Let’s go right to some stuff:
--- The Steelers have precisely one halfback under contract for the 2013 season, Baron Batch, who is recovering from a broken arm. Presumably, they can keep two restricted free agents, Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman.
--- Jerome Bettis, the only back among the 17 Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists, told me something the other day I never heard before. He was an iron man for his position, rarely hurt and playing through injuries that other players told me they would not play through.
One of the keys, Bettis told me, to staying healthy was to know how to fall. If you carry the ball 300 times in a season, you’re likely to hit the ground 300 times. If it’s 3,000 times in a career, that’s at least 3,000 times. You have two guys tackling you, that’s maybe 500-600 pounds of torque, not to mention your weight. So if you reach out with your arm to cushion a blow, or struggle too long to stay upright, something has to give and it often will be one of your bones or ligaments.
Bettis often came up with nuggets like that when I covered him, and he still does. You have to know how to fall.
--- Mike Mularkey has now been fired as the head coach of two different teams, although he wasn’t given much of a chance in Jacksonville. Mularkey did a great job in his first season as a coordinator with Kordell Stewart in 2001. The Steelers went 13-3, Stewart made the Pro Bowl and was voted the team MVP. But next season, Mularkey and others fell in love with Tommy Maddox and Stewart was benched in favor of Maddox during the third game of theseason. Everyone loved Maddox, the coaches, the players, the fans. By the summer of 2003, Mularkey had convinced Bill Cowher to build his offense around Maddox and a combination of players who would not have to leave the field no matter what plays would be run. They included tight end Jay Riemersma and halfback Amos Zereoue. Cowher actually installed Zereoue as his starting halfback over Bettis on what he termed a “gut feeling.’’
That season turned disastrous and Cowher reluctantly installed Bettis back where he should be, but not before they plunged into a 6-10 season.
Tom Donahoe hired Mularkey to coach the Bills after that season and Ken Whisenhunt took over as offensive coordinator. Maddox’ arm was injured in the second game, one of the most fortunate injuries in Steelers history, and Ben Roethlisberger took over. The Steelers went 15-1 that season and won the Super Bowl in the next one.
It’s a history lesson to show that coaches aren’t always as smart as many make them out to be.
--- Rashard Mendenhall has won his $1 million lawsuit against Champion for dropping him after his Tweets about the death of Osama bin Laden.
--- Your questions:
--- YOU: Collectively I read your comments on PG+. You mentioned the Steelers will be thin at wide receiver if Wallace leaves. You also said the same with the running backs if Mendy leaves. Our O-Line is young but promising. Our D is aging. Would you want to use that dreaded "rebuilding year" term for 2013?
ME: The defensive line is NOT aging, far from it. They have two recent first-round draft picks and some other young players, including Steve McLendon, who is ready to start at nose tackle. They are not rebuilding, not with that quarterback. They are more a team in transition, and it began last year.
--- YOU: It seems like we have many more draft / FA needs (RB, WR, OLB, S, DL) than in the past 3-5 years. I think we are a spoiled fan base (wouldn’t have it another way) and am concerned we could be in for a ‘long’ run of mediocrity similar to what the Packers dealt with when they had Favre but not enough to go with him after their ’96 Super Bowl win. I get the impression you and Gerry see the needle pointing down for the Steelers, with the key caveat that we can still be competitive as long as we have #7. What do you think of my thought process?
ME: Teams in the NFL who go into a long run of mediocrity either don’t have a quarterback or don’t have a good plan. The Steelers have a quarterback and their history shows they usually have a good plan. However, as you suggest with Favre, it can happen. It’s happened to the Cowboys as well, although Tony Romo is too erratic for any consistency at that position. It’s a delicate thing, though, because if you have a quarterback without enough receivers and without a good running game, he cannot do it by himself.
--- YOU: I just read your OLine article, & I just don't get it, w/ the Steelers not resigning M.Starks. 1, he's solid & played every snap. M.Gilbert hasn't proved he can stay on the field yet. You want to really hear the fans "U Know what" when Ben is getting killed & Starks is protecting some other teams QB? I get it from the money stand point, but these kids are not proven yet, & we would still need a 3rd OT if Starks left. I think we need a veteran OT on the roster as a backup. So we don't pay Starks, & end up w/ a vet like J.Scott, great.
ME: I’m with you on that, but unfortunately for them the salary cap is real and they have some tough decisions to make and allowing Starks to go into free agency is probably one they will do.
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