Superfluous 7 – Ways To Fix The Pittsburgh Steelers

This weekend fans across the nation of teams like the New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, and five others will sit down in front of their big ol’ flat screen TVs or gather with friends & fellow fans at a local watering hole or wings eatery and cheer on their favorites as they compete in the conference semifinals of the NFL playoffs. As a lifelong fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers I steelwill pay casual attention to the games but spend the vast majority of my time reading a book or watching movies. This is unacceptable. However, since I am a solutions oriented type of guy I have decided to offer a fan’s perspective on what the folks in the Steelers front office need to do so that this time next year…okay, maybe the year after next if I am being perfectly honest…I may once again enjoy the playoffs and look forward to my Steelers making a legitimate run at a 7th Vince Lombardi Trophy. Therefore, it is with all due respect to an organization that has dominated the NFL for most of the past four decades and won more Super Bowls than anyone else that I humbly present…..




from the home office in Latrobe, PA…..




The Superfluous 7 Ways To Fix The Pittsburgh Steelers:








7       A Legit #1 RB

When people talk about the Steelers the conversation traditionally goes in one of two directions…the awesome defense or the strong running game. The Steelers have always been primarily a running team until the past few years. Even when Swann & Stallworth were catching balls from Bradshaw in the late 70’s & early 80’s there was still the specter of Franco Harris & Rocky Bleier, who combined for 1500 yards or so for several years. More recently there was The Bus Jerome Bettis, who ran for over Franco-Harris-reinstated-as-charity-chariman-TMME7L9-x-large1000 yards annually from 1996 to 2001 until injuries and time share situations decreased his role. There have also been a whole host of guys that maybe didn’t make a long term impact but were pretty darn good for a short time…Bam Morris, Frank Pollard, Willie Parker, Merrill Hoge, Barry Foster. Does current starting RB Rashard Mendenhall measure up to Franco, Rocky, & The Bus?? Hell no. Is he as good as those second tier guys?? Maybe, which is why I am not ranking this as a primary need…yet. But since BettisMendenhall was a 1st round draft pick there is a heightened level of expectation. Since beginning his NFL career in 2008 Mendenhall has only exceeded 1000 yards twice, and in 2012 was hampered by injuries. Backup Isaac Redman is exactly that…a backup, and it became clear this past season that he cannot be counted on to carry the load. I do not think the Steelers should jump thru hoops or make any crazy trades to snag a back, but if the opportunity presents itself I would not be heartbroken to see Mendenhall shown the door and someone new be given the chance to tote the rock.



6       Backup QB

It is not unusual to see an NFL team floundering like water deprived fish on a warm sidewalk when roethlisberger-out-browns-jkjpg-7dab2c5a751ea52b1their starting quarterback goes down. But most teams have gotten the message that in the modern NFL a decent backup QB is essential. The Steelers brass is far from clueless and until now have had the situation covered, but it has become obvious that this has evolved into an area of need. 38 year old Charlie Batch is believed to be retiring, and Byron Leftwich is an injury waiting to happen. And the elephant in the room is the fact that Ben Roethlisberger is now 30 years old and, because of his freewheeling style of play and the fact that a porous & injury prone offensive line has left him hung out to dry far too much in the past few seasons, usually misses atleast a game or two every year due to injury. At the very least a reliable veteran backup is needed that might be able to lead the team to a couple of victories now & then, and it may not be a horrible idea to groom a youngster to take the helm in 3 or 4 years. Kirk Cousins anyone??



5       Faster Linebackers

Lawrence Timmons & Lamarr Woodley are both fairly young players, but the two had a total of just harrison-sack10 sacks between them in 2012. That has to improve. James Harrison & Larry Foote are both in their 30’s and have obviously lost a step, The jury is still out on Jason Worilds (although it doesn’t feel to me like he’ll ever become anything more than a complimentary player) as well as youngsters Stevenson Sylvester & Sean Spence. It seems likely that the team will need to add atleast one, maybe two linebackers. As a Steelers fan it is odd…and a little disconcerting…when a discussion of the best linebackers in the NFL includes names like Patrick Willis, Clay Matthews, Terrell Suggs, and DeMarcus Ware with nary a Steeler in sight. This must change. Would Jarvis Jones or Manti Te’o look good in black & gold?? Maybe.



