The Blitz

<p> It was easy yesterday to come up with a gazillion things for which I am thankful, for I am a rich man indeed. I have two beautiful children. I married my best friend. My in-laws are some of the most wonderful people you'd ever care to meet, as are the folks who run this site. I've got a strong roof over my head, and a good dog at my feet. And I don't root for the Detroit Lions, the Carolina Panthers, or God forbid, the Cincinnati Bengals. When you have all of that, who needs money? </p>

:: Want another reason? How about this one: I am not Chad Scott.

:: While I am sure Chad himself has many things to be thankful for, his is far from a charmed existence. Scott came into Pittsburgh expected to replace a legend in the departed Rod Woodson. Even then, many within the organization viewed Scott as a safety, rather than corner. After a strong rookie campaign in 1997, Scott missed the entire 1998 season with a torn ACL, but rebounded nicely in 1999, and had his best seasons in 2000 and 2001. Prior to the last season, the Front Office lavished Scott with a lucrative contract extension, making him the Steelers highest-paid defender -- 25 million reasons to be thankful.

:: That contract will prove to be an albatross.

:: True, Scott has always been a sucker for the double-move, but he has been burned more often than not this season. Chad has played brilliantly at times -- his effort against the Raiders' Tim Brown was impressive, to say the least-- but household names like Atlanta's Brian Finneran and Tennessee's Justin McCareins beat him with regularity, week-in, week-out. Who does he think he is…freakin' Hank Poteat?

:: Scott has become the target of many an opponent's passing game, just as OLB Jason Gildon has been the target of their running game. The Bengals lined-up second-year wideout Chad Johnson on Scott, and Johnson summarily beat him like the proverbial drum to the tune of 7 catches and 152 yards. To his credit, Scott made the plays that counted the most; first pairing with rookie safety Chris Hope to stop Corey Dillon at the 5, saving a would-be TD -- a tackle that should have been made by Lee Flowers at the 9, by the way -- then, despite being visibly shaken-up from that play, knocking away a John Kitna-to-Johnson pass in the endzone on 4th down to seal the victory.

:: Chad Scott has become the target of the Pittsburgh media, as well, and just as capably as he provides opposing quarterbacks a safe haven for 1st-down-converting passes, he sets the table for criticism with his eyebrow-raising comments. In a 32-29 loss to New Orleans, Scott was abused by the Saints' Jerome Pathon, who double-moved his way to a 64-yard gain. Still, Scott had plenty to say, and smugly at that.

:: "They played on my aggression. I just didn't really play that well today, but that's not going to happen a lot, if you know me"

:: That and -- despite a poor defensive showing and a 1-3 record -- guaranteeing the playoffs for this struggling defensive team, rubbed more than a few people the wrong way. Scott often comes off as over-confident and hardly self-aware. This runs deeper than the "X-Men" garbage and caution tape streamers of training camps gone by. He dismisses his poor efforts far too casually at times, and is having his worst season to date. That has affected his confidence, as Insiders Dale Lolley and Jim Wexell can, and have, attest. For a CB, losing confidence is the kiss of death.

:: It has always been this writer's contention that Steelers CBs Scott and Dewayne Washington are among the league's best, and that the dearth of range and athleticism at safety severely hamstring them, defensive coordinator Tim Lewis' play-calling, and in turn the Steelers pass defense. I fervently campaigned for former-Miami Hurricane Ed Reed in the first round of the 2002 draft, and have lamented ad nauseum that he was the answer to the Steelers coverage woes.

:: Maybe I was wrong. Maybe the answer is Scott.

:: Huh?

:: Maybe the move of Scott to free safety – a topic discussed at length in recent weeks -- is the answer instead. Could not Scott be every bit the playmaker at FS as Reed has been as a rookie? Better, even? There is no doubt that Chad is talented; so talented that many feel he is an underachiever. But he is no shutdown corner, at least not post-injury. How lethal would the Steelers secondary be with a free agent like the Ravens' Chris McAlister or a draft pick like Kansas State's Terence Newman lining up at left CB, Scott at FS and anyone, be that Hope or Mike Logan, at SS? My guess is very.

:: Scott may prove to be a Pro Bowl-caliber safety should that move come down. And if he is to live up to his current contract at the new position, he'll certainly have to be.

-- Blitzburgh

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