A good showing -- like Taylor in '04 -- could got a long way in determining his future in Pittsburgh. Anything else, and Colclough's likely to join everybody's favorite second-round whipping boy, Alonzo Jackson, on the "why did the Steelers draft that dude again?" Wall of Shame. I hope it's the former. Coke may not be the most likable sort, but I'm pulling for the guy. The good news -- for Colclough, anyway -- is that if Pittsburgh releases him this off-season, he'll probably end up in New England and get a couple of Super Bowl rings for his trouble. He and Hank Poteat can have a good laugh when it's all over.
Well, Pittsburgh couldn't wait until the off-season. They could only take eight weeks of No-Show Coke. I don't know what finally pushed the organization over the edge, but during last Sunday's Bengals game, I distinctly remember thinking that Colclough wouldn't be coming back in 2008. He had just taken out William Gay while trying to cover a kick, and Cincinnati parlayed that fine block into excellent field position. Too bad Pittsburgh didn't trade Colclough mid-game. Leon Hall could've used some help, and I would've loved to see him make the Walk of Shame from one sideline to the other.
Part of me feels for the guy, though. I'm convinced his physical abilities aren't what kept him back. It was all the above-the-head stuff, starting with -- you guessed it -- this forgettable moment in Steelers history. That the team thought so much of Colclough that they were willing to drop him to re-sign unrestricted free agent, Anthony Madison -- who had been sitting at home since the Bucs released him in Week 2 -- says it all. I'm happy for Madison -- I liked him last year, and he's a much better special teams player than Colclough. In the process of adding another name to the First-Day Draft Busts list, the organization also unearthed another gem: William Gay. That doesn't change anything -- there are better ways to use a second-round pick than to cut him, for sure -- but if nothing else, it eases the pain. And Gay + Madison > Colclough, right? Right?
Whenever a relatively high-round pick gets axed, one of my favorite after-the-fact games is "Who should the Steelers have drafted?" It's classic masochistic behavior, something every self-loathing fan loves to engage in. Anyway, in 2004, Pittsburgh traded up to get Colclough with the 38th pick. The team next took Max Starks at 75. Just a few names the Steelers could've had that probably would've done more than play in 36 games, and regularly misjudge punts:
* Daryl Smith, OLB
* Bob Sanders, S
* Jake Grove, G
* Justin Smiley, G
* Greg Jones, RB
*Madieu Williams, S
* Darnell Dockett, DT
Good news: other than Sanders, there was no real impact player drafted between Colclough and Starks. And at the time, the Steelers didn't need Sanders; they had just drafted Troy Polamalu, and Chris Hope still had two years left on his rookie contract. Still, you can never have too many Sanderses, I suppose. Especially when the alternative is a guy who gets unceremoniously released less than four years later.
Before the Browns swooped in and signed Colclough, I wondered where he might land. Or more specifically, which team would be the best fit for his, um, talents. In last month's column, I guessed he'd be in New England, but that assumed the organization wouldn't send him packing until the off-season. Now, though, I think the Patriots are doing fine, and don't need to restock their already stocked lineup via the Steelers pipeline. It wouldn't have surprised me if the Redskins made an offer. They lost their 2005 first-round pick, Carlos Rogers, for the season with a knee injury, and the backup, Cap'n Fred Smoot is more talk than action. That, and he's a shade taller than your average Hobbit.
It's not clear to me why Colclough struggled in Pittsburgh (Well, why he struggled was as clear as day; why he struggled -- he wasn't very smart, he was lazy, he had psychological issues brought on by last year's Bengals' game -- is still a mystery to me), but Washington's assistant coach-defense, Gregg Williams, simplified things after a disastrous 2006 season. The results, save the Patriots game, have been impressive. Maybe Colclough would've flourished in a scheme that was more straightforward than a typical Richard LeBeau concoction. Or maybe he's just not a very good player. Hey, it's Halloween, I'm trying to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Concerning the Browns, though … anybody think Romeo Crennel will bring Colclough in for a look-see, grill him for top-secret information, and then cut him, oh, I don't know, on or around November 10? I don't see this happening -- Cleveland's pass defense ranks 31st in the league, and while Colclough ain't exactly Leigh Bodden, he has full use of his arms and legs (although some might question the former), which is more than Gary Baxter can say. And more importantly, what, exactly, would he be able to tell the Browns coaches that they don't already know? How a former second-rounder lost his job to a rookie fifth-rounder, and just got pink-slipped for an undrafted free agent? Other than that little tidbit, everything else is, as Mike Tomlin might say, "on the tape."
"We do what we always do. We just did a little bit more of it… You got a rivalry game and they don't score, you not only send a message for the next time you play them, you send a message to the next team you play."
The 2007 Ravens, however, have their own issues. The offense, as always, is a joke, but the defense, is still dominant. It certainly doesn't seem that way when I watch them, but according to Football Outsiders, through Week 8, Baltimore has the fourth-ranked defense (12th against the pass; 2nd against the run). Last year, they were the league's best (tops against the pass, 2nd against the run), so relatively speaking, they've slipped. Not enough to mean much, though.
My biggest concern -- outside of Roethlisberger getting hauled off the field on a stretcher -- is, more generally, the Steelers' offensive line. Most people, starting with the quarterback, were pretty happy with last Sunday's effort. Big Ben was only sacked once, and Willie Parker didn't have much trouble finding running lanes. But we're also talking about a Cincinnati team that had to move one of their best defenders, Robert Geathers, from end to linebacker because of injuries. And the other linebackers, Anthony Schlegel and Dhani Jones? Yeah, they were both cut by previous employers before finding their way to the Bengals.
The Ravens, even with a few injuries, are a little different. That tenacity, coupled with the Steelers' o-line being wildly inconsistent, has me a little troubled. How variable has the Steelers' offense has been from week to week? Again, referring to Football Outsiders, the offense is the seventh-most inconsistent in the league. On the upside, it also ranks 7th overall (6th in passing; 9th in rushing), but as we've seen over the last month, you never know what you're getting until the game starts.
I would love nothing more than to see a replay of the 2004 game at Heinz Field, when Big Ben wasn't sacked (although Terrell Suggs chased him from the game with a rib injury after a belly-flop tackle), he threw for over 200 yards on 14 of 19 passing, and Jerome Bettis, running behind Dan Kreider (who makes a living out of treading Ray Lewis), finished with 117 yards on the ground. By the way, let's all say a prayer that Danny is healthy enough to go Monday night. I'd be even willing to roll him out there in a wheelchair. Just to put Ray Lewis on notice.
Last year at this time most of us were looking ahead to the draft. Much of the talk was about the offensive line, and 12 months later, that hasn't changed. For now, Zierlein's got to hope the duct tape holds up for another nine weeks. I'd settle for one more week. And then we'll worry about the Browns.