Evasion, thy name is Mike Smith.
The notoriously secretive Falcons coach refuses to tip his hand when it comes to his linebackers. While Mike Tomlin cheerfully announced Dennis Dixon as his quarterback, Smith can't or won't say whether rookie Sean Weatherspoon is going to win a start against the Steelers.
On one hand, this is a valid point:
"Our guys on defense, it really doesn't matter who starts the game because they're all going to play," Smith said. "All of the guys that are up and active are likely to play because we use a rotation. We have not settled into naming the starters."
I get that. The Falcons are trying to create true rotations wherever possible, which really speaks to the quality depth they're amassed on defense. Hard to quibble with that.
The other hand is after the jump, so get on it.
Ahem. On the other hand, this reeks of the patened Mike Smith gamemanship. He's deliberately coy about injury reports—I seem to remember Michael Turner being listed as questionable last year on a day when he was being fitted for new bionic legs—and he doesn't like to give up even the smallest competitive disadvantage. If you're the Steelers and you're prepping Dennis Dixon for the game, you're dealing with a very different set of variables if Mike Peterson and Stephen Nicholas is starting, or if 'Spoon is taking one of their spots. If there's a true rotation, that's also a headache.
While I have to applaud him for sticking to his guns, I can't help but think it would be a nice little ego boost to 'Spoon if Smith was ready to tell the world he's a starter. I'd still be amazed if he didn't crack the lineup against the Steelers, warty pre-season aside, because he's just a better, younger linebacker than Mo Pete. We just won't know until late this week, at best.
Since we're talking about it, I'd just like to repeat that my ideal starting linebackers would indeed be Stephen Nicholas, Curtis Lofton and Sean Weatherspoon. You may now continue on with your lives.