Bires: Steelers should steer clear of Bryant

By: Mike Bires
Beaver County Times
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Saturday April 17, 2010 11:55 PM

PITTSBURGH — Dynamics of the Steelers’ draft process changed Monday when Santonio Holmes was booted out of town. That decision guarantees the Steelers will take at least one wide receiver in this week’s NFL Draft.

Which means they could pick Dez Bryant.

There is no doubt that Bryant, who played at Oklahoma State, is the most talented wide receiver available in the draft. At least one draft service rates him as highly as the ninth-best prospect.

But because of character issues, some teams will shy away from him.

There’s a chance Bryant will be available when it’s the Steelers’ turn to pick Thursday night with the 18th pick.

If that’s the case, the Steelers should not take him.

Because of the negative publicity the NFL has had in recent years, “character” has become a catchphrase for many teams.

The Jets may not care about character. They’re so desperate to get back to the Super Bowl that they recently acquired Holmes, a police blotter regular, in a trade with the Steelers, and cornerback Antonio Cromartie from the Chargers.

Both Holmes and Cromartie are talented players taken in the first round of the 2006 draft. But both have serious character flaws.

Holmes was arrested three times after the Steelers drafted him, including a 2008 bust for marijuana possession. On the day Holmes was traded last week, he was suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season for violating the NFL’s drug code.

The Steelers gambled on Holmes when they drafted him in the first place. Despite his skills, he had a reputation as a prima donna at Ohio State and had fathered three children to two different women in two different states. Still, the Steelers drafted him.

Cromartie, who’s only 25, has already fathered seven children by six women in five states. The Chargers traded him away because of his questionable work ethic.

The Steelers, though, are trying to clean up their image in what has been one of the most disappointing stretches in team history when it comes to off-the-field issues.

James Harrison. Jeff Reed. Matt Spaeth. Ben Roethlisberger. Holmes.

In their own ways, each has shamed themselves and the Steelers.

That’s why they should stay away from Bryant.

Because he told a big fib, Bryant missed nine games last year at Oklahoma State. That stiff penalty was handed down by the NCAA because Bryant lied about his relationship with former NFL star Deion Sanders, who tried to land Bryant as a client for agent Eugene Parker.

That’s a red flag.

Google Bryant’s name on your computer and you’ll see stories with headlines like “Bryant trying to out-run past” or “Questions dog Dez Bryant” or “How far will Dez Bryant fall?”

Twice since Kevin Colbert was hired in 2000 as director of football operations, the Steelers drafted wide receivers in the first round. Both turned out to be nuisances.

The first was Plaxico Burress out of Michigan State in 2000. The second was Holmes.

Both were great talents. But both had character flaws.

Burress lasted five seasons with the Steelers. He’s now in prison for violating gun laws in New York.

And just for the record, the Steelers took Troy Edwards in the first round of the 1999 draft, and he proved to be an underachieving malcontent who lasted just three years in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers just haven’t had much luck drafting wide receivers in the first round.

The bottom line is that the Steelers have many areas to address in this draft. They have needs at cornerback, offensive line, defensive line and linebacker.

They should not draft a wide receiver in the first round, even if Dez Bryant is still on the board.

Mike Bires can be reached online at [email=""][/email]