I really, really, really hate the offseason, especially one that involves a lockout that has dragged on for three months now. Speculation is all we have, even for folks who know people.
Like Peter King, who has an edjumacated guess about where Tiki Barber might begin his redemption tour: the Steelers! (If it sounds familiar, it’s because we had this exact same conversation six weeks ago.)
Anyway, to the particulars:
The Steelers have a head coach the Barber family knows well — Mike Tomlin is close to twin Ronde Barber after coaching him in Tampa from 2001 to 2005 and also knows Tiki. Tomlin wouldn’t be afraid of the sideshow Tiki Barber might create, nor would he be shy about pulling the plug if the 36-year-old back couldn’t beat out the likes of Mewelde Moore.
The Steelers have a core of veteran stars; Tiki Barber would fit right in. The Steelers have a good back, Rashard Mendenhall, but no back-of-the-future type who Barber would be robbing playing time from. And one NFL source tells me Barber really wants a shot to play in Pittsburgh. I’m also told that wherever he goes, Barber won’t be content to be a mopup guy or insurance policy; he wants to play a lot. We’ll see where he ends up this summer, if and when football happens, but Pittsburgh’s my guess.
Who knows, maybe Tiki is destined for Pittsburgh, but King’s reasoning is flawed. Tomlin generally likes to avoid media attention that’s not related to how the Steelers are playing. Is he adept at handling the media? Yeah. He did a swell job when Ben returned from suspension, and when Deebo was losing his mind over the $100,000 in fines. But that doesn’t mean Tomlin welcomes distractions. And that’s what Barber would be.
More than that, by most accounts, Barber was a dick to his teammates in New York. Putting aside all the off-field baggage he brings with him, if he’s not much of a locker room guy AND “won’t be content to be a mopup guy,” then, well, I got some bad news for you, Atiim Kiambu Hakeem-Ah. Pittsburgh ain’t the place for you, even if that’s where you “really wants a shot to play.” (Shocker. I’m guessing the other teams high on his list are Green Bay and New England.)
But like I said: anything’s possible, although Tomlin doesn’t have a history of using the 53-man roster to give favors to family friends. Here’s what I wrote in May: “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.)”
Eddie B. also said in March that Pittsburgh “had no interest” in Tiki. Not sure why that would change now. Although Peter King has had quite the track record with Steelers-related news. Third time’s a charm!