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Weekend Checkdown: the top stories of the week

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The big news of the week for Steelers Nation: does Bettis make it into the Hall of Fame?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Does anybody care about the game?

But for those who can't find a rooting interest in this game, there's this: One way or another, one of these teams is going to lose.

And that, in itself, could be something to root for.

-Dale Lolley

That may pretty much sum up the feelings of many who are reading this.

Jerome for the Hall?

Getting a player into the Hall Of Fame (HOF) resembles some aspects of running a political campaign, since it comes down to taking a vote. And like politics many of the decisions aren't made based purely on rational deliberations. Consequently, despite a good resume and strong support, the candidacy of Jerome Bettis to be admitted as part of the 2015 HOF class is not considered a slam dunk by anybody. There has been much speculation over why things could, again, go south, from a 'questionable' yard per carry average (not taking into account factors such as the short distances involved in successful goal line runs) to alleged anti-Steelers bias.

On the other hand, if things don't go Bettis' way it won't for lack of an impressive, spirited promotion of his virtues. Part of the strategy this year is a lineup of current HOFers who insist that the Bus belongs among their number. This includes Curtis Martin [here], Derrick Brooks [here], Marcus Allen [here] and Chris Doleman [here]. Closer to home, former teammate and current assistant linebackers coach Joey Porter makes a very strong case. And our own Hombre de Acero lists fifteen reasons why Bettis' bust belongs in Canton. You may also want to hear what Jerome has to say on his own behalf.

Many of you reading this will already know the results of the voting, but I am writing this in the dark. The guess here is that the Bus parks in Canton in 2015.

Can the NFL turn the corner?

Last week I questioned whether the arrow was pointing down for the league based upon a myriad of missteps and unresolved problems that threatened to shove the league's marque event so far into the background that we would forget why they had come to Arizona. The comments from the community demonstrated that I wasn't the only one with this concern. This week Jeff Nussbaum of the Atlantic offers a proposal for some relatively modest changes that could help the league turn it around.

Nussbaum bases his assertions on the fact that football has found itself in this sort of quandary before. A little more than a century ago, President Teddy Roosevelt spearheaded reforms that were inspired by a crisis brought on by a series of player deaths. The steps offered are, in my opinion, reasonable and intriguing. They include:

-Elimination of the three point stance. While our attention is drawn to more spectacular 'bell ringing' concussions, it is often the cumulative effects of pre concussive blows to the head that can cause long term damage. in the trenches the three point stance makes avoidance of blows to the head impossible.

-Citing the helmet favored by former Bills wide receiver Don Beebe, the technology exists for reducing the negative effects of head blows, but the politics of helmet procurement stands in the way.

-Guaranteed contracts. A given in other professional sports like baseball and basketball, the sport that needs it the most doesn't have it. Incentives change for both players and their employers as it regards courting unnecessary physical risks when the player is less disposable.

I'd be interested in what the community thinks about this. You know how to let your feelings be known.

The soap opera continues

Off field concerns both locally and nationally continue to be a major part of the conversation this week.

We made mention of the LeGarrette Blount 'conspiracy' last week. The notion that his departure from the Steelers might have been orchestrated to facilitate his rejoining New England. Though the arguments against that being the case are strong, it is a defeat for the game and the culture at large to have to entertain the conversation at all, which Blount was forced to do this week. On the positive side for Blount, having fulfilled his community service requirements, the drug possession charges against him have been dropped.

Steelers President Art Rooney II defended the team's decision to part ways with Blount in the manner that they did. Defensive end Brett Keisel added his voice to anti-Patriot sentiment.

The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) is taking issue with the league's new player conduct policy, claiming it violates the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. Meanwhile, former Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer has been placed on probation for his domestic issues. Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon has failed another test, this time for alcohol. This continues this franchise's talent for hitting bottom and then start vigorously digging. A different spin has developed on the story involving Allegheny County Sheriff deputy and Steelers security chief Jack Kearney.

Suggs

Hated Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs has caused some dissonance among Steelers fans by advancing the argument that Ben Roethlisberger doesn't get any respect from the officials and the NFL. While admitting that he takes advantage of this truth to jack Ben at every opportunity, we now find ourselves in some strange alternative universe where we are in common cause with the devil.

LeBeau and Butler

Though there were reports that former defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau would be joining Bruce Arians' staff in Arizona, that particular arrangement did not materialize. This week's story is the possibility of LeBeau joining former Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt in Tennessee. Regardless, LeBeau will be honored in Pittsburgh in February.

