Breath of fresh air: Steelers talking football
Friday, April 23, 2010
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
This was more like it.
For the first time in almost seven weeks Thursday night, there was no mention at Steelers headquarters of sexual assault, substance-abuse policy violations and NFL-mandated suspensions.
There was just football talk.
Pure, wonderful football talk.
"With the 18th pick in the 2010 NFL draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select Maurkice Pouncey, center, Florida.
Were those beautiful words or what?
I gotta be honest here.
When NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walked to the podium at New York City's Radio City Music Hall with a Steelers index card at 9:28 p.m., I was worried he was going to tack on three more games to Ben Roethlisberger's suspension.
Isn't that how the Steelers' offseason from hell has been going?
What a relief it was to see Goodell turn over the microphone to Make-A-Wish kid Zachary Hatfield for the Pouncey announcement.
Maybe that's a sign that things are changing.
This year, of all years, the draft couldn't have come at a better time. It provided a welcomed and much-needed sense of normalcy at the Steelers' South Side compound. Roethlisberger's conditional six-game suspension for violating the NFL player's code of conduct with his escapades at a Georgia college bar March 5 was in the rearview mirror.
So was the April 11 giveaway trade of wide receiver/Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes to the New York Jets after word came down that he is facing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
Thankfully, Thursday night was the time to look ahead.
To the steamy hot days of July in Latrobe when Pouncey will work to learn his craft, provide valuable interior line depth and maybe, just maybe, battle right guard Trai Essex for a starting spot as soon as in the opening game Sept. 12 against the Atlanta Falcons.
"I'm so happy they picked me," Pouncey gushed after getting the call from Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. "I can't wait to get up there."
Who knows what kind of player Pouncey will become?
Really, who ever knows about a player on draft day?
When the Steelers took Purdue cornerback Rod Woodson No. 1 in 1987, it seemed like a great pick. He made the Hall of Fame.
But it also seemed like a good, safe selection when the Steelers chose Florida linebacker Huey Richardson No. 1 in '91. He lasted just one year.
Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert stopped short of making Pouncey sound like the second coming of Mike Webster, but Colbert clearly was happy to get a player whom he described as a "physical guy" and "football smart."
"He was that good," Colbert said. "It had nothing to do with the position. He was just that good."
You expected Colbert to say Pouncey is awful?
Certainly, the Steelers had a need for a big, strong, smart offensive lineman. Everybody from team president Art Rooney II to Tomlin has said they need to make a recommitment to the running game in the 2010 season. If Pouncey is as good as Colbert and Tomlin say, he can't help but help.
But the Steelers still have plenty of other needs. When your team goes 9-7 and misses the playoffs, you have a lot of needs on draft weekend. Cornerback. Linebacker. Defensive line. Running back. Wide receiver. Special teams help.
It's nice to think the Steelers will fill a couple of more holes tonight when the draft resumes with Rounds 2 and 3.
"This draft is so deep," Colbert said. "There's a lot of quality players to be had."
No matter what other players the Steelers add tonight and in Rounds 4-7 Saturday, the best part of this long draft weekend is clear: The fact that those silly Roethlisberger trade rumors turned out to be just that -- silly.
I can't say for sure that Colbert and Tomlin didn't listen to offers for Roethlisberger, who, though greatly troubled and badly needing a major personality overhaul through counseling and treatment, has led the Steelers to two Super Bowls in his six seasons here. I'm just glad they didn't hear something that could have moved them to make a deal that would have set the franchise back years and years.
The Steelers might or might not be a better team by adding Pouncey.
They definitely are a better team for keeping their franchise quarterback.
Ron Cook: email@example.com. Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan. More articles by this author
First published on April 23, 2010 at 12:04 am