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Savran: Top-notch rookie like Bell big asset

Saturday, January 12, 2002

This week, local pro football writers selected Kendrell Bell as the recipient of the Joe Greene Performance Award, symbolic of the Steelers' rookie of the year. That's akin to choosing Cindy Crawford as the prettiest girl in school. Was there any other choice? But in conjunction with that selection, the fact the team compiled the best record in the conference isn't a coincidence.

Looking at the history of the award, there's a correlation between the two. Whenever the Steelers unveil a big-time rookie, it seems to enhance their chances of making the playoffs.

Louis Lipps was the first recipient in 1984. The Steelers played in the AFC championship. The following four winners were the forgettable Harry Newsome, Anthony Henton, Beltin' Delton Hall and Warren Williams. All four of those seasons, 1985-88, were nonplayoff seasons.

In 1989, Carnell Lake was the winner and so were the Steelers, again making the playoffs. In '90 and '91 tight ends Eric Green and Adrian Cooper were selected. No playoffs. Then the string of six consecutive playoff appearances, corresponding to six consecutive rookie award winners who were major contributors then or since: Darren Perry, Chad Brown, Bam Morris, Kordell Stewart, Jon Witman and Chad Scott.

Why shouldn't Plaxico Burress party wherever it suits him? Would a paranoid populous feel better if he drove to Johnstown to celebrate? It was a Sunday night, and he didn't have to report back to work until Wednesday. I'm not condoning breaking a law, no matter how minuscule. But if every violator was cited for the same offense a week from Sunday, there would be 40,000 vacant yellow seats at Heinz Field.

The Pirates could do much worse than to have Quilvio Veras as their starting second baseman.

Mario or no Mario, Marty Straka or no Marty Straka, there is absolutely no excuse for the Penguins' power play being this horrible. When you consider the offensive talent present on teams such as Minnesota, Columbus and Atlanta and realize their man-advantage units are scoring at a higher percentage, there's just no excuse for an 8 percent conversion rate.

How could David Wells pass anybody's physical examination? Who conducted the exam, Dr. Kevorkian?

When the ABC/ESPN/Disney conglomerate takes over NBA telecasts, what do you suppose that will mean for the NHL? Forget being a second-class citizen. That'll be optimum. Hockey will get shoved so far down the priority ladder, the basement will seem like the penthouse. Here's betting that -- with the exception of the playoffs -- the NHL will be relegated to ESPN2, at times only an insomniac will love.

Come to think of it, if Quilvio Veras isn't their starting second baseman, given what else is available, by definition the Pirates most certainly will do worse.

Assuming you don't have a financial interest in any of the games, and that your rooting interests are dictated by a pure desire to walk Bourbon Street in February, the best matchup for the Steelers would be the Miami Dolphins. They simply don't have the weapons to hurt them. The Dolphins cannot, or at least have not, run the ball efficiently. Their passing game is spotty, and that's being generous. Their defense is vastly overrated, especially against the run without defensive tackle Darryl Gardner. An injury has sapped the effectiveness of middle linebacker Zach Thomas. And their giveaway-takeaway ratio looks like the profit and loss statement of Enron. The other potential opponents, the Jets and Baltimore, have their warts, to be sure. But styles make the match in these affairs, and I believe the Steelers would make short work of Miami, even if it is 85 degrees next Sunday.

Let me see if I understand this correctly. A company controlled by Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad, who stands to benefit from a $250 million windfall if the Twins are contracted through the aegis of Commissioner Bud Selig, helps arrange a $3 million loan to the Milwaukee Brewers while Selig still controlled that team. That would appear to be a clear violation of Baseball's Rule 20-c, which prohibits any loan from one club or its officers to another.

So Selig gets the loan from Pohlad's company on behalf of the Brewers, then pays Pohlad back with the favor of contracting the Twins, which guarantees Pohlad twice what he could get for the Twins on the open market. Strange bedfellows, even for baseball.

Stan Savran is the co-host of SportsBeat at 6:30 p.m. weekdays on Fox Sports Net.

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