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Savran: Was real Edwards finally exposed?

Saturday, February 02, 2002

From the movie classic "The Godfather" we learned that "It's not personal. It's strictly business." Somehow, placing Troy Edwards on Houston's grab bag expansion list seems to be as much personal as it was strictly business.

Initially, you think it must be a salary-cap issue. But Edwards' hit against the cap is nominal, factoring in that the Steelers are well under.

And considering the particulars of the other four on the list -- Mike Schneck, Jon Witman, Roger Duffy and Will Blackwell -- it's as if the Steelers are begging the Texans to take Edwards off their hands.

Why? And why now?

It would be understandable if this was a year ago, when Edwards' contributions were negligible and his attitude and work ethic highly questionable.

But why now, when he finally seems to have found his niche (or one was found for him), albeit one he doesn't necessarily relish?

Why now when he has seemingly accepted, and produced, in that role?

Why expose your most explosive punt/kick returner?

Shouldn't the past two playoff games have underscored the value of having a Jermaine Lewis or Troy Brown to win a game?

Or an AFC championship?

Do the Steelers consider Edwards and Hank Poteat interchangeable?

Even if that's the case, why risk losing your No. 4 receiver when your No. 3 is an unrestricted free agent?

Have they received some sort of verbal commitment from Bobby Shaw?

If not and Shaw leaves -- a plausible scenario -- and Edwards ends up in Houston, Lenzie Jackson would be the third receiver.

Wouldn't Edwards be a better fit should Shaw sign elsewhere?

Despite settling into this fourth receiver/reverse runner/special teams specialist niche, we know Edwards was unsettled in that role.

It's kind of like giving a kid medicine that tastes bad. "All right. I'll drink it, but I won't like it!"

Edwards wanted more, as he should.

He said all the right things publicly, but maybe he was vocal in expressing his dissatisfaction with his role.

It makes me wonder if he had become a distraction -- a cinder in the shoes of the coaching staff.

Bill Cowher's explanation that he wanted to accommodate Edwards' wish to be a starting wide receiver just doesn't wash.

This is, after all, strictly business.

If Edwards can be a productive player at a reasonable cost with a good attitude, he wouldn't have been on an expansion list.

Cowher isn't a genie. He's not in the business of granting wishes. Not for Edwards or Dom Capers.

Methinks Edwards did protest too much.

This isn't to suggest that his loss, which would seem to be inevitable, is some kind of crippling blow.

Those who point to his 61 catches in his rookie season should also mention how awful the Steelers' passing game was in 1999.

Being the leading or best receiver (they're not necessarily the same thing) in a horrible passing attack like that is like being the skinniest person at the fat farm.

And although he has proven, to a degree, that he can be a productive player in multiple areas, he does seem to be a player always teetering on the edge, doesn't he?

He always seems to be a fumble away, a dropped pass away, a running out of bounds on punt coverage for no apparent reason away from making you wish he was in Houston.

Still, given the player movement merry-go-round in the league, NFL teams aren't generally in the habit of releasing productive players on a whim or because they want to do them a favor.

It's generally because they have no use for their abilities, their salary, or can no longer abide their attitude.

I'm not trying to sell the notion Edwards' inclusion on the 2002 roster is all that separates the Steelers from Super Bowl XXXVII.

But it is rather curious that, with other options available, they would expose a player who finally contributed and has the talent to continue doing so.

But team chemistry is not to be ignored as a major ingredient in a team's success.

Perhaps the Steelers are not so much giving Edwards away for nothing as they are hoping Houston will take him off their hands.

Addition by subtraction.

Maybe the Steelers have reached their limit with Edwards. Much as they reached to draft him 13th overall in the first place.

Stan Savran is the host of a sports talk show from 8 to 9 p.m. weekdays on WBGG-AM (970).

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