“I’ll let you speculate” by Tank Tantlinger
The year is 2037. The place Canton, Ohio; home to the NFL Hall of Fame. It is August. The annual induction ceremony is taking place.
Inside the busts of Jack Lambert, "Troy", Ben Roethlisberger, Jerome Bettis, Kevin Green, Terry Bradshaw and “Steely-McBeam, and many, many other “Steeler” alumni sit on display for NFL fans to learn about and marvel at.
On this hot, sweltering day yet another “Pittsburgh Steeler” is being inducted into the illustrious fraternity. His name is Ryan Shazier.
“I want to thank the City of Pittsburgh. Home to the best fans in the NFL. The Rooney’s. And of course my old ball coach, Mike Tomlin.”, says Ryan to the gathered crowd of “Steelers-Nation”.
“Coach Tomlin is not only the architect of four Super Bowl Championship teams, but he’s my friend.”, Ryan will go onto tell us.
And now for the great speculation.
“It’s simple I have only one person to thank for helping me fulfill my potential. Only one man to truly thank for getting me here today and into this great hall along side NFL legends. Coach Tomlin! You see it was Coach T. who had the guts and foresight to understand that although my God given athletic abilities and skills lead me to the NFL as an inside linebacker; that I was destined to find a home at “Strong Safety”.”
Ok, ok, I hear you. Are you nutz Tank? Well, if you know me you know that answer. The genesis’s of this little fantasy is my recent question to Coach Tomlin during his weekly press conference.
I asked him, “Coach now that Vince Williams is playing well at inside linebacker with his fifteen tackles against the Chiefs and eight against the Jets; is there a scenario where when Ryan gets healthy from his bad knee; you’d consider a position change for him since many regard him as an undersized inside linebacker?”
Trust me Coach did not like the question. “I’ll let that up to you guys to speculate upon.”, he said to me.
Ok, so I’m speculating.
Here’s what I believe. Kordell Stewart was a great athlete. No doubt. But Kordell Stewart was no NFL quarterback. Of course when he lost the starting Q.B. slot to the future Hall of Famer Jim Miller in 1996 who could argue that Miller simply wasn’t the “real deal”.
And of course in 2000 had starting Q.B. superstar Kent Graham not been hurt; Kordell would not have come off the bench and lead the team to an incredible 9-7 season.
Then finally in 2001; it was Kordell’s year! 3,000 passing yards, lead the team as the starting Q.B. to the AFC Championship game. You remember that’s the one that we were all certain that our bags would be packed the next day heading to the Super Bowl.
Problem. The genesis of the emerging dynasty known as the New England Patriots came to town and kicked our ass’s!
The Steelers 13-3 season and Kordell’s fourteen TD passes gave him the Team MVP and a Pro-Bowl slot.
But in 2002, darn if fate didn’t strike again.
How unlucky had Kordell been to have NFL superstars Jim Miller and Kent Graham show up in Latrobe and beat him out in years prior.
Now the fates above played a horrible trick on him again. Golden Boy and team savior, you know the one the city had been waiting for since Bradshaw retired, showed up in Old Latrobe. Tommy Maddox.
In 2003; Kordell played the free agent market and scored big money when Chicago grabbed him and named him starting Q.B. at training camp. But darn if Zeus and Poseidon and the Greek Gods once again did not mess with our hero. Once again, the NFL proto-type Q.B. showed up in Chicago in the form of Chris Chandler to beat out Kordell. Chandler Who?
Pittsburgh's favorite son, Myron Cope, gave Kordell the nickname “Slash”. Why? Because Coach Bill Cowher recognized Kordell’s ability and pure talent as an athlete. Cowher began using “Slash”; as a receiver, and even as a rusher on a few defensive snaps.
Look I’m not bashing Kordell. I loved him. He was a nice guy, humble and a great athlete. However, he was no NFL quarterback. I have never watched a greater waste of talent. It wasn’t his fault. He wanted to play Q.B. hell, the whole city wanted him to be the next Bradshaw. But it wasn’t in the cards.
The problem was by the time Coach Cowher realized that “Slash” was never going to mature into a solid, starting NFL Q.B.; it was to damn late.
So let me speculate. Had Kordell been a slot receiver his whole career; would he be in the Hall of Fame? We will never know.
If Coach Cowher had gotten “Slash” a massive full back like 49’ers Rodger Craig had in the gorilla named Tom Rathman; would “Slash” have been a great tail-back? Would “Slash” at tailback been just as good as Rodger Craig? You’re damn right he would have been.
Or maybe you see it another way. Maybe that one “Pro-Bowl” year Kordell had in 2001 was worth the years of mediocrity at Q.B.?
Ryan Shazier is a mirror image of “Slash”. He’s an incredible athlete and talent. However, he’s too damn small for inside linebacker. I could point to the Steelers 34-3 loss to the Eagles a couple weeks ago.
Center Jason Kelce, 6’3 280lbs., owned Ryan for the day.
LG Brandon Brooks comes in at 6-5 and 343lbs. If you look at the game tape all he did was dominate Ryan and simply move his massive body in front of Ryan that day in “Filtha-Delphia” and screen him out from the ball carrier.
I don’t care if Ryan had the strength of the mythical “Hercules”; he was not budging Brooks.
The Steelers list Ryan at 6’1 and 237lbs. The Steelers list Will Gay at 5’10 and 190lbs. All I ask of you is look at the two of them side by side when their on the field together.
I think the truth shall be in the eyes of the beholder.
I love Ryan. He hits hard, he gets to the ball like a freight train.
So with that case stated. I’ll ask you the reader. Can you see Ryan Shazier in the Hall of Fame as a Strong Safety?
Or will he simply fade into Steelers history as a broken and limping, short lived inside linebacker?
Only time will tell.
Oh. Yeah one last speculation. Coach T better start thinking about his 2017-2018 Offensive Coordinator now. Because Todd Haley will be a Head Coach for some NFL team come next season.
10/12/2016 07:21:00 am
100% Right on Tank!
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