We're operating on DCSNT during the offseason, so it's taken a while to address the various free agency moves the Steelers have made in recent weeks. Between writing for The Sporting News, KSK, Edge and whatever other writerly endeavors I've been doing, it's been difficult to find time to compose thoughtful reactions. So I'll try to lay them out here. In some cases it's weeks after others have. That's the kind of timeliness you have come to expect around here during the offseason.
Will Allen, Arnaz Battle and Ryan Clark: The Allen signing preceded Clark's resigning with the team, causing some, including myself, to panic that he would be the new strong safety. But then just as it seemed that Clark would end up with the Dolphins, whom he was meeting that day, his signing with the Steelers was announced hours later. Which was very welcome news. Clark had a new noticeable poor outings last year and suffered with Troy out of the lineup, but he's still a better complement to Polamalu than anyone the Steelers would be able to get in free agency. And a rookie wouldn't be able to surpass him by the end of the upcoming season. Nevertheless, Allen and Battle are said to be solid special teams contributors and even though some of the kick coverages issues improved toward the end of the year, it was something that had to be dealt with in the offseason.
Antwaan Randle El: I'm still kind of puzzled by this move. El has often been vocal about his love for the team, so no doubt he was eager to return for a modest price. With Hines, Santonio and Mike Wallace, El won't place higher than fourth on the depth chart at receiver. It's nice to have one more weapon in that corps, not to mention gives them a better option in gadget type plays that Bruce Arians enjoys running. Just so long as he isn't more than an emergency option as a punt returner. It does make the situation for Limas Sweed that much more dim, considering the Steelers would have to carry six receivers to accommodate him along with El and Battle.
Larry Foote: While it was curious to see that he got a three-year deal in his return, it was hard not to count this as anything but good news. My only concern is that it may mean even less playing time for Keyaron Fox, who at times looked like a better overall player than Timmons last year. It will give them a more experienced backup to Farrior, who knows the defense well enough to spell him if age is as much as issue as some fear.
Running Back: An option that I haven't seen discussed is Justin Fargas, who was consistently a solid contributor in Oakland. So far he's met with the Chiefs and Eagles and as far as I know he hasn't drawn any interest from the Steelers. I'm not sure why, unless they have plans to address the position through a first or second day draft pick, which is a decent possibility, though one I'm not necessarily thrilled about. It seems like Fargas is a reasonable and inexpensive alternative. Though maybe they'll wait and see if he's still available in May.
First Round: I'm admittedly not an awesome evaluator of college talent, but unless C.J. Spiller is a game-changing back (and few would say he is), I'd still the team rather go with Mike Iupati in the first. The right side of the line could use an injection of talent, and his ability to play on the edge helps with the team's lack of depth at tackle. With Clark re-signed, taking Earl Thomas seems like a luxury move. Unless there's a great corner for them at their pick, and from what I've seen that seems unlikely, I don't see how the team could go in another direction than one that has been a need for a few years running.
Around the division
Antonio Bryant and Matt Jones to the Bengals: Coles was a washout for them and they didn't have much of a third option after Chris Henry died, so this was a necessary move for them. Not overly impressed with their solution, but it be enough to make their passing game marginally better. They just have to hope Ced Benson won't feel the effects of his big workload in '09.
Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson out, Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace in for the Browns: BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
[trails off slightly, wipes tear from face]
Anquan Boldin to the Ravens: It's a pretty good pickup for the Ratbirds, especially because they ended up holding onto Derrick Mason. A physical receiver like Boldin could really do some damage if he were matched up with William Gay, which further underscores the team's need to get better at corner before next season. Some Ravens fan wrote into KSK saying that the acquisition made Joe Flacco a top 10 NFL quarterback, which reminded me that if nothing else, Baltimore has good drugs.
Post sponsored by Bodog, online sports betting site.
Like, really fucking mind-melting, misanthropy fueling stupid things.
And that's just what's happened. Predictably enough, sure. But because I'm a Steelers fan and I have a vested interest in the outcome of this case, people send me stupid things to read that I otherwise wouldn't since they're about the team I openly and annoyingly root for. So there's been a noticeable uptick of stupid in my life recently. As a result, there's been an attending hike in bouts of homicidal rage. So I must find an outlet lest they result in things like homicide.
First, an acknowledgment of bias: It's true: I want Roethlisberger to be innocent, but I have no idea whether he is. A very select number of people know the truth, and I can assure you exactly zero of them are sports writers. Until the facts come out, we're in this limbo of presumed guilt, presumed innocence, hearsay about general character and speculative retardery.
So I am going to rant about the worst of it that I have seen. There's probably even more that I thankfully haven't been exposed to. I won't even count anything on Bleacher Report, because if I did I'd be ranting well into next month.
"Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger should settle with his new accuser" -- Mike Florio, The Sporting News
Mike Florio, as he often reminds readers at PFT, is a lawyer. Thankfully, he is not my lawyer. Because he would have Big Ben reach a settlement with his accuser, even before the case has the chance to be dismissed. Because becoming known as a celebrity who pays people to make sexual assault allegations go away is a viable solution somehow. The majority of the country would greet the news as a tacit admission of guilt. He would also almost certainly be suspended.
