Big Lead Sports Bar


L.T.? N.O.

There are now approximately 9,582 different sports talk shows on the Pittsburgh radio dial these days, so I tuned into a few of them on Tuesday and heard a familiar and disturbing refrain from too many callers: the Steelers should sign Ladainian Tomlinson. Or Jamal Lewis. Or Brian Westbrook.

For as many intelligent Steelers fans as there are, there's a significant amount of fans that refuse to deal in reality. These are the people that thought the Steelers would sign Michael Vick. These are the people that bought into the Steelers getting Randy Moss and/or Terrell Owens a few years ago. They see what type of player the team usually acquires year after year, yet they choose to ignore it. These are called "don't get it" people.

There's a danger in painting a group with a broad brush. That's why all bloggers are not irresponsible rumor-mongers and why all West Virginia sports fans are not foul-mouthed, garbage-throwing couch burners. So please note that I'm only talking about a specific group of Steeler fans here (and certainly none who read this site, of course).

There are a few myths about the freshly-available free agent running backs (specifically Mr. Tomlinson, but you can mix and match the others as well) that I'd like to tackle and debate one by one.

1. "Tomlinson can mentor Mendenhall"

No, no, no. Tomlinson is a running back, not a coach. He does not care about Rashard Mendenhall. He has absolutely no connection to him. And besides, what's Tomlinson supposed to teach him? How to get 3.3 yards per carry? How to not advance to the Super Bowl?

Mendenhall's going into his third season. He was a first-round pick from a Big 10 school who ran for 1,108 yards last year. He has a head coach, an offensive coordinator, a running back coach, and a veteran in Mewelde Moore on hand should he have any questions about his position or assignments. This reason should be a non-factor.

2. "Tomlinson is still Tomlinson"

For those who think so, check your calendar. It says 2010, not 2006. L.T. was at the peak of his game back then. He was 27 years old. He had 1,815 yards rushing, 508 yards receiving, and a total of 31 touchdowns. He was the most feared back in the game, and for good reason.

But that was then, and this is now. Tomlinson's yardage has slipped from that 1,815 to 1,474 to 1,110 to just 730 in 2009. His catches, never dipping below 51 in any of his eight previous NFL seasons, fell off the cliff to only 20 last year.

By the time the 2010 season rolls around, Tomlinson will be 31 years old. There is a reason why 31-year-old running backs are few and far between. Player, meet wall. Player, hit wall. Curtis Martin in 2004 is the exception, not the rule.

And wait till the season rolls on. Tomlinson has a horrendous track record in the playoffs. He's run for 100 yards one time in the postseason, and has posted single-game totals of 42, 28, 5, 25, and 24 yards in his past five contests. With the season on the line, is that who you want with the ball? A 31-year-old with virtually no success when it really matters?

3. "Tomlinson can assume a different role"

You don't achieve what Tomlinson has achieved without an ego. The world-beater mentality is exactly what's made him a future Hall of Famer. It's also what will keep him from being a team's Plan B, especially with an organization he has no ties to. He didn't want to do that in San Diego, and that was the team that made him a multi-millionaire. What gives you the impression that he'd be cool sharing playing second fiddle to a young buck like Mendenhall?

Much like Brett Favre and a host of others before him, Tomlinson still believes he's the best and can perform at the highest level. After being The Man for nine seasons in sunny San Diego, can you really see him getting 10 carries a game in snowy Pittsburgh for a discounted rate? Me neither. And I doubt Tomlinson's ego will allow that, either.

4. "The Steelers are interested"

This is another thing I'm just not buying. What big-name players at the end of their line have the Steelers ever signed? That's a task left to the Washington Redskins of the world, and I'm perfectly fine with that.

The Steelers do things a certain way. This is not an opinion, it's a fact. They know when to get on a guy and when to dump him, with very few misfires over the years. They'd rather be a year too early letting a player walk than be painted into a corner after dishing out a major contract and signing bonus. They reward their own players with raises; they rarely reward another team's players for contributions made to their previous team.

5. He'll be a good locker-room influence

Is he a good guy? Supposedly. But the Steelers are looking for football players, not personalities. This alone is not a good enough reason to sign him. The locker room belongs to Hines Ward and Ben Roethlisberger in some combination, with other veteran voices like James Farrior very prominent. They have numerous Super Bowl winners on their roster, and some players who have won two. No outside player is going to shoot to the top of that list, be it Tomlinson or anyone else available on the open market. There is a clear pecking order in that locker room and that's not going to change anytime soon.

