Weekend Checkdown: the top stories of the week


A Steeler icon rides off into the sunset and has a few things to say before disappearing over the horizon.

MSU (Making 'Stuff' Up)

Dale Lolley calls it "the silly time of the year". The statement could refer to a good many things but he was referring specifically to the exercise in 'grading' the 2013 draft. I get it kinda. The news cycle is voracious, and while things are going on its not the right kind of things. There were, for example, rookie minicamps going forward over the past week, but as Mike Tomlin says, we're talking about football in shorts among neophytes. Not exactly scintillating. Now knowledgeable, sober minded observers will take you aside and talk to you like a child and explain that a good time to begin evaluating this year's draft would be sometime in 2016, but, you know. Then it can get seductive. A number of sources give the Steelers high marks for 2013 and why wouldn't you just want to run with that. It sure feels good. But then there is the other side of the equation that Neal Coolong brought our attention to. Yes, things can get rather silly.

It gets worse. Some people are talking about the 2014 draft. A friend of mine who is a West Point graduate has a standard response to things like this; "This is why I don't carry a gun."

The thing is that there really is actually some compelling news that has been occurring over the last week. I'm going to try to make the case for at least some of it.

Mean Joe Greene

Some things just won't perfectly translate. I will never completely understand the impact of the Great Depression or Pearl Harbor. Others will never get the Cuban Missile Crisis and the JFK assassination. There will be some kids who will enter high school this fall who won't get 9/11. It is difficult to convey the impact of a revolution that occurs before your eyes. It's pretty much impossible yet you can't not try, it's a compulsion. So I and PaVaSteeler and Homer J and others took our best shots. And its not like we messed up. It was mostly on target and eloquent (thanks for some of the complements by the way). All of us have seen the tapes. We know that he is in a very real sense the embodiment of the Steeler Way, that if there were a Steelers Mt Rushmore it would be difficult to imagine him not being one of the faces. Its called Gestalt; the difference between the component parts of something and its existence as a unified whole. If you have no experience of the 70s Steelers you can achieve a sense of respect, but in terms of understanding something will come up short. For younger readers you'll fully get it a couple of decades from now when you try to explain Ben, Hines and the Bus to those who did not experience them. Eloquence won't be enough.

Money and football

Some years ago a survey was conducted among some college undergraduates who had ambitions to be doctors. They were asked what they would do if it turned out they were unable to gain admittance into medical school. Now there are a lot of alternatives available in the healing arts, but a surprising large number did not consider any of these. Instead they stated that they would opt for law school or some other field with high prestige or income potential. Some players, hopefully most, are in the NFL for the love of the game, but once any field gets to a certain level money and the prestige that it brings becomes the way that some will keep score. Neal was right to point out that for Joe Greene and his generation this was a temptation that they did not really have to face. Free agency didn't really get rolling until after he retired. Nor were Ryan Clark's supporting comments completely clear of career calculation, at least as a matter of perception.

But the core argument remains largely unassailable; you cannot serve two masters. It has been said that you don't come to Pittsburgh to get rich. The statement has been used to paint the Rooney family as cheap. In fact, it is a fundamental values statement about what is necessary to get six Lombardi's. There can be no successful coexistence of these two points of view. And would anyone be surprised that some of those who have bolted for the siren song of the dollar will, sooner or later, try to crawl their way back home.

The 2013 Steelers

For months we have been discussing and fussing about how the team was going to address a variety of issues. Now with the draft behind us and free agent acquisitions winding down we may still be a considerable distance from clear cut answers, but we have a much better handle on the questions and challenges that the team will address this season.


For years there has been a faction that was pleading for the team to invest in some young backups for Ben. Congratulations. You weren't actually expecting a quarterback controversy were you? Some have been bewildered by the selection of Landry Jones, I can see it making some sense in terms of a succession plan for Ben. No, I am not going back on my opposition to the notion that the team should be about grooming a replacement. This is more like preparing a placeholder who might develop into something more. Hopefully, this will have no bearing on the season other than Ben will have to be more accustomed to flying without a net in that room, and will be required to play the role of elder statesman.

Running Backs

I think there aren't many years in which the 48th pick in the draft could be the most impactful in September, but with the sordid Steelers running back situation, Le'Veon Bell could hit the ground running for Pittsburgh and not stop. Wouldn't surprise me if he were this year's Alfred Morris, only about 400 fewer yards.

Peter King

The reception for Bell has been mixed, but even if you disregard his potential impact there is reason to be a bit more optimistic than this time last year. You really had no one with any extensive experience (Baron Batch hadn't even played in a preseason game.) Is it unreasonable to assume that with a year of mileage, that is unlikely to see much in the way of decline from Dwyer, Redman and Batch. The veteran Stephens-Howlings might actually be able to deliver on the hype that was Chris Rainey. And Bell has an advantage over Mendenhall insofar as he is, so far, healthy.

Offensive line

There is a segment of the fan base who will be unhappy if the team does not expend draft picks on offensive linemen in every single draft. But the success of this group this year is contingent on last year's draftee's, specifically, DeCastro and Adams. Adding depth and competition was the move. And let's not forget the biggest addition of Coach Bicknell Jr.

Wide Receivers

New England Patriots: Who’s going to catch Tom Brady’s passes?

Rob Gronkowski’s status for the start of the season is up in the air, and neither Wes Welker (118 catches in 2012) nor Brandon Lloyd (74) is around anymore. Much of the resulting pressure will fall on Aaron Hernandez (assuming his shoulder is OK after offseason surgery) and new addition Danny Amendola. Beyond that? Rookie Aaron Dobson, Julian Edelman, Michael Jenkins and ex-Giant TE Jake Ballard may be the best options.

Chris Burke

To me the decision to retain Sanders looks better everyday. Unlike Brady, Ben has a full quiver even without taking into account whatever contributions may come from Wheaton and Brown. This also puts the two rookies on a developmental path similar to Steelers wideouts over the past decade where they began in more supportive roles; true for Wallace, Brown, Sanders, even Santonio Holmes. One exception (Burress) is also on this year's roster.

Tight end

Any group without Heath will be disappointing, but there is a Super Bowl ring or so there, and all three are well grounded in Steelers football.

Defensive Backs

Carnell Lake is really high on Thomas and is confident he can have him ready for the season. Has there been any reason thus far to not trust the judgment of Lake? The strongest unit on the team even taking Hawthorne out of the equation.


Credible talk about a legitimate competition to replace Harrison is a big plus.


Depth and development. It's what Mitchell does.

I believed the major areas of concerns were addressed, successfully remains to be seen. Of course much will depend on who steps up and who can manage to remain upright, but how is that different from any other year. The defense is still likely to be top five and is younger. There is competition at all the special teams skills positions. Ben is still considered the class of the division by our enemies. Doesn't sound like a franchise on the ropes to me. And plenty to discuss going into OTAs and beyond without discussing draft grades.

And speaking of money

Jack Bechta comes in with a timely piece concerning financial and other pitfalls that rookies face from the draft through training camp.

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