"Roethlisberger's in More Trouble Than You Think" -- Clay Travis, Fanhouse
Clay Travis is also a lawyer who writes about sports. He too will frequently remind you of this. I'm not particularly concerned with his legal opinion on this still-developing case, so much as I am dumbstruck with this opening:
Judging by the relatively tame media coverage associated with Ben Roethlisberger's alleged sexual assault down in Georgia, you'd think that the case isn't that serious.
... Particularly in our heightened media environment when merely cheating on your wife can lead the news cycle for months. The comparative media silence is deafening.
I'm sorry, Clay, which media are we talking about here? Is the Italian media not sufficiently atwitter about the Big Ben allegations? Because it's not a secret around here. I know that because ESPN waited a few days to report on the first accusation about Ben in Reno, a lot of conspiracy theorists think the press has banded together to try to protect his image, but even ESPN was all over this one from the get-go. They had a story on the front page the day it broke. They sent correspondents to Georgia. CNN has been reporting on it. No one is underplaying this story.
An important distinction between this allegation and the Reno one needs to be made for these media-obsessed people. In the Reno case, there was no police investigation. Because the accuser never asked for one. In Georgia, there was an immediate investigation by authorities, one that is still ongoing. People who try to compare Big Ben's Reno case to Marvin Harrison's don't know what they're talking about. There was a police investigation in the Philly bar shooting.
If you want to make the filing of a civil suit the basis for huge media coverage, well, get ready for far trashier and shittier news coverage. Anyone could file a civil suit against a celebrity and get ample publicity from it. It's a dangerous precedent to set. Yet that means nothing to the hordes of idiots who want to decry DEERRRR ESPN IS COVERING FOR BIG BEN!
"Ben Roethlisberger’s Alleged Sexual Assault Escapades: Safe to Say, “Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire”? -- The Big Lead
No, it's not safe to say that, unless you find safety in stupidity. Roethlisberger either assaulted these women or he didn't. Being accused of rape, even twice, does not make you a rapist. Being accused and charged and convicted of rape makes you a rapist. Is Ben reckless in his social life? That seems to be the case, but this isn't a story just because Ben went out to the bar to get rowdy on his birthday.
I seldom ever read The Big Lead. I would say 95 percent of times I've visited the site have been referrals from other bloggers who are complaining about some particular inaccuracy or obtuse statement that Jason McIntyre has made. I should have known better than to let them spam me with his shit.
"Tim Tebow to the Pittsburgh Steelers? They could use image-conscious QB after Ben Roethlisberger troubles" -- Orlando Sentinel's Swamp Things blog
The Steelers will not draft Tim Tebow. They won't do it even if Big Ben is convicted and thrown in prison. They won't do it if he isn't and Tebow falls to the 5th round. Because Tim Tebow will suck as an NFL quarterback. And even with Ben convicted, Tebow would not improve the Steelers' image. It just means Tebow would be asked about Roethlisberger a lot. And abortions. Maybe if he's a decent blocking tight end he can take Matt Spaeth's job. Otherwise thanks, but no thanks.
"Ben Roethlisberger's stupid behavior justifies New York Giants' choice in 2004 draft" -- Gary Myers, New York Daily News
Maybe he has a point if Ben is found guilty. As of now, Ben Roethlisberger is still a better and more accomplished quarterback than Eli Manning. Does he have a worse public image? Sure, but Eli was the whiny asswipe begging to be traded from San Diego when the Giants got him, so let's not pretend that that was a consideration for them. But then this is the obnoxious New York media. They have to find an angle to involve their shitty players in everything. Some NBC New York writer sincerely said after Super Bowl XLIII that the Steelers should "thank" the Giants for trading draft picks in 2006, which allowed the Steelers to acquire Santonio Holmes. Were the Steelers justified in letting Plaxico walk in free agency when he shot himself in the leg? Thanks for taking him, I guess.
"Big Trouble for Big Ben" -- Barry Petchesky, Deadspin
This typified all the dumb knee-jerk reactionary pieces that came out the day the story broke.
At this stage, I'll resist the urge to make any kind of grandiose moral proclamation, but instead state a fact: Ben Roethlisberger has been branded for life.
Guilt or innocence doesn't matter. Think of the Duke lacrosse team. By now the world knows that they were completely innocent of any of the awful things they were charged with. But go back a second. When I said "think of the Duke lacrosse team," what was the first thing your mind went to?
Maybe because no one gives a shit about lacrosse otherwise? What if I said "think of the Boston College lacrosse team" what was the first thing your mind went to?
If this case is dismissed without charge and the civil suit ruled in Big Ben's favor, the "stigma" goes away for the most part. Yes, people will continue to reference the allegations for a few years and Ravens fans will still call him Rapistberger, but it'll essentially become a footnote. Kobe Bryant has mostly repaired his image and he actually settled with his assault accuser. These things tend to fade over time. Unless of course he's convicted, then, yeah, stigmas all around.
So there. Done venting about this. And I'll gladly not write about it again until there's something to actually address.
According to multiple published reports (Steelers Depot was the first that I got wind of, via Twitter) Roethlisberger was allegedly partied to a confrontation in the womens restroom of a night club in Milledgeville, Georgia (ProFootballTalk.com).
This is just the type of story I'd expect newly formed and upstart TMZ Sports to cut their teeth on and run with. Obviously, we all hope that something like this did not, indeed occur. Of course, charges have not, as of yet, been filed.
It's disappointing to think Roethlisberger would allow himself to be in any situation where something like this could even be accused. Then again, these early reports sound a bit fishy. We'll just have to wait and see how this all plays out...