Steelers’ Tomlin Attends Texas Pro Day for…QB Prospect

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?

Think again.

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.

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Bankers’ Athletic League Chess 2013-03-14 Brizard vs. Alban

March 14, 2013  New York, NY

Mark Alban, playing as black, scores his third victory in four matches as Uncastled plays to a draw against Stuyvestant Town in Round 6 of Bankers’ Athletic League – Chess Division action Thursday night.  Facing higher-rated opponents on all four boards, Uncastled held off a tough Stuytown team, drawing the match 2-2.

Match results below are provided in the order in which the games finished.  My annotation of my game follows, and finally the moves list of my game concludes the blog.  The moves are in standard .pgn format, and can be copied/pasted into any .pgn or .txt formatted file.

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MATCH RESULTS (from Uncastled team captain Ajay Vachhani’s report):

Tom Amato, playing black on board 3, gave up a pawn against Tyrone Sylvester, leading to Amato’s eventual downfall. Uncastled 0, Stuytown 1.

Ajay Vachhani, playing white on board 4 against Leroy Gordon, moved too quickly trying to get his rook into action.  Instead of moving the rook where it could have been supported by a bishop, he moved it to an unprotected square. As a result, Vachhani lost a knight in order to save the rook, and then the rest of his position fell apart, leading to the dreaded queen/rook fork and a winning advantage for Gordon.  Uncastled 0, Stuytown 2

Mark Alban, playing black on board 1 against Peter Brizard, was battling out another wild, wide-open Sicilian position.  Alban gained an extra pawn on move 27, and another pawn a few moves later before finally sealing the victory with 2 minutes left.  Although Alban was down in time by more than 20 minutes, Brizard rushed his moves, trying to pressure Alban into a mistake.  But when his clock fell below 5 minutes, Alban took his game to the next level, capitalizing on a Brizard blunder, forking Brizard’s king and rook for the winning advantage. Despite time pressure, Mark won and had a “happy ending.”  Uncastled 1, Stuytown 2.

Finally, Carl Haynes, playing White against Mariano Perrero, managed to gain a pawn advantage as well as a time advantage.  Those small advantages proved significant in the end, allowing Haynes to clear all his opponent’s pieces off the board, forcing Perrero’s resignation and saving a match draw for Uncastled.  Final score: Uncastled 2, Stuytown 2.

Kudos to both teams for playing to a hard-fought draw.

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HERE’S MY ANNOTATION OF MY GAME (BRIZARD VS ALBAN):

I lost my score sheet from 2 weeks ago, but I’ll provide that whenever I can find it. Below is my game from 3/14/13.  On move 5, I figured my opponent must be preparing to castle Queenside.  He already fianchettoed his kingside bishop, and when he pushed his f-pawn on move 5, I thought his king would be too exposed if he castled kingside.  So I began preparing my troops to storm the queenside.  Also, at that point, I figured I needed a tempo, so I had to develop, and I’d wait as long as possible before castling…as it turned out I really did wait as long as possible:  I never castled at all!!!!  I thought 6. d3 was a mistake.  It allowed me to harass his knight, and keep the game closed (allowing me, as black, to gain back the tempo by not castling, developing my attack instead while Brizard castled).  8. h3 may have been unnecessary. It only prevented me from moving Ng4, but it gave me an opportunity to sac my knight in order to open up a line to his king if I chose to do so.  I felt that my 8…Qb6 was critical in order to keep his Bishop passive for the time being.  13. Nf5 was a great way to force my hand. 17. Nf4 also gave him a strongly placed knight, one which had some sacrificing possibilities.  But he never took advantage of those possibilities.  23. Qe5 was also a mistake.  I was able to chase the queen away with my pawn play, so it was a wasted move for him.  He should have just moved 23. Qe4 to begin with, because that’s the exact square he moved his queen to 2 moves later.  I thought 27. c4 was also a mistake, but only because I had a threat to take his rook by move 30. That also gave me the connected pawns on the queenside in addition to giving me an extra pawn.   Then of course, 46. Kg2 was the clearly losing move. At that point, I had about 2 minutes left, missed a few subsequent checkmates and had stopped recording my moves.
[Event “BAL”]
[Site “Stuytown”]
[Date “2013.03.14”]
[Round “6”]
[White “Peter Brizard”]
[Black “Mark Alban”]
[Result “0-1”]
[PlyCount “96”]
[TimeControl “G75”]

1. e4 c5
2. Nc3 Nc6
3. g3 e6
4. Bg2 Nf6
5. f4 d5
6. d3 d4
7. Nce2 Be7
8. h3 Qb6
9. Nf3 Bd7
10. O-O Rc8
11. Kh2 h5
12. Nh4 e5
13. Nf5 Bxf5
14. exf5 Bd6
15. Bxc6+ Rxc6
16. fxe5 Bxe5
17. Nf4 Kf8
18. Qf3 h4
19. g4 Qd8
20. Kg1 Rb6
21. g5 Bxf4
22. Qxf4 Nd5
23. Qe5 f6
24. gxf6 gxf6
25. Qe4 Qd6
26. Rf3 Kf7
27. c4 dxc3
28. bxc3 Nxc3
29. Qc4+ Qd5
30. Qxd5+ Nxd5
31. Bd2 Rg8+
32. Kh1 Rb2
33. Be1 Rh8
34. Rc1 b6
35. d4 cxd4
36. Rd3 Rh5
37. Rxd4 Rxf5
38. Bxh4 Rf3
39. Ra4 Rxh3+
40. Kg1 a5
41. Bf2 Rf3
42. Rf1 Rf4
43. Ra3 a4
44. Rd3 Rf5
45. Rh3 b5
46. Kg2 Nf4+
47. Kh2 Nxh3
48. Kxh3 Rfxf2

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