So with running back Tiki Barber making a comeback after four years out of the game and at the ripe old age (by running back standards) of 36, no one will be interested, right?
Maybe not. Peter King of Sports Illustrated speculates — but also seems to know more than he’s letting on — that Barber will be given a shot with the Steelers.
King explains that Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin has a close relationship with Tiki’s twin brother, Ronde, arising from their five seasons of working together in Tampa. Also, King says that Tomlin wouldn’t be shy about cutting Tiki if he fails to win a roster spot, mentioning Mewelde Moore as a guy whom Barber possibly wouldn’t beat out. Given that Moore will be a free agent once the lockout ends, there’s a chance Barber won’t have to worry about Moore at all.
As to the notion that Barber will “fit right in” with a veteran locker room in Pittsburgh, the bigger question is whether he’ll truly fit in, especially when he tries clumsily to make a crack about Ben Roethlisberger’s misadventures in Milledgeville. Tiki didn’t fit in with the Giants, and there are strong similarities and connections between the two organizations.
That said, if Barber can still bring it (and, remember, he gained more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage in his final three seasons), he could give the Steelers a viable bridge from Rashard Mendenhall, whose ill-advised comments about Osama bin Laden possibly have made him persona non grata. But if the Steelers have soured on Mendenhall because of his actions far removed from the field of play, it’s possible that the franchise never will really warm up to Tiki.
Back in March, when news of Tiki’s intent to unretire first emerged and a preliminary link to Pittsburgh was floated, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the Rooney family “will reject any suggestion by their coach to sign Barber,” given the events that transpired last year in Tiki’s personal life. And even if the Rooneys were inclined to accept Barber’s effort in his Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel interview with Armen Keteyian to dull the perception that he dumped his pregnant-with-twins wife while she was, you know, pregnant with twins, a call would be made to the Giants to inquire as to whether signing Barber would be a good idea, and there’s a good chance that the answer from the Giants won’t point to making the move.
Still, Tiki’s destination remains one of the interesting issues that remain clustered on the back burner until the lockout ends. King’s story regarding the possibility of Pittsburgh pursuing Barber makes it a little more interesting.