Steelers ready to move forward with Big Ben; mock draft madness
Thoughts on The New Draft, the inexact science of mock drafting, why I miss
I spoke to
"That's a fair reading, yup,'' Rooney said.
So unless Roethlisberger screws up again -- unlikely because of how scared he is right now, I'm told -- he'll be the quarterback of the Steelers this year. That is after he's suspended by commissioner
I feel confident this is going to be league discipline, not Steeler-imposed discipline, even though Rooney made it clear he'd rather the team punish Roethlisberger. The league handles hot-button discipline issues like this from 280 Park Avenue consistently, and I just don't think Goodell wants to cede authority to the team on such a hot-button issue. This also allows the league to rap Roethlisberger longer; the max sanction a team can mete out is four games. The league has no such limit.
On Sunday night,
So Roethlisberger stays a Steeler. And the league, not the team, is likely to handle the punishment. Those are the two headlines here, but there's so much more. First, I'm not sure the Steelers giving Roethlisberger another chance is going to mollify Steeler fans. I think the anger of the fans is not going to be soothed very soon, and rightfully so. If a quarter of the accusations from that night in Georgia are true, he deserves the wrath he'll feel. There could be picketing in bucolic Latrobe this summer, at training camp. He'll get booed in his own stadium. He'll have to have cotton in his ears in every road stadium. He'll be a huge distraction to his own team. The Steelers are counting on time healing the wounds of the Steeler public. I'm not sure they're right about that. We'll see.
I know Steeler fans well. I married a Pittsburgh girl. The tenor of the fans I've spoken with goes something like this: I'll always love the Steelers, but I'll never cheer for that bum Roethlisberger again.
"I understand what's out there,'' Rooney said. "It's a difficult situation. I know our fans feel strongly about it. I'm hearing from them in large measure. I've gotten e-mails, been on some message boards and on Facebook. I've read the anger, and I understand it. Ben is embarrassed by it.''
But I'm also left thinking Roethlisberger's image might have been less sullied had he been charged with a crime. We've heard a fairly one-sided portrayal of events of the evening. An underage college girl and some friends are plied with alcohol, and Roethlisberger disappears with a totally intoxicated one, and the totally intoxicated one, who hit her head at one point, told police she remembers saying no to Roethlisberger's advances twice.
I'm not sure how reliable those statements should be, but it's likely the Roethlisberger side will try to let the story die and not refute anything. I believe the night probably happened close to the way the victim and her friends say it did, and that Roethlisberger is a lout. But in this job, I'm always uncomfortable hearing one side of a story, and the damning statements of the victim and her friends will likely be all we hear on this one. Maybe ever.
As for Roethlisberger, he's lucky the Steelers have a different morality standard for their star quarterback than for their Super Bowl MVP receiver. They could have traded Roethlisberger to Oakland, and if you think I'm kidding, you don't know
We could argue all day about the relative fairness of dumping a guy,
"When I met with Ben, he said he's going to be changing his life,'' Rooney said. Then he paused for two or three seconds.
"Words are the easy part,'' he said. "We have to make sure Ben puts himself on a path to do better. It's a tall order, but it's something he has to do.''
He has no choice if he wants to stay a Steeler. And if he wants to stay a free man.
One last point: However it happened, and finger-pointing aside, at least two women have come forward in the last nine months and accused Roethlisberger of taking advantage of them -- in graphic, sordid detail. That's why Goodell's punishment can't just be four, six or eight games. It has to include some mandatory counseling. If Roethlisberger's serious about changing his life, there's some evidence there that he needs to change how he treats women, and that should include figuring out why he keeps ending up in this spot.
Two Midwestern kids, two Iowa left tackles, two guys forecast to be high picks when they entered the draft, two short-armed guys (more about that later).
