More Tiki Barber-to-Steelers Talk!

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!

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  • http://www.google.com/profiles/100857546184516732260 Dr Obvious

    I can’t even count the ways the Steelers won’t pick up Tiki.

  • Dean Keaton

    Peter King sucks… almost as much as Gene Upshaw and Paul Tagliabue suck for steering the NFL to this current labor situation and putting it in autopilot with no override readily available. Maybe PK can do a canned story about how this lockout is good for everyone, especially the Patriots. That should make him feel better.

  • Robert Dewar

    Why did the Steelers dump their No. 1 receiver last year? Character issues.

    What is the current claim to fame of Tiki Barber? Ditto.

    I am sure after Santonio and Ben conspired to make Dan Rooney and Art II wonder why they ever agreed to manage a football team, they just can’t wait to jump aboard the Tiki express that will take them all the way to tabloid heaven! It’s just their style.

    Sheesh..I’d rather have OJ…lol

  • ted

    I fail to see all the negativity toward Tiki. Yes, he was self-centered, but so are most pro athletes to some extent, including a few in our locker room over the years who were still great Steelers who helped us win a lot of games (e.g., Big Ben, Fast Willie, Plax, Eric Green, Joey Porter, Jeff Reed). Moreover, being self-centered and eclectic (plenty of interests beyond football) are really the only critiques of Barber, and the latter is ridiculous. Come Sunday, he was a player; he was always in top shape; and he was a complete back who did everything well (run, block, and especially catch), who also did not destroy team chemistry or even complain too much when he started sharing time. His problems were with Coughlin’s coaching style and he was not alone. They kept losing FAs and Strahan held out during camp and nearly retired for the same reason. He also was too focused on his future broadcasting career while playing but so was Lynn Swann while he was making highlight-reel, historic catches to win big games.

    I would love to sign Tiki to a veteran’s minimum contract with incentives and have him compete with Batch for a roster spot (in that case we let Moore walk in FA), and with Redman for third-down duties if Barber makes the team. Even though he has probably lost a step or two, Barber would still be an upgrade over Moore, who has also lost a couple of steps and was never as talented, and probably much better than Batch at this point.

    He would also improve our depth at TB, where we are not strong if Mendenhall goes down. Give me an above-average complete starting TB with size and speed in Mendenhall, a top-tier and experienced third-down back in Barber, and a grinder and short-yardage specialist in Redman who could also move into either of the previous spots in the advent of injury. That would be our most complete and complimentary TB trio in a good while.

    And if Barber has lost too much during retirement or causes any problems through the media or in the lockeroom, cut him immediately and elevate Batch from the practice squad. Sounds like a no-lose situation to me.

    • t1mmy10

      there is a difference between self centered/old/out of football for a while player than one that has a big history of a bad teammate.as far as i’ve heard plax, willie, & porter were good teammates & didn’t talk crap publicly on other teammates and the HC. tiki did those things.
      if he wasnt a poor teammate, i’d agree that we should sign him to a vet min contract. but why risk upsetting the locker room balance for someone who his past teammates even don’t want back on their team. they guy spent his entire 10 year pro career with one team and that team doesn’t wanna touch him with a ten foot pole. that’s a major red flag. why even risk bringing a cancer into the locker room for someone who probably doesn’t have much left in the tank anyway? by that logic we should should sign randy moss or TO to a no guaranteed money contract and just cut them if things don’t pan out.

    • t1mmy10

      there is a difference between self centered/old/out of football for a while player than one that has a big history of a bad teammate.as far as i’ve heard plax, willie, & porter were good teammates & didn’t talk crap publicly on other teammates and the HC. tiki did those things.
      if he wasnt a poor teammate, i’d agree that we should sign him to a vet min contract. but why risk upsetting the locker room balance for someone who his past teammates even don’t want back on their team. they guy spent his entire 10 year pro career with one team and that team doesn’t wanna touch him with a ten foot pole. that’s a major red flag. why even risk bringing a cancer into the locker room for someone who probably doesn’t have much left in the tank anyway? by that logic we should should sign randy moss or TO to a no guaranteed money contract and just cut them if things don’t pan out.

      • t1mmy10

        and batch can’t be put on the PS because he’s years of experience prohibit it (unless it changes with the new cba).

        • ted

          Huh? I am talking about Baron Batch, the rookie 7th-round pick TB out of Texas Tech, who obviously can be put on practice squad and I doubt anyone else picks him up unless he has a great preseason, in which he would probably make the team over Barber or Dwyer. I assume you thought I was talking about Charlie Batch, who will be battling Dennis Dixon for a roster spot, and that battle has no bearing on the No. 2-4 RB situation.

        • ted

          Huh? I am talking about Baron Batch, the rookie 7th-round pick TB out of Texas Tech, who obviously can be put on practice squad and I doubt anyone else picks him up unless he has a great preseason, in which he would probably make the team over Barber or Dwyer. I assume you thought I was talking about Charlie Batch, who will be battling Dennis Dixon for a roster spot, and that battle has no bearing on the No. 2-4 RB situation.

          • EasyLikeSundayMorning

            On WFAN in NYC this week, Mike Francessa said that everyone at NBC who worked with Tiki hated him.

