During this year’s draft, I was a bit puzzled when the Steelers selected Matt Spaeth in the third round of the draft. They all ready had a very good starter in Heath Miller, who doesn’t get much respect in the league, but has made a number of big plays in his young career. It made more sense once it was known that Aryans, the Steelers offensive coordinator, planned on using a lot of two tight end sets. Historically, the tight end in Pittsburgh has been a glorified tackle, used more as a blocker then as a pass catcher. But with the change in offensive philosophy, beginning two years ago and evolving further with Aryans, the tight end is becoming an important position. After two games, it is crystal clear why they drafted Spaeth. He makes for a big target at 6’7”, has great hands and has a knack for getting open in the endzone. Currently the Steelers have two former Mackey winners – an award given to the best tight end in college football – and as these two continue to develop, they could become the best tight end tandem in the NFL. And combining them with Hines Ward and the Steelers young receiving corps, it gives Big Ben plenty of passing options.
I was listening to the Feldman & Maloney show on Sportstalk980, when I heard some of the most ridiculous statements that I have heard in a very long time. First let me put out my disclaimer – I was born and raised a Steelers fan, but I have followed (and grown to love) the Redskins for the last 11 years. So I am pointing out that I have divided loyalties. It made watching the game on Saturday very difficult, I didn’t know who to cheer for. But I digress.
Carol Maloney said that she felt Brett Keisel’s hit on Jason Campbell was a cheap shot and he should have been ejected from the game. She went on to point out that she believed that it was Keisel’s, if not the Steelers, intention to hurt Campbell. I was amazed at what I was hearing. She continued by pointing out Kimo von Oelhoffen’s hit on Carson Palmer during the 2005 playoffs as proof that the Steelers have some sort of history with injuring opposing team’s Quarterbacks.
First let me point out that there is little that the two plays have in common except that both players (Kimo and Brett) have very high motors and play until the whistle is blown. When Kimo hit Palmer, he was being blocked just before he made contact with Palmer’s lower legs. Brett quickly got around Heyer but then stumbled in the backfield, lunged as he was going down and made contact with Campbell’s thigh. It was unfortunate that Jason got injured during the play, but it was not an intentional act. It was amazing how quiet FedEx Field got during the injury timeout. (BTW I and others could not believe that they never showed the replay on the stadium screens.)
But beyond Maloney’s rant – which she is entitled to – however misinformed it is. I was completely shocked that Trevor Matich, a former NFL player, would agree with her opinion. Trevor went on to state that Keisel was not stumbling, that he could have absolutely controlled his body – during flight – that he could have just put his arm out. I could not believe I was hearing a former NFL player. He then went on to say that if he were coaching the Redskins defense that he would have sent everyone after Rothlisberger. Since Campbell got injured, on a dirty play, then he would have made sure that Big Ben was sidelined for the rest of the year. The only person on the show who seemed to have a sensible opinion on the matter was Andy Pollen who was sitting in for Feldman.
Those of us who have watched football for any length of time and/or played it at any meaningful level know that it is a dangerous sport and that at any moment you can get injured. Thankfully it appears that Jason’s injury is not serious. My point to Maloney or Matich would have been – show me evidence that this was intentional? Furthermore, what would the Steelers have gotten out of this “intentional cheap shot?” What would they have to gain? The last I checked the Redskins are in the NFC and the Steelers play in the AFC. The Steelers would gain nothing from intentionally injuring Campbell. I could follow the logic IF it were the Cowboys and the Redskins in a pre-season game. Then you could make the argument that the Cowboys would gain something from Campbell being injured.
As part of Matich’s argument he points out that a penalty was called on the play for hitting the QB during a pass below the waist. A flag in and of itself does not make a play dirty. Hell, there are times when cheap shots are not caught by the refs by his line of logic does that mean those plays were legal? What I find interesting in the replay is that the flag does not actually come in to the picture until after Cooley has caught the pass, turned up field and gets tackled. Now, I am not pointing out that it wasn’t a penalty, by the letter of the rule it was. And on the replay I have you can not see where the Umpire is in relation to the play, so maybe he through it much earlier and it took a while for it to make it into view of the camera. But I am pointing out that it appeared as if it took him a while to decide that was a low tackle – but at least he did get the call right. But consider that it appeared that there was some indecision on the part of the Umpire but clearly he did not think that it was a dirty play or he would have ejected him from the game.
After watching the play in person and countless times on Tivo, I can only conclude that Maloney and Matich’s comments were completely baseless and a touch reckless. It is okay to be a bit upset with the fact that the starting Quarterback got injured during a meaningless game, but unless you have clear proof that someone intended to injury him, don’t go on record claiming that they did. I have seen plenty of cheap shots over the years, and I do not put that play in that category. Unfortunate yes, cheap shot no!
Reportedly, Cedrick Wilson, a wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers is unhappy that he is not getting enough passes, even when he is open. So his reaction was to spike the ball and curse. Most who have played virtually any level of football know that this is not an uncommon issue. Most will tolerate the outbursts from a receiver with a more impressive resume. Don’t get me wrong, Cedrick has been a productive player since joining the Steelers but he is not their number 1 option in the passing game, hell he may be their third option at best, behind Hines Ward and Heath Miller. The fact of the matter is that he is probably rapidly slipping behind Santonio Holmes, Nate Washington and even possibly Willie Reid (if he stays healthy). I am all for a guy who is passionate about his work, but the public temper tantrums doesn’t generally get you the results that you desire. Unless, ultimately your goal is to find a new team to play for.
Now let me say a few words about Alan Faneca. First, you have been a great player for the Steelers and arguably you are one of the best offensive linemen in the game currently. There is no doubt that based on that you would deserve to be one of the highest paid. I also can understand your frustration with seeing less qualified players receive superior contracts.
But while being frustrated is clearly appropriate – the situation stinks. Allowing those frustrations to spill out in public helps no one. In virtually every profession there are some clear truths: we are all replaceable, there will always be a few people who are less talented that will be compensated higher than more talented individuals (it sucks but it is true), and when the frustrations spill out in public the relationship will end poorly.
So if you have truly decided to move on after this year, I like other Steelers fans will miss you. We have truly enjoyed watching you work. But in the interim, keep your mouth shut and play ball. Don’t allow your frustration to turn you into a cancer on the team. When you are asked questions about your contract… you don’t have to answer. Eventually people will stop asking, if you don’t answer. In the end, I hope that it works out; I would love for you to finish your career with the Steelers. But you and I know that the Steelers are not going to make a 31 year old guard the highest paid guard in the league – teams like Detroit and Buffalo do that crap.