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On No. 1s signing, a radical idea for PATs

Ready or not, here it comes:

  • So, the Steelers got their first-round draft pick signed last week. Bud Dupree signed the standard rookie contract – four years with a team option for a fifth – and his deal was reported to contain a $5 million signing bonus for the player who was the 22nd overall selection of the draft.

Steelers No. 1 draft pick Bud Dupree arrived in Pittsburgh in time to take part in the team's final minicamp practice.

  • So, the Steelers got their first-round draft pick signed last week – and the date was May 14. When Dupree signed his rookie contract, the start of OTAs was still 12 days away. The start of OTAs is almost a month before minicamp, which is more than a month before the start of training camp.
  • And the Steelers are not alone in this trend. By May 17, more than 70 percent of the entire 2015 draft class had signed rookie contracts with their respective teams.
  • To put the Steelers' signing of Dupree on May 14 in a little perspective, Rod Woodson didn't sign his rookie contract as the Steelers' No. 1 draft pick in 1987 until Oct. 28, just about three full months AFTER training camp opened that year. Tim Worley missed a month of training camp in 1989 before signing his rookie contract; Eric Green missed about seven weeks, which took him into the regular season before he signed in 1990. Mark Bruener missed a week in 1995; Alan Faneca missed nine days in 1998.
  • The last Steelers first-round pick to sign after training camp opened was Ben Roethlisberger, who missed four days before signing his rookie contract in 2004. Since then, every Steelers No. 1 pick has been under contract in time for the start of training camp.
  • Dupree is the first Steelers No. 1 pick to sign before the start of OTAs.
  • There are many things the NFL gets wrong, but in the latest CBA the provisions put in place that streamlined the signing process for rookie draft picks in a way that has eliminated training camp holdouts represented real progress.
  • Speaking of things the NFL got wrong, this "revision" to the extra point, to me at least, doesn't seem to meet the standard of making it more of a football play and therefore increasing the fans' interest in it. After fooling around with various ideas for months, what the NFL decided upon – at least for the 2015 season – is that the one-point PAT now will have the ball snapped from the 15-yard line, while teams electing to try a two-point conversion still will snap the ball from the 2-yard line.
  • So instead of a 20-yard kick, which NFL specialists were converting at 99 percent, it becomes about a 33-yard kick, which NFL specialists convert at 94 percent.
  • Why even bother with such a minor tweak? If injecting excitement into the extra point was the goal, how about this: The 11 players on the field when a team scores a touchdown are the same 11 who must be on the field for the conversion attempt, whether it be a placement kick or an attempt for two points, with either try coming from the 2-yard line.
  • If a team thinks somebody on its offense can kick it between the uprights, have at it. If not, go for two.
  • It would be especially interesting if a team returns a kick for a touchdown, because again, those are the same 11 who would be required to be on the field for the conversion.
  • Imagine a pick-six. Same 11 on the field for the conversion attempt.
  • This also could require some strategic planning. Such as this situation: Your team is trailing, 28-21, late in the fourth quarter when the opponent attempts a pass that is intercepted by your defense. As the defensive player is racing toward the goal line, does he step out of bounds at the 1-yard line to get the offense on the field so that after the touchdown the team would have a representative 11 for the conversion attempt?
  • Or does he complete the play by scoring the touchdown and then hope there are three guys on that defense who can snap, hold, and kick the extra point?
  • Betcha fewer people would head for the refrigerator if what they would miss would be a defensive unit lining up for a conversion, down 28-27, late in the fourth quarter. Certainly fewer than the number of people who would risk that trip if an NFL placekicker was eyeing the goalposts from the 23-yard line.
  • The Steelers were awarded Devin Gardner off waivers last week, and the immediate reaction by many in the blogosphere was that the team was interested in recreating the 'slash' role made famous in 1995 by Kordell Stewart.
  • Actually, this is more similar to the team drafting Antwaan Randle El in 2002.
  • Stewart was drafted by the Steelers to play quarterback, and he ended up as a wide receiver as a rookie when injuries left the team thin at the position and he volunteered to help out there during practice since he was doing nothing as the fourth quarterback on the roster. When Bill Cowher saw how much trouble his defensive backs were having trying to cover Stewart during practice, 'slash' was created.
  • Gardner is not seen as a quarterback prospect at the NFL level, much in the same way Randle El was not when he was coming out of Indiana. Gardner is no Randle El, however, either as a receiver or a kick returner. He is nothing more a project right now who intrigued the Steelers with his size (6-foot-4, 216 pounds) and will be tried at receiver.
  • "Tried at receiver" is the key phrase, because Gardner is guaranteed nothing.
  • Not even an invitation to Saint Vincent College.
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