Sunday, November 24, 2013

Steelers Beat Browns 27-11; Ron Cammarata's "View From The Stands"--- Would Expanding Roster Depths Improve The Game?

Steelers Back In The Hunt: Beat Browns 27-11
After one of the poorest starts in franchise history, the playoffs to the Steelers now look like a possibility. The Steelers (5-6) remain in the hunt after besting the Browns 27-11 for their third straight win.
The Numbers:
  • Roethlisberger improved to 37-11 in starts against division teams. He's 16-1 against the Browns since 2004, his rookie season.
  • Ben was 22/34 for 217 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
  • Bell rushed for an impressive 80 yards on 23 attempts.
  • Antonio Brown managed 92 yards on six receptions and one TD.
  • Sanders had 52 yards on six receptions including one TD.
  • Heath Miller recorded 41 yards on five receptions.
  • Steelers play selection was 50 for 50 on rushes and passes.
  • Steelers also won time of possession by approximately 7 minutes.
  • Third down efficiency was 29%.
  • Red zone was 50%.
  • Penalties-Yards: 2-8
  • Defense only allowed 55 yards rushing low for the season.

AFC North Standings

1. Cincinnati 7-4
2. Steelers 5-6
3. Baltimore 5-6
4. Cleveland 4-7

Next Game: Steelers at Ravens,  Thursday (Thanksgiving Day),  8:30 p.m. NBC

A View From The Stands

Would Expanding Roster Depth Improve The Game?

Sadly, over the past several weeks we have been reminded of the half century commemoration of President Kennedy's death by way of various media. Kennedy's love for football and in particular the Army/Navy game is well documented. The 1963 Army/Navy game was postponed the weekend following the President's death, and played in early December.  Many experts of Army/Navy football history view that game as the iconic classic of this rivalry, and played in tribute to the fallen Commander in Chief. Jack Ford, the ESPN legal analyst, produced a wonderful documentary on this event that has been broadcast on the CBS Sports Network. If you have the opportunity, and see it on the schedule, watch this one hour broadcast. It's a wonderful piece of American popular culture.

In that horrible weekend, a young NFL Commissioner, Pete Rozelle, after consulting with Kennedy's Press Secretary, chose to play scheduled games, based on the decision that the games might provide cathartic relief for a nation in mourning. Years later, Rozelle would claim this to be his greatest blunder as the league's commissioner. The Steelers owner, Dan Rooney, has repeatedly echoed the same sentiment.

In retrospect of this fifty year span, it has given contemplation on how the league and the game changed so dramatically from being second rate to the more popular college brand in 1963, to being the king of American televised sports in 2013.  For the purpose of this commentary, let's focus on the salary structure and the income generated through the business of the NFL. In 1963, salaries were minuscule compared to today, which is obvious in all walks of life. But, in 1963, the differential between what players were paid by their respective position was not as dramatic as what we see in 2013. For example, salary levels between the quarterback of 1963 were measurably more comparable with their team mates than what we see in today's league where the lion's share of cap space is budgeted to meet the market requirements paid to the star players, such as starting QB's.

In the Steelers present day salary cap structure, the large piece of the salary pie goes to the QB and a veteran safety. The market place dictates these inordinate windows of opportunity, so these comments are not made to disdain either Ben or Troy, or their skills; it is just the financial reality of today's game.

In the spirit of commentary, we will offer another scenario that is fantasy. Please bear with my seeming naivete as this proposal offers a simplistic approach to the much more complex issue of roster size. For people who pay close attention to the NFL, not the casual fan, there is a rumbling that the game is changing for the worse. That play is not as competitive, as good as it could be, or that it has been in recent decades.  Players are injured at peculiarity higher incidents than in years past...season ending injuries. Are injuries more prevalent today only because the players are so much bigger or stronger? Are players not prepared as well because summer camps are run differently today than in the past? Or is it just parity?

Perhaps there is something much deeper and inherently wrong in a system that is stymied by the existing salary cap and roster limitations. Very few NFL owners or groups of owners are solely dependent on football alone as the only source for their business portfolio (outside of the Packers organization). On the whole, NFL owners see higher revenue percentages generated by their football ventures, generally far exceed profit margins recognized by more traditional businesses. Outside of the gigantic dollars associated with television rights, ownership is making lots of money, especially when tying in all the ancillary products like food and beverage concessions, parking, and personal and luxury seat licensing with annual fees. Assuming this as logical theory, then where is it written that full time NFL rosters could not be expanded to accommodate the greater need for the good of the game. For example, every team is permitted a 53 man roster to dress at season's beginning. Yet every time a player is hurt and unable to perform, players are brought up from taxi squads, or brought in off a waiver wire. Predictably, often this produces lower caliber play, because it takes time to assimilate, in some cases learn a new playbook, or blend into the chemistry of the locker room. What if that 53 man roster was increased by 5 or 10 players? Obviously, it would cost ownership, millions more in salaries and expenses for an expanded roster of full time players, but the research may justify the costs, considering the big picture.

More specifically, look at the Steelers present day roster and consider the crying and whining specific to our poor offensive line play. In Pittsburgh, all we hear on the talk shows and in print is who can they get to play based on the roster limitations? It is to the point that if we suffer another injury to the interior offensive line that we will be moving Heath Miller to tackle (sarcasm please). If roster sizes were permitted to increase when camp breaks in August, and more players took every day reps, and coaches could see the development throughout the term of an entire season, then many of the young players that showed so much promise on draft day might bloom and turn into good players quicker. Instead, when injuries happen, we hear these stories about the guy working as a substitute teacher, or selling cars, when he gets the call. That is nice sounding, but that guy would be better suited to help a team if already on the roster.

In this make believe scenario, a better league may find a way to flatten yet expand salaries to the point where the majority of monies were not earmarked to starting quarterbacks, and rosters were expanded to offer real competitive depth at all positions. The NFL in the last 50 years has re-branded itself on numerous occasions. It is time to rethink its own great expectations and go back to the drawing board in looking at roster depth and expanded limits for the long term good of the game.

Ron Cammarata
Section 110--Row CC-Seat 10, Fox Sports, CBS Sports, Yahoo Sports