The Watch Tower’s lights haven’t lit since mid-February but the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the scribes that cover them, have logged a busy off season. So as the NFL’s true down period begins, the Watch Tower turns its attention to Steelers draft coverage, getting the most out of OTAs, bumping into an old friend, and much more.
Jeremy Fowler Delivers Story Behind Steelers Drafting Antonio Brown
Two years ago the Watch Tower noted the chronic lack of Steelers draft war room stories and called on the credentialed press to change things. Last year, Jim Wexell supplied a nugget, revealing that Steelers almost drafted Jevon Kearse instead of Troy Edwards in the 1999 NFL Draft. Alas, while that morsel represented a succulent sample of Wexell’s work, it was only that, a nugget.
This year ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler delivered with a fantastic, 2,300 plus word feature on how the Steelers came to draft Antonio Brown in the 2010 NFL Draft.
- It seems like Jeremy Fowler has heeded the Watch Tower’s call.
Actually, it is probably a safe bet that Jeremy Fowler has never set eyes on this site, let alone the Watch Tower, but that doesn’t dampen the Watch Tower’s enthusiasm for a truly phenomenal story detailing how the Steelers made greatest 6th round steal this side of Tom Brady.
Included in “The Brown 21,” one rule for each of the 21 receivers picked before Brown, are insights from Brown’s coach at Central Michigan Butch Jones, Phil Savage, Bruce Arians, Scottie Montgomery, Charlie Batch, and Drew Rosenhaus.
- Note, none of the above names above currently work for the Steelers.
While Jeremy Fowler did quote Mike Tomlin, he didn’t get anyone from the current Steelers scouting or coaching staff to speak on the record about how Pittsburgh came to draft Antonio Brown. No surprise there.
But that didn’t Jeremy Fowler from hustling to tell a good story on the Steelers most important draft pick of the Mike Tomlin era. And for that Jeremy Fowler wins Watch Tower Kudos.
Lolley Calls Steelers 4th Round Pick 2 Months in Advance
The Steelers shocked (and angered) much of the fan base when the pick Tennessee Quarterback Joshua Dobbs in the 4th round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Count the Watch Tower among those who weren’t expecting this.
- But, as pointed out on here before, Dale Lolley’s readers shouldn’t have been caught off guard.
Based Art Rooney II postseason press conference, Dale Lolley told his readers “The Steelers will likely take a shot at a quarterback in the middle rounds of this year’s draft, much like they did with Jones a few years ago.”
Just as they’d done with Landry Jones in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Steelers drafted Dobbs in the 4th round. Perhaps Lolley had inside information, perhaps reporter’s intuition guided him, or maybe it was a mix of both.
It doesn’t matter. One thing is certain, Dale Lolley had the story two and a half months before the draft. Next time he speaks up like this, the Watch Tower will take note.
It’s Not Easy Being Green II
The saga of Ladarius Green, and analysis of the press coverage he generated during his short stay in Pittsburgh could easily provide material for several dozen Watch Tower columns.
- Fear not, we won’t attempt to do that here, but we’ll again focus on the work done by Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Last summer when Ladarius Green couldn’t get off the PUP list, Ed Bouchette got ahead of the story, going as far as to compare the Green signing to Chuck Noll’s badly botched Frank Lewis for Paul Seymor trade. At the time the Watch Tower wondered if that was idle speculation, or if Bouchette was signaling he knew a deeper back story he couldn’t yet report.
- With the Steelers cutting Ladarius Green, it seems like it is a case of the latter.
As soon as Green hit the wavier wire, Bouchette labeled the move as Pittsburgh’s worst free agent signing ever, and justified has argument by revealing that the Steelers failed to fully investigate his concussion history.
Once again, the Watch Tower says, “This Bud’s for you Mr. Bouchette.”
Making the Most of Steelers OTA’s
May showers in June flowers mean one thing for football fans – OTAs. OTA’s are only football in shorts, don’t often provide much meaningful news yet they’re all the rage. Except they’re not, for the men and women who cover them. Two years ago, a credentialed member of the Steelers press corps confided in a private email exchange:
Have not gone to OTAs yet but probably will next week. They are kind of annoying, frankly. There is no locker room access and you can only talk to the players as they are coming off of the field so its typically a scrum, especially the first week and even more so with a bunch of bored media.
The internet has made this phenomenon a stable of sports coverage – you’re used to seeing 2 dozen or so reporters bunched together, twisting themselves into pretzels as they squirm and stretch to shove a microphone towards Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell or Martavis Bryant’s mouth.
