Poor Lawrence Timmons
. The Pittsburgh Steelers
' first-round pick made it through the first half of his first minicamp practice, tweaked a hammy, and has been taking mental reps ever since. Yep, the dreaded mental rep. In theory it's sounds like a swell notion, but it seems just as likely to have the reverse effect. Unlike, say, Troy Polamalu
, who knows Dick LeBeau's defense as well as anyone, Timmons hadn't made it all the way through the playbook before he pulled up lame. Now he's burdened with the task of learning a completely new system in his head
. Yeah, I don't see what could go wrong. And I intentionally mentioned Polamalu above -- anybody remember his rookie season? He couldn't have looked more lost if he had played blindfolded -- and he's supposedly one of the most cerebral guys on the team.
Oh, and there's more bad news ... well, for Steelers' fans anyway (Cowboys' fans are giggling uncontrollably, I'm sure): Dallas' first-round pick, defensive end Anthony Spencer
, is having a fabulous minicamp
. And his transition from collegiate defensive end to NFL outside linebacker is going swimmingly. Great. How about a golf clap for the Jerry Jones All Stars (I hope you read this with as much sarcasm as I wrote it.)
Luckily, the Tribune-Review
's John Harris offered Timmons some advice
. Harris suggested Timmons play through his injury to prove to his teammates and his coaches that he's not out of shape. On the good advice scale, I'd rank Harris' offering right after the guy who thought it would be a good idea to use hydrogen to float the Hindenburg
The Steelers are smack in the middle of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and while nobody wants to rush him back on the field, Timmons will no doubt be behind -- even if only a little bit -- heading into training camp. Despite these concerns, Timmons' setback isn't really a big deal. Particularly since the alternative is potentially losing him for a much longer stretch because he was hurried back into action. Timmons just turned 21, and 2007 will be, for all intents and purposes, his senior season. If you're one of those fans who is reliably pessimistic about all things Steelers, here's something to assuage your worries: unlike safety, which is a much tougher position to learn, Timmons won't be asked to do too much too soon. Remember, Kendrell Bell
was Rookie of the Year playing middle linebacker, and Larry Foote
started the first few weeks of his rookie season (coincidentally enough, due to a Bell injury).
But let's put the Timmons-inspired pep talk aside for the moment. What if I told you I could get my hands on a time machine and the Steelers could get a draft-day do-over? The 2006 draft was deep at linebacker, and the 2007 edition had a surplus of quality wideouts. So what did the Steelers do? That's right, the opposite: they traded up seven spots for Santonio Holmes
last year, and took Timmons 15th overall four weeks ago. (By the way, I got the idea for this column from this nifty little post
on the Behind the Steel Curtain
blog.) Because hindsight is 20/20 for most of us (I'm still convinced the Browns would draft Tim Cough again with the first overall pick, though), maybe Pittsburgh would've been better off today taking a linebacker in '06 and a wideout in '07. Before going on, here's the list of linebackers from the 2006 draft
(Rounds 1 and 2):
And here are the wideouts drafted in the first two rounds of the 2007 draft
Ted Ginn Jr.
First of all, I'm not convinced Pittsburgh should've done anything differently. It's hard to argue against drafting Santonio Holmes, and most of us are willing to wait until August for Timmons. Just consider it a thought experiment -- a little something to take your mind off the fact that training camp doesn't open for another two months.
In both instances, let's assume the Steelers draft exactly where they did originally: 25th in '06 and 15th in '07. If Pittsburgh went the linebacker route last year, they could've chosen among Ryans, Jackson, McIntosh, and Howard. Since Ryans was the Defensive Rookie of the Year, he seems like the obvious choice. It's worth mentioning that the Texans played the 4-3 last season, and at 6'2", 236 pounds, Ryans is decidedly undersized for a 3-4 middle linebacker. But so is Timmons (at either outside or inside) and no one knows what he can do. Ryans had 125 tackles, 3.5 sacks, a pick, and defended five passes.
