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Madden: Steelers should think safety first

Saturday, April 20, 2002

The fat radio host is on the clock. His NFL draft-day topic selection is -- after a failed attempt to trade up to pick something creative -- refreshing sports notes! Says Mel Kiper Jr., "Madden really blew it with this choice. The logical decision would have been another vicious attack on Arnold Palmer."

If the Steelers are fortunate enough to get Miami safety Ed Reed in the first round of the NFL draft today, don't be surprised when he grabs a starting job by midseason. Lee Flowers and Brent Alexander are good, but hardly irreplaceable. Flowers' play declines when the opposition gets inside the Steelers' 20. In the red zone, Flowers cheats drastically to stop the run. It's predictable and it leaves him susceptible to six-point post patterns like we saw a little too often last season. Alexander, meanwhile, is a performer of very ordinary talents. When the Steelers nudged leading tackler Earl Holmes out of town, they showed that they don't intend to stand pat after being AFC runner-up. The Steelers want better. Flowers or Alexander will find that out if the Steelers get Reed.

The Steelers certainly seem to draft a lot better when the coach and director of football operations aren't at each other's throats, don't they? I miss Tom Donahoe. The Steelers don't.

Lloyd McClendon got away with a bad move when he sat Brian Giles, Jason Kendall, Kevin Young and Pokey Reese at Milwaukee Wednesday. The Pirates had a chance to sweep a road series and keep precious momentum going, and McClendon decided it was time to make sure that "everyone feels he's contributing." The Pirates won, but yo, Lloyd, save the "everybody plays" crap for Little League -- at least a few of the Pirates' scrubs could contribute at that level. Meantime, play your best guys until they wear out. Then play them some more. If the Pirates had depth, pundits wouldn't be picking them to lose 100 games again.

OK, so maybe McClendon isn't perfect when it comes to filling out his lineup card. But his flawless handling of the Pirates' pitching staff has been a big factor behind a bunch of ham-and-eggers performing like world-beaters so far. Say what you will about the lefty-righty factor being overrated. The statistics show it's important.

Baseball players shouldn't be allowed to fight. Not because I'm opposed to violence, but because baseball players look stupid when they fight. They're lousy at it. The titanic clash between Milwaukee's Ben Sheets and the Pirates' Aramis Ramirez Wednesday was typical. They looked like two cross-dressers fighting over the last Gucci handbag. Even funnier was the post-fight reaction of those involved: "That's baseball." How the heck is fighting part of baseball? When real men get hit by a pitch, they go to first base and hit a line drive next time up.That's baseball.

Want more proof that baseball players can't fight? How about Tawny Kitaen's unanimous decision over her husband, Cleveland pitcher Chuck Finley? Heavy-metal video queens 1, big-leaguers 0.

Speaking of Ms. Kitaen -- who I've met twice, avoiding serious injury both times -- I can't believe an employee at Chicago's Comiskey Park was fired for playing a Whitesnake song over the PA during batting practice while Finley and Cleveland were in town. Before marrying (and assaulting) Finley, Kitaen was wed to Whitesnake singer David Coverdale, a real man who didn't let women push him around, at least as far as you know. As a Whitesnake aficionado, I take umbrage. Maybe the guy at Comiskey just wanted to play a good song. Whoever controls the PA at PNC Park should be fired -- no, arrested -- when he plays that drivel The Clarks churn out.That's offensive.

Hey, wasn't Augusta National Tiger-proofed?

If Herb Brooks becomes the next coach of the New York Rangers, the Penguins could lose more than a scout. Center Robert Lang, who is about to become an unrestricted free agent, was one of Brooks' favorite players when Brooks coached the Penguins during the latter half of the 1999-2000 season. Lang is exactly the kind of productive yet unselfish two-way players the Rangers need. If Brooks goes to New York, don't be surprised if Lang follows him there -- for a hefty paycheck, of course.

With all due respect to Rick Kehoe, Brooks should have been first choice when the Penguins replaced Ivan Hlinka early last season. Brooks may be the best coach ever when it comes to combining North American and European hockey philosophies. Letting him go is a mistake.

ESPN SportsCenter host Stuart Scott recently ventured where he didn't belong, and he paid a price for it. Scott was working out with the New York Jets to compile video for a feature on NFL minicamps, and he got drilled in the eye with a pass. Scott's injuries are said to be not serious, but he is off SportsCenter for a while, and he already had one eye that is less than 100 percent. (Scott was hit in his good eye.) I don't care how much college or high school ball someone like Scott may have played, or how athletic he thinks he is, he doesn't belong on a field with professionals. Indulging one's ego isn't worth the risk. Boo-yah, indeed.

Mark Madden's talk show is heard 3-7 p.m. weekdays on WEAE-AM (1250).

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