Gallery went number two overall, to Oakland, in 2004. He was a disappointment at left tackle, and eventually moved inside to guard, where he's been a good player. But not good enough to have merited the second pick in a draft, ahead of wideout
Bulaga had a sub-par season in 2009, missing three games due to a thyroid condition and not regaining top form until Iowa's bowl game. A couple of scouts told me they're not sure he's even a first-round talent after watching Michigan's
"They're pretty different in terms of profiles,'' their coach,
"Robert was a career tight end [in high school and his first year at Iowa] until we switched him to tackle midway through his second year here. He stayed five years. With Bryan, it's so hard to judge him if you look at last year's film, because he wasn't allowed to do any physical conditioning for the three weeks he was out, and when he came back, he obviously wasn't the same. Look at his '08 film. He dominated. And when he came back this year for our bowl game [against Georgia Tech], watch him when [first-round defensive end prospect]
Ferentz won't say it, but those close to Gallery believe he was rushed into the full-time left tackle job at Oakland when he might have been better-served playing inside a year or two, then moved outside. Ferentz compares Bulaga to
In the spy-versus-spy world of mock drafting, I've thought for a while that Bulaga was a natural to go to Kansas City at five. GM
My mock draft was filed to
I've always done a mock draft, but Zim's version, I thought, was The Mock of Record. So taking over the mock for Zim was a tremendous burden. I know how he toiled over it. I'll never forget four or five years ago, calling him on the Sunday before the draft to give him some last-minute tidbit that was at odds with something he'd heard. "No! Don't tell me that!'' he said, or something close to it. "Now I gotta go back and rip everything up!'' For days he'd obsess. I wish I could think of a good example, but I know two or three times there was one lie, or one piece of bad information, that served as the domino to knock everything in his mock draft off-kilter.
I found myself being just as obsessive last year, and again the past few days. What I tried to do was focus on the eight or 10 things I felt good about in the mock, and building around them. Toward the end of the round, I tried to plug in players I felt would be first-rounders with the most logical team.
This year, the challenge was four through seven, and then Jacksonville (10) through the Giants (15). At four, Washington's
• "They're definitely trading down, even if they can't get value for the pick.''
• "They're taking
• "I've heard they love
That, dear readers, is how a mock draft gets absolutely screwed up. What did I do with the Jags' pick? You'll know Wednesday.
The NFL has always been good at inventing television programs, and this week the league is going to try its hand at another. The 75th NFL Draft begins with the first round Thursday, and for the first time the draft will be in prime time. (The Rams go on the clock at 7:32 p.m. EDT Thursday.) But beginning at 6, the NFL Network will air a red-carpet treatment of the draft that will include the league parading out many of the 75 most valuable draft choices of all time as voted on by fans at NFL.com. (Seems like a silly concept to me, the 75 most valuable draft choices -- particularly if the 199th pick in 2000,
"For the first time, we are embracing the history of the draft," said
Other changes you'll see in the draft this year include the NFL allowing a Make-A-Wish child, a military veteran, sweepstakes winners and several Pro Football Hall of Famers to announce picks, probably in the second and third round, which will take place Friday. And beginning with Round 4 on Saturday, the picks will be announced at individual team tables at Radio City Music Hall in New York.
I like the NFL trying new ideas, but I'll miss the Saturday national holiday that the first day of the draft had become. And I also feel for West Coast viewers on the first two days of the draft. The draft begins at 4:30 local time for West Coasters on Thursday and at 3 p.m. (6 p.m. eastern) on Friday.
"We're always trying to manage innovation vs. tradition," Coplin said. "This league has tried flex scheduling, the Pro Bowl the week before the Super Bowl and prime-time postseason games. All of those got criticism when they were announced, but all three of those ideas resulted in bigger audiences. The fans have embraced them."
There's no question this draft will generate more buzz and probably a significant uptick in ratings. For the NFL's sake, I hope it isn't at the expense of fans on the West Coast.
"I'm not making any comment on that.''
"You're going to find out two of the hidden secrets in our society around 2029: Who killed JFK and who drafted
"It's frustrating for me and it's frustrating for the other 216 guys. There are a bunch of other guys that are stuck in the same position. That's what we drew. The best thing I can do now is just go out and play football.''
Home-Court Advantage Dept.:
The trial will take place at U.S. District Court in New Orleans.
Heck of a choice for lead plaintiff. Sounds like kicking off in a football game with a 21-0 lead.
Arm length. Another one of the newfangled stats we can't seem to live without this time of year. The theory is that left tackles, because they have to get their hands on quick pass-rushers to the outside and push them off their path to the passer, need to have arms a couple of inches longer than interior linemen. Some scouts grade players down significantly, for instance, if they have 33-inch arms. Like, for instance, Iowa's Bryan Bulaga. His arms are 33� inches long. That's three-quarters of an inch shorter than the arms of Rutgers'
Let's see exactly how much it matters. The arm length of the first tackle picked in the past five drafts:
I wouldn't listen to the geniuses who say 34�- or 35-inch arms are vital to the success of a left tackle because the best two young ones in the game, Thomas and Long, are sub-33.
"Scutaro accidentally threw his bat in the crowd. Fans fighting for it to try and knock themselves unconscious.''
