Patriots pick OG Cannon, TE Smith in 5th

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Patriots pick OG Cannon, TE Smith in 5th

By TomE. Curran
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO - The Patriots final pick of Friday night was a dice roll - quarterback Ryan Mallett, a quarterbackfrom an Arkansas with a checkered past. They took a chance again with their first pick Saturday, drafting massive offensive guard Marcus Cannon out of TCU, a young man with an uncertain future. Just two days after the 358-pounder began treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma (read more about this form of cancer here), the Patriots made him the 138th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. On one hand, it's magnanimous and a story that warms the heart. The Patriots take a chance on a kid every other teambacked away from.On the other hand, it's an opportunistic and shrewd business. In Cannon, the Patriots have a kid viewed as a possible top 50 pick until health issues came to light. If he recovers, they have a player with second-round value picked up in the fifth round. Buy low, sell high. I guess it can be both. And there's no doubting that Cannon - like Mallett - wins because he's joining one of the most stable organizations in the NFL with a sensible, good-hearted coach and very generous owners. Cannon will get all the time he needs. And when he's ready he'll be fired into the offensive line mix and given a chance to compete at guard. Could be a guy who unseats Dan Connolly. Could be the successor to Logan Mankins. But that will all wait until after the health issues sort themselves out. Saturday, Cannon said he didn't feel washed out from the chemo treatment he'd gotten. "God's blessed me," he said. "I haven't had any of the symptoms of my treatment that I was supposed to have."

As for when he'll be ready for football, Cannon replied, "I'm just taking my treatment day-by-day, and whenever I'm done with my treatment is when I get to go play football."And then there's Smith. You know it's not an NFL Draft until the Patriots take a tight end. They've done that. Kicked out of Tennessee in 2006 after a DUI arrest, he transferred to Marshall and - apparently found himself. He's a two-time team captain and became a vocal and compelling The 6-6, 266-pounder is going to be a Gronkowski understudy even though he turns 24 in November and Gronk turns 22 in May. He's not going to catch gobs of passes but between Aaron Hernandez, Alge Crumpler, Gronk and Smith, there's a good mix of hands, speed and excellent blocking power. Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Steelers descending into disarray?

Steelers descending into disarray?

Less than 48 hours removed from openly wondering if the AFC Championship Game stage was “too big” for some of his young teammates, Ben Roethlisberger has decided to play the latter-day Hamlet/Brett Favre game.

Speaking on Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan on Tuesday, Roethlisberger hinted at retirement.

“I’m going to take this offseason to evaluate, to consider all options,” Roethlisberger said. “To consider health, and family and things like that and just kind of take some time away to evaluate next season, if there’s going to be a next season. All those things. I think at this point in my career, at my age, that’s the prudent and smart thing to do every year.”

The soon-to-be-35-year-old Roethlisberger is a likely Hall of Famer who’s still arguably one of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL. But for whatever reason, he’s got an insatiable need for people to register concern about his status. Whether it be limping around the field, lamenting injuries or this, few quarterbacks in the league go through the same histrionics Roethlisberger does in order to get those, “Attaboy, Ben!” backslaps.

I remember being at Steelers training camp in 2009 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and having veteran Steelers writers roll their eyes as Roethlisberger started hopping around like he was on hot coals after a throw. The quarterback having an owie act was a daily tradition.

Roethlisberger’s also got a passive aggressive side in which he’ll deftly twist the knife on coaches and teammates but leave himself enough room for plausible deniability.

In addition to openly wondering if his young teammates took the AFC Championship Game seriously enough, Roethlisberger gave the “just running the plays as I’m told” answer when asked about the Steelers resistance to running a quarterback sneak when they were at the Patriots goal line before halftime. Roethlisberger could have taken offensive coordinator Todd Haley off the hook there – he’s lobbied for Haley to get a head coaching shot after the two had a bad relationship when Haley arrived. But he opted not to.

Similarly, earlier this year, Roethlisberger’s critiques of the way head coach Mike Tomlin was running the team were aired. 

So, this could be part of a Roethlisberger power play aimed at the Steelers bowing to his wishes.

That wasn’t the only tidbit from Pittsburgh that looked bad for the AFC finalists. Linebacker Bud Dupree said the Steelers were surprised by the Patriots using an up-tempo offense earlier in the game. 

Do they not have electricity or internet access in the Steelers facility? Up-tempo is a staple part of the Patriots offensive diet. You can see it on the television or the internet through your smart phone.

While there’s no doubt that defensive coordinator Keith Butler – and defensive minded head coach Tomlin – were aware and talked about the Patriots going no-huddle, the fact Dupree (and his teammates) were unable to recall the preparation or adequately fall into an emergency plan to address it does fall on the coaches.

Need more? It’s also being leaked out of the building that Antonio Brown cares too much about his statistics. He made clear last week how much he cares about advancing his personal brand at the expense of Tomlin and the team with his Facebook Live video. 

If there’s an upside for anyone in all this, it would have to be Joey Porter. Nobody’s even talking about his off-field fracas anymore.

As this season ably demonstrated, the Patriots have plum run out of authentic rivals in the AFC. That the team they just pulverized is steamrolling into an offseason of dysfunction and uncertainty isn't good if you like parity. But it's terrific if you couldn't care less.