Monday, September 02, 2013

Z!!! Zoltan to the Rescue!

Dude, where's our punter?

He's in the house, in the person of 27-year-old Zoltan Mesko, the 6'4" Romanian who was waived by the Patriots on Saturday and picked up by the Steelers on Monday..

Zoltan will replace Drew Butler, whom the Steelers unceremoniously booted into unemployment on Labor Day.

The Steelers clearly believe the left-footed Zoltan provides an immediate upgrade over Butler, who was consistently inconsistent. Butler's hang time was less than so-so, he had a tendency to come up short in key situations, and he had a punt blocked last year in Tennessee (and also in this year's first preseason game).  Butler had lost the confidence of the Steelers, who practically begged veteran Brian Moorman to seize the job this training camp.  Moorman failed and Zoltan came available, so the job is his.

Zoltan did a good job during his three years as a Patriot, kicked well during the pre-season and was a favorite of fans and media in New England. The Patriots actually spent a fifth-round draft choice on Mesko in 2010, when The Wall Street Journal of all publications, ran a feature article calling him "The NFL's Most Interesting Man."

Pittsburgh fans will love Zoltan.  He may be from Romania by way of Cleveland and then the University of Michigan, but on Polish Hill, the ladies are already cooking haluski and, in Hungary, they're ecstatic, as you can read in this blog post: Meskó Zoltán Steeler lett (make sure to check the reader comments; they're wildly enthusiastic).

Why did the Patriots let him go? Reportedly it was money -- the Pats went with an undrafted rookie who will make considerably less than the $1.32 million salary that was due Zoltan this year.

Antwon Blake
A New Cornerback, too
The Steelers also signed 5'8" cornerback Antwon Blake, a 4.2/40  burner with a 39-inch vertical leap who has the look of special teams gunner written all over him (where he's not covered by tatoos).

Blake, who was undrafted out of UTEP, also could get opportunities to return kicks. He made Jacksonville's "final" roster only to be cut a couple days later. He replaces rookie corner Isaiah Green, another undrafted free agent.

The additions of Mesko and Blake make four roster changes since the "final" cuts were announced on Saturday. Additional changes may be in the works.

Now, however, with the addition of Zoltan and Blake, there's every chance the Steelers will win five games instead of three. What?

Labor Day & "Pittsburgh Work Ethic"

"Find a job you love, and you'll never have to go to work."
      -- Mom

"You made their railroads rails and bridges, you ran their driving wheels.
And the towers of the Empire State are lined with Homestead Steel.
The Monongahela valley no longer hears the roar.
There is cottonwood and sumac weeds inside the slab mill door.
And this mill won’t run no more."
-- from the song, "U.S. Steel," by Tom Russell

Labor Day is such a uniquely American holiday. 

For many people, Labor Day isn't even a "holiday" -- they go to work: on farms, in retail stores, convenience stores, in public safety, sports, entertainment, news, construction, mining, etc. These people have to work on Labor Day, whether they want to, or not.

Lots of people without jobs don't have that opportunity. Others choose to work -- self-employed entrepreneurs, artists, writers, musicians, etc.; they can't help themselves.

Granted, work is something you do, not talk about, but Labor Day is a good day to reflect on the nature and meaning of work. Work, any kind of work, represents opportunity. It puts food on the table; a roof over the head; toys for the dog.

Work can be enervating, energizing and inspiring. Or it can be soul-sucking; energy-depleting; drudgery. Work can be something you do because you want to do it -- because it gives you the satisfaction of a job well done, of achievement, of accomplishment, of something to be proud of. By work, we can make a difference; a better place of the world.

Mining: dirty, dark and dangerous
That holds true whether your work is "play" (pro sports), or entrepreneurship, craft, blue collar, white collar, gray collar, pink collar, sweat-stained collar, on the farm, in the factory, in the plant, at the waterworks, in the snakepit of politics, in the cloud of academia, or the gray of Cubicle City, Dilbert's world. Work is work.

One thing for sure: If you've ever been in deep coal mine, you'll appreciate working above ground.

There's such a thing as "Pittsburgh work ethic," and anybody from Pittsburgh knows what that is. You work.

If you're fortunate enough to have gainful employment, to have work that enables you to support yourself and the ones who rely on you, you're blessed, lucky, fortunate. Anybody who's been poor can relate. Work is good. It's good to have the opportunity to apply your talents and skills, your blood, muscle, corpuscles, neurons, hands, brainpower, energy. It's good to work up a sweat.

Even if you're unemployed, you have an opportunity: Your job is to get a job, or to make a job -- which more and more people are forced to do in this economy of self-employment.

Work is an opportunity. What you do with it is your business.

Labor Day: Time to get to work.