Saturday, January 21, 2006

All-Star Tribute to Matt Kranchick

Twelve hours to go 'til kickoff in the Mile High City and ya can't help but wonder where Matt Kranchick will be watchin' the AFC Championship tilt.

Based on the name alone, "Matt Kranchick" sounds like an 11- or 12-year-old who won his age division of a Punt, Pass & Kick competition during halftime of a game at Heinz Field.

But, when we jog our memory, we suddenly remember that "Matt Kranchick" is not only the name of an adult NFL player, but a real Steeler no less ... a Steeler who may be in line to receive a (partial) share of playoff loot ... a little-known Steeler TE (who may or may not have the best hands in the Kranchick Clan) ... but, a player, nevertheless, who showed an indominable spirit when he caught that 6-yard, dump-off pass from Tommy Maddox in that ESPN Sunday-nighter before he had "his legs cut out from underneath him" by that Cleveland Browns DB.

That game vs. BrownsTown was frustrating (and annoying) on so many levels, notwithstanding Hines Ward making Career Reception #538 (breaking John Stallworth's team record of 537) before he hauled in that perfectly-thrown, flanker-reverse-option pass from Antwaan Randle El for a 50-yd. TD.

Many people will choose to remember that TD pass ... or the manner in which Verron Haynes "took ownership" of that 5-play, 29-yd. TD march (on 5 consecutive snaps, it was Haynes for 20, Haynes for minus-1, Haynes for 5, Haynes for minus-5, Haynes for the 10-yd. TD which made the score 34-14).

However, some of us will remember that Matt Kranchick got a first-hand look at how the Browns (intentionally?) broke Charlie Batch's hand on that QB-sneak TD moments before halftime ... or that Dilfer pass in the final 2 minutes which Troy Polamalu was all set to pick off and run back for a 45- or 50-yard TD which would've been the punctuation mark on a 41-14 victory ... only Polamalu clanked it and the tip-drill rebound turned it a big-gainer which set up the Browns for a TD in the final 30 seconds which made the score semi-respectable, dammit, dammit, dammit ...

Let's not kid ourselves: If Matt Kranchick runs an 8-yd. pattern on 3rd-n'-7 -- of if "Kranny" (or "Chicky") demonstrates a quality shake-n'-bake juke to enhance his YAC (yds. after catch) -- the submarine-style tackle by that DB (Mickens ... whoever he is) isn't a big deal because it's a first down, anyway ... which means that Tommy Maddox doesn't take the delay of game penalty by attempting the draw Cleveland offsides on 4th-n'-1 ... which means that the FG maybe doesn't get blocked and returned for a TD ... and instead looking at a 27-14 lead with 4-1/2 minutes to play maybe it's 34-7 with 2:33 remaining.

Damn you, Matt Kranchick and your one 6-yard reception in 2005.
It's nuthin' to be proud of.
Just remember, tomorrow at Invesco ... there'll be no pass plays designed for Ol' Number 88.

Which reminds us: Why was Kranchick allowed to wear Swannie's non-retired #88, anyway?

True ... the Steelers have officially retired only Ernie Stautner's #70, but, seriously ... Matt Kranchick, as an NFL tight end, could've chosen the #87 which was worn with such TE distinction by TE Larry Brown (before he became a RT wearin' #79) and TE Mark Bruener or the #89 which Bennie Cunningham wore "back in the day" (jersey Nos. 80 thru 86 are occupied, so, no sale there).

We could ask the same question re: Randle El wearing Stallworth's #82, yet, Steeler Nation seems more inclined to give Antwaan the benefit of the doubt because he has displayed an actual, tangible talent level.

All that Matt Kranchick has is a 4th-quarter, 6-yard, dump-off from a third-string QB (who'd actually be the fourth-string QB if Maddox was pitted against Randle El in a skills competition ... sorry to bring that up, 2002 NFL Comeback Player of the Year ... ).

LOOK ... Matt Kranchick isn't the first player in Steelers' history to finish a season with ONE reception. Lotsa guys have done it.

And, unless he makes a few receptions next year while riding a unicycle and eating a nectarine, Kranchick will go down as one of the most-obscure TE's in Steeler history, ranking somewhere between John Farquhar (whose only reception during his brief time in Pittsburgh -- in '96 -- was a 2-pt. conversion pass from Kordell Stewart which made the score 21-14 during the Steelers' 42-14 playoff win over the Colts >>> for those of us who saw him clank many catchable passes at Menlo School in the late-'80s, we wept when we saw that championship grab during a non-championship segment) and, quite possibly, Chris Kolodziejski (whose name we could never quite pronounce well enough to do justice to a 2nd-rnd. draft pick, who, now, as it turns out, is currently the president of a skin-care company based in Camarillo, CA) and his whopping 5 receptions in '84.

After last week's insane victory in the RCA Dome, it seems doubtful that the Steelers need to draw inspiration from any white-boy receiver named Kranchick or Farquhar or Kolodziejski.

Unless Weegie Thompson is available ...

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