Welcome to my newest column aptly named The Steel Curtain Weekly, where we will be exploring everything Pittsburgh Steelers. This past week was a big one, the 2017 draft was completed and the Steelers enter phase-two of the offseason program.
This first volume is not nearly as fiery as those will be after a boneheaded loss or another stupid suspension. The powers that be have bestowed upon me enough rope to cover everything Steelers’ related with my own little spin and a ton of interactive help from the readers.
2017 NFL Free Agency: Who’s left; taking a look at some of the top remaining free agents
2017 NFL Draft: 2017 NFL Draft Complete Results: Rounds 1 – 7
Steelers’ opposition: New faces in new places; a look at Steelers’ opponents FNG’s
With the 30th overall pick in the draft, the Steelers selected Wisconsin outside linebacker, T.J. Watt. Steelers’ general manager, Kevin Colbert, found black gold at the end of the first round. Watt is an extremely versatile player, complete with excellent size, speed, bounce and intelligence. He earned All-Big-10 honors while spending his first year learning the position. Possessing that kind of raw ability while remaining moldable for linebacker coach, Joey Porter, and for current Steelers’ legend, James Harrison, to instruct by example, is an ideal situation for a team in need of an edge rusher.
Watt took part in a video detailing his first glimpses of the beautiful Steel City. As a person who has never taken a trip to the East Coast, I found this short video, which exhibited the stunning visual splendors of Pittsburgh, quite breathtaking. Taking the Fort Pitt Tunnel into the heart of the city and how it opens up, is a spectacle that cannot be witnessed just anywhere.
In the second round, the Steelers selected wide receiver, John “JuJu” Smith-Schuster, from the University of Southern California. Smith-Schuster is the youngest receiver in the draft, but he’s not a baby, in fact, he’s a big physical receiver who will be the perfect compliment, stylistically, to Antonio Brown. A permanent fixture at the number-two receiver slot should make life easier for Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell. Smith-Schuster is in the heads of the rest of the Steelers’ receiving corps. In a tweet which ultimately ending up being deleted, Martavis Bryant expressed Smith-Schuster was here to take the position of teammate Sammie Coates and not his.
The third round saw the most black and gold action of the night. With two picks in the round, the Steelers selected Cameron Sutton, cornerback from the University of Tennessee and local favorite, running back, James Conner, from the University of Pittsburgh. Both of these picks are solid, will see lots of action, add much-needed depth, versatility and cap relief.
The fourth round pick offers a look into the future with Joshua Dobbs, a quarterback from the University of Tennessee. With quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger contemplating retirement seemingly every time he gets hit, the Steelers need a long-term solution at the position. Shortly after the draft, Zach Mettenberger was released, thus it would appear that Dobbs will be in the mix and given time to prepare himself.
Having lost to the eventual Super Bowl Champions, the Steelers chose the offseason and draft to address their issues with pass coverage and picking up a key special teams piece. In the fifth round, the Steelers added cornerback, Brian Allen, from the University of Utah, while in the sixth round they would add long snapper, Colin Holba, from the University of Louisville and in the seventh and final round, Keion Adams, defensive end-linebacker, from Western Michigan was selected.
Quick draft recap
As it was happening, this draft came at me hot and fast, while keeping me dizzier than vertigo. Still riding high from T.J. Watt, at the time I found the Smith-Schuster pick to be more than a tad bit out of left field, but eventually saw the wisdom in it. Conner is another style compliment to an elite positional teammate. Conner’s power running style and younger legs should provide a capable back-up.
The rest of the Steeler draft consisted of adding depth in attempts to get younger. It took some time for me to appreciate the simplicity of the draft strategy, but the Steelers needed one potential starter and a whole lot of cheaper depth. They got both and that makes it a successful draft.
As evidenced with the corresponding cut-list the Steelers are currently in a fat-trimming mode with two more super contracts must now be accounted for. Additionally, to get under the 90-man provisional roster, the Steelers have a few more cuts coming soon.
Martavis Bryant returns
Prior to the draft, the Steelers received word that the NFL would be conditionally reinstating suspended wide receiver Martavis Bryant after being subjected to his second league-mandated disciplinary action for substance-abuse policy. In an article written by Matt Marczi, of Steelers Depot, we learn of the conditions of Bryant’s reinstatement.
Bryant has been asked to complete what was previously referred to as a “relapse plan.” Once that was preliminarily put together, he would be able to engage in practice with his teammates. League approval is not required as of now; by producing a plan, he will be allowed the right to practice. However, to play in the regular season, the league must review and approve of said plan. Thus, the conditional element of his conditional reinstatement.
Bryant remains held up from practice by some contract issues with reinstatement. Being suspended for a year placed his deal on hold, or as the league terms it “tolled” the deal, so Bryant will remain under contract through the 2018 season.
Bryant is an extremely talented receiver who will force defenses to focus solely on teammate Antonio Brown at their own peril. By his own admission in an interview with Sports Illustrated, he needed to change his life and has. Moving out of Los Angeles, at the behest of his agent, to small Henderson, Nevada has helped him change his life. He no longer smokes marijuana, in fact, is quite cognizant of his name nearing the depths of NFL wasted-opportunity moniker. Mr. Bryant rededicated himself and his focus and put it on mama’s that he’s ready to make the most of this opportunity.
This is a much better track for the NFL to take with players with issues or are in violation of substance-abuse policy. If these young men are forced to own up to their mistakes, provide a plan outlining how they are going to face their issues now and forever they should be allowed to continue to earn a living and play in the NFL. People with substance issues don’t need isolation, that has proven not to be healthy for them.
On the horizon
Ladarius Green was back on the field for the Steelers during some of the Phase Two workouts. Green caught 18 passes for 304 yards and one touchdown for a phenomenal 16.9 yards per catch, which was the second-highest average on the team. Sadly, injuries cut 2016 short for Green and he only participated in six games. Green’s six-foot-six-inch 240-pound frame is ideal in the red zone and was sorely missed last year.
In a story posted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a jury found longtime ex-Steeler team doctor Richard Rydze guilty of 180 counts in illegal drug distribution case. Dr. Rydze was found guilty of conspiring to illegally distribute anabolic steroids, human growth hormone and narcotic painkillers.
This dirty son-of-a-gun used the Drug Enforcement Administration registration number issued to fellow Steeler medical staff colleague Dr. Anthony Yates, without his knowledge, to acquire the drugs after he could no longer write bogus prescriptions for his family members. According to investigations, Rydze had been distributing painkillers since 2005, he began trafficking HGH and anabolic steroids in 2007. Dr. Rydze was a Steeler team doctor for 20 years before leaving the team in 2007.
Philip Robinson covers the NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers for cover32. He is always on the lookout for WTF news of the week; if anything strange happens in Steelers’ related news, drop him a mention @chocp3thunder.