Loose Slag on the Previewing the Stiller Training Camp
Here�s a snapshot of the key things to keep in mind as the Stillers embark on training camp and preseason.� Recommend you either bookmark this or print it out, so that you can refer to it as the regular season draws near.
- The QB battle.�� Actually, there is no battle.� Stewart is, just as he was in �97, �98, and �99, being given the starting job on a silver platter.� He could theoretically go 2 for 18 in each preseason game, scattering throws around like a blind man, and he�d still be given the job.� Frankly, I don�t see where Stewart has done much of anything to deserve this kind of silver-platter treatment.� However, because there is no legitimate competition whatsoever, Stewart once again gets the free ride.�� I believe last year�s battle -� the first that he�s ever had to endure -- served Stewart well.�� A shame that the coaching staff cannot see the benefits of an open battle at QB.
- Quality work for all 4 QBs.�� More importantly in relation to the QBs, is to see if there is truly enough �quality work� for all 4 veteran QBs in camp.� �By quality work, I mean a QB throwing to REAL, NFL-caliber WRs and not merely to camp bodies who will be surefire cuts.�� In other words, you have Edwards, Burress, Ward, and Shaw as competent, NFL-caliber receivers.�� All others are fringe NFL�ers or men who need to quickly move on, as Chuck Noll would say, to their life�s work.�� So, you have 4 WRs to work with 4 veteran QBs.�� Since at least 2 WRs are on the field for any given play, this translates into too few NFL-caliber WRs for 4 QBs to throw to.�� Too much of something is typically just as bad as having too little.� So it is with having 4 veteran QBs in camp for this team.� The starting QB�s �big game� is when he can pass for 210 yards.�� The incumbent backup is a struggling vet.�� Then there�s an XFL/NFL-reject, and a 2nd year man who has thrown exactly zero NFL passes in his career.� So, unlike other teams that may have a fairly well-established starter and backup, we have a case where ALL four QBs need an immense amount of work & polish, and there�s 4 NFL caliber WRs to do it with.�� The savvy team would have cut the apparently unwanted Graham weeks ago.�� We saw the results of the 3-headed QB fiasco in �96, and this one smells even worse.��
- The Fullback Battle.� Actually, this is no battle at all.� Kreider should easily win the starting job.� Kreider actually won the battle last year, but dimbulb coach/front office evaluation saw fit to keep a more expensive, inferior player in lieu of a better, cheaper player.�� However, Kreider�s calf injury opens the door wide open for the Cowher-loving Witman, and this injury, no matter how small, might be just the excuse Cowher needs to get one of his fair-haired boys back into the starting lineup.� Note:� If the team were truly sincere about trying to rev up one of the league�s sorriest offenses the past 3 years, they�d give Fu a long look at FB.
- The Savior, Jeff Hartings.� Keep on eye on how well The Savior, Hartings, plays at center (a position that he�s never played, by the way).� We�ve been given more build-up and propaganda the past 5 months than the Soviet Union did in a decade, about how great Jeff Hartings, The Savior, is going to be.�� My question -� will the holes The Savior opens up be 5 feet wide, or just 4 ??
- Gelling of the O-line.�� A basic staple at any Bill Cowher training camp is a total goatscrew along the offensive line. �A lineman will inevitably get nicked up, and Cowher will get that deer-in-the-headlight, John Cooper-look in his eyes, and stutter and mumble about �We�ll have to look around to see who can fill in�, as though he were trying to locate some sort of rare blood for a transfusion that was scheduled to occur in Uzbekistan within the next 6 hours.�� Around the 15th of August, Cowher will mutter his annual, �Well, the offensive line isn�t really where we�d like to be at right now...we�re still trying to gel.� �Around the end of October, the line finally gels.�
- The passing game.�� The last 3 preseason have featured a passing game that could hardly connect on 2-foot pass.� Frankly, I�d like to see the Stillers run 90% of their plays as if it were 3rd down and 5; or, running different formations than the basic Whalecrap Formation that they have already �mastered�.�� �There�s really not a whole lot of learning or development to be done in plunging Bettis into the line for his 3 yards.� We�ve shown the NFL that we can do that.� It�s not really effective, but we can, in fact, run the plunge for a couple of yards about as well as anyone else in the NFL. �Will the passing game actually emphasize, at least somewhat, hitting receivers as they stride DOWNFIELD -� be it slants, flags, posts, or go�s �- rather than the preponderance of CURLS and HITCHES that this team has run exclusively the past 3 seasons?
- The �whole� offense.� �As the preseason progresses, look to see if the offense look like it has any modicum of cohesion, sharpness, collective grasp, and so on.� The past 3 years, it has not.� But fans with visions of Lombardi trophies dismissed the painfully obvious and claimed, �The team is hiding most of its playbook� and �Just wait till the regular season.��� We all found out that nothing was being �hidden�, and the regular season was far worse than the preseason.�
- The Belly.� Take a good look at Doughboy Bettis -� if he even plays in the preseason, something he�s not done the past 2 years -- and see what kind of paunch he�s sporting.�� Be sure to check him out in the white jersey -� the white uni has really shown the guts of fatsos like Kirkland, Steed, and Bettis.�� And yes, I realize The Doughboy wears rib pads on occasion... and we can all tell the difference between rib pads and blubber.
- Opposing Defenses.� Bear in mind that opposing defenses will play almost exclusively a straight 4-3 scheme with little blitzing except in obvious passing downs.�� The goal of evaluating defenders in preseason, of course, is to see how players perform in one-on-one matchups.�� Therefore, you won�t see the all-out, Raven-like run-blitzing in preseason that you�ll see from opening day of the regular season.� Because it will be facing these vanilla defenses, the Whalecrap Offense� will actually give some indications in preseason of being effective and capable.�� Unlike Little Billy Cowher, don�t be lulled into a sense of complacency.�
- The battle at DE opposite Kimo.�� This will be an immensely critical battle.� Sullivan, who somehow fooled Cowher into allowing him to start many a game last season, will fight off challenges from Combs and A. Smith.�� Frankly, I think Smitty is the front-runner for the job and will be disappointed if he falters.�� We know that Kimo will be a force at one end, and if Fat Casey is half as good as his press clippings (or half as productive as the number of Chalupas he eats in a single day), the middle is secure.�
- The Free Safety Battle.�� Alex will have to fight off a challenge from newcomer Logan.�� Frankly, unless one man falters badly, I could care who wins this battle.� My only concern is that indecisive Cowher not fiddle-faddle -� as is his wont � in naming the starter until very late in the preaseason.�� We need cohesion in the secondary, so after the 2nd preseason game Cowhead should be able to name a starter and move on with him.��
- �Doesn�t have a feel�.� Lastly, try to predict what date Cowher will fret and wail with his annual, �He just doesn�t have a good feel for the scheme that we�re trying to employ here.��� This year�s �He doesn�t have a feel� award winner will be Kendrell Bell, who, no matter if he belts opposing players with the force of a cement roller, will be banished to special teams work and rare mop-up chores.� �Previous award winners were Earl Holmes, Amos Zeroue, Joey Porter, and Kendrick Clancy.� The date of Cowher�s mealy-mouthed sobbing will be, I predict, August 9th.