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The most boring team to watch during the preseason is the Pittsburgh Steelers. They’ve mostly run with the atrocious Josh Dobbs (4-7 for 24 yards) at quarterback, which is almost like not having a quarterback at all. The Steelers rest/keep their starters out of harm’s way in the preseason most of the time.
You know why they do that? You know why the Steelers rest most of their key players in the preseason – beyond what most teams do? For the same reason that when meaningless Week 17 arrives, Mike Tomlin is the first one to sit half the starters for the game right up front…while everybody else puts their key assets in harm’s way in meaningless games because of some such nonsense like ‘finishing strong’. Who cares if the Jets end the season with a win in a meaningless Week 17 game or not? The whole organization is still awful regardless of whether they win in Week 17 the season prior. A Week 17 win by an awful team is nothing to build on. 20-30% the players will be turned over through free agency or whatever anyway. The incoming rookies don’t know anything about what happened last year. It’s idiotic. Kudos to Mike Tomlin for ‘getting it’…while Drew Bress will log a whole game just to pad his stats…and the coach lets him do it.
The preseason is time for young players to develop, deep backups to be assessed, and for stars to be kept safe. Meanwhile, some teams are pushing their starters for 2-3 quarters in more than one preseason game. How many devastating ACL’s happened last week? I happen to know because most every one of the ACL players was on my fantasy teams.
I make fun of a lot of the way NFL teams are run, but I rarely have a negative word for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Operationally, but you could argue they may be the smartest run football team in the NFL — from a ‘coaches recognizing it’s all about the talent not play books and not screaming ‘focus’ at them while they’re stretching their hamstrings for 37 minutes to start practice‘ perspective. Mike Tomlin lets the talent be the talent. That doesn’t mean he’s going to win all his games, but what happened last year? He saw his team for what it was – great offensive line and an elite running back, and sloppy but great QB. So, he just started jamming the ball down opponents throat on the ground daring them to stop him, and they couldn’t. The Steelers ended the 2016 season on a nine-game winning streak. They made it to the final four. Do you want to blast them for losing to New England at New England? We’re supposed to think the Steelers are a failure because they couldn’t beat the Patriots on the road?
That being said, what the Steelers did yesterday (as of this writing) is another reason why they are so well run and have now taken one more step towards potentially knocking off the vaunted Patriots. They took one of the top tight ends in football from the 49ers for the cost of a measly fourth round draft pick (and sent a 5th back…so basically they moved up a round and gave away a top TE).
Do you know what the moronic 49ers did with their fourth round draft pick in the 2017 NFL draft? Well, they actually traded up to get a high pick in the fourth round so they could draft Utah RB Joe Williams. Joe Williams doesn’t belong in the NFL. He may have the worst set of hands of any college prospect I’ve ever seen – he literally cannot catch a football out of the backfield on top of fumbling every other carry he gets. This was gold for the 49ers to actually trade for? So, basically, you could look at this current deal as Vance McDonald for Joe Williams – Joe Williams who should be banished to the practice squad but will probably be kept on the roster to spare John Lynch embarrassment. Oh, I’m gonna get to John Lynch when we do the 49ers recap from Week 3 of the preseason. Don’t even get me started.
*It’s not like the 4th pick is magic for the Steelers either – they drafted Josh Dobbs in the 4th round this year, and he’ll be outta football by the end of 2019.
Let’s focus on the brilliance of the Steelers in this deal — Vance McDonald is one of the best blocking tight ends in all of football. The Steelers have literally added a TE blocking gem to what was probably the best offensive line in football last year. Think about that… The best offensive line just got better. Le’Veon Bell is going to further destroy people on the ground and this is more stock up for Ben Roethlisberger’s time in the pocket and thus Antonio Brown’s likely output.
To the mainstream football analysts, the Steelers adding Vance McDonald meant giving them a platform to lose their minds about rookie TE George Kittle for the 49ers. We will get to that in the 49ers analysis. You go right ahead and focus on the cool, shiny rookie you think you’ve discovered. Meanwhile, the Steelers add boring old Pro Bowl-level tight end Vance McDonald – who not only blocks like a mother, but he has high-end athleticism for a tight end…especially considering how truly physically huge he is. This trade works on so many different levels for the Steelers – and all they had to give up was a fourth round pick so the 49ers could draft another Joe Williams next year. You know who else traded away a meaningless draft pick for one of the top blocking tight ends in the league because it’s not sexy and other teams are stupid – New England acquiring Dwayne Allenfrom the other team in this game for a similar pick. You can’t find these kinds of guys easily in the NFL Draft, plus you have the advantage of having had watched them work for a couple years in the NFL for confirmation – the Steelers and the Patriots grab proven success TEs while terrible organizations reach for new, bright shiny new toys.
