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Sports Saturday: NFL labor, Steelers draft

March 19, 2011 - Ray Eckenrode
Labor pains

As you know, we’re a pessimistic, old bastard so we were touting a fairly dismal outcome for the NFL labor negotiations for much of the past six months. So we were pleasantly surprised when the two sides managed to agree on a one-week extension of the initial March 4 deadline and damn near floored when the owners made a series of 11th-hour concessions six days later.

But you know how this story ends: The players rejected that offer and decertified their union which prompted the the owners to lock out the players which triggered several legal filings, most notably the Brady vs. NFL antitrust lawsuit, which means no one is talking to nobody again until they see how the first round of legal rulings shake out.

We were on vacation during much of this and finally got the chance this week to read up on the owners final offer in detail and we’re absolutely shocked the players didn’t take that deal and we highly doubt they’re going to end up getting a better deal via the courts. Which means we’re back in pessimism mode and wondering seriously about whether there will be NFL football at all next season.

The best chance now for seeing football in September might be a permanent injunction that overturns the owners’ right to lock out players. Such a ruling would likely result in an agreement to play the 2011-12 season under the same terms as 2010-11 while the antitrust case unfolds. However, if a judge refuses to grant such an injunction, we think it’s game over, literally.

Is there a draft in here?

The labor dispute and our Super Bowl hangover (How could Mendenhall be so careless with that ball? Do you know what would have happened if Clay Matthews wouldn’t have batted down that third-quarter pass?) has us much less involved and interested in the 2011 NFL Draft than we’d normally be. However, we’re going to try and get it in gear over the next few weeks. These are our starting points:

> Despite having just played in the Super Bowl, Pittsburgh has glaring talent weaknesses at cornerback and on both lines and does not have its usual amount of flexibility with its first-round pick.

> Drafting at cornerback at the end of the first round is often very tricky compared to drafting an offensive linemen there.

> The two cornerbacks likely to be available at #31 (Miami’s Brandon Harris and Texas’ Aaron Williams) are very un-Steelers-like prospects.

> Florida guard Mike Pouncey (brother of the Steelers All Pro center) will not be available when the Steelers pick and they’d need to go up probably eight positions to get him.

I am looking for: