We've entered the slowest part of the offseason -- the draft is behind us and training camps are still more than two months off. Which means that anything resembling news will get a turn on the 24-news cycle, and that's seldom a good thing.
Two years ago, Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley went on NFL Network and said Joe Flacco would never win a Super Bowl because Baltimore plays in the same division as Pittsburgh. That worked out well: The Steelers went 8-8 last season, and Flacco was the Super Bowl MVP.
Just something to keep in mind as you read this:
On Monday, Steelers safety Ryan Clark was on ESPN discussing what it meant for the Patriots to lose Wes Welker to the Broncos. And while Clark wasn't throwing around the same kind of declarations Woodley had two years before, his remarks, no matter how innocuous their intent, won't soon be forgotten in New England, either.
“I think what's really underestimated is Wes Welker's importance to not only the New England Patriots, but Tom Brady,” Clark said (via PFT). “Losing him is huge. … I know they think Danny Amendola can come in and have the same type of numbers he had with the Rams, but we also have to remember, he's fragile.”
To be fair, by NFL standards, Amendola is fragile; he appeared in 11 games in 2012 and just one game in 2011. Welker, meanwhile didn't miss a game over that time and oh, by the way, he also managed to haul in 240 passes versus 68 for Amendola.
And as far as Clark is concerned, when Brady doesn't have his favorite target, the offense suffers.
“When Tom Brady gets pressure and when you're man-to-man and bumping those guys and making it hard for him to throw, he sees ghosts,” the Steelers safety said. “Even when guys aren't around him, even when he's not about to be sacked, when his clock goes off in his head that the ball should be out, we'll see him duck, we'll see him flinch. When you get Tom Brady doing that, the whole New England Patriots mystique goes away.”
Clark pointed to the Steelers' win over the Pats during the 2011 regular season as proof.
“Two years ago we played them and dominated them because we went man-to-man and had a big corner in Cortez Allen on [Rob] Gronkowski, and made it hard for Tom Brady to get the ball off, in timing, and made him to have to make plays. It was hard for him.”
Again, all perfectly reasonable observations by a man who has faced -- and beaten -- Brady. But Patriots coach Bill Belichick knows how to use slights -- perceived or otherwise -- to motivate his players, including Brady. And we'd expect New England to be ready for Pittsburgh when the two teams face off on Nov. 3.
And who knows, maybe Anthony Smith and Welker can serve as the honorary captains for old times' sake.