You know what? I'm sick of this crap. What crap? The crap the Steelers are pulling with their personnel right now. Yes, I know they're one of the best drafting teams in the NFL, and yes, I know they just won two Super Bowls recently, but that is absolutely no freaking excuse for settling for and retaining mediocrity in areas where they have them. I don't give a damn if such examples of mediocrity started for the Steelers when they won the Super Bowl, either. That's a common defense I hear from those who somehow oppose improvement.
Let me give an example of what prompted me to lash out in rage in my first cbssports.com blog: the Brett Keisel re-signing. Why? Mike Tomlin gave a boneheaded excuse as to why the Steelers went through with this deal. "It is no secret he is our kind of guy...He is always prepared and he is a great teammate." So I guess any player who expresses love for playing the position he plays and wants to retire as a Steeler gets a free new contract, eh coach? It doesn't matter how well he actually plays football. He could stink it up like Carey Davis and Justin Hartwig or just plain not produce like Keisel, but as long as he spends Valentine's Day with Steely McBeam, he's obviously irreplacable, regardless of whatever actual talent remains on the team with an uncertain future, and he must be re-signed pronto.
What I'm most angered by is the fact that Keisel gets high favor above other, more hard to replace players who are entering a contract year, most notably the very man who lines up right next to Keisel every weekend. Yes, I am talking about Casey "Big Snack" Hampton. Since being drafted in the first round out of Texas in 2001, Hampton has been a dominant force in the middle of our defense, year after year allowing the Steelers to field one of the top run defenses in the NFL and doing such a great job at controlling the A-gaps that the linebackers, from Kendrell Bell to Jason Gildon to Joey Porter to James Farrior to James Harrison, run wild like tazmanian devils. No one else on our roster, not even Chris Hoke, can do what Hampton does on the field, and I dare say Hampton has at least four or five good years left in him. At 32, he's four years younger than Minnesota's Pat Williams, who is still regarded as a top-flight nose guard by experts and helps lead the run defense that has been tops in the NFL for the last three seasons. Hampton is as good as or better than Williams, and yet we find him with no new contract whereas Pat Williams is guaranteed to remain a Viking for the rest of his career, and with a 2009 salary that exceeds Hampton's by more than $700,000.
Oh, but wait, unlike Keisel, I don't see Hampton kissing anyone's ass within the organization. However, it's clear that he wants to stay in Pittsburgh, making the decision to sign Keisel and not him even more baffling.
"Being here this long and just being here and playing for them this period of time, I'm not going to lie and say it doesn't bother me because I do want to be here. You know what I'm saying? And I would like the security of being here, but I understand it's a business."
And the following quote expresses the kind of attitude Tomlin seemed to praise in Keisel.
"All that (big paydays and personal accomplishments such as Pro Bowls) don't matter, man...My main focus is going back to the Super Bowl. I ain't no selfish guy, I've never been a selfish guy since I've been here. I've always been a team guy, and my main focus is to get back to the Super Bowl, helping these guys and showing them how to work and get back to it. We can't get complacent like we were last time. That's my goal."
Oh, but oh my god! Hampton showed up overweight to the 2008 training camp! Oh dang, that settles it. He can't stay a Steeler because he showed up out of shape to one training camp, so his work ethic is in the toilet! Get rid of this stink bomb!
Anyone who uses this stupid excuse against Hampton needs to grow a pair. Tomlin handled the situation correctly by putting Hampton on the PUP list. And then guess what? Hampton actually got into shape and never missed a beat being the dominant force he is in the middle of our line. So he does have a work ethic; imagine that. Besides, dingalings, Hampton was comng off vacation time for football players. Do you swamp yourself in your work during your vacation? I'd hope not. Likewise, to assume football players do nothing but lift weights and run 24 hours a day all year is borderline stupid.
With all this factored into the equation, obviously Keisel must be a BEAST at defensive end to get a comfy new contract while Hampton gets passed on by. First, Keisel's specialty is supposed to be a pass-rusher, so I guess he must rack up the sacks like there's no tomorrow! Actually, what if I said Keisel hardly gets any sacks at all? In fact, what if I said Keisel had fewer sacks last season than Hampton, a run-stopper? In fact, Keisel gets almost no sacks every season while racking up empty QB pressures, and he's inconsistent at best against the run. Well, he hunts well with Ben Roethlisberger, so he's Pro Bowl-caliber.
Hampton is not the only player who could have gotten the money given to Keisel without me throwing a fit. Jeff Reed comes to mind first, and all he does is masterfully kick in the swirling winds at Heinz Field game after game, something very few kickers in the NFL can do. Also, seeing as how he's a kicker, and therefore less likely to command the sum of money given to Keisel, the difference between Keisel's new salary and Reed's projected one could've been given to Ryan Clark, who soundly plays the FS position while delivering bone-crushing hits and intimidating any receiver who dare crosses the middle of the field, and whose projective backup, Ryan Mundy, has been a disappointment in training camp, making Clark's value that much greater. Brett Keisel neither is as good of a player as any of these others nor does he have the luxury of playing without a discernable replacement. Ziggy Hood has looked brilliant both in training camp and in the preseason, and he's capable of starting this season if at any point necessary.
Only Willie Parker is more expendable than Keisel among players who would've been free agents next year, and only Justin Hartwig is a worse player. Yet only Keisel has been kissing the ass of the organization to the point that they've fallen in love with him and have made them blind to his shortcomings, just like horse puke members Carey Davis and Larry Zierlein. Next Valentine's Day will be a swell one indeed for Keisel and McBeam.