Tag:Pittsburgh Steelers
Posted on: October 20, 2010 12:41 pm
Edited on: October 20, 2010 12:42 pm

The Eric LeGrand/NFL argument

Rutgers' Eric LeGrand lays in a hospital bed this week. Paralyzed, maybe, for a lengthy period. Meanwhile, I hear talking heads arguing about outlawing NFL head shots and their effect on the "quality" of NFL play.

Seems to be a disconnect here.

These are actually otherwise intelligent human beings worried about how the NFL will "look" if it is reduced to arm tackling. Trust me, it will look fine, great even. The argument against enforcing NFL rules against headshots harkens back to the age-old arguments about reducing the number of college scholarships in football. Coaches back then also warned that the "quality" of play would be impacted. Their credibility was shot over the last two decades when the college game has become better and more popular than ever. Seems that the game has survived with less than 100 scholarships per team.

Let's worry, more realistically, about the survival of LeGrand and those like him. The Rutgers junior had bad tackling form against Army. The result was paralysis. LeGrand wasn't trying to show off or send a message or intimidate. He made a mistake. During the same week that he continues to lay motionless in that hospital bed, there is a national argument about sending those messages and intimidating in the NFL.

Someone needs to get LeGrand's situation into the argument. Maybe James Harrison needs to pay a visit to the hospital and see how he feels afterward. We are to believe that the league will be neutered if it cannot express itself physically. Do you really want to intimidate that bad? Do you really want another Eric LeGrand?

The resounding answer -- whether spoken or unspoken -- by hundreds of aggressive males in their 20s in the NFL is yes. You cannot separate one question from the other. You cannot dispute the indisputable. The size of the field remains the same. The players are bigger, faster and stronger. A lot of them don't think about such things as Darryl Stingley's tragic life after the Raiders' Jack Tatum targeted him. They rail against the league trying to reign in the likes of Harrison, the Steelers linebacker, who took out two Browns Sunday then said, "I try to hurt people."

The statement mocks not only the rules but LeGrand. It's clear now that there is a generation of players who have been raised to use their heads as a weapon. Never mind that they are putting their bodies as well as their opponents' bodies at risk. They are acting like punks. They are turning a grand game into a street fight. A punk head-butts. A football player tackles. A punk dances over the prone body of a receiver. A football player makes the stick, high fives his teammates and heads back to the huddle.

No, but this is the NFL where television, the traditional media and the players themselves glorify a corner of the league where a sick culture resides.

College football long ago tried to legislate the punk factor out of the game. Next year points will be taken off the board if an offensive player taunts during a scoring play. College rules are more inclusive in trying to eliminate head shots. I have no problem with the "targeting" rule that puts the issue up to an official's discretion. A flag can be thrown not only for a head shot but if a player is in vulnerable position.

Maybe that wouldn't have stopped LeGrand. As mentioned, the 6-foot-2, 275-pounder was guilty of nothing more than bad tackling form. Meanwhile, there is a generation of players being raised to inflict damage, not just do their jobs as defenders. If they're not punks, they do punk things on the football field. That has to be stopped.

What's wrong if the NFL is reduced to a league of arm tacklers? It's the same argument the college coaches had 20 years ago. My counter-argument was: It doesn't matter who many scholarships there are. If you suited up 22 chimps in Nebraska and Oklahoma uniforms would still pay to watch.

If the NFL was cleaned up and everyone was playing by the same rules, you think it would matter at the turnstile? They're still the best football players in the world. The more of them around, the better for everyone. Ask Eric LeGrand. He won't be one of them.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: January 30, 2009 1:47 pm

Pittsburgh's other team

The name Marino comes to mind. Mike Ditka, Hugh Green, Mark May, Bill Fralic and Russ Grimm too.

They are all chiseled somewhere into the walls of the University of Pittsburgh football complex. All-time Panther greats having played for, well, an overall good college football program. If you want to go that far.

It's not being cruel this weekend to mention that one of the few things the Steelers and Panthers have in common is their stadium and training facility in Pittsburgh. But one organization going for its sixth Super Bowl title. The other having just finished above third in the Big East Conference for the second time ever.

Why the comparison? The Steelers are in another Super Bowl. The Panthers just came out of the Sun Bowl. The Steelers have been so great while the Panthers have been just ... okay. Part of it is living elbow-to-elbow an NFL signature franchise. The Steelers are the heart and soul of the city. The Panthers? Maybe the gall bladder of the city. Part of the town, certainly, but not as essential as the Steelers.

That's not a slight, just a dose of reality. You'd think after all these years, some of that excellence would rub off.

In many ways it has. Two-hundred eight-nine Panthers have played in the NFL. Since 1937, an average of almost  four players per year have been drafted. Twenty-three have gone in the first round.  Since '04 Pittsburgh has had as many first-rounders as Florida (three).

 Pittsburgh has gone to major bowls and won two national championships (1937, 1976). Dorsetts (father and son) have graced its roster. But no one would call Pittsburgh a top 10 program today; maybe not even a top 25 program. Since that '76 championship it can be argued that Pittsburgh has been the Gallagher of college football . One tries to be funny and isn't. The other struggles mightily to be taken seriously.

Just when you think the Panthers are good, they aren't. Since 1977, the Panthers have only two more winning seasons (17) than losing or .500 seasons (15).

This is western Pennsylvania. Shouldn't things be better?  

That's an obvious question considering the amount of high school talent in the area, even after Penn State gets done. There's another obvious question hanging in the air this week in Tampa as a certain dreadlocked receiver has captured the hearts and minds of fans and media.

Who is the only person to stop Larry Fitzgerald?

Answer: Walt Harris.

Except that it isn't exactly true. Pittsburgh went to two bowls and was 17-9 during Fitzgerald's two seasons on the field under Harris. Fitzgerald was doing the things you see now back then, just on a smaller scale. One handers. Jump balls. One of the best games I ever saw by a receiver was Fitzgerald's three-touchdown game against Texas A&M in 2003.

Typically, the Panthers had lost the week before to Toledo. Harris, like those before and after him, couldn't assemble a complete team.

Speaking for sportswriters everywhere, we love current coach Dave Wannstedt. Wanny will break bread, chat you up and call you if he feels he has a player worthy of All-American consideration. That's all you can ask of a coach. He's a Pittsburgh guy. Genuine. He knows the city, has recruited well. He's also lost to Ohio and Bowling Green.

The inconsistency boggles the mind. The argument can be made that the Arizona Cardinals wouldn't be in the Super Bowl without Panther representation. There is Fitzgerald. Middle linebacker Gerald Hayes was a three-time All-Big East player at Pittsburgh.  Grimm is the Cardinals offensive line coach. Teryl Austin (1984-87) coaches defensive backs. Ken Whisenhunt came from the Pittsburgh staff to do the unthinkable in the desert -- lead the Cardinals to the brink of a championship for the first time since 1947.

Those were the days of  Marshall Goldberg. The former halfback had his number retired by both the Cardinals and his college team. Yep, it was Pittsburgh.

It just seems like neither team has won a thing since.



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