Category:NFL
Posted on: April 13, 2011 2:02 pm
Edited on: April 14, 2011 3:28 pm
 

Leave The Jersey At Home

I read a controversial John Steigerwald column today. Steigerwald has caught a lot of heat because his article appears to place blame on the San Francisco Giant fan who was savagely beaten on opening day this year. For those not familiar with the story HERE IT IS .

Bryan Stow is a lifelong San Francisco Giants fan who is in a medically induced coma after two unknown assailants wearing Los Angeles Dodgers jerseys attacked him following the Dodgers loss to the Giants on opening day. Bryan wore a Giants jersey to the game.

Because of the severe injuries suffered by Mr. Stow it makes placing blame on him seem callous and cruel but what would our opinion be if he sustained simply a black eye or bloody nose? Probably wouldn't be so outlandish then right?

Public drunkeness and violence wasn't new to Dodgers stadium. It's not exactly foreign to any stadium. Where there is alcohol bad things can and will happen. So why wear the opposing teams' jersey in such an environment? What is there to gain? I know, I know hindsight is 20/20. Or is it?

I also went to an opposing stadium this year. I went to see the Steelers play against the Ravens on Dec. 5, 2010. I went with another Steelers fans and as we do every year we elected not to wear Steelers apparel. Neither of us is foreign to a "friendly scrape" or two in our lives. Fifteen years ago we would look for it after a few hours of tailgating and half a dozen overpriced beers. We wore as much black and gold as we could get on our bodies back then and we thought we were indestructible.

But something occured to me over the last 8-9 years that didn't occur to Mr. Stow on opening day. I'm not indestructible, there are dangerous people in the world and the people in my life are counting on me to make good decisions.

Like Mr. Stow I have two children at home and home isn't exactly where they need me - not in a Baltimore hospital or jail. The average stadium holds 50,000 people and they aren't all choir boys / girls. The drinking starts several hours before the game begins and it doesn't stop until the third quarter. Even decent human beings make poor decisions with alcohol involved. Unsavory characters just get more ... unsavory.

You could probably argue many of the points in Steigerwald's column but I think it's pretty safe to agree with the notion that Steelers players weren't going to see me in the stands and even if they could they weren't going to draw much inspiration from it. You know who could see me? The 1,000s of Ravens fans I encountered over the course of 6 hours pre and post game.

Call me unsupportive but the fact of the matter is I go to see my team play for my enjoyment. I'm not there because I think it will help them win. Making myself a target for thousands of Ravens fans just isn't fun - and in Mr. Stow's case it wasn't safe.

Going to visiting stadiums is the right of any fan and "home field" doesn't give anyone the right to verbally or physically abuse someone. That's what all the John Steigerwald critics are saying. Maybe that's what Bryan Stow told his wife when he left the house.


Category: NFL
Posted on: April 3, 2011 5:51 pm
 

NFL Owners Are 'Winning'

When the court in Minnesota hands down it’s ruling sometime after April 6th, it for all intents and purposes will support or end the lockout opposed by NFL owners on March 11th of this year.

What happens then? A ruling for the owners means the imposed lockout could go on indefinitely. Players for the first time may have to face the reality that come September they will not receive paychecks – a reality that many have chosen to ignore. That’s not a good scenario for players and surely shifts the balance of power to the owners’ favor.

What’s really interesting is what happens if the judge rules in the favor of the players. Is that really a “win” for them? Football will resume and in the absence of a CBA the NFL may impose any rules they like. Most experts agree that any drastic changes would just give the players ammunition for their anti-trust lawsuit so the most likely scenario would be a season once again governed by the rules in place in 2010 – rules that both players and owners previously agreed to.

A repeat of 2010 means no more salary floor and the owners showed so much collective restraint last year the former NFLPA began accusing them of collusion. You can’t blame them for thinking so when even Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones refused to spend money.

