Labriola On

Labriola on 5, 1st overall, 1st ever

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Ready or not, here it comes:*

  • The Steelers' preseason schedule was announced yesterday, and even though I crossed my fingers and toes, and rubbed my rabbit's foot for a solid hour, it still was made up of five games.
  • I know the Steelers had been selected to play in the Hall of Fame Game – largely the result of Jerome Bettis being a part of the Class of 2015 – but when it comes to the idea of five preseason games I'm not about to give up hope for a miracle until all hope is lost.
  • All hope is lost.
  • The idea of the league packaging a preseason game into the weekend that also includes the enshrinement of a given year's Hall of Fame class makes a lot of sense. What doesn't make sense is making it the fifth preseason game for two teams every summer.
  • All of the preseason game revenue is shared anyway, and so all the league would have to do is throw a little bit extra into the pot to keep everyone whole. OR, everybody else in the league could pony up a little bit for the privilege of NOT HAVING TO PLAY five preseason games in a particular summer.
  • This point has been made here before, but if the Hall of Fame Game is to be a shared "experience" for all of the teams in the league, and since there are 32 teams, how is it the Steelers will be making their second appearance in Canton since 2007. That arithmetic doesn't add up.
  • There can be value – for certain teams at certain stages of development – in having some extra time at training camp, especially in this era of no two-a-days and limited practices in pads during the regular season. But there really is no value in a fifth preseason game, because the guys on the field through most of the second half of the Hall of Fame Game are going to be guys who don't make a 53-man roster.
  • And with this particular Steelers team this particular preseason, the extra practice might be more helpful than an extra game, because guys such as Jarvis Jones and Shamarko Thomas and Cortez Allen – players upon whom the team will be depending in 2015 – could be well-served by extra practice where they could work on their craft.
  • With the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select …
  • What if the Steelers held the first overall pick of this upcoming draft? Who do you pick, given the Steelers' team as it's currently constituted? And no trading.
  • Granted, this is a meaningless exercise, given that the Steelers don't have the first overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, nor would a team made up of the kind of players the Steelers currently have on their roster – Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell, Maurkice Pouncey, Cam Heyward, et.al. – be in the position of having the first overall pick in a draft (remember, no trading). But let's play anyway.
  • Imagine adding Kevin White or Amari Cooper to a corps of receivers already including Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, and Martavis Bryant. Or adding the best of the butt-kicking offensive lineman to Mike Munchak's current group. Or Leonard Williams, the defensive lineman who is being called the best overall player in this draft class by far.
  • OK, enough beating around the bush. My pick would be Trae Waynes, the cornerback from Michigan State. Best cornerback in the draft, and this is a draft where I believe the Steelers need to address that position with multiple picks. Multiple, meaning at last two.
  • Generally, I would lean toward a dynamic pass rusher over a top cornerback, but the Steelers have spent recent No. 1 picks on playmaking linebackers – Jarvis Jones, Ryan Shazier, even Lawrence Timmons – and so I would go with the best cornerback available for this Steelers team at this stage of its development.
  • This idea of rookies being unable to contribute right away on defense for the Steelers is a myth created by a set of circumstances that had little to do with rookies being unable to contribute right away on defense for the Steelers.
  • For example, Cam Heyward didn't contribute much as a rookie on defense for the Steelers, because the other guys at his position in 2010 were Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel, and Casey Hampton, and the Steelers were coming off a Super Bowl appearance. This year, the situation with regard to a rookie cornerback, for example, would be coming to a team that finished No. 27 in the NFL in pass defense, and the players ahead of him at the position are Will Gay, a big question mark in Cortez Allen, and some other young veterans who can be referred to as journeymen. Big difference.
  • I'm sure you're aware that the NFL has hired its first female official. Her name is Sarah Thomas, and she is one of nine new officials hired by the league this year to be added to the 13 new officials hired by the league last year. This means that in two years, the group of NFL officials has changed by almost 20 percent (22 of 119).
  • Nice start, but more work needs to be done if the actual goal is to get rid of the underperformers.
  • As to the idea of hiring females as NFL officials, I'm in favor of adding to the pool because it's not as though the ranks are overflowing with qualified men. Sarah Thomas cannot be worse than Bill Leavy or Peter Morelli, just to pick two. She cannot.
  • Also saw how the NFL took Sarah Thomas on a media tour the other day. Print, network television, all the big-shots. Scott Pelley from CBS News. Robin Roberts from ABC's Good Morning America. Peter King.
  • Just try getting some face time with Thomas, or any other NFL official for that matter, after he/she blows a call in a game. No media tours then.
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