March 27, 2013 – New York, NY
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made waves by attending Texas’ pro day Tuesday. His presence seemed to surprise more than a few insiders, and was important enough to make headlines. At first glance, Tomlin’s visit seems to make perfect sense. The Steelers are getting old at Safety, according to recent reports, and they need to get younger now. Mock drafts would have the Steelers take a good young prospect such as Texas S Kenny Vaccaro in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft to be held in New York City from April 25-27. Other reports say the Steelers are in dire need of a young pass-rusher, such as Longhorn Defensive End Alex Okafor, whom the Steelers may target in the 2nd round of said draft, if he lasts that long, and then convert Okafor to a 3-4 Outside Linebacker. That makes a lot of sense if you listen to reports.
But why would the head coach of an NFL team, who’s got scouts to do his dirty work, travel all the way from Pittsburgh, PA just to look at a Safety prospect whom the Steelers don’t need this season and who may be a bit of a reach as a 17th overall pick in a draft deep with Safety prospects (according to reports) or a pass-rusher who’s a second-round prospect? What’s that you say? Tomlin didn’t travel all the way from Pittsburgh??? He only traveled from Dallas because he was already there for the annual owners’ meetings? Ok, I’ll give you that.
But the AFC coaches’ breakfast was held Tuesday, March 19th. Why would Tomlin stay a week in Texas just to travel to Austin for a day while other NFL coaches went home and let their teams’ scouts attend the workout in Austin? Did Tomlin take a vacation for a week in Texas during the busiest of time of the off-season? Granted, Texas is a nice place to visit. Who wouldn’t want to spend their Austin nights on 6th Street with spring break just around the corner? Tomlin might, but vacation isn’t a likely reason for him to linger in Texas. If Tomlin were going to spend a week of his precious vacation time somewhere, wouldn’t his home state of Virginia be a more logical choice to spend quality time with family? Maybe.
Or maybe he stayed in Texas and worked remotely from a hotel. Anyone who’s worked remotely knows it’s just like working from the office. Fax machines are so easy to find (and operate), you don’t feel out of your element at all, logging into your network is just the same as working from your desk, your laptop never freezes, you don’t have to deal with slow Wi-Fi, and your IT helpdesk is easily accessible, especially for hardware issues. There are no problems at all working while away from the office (tongue-in-cheek, if you couldn’t tell). Of course Tomlin didn’t work from a hotel thousands of miles from home just to get a better look at a couple of prospects who are late first-round or early second-round picks.
The real reason Tomlin attended Texas’ pro day in person is to see first-hand the current talents of former NFL Quarterback Vince Young. Go ahead, laugh. I brought it on myself, so laugh at my expense. But when you’ve pulled yourself off the floor, give it some thought. First of all, Vince Young has a world of talent. He’s a proven champion at the collegiate level. He’s big, fast, strong, and man can he throw it deep. Most importantly, he’ll come dirt cheap!
Before you consider the negatives to Vince Young, let’s analyze the positives. If history is any indication, the Steelers will need a starting-quality backup QB at some point this season. Face it now or face it in week 13: If Ben Roethlisberger suffers a serious injury in 2013 as he did with his foot injury in 2011 and his shoulder & rib injuries in 2012, the Steelers will need a capable backup to win a handful of games for a legitimate playoff-contending Steelers ball club. Bruce Gradkowski is not that person, yet he’s the only other QB currently on the Steelers’ roster. Gradkowski is more like Kent Graham than Ben Roethlisberger. He’s no more than a third string NFL QB at best, but Vince Young plays the position more like…Big Ben.
While other reports discuss the Steelers’ need at Linebacker, Running Back, Nose Tackle, Safety, Wide Receiver and even Offensive Line, this report hereby claims the Steelers have a dire need for a premier backup QB NOW! There have been surprisingly few, if any, reports calling for the Steelers to pick up a quality QB this offseason through the draft or free agency. That’s just not the Steelers’ way. Besides, the Steelers are cap-strapped, and there’s no way they could afford a starting-quality QB, right?
They just may be able to afford Vince Young. Young may even be humbled and desperate enough to take a modest signing bonus, a veteran minimum salary, and an incentive-laden deal just for the opportunity to prove he still has what it takes to make it in the NFL. He may be a lot like Tommy Maddox in that regard – a guy with a chip on his shoulder, with plenty of gas left in the tank, who has watched a silent phone long enough to be hungry again to prove he belongs and would do whatever it takes to achieve his dream.
That may all be well and good, but let’s weigh the negatives of Vince Young. He’s shown a lack of mental stability, according to reports. He relies too much on his physical talents and isn’t “cerebral” enough (like Kordell Stewart). He has an odd throwing motion (like Byron Leftwich). These may all be true, but Young likely wouldn’t need to start 16 games – dear God, we hope not! Young would only need to keep the Steelers alive while Big Ben recovers from the punishment the NFL will inevitably dole out on his 31-year-old body.
Yes, Vince Young does have off-field issues. He’s like another Texas alum, Ricky Williams. Both players have the talent to excel in the NFL, but have had issues outside the lines. Ricky Williams had his share of off-field issues, but he was still a spectacular, if not elite, running back. Williams may not have been the “Greatest Show on Turf” but he was by far the greatest running back on grass! (Give that one some thought if you didn’t get a good chuckle out of it.)
Similarly to Williams, Maddox, Stewart and Leftwich, Vince Young is a starting-caliber player in the NFL, even if he’s not perfect. He’s a player good enough to be worth Tomlin’s time to investigate first-hand. And while Young may not be perfect, he just may be a perfect fit for the Pittsburgh Steelers…at a perfect price.