It also means 4 and 5 year players are once again restricted. How does a guy like DeAngelo Williams feel about that? March was Williams’ first opportunity to sign a contract similar to the one Maurice Jones-Drew signed (5yrs, 31 million), a guy drafted 33 spots behind Williams. He will be approaching his 29th birthday this time next year. Will a repeat of the 2010 season shut the free agency window for one of the best running backs in football?

Running backs clearly have the shortest NFL life span but there are many players at every position facing the same scenario. Willie Colon started 54 straight games at right tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Not only will he miss a second straight opportunity at free agency but he suffered an Achilles injury that cost him the entire 2010 season. At 27, Willie was a promising right tackle. At 29 coming off an injury he is a risk.

Other notable 2006 draft picks effected by April 6th’s hearing include Roman Harper (29 in December), Joseph Addai (29 next May), Lance Moore (29 next August), Dawan Landry (29 in December) and Cortland Finnegan. There is a similar list of 2007 draft picks who may have to wait another season.

The best deal for both sides is to sit down and negotiate a deal but a ruling in favor of the players next week doesn’t look like much of a win in my eyes. Unity among the players is the key to their success and another season in the mold of 2010 is not very attractive to players who have already waited for their opportunity at free agency. It could be the final straw for guys who have already made enormous sacrifices.

Category: NFL
Posted on: April 8, 2009 10:43 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2009 11:02 am
 

A bums mock draft

I figure if you’re going to criticize other’s picks you better be willing to stick your neck out and make your own selections. I did not consider trades because they are just too hard to predict. Here we go:

 

1. Detroit - Matt Stafford QB, Georgia

When it's all said and done you can't put a value on a franchise-capable QB. The Lions have another pick to address the offensive tackle position. This pick could easily change to offensive tackle if Mr. Stafford has unrealistic salary expectations.

2. St. Louis - Jason Smith OT, Baylor

Marc Bulger has looked good in spring workouts. The Rams have lots of holes and their dismissal of veteran OT Orlando Pace says they have their eyes on a left tackle.

3. Kansas City Chiefs - Aaron Curry LB, Virginia

The Chiefs also have lots of needs but linebacker is easily the biggest need. When you're switching to a 3-4 you better have capable linebackers. This is a layup.

4. Seattle Seahawks - Eugene Monroe LT, Virginia

This is a very difficult pick and the choice will effect the entire first half of the draft. In the end, it came down to the acquisition of Houshmanzadeh and the development of Ben Obomanu. Mark Sanchez is a very real possibility but a solid left tackle could allow Hasselbeck to play two more years - the number of years left on his contract.

5. Cleveland Browns – Mark Sanchez QB, USC

It’s no secret Eric Mangini isn’t feeling Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson has essentially a one year contract. A new regime means a new QB and Mark Sanchez has all the tools you look for in a QB. I don’t see Brady Quinn as a Brown in 2009. Ideally, a trade would come prior to the draft but he may have more value on draft day.

6. Cincinnati Bengals – Michael Crabtree WR, Texas Tech

No team needs a break more than the Bengals and they get one as their need matches the board. Crabtree will be a day one contributor and a great target for a healthy Carson Palmer. Cincinnati’s acquisition of Tank Johnson fills their newest criminal DT need.

7. Oakland Raiders – Andre Smith OT, Alabama

Character certainly isn’t an issue in Oakland so Smith is the perfect fit for a team that would like to run the ball and take the pressure off their young passer. Oakland would love a stud DE but Brian Orakpo and Michael Johnson have more questions than upside.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jeremy Maclin WR, Missouri

David Garrard evidently heard the footsteps dropping 20 pounds in the offseason. A healthy offensive line will help David approach his 2007 form. The Jaguars have to run the ball to be effective and a big play receiver will help to stretch the field.

9. Green Bay Packers – B.J. Raji NT, Boston College

The Packers will be thrilled if B.J. makes it this far. With Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte and Kevin Smith on the schedule six times next year a nose tackle for the 3-4 defense is just what the doctor ordered.