So there you have it. And if Kevin Colbert and Co. actually sign L.T., consider this an act of me preemptively signing off on the mother of all "I Was Wrong" columns. Although I must admit, this is a refreshing change of pace from my annual "The Steelers Don't Need a Fat Running Back/TJ Duckett" post.

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Unknown said...

The ONLY thing i like about Tomlinson is when he said the patriots had no class and that it started with their head coach...

Jonny Van Mundegaarde said...

The only good thing I see about all of these "washed up" running backs being released is the fact that they will take three potential landing spots from FWP.

I would love for him to stay a Steeler--be it for the right price.

Koz said...

Are people seriously calling for LT? Wow.

BURGH08 said...

I actually heard a talk show host on 'The Fan' (can't remember who it was) end a segment when the LT story broke with something like:

'So what do you say Steeler fans? Would LT be a guy that could help the Steelers? Would you sign him?'

Of course, this gets maybe about five percent of the region who actually think this could be a 'good idea', and in turn gives the media enough legs to then rip the dopes thinking that for future articles/discussion.

Your post correctly chews up those silly thoughts that the five percent have.

Koz said...

yeah, I think this is a story created by talking heads to bait crazy people into saying crazy things.

Strangely, this isn't the weirdest NFL related story I've heard today. Apparently, there are actually some Colts fans that think Peyton Manning threw that pick 6 on purpose.

Uh yeah... so there's that.

Chip said...

I love how the idea of signing broken down LT is crazy talk but Steeler fans are dying to get broken down Willie Parker re-signed.

Not to mention they were perfectly happy to keep Jerome Bettis about four years past his prime.

I guess resigning your own crappy players is okay but signing another team's is just complete insanity.

And I'm sure glad we didn't sign Michael Vick, TO, or any of those other "problem players." The Steelers are a moral and righteous organization. Last thing they'd tolerate are guys who beat their gfs or rape hotel desk clerks.

David Meyer said...

LT signing with the Steelers is unlikely, but not as preposterous as you propose.

1) Tomlinson had more rushing TDs in a 2009 (12) than the entire Steelers roster, and he was hampered by injury and running behind an awful Chargers line. The entire stable of San Diego RBs averaged 3.3 YPC. This wasn't just a case of LT hitting a wall. Yes he's getting older and isn't the player he once was, but any team would benefit from his nose for the end zone.

BTW - Jerome Bettis achieved sainthood in Pittsburgh, yet averaged just under 4.0 YPC playing behind an excellent offensive line. Bettis also carried the ball 600 more times and arguably absorbed more punishment running north and south. Also, let's not forget that Bettis made a Pro Bowl in 2005 at age 32.

2) Tomlinson has lost only eight fumbles in nearly 3,000 career carries. Mendenhall lost three in less than 300 last year. Rashard is getting better, but if Steeler fans don't think about ball security every time he touches the ball they haven't watched him play enough.

3) This quote:

"The main thing for me now is to try to win a championship," Tomlinson said to when asked about the future. "That's my No. 1 goal. That's why I still work hard and train like I do, because I still believe there's a chance of winning that championship. So the next team I go to has to have a chance of winning a title."

We may have missed the playoffs in 2009, but I think we still have a championship-caliber team and the reputation as a first-rate organization.
If Parker leaves via free agency for a more prominent role elsewhere, that leaves us with only Mendhall and Moore. Also, Parker is only 16 months younger than LT (albeit with considerably less mileage).

4) You can never have enough quality running backs. Even the frugal Steelers know this.

Again, I don't think the Steelers will sign LT. It's not their MO as you stated. But it wouldn't be a desperation move, either. In fact, if he's available at a reasonable price for a short-term deal, it would be a smart move. However, I'm sure knuckleheads like Snyder in Washington will bid him up. That will be the ultimate test of LT's desire to play for a champion.

Adam said...

Chip, I don't know who you are but I like you.

BurressWithButterflywings said...

I think LT would be a guy that can contribute on-field andfrom a character aspect and at the right price, he could be an attractive pickup.

However, I am not certain that his position should be at the top of the heap for us right now and I dont know that we are looking at signing outside FA's. Obviously, we need to pick up an impact corner and add some depth on the offensive and defensive lines, but those will likely be addressed in the draft.

LT can produce in the right capacity but certainly not as a feature back, which we do not need. Mendy improved a great deal last year and I am looking forward to seeing how much he does this offseason to get to the level where he should be this season.

Overall, I think if LT was interested in coming here and was willing to take a significant paycut for a shot at a championship I would welcome him over re-signing FWP, whom I still like. Pretty much the only reason I say that is LT's nose for the goal line. We missed a finisher like him last season and we have the RZ conversion scars to prove it.

