Steelers OTA’s will bring a week of fresh news to Steelers Nation, as last week’s biggest “Steelers story” was the Carolina Panthers cutting Brandon Boykin less than two months after signing him to a one year $840,000 contract in favor of Shaquille Richardson.
- Someday a college professor somewhere will write a paper about the role that the internet and social media play in sustaining Steelers Nation.
In the early ‘90’s a story like the Boykins, outside of Pittsburgh, would have merited maybe a line at two the “Transactions” column crammed at the back of a sports page. Don’t believe me? That’s how the Boston Globe treated the Panther’s decision to cut Barry Foster after the Steelers had traded him.
- Today every Steelers site dutifully wrote their “Panthers cut former Steeler Brandon Boykin” post
- Steelers Nation simultaneously debated the decision on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and SnapChat.
So be it. This isn’t a Watch Tower post, but rather one that shows how the Boykin story illustrates a basic point:
- Kevin Colbert usually makes good personnel decisions.
Ah you say, but what about Dri Archer and Shamarko Thomas to name two recent, high profile draft day disappointments?
Fair enough. Kevin Colbert doubtlessly would like to have both draft picks back. But NFL drafting success is part art, part science and part blind luck. But when it comes to evaluating the talent on the Steelers roster, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin are pretty good decision makers.
When Brandon Boykin signed with the Panthers, large swaths of Steelers Nation reacted as if the Steelers had just lost Rod Blount Boykin, to use a phrase coined by Dale Lolley. A case could be made for keeping Boykin, but he was no Rod Woodson or Mel Blount. Nor was he an Ike Taylor or even a Deshea Townsend.
- Pittsburgh’s decision to go all in on Senquez Golson, Doran Grant and an unnamed draft pick (now Artie Burns) certainly carries risk for Steelers 2016 title hopes.
But now Ron Rivera and Dave Gettleman, two guys who just took their team to the Super Bowl, have made decided to trust in Shaquille Richardson over Brandon Boykin. Richardson, if you’ll remember, was the Steelers 2014 5th round draft pick who got cut in training camp and has yet to play a down of NFL football.
- None of this should suggest that Kevin Colbert remains immune from making personnel mistakes.
That is hardly the case. The Steelers let Ryan Mundy go in 2013 and if his stat sheet is any guide, he’s had two solid seasons in New York and Chicago. That same off season, the Steelers gave up on Willie Colon due to his injury history and opted not to renew Doug Legursky’s contract. You’d better believe that when Maurkice Pouncey was lost for the year and Mike Adams couldn’t cut it at right tackle, Mike Tomlin wished he’d had either Colon or Legursky at his disposal
- Keenan Lewis is another player the Steelers let get away in the 2013 off season that they wish they could have back.
But the decisions to let Mundy, Colon, Lewis and to some extent Legursky walk were as much or almost as much the result of salary cap restrictions as they were results of talent evaluations. That doesn’t exempt Colbert from criticism, because a general manager has to make those choices.
- But outside of Lewis, Colon and Mundy, you’d be hard pressed to find someone the Steelers cut who thrived elsewhere.
What about Kraig Urbik?
Urbik is certainly one of the “ Ones that got away” from the Steelers 2009 draft class, but the Steelers wanted to keep Urbik, but were forced to expose him to the wavier wire because Byron Leftwich’s injury forced the Steelers to keep Charlie Batch on the roster during Ben Roethlisberger’s 2010 suspension. Urbik’s started 57 games for the Bills over the last six seasons, but the Steelers decision to keep Batch looked pretty smart when Dennis Dixon went down in week 2.
Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin may miss on draft picks. They might overestimate the development potential of a player, such as Cortez Allen. They might trade for guys who disappoint, such as Levi Brown, Felix Jones or…. Brandon Boykin.
But when the Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin let a guy go, its not too often you’ll see the guy make a name for himself elsewhere.