Hello, Steeler fans, and welcome to March Talk, which is what Mike Tomlin calls it when people say discouraging things about his football team on the wrong side of the calendar.
With March Talk heading into its final week, today I thought we'd try to determine if there might be some way to prevent March Talk from morphing into April-thru-August Talk or, in a worst of all words scenario, September Talk about how March Talk was, regrettably, remarkably portentous.
Happily, just one month from Monday night, Roger Goodell will walk to a microphone in New York and begin the 2013 NFL Draft. Now should you, in your gathering perspiration, need a more precise measurement of the time between here and there, you may consult the clock at NFL.com, where there is display of seconds actually ticking down.
What, no tenths of seconds?
The digital countdown to Draft Weekend is one of the more recent league innovations designed to turn the draft into Armageddon, and while I have generally resisted that interpretation, this draft certainly looks pretty darned important to the Steelers if they're going to put March Talk behind them.
The difference this time, and for the first time in recent memory, is that Mike Tomlin's team needs everything.
Not only does it need somebody who can take the top off the defense, it needs somebody who can take the bottom off the defense; it needs somebody to fold in the sides of the defense and insert tabs A and B into slots C and D.
It needs somebody who can hack through the defense like when one of those late night infomercial knives clips the fender off a '74 El Dorado.
It needs somebody who can separate, somebody who can close, and perhaps even an equipment guy who can separate the clothes.
Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert might disagree with all of this, because he's not fond of "need" as a verb choice, let alone as a gaping hole in a roster in his charge, such as at wide receiver, defensive back, outside linebacker, running back and defensive line, just to name a few random gapers.
The first thing the club needs is not to assemble anything like last year's draft class, which, it might be argued, didn't yield a productive player until the seventh round. Tight end David Paulson and offensive lineman Kelvin Beachem didn't quite get their own talk shows, but they carried out assignments better than the six Steelers picks before them.
David DeCastro and Mike Adams, the first- and second-round behemoths a year ago, should soon correct that.
Similar corrections were hoped for from the 2008 Steelers draft class, which has vanished from the Pittsburgh hillsides in its entirety just five years later: Rashard Mendenhall, Limas Sweed, Bruce Davis, Tony Hills, Dennis Dixon, Mike Humpal, Ryan Mundy.
Colbert and his redoubtable scouting staff, in conjunction with Tomlin and his assistants, have weighed, measured, tested, interviewed and graded every conceivable potential solution in this draft, so they might be more capable of identifying the best choice with the 17th pick of the first round than I, but I have to caution you that twice I watched Mel Kiper and Todd McShay in their ESPN Draft Lab, once without even wondering what that green stuff in the beakers is.
I'd draft a receiver with the 17th pick because when you have problems at that position, it weakens the Steelers strongest asset, which is still the quarterback position.
I'd take Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee if he were somehow available, because a lot of people see him as a Demaryius Thomas type, which means, as you may remember, that he can inflict instantaneous, lasting heartache on a defense and an organization that hasn't won a playoff game in going on three years.
But Patterson likely won't be around at 17, and that, I think, will leave the Steelers with a choice from among Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins, Southern Cal's Robert Woods, Cal's Keenan Allen and possibly even Tavon Austin of West Virginia.
Austin's amazing athleticism is such that few NFL personnel people are spooked by his stature, which should not be called smallish, because he's just small. Smaller than Emmanuel Sanders. Smaller than Antonio Brown. At 5-8 and 174, scouts project him as a slot receiver. He also projects as an injury.
Injuries figure prominently on draft day, which is why it might be hard to commit to either Woods, who's had surgery on his ankle, or to Allen, who is still battling knee and hamstring problems.
My pick then would be DeAndre "Nuke" Hopkins, who is 6-1 and 214 and last fall cobbled together a tremendously productive season in the Southeast Conference, where it just so happens that scores of predatory athletes roam the secondaries.
Disclaimer: This entire exercise was done without putting any green stuff into a beaker.
Translation: I could be wrong, but then, you knew that.
Join us next time on March Talk.mobilehome - genecollier