Monday, April 30, 2007

Monday, April 30, 2007

-- Steelers have better draft in 2007.

-- Bucs still sending mixed signals.

-- Randoms.

---Steelers Do Better in '07---

I'll be the first to admit that I don't watch college football religiously. Many of the names that fly as the draft approaches are foreign to me, including JaMarcus Russell, who is apparently, a stud. Once again, some names that I do know, go very late. I remember being incensed when former Miami Hurricanes quarterback Ken Dorsey went dead last in the 7th round. This was the quarterback of a National Champion who I felt was the glue. He didn't have the rocket arm of Rex Grossman, but played smart football. This team might have beaten Ohio State the following year if a questionable pass interference call had gone the other way.

Unfortunately, we'll never know. Dorsey was also surrounded by some standout players. From Wikipedia:

Among the numerous stars on the 2001 Miami squad were: Dorsey; running backs Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Najeh Davenport, and Frank Gore; tight end Jeremy Shockey; wide receiver Andre Johnson; tackles Bryant McKinnie and Joaquin Gonzalez; defensive linemen Jerome McDougle, William Joseph, and Vince Wilfork; linebackers Jonathan Vilma and D.J. Williams; and defensive backs Ed Reed, Mike Rumph, and Phillip Buchanon. Additional contributors included future stars Kellen Winslow II, Sean Taylor, Antrel Rolle, Vernon Carey, and Eric Winston.

Troy Smith's hiccup in the National Championship game this year cost him quite a bit, too. He went late in the 5th round as a compensatory pick to the Baltimore Ravens. I thought he was a late 2nd, early 3rd rounder. Hell, Yahoo! calls him a "gamble" in the 5th round! Is it just the Heisman curse?

Again, I don't watch enough college ball to be any kind of psychic, but it seems like some of these quarterbacks get the shaft based on where they led their respective teams.

I know there are readers of this blog who don't comment who are more in-the-know of college ball than I. What is the deal? Brady Quinn was runner-up for the Heisman and everyone was flabbergasted that he fell to 22nd. Smith won the award, goes late 5th, and no one bats an eye. Inform me. Inform us all.

Now to the Steelers. Last year, I scratched my head as to why 2 of their first 3 picks were wide receivers. Receivers are fairly easy to come by in the offseason. Eventually, I figured they thought the front seven had enough gas in them to go one more season, and the offensive line was about the same.

The first two picks of the Tomlin Administration did two things: 1) They confirmed that Mike Tomlin is trying to convert to a 4-3 base as soon as possible, and 2) that Sean Mahan is the temporary stop-gap to the offensive line problems.

The third pick initially made me double-take. A tight end? I specifically mentioned in my last post that wide receiver was clearly not a need in this draft. A tight end is sort of the same thing.

I'm still not thrilled about this pick, mind you, but I came to realize a couple of things: this will not be a Cowher-led offense that rarely utilized that position. New offensive coordinator Bruce Arians used to be a tight ends coach with New Orleans and was to have had a budding TE in Kellen "The Soldier" Winslow in Cleveland.

The draftee in question, Matt Spaeth, is 6'7" and has been heralded as being an excellent blocker. Of course, having a tall guy to run a short route over the middle on third and short-to-medium isn't a bad tool to have. It will probably be the demise of Jerame Tuman. I would think some Steeler fans would have to be happy about that.

Day 2, the Steelers continue to show that they hate Mike Barr by drafting a punter out of Baylor by the name of Daniel Sepulveda. By some accounts, Sepulveda can absolutely kill the ball, which is something current punter Chris Gardocki does not do well.

The rest of the draft, you are usually looking at practice squad material, so they got a smorgasbord of players: a defensive back, an offensive lineman, a cornerback, and a wide receiver. Can't really complain too much. I guess any of these guys have an outside chance to make the 53-man roster, perhaps as special teamers, but probably not.

When you've got more than a couple of holes in your squad and have filled at least one of them, you can't complain too much.

On the other hand, you consider the case in New England: Tom Brady + Randy Moss with Laurence Maroney in the backfield = uh-oh.

---Winning Despite Themselves---

Statistically speaking, the Pirates haven't been abysmal in the errors column, with 13 in their first 24 games. That's not stellar, either, mind you, and a couple of those errors, if erased, might have been the difference between a loss and a win.

Anyway, April ends with a come-from-behind win against the Chicago Cubs that they probably didn't deserve, and after one month, their record stands at 12-12, their first non-losing April in 5 years. More importantly, they are six games better than they were at this juncture last year (5 more wins, 7 fewer losses).