4       Younger Defensive Line

Brett Keisel & Casey Hampton are in their mid-30’s and likely finished. Will Ziggy Hood, Cameron Heyward, & Steve McClendon step up and become a new Steel Curtain for the 21st century?? It is possible. However, it is likely that one or two additional pieces are needed. Alameda Ta’amu was 91506_feature_mediumsupposed to be Hampton’s replacement, but he was cut then re-signed to the practice squad in the wake of a felony arrest for drunk driving, aggravated assault, & fleeing law enforcement last autumn. I suppose Ta’amu could potentially still evolve into the second coming of William “Refrigerator” Perry, but one can fairly assume that he is on a v-e-r-y tight leash and will have to work extremely hard to cajole himself into the lineup. The Steelers front office has always had the knack for knowing when to cut veterans loose who had nothing left in the tank while simultaneously having their replacements ready & able to step into the spotlight, but one has gotten the feeling over the past couple of years that they may have held onto a couple of these guys a bit too long and haven’t been as prudent as usual in laying out a succession plan.



3       Depth on the O-Line

I must give proper credit where it is due. Last year the Steelers drafted guard David DeCastro in the 1st round and tackle Mike Adams in the 2nd, so it isn’t as if they have not addressed the problem. And it is no one’s fault that a pre-season knee injury derailed most of DeCastro’s rookie campaign. Steelers-offensive-linemenHowever, there is still work to be done. Various injuries plagued the offensive line throughout 2012, exposing a few players as either injury prone or just not worth the effort. Some tough decisions are going to have to be made about who to keep around and who to cut loose. Obviously salary cap issues will play a significant part in these decisions as well. Since I am far too indolent to do the necessary research about such mundane issues as salaries & contracts, I’ll just go with the eye test. I’d jettison guards Willie Colon & Ramon Foster, as well as tackle Max Starks. That means drafting atleast one or two offensive linemen again as well as signing a couple in free agency. It might make for a rough 2013, but since that is probably going to occur anyway they may as well look ahead to having a solid line ready for the following season.



2       Offensive Coordinator

It was clear from the very beginning that Todd Haley and QB Ben Roethlisberger weren’t on the same page. And even though head coach Mike Tomlin did a fine job of keeping egos in check most of the season that discord never completely disappeared. At this stage of his career I think Big Ben has earned a certain amount of influence in the direction of the offense. I didn’t have a problem with Haley’s ideas about getting back to traditional Steelers smashmouth football, but the fact is that when you have a quarterback with the unique skill set of Roethlisberger, a group of pedestrian & injury hi-res-6587156_crop_exactprone running backs, an average at best & also injury prone offensive line, and a fine receiving corps like Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, & TE Heath Miller you dance with the one who got you to the soiree. It is my understanding that Haley is being interviewed for some of the various head coaching & offensive coordinator positions available throughout the NFL, and I wouldn’t be heartbroken if he took off for greener pastures. Maybe Norv Turner would like to recapture some of his offensive coordinator mojo by working for a fine organization like the Pittsburgh Steelers & with another future Hall of Fame QB like Roetlisberger. And even if Turner is a pipe dream I still think there’s got to be a better answer than Todd Haley. Heck, I’d even welcome Mike Mularkey back into the fold.



1       A Shutdown Corner

I’ve been saying this for it seems like forever. I must again give due credit though. Kudos to both Keenan Lewis & Cortez Allen for stepping up in 2012 and being decent enough corners. Between them and Ike Taylor things weren’t horrible this past season, but they can & should significantly improve. The Steelers only forced 1.3 turnovers/game, which ranks near the bottom of the league. Theyaaa intercepted 14 balls…far less than 19-21 range where the league leaders reside. The defense accounted for 37 sacks, which puts them in the middle of the rankings for that category, not near the top where they should be. This obviously has more to do with not getting enough pressure on the opposing QB, but I also think it means that the pass coverage needs to be better. Look, I know that some people might look at this and say “Dude…the Steelers statistically had the top defense in the league in 2012…what are you complaining about??”. I get that. But one thing that no one seems to ever account for is the fact that the Steelers offense always ranks near the top in time of possession, which means that the defense is on the field less. I believe that helps to mask certain issues. Is it a bad defense?? Of course not. Are these cornerbacks that atrocious?? Not really. But if the opportunity arises to draft Dee Milliner from the national champion Alabama Crimson Tide, or sign a free agent like Leodis McKelvin or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie then I think it would behoove the suits in The ‘Burgh to do so.




