Weekend Check Down: The Top Stories of the Week

PITTSBURGH PA - JANUARY 23: Owner Dan Rooney of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates their 24 to 19 win over the New York Jets in the 2011 AFC Championship game at Heinz Field on January 23 2011 in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

It has been another pretty good news week. OTAs continue, but they have not necessarily been the main focus. As we enter June we can find some comfort in the fact that training camp is a little more than a month and a half away and that some aspects of the coming season are beginning to take shape.

Let us begin this week with an upbeat, somewhat reverent piece on the head of Steeler Nation…

Dan Rooney profile

If you are new to the Nation, or just been focusing strictly on the football you might want to invest a few minutes on this profile of the man who still sets the tone for the organization. The piece makes clear that Rooney has brought the same leadership qualities to his duties as the top American diplomat to Ireland as he did to the NFL. What is left unclear, perhaps deliberately so, is whether Mr. Rooney will be returning full time to the Steelers this summer, as his son Art Rooney II seemed to imply earlier this year. What is clear is that Dan Rooney’s love and commitment to the team and its fortunes is undiminished despite the fact that his duties require him to be out of the country most of the time. For those of us with some familiarity with the Rooney family it will be a heartwarming account of his relationship with the land of his ancestors and how he has done his bit in addressing its many problems. For others it will serve as a primer for the Rooney family value system and how it plays out for the Steelers.

Now let us move from the beautiful to the ugly with the…

Mike Tomlin profile by Mike Florio

I like to think of myself as being a kind of even keel sort of guy, but my blood came to a boil after I compared the YouTube account of Mike Tomlin’s William and Mary Hall of Fame speech to the commentary made by Mike Florio. My main regret is that my colleague Neal Coolong wrote an excellent piece in rebuttal before I could weigh in myself.

This was probably for the best, because I wouldn’t have been nearly as nice. I would have felt better though. Neal used the term "Character Assassination", and that is not an exaggeration. It was, in my opinion, a very obvious swipe at Tomlin as well as a more backhanded attack on Steelers defensive players and James Harrison in particular. As Neal has pointed out, football is not a nice game, and I’m having a hard time trying to recall if Harrison or any other Steeler defender has been guilty of doing anything recently that would have been deemed illegal three years ago. I encourage you to make your own judgment.

And speaking of Mike Florio, he will have a new colleague on the job as…

Hines Ward joins NBC Sports and is the subject of an action figure

The Hines Ward post retirement tour continues as he seems to be even busier these days than he was as a player. If you saw Ward’s work during the last Super Bowl then this move should not come as too much of a surprise. If that appearance was any indication of Ward’s potential then his future in television sports could be very bright. Regardless, those who were fearful of suffering withdrawal symptoms in relation to Hines can breathe easy. Looks like you’ll be seeing him every Sunday night during the season.

In other Hines related news; if you’ve been to the movies lately you may have seen the trailer for the new Batman movie ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. If you watch carefully you’ll see a shot of ‘Gotham Rogues’ wide receiver Hines Ward racing across a football field fleeing from an encroaching sink hole. There’s more. There is an action figure now available of Ward in a Gotham Rogues uniform.

The uni looks pretty good and could pass for an alternative uniform for the Steelers (certainly light years ahead of the new throwbacks), with a black helmet and pants and a gold jersey.

Haley’s offense

There was actually some real football news this week as well. Thanks to datruth4life2.0 for turning us on to this story

about the Todd Haley offense. Bucky Brook’s analysis feeds into the hopes and dreams of Steeler Nation concerning the possibilities of the new offense. If you’re looking for uplift and optimism then this is the read for you.

Steelers sign third round pick

Third round draft pick Sean Spence signed a four year deal this week. That only leaves first round pick David DeCastro unsigned as the Steelers conclude their second week of OTAs.

Tight ends

Both the Post-Gazette and the Trib wrote features on TE Heath Miller. Both pieces emphasized the likelihood of Miller receiving more attention, particularly in the redzone in Haley’s new offense. Mention was also made of Miller’s quiet leadership. There was also an interesting piece on Weslye Saunders.

It is abundantly clear that Saunders is aware that he is on very thin ice in the wake of his upcoming four games suspension piled on top of the baggage he brought into the league. The addition of Pope (the team’s only free agent signing so far) and Paulson through the draft is not good news either.

Ben, Charlie, Ike, Ryan and Willie

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been in the news for a variety of reasons. He will be inducted in the Miami University Hall of Fame (watch out for Florio!). He will be spending part of the down time between the minicamp and the beginning of training camp on a golf vacation in Great Britain and Ireland. This includes sitting down for a meal with Dan Rooney. And, of course, there is the serious business of milking whatever controversy that can be stirred up over the installation of the new offense.

Backup QB Charlie Batch is in community service mode as he helps mediate difficulties that have arisen between two Pittsburgh area high schools (Brentwood and Monessen). Batch has received high marks for helping the two sides come to an accommodation.

CB Ike Taylor has spent some time recently with WR Mike Wallace and offered him some advice. The basic message; ‘You need football more than football needs you’. Relying on his own contract experience with the team he further advised that the Steelers could only be pushed so far.

In a nod to the changing leadership realities on the team, FS Ryan Clark will try to do his bit by toning down his outspoken nature. He wants to reduce the risk of being a distraction to his teammates. Brett Keisel is on record in expressing doubt that Clark can pull this off.

A piece in the Post-Gazette addressed Willie Colon’s transition to guard. Colon’s comments on the assistance he was receiving from Center Maurkice Pouncey were illuminating; especially this quote, "Pouncey is a genius when it comes to the Xs and Os."

Kordell Stewart

Former Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart was in town to officially ‘retire’ as a Pittsburgh Steeler. I don’t always agree with Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook, but I think he was mostly on target with this.

Steeler Nation likes to pat itself on the back for a good many things, but as is often the case there is a dark side that is difficult to justify. One of those dark areas is the treatment of quarterbacks down through the years. In spite of the relatively universal accolades that he has received in recent years, Terry Bradshaw was so traumatized by some of the treatment he received while in Pittsburgh that it was years before he could bring himself to return to the city. The Cowboy’s Thomas ‘Hollywood’ Henderson wasn’t the only person who thought Bradshaw couldn’t spell ‘cat’ it they spotted him the ‘c’ and the ‘a’.

As Cook points out Stewart was pretty much run out of town by fans and the press. Now whatever your beef was with Kordell, it is worth noting that his predecessor, Neil O’Donnell was also run out of town, as was the man that succeeded him, Tommy Maddox. And two years ago there were those who wanted to run Ben out of town. And it doesn’t take too much in the way of intuition to get the feeling that there are folks just lurking out there now, waiting for an opportunity to go after Ben again.

This is not to say that any, maybe even all of these quarterbacks didn’t have their flaws (certainly O’Donnell in SB XXX), but when you have a pattern like this it’s probably not just the quarterbacks that are flawed.

Pro Bowl

In a bit of non-Steeler related news the NFL announced that there would indeed be a Pro Bowl game for 2013 to be played in Hawaii. Let’s hope that none of the Steelers can go. Get my meaning?

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