And they've done it largely without the heavy bat that Adam LaRoche was expected to bring.

Actually, they've done it without too much in the way of heavy bats, period. Jason Bay's 8th-inning homer this evening made it 18 dingers for the month of April. Of course, four of those came in the first 12 innings of the season.

The offense has scored more than 5 runs only 3 times. They won all 3.

They have scored 5 runs 6 times and have gone 2-4 in those contests.

Despite the offensive woes, they've only been shut out once.

And we, as Pirate fans, can't really complain.

It's up the players to decide that they're good enough to compete for a playoff spot and expect nothing less. That's the "first-person" point of view.

We, as observers, can only root for 70 more wins. Everything else is icing on the cake. We know that the team has some shaky parts. The bench is not deep, our closer is borderline reliable, and our catchers area a liability in at least one phase of the game.

All told, watching the Pirates this season, you know the season can go one of three ways:

1) The optimist: the bats will wake up, now that LaRoche and his Mendoza-like career batting average in April is behind him, Freddy Sanchez has seen enough Major League pitching that he missed with his spring training injury, and Ronny Paulino will get off the snide when the rest of the team picks up. Snell and Gorzelanny will be the rocks of the rotation, Duke will get back in line, and Maholm will hold his own. Capps will still be a stud and will eventually replace Torres after one more blown save.

2) The pessimist: The fundamental plays that the Bucs have been screwing up on a semi-regular basis are going to catch up with them and cost them games that an average team would be able to win. There isn't enough consistent firepower in the middle of the lineup to make opposing pitchers think any harder than they have in years past. Jim Tracy will refuse to make personnel changes until injury forces his hand. The league will figure Snell out to the point where they'll be getting a couple of extra runs per game that will change a 1-run Pirates win into a 1-run Pirates loss, and Jose Bautista's admittedly-stellar play at third will end, either by injury or fatigue. And we really don't have anyone ready for immediate promotion.

3) The neutral: Let's give it another month. But I am watching more closely.

T-minus 72 wins.


Not too much to go around tonight, but I did find a couple of things and have a couple of thoughts.

The New Jersey Devils were shutout tonight by the Ottawa Senators and now trail the series 2-games to 1. They faced the same hole after three games in the first round. Ottawa's offense isn't quite as explosive, but they've been getting better goaltending than the Lightning got.

Regardless, the Devils will win the next three games, just like the last series. Sit back and marvel as veteran leadership and the best goalie in the game take over.


Only one picture I've come across in my limited computer time since last Wednesday has made me perk up my eyebrows.

The position of the bat is the one that continually confirms to me that Yahoo! puts these specific images and headlines up on purpose. The baseball portion takes me back to 6th grade. The second image is taken from the old late-80's show, "Hard Time on Planet Earth." I don't blame you if you don't get it. I think I was the only one who watched that show.



And, finally, my new buddy Greg Brown. I knew this picture would come in handy. During Wednesday's 16-inning marathon against Houston, Brad Eldred, in "regulation" went yard. Greg proved to me that he was a crooner. Not a good one, mind you, but a crooner. This makes me chuckle every time.

Right click to download, if you wish...


Blogger Tiffany said...

I can't believe you!!! Well maybe I can, but you're so bad!! That Pirates' picture under random is..........uh..........interesting to say the least. I was taking a sip of my drink & almost spewed it all over my desk.
And the other picture was unfamiliar to me. Then again, I had not yet turned 2 when the last episode of "Hard Time On Planet Earth" aired. So that probably had something to do with it.

Premiered: March 1, 1989
Last Aired: July 5, 1989

& for some reason, the premise made me think of Judge Dredd...
But anywho, your last post rocked too! So thanks for the laugh. (^_^)

5/01/2007 7:31 PM  
Anonymous karri said...

Hi Mike,
As usual, I love your post.

But I must admit...I know nothing about the Steelers' draft picks. I just don't follow college ball. If their choices help the team, then great. However, it's baseball season! So, letting you know...

I appreciate how you've compiled some great statistics. Thanks for the work!
("...their first non-losing April in 5 years" - I like that stat.)

" know the season can go one of three ways"...well...I choose
1) The optimist: (for now...)

And lastly, the Adam LaRoche I must agree with Tiff..."interesting to say the least."

5/01/2007 9:35 PM  
Anonymous redundant89 said...

I can't stop listening to Greg Brown crooning. Absolutely hypnotic.

5/03/2007 12:18 AM  

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