Author Archives: roxannafirehall

The Make or Break Draft Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throws during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)

Steeler fans spend a lot of time musing and kibitzing about draft picks, especially this time of year. Let’s face it . . . there’s not much else to do.

Rebecca’s recent  article Shoring Up the Depth at QB shined the spotlight on the issue that most of us secrete in the dark corners of our mind—how (and when) do we replace Big Ben?

Finding a franchise quarterback is an oh so difficult maneuver—probably the most difficult personnel management move in all of sports. The reasons are twofold: 1. You do not win a Super Bowl, except in very rare cases, without a franchise QB, and 2. Drafting one is supremely difficult because great quarterbacks do not grow on trees.

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My Two Cents. Cortez, the Draft and DeCastro Christmas.

imageThis week finally brought some real football news and the draft is nearly upon us now, just eight days away. Thank you, Lord.

Cortez Allen, mercifully, is finally released.  I totally believe in our personnel people, but man, did we whiff on this one — twice. Colbert and company missed on the draft pick. Based on a handful of good games, somehow, they decided to give Allen a four year, $24.6 million contract at the beginning of the 2014 season. After the contract was signed, Cortez played in exactly nine games. According to overt heap.com, the contract was the 25th most lucrative contract of the 240 signed by cornerbacks at the time.

I usually don’t weigh in what we we need to draft and when we ought to do it, but I’m rooting for a good CB with a high floor (and hopefully a high ceiling) in the first round unless another DeCastro Christmas materializes.

I know you need to draft for value, but we need to get some talent back there.

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My Two Cents: Adios, amigo!

imageNo matter who you are, how great your career, one day, the Turk will come for you. If you are unfamiliar with the Turk, he is football’s version of the Grim Reaper. One of the toughest things for fans to accept is when a long time Steeler favorite reaches the end of the road. Unless you retire on your own terms, à la Heath Miller, the Turk will come.

The player is often not the decision maker of when his time is up. Occasionally, the Steelers have engineered a peaceful end to the career of an iconic player. More often the “retirements” involve some measure of resistance and/or hard feelings. Rarely, do players perceive that the end is near.  With most highly competitive athletes, there’s always a rock solid belief that there is one more good season.

Often, the great ones can still play, but not at the level which justifies their compensation and its effect on the team’s salary cap.

Therefore, placid dignified retirements are rare. Heath’s departure was classy and low key. Ike Taylor’s farewell lacked drama too, though surely he saw the Turk approaching. The Bus had a fairytale ending.  He was fortunate; life rarely cedes a happily ever after.

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Secondary Concerns

imageIn case we haven’t written it enough over the last three months, writing about football this time of year is a pain in the keister. There’s plenty of chatter on the various Steeler blogs and websites. Much of it is silly, most notably the redundant drone of the draft speculation. Every year, there’s a consensus pick whose name is mentioned more than Mike Tomlin, Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger put together. The consensus pick is never picked by the Steelers. Nevertheless, he is nauseatingly blogged, over and over. This year’s winner is Eli Apple. Chances are he won’t be in Latrobe this summer.

This leads me to today’s topic — Secondary Concerns. In every silly season, there is a dominant obsession bedeviling Yinzer magpies, usually related to an illusory concern which will most certainly wreck the Steelers in the coming season. This year’s winner is the certitude of the ineptitude of the Steelers’ secondary.

Well, there’s no doubt that Carnell Lake’s DB corps could be upgraded. However, last year’s secondary was not as bad as the conventional “wisdom” says it was.

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The Good Guys: You Don’t Know Jack.

imageWhen it comes to my football heroes, I’m decidedly old school. The Good Guys series continues with my favorite player of all time — Jack Lambert.

Jack Lambert is not a typical Good Guy. He’s actually not a typical anything. He’s profane and a grouch. He’s certainly not a smiler like Hines or AB. Not a quiet man like Troy or Heath. He doesn’t attend all the Steelers’ events. He does not suffer fools gladly.

But Jack is authentic, honest. What you see is what you get. He was perhaps the greatest linebacker ever to play the game, certainly in the top five. As a teammate, he drove the defense and played every play with ultimate effort. He was obsessively focused on winning, never allowing his teammates any room to play with less than full intensity.

You didn’t mess with the Steelers or you dealt with Jack. Ask the Cowboys’ Cliff Harris, who taunted placekicker Roy Gerela in Super Bowl X. After Gerela pulled a 33 yard attempt, Harris tapped him on the side of the helmet and said “Way to go.” Lambert grabbed Harris by the helmet and pads and flung him to the ground.  Classic Lambert.

When it comes to hard-nose, smack ’em in the mouth defensive football, he is the gold standard. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of players I admire for what they do on the field and off, but watching No. 58 bury a ball carrier or sack a quarterback was the ultimate thrill. Read more

My Two Cents.

imageFinally, some real Steeler news with the advent of the free agent signing period. The worst part of the silly season is over, at least until the draft is over . . . .

My favorite signing so far is the three year contract for “Big Play” Willie Gay. Aside from being the team’s most consistent cornerback, he is as mentally tough as any player on the roster.

Once the favorite whipping boy of more critical fans. Gay not only survived the torrent of catcalls for his ouster, he has improved to the point where keeping him was critical to the continued improvement of the secondary. Ike Taylor might have had a lot to do with Willie’s mental toughness. . . .

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World Without Ben . . . Amen.

imageOn September 27, 2015, I was in the fourth row, behind the Steeler bench when Ben Roethlisberger was all but carried off the field in St. Louis. From my vantage point, I coud see Ben clearly. His expression showed strong emotions. Pain. Fear. Disappointment.

Undoubtedly, Ben feared the worst; we all did.  Rams’ safety Mark Barron had rolled up on Ben’s knee. It looked bad, real bad. I feared that Big Ben’s ACL was torn and he would be lost for the season. I still see that image in my mind’s eye.

Thankfully, perhaps miraculously, Ben missed only four games due to that injury. Nevertheless, I am haunted by that grim scene.

Last Wednesday, Benny turned 34. While his career is certainly not over, the sun is setting. His days as the engine that drives the Steeler offense are numbered. That scares me a bit. Read more

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