But I doubt they would have predicted this. Santonio Holmes, our troubled Super Bowl MVP winner, publicly admitting via twitter to “wake and baking”, then subsequently being suspended for violating the NFL substance abuse policy and being traded for a 5th round draft pick and a case of Iron City (love those aluminum bottles). At the same time, your two-time Super Bowl winning QB was being accused (for the second time) of sexual assault.
It has been a troubling time to work for (or root for) the Steelers.
Heck, even after the DA informed the public that there was not nearly enough evidence to charge Roethlisberger with a crime, the media and the public have skewered Big Ben and demanded punishment. For many examples, see:
Jeffrey Chadiha on ESPN writes “Roethlisberger must face the hammer”
Peter King from CNNSI writes “Ben Roethlisberger deserves to be suspended for his actions”
Mark Kriegel of FoxSports writes “Roethlisberger has earned punishment”
Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette writes “If Roethlisberger isn’t suspended…there is no justice in the NFL.”
Pat McManamon at NFL Fanhouse writes “It’s time for the Steelers to cut Ben Roethlisberger"
Again, this is in response to the decision NOT to charge Big Ben with a crime.
I spent a significant time yesterday writing a post to respond to these morally righteous reactions. Granted, I’ll never be accused of objectivity when defending a player on my favorite team, but I just don’t agree with the large majority of what’s floating around the interwebs about the topic. Luckily, I didn’t have to post what I wrote because I found pieces by much more talented writers than myself that get to the heart of the issue.
Christmas Ape at KSK takes NFL Fanhouse to task
Cotter nails it at One For The Other Thumb
And Michael Rosenberg at CNNSI sums up my feelings nicely:
Now NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and/or Steelers President Art Rooney II may suspend Roethlisberger. The question is: for what? Buying drinks for underaged people? Being accused of a crime that he may or may not have committed, but was never even charged with?
I'm not saying a suspension is right or wrong; frankly, there is a mountain of evidence that Roethlisberger is a self-absorbed egomaniac with a heavy jerk streak, and I won't lose a minute of sleep if he is suspended. If I were a Steelers fan, I'd feel weird rooting for the guy.
I'm just saying: if players can be suspended for being egomaniacs and jerks, this is opening a very large can full of very nasty worms.
But enough of the off-field issues. This post is dedicated to actual football. The NFL Draft is one week away and the Steelers need to find impact players to get them back to the playoffs. Granted, our rookies rarely make an impact in their first year, so we’ll be relying on players like Ziggy Hood, Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis, Joe Burnett, and Frank Summers to improve a team that went 9-7 a year ago.
If there was a silver lining to 2009, it was a good year to miss the playoffs. This draft class is being billed as one of the strongest of the last ten years. The Steelers need to capitalize on their position in the draft.
With their first round pick, there seems to be a consensus that the Steelers should look at one of four places:
1. Improving the secondary: William Gay was not the answer as a number two cornerback
2. Adding talent to the offensive line: The same argument has been made for five years. The running game struggles and Big Ben takes too many sacks.
3. Grooming a Future Nose Tackle: The three starter
4. Injecting talent and youth at Wide Receiver: With the trade of Santonio Holmes, the Steelers’ future looks shaky at wide receiver. Hines Ward will eventually get old. Outside of Mike Wallace, the rest of the cupboard is bare.
At each of these spots, there are several players that would fit nicely.
1. Joe Haden from Florida is the consensus number one corner in the draft. He was projected as a top ten pick, but submitted a slow 40 time at the combine, which has hurt his draft stock. After Haden, Kyle Wilson from Boise St. and Kareem Jackson from Alabama would likely be the next two off the board. Safety Earl Thomas from Texas has been mentioned as well. He could play as a corner in the nickel and provide back ups to Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu.
2. The mock drafts giving a Steeler an offensive lineman focus on two guys – Mike Iupati from Idaho and Maurkice Pouncey from Florida. Iupati is a monster of a man with rare athleticism for his size who could take Trai Essex’s spot at right guard and possibly replace Willie Colon at right tackle if he leaves in free agency next year. Iupati dominated in college, but there are questions about the level of competition he played in college and his ability to understand pass blocking schemes. Regardless of these concerns, it’s difficult for a guard to get a first round grade, meaning Iupati’s rare combination of power and athleticism give him the potential to be a top guard in the NFL. Maurkice Pouncey played both center and guard at Florida often leading the way for Tim Tebow’s dives into the end zone. There are no questions about the level of competition in the SEC where he lined up against nose tackles such as Shaun Cody and Dan Williams. As a Steeler he could start at right guard and eventually take over as Justin Hartwig’s replacement at center.
3. At nose tackle, there is really only one name to discuss in the first round– Dan Williams of Tennessee. He is being billed as the draft’s best pure nose tackle. A guy that can take on multiple blockers and single handedly stop an opponent’s running game. The two biggest questions facing this draft pick are: 1.) Will he be available? – several teams in front of the Steelers would love to draft Williams. 2) Do the Steelers have bigger needs? – with Big Snack re-signed for three years, is it necessary to draft his replacement now with the needs at cornerback, offensive line, and wide receiver?
4. At wide receiver, the conversation begins and ends with Dez Bryant, the superstar from Oklahoma State. Dez Bryant has rare talent and has been compared to Randy Moss. Unfortunately, the comparison is apt because Bryant comes in with a lot of baggage. He was suspended for most of his senior year for lying to the NCAA about his relationship with Deion Sanders. Other character concerns such as frequently attending practices late and general immaturity have been cited by scouts, which has caused his stock to fall from a top 5 pick to mid-late first round. I think a little too much has been made of the character concerns. Bryant has never been arrested, used drugs (that we know of), and was not considered a bad teammate. The length of the NCAA suspension was absurd.
This is how I think it will play out. Joe Haden will be at the top of the draft board, but the Steelers will have to move up to get him. San Francisco needs a corner and has two picks (#13 and #17) before the Steelers. If Haden gets past the 13th pick, the Steelers could move up, but I doubt he drops that far.
Dan Williams will be scooped up by Miami at #12.
After jettisoning Santonio, the team will avoid Dez Bryant due to character concerns (or he might go to Denver at #11).
Earl Thomas will be gone by the 18th pick and Iupati may be too.
Leaving the Steelers to choose from Kyle Wilson, Maurkice Pouncey, or the dreaded best player available.
If you made me pick right now, I think Pouncey will be the man.
Then again, there are rumors that Roethlisberger will be traded for Sam Bradford. (Red flag: This report brought to you by the guy who reported the Steelers would cut Casey Hampton.)
Those are my thoughts. What do you think the Steelers will/should do with their first round pick?