10. San Francisco 49ers – Everette Brown OLB, Florida State

The debate over who is the best pass rusher will go on for several years but my vote is Everette Brown. Aaron Maybin looked amazing at his Pro Day but the 49ers are conference contenders now and Brown has pass rushing skills that could translate into an immediate impact.

11. Buffalo Bills – Michael Oher OT, Ole Miss

With the departure of Jason Peters, left tackle becomes a glaring need. Fortunately, Oher is still available. Like Ryan Clady, Oher has become a victim of the over-hyped combo. On film, he's a man among boys - just ask Tyson Jackson.

12. Denver Broncos – Aaron Maybin OLB, PSU

With both Stafford and Sanchez off the board the Broncos will look to fortify their awful defense. Maybin could be a gamble for a head coach already in the spotlight but Pat Bowlen  put his full support behind young Josh McDaniels in a letter to season ticket holders. No player has more upside than Aaron Maybin but he may take a couple seasons to adjust. Mike Nolan is the perfect guy to groom him.

13. Washington Redskins – Brian Orakpo DE, Texas

The Eagles strike again! With the acquisition of Peters the Eagles have eliminated the possibility of one of the top 4 tackles falling to the Redskins at 13. Beatty or Britton would be a reach here so the Redskins address another of their needs. Philip Daniels is 36 years old and coming off a major knee surgery. He was a premiere run-stopper in his prime which falls in line with Brian's biggest strength.

14. New Orleans Saints – Malcom Jenkins CB, Ohio State

There are probably better corners in this draft but will the Saints have the guts to take one? I doubt it. They’ll play it safe and hope Malcom fills an immediate need.

15. Houston Texans – Chris “Beanie” Wells RB, Ohio State

It’s back to back buckeyes in the middle of the first. Steve Slaton is a nice story but he’s not an every down  back. Say what you want about Beanie’s injuries but last I heard he was begging Tressel to play week in and week out. How often is one of the best between the tackle runners also one of the fastest? A dynamic offense just gets better with the one two punch of Wells and Slaton.

16. San Diego Chargers – Tyson Jackson DE, LSU

With Igor Olshansky on to Dallas the Chargers have a glaring need at DE. Tyson won’t get after the passer but he’s an immovable object in the running game. Sounds like a perfect 3-4 DE.

17. New York Jets – Josh Freeman QB, Kansas State

With Wells gone the Jets take their future QB. Don’t believe the Brett Ratliff hype. If he was the future they wouldn’t have chased Jay “whiner” Cutler with the intensity they did. Quarterback over running back in this situation.

18. Denver Broncos – Rey Maualuga ILB, USC

Pass rusher? Check! Run stopping linebacker? Check! With any luck, Ron Brace will be available in the second round and the Broncos will fill three very big holes in the first 45 picks of the draft. Some are speculating that the Broncos would package some of these picks and go after Sanchez but that says to me they made a mistake with Cutler and they don’t want that image. The best way to calm down the fans in Denver is to strike gold with the picks they got in return. They are on the way in the first round.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Knowshon Moreno RB, Georgia

Where there are winners there are losers and with no QB on the board Tampa is left taking the BPA. Derrick Ward has never been a feature back so a one-two punch with Moreno would do nicely here. A big defensive tackle and press corner are both bigger needs so don’t be surprised if they trade down here and look to get Darius Butler or Ziggy Hood near the end of the first round.

20. Detroit Lions – William Beatty OT, Connecticut

First the QB, now the LT to protect him. Thanks Dallas!

21. Philadelphia Eagles – Michael Johnson DE, Georgia Tech

Being compared to Simeon Rice is not a bad thing. Johnson is the perfect compliment to Trent Cole. At 6’ 7” and 266 pounds Johnson has the room for another 10-15 pounds without losing the 4.69 speed he displayed at the combine.

22. Minnesota Vikings – Eben Britton OT, Arizona

If Britton is still here at 22 the Vikings will not be able to ignore him. They need a RT desperately and Britton is the last of the first round tackles on the board.

