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Steelers strongest in division

| Monday, Sept. 1, 2008

Steelers fans may still be worried about myriad possible weaknesses as the team gets ready for the regular season to begin again. And why not• Mike Tomlin is worried too. Depth is a concern for all NFL teams in this era of free agents and salary caps. But while the preseason may have left some questions, it also may have proven them the best team in the division again.

Preseason wins and loses aren't important, but did anyone notice that the Cleveland Browns didn't win a game• You know, the Browns team with the same record as the Steelers last year but the team with the fragile little brother mentality that has them wondering if they can ever beat their older brother at anything• Did anyone notice that the other three teams in the division suffered more injuries to more important players than the Steelers• Cincinnati was so desperate they rehired some of their previous criminals to fill the void. It's a long season and the Steelers could lose some irreplaceable parts and fail miserably as a result. But for my money right now, they will win the division again. They might only win nine games to do it, maybe even eight, but that could be enough to finish first in this group.

• As for that schedule, the rest of the division has just about as tough a time as the Steelers with less talent.

• I said it when they were negotiating and I'll say it again now that agent Scott Boras has tried to get out of a deal with the Pirates. If his client, Pedro Alvarez, refuses a $6 million signing bonus ... shame on him. If the Pirates up their offer to $8 million ... shame on them. Boras has done Alvarez no favors. By waiting so long to even begin negotiating with the Pirates, Boras lost any chance for Alvarez to begin his pro career this season. And by using Boras as an agent, Alvarez has lost his right to go back to Vanderbilt University if indeed he gets out of his deal. That would leave him with no option but to play independent minor league baseball next year until the draft rolls around again in June. Most likely he won't be chosen as high as second overall, as he was by the Bucs this year. That means he could end up with even less signing cash. Boras, through his own greed, has hurt Alvarez on every front. Only if the arbitrator rules against the Pirates next week and the contract is open for renegotiation and the Pirates cave and give him more cash, can this be considered a Boras win. And that isn't going to happen. This whole thing sounds like a personal issue between Boras and Pirates President Frank Coonelly, who battled many times when Coonelly worked as general labor counsel for Major League Baseball. And that's not fair to Alvarez, who accepted the Pirates offer and wants to play ball.

• Update on the Pirates' mistake made in last year's draft: Catcher Matt Wieters is tearing it up in the Orioles organization and has already advanced to the class-AA Bowie Baysox. O's fans have been arguing for weeks about the merits of bringing him up to the majors as a September call-up. No chance of that happening with the guy the Pirates took while passing on Wieters. Pitcher Daniel Moskos labored in class-A Lynchburg this year and had a 7-7 record with a 5.95 era as of Saturday. Why would the Bucs have taken a chance on Wieters• What is there to like about a switch hitting 6'5, 230 pounder who hits for power and average• The only other two-time all-Americans in the history of his alma-mater (Georgia Tech) were Jason Varitek and Nomar Garciaparra. What did they ever do• Of course Wieters is a Boras client too so it probably wouldn't have mattered.

• If Francisco Rodriguez played in Boston or New York he would be a household name. Instead, he pitches in relative obscurity on the west coast for the Angels. Los Angeles is a huge market but the time difference rarely allows his heroics to make Sports Center or the box scores in eastern papers. How many people know that much about K-Rod• He reached 50 saves faster than any pitcher in history and is a sure thing to break Bobby Thigpen's 18 year old record for most saves in a season. Maybe once the Yankees are officially eliminated the national media will pay some attention to him.

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