1. I think
2. I think
Gruden's show the other night on ESPN -- "SportsCenter Special: Gruden's QB Camp'' -- was beyond good, and informative. I've been around him when he's teaching and coaching (a couple of times, he's been teaching me), and the four top quarterbacks in the draft recently sat with him individually and watched tape. Jimmy Clausen, ultra-confident, also looked like a worker bee, writing down everything Gruden said. McCoy was so ticked at himself for hanging onto the ball too long on the pocket (and well he should be). Gruden was in his element, and I'd strongly recommend the network figure out some way to brand him and do these things again. Often.
3. I think there was a good reminder about contract data over the weekend from ProFootballTalk.com's
4. I think the no-duh statement of the week comes from new Jet Santonio Holmes, on who is at fault for him testing positive for substance abuse and getting a four-game NFL suspension, which he'll serve in the first four weeks of the 2010 season. Said Holmes: "I can't fault anybody but myself for putting myself in that position.'' No kidding. No one else imbibed in whatever your substance of choice was.
5. I think the second-round pick that's going to be a home run, other than Colt McCoy, is
6. I think I'd like to give Houston tackle
"To be honest,'' he said, "I'm not really sure. Well, that's not true. The troops are the bravest people I can think of. They get paid minimally to get sent into a land full of people that could possibly kill them. And most of them volunteer for it! I honestly can't imagine signing up for that. What would it be like to be over there? What is it like to know that each day you fall asleep was a good day, and each day you wake up has a chance to be your last? When I first heard about your idea I thought it was great. It was a chance to give the troops an escape. For however many hours or minutes in a week they might get to get away from it all and throw a football around, shoot some hoops, or play a video game ... I'd want to help people in that position.''
Heck of a gesture. For the record, SI also threw $1,000 into the pot (thanks, bosses), and we finished just over $200,000, with enough money to send 10 platoons/companies the USO-in-a-box kits that help the troops in their down time.
7. I think, 12 years after he was taken number two overall by San Diego,
Leaf said after his career ended, "I continued to take them, and then I all of a sudden realized I was just taking them to take them, and at night to get to sleep. And I wasn't in pain anymore, or at least I didn't know if I was in pain anymore. It was just a way for me to ... I completely recoiled, I became anti-social, isolated, and it just takes away all the bad feelings. You know, all the criticisms of why you weren't a great quarterback, or how you let down your university, or how you let down so and so, or your family. It was a way to cope, a coping mechanism just like any other addict has.''
Leaf blamed much of his failure in the NFL on losing begetting more losing. "I had never lost and I didn't know how to handle it,'' he said. "I didn't handle it well. I had never lost at anything, and when we started to fail, I proceeded to act like I always had and that was to be defensive and protect myself the only way I knew how. And that was to be as defensive and as strong as possible and do everything myself. And that just doesn't work at that level.
"You just can't. You need help, you need people around you, and I totally failed at that part. I just wasn't ready to fail and I didn't know how to do it. It makes you grow up in a hurry. My wrist was done [severely injured] in four years and I couldn't compete at the level that I could anymore. But I was just so beat up. I was tired of being beat up by everybody that I just wanted to run and hide from it, because I wasn't going to be able to compete at the level I needed to compete at, and I was just tired of being beat up.''
8. I think we're picking up some momentum on our New England Locker Room Luncheon to benefit the
The luncheon is at Davio's at Patriot Place in Foxboro, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on May 11. We're selling 30 seats for $1,000 apiece, and for that grand you'll get your picture taken with Light and Edelman, autographs galore, and some quality football talk. (Promise.) For ticket information, or to place your reservation, contact
9. I think it is not news -- or shouldn't be -- when
Here's the difference between this week's story and the 16-year-old story that led to the Jones-Johnson divorce:
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Someone explain to me why, if there's an ash cloud over northern Europe from the Iceland volcano, airplanes can't fly south and get to central Europe that way, thereby avoiding the ash particles than can ruin jet engines.
b. I expect I'll get a few answers to that. I'm not trying to be a wise guy -- I truly don't know.
c. How sad, the dozens of runners stranded in Europe who can't get to the starting line of the Boston Marathon this morning.
e. Coffeenerdness: I've been slow in recommending a really good cup of coffee that's right up my alley -- dark and full of flavor, no acidity: Blind Bean Blend, a French roast-Colombian mix. My buddy
f. I know what I'll do first thing Thursday morning. Click on dallasnews.com and check my mock draft against