Anyway, a few years ago, a friend confessed, in the days leading up to the 2004 presidential election, that he was still undecided on whom he might vote for. Let's just say I was annoyed by this. How, after almost a year of nonstop, in-your-face coverage, could you not know? It just didn't make sense.
I mention this because it is exactly how I feel about the Pittsburgh Steelers and next month's draft. I spend most of my waking hours thinking about sports and I still don't have a good idea who the Steelers should take with the 15th-overall pick. And it's making me nuts. Apoplectic, actually. I know whom they shouldn't take, but depending on the day, my mood, and the number of beers, I could go in any number of directions.
Whatever, as the NFL's version of the presidential elections draws near, I have some draft-related thoughts that may or may not sound like the ravings of a madman.
We learned last week that Brett Keisel could see a little time at outside linebacker in 2007. I'm not kidding when I write this might be the best news I've heard this off-season. I loved Joey Porter, and now that he's gone, I won't be one of those guys to lambaste him as being a washed-up has been, who was only successful because of his teammates. That's just lazy. And worse, not true. But now that he's in Miami, I think Keisel could -- and I hesitate to even mention this; it could prove to be like nicknaming Harold Miner "Baby Jordan" -- could be Pittsburgh's Adalius Thomas.
I'm certainly not the first person to utter those words -- fans have been dreaming about such things since last off-season -- but it's hard not to consider it when you see Keisel play. I can't imagine the coaches would name Keisel the starting right outside linebacker, even if he has an absolutely eye-opening minicamp. But I'm still intrigued by the idea of Dick LeBeau having the freedom to move Keisel around as he sees fits. He could be the front seven's Troy Polamalu.
Plus, there is also the little matter of James Harrison who, according to the depth chart, is Porter's replacement. Harrison's proven more than capable during a handful of starts the past few seasons, and I think he'll only get better playing every week. So even if Keisel doesn't move to linebacker full time -- and I don't think anybody expects that -- I love the thought of having both he and Harrison on the right side at the same time.
Assuming this is the direction the defense is headed, what does that mean for the draft? Jim Wexell floated Nebraska's Adam Carriker as a guy who could smoothly transition to the defensive-end position in the 3-4 and frankly, after reading the article, I was sold. The problem, of course, is that teams in front of the Steelers are also sold on Carriker and it would surprise no one if he was off the board by the time Pittsburgh goes on the clock.
Plus, do the Steelers want a part-time defensive end? Assuming Keisel and Harrison anchor the right side, and LeBeau only employs Keisel at linebacker in certain packages, Carriker wouldn't see a lot of action. Not in 2007, and maybe 2008, either. Obviously, I'm just speculating -- oddly, Pittsburgh doesn't share the personnel decisions with me -- so who knows what the team would actually do if it landed Carriker. Worst case: the Steelers have depth behind Keisel for a season or two. Best case: Carriker, Keisel and Harrison are on the field at the same time wreaking havoc.
One more thing: if Mike Tomlin is serious about his "all hands on deck" philosophy to special teams, can you imagine a wedge-busting duo of Keisel and Carriker? Speaking of special teams, let me applaud the Arizona Cardinals signing the best No. 7 receiver in the NFL: Sean Morey. This allowed the Steelers to re-sign Chidi Iwuoma. I was thinking about this the other day, but when was the last time a 5'9", 184-pound special-teams player evoked such an unequivocal, "the special teams are saved!" reaction from fans?
I'm kidding about Morey -- I like the guy and I have a lot of respect for the work he does. He's like the illegal alien who risks his life to come to this country to perform the job even beneath the most unemployed U.S. citizen. All for a better life. That's Morey. Not only are the Steelers losing a solid kick-coverage guy, they're also losing a dangerous return man. You forgot about that, right?
Anyway, I don't know if was coincidence, or all Chidi, but when Pittsburgh finally re-signed him last December, the special teams improved. I'd like to think it was all Chidi. Last week, he signed a one-year deal, which means there's no guarantee he makes it out of training camp. One issue -- unlike Morey -- is that Iwuoma, though listed as a cornerback, doesn't really play another position. Morey purportedly is a wide receiver, so he has some value in the seven-wide sets (which, I guess, explains his three career catches).
Currently, the Steelers are well stocked at cornerback, but if the team uses a first-day pick to add depth, well, it could be 2006 all over again for Chidi. I'm of the opinion that you can never have too many competent cornerbacks on the roster, and in general, I am all for drafting them in the first round. And this year is no different. Whoever it may be -- Leon Hall, Darrelle Revis, Chris Houston -- count me in. I mean, I was the idiot who thought the Steelers should take a cornerback with their 11th-overall pick in 2004 because quarterbacks were overvalued that early in the first round. (In my defense, I thought Ben Roethlisberger would be long gone and I didn't want to have to grudgingly root for Philip Rivers… I'm a UNC fan.)
Even if Pittsburgh doesn't draft a cornerback in the first round, a first-day pick could also be problematic for Iwuoma's 53-man roster chances. Truthfully, it shouldn't matter -- if the Steelers used every pick on a cornerback I still think Iwuoma should make the team -- he's that important to special teams. But as soon as we start thinking of the NFL as anything other than a business, we're reminded, with all the subtlety of a punch to the nuts, that it's all about the bottom line.
For now, I'm not worrying about it. I'm glad Chidi's back and I'm psyched about Keisel's potential new role. While I'm still undecided about whom the Steelers should take in the first round, I am certain about this: Sepulveda in the fourth. And yes, I'm serious.