Winning & Musing…..Volume 3.12

Whew!! We made it!! Winter (such as it has been) is on its last legs & spring lies just around the corner. Nascar is back. Pitchers & catchers have reported. NFL Draft chatter is lively. March Madness & The Masters are drawing near. Rejoice sports fans…rejoice indeed.



I’m not politically correct, and I have no patience with the concept of political correctness. Our modern society is not only far too easily offended, sometimes it seems as if we vigilantly look for reasons to take offense. Nowhere has this been more apparent recently than in the sports world. First, reporting on the raging obsession that has been NY Knicks wunderkind Jeremy Linn has become a virtual minefield for sports journalists. One ESPN employee was fired & one suspended for using the terminology “chink in the armor” to describe Linn’s issue with turnovers. The question that must be asked is “was the phrase used on purpose??” Well, my initial reaction was that it very well may not have been. After all, it is a fairly common idiom referring to a perceived weakness that can be exposed by an opponent. I don’t think it is an unfair assumption to think that most adults have likely used the expression many times in their lives with nary a thought to its possibly racial connotation. If Linn, instead of being a Californian of Asian descent, was instead British or a white guy from Texas we would not be having this discussion. However, let’s, for the sake of argument, look at the flip side. What if these two geniuses at the The Mothership in Bristol did know exactly what they were saying and got a jolly good chuckle from ripping a page out of The 14 Year Old Dumbasses’ Guide to Being Rebellious?? So what?? Did someone deserve to lose their job over the situation?? When did poor taste become a freakin’ hate crime?? I am not saying it was wise or even the proper thing to do, but the reaction was way over the top yet sadly typical in 21st century America. What’s next?? Will a football analyst not be able to point out that a wide receiver of Asian descent just ran a slant pattern without a bunch of pantywaists getting their knickers in a snit?? Ah yes…panties. That brings me to Danica Patrick, the woman who is going to save Nascar, even though Nascar doesn’t need saving and she never did a damn thing in the Indy Car series except win one irrelevant race in 7 years. At any rate, a TV talking head was recently forced to apologize to poor little Danica after almost calling her a bitch. That’s right…the guy’s bosses made him apologize for something he alluded to but didn’t actually say. What a crock of BS that is. And to go even further, his comments were in response to Ms. Patrick whining about people referring to her as sexy. Dearest Danica: Shut up. Embrace your hotness. If you were some horse faced lesbian that looked like Abe Vigoda in drag people would give even less of a damn about you than they already do (for example, look at the WNBA or LPGA). People sure don’t cheer for you because you win races because…well…you don’t. It’s kind of like how people just like Dale Earnhardt Jr. because of his famous Dad, not because of anything he’s actually accomplished himself. If/when Danica Patrick ever starts winning races & racking up trophies like Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, or Jeff Gordon then she can complain all she wants. Until then she needs to keep her yapper shut, try not to crash out of every race, and keep on doing scantily clad & sexually suggestive television commercials.



Rarely does golf grab my attention before the patrons gather at Augusta during the first week of April, but a few weeks ago Phil Mickelson shot a final round 64 at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am to come from 6 strokes back and win. Then the following week Mickelson lost a three way playoff after he & another player made awesome birdies on the 18th hole, only to fall when the third guy made an incredible 43 foot putt to win the tournament. Anyone who says golf is boring to watch on TV is nuts.



Yeah…NBA…still not interested…yet. Call me in June.



