Weekend Checkdown: the top stories of the week

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks before training camp and counting. A week with more going on than some of us might have anticipated.

A variety of relatively small but interesting items are highlighted in the news of the week. Things are somewhat quiet and, thankfully, mundane in the world of the Steelers. No such luck in New England where Patriots keep making headlines for the wrong reasons. One of the more interesting stories of the week are the back stories of readers of this site. There is also the opportunity to visit with some of the players away from the game. Predictions, a rule change or two and challenges thrown down to both new and returning players as the beginning of camp looms. There are a couple of legal matters that have advanced and concluded respectively. There will even be a another rant, albeit it a small one concerning a national media group that I think got the Steelers all wrong.

Talking Steelers Football

Bob Labriola and Mike Prisuta begin a 10 part series this week on Steelers.com analyzing the various position groups on the team in advance of the 2013 season. If part one is any indication then it will be a welcome and stimulating conversation starter going forward. The topic was cornerbacks. The emphasis was less upon the top three players (Taylor, Allen and Gay), though it was significant that it is assumed that Allen has the starting position wrapped up prior to the competition of camp. More attention was given to Curtis Brown, Josh Victorian and Terry Hawthorne and what they may need to do to secure places on the 53 man roster.

Training Camp Schedule

The team released the official schedule for training camp at Saint Vincent in Latrobe. Two night practices highlight the schedule. I know a number of people reading haven't been to camp due to time, distance or finances, but for die hard fans (and you probably wouldn't be reading this if you didn't qualify) it can be a worthwhile and satisfying investment. Especially for those of us who live in the diaspora just being on 'home' ground, rubbing shoulders with others from Steeler Nation can be an invigorating experience, not to mention getting up close to players, prospects and the folks we read and talk about year round. For those who come from my neck of the woods (DC Metro) Steel City Mafia whose 'Don' Boss Steeler Chick I profiled last year will be gathering in Latrobe on the second weekend of camp, August 2nd and 3rd. In addition to attending practice there will be a meet and greet with fans from all over and a sit down banquet. I went to one of the events last year. It can all remind you of attending a family reunion only you're not (necessarily) related by blood or marriage, just a passion that would bring you from as far away as Florida, Tennessee or Ohio to watch a football team practice and consider it time well spent.

Tomlin

The Steelers head coach makes his annual trek to his home stomping grounds in Hampton Roads, Virginia to coach kids on both football and life. In this video interview he covers a number of topics including area resident Shamarko Thomas and his thoughts of what attracts the Steelers to this talent.

Ben

Roethlisberger got a lot of media attention last week as a result of his trip to the British Isles in support of both the Steelers regular season game against the Vikings in London as well as supporting Dan Rooney's 4th of July flag football game in Dublin. The Post Gazette's Ron Cook makes a point that can't be emphasized often enough; that Ben is in his prime and is a difference maker that most teams in this league wish that they had.

Ramon Foster

If you should happen to reside in Great Britain, or are really so fanatical that distance is no object when it comes to following the Steelers, the Pittsburgh left guard will be a participant at this event in England.

Player profiles

You would expect a lot of background pieces on various players at this time of the year and we have not been disappointed. First round draft pick Jarvis Jones has been the subject of pieces both in Pittsburgh and Georgia. If there is such a thing as a PR battle he's winning it at the moment.

Wide receiver Antonio Brown and family are the subject of a 'Day in the Life' feature at Steelers.com.

Fullback Will Johnson is also profiled via the same format. Johnson's was of greater interest to me because there is very little we knew about him.

Cornerback Cortez Allen, here and punter Drew Butler, here and here responded to fans' questions, also at Steelers.com. And part two of a similar feature on Isaac Redman ran this week as well.

Patriots

While the news out of Pittsburgh continues to be feel good, and frankly, a bit mundane, the nightmare just keeps picking up steam in New England. Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard is the latest Patriot to find his way onto a police blotter. Meanwhile, just when you think the Aaron Hernandez affair has hit bottom they start digging. A few took umbrage when a couple of weeks ago I suggested in a rant that Hernandez' behavior coupled with what I felt was a somewhat muted sense of outrage might be indicative of trouble in the larger culture. Fox Sports' Jason Whitlock makes the case in a more concise and I believe, convincing manner.

Team leadership

Of course there would news of a speculative nature concerning the 2013 season. In this piece the question is addressed as to who will have to step up the fill the (alleged) leadership gap for the Steelers.

AFC North

Chris Burke of SI.com began his preview of the various divisions this week. He began with this profile of the AFC North.

Rule changes

This year in a retro player safety move the wearing of thigh and knee pads will be mandatory. Failure to do so will result in a player being removed from the game. And in a move that seems to be viewed with a bit more cynicism, the league has announced that players that are academically ineligible will be prevented from participating in activities like the NFL Combine.

Legal matters

The issue of head injuries is once again in the news. A judge ruled that former players seeking redress from the league for head injuries must go through a process of mediation in order to attempt to reach a resolution of their concerns. On another issue a judge dismissed an attempted class action suit by fans who had purchased tickets but did not receive seating at Super Bowl forty five in Dallas.

Fan Affiliation

Anthony Defeo really struck a cord with the members of the BTSC community when he invited the non Pittsburgh affiliated members of Steeler Nation to come forward and share their path to Steeler fandom. As is common on this site, while the story was good, the comments are priceless. If you haven't seen it check it out here. And by all means, if appropriate please do us all a favor and weigh in with your own stories.

What's in a name?

PaVaSteeler has an intriguing and clever piece on the meaning of player and coaches names. You might enjoy playing along in guessing what meanings go with what Steelers.

Jack Bechta

His pieces written from the perspective of an agent/financial advisor have become favorites for me in that it provides insight into the landscape that players have to navigate in order to realize the success that most assume is guaranteed in the professional game but is anything but. This week he lays out questions that players should ask a prospective representative.

Bleacher Report

I usually don't have much negative to say about what is written about the Steelers. I assume the reader has the tools and wisdom to come to their own conclusions about the product they consume. But I couldn't allow two pieces that appeared in Bleacher Report to pass without comment.

The first piece makes suggestions for five players who the Steelers should invite to training camp. The players, defensive end John Abraham, tight end Dallas Clark, fullback Vonta Leach, running back Michael Turner and wide receiver Brandon Lloyd represent to me the ravings of some fantasy geek. Typical is this comment about why the team should consider Lloyd.

The Steelers are not in dire need of receiving help, but their current crop of receivers are not exactly amazing. Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, Plaxico Burress and Markus Wheaton are not a particularly threatening bunch.

And Brandon Lloyd would make a difference? The Pats let this guy go and then pursued the not so threatening Manny Sanders. Abraham? James Harrison would do as an aging, expensive pass rusher. Clark? Can he block? What's wrong with Will Johnson that would necessitate investing in Leach? Turner might be the only one who would remotely make sense.

The other article was a listing of the most dominant player in every team's history. And for the Steelers that player was Jack Lambert. Now don't get me wrong. Lambert was a great player, and you could make the case for a number of players with this franchise. But in my view there are only two possible correct responses to this question. It is either 1) Joe Greene, or 2) profuse apologies to Joe Greene before you select someone else. (btw, Reggie White was selected as the most dominant player for both the Eagles and the Packers).

The lack of understanding was IMHO breathtaking.

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