by Aubrey Bruce, For New Pittsburgh Courier
I reflect on the 2020 NFL “virtual” draft from a personal perspective, I suspect that Pittsburgh Steelers GM Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin fared pretty well as far as addressing the present and future needs of the team. Steeler Nation has been pining, whining and crying about not having a big bad wide receiver like ex-Steeler Plaxico Burress since the Limas “short arms” Sweed fiasco. “Shoot ‘em up” Burress was never afraid to go after an occasionally errantly thrown pass tossed up into the stratosphere by “Big” Ben in order to keep the chains moving or to attempt to score with a nasty fade thrown in the corner of the end zone.
Nick Gray, sports reporter for the Nashville Tennessean, recently wrote this: “With the 49th overall pick in the second round, Pittsburgh selected Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame.” Mr. Gray gave Claypool an “Instant grade: B.”
Gray writes that, “Claypool is 6-foot-4 and ran a 4.42 40 in the combine, which is impressive. Notre Dame wasn’t creative in using him; he ran a lot of streaks, which is OK for a guy of his size and speed. We’ll see if he can use the rest of the route tree in Pittsburgh.”
I can’t even find the Steelers’ “route tree” that he is referring to because in Pittsburgh, the only branch on a tree that bears fruit is the route that a receiver can get open on. Where did Nick Gray acquire the expertise to “grade” a player before he even plays one down of NFL football? His “flawed” and superficial analysis in these volatile times of life and death caused me to contemplate what was happening in the real world of life and death, health and the politics that may theoretically give unqualified and incompetent individuals the power to shorten the route on my “route tree.”
With the exception of the late Pittsburgh Mayor Bob O’Connor (whom I truly loved and respected), I generally remain on the sidelines when it comes to expressing opinions for or against politicians. I never really publicly endorsed Barack Obama. However, in February I was speaking at the “Black Mystery” month event at Trinity Missionary Baptist Church in Lawrenceville. I met a man and his name is Jerry Dickinson. Jerry Dickinson embodies the true definition of the term “free agent.”
He is running against incumbent Mike Doyle for the seat in Pennsylvania’s 18th U.S. Congressional district.
Jerry and I spoke at length after the event and during this process, I have learned how he was snatched at a young age from his parents’ arms, simply because they were too destitute to properly care for him. He was placed in the Allegheny County foster care system and grew up in a multi-racial foster home in Shaler Township along with 10 other foster kids, all coming from backgrounds of abandonment and neglect. Dickinson has ascended from that humble and daunting beginning of his life, to teaching law at the University of Pittsburgh! Now that is truly being a “freed agent” for change as opposed to just being a free agent. People talk about Rosa Parks refusing to move to the back of the bus as the beginning of the modern Civil Rights movement on Dec. 1, 1955. Most Black History scholars will debate that as a “flawed” assessment of Black historical events. Why? Well, because during the tenure of Jackie Robinson in the United States Army on July 6, 1944, he was on his way from Camp Hood to the base hospital and the bus driver ordered him to move to the back of the bus. He refused. That was a full nine years and some change before Rosa Parks made her heroic stand.
Jackie Robinson not only had tired feet; he was tired of the segregated life that he was forced to endure before and after being drafted into a racially and socially dysfunctional United States Army in 1942. As far as being drafted into the military goes, the Army was not concerned about how strong his throwing arm was or how fast he could get to first base after exiting the batter’s box. His value was only as a soldier even in the midst of diluting his true value.
Going back to football, as far as my analysis of the pre-draft value of Chase Claypool is concerned, the value of the Steelers’ second round draft selection was unjustifiably diluted by the talking heads; many of whom would urinate razor blades if they were forced to run a pass route across the middle on any level, professional or collegiate.
Drafting Chase Claypool may or may not make the Steelers a better football team. When Jackie Robinson was drafted, he forced society to face prejudice. And here, closer to home, I believe that Jerry Dickinson should be drafted for the long haul, beginning with the Primary Election on June 2.