Steelers Fever – Steelers Go To Church

Steelers Go To Church

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

Monday, April 02, 2007
By Marc Simon
Steelers Fever Columnist

Andy Russell. Jack Ham. Jack Lambert. Greg Lloyd. Kevin Greene. Joey Porter. And now, Marcello Church. Marcello Church?

For those of you that missed it, the Steelers recently signed Marcello, a free agent linebacker from Florida State who did not play football last year due to injury. Let’s pray the Steelers will get as lucky with Church as they did with another free agent, Willie Parker. All Fast Willie has done over the last two seasons is rush for close to 2,700 yards and score 21 touchdowns.

Given the success they had with FWP, maybe the Steelers figure, hey, open enough oysters, eventually you find a pearl, right? On the other hand, Marcello Church could go the way of Mike Kudla. Mike who? My point exactly.

Well, just in case Marcello isn’t the reincarnation of Dick Butkus – and let’s hope he is – we have to ask the question: When was the last time the Steelers had a true high-impact linebacker? Five years ago, Kendrell Bell looked as if he might be the anointed one after his explosive rookie season. Maybe he was too explosive. Injuries to his groin and shoulders diminished his effectiveness, to the point where the Steelers let him go to Kansas City in free agency, preferring to rely on the steady, if unspectacular, Larry Foote.

The current crew of Steelers linebackers, while certainly competent, doesn’t have a game-changer as in days gone by. Joey Porter and his motor mouth are gone, but maybe that’s a good thing. It says here the Dolphins will soon find out they paid silly money for a player whose biggest hits may happen off the field, as evidenced by his alleged coldcocking of Bengals tackle Levi Jones in a Las Vegas casino. James Farrior is a former All Pro, with emphasis on the former. At this stage of his career, he gets by with smarts and toughness. Foote remains consistently pretty good, with Clark Haggans a step behind. James Harrison has shown flashes, but until he plays a full season, the jury is still out.

There was one dynamite free agent linebacker available this year, the Ravens’ Adalius Thomas. The New England Patriots snapped him up faster than you can say $22 million for the first two years. Whew. That’s Joey Porter money.

So let’s recap. The Dolphins sign Porter, who we didn’t want. The Patriots sign Thomas, who we couldn’t afford. We sign Marcello Church. Hmmn.

I know, we didn’t have cap space to go after Thomas, it’s not the Steeler way to pursue megabucks free agents, etc. All I know is the Steelers live and die with the 3-4, the defense where the linebackers are called on to make the big plays. Sure, there’s talk new head coach Mike Tomlin is a 4-3 kind of guy, but for now, at least, he says he’s sticking with the 3-4. That means the team requires superior linebacker play, both for the pass rush and for pass coverage.

Maybe linebacker help will be forthcoming in the draft. There are several intriguing prospects, including inside linebacker Patrick Willis from Mississippi and outside man Paul Posluszny from Penn State. Both may be available at Pick #15, the Steelers’ slot. If they really like one of these guys, why not trade up to take one or the other? If nothing else, it will give Marcello a little competition.

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