Weekend Checkdown: the top stories of the week

Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Sorting out what the Steelers are up to in a low information environment. Exercising discernment during the silly season.

I readily admit that I look at other people's mock drafts. Of course, the first thing I do is glance at who the mocker has the Steelers selecting.

If it's an outlandish pick - this year that would be any mock that has the Steelers taking an offensive lineman first - I quit reading. Otherwise, I'll continue and take in the rest of the mock.

Dale Lolley captures the challenge of navigating through the waves of information put out daily in the weeks leading up the NFL Draft. More so now than at any other time during the league year one can get away saying almost anything without having to be concerned about minor nitpicking issues such as whether it has any bearing on reality. How bad can it be? A couple of years ago someone subjected readers on this site with a virtual avalanche of mock drafts, updating regularly all the way up to the second day of the actual draft. At that point it was clear that he had been wrong about pretty much everything. None of the real life picks matched his mock selections. Undeterred, and mind you, the current draft was not yet completed, he subjected readers to his first mock draft for the following season. My reaction; have you no shame?

Even those whom you would believe would have some credibility in these matters can be caught backing some shaky positions. See if you agree with Gil Brandt’s take on this aspect of the state of the Steelers

Pittsburgh hasn't drafted especially well recently, with top picks like Jarvis Jones (first round, 2013) and Cameron Heyward (first round, 2011) failing to provide needed production.

We can debate over whether Pittsburgh has drafted well recently, but if you’re arguing in favor of failure would you designate Cam Heyward and Jarvis Jones as the poster children for those shortcomings? Why not include David DeCastro and Le’Veon Bell in that assessment as well?

With an insatiable 24/7 demand for content, competition for hits, multiple platforms for fans, pundits and other media types to broadcast their opinions and virtually no accountability for misinformation, mistakes and overall silliness, consumers need to be cognizant of the informational junk food that that constitutes much of what passes for NFL news in April.

The case for discernment

It’s not just low information, but misinformation that is at issue during this period. Reading into Jack Bechta’s piece on Resetting the draft board, there is the contention that high profile, telegenic events such as the Combine and pro days distracts from the necessary due diligence of reviewing tape of the player in pads (as opposed to shorts), reports from area scouts and the myriad other issues of how a player may fit into the culture of any particular team. Much of this information is not accessible to most journalists, pundits or fans.

This is not to say that sober, quality information isn’t available to the discerning fan. After making the statement about mocks above, Lolley continues with information on a reasoned case for a particular roster of potential draft picks. The Post Gazette’s Ed Bouchette in a recent chat session pushed back on some of the sketchier notions gaining currency in Steelers Nation (trading Pouncey; drafting an offensive lineman in the first round).

History

Our understanding, or lack thereof of history can influence how we try to make sense of things in the present. Many put a great deal of stock in the draft as the vehicle that will lift a team to the heights of the playoffs and beyond. True enough, but probably not in the short term. And how would we know that one way or the other? The 74 draft and playoffs have been revisited this week by Steelers.com and Bouchette. It would be understandable to believe that ‘the greatest draft class ever’ instantly transformed the Steelers into a Super Bowl juggernaut. But only one from that famed draft class (Lambert) managed a starting role that season. And the road to that first Lombardi was much more uneven and precarious than you might imagine. Hopefully, there will be a player or more who may have as great an immediate impact as Le’Veon Bell this past year. But truth be told the fate of the 2014 Steelers will be, if history is our guide, more in the hands of those who are either already on the roster and those who will be added in June, rather than May.

Adam Podlesh and the salary cap

Last week I suggested that the team may be done with free agent activity for the time being. If the time being is defined as until this week then I was correct. Pittsburgh still has some room under the salary cap and they decided to use some of it on a punter. Now, this pick would come under the definition of ‘underwhelming’. I confess to having no idea what influences the acquisition and release of punters over the past several years. And as Tony Defeo and Hombre de Acero, channeling each other’s work, point out, perhaps it doesn’t much matter. Quality of punting does not seem to be a dealmaker (or killer) in the pursuit of Lombardis. If they find someone who can push the ball consistently beyond the line of scrimmage without getting it blocked then it appears the team can somehow make due.

Adams, Mike

The stabbing incident involving the third year offensive tackle has reemerged in an attempt to subpoena the team information on his personnel file. A judge will rule on Monday as to Nation to ponder is whether there was any connection between the ongoing residue from this incident and the performance issues that Adams struggle with throughout the 2013 season.

More Adams, and others

An upside of this news challenged period is that we get an opportunity to get some insight into some of the members of the team. One of those players was Adams who talked about how he rallied after being benched and, much like the team itself left a more positive taste in the mouth at season’s end with hope that he will recover under Mike Munchak to the point where he will challenge for a starting position on the O line this summer.

Nick Williams allowed us a look into the challenges he faced as he rehabbed from an injury that resulted in his spending his rookie season with the team on IR.

Jarvis Jones reflected on his first year and the leap he hopes to make in order to be a difference maker and a starter in 2014.

David DeCastro and Mark Bruener relived the lead up to the draft and draft day from their perspective.

More on the financials

The point has been made that there is a lot of ignorance flying around out there these days, but there are also opportunities to educate ourselves about where things stand with the team’s personnel. The series on the status of contracts in the various position groups continued with the focus falling on safeties, cornerbacks, outside linebackers and inside linebackers. Information has been revealed that places the Steelers low on the list of teams in the division who have paid out guaranteed money this spring. If you really want to look ahead you can check out who will be hitting the block as free agents in 2015.

Jason Worilds

When he signed back on to the team in March the assumption in most corners was that Worilds would be following up with signing a long term deal. Many had, in fact, felt that such a move would have been essential to facilitate other moves that the team had to make in signing other players. The team has been able to maneuver effectively without that happening, and now there is the suggestion that an extension for Worilds will not be coming in the short term at all.

On leadership

In a development that may have a significant impact upon the potential success of the Steelers in 2014 and beyond Ramon Foster has been selected to be the team representative to the NFLPA, filing the spot vacated by Ryan Clark. In doing so one step has been taken in filling the leadership void that was created with the departure of Clark and the absence of Brett Keisel. Is it significant that one of team’s most maligned position groups is the source of two key leaders in Foster and team captain Maurkice Pouncey.

A quiet offseason

With turmoil roiling a number of teams, especially the 49ers this off season, there is developing an appreciation for the fact that Pittsburgh has been, relatively speaking, a drama free zone in recent times. It should be kept in mind that Mike Tomlin has been intentional in having his players avoid the very things that placed key players from the San Francisco organization front and center in the headlines.

7 Rounds

Neal wrapped up his series analyzing the results of recent Pittsburgh drafts by round.

Limas Sweed

The sad decline of the former Steeler wide receiver continues as he has now been cut by a Canadian team.

Notes

Here are the players who have visited the Steelers facilities. Details of the Steelers v Eagles preseason game have been released. The team is conducting a youth football clinic for moms. And the Steelers will be conducting auditions for those interested in being part of their drumline.

For those of you who celebrated, a hope that Passover and Easter have been joyful events.

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