Attention is now focusing in Pittsburgh on new defensive coordinator Keith Butler, his playing and coaching history, relationship to current and former players and what we might expect as he takes over the legacy of high quality defense being generated by the Steelers.

Brett and Ike

There has been an assumption operating that veteran defensive players James Harrison, Brett Keisel, Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor were all out the door. Nothing has been confirmed however, and there are some indications from Keisel and Taylor that they may not be ready to go. Both suffered what most assumed to be career ending injuries this past season. The easy conclusion, particularly in the case of Taylor is to think that these are cases of players at the end of the line who, sadly, just can't let go. But arguments can be made in the other direction. According to some, Keisel was washed up before this season. Events proved otherwise with Da Beard being arguably, with due respect to Cam Heyward, the best Steelers defensive lineman in 2914 until he got hurt. If he can successfully rehabilitate his tricep injury what is the basis for an ironclad position that he can no longer contribute? And with talk of the possibility of a greater reliance on a 4-3 configuration under new DC Butler, a Heyward, Keisel, McLendon, Tuitt alignment could be formidable. In the case of Taylor, a return to full health and a possible position change could prove to be a career extender. Both players were in the news for other reasons this week as well.

Max Starks

One player who is done is former Steelers offensive tackle Max Starks who announced his retirement from the game this week.

O line

Sticking with the topic of the offensive line, after a full season under the tutelage of new offensive line coach Mike Munchak the reviews are in for this position group including a very good one from our Scott Pavelle. The consensus would appear to be that the days of dysfunction are finally behind this group for the foreseeable future. There is certainly room for improvement, but this group has the potential to get there. Perhaps the biggest news being that for the first time in a long time, this unit can stand pat when priorities are determined for areas of improvement over the off season.

Super Bowl storylines

Super Bowl week has become a traditional time to look both backward and forward. This is particularly true for the Steelers who, fortunately have a rich playoff and Super Bowl legacy. So we have been treated to playoff comeback stories as well as multipart tales of the most underrated Super Bowl plays (think about that for a moment).

Pittsburgh Super Bowl?

Ever since New York was awarded a Super Bowl, opening up the option for cold weather sites, there has been conversation about the possibility of Pittsburgh hosting a Super Bowl. Art Rooney II has been consistent in promoting this as an aspiration for the community.

Building for 2015

Once the confetti settles on Sunday night, full attention can turn to the task of assembling the necessary pieces that might result in that celebration being for Pittsburgh a year from now. The top priority will be the resigning of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. A contractual resolution regarding outside linebacker Jason Worilds will also be high on the team's to do list. On the other side of the roster the development of promising up and comers like Howard Jones may be just as big as the headliners. Pro Football Focus argues that the Steelers are about six bricks shy of a load to improve to championship form. There will be some questions about how they get there given the fact that the free agency activity from last spring was disappointing.

Bell

They are saying that running back Le'Veon Bell is just now coming into full recovery from the knee hyperextension suffered at the end of the season. This makes me think that the Wildcard elimination of the Steelers may have been a blessing in disguise for the team's long term prospects. No doubt that as the stakes grew higher the temptation to rush Bell back into action would have been great, ready or not. Bell also has somethings to say about the preference for the risks associated with a head injury compared to that for leg injuries.

Tomlin

Tony DeFazio does a piece that argues that 2014 constitutes head coach Mike Tomlin's best coaching job. Those who can only associate coaching success in absolute terms will obviously disagree. But the argument advanced is that the real measure is in how you maximize the hand you have been dealt.

AB and the young money reunion

Wide receiver Antonio Brown's train just keeps on rolling. Brown was named the AFC North offensive player of the year this week. Brown and former Young Money running mate Emmanuel Sanders both made some noise at the Pro Bowl. Clearly many fans became disaffected with Sanders and were glad to see him depart, but if the rationale was because he was deficient as a player you were mistaken. Disliking a player and then exaggerating his shortcomings to justify his elimination a runaway disease in fandom.

Steelers fans

And if your reaction to that last line was to curse me out you may have confirmed the assertion that Steelers fans are the most profane in the league.

Aliquippa

Darrelle Revis' participation in this year's Super Bowl serves to highlight the fact of Aliquippa, Pa being one of the great hotbeds for producing football talent.

Batch

Charlie is in the news for a new entrepreneurial venture that allows for state of the art sports medical care usually reserved for elite athletes available for the general public.