By Mike Prisuta
Thursday, August 30, 2007
The Steelers will have a purpose tonight in Charlotte, N.C. -- to get off the field at Bank of America Stadium as quickly as possible without injury.
Mike Tomlin, of course, begs to differ.
The first-year coach of the Steelers said the other day that there's still much at stake for several of his players.
"Absolutely," Tomlin said. "There is clarity, yes, particularly at some positions, but we're going to watch this thing continue to unfold."
They've been watching it unfold since the offseason program, through two minicamps, the organized team activities and a training camp that opened July 23 in Latrobe.
And after all that, we're supposed to buy into the concept that what happens tonight when Steelers and Panthers second- and third-teamers battle for supremacy still matters?
If it does, something's wrong with the process.
The Steelers ought to know by now if they can trust punt and kickoff returns to Willie Reid.
They ought to have come to a decision on whether to keep Brian St. Pierre as the third quarterback, and, if they're planning on keeping him, how to also retain the services of a "team player" (linebacker Marquis Cooper for special-teams purposes?) or a project (is Ryan McBean worth salvaging to develop on an aging defensive line?).
They ought to know who the third tight end is, the fifth running back and the eighth and ninth offensive linemen.
They ought to have gone over the final 53 about 53 times and hammered out 53 different scenarios that allow them to compose whatever type of roster they're most comfortable with heading into Cleveland.
Anything that happens tonight ought to be rejected under the premise of the Steelers already having received more than enough evaluation information.
Of course, the NFL machine dictates a different mentality.
There's money to be made from selling tickets and televising games that are unnecessary.
Consequently, those are force-fed as having value, and everyone -- from the coaches to the players to the scouts to the media -- occasionally falls into the trap.
"People make such a big deal about the preseason not meaning anything, but then when you don't do anything, they make such a big deal about it," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "It's kind of funny how that works."
Here's how it should work -- two weeks at a small college for camp and then two exhibition games, one for the rookies and new arrivals and a second for the vets to play as much as is deemed necessary to shake the rust.
That'll never happen, but imagine the possibilities if it did.
For starters, we could cut the roster already and be free tonight to engage ourselves in something much more meaningful.
Something such as NBC's rerun of "My Name is Earl."