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Weekend Checkdown: the top stories of the week

Questions about the composition of the coaching staff for 2013 are being answered this week, but who's going to be on the team roster remains a mystery.

Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE

A death in the family

We begin this week on a sad note as one of the minority owners of the Steelers has passed away. Rita McGinley died on Friday at age 94. Her family's ties to the Steelers stretch back nearly seventy years to when her father Barney McGinley became a part owner of the franchise in 1946.

Coaching staff

A relatively short time ago there were a bunch of question marks about Mike Tomlin's 2013 staff. The issue of 'who' is coming and going has been largely resolved, but the 'hows', 'whats' and 'whys' are still fueling much discussion and debate. Richard Mann is this week's new addition as wide receivers coach. He joins newcomers Jack Bicknell Jr. (Offensive line) and Danny Smith (Special teams) with the only possible remaining position being for an assistant special teams coach. Mann, like Smith has ties to the Pittsburgh area. He also is connected to Tomlin having worked with him on the staff of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

With Bicknell the questions have centered upon philosophy and how that might influence personnel decisions concerning who goes and who stays on the O line. Competence appears to be the central issue surrounding the hiring of Smith. Neal Coolong put together an insightful piece that manages to articulate and answer some of the concerns about Smith specifically, but also how we might wrap our minds around how to think about what factors are involved in coaching special teams. As for wide receivers the questions for this week were less about Mann, but rather the individual he replaced. Ed Bouchette and Gerry Dulac had dueling posts in the PG+ blog of the Post Gazette debating whether Montgomery (and Sean Kugler) were pushed out of the door (Bouchette) or walked away to attractive opportunities (Dulac).

Cuts and other blood letting

Anticipation is growing over who is staying and who is going on various NFL rosters. As of this writing well known players such as the Giants Ahmad Bradshaw, the Packers Charles Woodson and the Colts Dwight Freeney have been released. The Ravens are looking at some hard decisions involving Flacco, Boldin and Reed. Nothing has happened yet involving Steelers, but its just a matter of time at this juncture.

Willie Colon

The common wisdom has contended for weeks that the Steelers left guard was as good as gone. He makes too much money, he has been injured too often and he wouldn't seem to fit, in the minds of some, into the anticipated schemes of new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell. SteelerCityRoller punches some holes in some of these assumptions, particularly those that suppose that shedding Colon would translate into significant financial savings for the team in the short run. This certainly isn't the first time that Colon has been cast as either the scapegoat or sacrificial lamb. We'll see how this is resolved.

James Harrison

Another player assumed to be out the door by many is the outside linebacker. The news this week is whether the team would request that Harrison restructure his contract and if so whether he would agree to any reduction in salary. So far nothing has happened. In the meantime Harrison passes the time playing dodgeball.

Dennis Dixon

It appears the former Steelers quarterback has an opportunity to significantly advance his career. Signing with the Philadelphia Eagles he has reunited with his college coach Chip Kelly. Indications are that this will be his best chance to legitimately compete for a starting job. all and all a good year for Dixon who was part of a second championship team with the Ravens and now a new beginning with the Eagles.

Rashard Mendenhall

Though it is still likely he won't return, it appears that it would be wrong to assume that the door is completely closed to a return to the Steelers for the halfback. Mendenhall indicated earlier that he was open to returning to the Steelers and this report indicates that Mike Tomlin is open to the possibility as well. Considering the total situation at running back; Rainey gone, Batch injured, Dwyer and Redman giving no indication of being to carry the load as feature back, no particularly intriguing prospects in the draft, new blocking schemes favoring Mendy's style of running, the possibility of his recent injury plus uneven history obscuring his market value the possibility of his return might not be as far fetched as some might believe.

Not so negative news on CTEs and the future of football

If you love football but also have ethical concerns about the safety of the sport and particularly concerning the area of head injuries then recent news has been at best depressing and at worst possibly despairing. Well, there is some hopeful news for a change. In part three in the series on the future of football Bob Labriola presents information on the science of head injuries, youth participation in sports including football and other factors that are not nearly as negative as previous reports and most importantly points out that the jury is still out on most of the issues as it relates to the impact of head injuries, the relationship of CTE to suicide and other factors that have put a pall over the sport. An example of the information covered is that for children who require emergency room treatment football injuries rank fourth behind basketball, bicycle and baseball related injuries. The risks for youth playing football are similar to that for participants in skiing, skateboarding bicycling and surfing. The article also pointed out that genetic factors may have more to do with long term impact of concussions.


Ben was honored this past weekend with induction into the Miami University Hall Of Fame.

2012 game day photos has a collection of game day photos of the 2012 season. Enjoy.