Friday, March 02, 2007

Ode to J-Peazy

When the salary-cap, guillotine blade comes zipping downward, well ... there's not much to do except watch n' see which heads land in the basket.
Was it really only a mere six months ago when Joey Porter was wearing shoulder pads -- but no #55 Steelers jersey -- as he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated's pro football preview edition?
Well, yesterday, J-Peazy's head landed in the basket.
SI Cover Jinx?

This is either a troubling time for the Steel Curtain LB corps -- or it's a time when those of us who are lieutenants in "The Clint Kriewaldt Fan Club" pump our fists and yell, "Finally! The time has come for Ol' Number 57 to showcase his abilities as something more than a mere special-teams maverick!"

We assume that the Black N' Gold gameplan calls for Farrior, Foote, Haggans and Player X to be vital cogs in the vaunted 3-4 alignment/zone-blitz scheme which Dick LeBeau covets.
Now, the hunt is on for that "Player X."
None of us is really sure if that player might be James Harrison -- who's had some high points during '04-'06 -- or if perhaps it's Rian Wallace, the LB who warmed our hearts when he picked off K.C.'s Brodie Croyle late in the game and returned the INT for a TD during the 45-7 romp.

Prior to that moment, there had NEVER been an occasion in the history of the NFL when a LB named "Rian" had an INT TD off of a QB named "Brodie" (who wasn't John Brodie).
And, prior to the arrival of Joey Porter, never in the Steelers' storied history had there been a linebacker who'd had a bullet removed from his butt cheek.
That's how ya become a "bad ass," it seems -- although, in Joey's case, it really was a matter of talkin' smack and then backin' it up. Active ... aggressive ... a real disrupter.

In the pantheon of great Steeler linebackers (of which there've been many), it's difficult to know where to rank J-Peazy.
In the all-time Steeler team which exists in our Black N' Gold hearts, the first-team trio is probably OLB Ham, MLB Lambert, OLB Lloyd ... and the second-stringers appear to be Farrior, Cole and Gildon.
Third-string on the depth chart appears to be Russell, Kirkland and Merriweather -- which isn't all that bad because, for all you kids who prefer a 3-4 to a 4-3 scheme, we could go w/ a starting four of OLB Ham, ILB Lambert, ILB Farrior and OLB Lloyd w/ backups Cole, Gildon, Russell and Kirkland.
THAT works -- albeit it's a mighty tough call leaving Merriweather out of the two-deep mix.

If nothing else, J-Peazy was the loudest LB -- ironic, when you consider that the last time we saw J-Peazy, he was standing at midfield for the coin toss at the beginning of OT in the season finale in Cinshitnati.
Even though the on-field sounds were barely audible, we knew that the Steelers won the coin flip because J-Peazy offered his famous bark when the coin flipped in the Steelers' favor.
And that was the last we saw (or heard) of Joe -- because on the third play of OT, Santonio Holmes took that short pass from B-Roth and turned it into a 67-yard TD.
Game over.
The Steeler defense never took the field.

Now, J-Peazy is what they call "a cap casualty." The vagaries of the salary cap paradigm were explained aptly this morning by Steve Czaban on FSR's "The First Team" when he called the process "self-correcting."
In other words, "We like you -- but we don't like you AT THAT PRICE."

Say it ain't so, Joe.

Since the Steelers' season ended on New Year's Eve with Santonio's jaunt through the Bengals' defense ("Who dey gonna beat them Bengals?!"), the first two months of 2007 have provided great upheavel on the north bank of the Monongahela.
In mostly-chronological order, we've seen:

** Running backs coach Dick Hoak ending his 45-year relationship with the team the day after New Year's Day
** Cowher Power quitting two days later
** The Whiz taking his offensive-coordinator wizardry to Arizona (and taking OL coach Russ Grimm with him)
** Mike Tomlin winning "The New Steelers Head Coach" sweepstakes
** Secondary coach Darren Perry quitting
** Ken Anderson replacing Mark Whipple as QBs coach
** Dick LeBeau retaining his role as D-coordinator for what will be his 49th year in the NFL
** Receivers coach Bruce Arians getting elevated to O-coordinator
** Center Jeff Hartings retiring ...

Those Kodak moments spanned the month of January, spilling into the first weekend of Feb. when Hartings' retirement was reported on Super Bowl weekend.
Matters were relatively run-of-the-(steel)-mill in Feb. -- that is, until last week when the Times Union of Albany, N.Y. reported that Dr. Richard Rydze, a Steelers' team doctor, was questioned last month re: a $150,000 purchase of testosterone and human growth hormone.

