Labriola On

Labriola on stiff-arms, drafting late

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Ready or not, here it comes:*

  • The plan all along was to move on with the younger guys both at linebacker and along the defensive line. But stuff happens during the course of an NFL season, and James Harrison and Brett Keisel are byproducts of stuff that took place in the early stages of the development of the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • It's strange to contend the Steelers were lucky, first when some of their defensive linemen weren't what they had hoped they'd be coming out of the preseason, and then when they had to find somebody to help at outside linebacker after a starter was injured, but just because it's strange doesn't mean it's not true.
  • In the late 1980s, this was said about what having Mike Webster on the roster meant to the rest of the team: "It's like walking down a dark alley carrying a big stick." Harrison is providing some of that to these Steelers. As Coach Mike Tomlin explained it, "People get really comfortable in James' presence. James is the type of guy you like having on your football team and on your side in a lot of situations."
  • Such as when you're in a street fight and a game against the Ravens breaks out.
  • There was nothing in the scouting report the Steelers did on Antonio Brown that mentioned his stiff-arm, but that old-school technique really has become a weapon for him. Ravens safety Will Hill got a taste of Brown's right arm during a 54-yard catch-and-run early in the fourth quarter that gave the Steelers a 29-10 lead over the Ravens last Sunday night. The art of the stiff-arm isn't necessarily taught, but more often it's a skill that develops over time. At this stage of his career, Brown's is a weapon.
  • What was mentioned in the scouting report on Brown was how much he loved returning kicks and how lethal he was in the open field. Just to supply some statistics to support that opinion: In three years at Central Michigan, Brown scored 22 touchdowns via rushing, receiving, passing, punt returns, and kickoff returns. He had touchdowns of 55, 75 and 75 yards on punt returns; of 95 and 90 yards on kickoff returns; and of 70, 82, 79 and 93 on receptions.
  • One more. Brown had to spend part of a year at a prep school called North Carolina Tech before he attended Central Michigan. He appeared in five games for North Carolina Tech, during which he rushed for 451 yards and 13 touchdowns; passed for 1,247 yards and 11 touchdowns; returned 11 punts for touchdowns; and returned six kickoffs for touchdowns. Just to be clear, in five games he scored 40 touchdowns himself and passed for another 11.
  • Antonio Brown was a sixth-round pick, by the way, for all of those in the audience who spent the past couple of months screaming for Kevin Colbert's scalp.
  • From the news the other day came this item: The Green Bay Packers waived offensive tackle Derrek Sherrod, their No. 1 pick in 2011. That year, 2011, is when the Packers were coming off their win in Super Bowl XLV and were drafting last as a result. The point being that picking 32nd in every round is no surefire way to re-stock your roster. What the Packers now have left from their 10-player 2011 draft class are wide receiver Randall Cobb, a starter opposite Jordy Nelson, and backup cornerback Davon House, who has two interceptions in his 35 career NFL games.
  • Here is a list of the players drafted by the defending Super Bowl champions from 2006-12, which serves to show how difficult picking last actually is. In 2006, the Steelers got Santonio Holmes, who helped them win another championship two years later, and a starting guard in Willie Colon, but both of those guys moved on to other teams. The Indianapolis Colts have nothing left from their 2007 draft, a group headed by wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez and tackle Tony Ugoh. In 2009, the Steelers' drafted Ziggy Hood, Kraig Urbik, Mike Wallace, and Keenan Lewis; Wallace and Lewis both remain quality starters, while Urbik and Hood remain reserves in the league, albeit all of them for other teams. In 2010, the Saints hit on Jimmy Graham in the third round but got little else. The Packers already have been covered. In 2012, the Giants got starting receiver Rueben Randle on the second round and backup cornerback Jayron Hosley on the third, but No. 1 pick David Wilson retired because of recurring spinal injuries and is pursuing a career in track and field.

The Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the game against the New York Jets.

  • The guys responsible for that Packers draft – General Manager Mark Murphy and Coach Mike McCarthy – both recently signed contract extensions. The guy who handled that Colts' draft – Bill Polian – will be voted on by the Pro Football Hall of Fame board of selectors in late January to be included in the Class of 2015.
  • When you look at all of the names, the team that did the best job of drafting after winning a recent Super Bowl was the Steelers. When it comes to the NFL Draft, people, everybody makes mistakes.
  • Some more perspective: Since 2007, the year the Steelers hired Mike Tomlin to be their coach, the only teams with better regular season records than the Steelers' 77-44 are New England at 95-26, Green Bay at 79-40-1, and Indianapolis at 78-42. The Steelers and the Packers are the teams to win championships during that span; the Steelers and Patriots both played in two Super Bowls.
  • See, it makes no sense to fire the coach, either.
  • With Troy Polamalu out this week and likely beyond with a sprained knee, it would have been a perfect opportunity for Shamarko Thomas to step in and maybe put into practice some of the things he learned while working out with Troy during the summer. But the perfect opportunity has turned into a lost opportunity, because Thomas also is out, with a hamstring injury.
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