Among my peers it has long since been argued the importance of the preseason. Recently the NFL discussed trimming it down to two games. While I believe this was more a monetary move to create an 18 game season, the price would then be paid by the fringe players fighting to make the 53.
In 2003 Bill Cowher decided to run the Tommy Gun offense. While this might have seemed like a good idea at the time, the only problem was the weak link was Tommy Gun himself. Tommy Maddox did have a remarkable 2002 NFL comeback season however 2003 was less than stellar. 6-10 would be the reward Steeler fans would reap from Cowher’s change in philosophy.
The irony of investing in a Tommy Maddox run offense is that it led to the Steelers having the opportunity to select his eventual replacement. Of course, Cowher, still infatuated with Maddox, almost Marino-esquely passed on him. Not since Terry Bradshaw had the Steelers selected a QB so high in the draft…and Steeler fans excitement grew even higher. The NFL clamored over Manning and Rivers, but there was something special about our guy that gave Steeler fans hope (or maybe we had just grown tired of Maddox).
The 2004 preseason would take the Steelers to Lincoln Field and being close to Philly I decided to attend. It was the 3rd preseason game and, as we all know, that is when the starters play the most. But it is also a time for the top rookies to get a chance to play with some of those starters. It was announced that game three would see our number one pick play the entire 2nd half and this is what I came to see…first hand. As the Eagle faithful flew out of the stadium at the half as their elite left the field, I was now at the part of the game that would intrigue me the most.
Our number one pick had played well in the previous two preseason games, but the competition in game three would be a step up in class. As I watched, he gave a very pedestrian showing…but I hardly noticed. He was upstaged by the undrafted free agent rookie player he was sharing the backfield with. As a diehard fan I had already heard of this running back. He had some good numbers in mop up duty late in preseason game two. But this game he started the second half…and the half became his.
All I remember is saying over and over…this guy is Fast! That game the undrafted free agent rookie quickly scampered 19 times for 106 yards and a TD in just a half of football. A year and a half later he would famously scamper another 75 yards for a TD.
Would he ever have gotten that chance if those third preseason games went by the way of the Dodo.
Who might that player be this year…