Now, though, the owners of jerseys w/ a large, white 55 on the front and back w/ a gold PORTER across the back are feeling conflicted, considering Porter's tenure as a 7-year starter ('00-'06).
Yet, owners of a #55 Porter jersey might be too young to remember the Steeler Linebacker Days of yore when Andy Russell hanged up his #34 following the '76 season and we all had to transition to veteran Loren Toews and a pair of rookies -- Robin Cole (who pre-dated Brian Urlacher by 20 years as a super-stud New Mexico Lobo LB) and Dennis "Dirt" Winston -- to assume RLB duties next to MLB Lambert and LLB Ham.

When Ham retired following the '82 season, we all had to transition to a second-year stalwart named Mike Merriweather, two prospects from the '81 draft -- Bryan Hinkle (6th round) and David Little (7th round) -- and a rookie named Todd Seabaugh, who, inexplicably, was allowed to wear Ham's #59 during his two seasons spent w/ the Steelers ('83 season on I.R.).

Everybody forgets that Little and Hinkle were '81 Steeler draftees who played 12 years in Steeltown and who spent eight seasons together as starting-LB sidekicks ('84 thru '91).
And, just about everybody forgets that David Little -- Hall of Famer Larry Little's "little" brother -- was the Steelers' leading tackler in five of the six seasons, '85 thru '90.
Major props, #50!

Actually, '84 was an interesting season in the sense that Lambert -- after nine consecutive Pro Bowl seasons -- injured his toe and forced some reshuffling by new defensive coordinator, Tony Dungy, who had Cole and Little as inside backers and Merriweather and Hinkle on the outside.
Cole and Merriweather were Pro Bowl performers as the New Steel Curtain advanced to the AFC Championship Game (only to get torched by Marino in Miami .. sad because a more-favorable outcome would've been seeing the Pittsburgh-native gettin' body-slammed by #56 and #57, rather than Dan having the last laugh against Noll for not drafting him ... ).

Seabaugh, meanwhile, spent '84 off of I.R., and still wearing his #59, only not in many game-action situations.
Although '84 marked the end of Seabaugh's days in Pittsburgh (and the NFL ... because Seattle never tendered him a contract to make him "the Seahawks' Seabaugh"), he can always brag to family, friends and/or life partners that HE was the last player (ever?) to wear #59 for the Steelers.

Then there was "The Hardy Nickerson Era" when Hardy was allowed to wear the #54 previously worn by Marv Kellum and Zack Valentine.
That was simply the wrong thing to do.

As it stands, J-Peazy won't be cryin' a river -- and we won't be cryin' a river for him.
And, hence, the river HE doesn't cry and the river WE don't cry will not meet at a "confluence" and become one river, a la the Allegheny and Monongahela forming the mighty Ohio.
Thank you, "cap-ologists."

Look ... some of us liked, but didn't necessarily love, J-Peazy .. and "not at THAT price."
Also, no one's anxious to burn the #55 OLSAVSKY jerseys hanging in our closets, just as we weren't willing to trash our #55 KOLB jerseys for the hell of it.
Jerry Olsavsky gave us nine quality seasons ('89-'97), although Jon Kolb gave us a little more than that ... 13 years as a player ('69-'81) and 10 years as an assistant to Noll ('82-'91).

See? #55 ain't necessarily Joey, but maybe more Jerry or Jon.
People have to decide for themselves.

We don't know if Clint Kriewaldt will emerge as the aforementioned Player X (not likely, we reckon) to either be the #57 who makes us forget #57 Merriweather and the LB who blends in with Farrior, Foote and Haggans.
What Steeler fans remember is that this isn't the first time that a Super Bowl LB quartet has been deconstructed.
The SB 30 foursome -- ROLB Greg Lloyd, RILB Chad Brown, LILB Levon Kirkland and LOLB Kevin Greene were stripped, piece by piece.
The evolution and re-evolution went like this:

KEVIN GREENE -- Pro Bowl performer in two -- '94 and '95 -- of his three seasons in Steel Town ... went to Carolina following the '95 season
CHAD BROWN -- Pro Bowler in '96 ... went to Seattle following that season .. returned to Pittsburgh in '06
GREG LLOYD -- workout freak went to 5 consecutive Pro Bowls in '91 thru '95 seasons ... departed following '97 season, played for Carolina in '98
LEVON KIRKLAND -- team MVP in '98 and '99 moved on to Seattle following the '00 season
EARL HOLMES -- leader in tackles went to Detroit following the '01 season
JASON GILDON -- 10-year vet, team's all-time leader in sacks, Pro Bowler in '00, '01, '02 ... dumped after the '03 season ... caught on as part-timer in Jacksonville in '04
KENDRELL BELL -- all-world rookie stud in '01, oft-injured thereafter, went to Kansas City following the '04 season
JOEY PORTER -- 7-year starter ... Pro Bowls in '02, '04, '05 ... gone after '06 season

