The Pittsburgh Steelers’ decision recently to waive two rookie draft picks fostered a great deal of discussion over the past few days that branched out through a variety of categories, some of it fair, some of it absolutely ludicrous. Much of it fell somewhere in between, which is where I find that the criticism of the team’s ability to scout rests.
Fourth-round cornerback Doran Grant and sixth-round outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo both displayed potential during the preseason. It would be unwise to let anybody else tell you otherwise, regardless of whether or not they happen to write for a newspaper.
To be quite frank, they don’t watch much tape and get as many things wrong as anybody else. Their predictions routinely are no better unless they have received some information from a member of the organization. The game tape is the game tape, and is the great equalizer. But I digress.
The point is that the fact that the Steelers elected to waived Grant and Chickillo a day after they placed them on the initial 53-man roster does not stand as an indictment of the decision to draft them, nor their ability to identify talent; nor is it an indication of what they think of them as players.
It is, if anything, a situation that invokes a fair criticism of their personnel decisions and priorities. No team gets everything right, and the Steelers’ front office is not to be held sacrosanct, even in light of their relatively proven, but flawed, track record.
It is worth first emphasizing the fact that Grant and Chickillo are the same players that they were when they were on the 53-man roster than when they were waived the following day. While it may raise questions about what the team might know about the players, we have seen them on tape and know what they are capable of.
In other words, if you liked Grant on Saturday, then you should still like him this morning. You can choose to raise doubts about the team’s evaluation, or your own evaluation, and express concern over the fact that 31 other teams were not in a position in which they felt they would add timely value to their 53-man roster.
But none of that amounts to a conclusive nor coherent argument for why this should affect the way these players are viewed. Personnel decisions involve much more than collecting the 53 best players from a 90-man roster.
It is fair, then, to raise questions about the front office’s personnel management process, and why they would risk subjecting a fourth-round draft pick to waivers, even if they, perhaps deliberately, waived him a day after some 700 other players flooded the market and the claim sharks had their feast.
Why, for example, would you not choose to subject a player such as Roosevelt Nix, who by most reasonable criteria would be far less likely to be claimed, or Tyler Murphy? Even Mike Tomlin conceded when speaking about his new claimed players that not everything is about winning this week.
Tomlin was asked about whether they would be able to help the team on Thursday, and he gave the following answer: “some of that stuff is going to be revealed along the way, whether or not they are going to be a help to us this week”.
Perhaps Nix is a player who will help this week. Perhaps Tyler Murphy as well. But not Caushaud Lyons. Why could they not have chosen to see if he clears waivers—he likely would have—and add him instead to the practice squad?
Grant and Chickillo have shown the potential to be contributors down the road. I don’t question the decision to draft these players, nor the decision to waive them. But I do have some questions about the path that led them to waiving them over other options while weighing against their potential future value.