          • t1mmy10

            my bad about getting the batches confused. that obv makes a lot more sense.

            maybe i’ve missed it cuz i honestly haven’t been giving this tiki coming out of retirement much attention, but i dont know of a single giant player who publicly said he’d like tiki to come back to the team. that’s more than just a disagreement with the HC about coaching style and a few honest comments to further his broadcasting career. plus, tiki talked crap about the contract situation of a fellow player, saying he was asking for too much. that’s a no-no especially when he just got a huge signing bonus & the same contract would make him the 5th highest paid RB in the league (based upon cap valuation) 3 years down the line. that issue was in 2002, far before the end of his career.
            you might brush off what he’s said about teammates since retiring, but i’d say it perfectly sums up his mentality (and is a lot different than what players like bradshaw & bettis have said). he does what’s best for tiki and not the team without regard for loyalty. his lack of support by fans, coaches, owners, fellow players, and past co-workers speaks volumes as to his character (and i’m ignoring his infidelity). maybe i just happen to hear the negative stuff and he was a much better teammate than i’m aware. if so, then i’m all for signing him to a no guaranteed money and having him compete. but i think tiki wouldn’t be a good teammate. i’m also not certain how he would handle not being used much while being a 2nd/3rd string rb. his last 3 seasons with the team he had over 300 careers every year so he was still getting plenty of touches despite the up and coming brandon jacobs.

      • ted

        I see your points, but contend analogies stretch too far. TO has always been a locker-room cancer for every team and QB he has played with. Barber’s problems did not emerge until late in his NY career. As a cosmopolitan intellectual who enjoyed reading and going to Broadway shows, he apparently did not socialize much with teammates who eat, sleep and drink football, while playing Madden in their free time. Now, he obviously was trying to get on camera too much and boost his broadcasting career, and his teammates were rightly irked by this. But he never had any media disputes with any actual players until he actually joined the media, and took shots at Eli and others, some of whom retaliated. He did criticize Coughlin some later in his career, but so did other players. Plus, all criticisms are magnified in NYC. His disputes with Coughlin through the media where less intense than Tomlin and Willie, but did receive more local coverage.

        Moss was much more of a malcontent. He also had constant legal problems dating back to high school and was famous for quitting on the field when he was unhappy. If he were not arguably the most physically talented WR in NFL history, Moss would have never made the NFL.

        Finally, while I would love to bring back Plax on a similar deal, I do not see that happening for several reasons: (1) Plax will get better than a veteran’s minimum deal; (2) Plax will go to some team where he sees a better shot of starting; (3) The Steelers would not pay more than a minimum non-guaranteed contract and know that Plax’s presence may stunt the maturity of Sanders and Brown; (4) The Steelers are not going to sign a guy straight out of jail, especially after the bad PR from Big Ben.

        Although his infiedelity came to light, Barber is still liked by the media and is considered a solid citizen who has long been active in charity programs. Moreover, everyone agreed that we wanted an upgrade over Moore at third-down back and needed to improve our depth at RB this offseason, although most of us are high on Redman. Barber potentially does that and he could be had for a cheap deal, because mid 30s RBs (even though who never quit) command bottom buck on the FA market. Moreover, he adds quality competition to training camp (which Tomlin likes) and we could still likely keep Batch on practice squad.

      • ted

        I see your points, but contend analogies stretch too far. TO has always been a locker-room cancer for every team and QB he has played with. Barber’s problems did not emerge until late in his NY career. As a cosmopolitan intellectual who enjoyed reading and going to Broadway shows, he apparently did not socialize much with teammates who eat, sleep and drink football, while playing Madden in their free time. Now, he obviously was trying to get on camera too much and boost his broadcasting career, and his teammates were rightly irked by this. But he never had any media disputes with any actual players until he actually joined the media, and took shots at Eli and others, some of whom retaliated. He did criticize Coughlin some later in his career, but so did other players. Plus, all criticisms are magnified in NYC. His disputes with Coughlin through the media where less intense than Tomlin and Willie, but did receive more local coverage.

        Moss was much more of a malcontent. He also had constant legal problems dating back to high school and was famous for quitting on the field when he was unhappy. If he were not arguably the most physically talented WR in NFL history, Moss would have never made the NFL.

        Finally, while I would love to bring back Plax on a similar deal, I do not see that happening for several reasons: (1) Plax will get better than a veteran’s minimum deal; (2) Plax will go to some team where he sees a better shot of starting; (3) The Steelers would not pay more than a minimum non-guaranteed contract and know that Plax’s presence may stunt the maturity of Sanders and Brown; (4) The Steelers are not going to sign a guy straight out of jail, especially after the bad PR from Big Ben.

        Although his infiedelity came to light, Barber is still liked by the media and is considered a solid citizen who has long been active in charity programs. Moreover, everyone agreed that we wanted an upgrade over Moore at third-down back and needed to improve our depth at RB this offseason, although most of us are high on Redman. Barber potentially does that and he could be had for a cheap deal, because mid 30s RBs (even though who never quit) command bottom buck on the FA market. Moreover, he adds quality competition to training camp (which Tomlin likes) and we could still likely keep Batch on practice squad.