Weekend Checkdown: the top stories of the week

Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

Seeing Ben Roethlisberger with fresh eyes. Will the Steelers quarterback get the respect that he has earned?

After a journey into sarcasm and fantasy its time to return to the actual news of the week.

What news do you say? Dejan Kovacevic of the Tribune Review said it as well as anyone; this is one of those rare periods where the Steelers have fallen off the radar even for the Pittsburgh sports media. However, as Kovacevic, and I have contended this is probably a good thing though it may be frustrating and boring as hell for fans. No doubt part of the reason for the Steelers' disappearance is that the Pirates are holding up their end of things. It is healthy and appropriate that baseball and pennant races should be front and center during the Fourth of July weekend. Neither the Steelers or the Penguins should be at the center of the consciousness of Pittsburgh sports fans, its not their time. For those in Steeler Nation who are not Pirate fans, well sorry about that. No disrespect intended.

And as mentioned in this space before, if there is news chances are its not good news. So embrace the boredom. Its less than three weeks to the start of training camp which means we're more than halfway across the six week desert that we've been traveling since end of minicamp. Hang in there. They'll be in Latrobe before you know it.

Understanding Ben

One of the interesting characteristics about the dynamics of the Steelers is how often we don't talk about franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. With a lot of other teams the quarterback is the sun around which all else orbits. But some weeks in Steelerland Ben is barely mentioned at all. But this week Ben was the focal point of a few stories. Probably the most interesting is a piece that Neal Coolong reviewed that appeared in Pro Football Focus. Statistics can sometimes be inadequate and even misleading as a means to fully explain what is going on. This may be why Ben often seems to be undervalued and misunderstood. This piece goes a long way in explaining Ben's success and why he can be a nightmare for opposing defenders.

Seventy million dollar man

The numbers in football contracts can be deceptive. They can look very robust but the circumstances surrounding the pro game are such that players very often only see a fraction of the money that they sign for. So it is significant that Ben Roethlisberger is actually on schedule to collect most, if not all the money of his $100 million + contract. Another area where he has flown under the radar.

More Ben

Ben traveled to the British Isles this week to help promote the game this fall between the Steelers and Vikings being played in London, and then on to Ireland to support the Fourth of July flag football game that was organized by Dan Rooney while he served as Ambassador to Ireland.

Dublin

Ben was also featured in a piece in SI.com that explores the possibility of the Steelers playing a game in Ireland some time in the future. Besides the issues related to traveling across the Big Pond and several time zones there is also the question of who gives up a home game and the attendant revenues. Ben points out that the team would be happy to do so for their owner.

Dan and Ike

And speaking of the Steelers owner and chairman, if you haven't seen this my guess is that you'll love it. The video on Steelers.com features a sit down with Dan Rooney and Ike Taylor discussing the special nature of their relationship.

Replacing Harrison

There were two features this week addressing the challenge of replacing the production of the now departed James Harrison. Mike Prisuta takes the question from the perspective of Jason Worilds and whether he can step up to fill Deebo's shoes. The other piece involves first round draft pick Jarvis Jones and whether it is necessary (or realistic) for him to step into a starting role this year at outside linebacker.

Tomlin

The Steelers head coach is beginning his seventh season at the helm. How do we evaluate his tenure thus far? One way would be the length of time that he has held his job. Only six other coaches have led their teams for a longer period of time, and four of them (Tom Coughlin, Bill Belichick, Sean Peyton and Mike McCarthy) have won Super Bowls. Gary Kubiak and Marvin Lewis have had their respective teams in the playoffs for each of the last two seasons. In this era coaches don't hang around for very long if they are not consistently productive. And even successful coaches such as Andy Reid, Norv Turner and Tony Dungy have lost their jobs even with teams that have regularly made playoff appearances but have not advanced to the next level. Its not easy keeping a head coaching job for seven years in the NFL.

Pouncey and Hernandez

Hate to keep coming back to the ugliness of the Aaron Hernandez story, but it is news and there have been some new developments. What is significant for Steelers fans is that the focus is now on Hernandez' days when he was at the University of Florida which also happened to be when Maurkice Pouncey was at U of F as well. So we end up with stories like this.

More than a football team

SteelCityRoller produced this touching piece that brings home the fact that for many people in Western Pennsylvania (and the tri-state area including parts of West Virginia and Ohio) the Steelers represent more than just a football team. The relationship between the team and the community often resembles something more akin to family than anything. This realization may be lost on some in Steeler Nation who have no links to the culture or who came to the team attracted simply by its winning ways.

Hope everyone had a happy and peaceful Fourth.

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