeMarcus Ware will have to suffice. I see Ware tantalizing the Steelers at pick 30 as they decide whether to draft a wide receiver or a cornerback.\r\n

To Read Februarys Issues of,  If I Were A Carpenter ... Click\r\nhere\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n

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