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fordfixer
09-28-2008, 01:13 AM
Ed Bouchette on the Steelers: Draft class of 2008 -- a class of one?
Thus far this season, we've heard from Rashard Mendenhall and ... and ... and, did we mention Rashard Mendenhall?
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08272/915798-66.stm

Rookie halfback Rashard Mendenhall gets his first start tomorrow night. At least one player from this year's rookie draft class will have a chance to do something.

Not one other rookie draft pick has played through three games, and only quarterback Dennis Dixon has pulled on a uniform for games other than Mendenhall.

It's way too early to evaluate this year's draft, but would it be asking too much for at least wide receiver Limas Sweed and linebacker Bruce Davis to play on special teams?

You get many of your special teams players from receivers, linebackers and defensive backs. Many future starters for the Steelers cut their teeth on special teams, including Joey Porter, Orpheus Roye, Brett Keisel, James Harrison and Troy Polamalu.

Yet neither Sweed, drafted in the second round, nor Davis, drafted in the third, was considered for special teams play when the season started. Instead, another rookie, undrafted linebacker Donovan Woods, opened the season on special teams.

Woods was injured in the second game, so the Steelers made a move to replace him. Sweed? Davis? Nope, coach Mike Tomlin signed another undrafted rookie linebacker, Patrick Bailey, from his practice squad and he played against the Eagles.

Signing Bailey meant they had to release halfback Gary Russell. They were fortunate no one claimed him after the injury to Willie Parker.

Not only have Sweed and Davis not dressed, neither has fourth-round pick Tony Hills, an offensive tackle. At least Hills was not expected to be active in his rookie season with backup veteran tackles Max Starks and Trai Essex on the team.

When they drafted Sweed and Davis, they thought each might help them this season on offense and defense. They thought Sweed might compete with Nate Washington to play on third downs. They thought Davis might help them as a situational pass rusher.

Neither ever showed enough in training camp to even be considered. Sweed is the fifth wide receiver among five on the roster. Davis is the only linebacker on the team not to dress for a game -- that's nine linebackers in front of him including fellow rookies Woods and Bailey, both undrafted.
Throw flags ... or not

The NFL still does not know how to protect its quarterbacks, at least not uniformly. One referee's flag on a hit is another's choice to look the other way.

One example occurred in the Steelers' game at Cleveland when LaMarr Woodley was penalized for a late hit on Browns quarterback Derek Anderson while an even later hit by Cleveland's Shaun Rogers on Ben Roethlisberger went unpenalized.

The worst I've seen, though, came Sunday when Miami defensive lineman Vonnie Holiday hit Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel as he was throwing. Holiday's hit helped cause an interception. Yet an official dropped a flag, ruling that Holiday roughed the passer.

I'm all for protecting quarterbacks, but the NFL needs to decide if they're going to be allowed to be hit or tackled at all or just go ahead and put the flags on their hips.
It's time to use 3rd-down back

The Steelers signed Mewelde Moore as an unrestricted free agent from the Minnesota Vikings this year to be their third-down back.

It's time they use him. Oh, Moore lines up back there on third downs all right. But they might as well put a guard or tackle back there for all they do with him.

Moore, by all accounts, is a good receiver, a good runner, and a good blocker. He caught 46 passes for the Vikings in 2006.

The Steelers have not had a third-down back who was much of a threat to run or receive, and it appeared they finally found one.

In three games, though, they're using Moore the way they've used their third-down backs for a long time, allowing him to become a mere blocker. No one claimed he would be the next Kevin Faulk of the Patriots, but he looked to be an upgrade over what they've had there recently as a runner/receiver.

Yet quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has more receptions than Moore. Moore has no receptions and just one run from scrimmage, for six yards. He at least should have had a draw, a screen, a dump-off pass or something to help slow down the rampaging Eagles rush last week.
McFadden boosts value to team

The Steelers might have wished they had signed cornerback Bryant McFadden to a contract extension before the season started. They might wish it now. McFadden appears to be their best cornerback and by the end of the season, he should find himself in a good financial position as an unrestricted free agent.

They will have to either pay him top money as a starting cornerback, or risk losing him because good cornerbacks are hard to find and everyone wants three of them.

McFadden could have been signed for much less than he will command after the season. However, the fact he was not a starter might have been the problem. How do you pay a backup big money, and then not start him? Oh, that's right, they already broke that barrier with Max Starks.
What's to lose? Three points!

Had the Steelers let Jeff Reed try a 56-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, things might have been different last Sunday in Philadelphia. Reed banged home a 53-yarder with plenty of room to spare in the second quarter and there was no wind at Lincoln Financial Field. Yet with 14:47 to go and the Steelers trailing by just 10-6, they had a fourth-and-12 at the Eagles' 38, and they punted. Pitt came under intense criticism for twice punting at the Bowling Green 35 in its opener, yet little was said about the Steelers punting from the Eagles' 38 with a kicker who has shown he could make the long one.


Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com.
First published on September 28, 2008 at 12:00 am