Ed: Another Lineman in 1st Round? Not Likely
TUESDAY, 26 FEBRUARY 2013
WRITTEN BY ED BOUCHETTE
Normally, the free agency period would begin Friday, but it kept being pushed back and now it’s almost into the Ides of March. The NFL now wants to push it back even more, push the draft back more, into May, and just stretch this offseason for every single bit of drama it can wring out of it.
Yet, at the same time, the new CBA won’t allow players to work out together at the team’s facility until the middle of April April and then only strength and conditioning coaches can work with the players. The practices, commonly known as OTAs, cannot take place until after the draft and then only 10 are permitted.
The union fought for those rules, not NFL management, because it wanted to limit what was required in the offseason in “voluntary” workouts.
When I first began covering the Steelers for the Post-Gazette, there were no OTAs, no offseason workouts, not even organized weight lifting by the team. Chuck Noll did not believe in it and he detested the fact that some teams paid their players to actually lift weights in a structured environment at their facilities. He could get away with it previously because no NFL teams believed in such an offseason routine. But when others started doing it, the Steelers fell behind; perhaps that is why their record in the 1980s was so dismal.
As more and more put in offseason “voluntary” workouts, other teams had to do it to keep up with the Joneses. It was getting out of hand, however, and the union pushed for rules and then tightened them to where we are today.
Onto some stuff:
--- Kevin Colbert says the Steelers could draft a guard at No. 17, and I believe he believes that because he believes strongly in going with the highest rated prospect – to a point. Kevin also was there when he and Bill Cowher, according to Dan Rooney, wanted to draft a guard in the first round in 2004 and instead Rooney stepped into the conversation and turned it toward the quarterback.
--- To remind those about what the line should look like to open 2013, barring injuries and other foreseen calamaties that often beset them, the Steelers offensive line should look like this from left to right: Marcus Gilbert (2nd round, 2011), Kelvin Beachum (7th round, 2012), Maurkice Pouncey (1st round, 2010), David DeCastro (1st round, 2012), Mike Adams (2nd round, 2012). After ignoring the offensive line high in the draft for a decade, the Steelers have poured 67 percent of their top two draft picks into it the past three years. They can stop now.
--- They better get some wide receivers and a lead running back or that offensive line will have no one to block for.
--- The Steelers have drafted five linemen in their six picks in the first two rounds the past three years, counting defensive end Cam Heyward. The only player in the top two rounds not a lineman was linebacker Jason Worilds, picked in the second round in 2010.
--- Ziggy Hood, their top selection in 2009, enters the final year of his contract. Typically, this is the year they would try to sign him to a new one, before the start of the season. Will they?
--- Worilds also enters the final year of his contract. If they believe he is the heir apparent to James Harrison, shouldn’t they try to extend him now?
--- The Steelers have been spot on for the most part in keeping the young players they want to keep, but that is about to end as both Mike Wallace and, perhaps Keenan Lewis, head elsewhere as unrestricted free agents. Some might lump Rashard Mendenhall in there as well.
--- The last young free agents the Steelers lost who they really would have preferred to keep were safety Chris Hope and receiver Antwaan Randle El in 2006 and receiver Nate Washington in 2009.
--- If Doug Legursky leaves as a free agent, John Malecki will take his place as the backup center/guard.