In the last edition of W&M I referred to age & injuries catching up to my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers. The problems in Steel Town have only gotten worse and I’m blaming Barack Obama. Allow me to explain. The team is currently further over the salary cap than any other NFL franchise. I’m not sure such financial mismanagement has EVER occurred with the Steelers. At the moment there seems to be a chance that they might lose their top WR, Mike Wallace, to free agency. Certainly that’s not unheard of with the Steelers, but it’s odd since Wallace is only 25 years old & entering his 4th year in the NFL. The Steelers have long had a knack for letting players go right when others might perceive him to still have gas left in the tank but they know that he has plateaued, is on the downward slope of his career, and is no longer worth the hefty price tag, but they don’t usually fail to lock up their good young stars for the long haul. I don’t think Wallace will actually go elsewhere, but the fact that it’s even a hot topic is troublesome. Then there is Hines Ward, a definite first ballot Hall of Famer. He wants to play one more year. The team’s braintrust was of the opinion that he’s washed up, so they released him. The team is probably right, but couldn’t something have been worked out?? If Hines wanted to play several more years and had the typical diva attitude we’ve seen in other receivers like Terrell Owens & Randy Moss, then I’d admit that he was delusional and be fine with cutting him loose. But this is a guy who, for the most part, has done things right on & off the field, has been a solid citizen in the community, and always has a beaming smile on his face. He is as close to a role model as most professional athletes get these days. I didn’t think it was too much to ask to keep him around one final year (with a restructured contract for near the league minimum) and let him go out on his terms. I still have cringe inducing memories of legendary Steelers running back Franco Harris in a Seattle Seahawks uniform, and it will be so very sad to see a similar fate befall Hines Ward. And finally we must address the “retirement” of offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and the questionable choice of Todd Haley as his replacement. That whole thing is just weird. Steelers president Art Rooney II (grandson of team founder “The Chief” Art Rooney and son of current owner Dan Rooney) decided that he wanted to see a return to traditional smashmouth football. On some level I can understand the thought process. However, I also understand the old saying “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. The Steelers have one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL in Ben Roethlisberger. As previously mentioned there is a good enough nucleus of talented receivers in place that a living legend like Hines Ward was expendable and a talented wideout like Wallace could be allowed to follow the big bucks to another locale. On top of that both the offensive line and the running back situation are huge question marks heading into 2012. So why does AR II want to change course all the sudden?? And why were we fed such an obvious lie about the “retirement” of Arians, only to see him accept the same job with the Indianapolis Colts just days later?? Certainly blatant duplicity is not The Steeler Way. And why hire a guy like former Kansas City head coach Haley and create discord with Roethisberger?? All I know is that if Dan Rooney were still in charge I don’t think any of this foolishness would be happening. Unfortunately he has spent the past few years as U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, a job he was chosen for by President Obama. Therefore, if my Steelers fall completely apart this season and chaos ensues I will blame it completely on Obama.



What a wild & crazy ride The Daytona 500 was!! We saw fire, we saw rain, we saw a 500 mile race that we thought would never end. But Nascar…it’s always nice to see you baby one more time again.



As a Pirates fan I’m honestly not all that excited about the trade for 35 year old right handed pitcher AJ Burnett. I realize the value of having a solid veteran in the rotation, especially one who led the American League in strikeouts just 3 years ago. However, I’m just not sure it’s a judicious allocation of limited resources for my Buccos. If Burnett can win 15+ games with a sub 4.0 ERA then the $13 million price tag might prove worthy. But if Burnett only wins 10 or so games and has a 5-ish ERA (about what he did the past two seasons with the Yankees) then hindsight might indicate that another course of action would have been wiser. Right now it sure feels like the Yankees successfully dumped their problem on a lesser, more desperate franchise.


Hall of Influence – Class 2

The time has come to add to the hallowed chamber that is The Hall of Influence. Today we will be inducting three new members from diverse fields…sports, literature, and music. Though these areas of interest may not measure high on the scale of significance in the big picture that is our universe, I am sure most will concede that they do add immeasurable joy, pleasure, and interest to most of our lives to some degree.


