Labriola On

Labriola on Farrior, Holmes, Glick, Bettis

INDIANAPOLIS – Ready or not, here it comes:

  • This is NFL Scouting Combine week, and what a media event it has become. The league issued 1,052 credentials to this Combine, and even though this number pales in comparison to the 6,000-plus media credentials issued for a Super Bowl, it bears repeating that there is no actual football played at the Combine. Not even football that doesn't count in the standings.
  • And the media covering the Combine aren't even permitted to watch any of the on-field drills, unless they're watching them on a television tuned to NFL Network.
  • The Combine began on Feb. 17, and the day before marked the start of the period when teams are able to designate franchise or transition players. The deadline is 4 p.m. on March 2, and the only player on whom the Steelers would consider such a move is Jason Worilds, who in fact played the 2014 season under the transition designation of $9.754 million.
  • There always is angst among the fan base when a significant player on their favorite team is about to hit free agency, and Worilds certainly qualifies as a significant player. While Steelers President Art Rooney II and General Manager Kevin Colbert both have said that using the franchise or transition designations on Worilds remains a possibility, my sense is they won't.
  • That means unless Worilds signs a new contract before March 10, he will hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent, and I expect a segment of Steelers Nation to go directly to the panic button.
  • Sometimes though, things have a way of working out, even in the face of what seems to be a disaster. Take 2002, for example. The Steelers were locked in negotiations with starting inside linebacker Earl Holmes, a key ingredient in their 2001 defense that had ranked No. 1 in the NFL. Holmes, a free agent, decided the Steelers offer wasn't good enough, and when he signed with the Cleveland Browns, the Steelers were forced to look for a replacement.

The top photos of former LB James Farrior.

  • The replacement? James Farrior.
  • Earl Holmes could play more than just a little bit, but James Farrior was an upgrade, even if not very many Steelers fans realized it at the time. Turned out to be quite the consolation prize.
  • Losing a player in free agency is rarely the disaster it's perceived to be.
  • Last week the announcement was made that the Steelers would face the Minnesota Vikings in the Hall of Fame Game on Sunday, Aug. 9. It's no coincidence the Steelers were "invited" to play in the Hall of Fame Game the same year as one of the franchise's most beloved players – Jerome Bettis – is enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
  • So I guess Bettis is the one to blame for an extra preseason game, which also means an extra week in the Saint Vincent College dormitories.
  • Because Labor Day falls on Sept. 7 this year, the first weekend of the NFL season is Sept. 13-14, which by extension means the first regular weekend of the preseason is Aug. 14-16. Based on the CBA rule mandating that teams cannot report to training camp more than 15 days before their first preseason game, the Steelers would have been going to Latrobe around Aug. 1. Now, I'm guessing the run-test will be on Friday, July 24.

Jerome Bettis and his family visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

  • This is your fault, Jerome.
  • Make the teams chosen for the Hall of Fame Game report to training camp earlier, OK, but there is no need to make them play five preseason games. If the NFL wants to have a game in conjunction with its annual induction ceremony, then make up the financial difference to the two teams chosen and keep everybody's preseason schedule at four that don't count in the standings.
  • On Feb. 12, Gary Glick, 84, died at his home in Fort Collins, Colorado, following a stroke. Through no fault of his own, Glick came to personify the Steelers ineptitude in the annual NFL Draft before the arrival of Chuck Noll in 1969. For a period from 1947-58, the NFL had something called a bonus pick, which it awarded to teams on a revolving basis. The bonus pick in essence was the first overall pick in each draft.
  • The Steelers' turn at the bonus pick came in 1956, and they used it on Colorado A&M's Gary Glick. The ninth pick of the same draft was a halfback from nearby Penn State named Lenny Moore, and other Hall of Famers in the same draft class included Forrest Gregg and Sam Huff.
  • That's how a franchise goes through its first 39 years of existence without winning so much as a division championship.
  • By the way, there are 32 teams in the NFL, and two play in the Hall of Fame Game every year. That should work out to once every 16 years per team. The Steelers last played in the Hall of Fame Game in 2007, which is not 16 years ago.
  • Not to be bitter.
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