Tiki Has Been Sent to Save the Steelers

Waiting for football, preaching to the choir…

There’s a better chance the Steelers sign Ike Taylor to the most expensive contract in NFL history, but the New York Post keeps reporting it so it must be true:

“Signs Point to Barber Landing with Steelers or Buccaneers”

We heard similar rumblings when Tiki first announced he was returning to the NFL a couple months ago. I didn’t think there was any way in hell it would happen then and I pretty much feel the same way now.

Details via the Post (by way of BTSC):

“I’ll be somewhere where I know the people, know the staff,” Barber said. “It will be a team that needs some veteran leadership or just needs a little push or needs somebody they can count on to fit a role.”

Barber has strong ties to coaches Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh), Raheem Morris (Tampa Bay, where his twin brother Ronde is a cornerback) and Sean Payton (New Orleans). Given that the Saints drafted Mark Ingram, figure Barber’s next uniform will be Steelers black and gold or Buccaneers red and pewter.

I suppose anything’s possible but there’s just no justification for signing Barber. Forget that he left his eight-months-pregnant (with twins!) wife for a 20-something NBC intern, or that he was a flaky teammate in New York, or that he wasted little time blasting his former team after he left, he’s 36. For me, that’s where the conversation begins and ends.

(Regarding Tiki’s personal-made-public entanglements, the Steelers have had plenty of off-field distractions the last two years. And if we’re being honest, the organization is a lot more likely to tolerate those PR and legal headaches when franchise players are involved. But if Santonio gets shipped out of town for his weed habit — among other alleged stuff — then the odds are against over-the-hill former players.)

There’s a word for 36-year-old NFL running backs: retired. There is nothing Barber would add to the Steelers roster that Mendenhall, Redman, Dwyer or Batch don’t already bring. (And I say that without seeing Batch play. Call it a hunch based on the human aging process and my fungibility-of-backs theory.)

Yes, Tiki hasn’t played in four seasons so he may be relatively healthy. But it’s not like we’re talking about Barry Sanders hanging it up when he was 30 and changing his mind four years later. That’s a discussion I’d be willing to have. Barber? I’ll pass.

The hardcore Tiki proponents (no idea if there is such a thing, but for the sake of argument) might point out that when Barber retired in 2006 he was one of the top backs in the league. I don’t disagree; that year he ranked third in total value and sixth in value per play, according to Football Outsiders. Also high on that list: Brian Westbrook (2nd, 2nd), Larry Johnson (5th, 15th), Deuce McAllister (9th, 10th), Fred Taylor (12th, 11th) and Willie Parker (13th, 18th). You know what they have in common? They’re all younger than Tiki? Know what else? They’re either out of the NFL (Johnson, McAllister, Parker) or on their way (Westbrook, Taylor).

In March, during the first round of “Tiki wants to play for YOU!”, Eddie B. tweeted that the Steelers “have no interest.” A few weeks later, the Bucs echoed similar sentiments.

So unless the Steelers didn’t get that running back in the draft they were eyeing (job description: “out of shape, out of football, preferably old”), I can’t envision the scenario that lands Tiki in Pittsburgh. The Steelers are all stocked up on veteran leadership (not that that was Barber’s forte anyway) and Tomlin doesn’t have a habit of giving charity to acquaintances.

Remember the “Hey, I bet the Steelers give Michael Vick a look — he grew up in the same area as Tomlin!” talk. Nothing came of it. Not only that, unless something’s changed, Tomlin doesn’t have final say in personnel decisions. (Bouchette mentioned in a post-draft chat that the Steelers were never close to selling the farm to trade up and get Mike Pouncey, even though it was reported that Tomlin had supposedly handed down the edict to do just that.)

Now if the Steelers could get a packaged deal — Tiki AND Ronde — then that changes everything. Because we all know that as soon as this labor silliness is sorted, Ike is as good as gone.

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  • Steve

    By the “Tomlin Connection” logic, Ryan Wilson should be Ike’s replacement by now.

  • Anonymous

    Would signing Tiki and Ronde be like playing for William and Mary?

  • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

    Steve,

    Great point. WHERE’S MY JOB, TOMLIN! More realistically, Tomlin played with Darren Sharper at William & Mary. Never once heard the Steelers had any interest in Sharper even though he’d be much more valuable to them than a 36-year-old running back.

  • GlennW

    All kidding aside, this wouldn’t be the craziest idea ever with Mewelde Moore no longer under contract. Tiki was (yeah, I know, *was*) one of the most productive pass-catching backs in NFL history, and his age wouldn’t be as big a detriment in that role. Would Tiki actually follow through with this threat to human decency for the veteran minimum salary? Probably not.

  • GlennW

    All kidding aside, this wouldn’t be the craziest idea ever with Mewelde Moore no longer under contract. Tiki was (yeah, I know, *was*) one of the most productive pass-catching backs in NFL history, and his age wouldn’t be as big a detriment in that role. Would Tiki actually follow through with this threat to human decency for the veteran minimum salary? Probably not.

  • t1mmy10

    some of the talking heads often forget it’s a 2 way agreement when a FA signs with a team. the FA agent hasta wanna be there & the team has to want him. otherwise, hell, i’d go sign with the steelers.

  • t1mmy10

    some of the talking heads often forget it’s a 2 way agreement when a FA signs with a team. the FA agent hasta wanna be there & the team has to want him. otherwise, hell, i’d go sign with the steelers.

  • Anonymous

    You kleft out the hypen in his name, in your headline. It’s Tiki Has-Been.

    • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

      Well played, sir.

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