Chad said...

I wouldn't have a problem signing Tomlinson. For the right price. He could help this team some but it wouldn't be the huge deal some people think it would. That being said, there is about 0% chance the Steelers even make him an offer. I'm ok with that to. We have bigger needs than getting an end of his career all-star.

Steve said...

Chip, the few Steeler fans who want Parker resigned are probably the same Pirates fans who also think a dynasty is entirely possible...Adam?

If Bettis didn't rush for a single yard in his last season he still would have been a more valuable asset to the team than a 2010 model LT who behind this inferior O line, would be lucky to match Mendenhall's output even if the Steelers do decide to run more. He would probably be more valuable to the team as a receiving back and lord knows the Steelers won't go that route. Also, at 32 Bettis was still able to run over Pro Bowl linebackers and carry them into the end zone. LT at 32 will be lucky to carry nachos to his end zone seats.

This is all BS talk anyway as the Steelers can't afford LT and he will probably be going to Philly anyway. The Steelers won't be signing any running backs that are even worth buying their jersey.

NickDawg said...

LT is washed up and that would be a big mistake sigining him even if it was for free....lets concentrate on siging our own guys (Hampton, Reed, Clark) first that are critical to the teams success, then worry about whats available on the free agent market

HomeRunFromBehindTheMeatballs said...

Amen Chip & Amen NickDawg!

Lest we forget we have Frank the Tank Summers coming back off of IR (whom every loved last preseason despite not doing one damn thing right) & Isaac 'Practice Squad All-Star' Redman to fill FWP's shoes if he wants too much green.

The lowest position on the list of 'lers needs this offseason = QB... 2nd lowest = RB. Unless we're gonna sign LdT to play in the secondary (please, no one take that suggestion as a good idea!), then we should have NO interest in LdT

Anonymous said...

I've got to say for a cheap price $1-$2 million a year, I'd like to see us sign LT. But I would still want Mendenhall to get 80% of the carries. I would want LT almost exclusively as a short yardage back.

A 1 year deal, for that price has almost no risk and at the off chance that he finds his rhythm for 1 season, it could be a huge benefit.

I also don't agree that RB isn't a position of need, we absolutely have to sign or draft a short yardage back this season.

BurressWithButterflywings said...

I wholeheartedly agree with the needs we must address first and foremost. Our defensive backfield needs a shot in the arm before we even look at another position.

I will never make a guarantee, but I am 99% certain that LT's name has not been so much as a blip on the Steelers radar.

As for Tank Summers and Isacc Redman, the jury is still very far out on their potentital so I wouldn't be going so far as to say they have viable NFL stock.

BURGH08 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BURGH08 said...

Half of LT's touchdowns came against Kansas City, Oakland, and Cleveland. I think that needs to be cited if folks want to talk about those numbers.

Furthermore, although he seems likable, he was not willing to cut his salary to stay on the team next season. As much as he talks about wanting to win a championship, and though the Bolts have had playoff failures, I'm willing to wager the team he ends up with won't clearly have a better opportunity than the team he just left.

That includes Pittsburgh.

Anonymous said...

Kansas City, Oakland and Cleveland...3 teams we couldn't beat. He also got 2 each against Philly and Tennessee.

I don't think anyone would want us to sign him as a starter, but bringing him in to make him the spell back and short yardage guy at about 8 carries/gm, would fit our needs well, if he's willing to play that role.

I didn't see him a lot this season but it seems like he still has the ability to punch it into the endzone from inside the 5, something we could really use.

I'm doubting LT will sign with us but I think he would be worth a small risk for what he could bring.

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

The thought of the Steelers signing LdT (there was only ONE LT) is too ridiculous for me to even comment on in this space.

Ooops,I just did. Shit.

JW said...

The Steelers should never pay a "spell" back/short yardage back any sort money. That position is something that smart teams fill with a 3rd to 5th-round draft pick. For that reason they also shouldn't give Willie any sort of significant money either.

BURGH08 said...

You are right that the "Steelers" didn't beat those teams. Certainly a 'championship' type team would.

You know, the type of team that LT is looking for?

That's why this is, quite frankly, laughable. His ego has kept him from playing a reduced role in San Diego, has kept him from cutting his salary to stay there, and claims to be looking to 'win'.

LT needs to be compared less to Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis, and more like Shaun Alexander, Eddie George, and Edge James.

Past greatness, limited value, and brings a side order of 'Diva' with him.

That's poison for this organization.