No analysts respect Vance McDonald has an offensive weapon, not even his own/former team, but that’s because the tape is filled with him working with the biggest load of crap quarterbacks and offenses to hit the NFL the past few years – how’s he supposed to thrive in that? Actually, there were several spurts where he did. He spun gold in some situations. But he’s too boring, and somehow George Kittle is where it’s all at. I’m sure the 49ers will be hosting the Super Bowl trophy within two years led by George Kittle. Honestly, the 49ers are radically on my nerves. I have to hold myself back until I write that one.
How about Vance McDonald for fantasy? You have to love it, no? For the same reason I was giddy about the LaDarius Greenpairing, now the Steelers snag another one of my guys. This one being healthy. You can make the TE1 argument for fantasy quite easily for McDonald in Pittsburgh. It may take a few weeks for him to get integrated, but what a perfect landing spot – all the defensive coverage/attention on Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant with obvious attention to Le’Veon Bell. McDonald’s gonna be able to slip off of a block and rumble out for an easy pass over the middle, and when he catches it — good luck trying to tackle him in the open field. It could be a beautiful thing once he is integrated with the team. It’s hard for us to get totally excited, those that of been with me for a while, because I’ve been pushing McDonald as a sleeper for fantasy for two years and you’ve only seen spurts of pay off. Like with Ted Ginn (just popped to mind) – talented guy who was FF-plausible in a very underwhelming fantasy environment for years – now, goes to a terrific environment we should all be excited about but we can’t shake the old memories of this player being OK but not ‘wow’. I get it. I’m the same way. Just note this move for VMD could be very very useful for Fantasy.
Fantasy player notes…
I’m just going to hit on a few quick one because nothing new/great has been revealed with either of these two teams in the preseason. We already knew the Colts were bad and they just prove it over and over again every week. We have no idea how good the Steelers are because they use the preseason as practice for the guys that need it…and resting the stars. But just to hit on a couple of guys:
— Marlon Mack (7-18-0) still looks pretty good when he’s thrown into the game, but he’s definitely not getting any run of importance. He’s not really running with the starters. He’s definitely a second-class citizen right now.
My only point in having some enthusiasm about Mack is – if Andrew Luck’s going to be out for an extended time then this team looks like it’s headed towards a dumpster fire…so, working Robert Turbin because he knows the playbook better becomes more meaningless with every loss. Getting the exciting youngster (Mack) involved will be a pressure on the Colts staff… one that will be looking for answers because they’re all about to get fired. The turn to Mack could happen pretty quickly if Luck is out awhile. If the Colts start out 0–3 and Andrew Luck is nowhere in sight, Frank Gore is getting traded.
— if the Steelers don’t keep Terrell Watson they’re out of their minds. If the Steelers don’t put Terrell Watson as the #2 RB/handcuff to Bell their crazy. The Steelers usually aren’t that crazy. I’m gonna be really interested to see whether they accommodate Watson and give up on James Conner (4-26-0) – or if they are too sucked in to ‘draft status’ and ‘backstory’ with Conner. Conner will likely make the team and probably Fitzgerald Toussaint as well — and the Steelers will believe they can sneak Watson on to the practice squad…and they’re probably right. It’s the right way to play the cards, really. I should have called it crazy to start. Play your cards that 28+ other NFL teams are not paying attention nor do they know what they’re looking at…and the Patriots don’t need another running back. It’s the right call to release Watson to stash him on the P-Squad.
They better be careful if I’m secretly running the Buffalo Bills…
— That’s the end of the player notes, but I wanted to end on more Indianapolis Colts talk – to make you some money so you can buy all our product offerings from a ‘net positive’ position. The Colts are going to walk into Week 1 without their franchise quarterback. That’s almost a given at this point. They’ve also lost their high-end, young Center – a key component of an offensive line. An offensive line that has struggled for years. The will be starting Scott Tolzien Week 1. The Colts have had one of the worst defenses in football for years and now have lost arguably their best defense of player — CB Vontae Davis to injury – because they were playing him in this meaningless game and he got hurt. The Colts have young linebackers, not great linebackers, and will probably start the wrong linebackers Week 1. They have no pass rushing guys to fear. They lost their great safety prospect, Clayton Geathers…gone due to injury this summer.
The Colts are a mess and arguably enter Week 1 as the single worst football team 1-to-22 in the league without Luck and all the other injuries. And somehow the Colts are a -3.0 favorite ON THE ROAD versus a Rams team that is full of energy, has some young, emerging talent, under a disciplined head coach – with a top defensive coordinator joining the bunch. I don’t care if Aaron Donald is gone Week 1, the Rams are primed to blow out the Colts on opening day. I’ve mentioned it a couple times already this preseason, but this is really shaping up to be the best bet of week – if not the whole season. It was already strong enough before this preseason game, but now the Colts losing Vontae Davis throws another log on the fire. Get in your early bets on the Rams before the line moves radically, soon.