Off-Season Rumors and Fortune Telling

Cap numbers are beginning to trickle in and speculation about roster moves is heating up. As a result, the rumor mill begins to churn at full throttle. As Jim Wexell points out, the Steelers off-season task is fairly clear. How Pittsburgh will achieve these goals is another story.

Bill Cowher began blowing the trade winds in his final press conference by saying his goodbye to Kordell Stewart and insinuating that Jerome Bettis' job in Pittsburgh is by no means secure. Stewart is the hot commodity that Kevin Colbert will hope to make some hay out of. As a result, almost all the rumors involving the Steelers also include Kordell.

The first whisper I heard made me laugh. Supposedly, the Dallas Cowboys are looking to acquire Kordell Stewart, Jerome Bettis, AND Antwaan Randle El. A rumor involving all high profile players should immediately set off the b.s. detector. Randle El is not going anywhere unless the Cowboys are much more disappointed in Antonio Bryant than anyone realizes. Nonetheless, there is a logic to the trade that does make some sense.

What would the Steelers get in return? I can't answer that, but the assumption is draft picks. The other rumor floating around this week has Stewart going to Kansas City and the Chiefs dumping Trent Green. K.C. has some cap problems and they want to overhaul their defense. The Chiefs took a long look at Marcus Trufant during the Senior Bowl practices. However, they are more than one marquee corner away from a Super Bowl defense. The Steelers, on the other hand, are looking for that final piece to the Lombardi Trophy puzzle.

Rumors rarely pan out, particularly ones involving a trade. Yet the rumors are far from worthless. Combine what you hear with what you know about the Steelers and you can hatch a crystal ball of sorts.

What can we see in this week's crystal ball?

At this point, the Steelers don't like what they see in free agency and they like even less their draft position after inspecting the talent at the Senior Bowl. The Steelers need another starter in the defensive backfield and that means the first round, higher up in the first round. They are either going to find a way to move up or they will swap with the team that grabs their guy.

There are plenty of teams sitting ahead of the Steelers who need a quarterback. My eye keeps coming to the Carolina Panthers and their pick at #9. The Steelers could swap first round picks with Carolina and pay for moving up with the rights to Stewart. The Panthers can easily find some help at running back or wide receiver later in the round and rumor has it that Stewart likes Charlotte.

Free agency would be other route, but all dealing Stewart does there is free up the necessary cap room. Besides, the player the Steelers need is not sitting out there waiting to be scooped up. Since Colbert came to town, the Steelers have used free agency mostly to shore up depth. Expect more of the same this off-season.

Stewart looks like ideal fodder for a draft day trade and the Steelers would like to load up on first day picks. The Super Bowl window is already beginning to close as Colbert ponders all those extensions handed out over the last two years. The front office in Pittsburgh would like to have some homegrown talent in place when the cap devil claims his due. In the meantime, the Steelers are still in the Super Bowl hunt and the edge is likely higher up in the first round.


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