Anthony McFarland to Make News Again in June?

The Freeman McNeil verdict, which brought free agency to the NFL, also ushered in the era of the NFL as a year-round sport. Between training camp, prep for the draft, free agency, the draft, mini-camp, and well, the season itself, about the only slow month for NFL news June.

This trend is pretty universal in the NFL, and Pittsburgh is no exception.

But perhaps Pittsburgh will the exception this year, because of, you guessed it, Anthony McFarland.

For those of you haven’t been following it closely, the Anthony McFarland saga is perhaps the biggest story, or non-story to be precise, of the off season short of the Ben Roethlisberger signing and the draft.

Here’s a quick recap. In March McFarland visited the Steelers. All sides agree that the meeting went well. The Post-Gazette even erroneously reported that McFarland had signed a contract. A few days later Nick Eason resigned with, and the Post-Gazette reported that event signified the end of the Steelers interest in McFarland.

Not so fast. During the spring owners meeting Mike Tomlin confirmed that McFarland was physically not ready to play yet, but that the Steelers definitely remained interested.

The Tribune-Review’s John Harris, who has been diligently reporting the McFarland story, now informs us that Anthony McFarland is set to give a private workout in Tampa, Florida.

Harris clearly thinks the Steelers should sign McFarland. McFarland will not inject much youth into the Steelers defensive line, but he could provide valuable depth.

Regardless of whether or not the Steelers sign him, regardless of whether or not that turns out to a good decision or good non-decision, the date of the workout is June 4th. Which, if nothing else, means that McFarland will provide Steelers Nation with yet another story/non-story….

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Updates on Dallas Baker, Max Starks and of course Anthony McFarland the “Real” Steeler News to Come out of NFL Owners Meetings

Both Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert met with the press during NFL’s recent owners meetings, but the slew of articles these meetings spawned led to little real news for Steelers fans.

Tomlin stated that the Steelers can a good team but reaffirmed that greatness is determined on the field. He also indicated that injured starters such as Max Starks, Marvel Smith, Ryan Clark, Aaron Smith, and Willie Parker and healing well and should be back at full strength. None of this was new to the attentive souls in Steelers Nation.

Those same observant fans, however, had to have been amused by the Post-Gazette article “When Big Ben Talks, Colbert Listens to His Wishes.” To the untrained eye, it might appear as if Ben Roethlisberger gained pull than simply his 102 million dollar contract.

  • Roethlisberger has publicly called for Pittsburgh to draft a tall wide out.

When asked about this, Colbert stated, “…if a tall receiver happens to be a good receiver and a value pick, that’s something we’ll definitely consider.”

  • Translation: The Steelers will not deviate from their plan to draft the best available player to satisfy Ben’s wishes.

Mike Tomlin did however share some insight regarding wide receivers, with praise former 7th round pick and practice squad player Dallas Baker. Tomlin informed that “[Baker] made plays on a daily basis (in practice) that raised some eyebrows.” While the coach was quick to point out that doing it in practice is not the same as in a game, at 6’3” 203 lbs. Baker holds potential. While he will probably never become a world beater, he could develop into a good 4th or even 3rd receiver.

Kevin Colbert also clarified that Max Starks remains in the Steelers plans, and that they have not made much progress on the long term deal they seek because of all the work they did running up to the owners meeting.

  • It appears that the Steelers are succeeding their gambit to scare other teams from Starks.

Starks showed a lot of versatility last year, and it would be good to have him back. It remains to be seen if the transition tag will force the Steelers to over paying to keep him.

Finally, John Harris of the Tribune Review brought us another twist in the Anthony McFarland story. McFarland is apparently not ready to play, but both he and the team were pleased by his work out. Tomlin asserted that he remains interested in McFarland, and if that is the case then the Post-Gazette was again mistaken when they commented that Nick Eason’s signing signaled the end of the Steelers interest in McFarland.*

It will be interesting to see how the McFarland situation unfolds following the draft; likewise, Dallas Baker’s performance also bears watching.

*Although this is not an offical edition of “Watch Tower,” the Tribune-Review whipped Post-Gazette again by delivering the news on McFarland, Starks, and Baker.

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Watch Tower: Tribune Review Was Right on Steelers and Anthony McFarland

It turns out that the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review got it right. Anthony “Bud” McFarland is not a Pittsburgh Steeler. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette mistakenly reported on Wednesday the 26th that McFarland had reached an agreement with the Steelers. The Tribune-Review article of the same day had explicitly said that no deal had been reached.

  • Credit the Tribune-Review’s Scott Brown for bringing Steelers Nation the hard facts.

By Thursday the 27th, the Post-Gazette had taken the previous day’s article off their main page, and the version that was available on the site’s search engine had been edited. The headline referred to an agreement, the text however did not. (As of today, both the text and the headline have been edited – no correction was announced however.)

How Nick Eason’s signing impacts the Steelers interest in McFarland is still ambiguous. The Post Gazette reported today that the re-signing of Eason ends the Steelers’ interest in McFarland. The Tribune-Review states that it is unclear how reinking Eason affects potential interest in McFarland.

Given that both papers clearly indicated that no negotiations have taken place, it is unlikely that the Steelers will make an offer to McFarland. He might have been an interesting pick up, but given his injury history and the team’s limited salary cap space, this move is understandable.

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Watch Tower: Steelers Sign Warren, Eason… and McFarland?

The Steelers continue to make moves in free agency, although a cloud of mist appears to shroud the exact nature of some of team’s latest personnel decisions.

In resigning Greg Warren, the Steelers shore up the small, but highly significant position of long-snapper. You don’t hear Warren’s name much, and that’s a good thing.

Nick Eason’s resigning is more interesting, if for no other reason that the confusion surrounding Anthony “Booger” McFarland. On Wednesday March 26th, the Post-Gazette reported that the Steelers had signed defensive tackle Anthony McFarland, whom the Colts had recently released. However, on the same day the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that McFarland had been “ecstatic when he got back,” from his meeting with the Steelers, but Scotty Brown made clear that no agreement had been reached.

  • Wednesday’s article disappeared from the Post-Gazette’s Steelers section on Thrusday, although the paper reported Nick Eason’s re-signing.

Interestingly enough, Wednesday’s article was available via the Post-Gazette’s search engine. The story’s headline proclaims: “Steelers sign Warren; McFarland agrees to deal.” As currently posted, however, the text in the article does not refer to any agreement between the two parties. If memory serves, the original text did (I remember reading that in wondering why dollar terms had been disclosed.)

What’s going on here? Is McFarland a Steeler or not? It would appear that he is not, in light of the Tribune-Review article and the mysterious disappearance/editing of the Post-Gazette article.

The 24 hour news cycle is unrelenting, and concrete facts can be incredibly elusive in the age of cyber-journalism. If the Post-Gazette made a mistake, so be it. But if Wednesday’s article was in err, then why not issue a clarification?

If McFarland is not a Steeler, then that raises the more pertinent question for Steelers fans is did that fact impact the decision to resign Eaton? At this point, the Steelers probably could have signed Eaton at their leisure. McFarland most certainly would have been an upgrade over Eaton, and so there’s a strong possibility that they would not have resigned Eaton if McFarland was still in their plans.

The defensive line is a need area for the Steelers, and it would be interesting to know exactly what has gone on these last few days.

 

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