As the roster indicates, the '97 AFC Championship Game at Three Rivers featured quartet of: ROLB Lloyd, RILB Holmes, LILB Kirkland and LOLB Gildon -- Lloyd and Greene were Pro Bowlers.
And the '01 AFC Championship Game at Heinz featured: ROLB Porter, RILB Bell, LILB Holmes and LOLB Gildon -- Bell and Gildon were Pro Bowlers.
Of course, our SB XL foursome was: ROLB Porter, RILB Foote, LILB Farrior, LOLB Haggans -- Porter was a Pro Bowler for the third time in four years; Farrior was an All-Pro the year before

History lessons aside, this might be the perfect opportunity for Clint Kriewaldt to avenge the death of Todd Seabaugh.
In other Steeler news, today Dan Patrick had B-Roth (some call him "Big Ben") as a guest on his national radio show, "live!" from Disney World ... on this, B-Roth's 25th birthday.
After a horrifically-off-key rendition of "Happy Birthday" from the gathering, Dee Pee conducted a brief (5 minutes or so) interview.
Dee Pee: "What does Ben Roethlisberger buy himself for his birthday?"
Heckler (whose wisecrack was faintly picked up by the microphone): "A new mortocycle!"

Why you be hatin'?
Speakin' of hatin', there were some recent quotes attributed to The Whiz wherein he might've questioned B-Roth's capacities following the two hospital events -- first, the motor-scooter-mishap surgery and the appendectomy.

When asked about it, B-Roth didn't know if that was, as he said, "a dig at me or what."
No worries, Ben.

If Denny Green couldn't win in Phoenix with receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald and a RB named "Edge" (not to mention an early-season switch to ex-Steeler QB Mike Kruczek as the O-coordinator), what chance has Whiz?

Well, it's not about the X's and the O's ... it's about the Willies and the Joes.
And, now Pittsburgh's roster is one Joe shorter now.

B-Roth wasn't asked about the axing of J-Peazy, although he did mention the five metal plates tucked between his skull and his flesh.
"My face is stronger than anyone's here."

That's when we all envision Schwarzenegger in the "Terminator" movies.
Ben needs the glowing red eye, though.

Something that B-Roth did share (sort of) was an anecdote of how one teammate handled Cowher's legendary saliva-spraying tendencies. All that Ben offered in the way of "a name" was that it was an ex-teammate (Ben intimated that it was a QB who was there when Ben arrived ... one whom Cowher did not get along with ... HELLO, TOMMY MADDOX!!!).

B-Roth never said the name, but the hints seemed adequate.
It had to be the Tommy Gun because Brian St. Pierre was the practice-squad QB when Ben arrived ... then St. Pierre was with the Ravens during the Steelers' Super Bowl run ... then St. Pierre was No. 3 last year.
Kordell was already gone -- and Charlie Batch toes the line.
It had to be the Tommy Gun.

Didn't it?

Anyway, when Cowher was at close range barking at "the player," the player used the towel he was holding to mockingly wipe his face as Coach was nearly finished offering his point of view.
We don't know if it was Tommy Maddox, but it seemed as though something that a rebel like Tommy Maddox -- the 2001 XFL MVP, 2002 NFL Comeback Player of the Year and insurance salesman extraordinaire -- might do.

Tommy Maddox is one of the few insurance salesman we can think of who's sittin' in his insurance office right now wearing a Super Bowl ring.
He wears it on his left ring finger.
On his right hand, his 2001 XFL MVP ring is on his pinky and his 2002 NFL Comeback Player of the Year ring is on his ring finger.
The rings go "clickety-clack" when Tommy hands a pen to a client to sign the papers for ADAD (accidental death and dismemberment).

Enough peeking inside Tommy Maddox's jewelry box.
If the Steelers are going to add to their bling collection with rings from Super Bowls XLIII, XLVII and LIV, the brass had better figure out who's the fourth LB in the 3-4 scheme.

J-Peazy's going to make out OK.

He'll probably end up signing with Dallas, the Rams, Miami, the Chiefs, Philly or the Vikings -- that is, if he doesn't sign with Carolina or Cleveland or Tennessee, the Niners or Tampa Bay.

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