Your Pittsburgh Steelers begin minicamp today on the South Side. This is yet another early opportunity for Black and Gold brass to evaluate the talent of men in shorts. One thing is for certain; the Steelers that take the field this September in Denver will look a good bit different than the Steelers team that was last seen looking gutted and flat last January in Denver. The list of Steelers’ cut, hobbled, or unsigned is impressive: Farrior, Smith, Hampton, Kemoeatu, MenDINGhall, Ward, and Hoke to name more than a few. Pottsie, Big Snack, Big Juicy, Hokie, and Mighty Mouse.; all either gone, sidelined or floating in NFL purgatory.
Another thing to be certain of is that youth will be served. Prior to the draft, Kevin Colbert was quoted as saying that in the modern NFL a team cannot afford to miss on its first, second, or third draft picks. The General Manager of the Steelers is going to get a chance to stand behind those words sooner rather than later. There is a lot of noise in the local and national football media about David DeCastro and Mike Adams having a ‘chance’ to ‘compete’ for a starting job on the Steelers offensive line. I’m going on record here to say their ‘chances’ are pretty damn good seeing as how their ‘competition’ has either been jettisoned (Kemoeatu) or is injured AND unsigned (Starks). Last season’s incumbents have maxed out their term limits and the junior senators are ready to lay down the law! (Insert gavel banging noise here)
For the Steelers’ coaching staff it’s not so much about evaluating DeCastro and Adams as it is preparing them to be NFL starters. There will be no season or two studying at the foot of the master until ready here, Grasshopper. It’s baptism by fire!! At least DeCastro and Adams won’t be complaining about the differences between Todd Haley’s offense and that of their old buddy, BA’s. The upside of both of these rookies is that they played excellently at the highest levels of college football. The cause for concern here is that they ain’t playing college football anymore. The neophytes will be thrown into action on a line that also includes the newly displaced Willie Colon, the former right tackle now serving as your left guard. Real good thing them O linemen do so good on that there Wonderlic test. No pressure men. Only EVERYBODY is watching.
All that attention getting paid to the offensive line, the offensive coordinator, and sporadically offensive quarterback, would seem to bode well for the Steelers third round draft pick. Sean Spence comes to the NFL from the Miami Hurricanes, a school noted for supplying the professional league with more than a few linebackers over the years. Notable Miami linebackers to have made headlines in the NFL: Ray (stabby) Lewis, Ted (The Mad Stork) Hendricks, and Jonathan (insert bounty reference here) Vilma. Previous list aside, Spence is ultra talented and smart. Plus, he is not under the same pressure and scrutiny as the rookie linemen are. Spence will benefit from being tutored by Larry Foote and Lawrence Timmons. Plus + Plus, he is playing on a defense that is more than solid and can be downright dominating ten to twelve weeks a year. Plus + Plus + Plus, Spence has the added bonus of position coach Kevin Butler and defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau.
There’s Kevin Colbert’s top three picks. Could this draft rival the class of ’74? That would be a stretch but this group needs to be on their game now.