23. New England Patriots – Brian Cushing ILB, USC

Teddy Bruschi isn’t getting any younger. Cushing is a downhill tackler who can run with backs and tight ends and even rush off the edge. A starter as a freshman, Cushing has blossomed into one of the most physical linebackers in the draft.

24. Atlanta Falcons – Vontae Davis CB, Illinois

Brandon Pettigrew looks like a great tight end prospect but unless he can also play in the secondary the Falcons have to pass. They were thin at CB before Dominque Foxworth became the most overpaid CB in the NFL. It hasn’t gotten better.

25. Miami Dolphins – Darius Butler CB, Connecticut

Two husky footballers in the first round? Say it isn’t so. The loss of Andre Goodman leaves a big void in the Miami secondary. A rush LB opposite Joey Porter is a possibility if Butler is off the board.

26. Baltimore Ravens – Derrius Heyward – Bey WR, Maryland

Under normal circumstances I think Ozzie would not take this risk in the first round but Steve Bisciotti is a big Maryland booster and he loves hometown guys (check out the Foxworth contract). Fortunately, the Ravens don’t have any glaring needs so they can afford to draft a project.

27. Indianapolis Colts – Peria Jerry DT, Ole Miss

This is a no-brainer for the Colts. Run defense is always a problem and Peria Jerry is the best DT on the board. Ziggy Hood is right on his heels but Jerry is a better run stopper.

28. Buffalo Bills - Robert Ayers DE, Tennessee

With their left tackle solution filled the Bills will look to another need. Ayers is slowly climbing teams' draft boards. Robert has great lower body strength and can beat double teams with his quickness.

Previous pick: Phi-Percy Harvin, Phi-Hakeem Nicks

29. New York Giants – Hakeem Nicks, WR UNC

With the Eagles off the board the Giants no longer have a competitor for Eli's next big target. Hakeem has the  best hands in the draft and his big frame allows him to take hits across the middle. Hakeem doesn't have Plaxico's speed but the Giants have a speedy receiver in Sinorice Moss. Now they get their go-to guy when they need a big play.

Previous pick: Clay Matthews

30. Tennessee Titans – James Laurinitis ILB, Ohio State

The Titans are very balanced but if they have a weakness it’s at middle linebacker. James Laurinitis will fit nicely in the middle. Often compared to Brian Urlacher, if James can play anywhere close to that level the Titans will have a dominant force inside for many years to come.

31. Arizona Cardinals – Donald Brown RB, Connecticut

2018 yards and 18 TD. Sometimes numbers don’t lie. Add in soft hands and you have an instant upgrade at running back.

32. Pittsburgh Steelers – Alex Mack C, California

No team needs an upgrade at Center more than the Steelers. Justin Hartwig was a human turnstile in 2008 and Mack is an instant upgrade. Mack was the only center able to neutralize B.J. Raji at the Senior Bowl and he’s one of the smartest linemen in the draft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Category: NFL
Posted on: March 29, 2009 12:04 pm
 

On second thought, no salary cap is okay with me!

When the NFL owners voted unaminously to opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement last May I thought what most others thought, "Are they freaking crazy?". I shared the univeral fear that an NFL without a salary cap would become a mirror image of Major League Baseball - a sport I watch less of every year.

How could 32 billionaires be that stupid? How can they not see what is so painfully obvious to the casual fan? Well, it turns out those guys do have some brain matter and it's the fans that should do a little homework before wondering off to the find the tallest building for the final plunge.

The truth of the matter is far more complex and upon closer examination may not be nearly as bad as it appears. As a Pittsburgh Steelers fans we've seen alot of success but along with it has been some painful free agent departures. As recently as early March we watched as Bryant McFadden took four years of coaching and preparation off to play for our most recent Super Bowl opponent.