It's hard to make a case for taking either Jackson or McIntosh over Holmes -- Jackson was nothing special as a rookie and McIntosh couldn't get on the field with the Redskins, which is kinda like not being good enough to play for the Washington Generals. Howard was considered raw coming out of UTEP
, but the Raiders loved his 4.4 40 enough to take a flier on him in the second round. It's hard to take many positives away from a two-win season, but Oakland's defense ranked 9th in the league
last season, just ahead of Pittsburgh. This should help put in perspective how dreadfully embarrassing the Raiders' offense was -- of course, the Steelers game was a microcosm of the season ... for both teams. In any event, Howard was a big part of that, and at 6'3", 240 pounds, he's closer to what most fans envision when they think of the prototypical Steelers outside linebacker.
In terms of the re-draft, I guess it comes down to Ryans and Howard versus Holmes. Howard would have to be a very special player with tons of potential to be a better selection than Holmes. I don't see it. And even with Ryans' Rookie of the Year honors, Holmes was the league's 19th-best wide receiver in terms of total value
(and 15th-best on a per-play basis). It's hard to justify passing on a player who fills an immediate need for one who just adds depth and may not become a full-time starter for a year or two, particularly when you know how Holmes' season ended.
But that's only half the story. Say Pittsburgh drafted Ryans and with the 15th pick in the 2007 draft, had their sights on a wide receiver. Everyone but Calvin Johnson and Ted Ginn were available. I'm going to make this simple: unless the team had a chance to take Johnson, they played the draft -- in both '06 and '07 -- the exact right way. Johnson's career is doomed because he ended up in Detroit -- which is the basketball equivalent of attending Duke
as a McDonald's All-American, having a great four-year collegiate career, being a NBA lottery pick, and, well, tanking ... like every Duke player not named Elton Brand
-- but if he's off the board, the Steelers would be worse off taking any of the remaining players. For starters, consider the two Ohio State
wideouts, and how their stats compare
Name Year Rec Yds YPR TD
S. Holmes 2005 53 977 18.4 11
T. Ginn 2006 54 755 14.0 9
A. Gonzalez 2006 47 705 15.0 8
All three receivers put up comparable numbers except Holmes averaged 3.4 yards more per reception than Gonzalez (and 4.4 more than Ginn). Does anybody else find it odd that Ginn is third on this list in yards per reception, even though he's one of the fastest dudes on the planet? I'll take Holmes. As for the rest of these jokers? Well, Dwayne Bowe was late to his very first NFL practice
, and Robert Meachem showed up to minicamp a little chubby
. Admittedly, I don't know much about Craig Davis, but some "experts" thought the Chargers reached when they drafted him in the first round. I have no thoughts on the matter other than that no one questioned Holmes' first-round talent, though some wondered if Pittsburgh gave up too much to acquire him. The NFL Network's Mike Mayock described Gonzalez as one of the best slot receivers in the draft (Steve Smith was the other), and he'll fit in perfectly with the Colts. That Holmes is being groomed for the No. 1 job is all you need to know. Scouts had questions about both Rice (hands) and Jarrett (speed/ability to get off the line of scrimmage) and both were second-round picks.
So what's the verdict after going through all this hand-waving? Barring a Calvin-Johnson-to-the-Steelers scenario, Holmes/Timmons trumps Ryans/Whoever every time. In fact, it's not even close. Granted, there's the little issue of not seeing Timmons/Whoever play in an NFL game, but I have seen Holmes. And for me, that's enough. Remember, what Jerry told George: If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right
. Except in this case, the Steelers were right the first time.
Lawrence Timmons' NFL career has gotten off to a slow start and some people still aren't convinced he was the best choice at 1.15. What if the Steelers had a do-over for the last two drafts? Would the team be better off today? Ryan Wilson takes a look.
Ryan Wilson steps into his draft-day time machine.