— It’s worth noting that the Steelers Organization won our weekly Jagoff of the Week award on TribLIVE Radio Wednesday, narrowly defeating ‘people who are upset with the Michael Vick signing’. So, by our very informal poll, we have a nearly-split audience of Steelers fans in regards to how they feel about Vick signing on as the new Steelers backup QB. Mike Tomlin came in third place in the voting for his perceived influence on the signing (their hometown connection), and owner Art Rooney II came in fourth.
— Our newest host Tim Benz, by the way, finished a strong fifth place in JOTW voting for his impassioned anger towards the Steelers for bringing Vick in. But give Benzie credit, he asked the tough questions of Vick in the locker room on Wednesday, including “How do you sleep at night?”
— I’m fine with the Vick signing, by the way. He’s better than Landry Jones, it’s been six years since time served, and he proved last year against Pittsburgh he can still win a game, and with a much worse offense at that. This is sport, derived from the word ‘disport’, or “to divert oneself”. Sports are an escape, not a social institution of pristine character importance. Of course there needs to be some moral standard of behavior to uphold, but Vick has suffered plenty for his mistakes and he’s an entertainer; he’s not teaching our kids or determining national policy. I’m willing to keep watching him as he gets his second chance.
— My Jagoff vote was a pre-emptive one for playcaller Todd Haley, because I was petrified he would actually sometimes play Vick over Roethlisberger by using a wicky-wacky collection of plays or wasting precious two-point conversion attempts. My vote was unfounded however, as Haley later told Trib Total Media’s Mark Kaboly that he’d “have to think twice” about taking Ben off the field. Let’s hope that second thought limits Vick usage to only-injury-situations.
— So far in the preseason, NFL teams are 100 for 105 on extra points (95%) and 14-for-31 (45%) on two-point tries. So basically given this limited data, it still makes more sense to take the “automatic” one point. However, it’s close, and I’m curious to see how Week 3 goes with better offensive personnel on the field for longer stretches. If a team can convert at 50% from two-point land, it simply makes more sense over the long haul to go for the two. And I believe this Steelers offense has what it takes to convert at 50%.
— Keeping in mind, coaches still need to be smart in the fourth quarter and use time and score as their guide of when and when-not to chase the extra points.
— Like many, my favorite new Steelers player to watch this preseason has been undrafted QB/WR Tyler Murphy. It sounds like he won’t play much this week in the team’s fourth (of five) preseason games at Buffalo, but he might play a ton in the final exhibition game. He’d be a steal if they can keep him on the practice squad, and I would even consider keeping him on the 53-man roster over Dri Archer or Landry Jones depending on how he finishes camp. That, though, will never happen. It will take an injury for Murphy to make it.
— They should have given Murphy more looks at QB dating back to minicamp instead of wasting time with Tahj Boyd. Or Landry.
— Tyler Murphy would be the perfect player for an NFL Development League. I’d watch a Tuesday or Wednesday night Steelers B-Team game if he was at QB. Or at WR.
— We talked some Penn State football on our show Wednesday with their defensive coordinator, and Oakmont native, Bob Shoop. Shoop had a few interesting things to say:
In regards to being back at full scholarship after the lifting of sanctions, Shoop noted that “a lot of our depth are really good young players. I think we were the first or second youngest team in the country last year, and it’ll be very similar this year. A lot of the players we’re counting on to be good players for us are young players. On defense specifically, we lost some pretty mature guys in Mike Hull, Deion Barnes, and Adrian Amos. It’s hard to replace game experience.”
On their first opponent, Temple, Shoop said “they really should have been in a bowl game last year. They have a really dynamic quarterback in P.J. Walker who is very versatile. They have a center named Kyle Friend who anchors a really good offensive line that returns a lot of guys. They return their top running back Jahad Thomas. They’ve got our attention.”
And in talking about his own unit, Shoop evaluated each level of the D:
Defensive Line – “We lost three of our top four defensive ends off last year’s squad. Questions I’ve had, Garrett Sickels has answered the bell as a guy we think has a chance to be an All-Conference player. Carl Nassib, same thing. Where people might look at DE and say we lost some productivity, we think we can be every bit as good and productive as last year.”
Linebacker – “You lose a guy like Mike Hull, Nyeem Wartman-White has stepped into the middle linebacker position and really excelled at calling signals for our defense. He understands the scheme inside and out, has embraced that role. When he moved in there, Jason Cabinda took his spot at outside linebacker, he’s had maybe as good and consistent camp as anybody we’ve had.”
Secondary – “We moved Jordan Lucas from corner to safety, he and Marcus Allen have had as consistent a camp as we can ask. They’ve been really solid, communicated well, been in position, taking great angles, tackled well, played the ball well. And when we moved Jordan inside the opportunity on the outside for young corners, Grant Haley and a freshman named John Reid have really had an exceptional camp at the boundary corner for us.”
— Talking Pitt football with Trib Total Media beat writer Jerry DiPaola on Thursday, I was curious how important he thinks freshman Jordan Whitehead will be to the team this year. Jerry said “he’s in a battle with Patrick Amara and Jevonte Pitts for the strong safety position. We don’t see much 11-on-11 but the vibes I’m getting, he’s stepping up. Josh Conklin, the defensive coordinator, brags about Whitehead almost every time we talk to him. We asked him, ‘what’s more important, lining up properly or making plays?’ And Conklin said, ‘making plays’. Whitehead has the kind of athletic ability, if he lines up wrong, or makes a wrong read, he can catch up or still make the play. It’ll be really tough to keep him out of the starting lineup.”