Bryant spent three years behind incumbents Ike Taylor and Deshea Townsend. He showed flashes as far back as his rookie year with a game saving deflection against the Indianapolis Colts but Deshea's consistency held Bryant back. After years of tutiledge and hard work, with Bryant poised to take the NFL by storm we're forced to watch him do it in another uniform.

Bryant's far from the first and won't be the last but doesn't it seem a bit unfair? Not every player will become an impact player in their first few NFL seasons like LaMarr Woodley. Some of the NFL's best players took years to blossom. See James Harrison. Along the way our coaching staff spends countless hours teaching them how to be an NFL player on and off the field. Our team owners spend countless dollars waiting for them to help us win football games. For what?

By now you're wondering what all this has to do with the expiring salary cap. After all, that will only make things worse for the owners right? Wrong! The salary cap is one part of the collective bargaining agreement. It was introduced in 1993 as compensation for the rights of free agency. The owners wanted the salary cap and the players wanted free agency so they became marriage partners. Like many marriages the two sides had problems and over the years there have been some adjustments.

Since 1993 there have been five re-negotiations of the CBA most recently in 2006. While franchise values have increased significantly so too have operating expenses. The dot.com bust put in end to many of the lucrative stadium deals and the most recent economic meltdown has made the sale of sky boxes and other corporate advertising packages scarce. The pendulum has swung significantly farther to the players side. Thus, the owners voted unanimously to end the agreement and force a 6th negotiation.

Along with expiration of the salary cap comes several other adjustments. Most signficantly, and the root of this post is the league minimum to become a unrestricted free agent. No longer will we watch as 4 year NFL veterans like Bryant McFadden strike it rich in another city. Once the CBA expires guys like Bryant will have to wait 6 years to become a free agent. Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones may have unlimited incomes but who will they buy? It's one thing to give a 26 year old player a 100 million dollar contract. Will you give it to a 28-29 year old?

More importantly, the teams that build through the draft will now have a better chance to see the fruits of their labor. Was Chris Kemoeatu really worth $20M dollars after just 1 year as a starter? We'll find out soon enough but under the new plan we won't have to make that call. Chris would have been a RFA in 2009 and 2010. How nice would it be to know that Lamarr Woodley will be a Steeler for four more years, not two?

When Kendall Simmons was entering the final year of his rookie contract the Steelers were in a tough spot. Our other Pro Bowl guard was also approaching free agency and all signs pointed to his eventual departure. Could the Steelers really withstand the loss of both of their starting guards? They thought not and signed Kendall to a 4 year, 23 million contract. Few thought Kendall was worth that kind of money but the current CBA put them in a tough spot. Without a new CBA the Steelers won't be in the same situation. Kendall would've been locked up for another year and his poor 2007 play would have prevented an ill-advised leap of faith.

The Pittsburgh Steelers build their football team through the draft and they remain a contender year in and year out by teaching those players. It's a forgotten mantra in some cities but the foundation of the team we call ours is coaching and hard work. We won the Super Bowl in 2009 with OUR players and we'll be even stronger when it's easier to keep them. If the players want to live in an NFL without a salary cap we can play that game. But you have to give us six years of your life instead of four and in that time we will have even more experienced players ready to take your spot.

Among the new UFA requirements are other free agency restrictions to the salary cap. Please see my previous blog for details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Category: NFL
Posted on: March 8, 2009 10:42 am
 

No salary cap is worse for the players.

No salary cap sounds great for the players right? Wrong. It's a nightmare. The salary cap is a part of the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement. Here are a couple of other things that change when the latest CBA expires:

1. Free agency eligibility - right now a player with 4 years experience is eligible for free agency. Any player not drafted in the 1st round signs a three or four year contract in the NFL. They play for very little money (NFL little) and they wait for that 4th year of free agency eligibility. Even average players (see Chris Kemoeatu) become instant millionaires after the 4th year.

