Monday, April 27, 2009

A Leap of Faith

Gotta admit: This is the first time in years that Joey Porter's Pit Bulls have seen not one of the Steelers' draftees play. Not one.

No, on second thought, we'll take that back. We saw most of their teams play, on television at least, except for UNLV and Arkansas State). But we can't say that any of the draftees made an impression -- not one played so spectacularly or with such ferocity that JPPBs bounced up and said, "Damn! Wish the Steelers could get that guy!" (Example: Hines Ward, a full 12 years ago, as a senior at Georgia, when the Bulldogs defeated the Florida Gators in that year's edition of The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.)

Yet we have faith. Why not? The Super Bowl Champion Steelers seem to know what they're doing. As predicted here (and everywhere else), the Steelers drafted pretty much to fill depth and future needs on the defensive line, the offensive line, at wide receiver and at cornerback. We don't know much about these new Steelers, but they look and sound pretty good, which is usually the case the day after draft weekend. Unless it's Jamain Stephens.

Ziggy Hood looks and sounds like a Steeler. So does Kraig Urbik, Sonny Harris and A.Q. Shipley. Mike "60 Minutes" Wallace might be just a guy who can run really, really fast (4.3 40-yard dash) -- we'll see if he can run routes and catch the ball as a receiver. If he contributes as much as Nate Washington did last year, we'll be happy. Joe Burnett looks like a tremendous kick-return guy -- we'll see if he can help out at cornerback.

Frank "The Tank" Summers may be our favorite. Listed at 5'9", 241 pounds, the powerful Summers has been described as The Mini-Bus, after Jerome Bettis. We saw some video highlights (which are selective, of course, and therefore can be deceptive [see: Walter Abercrombie, Greg Hawthorne]), and damn, Summers did look impressive: Powerful, fast, nimble, low center of gravity, soft hands for crucial third-down receptions. Summers could be the short-yardage specialist the Steelers have been seeking since The Bus retired. In uniform, he looks not so much like Bettis, but more like Sidney "The Thundering Bull" Thornton. Let's hope Summers has better hands than Thornton; and, more importantly, a better head than Sidney, also known as "The Blundering Fool," about whom Coach Chuck Noll infamously said, "Sidney has many problems, and they are great."

If Summers is as good as he looks on video, well, Carey Davis, it was nice knowing you, and thanks for your contributions.

Granted, the Steelers admittedly failed to get one of the centers (Eric Wood, Max Unger or Alex Mack) they were targeting, but maybe they got the center they need in Penn State's A.Q. Shipley, a Pittsburgh native and lifelong, passionate Steelers fan. He was tremendous for three years at Penn State, a majorly winning program against big-time competition. Hopefully, he'll be very bit as good against the MUCH bigger nose tackles in the even more competitive AFC North. It's always nice to see a local guy get drafted by his hometown team. In a local (KDKA-TV) television interview last night Shipley -- wearing a Steelers cap and tee-shirt, looked extremely proud and psyched ... he looked every bit as excited as George Costanza did after learning the Yankees had hired him as assistant traveling secretary. "Bustin', Jerry! I'm bustin'!!"

Anyway, if the Steelers are happy with their draft picks, so are Joey Porter's Pit Bulls. And, as always, it will be fun to see who the Steelers bring in as street free agents -- and whether any of those guys emerge and develop as well as, say, Fast Willie Parker or even last year's team Rookie of the Year, Patrick Bailey, linebacker and kick-coverage demon whom the Steelers brought in as an undrafted free agent out of Duke, of all places. Let's hope they do.

We can always have a little faith.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Rd Pick Player Pos College

1 32 Ziggy Hood DE Missouri
3 79 Kraig Urbik OG-OT Wisconsin
3 84 Mike Wallace WR Mississippi
3 96 Keenan Lewis CB Oregon State
5 168 Joe Burnett CB Central Florida
5 169 Frank Summers RB UNLV
6 205 Sonny Harris DT Oregon
7 226 A.Q. Shipley C Penn State
7 241 David Johnson TE Arkansas State