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Weekend Checkdown: the top stories of the week

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You have to give the NFL credit for managing to stay consistently relevant throughout the year, but the equivalent of the Dog Days have arrived.


Unless you get off on the interesting, necessary but not quite as exciting mid to low level free agent signings or the seemingly endless speculation of the evaluation of college talent for the draft which is still a month away then you have to acknowledge that there just isn't much going on now.

There's still news of course, but when compared to the fourteen game win streak of the Penguins, Florida Gulf Coast, the resurrection of Tiger Woods, the Miami Heat, Brittney Griner and the impending dawn of baseball, well its a challenge to your loyalty to the game to claim that the story lines in professional football are all that compelling at the moment.

The Ravens season opener

Perhaps not a big deal, all sides agree that there was no animosity involved, nonetheless I find there to be some symbolic significance to the fact that the NFL didn't get its way in lobbying for a scheduling adjustment that would have permitted the Baltimore Ravens to have what has now become the traditional Thursday night home opener for the Super Bowl Champions. Staging the game would have required the Baltimore Orioles, whose stadium is in close proximity to Ravens stadium similar to the relationship between Heinz Field and PNC Park, to reschedule a game. An acceptable accommodation could not be reached, so the Ravens will open the 2013 season on the road.

A Pittsburgh season opener?

The Steelers appear to be on the short list of alternatives for the NFL season opener versus the Ravens, with Chicago and Denver also being mentioned. This is a match up that would not require any sort of hype or build up by the league or the media. It would be a nice combination of familiar and new story lines and a likely ratings success. For Pittsburgh it would mean a home opener for the first time in a few years. And with Ravens fans getting froggy after (finally) managing to win a championship, the conversation is already beginning to heat up.


A few weeks ago in an interview with Neal Coolong, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau identified safety as the area of greatest need on the defense going forward. Whether you agreed with him or not recent events have forced the issue. The Steelers have lost their two most experienced back ups at the position when Ryan Mundy signed with the Giants, and this week Will Allen signed with the Dallas Cowboys. While some see a bright future for Robert Golden a satisfactory solution will have to involve a lot more. The safety position looks to be an area of emphasis and priority in the upcoming draft as the team seems to have shown interest in prospects such as Texas' Kenny Vaccaro. And veteran safety James Sanders, late of the Cardinals was in town for a visit on Thursday.

Ahmad Bradshaw

More in the category of a rumor last week the possibility of the ex-Giant running back becoming the most significant free agent signing by the Steelers in 2013 has increased. Bradshaw was in town Thursday and underwent a team physical. Sports Illustrated is reporting that if he passes the team is likely to sign him to the roster.

Front Office

Pittsburgh strengthened its contract negotiation and cap management capacity by hiring Samir Suleiman to the newly created position of Football Administrations Coordinator. Speculation surrounding this move has centered upon the possible need for the team to bolster its horsepower in cap management as it deals with new realities brought on by the CBA and the evolving situation involving an aging and expensive roster. There is also the matter of the team's ability to retain the services of Omar Khan who came very close to getting the general manager's job with the New York Jets earlier this year. A move that, at the moment looks to be something of an exercise in redundancy may be the path to a smooth and seamless transition in business leadership in the future.

Jason Worilds

With the team apparently closing the door on any possibility of James Harrison returning, the spotlight is now intensifying on Worilds and the need for him to step up in order to replace the former DPOY. talked to outside linebacker on his reaction to the news of the release of Harrison and his new, elevated status.

Richard Mann

The new Steelers receivers coach came to the team without much in the way of fanfare. In an interview with Bob Labriola of Steelers Digest, Mann, the Aliquippa, Pa., native, discusses his coaching philosophy in some detail and the players that will occupy the receivers room in 2013.

Looking ahead

As I mentioned in the beginning these are something of the dog days for the league, though some would argue that label being more appropriately applied to the period framed by the end of mini-camps in June and the beginning of training camp in July. There is a big difference between the two periods for team staffs as player evaluations and contract negotiations continue apace now whereas things will have died down considerably in the summer in preparation for the relentless slog of the season. But fans now are left more or less with ony the fevered musings of their imaginations. At least in July they know for certain what the roster possibilities are. Right now we are uncertain not only as to who may be starters at wide receiver, running back or nose tackle just to mention a few more obvious examples, but also are not even clear as to who the roster of competitors for these positions will be; returning veterans, newcomers or rookies. For those looking ahead beyond the draft the schedule for OTAs that will commence in May ishere.

Brown and Taylor underrated produced a piece on an all underrated team of NFL players. Two Steelers, wide receiver Antonio Brown and cornerback Ike Taylor made the cut.

The future of professional football

Jack Bechta of the National Football Post speaks to four factors that may radically alter and ultimately degrade the game of football. The first is the issue of head injuries and the possible litigation, compensation, rule changes and insurance issues that might accompany the process of resolving the pending lawsuits in this area. Second is a widening gap between a small elite of highly compensated players who would consume a greater share of cap space and a large underclass of cheap, inexpensive players who would fill out the roster and ultimately push more experienced (and expensive) talent off rosters for purely financial reasons with a negative impact on the quality of the game. Third are rule changes that would alter the look and feel of the game and chase away fans. And finally, a possible reduction in the talent pool as families turn away from allowing their sons to play because of safety concerns.

Challenges for the Steelers offense in 2013

Jamison Hensley the AFC North beat writer for ESPN lays out the current questions facing the Steelers offense as it heads into the 2013 season. The one certainty is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, beyond that are significant unknowns. Will Manny Sanders return and if not how do they address the starting position opposite Antonio Brown? The offensive line has talent but it is untested with particular concern about Marcus Gilbert's ability to remain healthy and protecting Ben's back. Who will be the featured running back? When will Heath Miller return and regardless is it time to begin identify his replacement.

Dan Rooney

The Steelers chairman will be the recipient of another high honor when he is inducted into the Irish American Hall of Fame in June. Others who will be inducted include Bing Crosby, James Cagney, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gene Tunney (all deceased).

Vince Young, a cautionary tale

Jen Floyd Engel relates the story of the former University of Texas quarterback trying to make a second start in the NFL and draws parallels with Notre Dame linebacker Manti T'eo. Is T'eo a coddled player that Pittsburgh might be tempted to invest in??

Steeler Nation and Hollywood

Is there any fan base whose tentacles extend further into popular culture? This Post Gazette piece explores the possibility that the real life character portrayed in the movie Zero Dark Thirty, or those who produced the movie are Steeler fans.

Penguins and Clemente

Set a precedent last week by including some Pittsburgh sports (but not Steelers) news with the Roberto Clemente museum. This week more on Clemente and a piece in featuring the Pens.

Fan Photos posted this gallery of fan photographs from the 2012 season.