When the CBA expires free agency will revert back to it's previous status. A player must wait until his 6th year to become a free agent. That means guys like Cortland Finnegan, Eric Wright, D'Qwell Jackson, DeMeco Ryans, Owen Daniels Brandon Marshall, Leon Washington and Antoine Bethea will be forced to play two additional years before they can strike it rich. After watching Dominique Foxworth sign a $27M contract as a backup how do you think Eric Wright and Cortland Finnegan will vote when it comes to the next agreement?

2. The expiration of the CBA also eliminates the salary "floor". Right now every team must spend 111 million (87.6 percent of the cap). For every Dan Snyder there is a Mike Brown. With the current economic situation I'm willing to bet more teams will end up below 111M than above it making less money available to the players.

3. Under the current agreement teams have a choice of using the Franchise Tag or the Transition Tag. If it expires teams will have use of three tags (1 franchise and 2 transition). The 2010 Browns will have three defensive starters from the 2006 draft (Wright, Jackson and McDonald). After the CBA expires not only will these three guys have to wait an additional two years to reach free agency but they then could all three get tagged in 2012.

4. The expiration of the CBA also renews the "Final Eight Rule". I'm going to copy and paste this one from Pat Kirwan ...

The rule will restrict the final eight teams in the playoffs from signing free agents. The final four teams shall not be permitted to negotiate and sign any unrestricted free agent to a player contract except for players who acquired their status by being cut or were on the final four team when their contract expired. Playoff teams five thru eight get a break to sign one player with a salary of $4,925,000 or more and any number of players with a first-year salary of no more than $3,275,000 and an annual increase of no more than 30 percent in the following years.

The bottom line is this. The expiration of the CBA is bad for the league but it's much worse for the players than the owners (otherwise the owners wouldn't have opted out). The 6 year rule for free agency will handicap approximately 170 players and the Franchise / Transition tag could theoretically lock up another 96 players.

There is also the expiration of the NFL draft which is a whole other topic. The players and owners will reach an agreement. It's in both of their interests to do so.

 

 

Posted on: December 29, 2008 12:33 am
Edited on: December 29, 2008 12:34 am
 

NFL Draft = Cheap Labor

One of the most significant benefits of the NFL draft is also the least talked about. The gems of the NFL draft are not found in the first round. It’s Round 2 and beyond that can make the most significant contributions to an NFL roster.

 

The best example is Pittsburgh Steelers OLB LaMarr Woodley. In his second year Lamarr has become one of the most productive 3-4 OLBs in the NFL. His season statistics rival some of the games’ best pass rushers / ends (T. Suggs, T. Mathis, D. Freeney, Shaun Phillips). The difference? About 50 million dollars!

 

 

Don’t get me wrong. Lamarr will get paid much like the guys above him did but for the next two years he’ll be playing for peanuts under his rookie contract as a Pittsburgh Steeler. Whether or not he remains a Steeler after his 4 year contract is up will have a lot to do with the success of the 2009 and 2010 drafts.

 

After Week 3 of the 2008 season many of the Steelers fans (me included) thought signing Bryant McFadden prior to the 2009 season was a must. Seven William Gay starts later it doesn’t look so dire. Like Lamarr, William is only in his second season. That means he’s a Steeler for at least one more year (he signed a three year contract) and with a modest RFA offer it’s almost assured he’ll be here through 2010.

 

 

William Gay is a 5th round draft pick who will likely start for the next two seasons (assuming Bryant walks). He’ll do it for $460,000 in 2009. For approx. 1.5 million in 2010 we can assure ourselves of a 2nd round pick should someone sign him to a contract we don’t choose to match. With a $2M RFA offer we could assure ourselves of a 1st round pick should someone choose to sign him.

 

Free agency is great for the players but it is also very effective for the NFL owners. Regardless of whether you were drafted in the 1st round or the 7th all NFL players must complete 4 years of NFL service to become an unrestricted free agent.

 

If you’re a first round draft pick you will likely sign a 5 or 6 year deal as a rookie but if you’re a 3rd -7th round pick you’re more likely to sign a three year deal making you a restricted free agent until after you’ve completed 4 years of service (Nate Washington in 2008, Willie Colon in 2009, William Gay 2010).

