On days like this, as I watch pictures of the devastation in Oklahoma, it makes writing about something as trivial as football seem pointless. As I listen to eye witness accounts and as the death toll rises, those of us complaining about the impending cicada invasion here in the east look like absolute fools. What the tornado that devastated Oklahoma or the bombing at the Boston Marathon shows is that chaos, either man made or otherwise is always lurking just outside our doors. However, sometimes sports can prove to be a useful diversion from the harsh realities that can spring up in a moments notice. So, as my thoughts and prayers go out to those in Oklahoma, I will try to provide a little diversion for the rest of us.
My simple piece of advice to the Pittsburgh Steelers is to just end it. Nothing more than that. Just end it. Much like a relationship that has nowhere else to go, it’s time for the team to end their relationship with Max Starks and Casey Hampton once and for all. If they truly want to move on, they need to jump off the carousel the team has placed itself on in recent years. Unlike prior years, once a player left Pittsburgh, they were gone for good, even if they re-appeared into the vast wasteland of free agency. However, as has been the trend over the last few years, ex- Steelers have been resigned to try and squeeze whatever football still remains out of them. First it was Antwan Randle El and Larry Foote, and while Foote has proven to be useful, Randle El’s signing was basically a whole lot of nothing. Next the team brought back CB Bryant McFadden away from Pittsburgh west (otherwise known as the Arizona Cardinals), but he too did nothing and was banished away once and for all. Then, needing help at WR, the Steelers brought back former first round pick and convict Plaxico Burress who made no contribution at all. I’ve made my thoughts on Burress quite clear, he should be a cap casualty June 1st.
This year, the team is trying it again by bringing back two former Steelers in DB William Gay and TE Matt Spaeth. I don’t see Gay being much more than veteran insurance in case the team’s young DBs struggle, especially with the free agency defection of emerging corner Keenan Lewis. Spaeth’s return is odd at best. While he offers impressive size, he’s never been a huge factor in the passing game, his career numbers during his first stint with the team were a whopping thirty six catches, five touchdowns. Color me impressed. It’s not as if Spaeth if familiar with the system, when he was last with the team Bruce Arians was running the show. While some may view Spaeth has a fill in until starter Heath Miller is fully recovered, I’d much rather see what second year TE David Paulson can do as a fill in, as well as give David Johnson more reps to improve his game. Welcome back to the carousel Mr.Gay and Mr. Spaeth.
Which brings us to Hampton and Starks, both of whom were released in the off season to allow the team to get under the cap. Neither player has at this time signed with anyone else, and that may be a telling signal for the Steelers to move on. If nobody else wants them, why should they? Of course nobody wanted Stevenson Sylvester either, but the team brought him back, God knows why. While Hampton was a solid, at times dominant inside presence, age has caught up with him and his play was inconsistent last year, often disappearing at times. I understand why the Steelers would be interested in bringing him back, they have young, unproven players such as Steve McClendon (whom they are high on),Alameda Ta’amu, a second year player facing an uncertain future, as well as raw Hebron Fangupo. That’s not much for such a key position in the 3-4 scheme. I say let these three battle it out and leave Hampton out of the equation all together. Sooner or later his carousel ride has to end. I say the sooner the better.
As for Starks, it’s a little trickier with him. Every time he’s been called upon, he’s been solid. Yes, he at times struggles with speed rushers, but for the most part he’s steady and reliable. Every time the teams’ OL woes kick in, a call was made to Mt. Starks and he came in and performed well. However, the team now has several young, versatile offensive linemen who need seasoning and experience and barring injury the only way to see what they have is to play them. It’s time to see what Kelvin Beachum, John Malecki and Guy Whimper can do and the best way to do that is not have Starks on hand. I’m sorry max, but the carousel ride ends for you too.
As has been written endlessly already, this is a crucial time for the Steelers. Like it or not they are in transition mode and the only was to successfully accomplish this is to cease bringing back players past their time. Steeler nation should simply thank Hampton and Starks for their solid play and move on. Simple as that. Time to stop the carousel.
Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":