Such frenzies have always struck the Watch Tower as a bit odd, given that the same interview will probably be live on Steelers.com well before the reporters can write, let alone file, their stories.
- During this spring’s workouts, Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell determined to do something different.
After explaining the pecking order for interviews during off season workouts, Wexell made a (perhaps not so) subtle dig at his competitors observing that they preferred to watch passing trains while he reported on the progress of players like John Maxley, Francis Kallon, Matt Galambos, Keith Kelsey and Phazahn Odom.
He also took time out to do a story on Ethan Cooper, an undrafted rookie free agent lineman out of IUP, getting his full-length feature out almost a month before the Tribune Review and Post-Gazette writers did theirs (although, to be fair Mike Prisuta published a feature on Cooper on Steelers.com before Wexell.)
Devoting previous reporting time to stories on obscure roster bubble babies can carry a cost – Mike Tomlin is known to playfully taunt Penn Live’s Jacob Klingler as “Mr. Irrelevant” for doing just that. Fair enough. Some of those men Wexell profiled won’t make it to Latrobe, let alone the 1st preseason game.
- But remember, 2002, 2004 and 2009’s OTA’s featured similarly obscure players named James Harrison, Willie Parker, and Ramon Foster.
Beyond that, the Watch Tower awards kudos to Jim Wexell for finding a way to be different in an age where “content” gets recycled ad nauseam to the point where major dailies appear to be doing knockoff stories based on interviews posted on Steelers.com.
And, lest anyone label Steel City Insider a “bottom feeder” site, at the close of minicamp Wexell published an exclusive one-on-one interview with Ben Roethlisberger.
Hello Stafford (and, BTW So Long Shamarko)
Former Tennessee safety Daimion Stafford arrived in Pittsburgh at the end of May, effectively ended Pittsburgh’s 2017 foray into free agency and ending Shamarko Thomas tortured tenure with the team.
- Not that you’d know that from reading the major dailies, media sites and major fan sites that cover the Steelers.
The Steelers signed Stafford and day later, the New York Jet’s picked up Thomas. Yet, almost no one who writes about the Steelers connected the dots. The Watch Tower has taken the press to task for ignoring past late-spring departures of Mewelde Moore and Doug Legursky, but concedes that there’s probably less news value in Shamarko’s non-return.
- But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a good story to tell.
Last year Art Rooney II acknowledged the Steelers had “made mistakes” with their secondary. It would seem like that quote might made a good lede about the mistakes the Steelers made and how they’ve changed their approach (or not) in hopes of avoiding them.
Or, a crafty writer could take Carnell Lake’s words about Shamarko Thomas and tie them to the Senquez Golson comeback story, given Lake’s draft day assertions that both players would be first rounders if they were two inches taller. That’s another enticing lede to another non-story with the potential to provide a lot of insight.
So be it. No one’s surprised that Shamarko won’t be at St. Vincents this summer. But we will share that this site’s free agent profile of Shamarko Thomas saw a spike in page view the day he signed with Jets. Just Say’in.
Running into an Old Friend – McMillen & Wife is Back
Sometimes its just nice to run into an old friend.
That happened a short while back when yours truly was looking for an image of Neil O’Donnell and Google took me to McMillen and Wife. If you’re not familiar, McMillen and Wife was a pioneer Steelers fan site in the late 1990’s. In terms of offering innovation, giving fans a voice and delivering quality analysis, McMillen and Wife the same sort of trailblazer that Behind the Steel Curtain was early in the Tomlin era.
- Indeed, as mentioned in our very first post, McMillen & Wife helped inspire this site’s launch.
Work and life complications kept site founder and editor Tim McMillen from doing much after the early 00’s and while a friend kept the it going for a while, the site went more or less dormant for the last decade.
- But Tim McMillen is back with a vengeance.
McMillen doesn’t consider himself a blogger and is more passionate about design aspect of the site. When McMillen started very you could type in Terry Bradshaw, Joe Greene or Franco Harris’ names into Yahoo! and find almost nothing. As McMillen explains, “At the time, the pictures I was posting were some of the ONLY classic Steelers pics on the net! Hard to believe, really, because we take it completely for granted that we can find just about anything we want nowadays.”
And while the Watch Tower won’t steal his thunder, it will say that McMillen has found an unorthodox way to offer something unique to fans. Check it out just make sure you visit the site when you have plenty of spare time….