 

Managing the NFL salary cap is like waging a war with a limited amount of soldiers. If you put too many guys at the front line you leave yourself vulnerable in the flank. There is only so much money to go around.

 

Great veteran players with more than 4 years of NFL service GET PAID! By comparison great young players play for peanuts. The most successful NFL franchises strike a balance between the two and they achieve that through the draft. They maintain that balance year in and year out by taking advantage of the 4 year rule of free agency.

 

The perennial cellar dwellers in the NFL fall prey to the FA trap and attempt to turn their team around with veterans. They trade away draft picks for high priced NFL veterans. They too will fill the remaining starter positions with young players - just not talented ones. Without their full compliment of draft picks they don't have talented young guys on the roster. They must rely on practice squad players and waiver wire pickups.

 

The NFL draft isn't just about adding talent to your roster. It's about "Cheap Labor".

Category: NFL
Posted on: December 27, 2008 11:46 pm
 

The Championship Window

Call me a “nervous Nellie” if you must but am I the only one that sees our championship “window” starting to close? In the era of free agency how many teams truly have an opportunity to compete for an NFL championship year in and year out?

I’m not talking about the Indianapolis Colts. Only a Colts fan thought they could win a Super Bowl in the early part of this decade. Swiss cheese had less holes than the defense they lined up with year in and year out.

I’m talking about a “true” contender – one that puts a winner on the field on both sides of the ball. A “true” contender is a balanced roster of pro-bowl players and career over-achievers. It includes a handful of undrafted free agents and second day picks who contribute much more than their six (not seven) figure salaries typically yield.

By definition alone that may exclude the very team I’m speaking of. Anyone who has watched the 2008 Steelers offense play would compare them more closely to the 2004 Colts defense than the 2005 Steelers offense. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.

When you have a two-time pro bowl RB, a four-time pro bowl WR and a 2007 pro bowl QB offensive efficiency shouldn’t be such a challenge. There’s more than enough talent at the skill positions but let’s face it. The problem is not exactly a secret (unless you work in the Steelers front office).

When I think of the 2007-08, 2008-09 Pittsburgh Steelers I think of a million dollar mansion – built on the San Andreas fault. The team (house) has been erected with great precision by skilled craftsman. It’s flashy (talented), efficient (well-coached) and strong (deep) but it rests on a surface that is shaky at best.

Like the San Andreas fault our offensive line is not going to miraculously change overnight. If we’re lucky we’ll get (1) impact offensive linemen in the 2009 draft which leaves us about 2 short of a competent group. Offensive lines are not built overnight – and overnight is about all the time we have.

Why you ask? The answer is simple. Guys like Aaron Smith (32), Casey Hampton (31), James Farrior (33), and Hines Ward (32) are not getting any younger and guys like James Harrison (2009), Ike Taylor (2009), Heath Miller (2009), Darnell Stapleton (2009) and Ryan Clark (2009) will soon be looking for pay that more closely reflects their performance.

What’s the reward for developing 2nd day draft picks and undrafted free agents? Watching them sign monster contracts – with some other team. As good as the Steelers are at discovering gems like James Harrison and Willie Parker they can’t do it year in and year out. When they strike gold you end up with the NFL’s defensive MVP and the NFL’s leading rusher. That combination can bring you the best defensive team in 10 years, a Super Bowl or both but win it when you can because they’ll soon be scooped up by a 1-15 team to be the “savior”.

The 2008-09 and 2009-10 Steelers are built to win on both sides of the ball with two glaring weaknesses – left and right tackle. A core of veteran players and a handful of young contributors have an opportunity to climb through the “window” to an NFL championship but until they are provided with a reliable “foundation” they will be hard pressed to reach that goal.

The time is now Steeler Nation. The window won’t stay open forever. If the football gods are listening I plead with you to hear our cry. Bring us the tackle(s) we need to solidify this team and climb through that window – before it closes.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com