Let us first venture onto the football field. Anyone who meets me knows within 10 minutes that I am a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan and have been for over 30 years. I began to be interested in and understand football at a very young age, even before I started school. Living in the state of West Virginia there are no professional sports teams because there just isn’t the population or economic base to support such a venture. However, I am fortunate to live within a couple of hours of the city of Pittsburgh, and I just happened to be born right as the heretofore hapless Steelers were morphing from a team that had never been very competitive to one that would ultimately come to be thought of as NFL royalty, one of the most successful franchises in team sports. They were the first team to ever win 4 Super Bowls, winning back to back titles twice within a 6 year period from 1974-1980 and have won two more since that time. When contemplating just who should represent the Steelers in The Hall of Influence many names ran through my mind. Terry Bradshaw was the quintessential franchise quarterback and led the team to all four of those 1970’s titles. Mean Joe Greene and Jack Lambert were the leaders of the most infamous defense in football, The Steel Curtain. Lynn Swann was poetry in motion and one of the most acrobatic wide receivers ever to catch a football. Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier were the leaders of a hard-nosed, smash mouth rushing attack that defined Steeler football. Less heralded players like center Mike Webster, safety Donnie Shell, and wide receiver John Stallworth embodied the blue collar attitude of a city and a team. All of these men were guided by the stoic, quiet, firm hand of head coach Chuck Noll. However, my choice to represent the Pittsburgh Steelers and my undying love for them is the family that has owned and operated the team since its inception in 1933, the Rooney family. The patriarch was Art Rooney Sr., The Chief, who used his winnings from time spent at the horse track to start a brand new NFL franchise. The Chief was a driving force in the growth of the league as a whole, and helmed the ship as the Steelers became a powerhouse team. He was aided by his son Dan, who worked alongside his father beginning in the late 1960’s. Dan ran the organization’s daily operations from the late 1970’s until 2003, when he handed over the job to his son Art Rooney II. In a world where many teams seem so unstable…changing coaches, owners, and even cities at the drop of a hat…The Rooney Family has been steady and consistent. Their long term leadership has been a major reason why the Steelers have been among the elite for such a long time, and that success has provided me with countless hours of happiness and entertainment.


One of the other ways I entertain myself is reading. I love a good book. My all time favorite literary series is The Sherlock Holmes canon, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I intend to go into a more detailed analysis of the books and my enjoyment of them in a piece for The Bookshelf section of The Manofesto, so I will keep my comments short for now. Suffice to say that Sherlock Holmes is one of the most endearing characters in all of literature, and he cannot really be separated from his creator Doyle. Therefore I have chosen to initiate both sides of the same coin into the Hall of Influence. I cannot thank them enough for all the times they have magically transported me to Victorian England and allowed me to forget about my problems for awhile. I would encourage any bookworm who enjoys a good mystery to give Holmes a whirl. You won’t be disappointed.


Our third and final inductee today is from the world of music. In my mind he is the ultimate musical performer…classic, timeless, the standard to which all others need to be compared. I am speaking of Ol’ Blue Eyes, The Chairman of the Board, The Voice…..Frank Sinatra. I tend to have rather eclectic musical tastes. I like everything from hard rock to blues to 80’s pop to big band. Amongst the crowd of pretenders to the throne…Elvis, The Beatles, Michael Jackson…only one man clearly stands above the rest. I am not saying those performers and many many others are not talented and deserving of their accolades, just that in my universe they are all a bit overrated. No one can ever legitimately call Mr. Sinatra that, not even close. During a career that spanned nearly 60 years, he had numerous #1 songs and albums, won 11 Grammys, and tried his hand at acting and won an Academy Award. Somewhere along the line Sinatra segued from a top selling singer to a legendary cultural icon. I was first introduced to Sinatra during my youth by my father. Like most youngsters I wanted to be cool and hip and thought Dad was just an old fogey, so I didn’t pay too much attention to his music. But as I grew older and began to have more of an appreciation for quality and excellence and became less concerned with fitting in with the crowd I began to develop an appreciation for various musical genres, including swing, jazz, and “crooners”. There’s no one that embodies all of those better than Frank Sinatra. With it being almost a foregone conclusion that all great (and even not so great) bands will eventually reunite for a big money tour and knowing that no musician ever really retires, it makes me sad to know that I will never have the opportunity to see Sinatra in concert because…well, he’s dead. But the music lives on. So while others waste their time gushing over the latest MTV/American Idol wannabe and embrace what is clearly a lower standard of musical mediocrity played on the radio these days, I will happily be listening to my Sinatra CDs and appreciating the greatest singer to ever live. For his many contributions to music and culture Frank Sinatra is a well deserving member of The Hall of Influence.