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Weekend Checkdown: the top stories of the week

We wait for the Steelers to begin making their moves.

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Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

We are in full on guessing mode now. What is the meaning of the contract restructures? Will Worilds stay or go? How about Harrison? Moats? Who does the team cut, who takes a pay cut, who do they extend? How will the priorities shake out? A corner? Pass rusher? Running back? Tight end? Safety? Depth anywhere and everywhere? How will the answers come? Retention of the team's own free agents? Acquisition of others? The draft? Trade up or down? UDFAs?

Of course the team has made some decisions of which we will be made aware at an appropriate time (as in not now), but also understand that no one controls all the variables at this stage of the game. There is still more than enough time for teams, players, agents and other stakeholders to make shrewd decisions or miscalculations based upon bad information, fear, poor assumptions, loyalty, pride, hubris, ignorance, greed, overreaching bad behavior, poor performance and any number and combination of factors that drive this process.

If you're trying to make sense of this, matters can be further complicated by the overreaching of fans and the media. Learned this the hard way when I was reading what I thought was a reasoned assessment of the Steelers' off season challenges by a national media source. They had me all the way to the point where they said that the team was likely to release Lawrence Timmons. Be careful folks. There's a lot of stupid flying around out there now.

Steelers cap situation

Surprise. Steelers apparently escaped cap hell again. No one knows exactly what Kevin Colbert, Omar Khan and Company are up to, but we do know that they have room to maneuver. There are those in the national media who believe that Pittsburgh is playing a bad hand and are just delaying the day of reckoning. Members of the local media tend to disagree. Two thoughts: in any dispute involving local and national media the default position should be to side with the local folks. The national guys are the ones who say that Ben Roethlisberger wants to leave Pittsburgh, or that Lawrence Timmons will be released to achieve cap compliance. Enough said. On the other hand, even if the national guy is right, does it make sense when you have a franchise quarterback at the absolute apex of his powers to conduct a fire sale? The more appropriate time for that is when the keys are turned over to Landry Jones or whomever. And then there is Andrew Brandt who suggests that the entire cap scene is a scam

The cornerback situation

It would seem that Pittsburgh picked a good year to be in the market for a quality cornerback. Unless they have a particular individual in mind, they apparently won't have to trade up, or even dedicate a first round pick to the position in order to get a good player. Many are locked into the idea that this is the way the team must go. They may be surprised on April 30th. Part of a solution might be to re-enlist Brice McCain.

Outside linebacker

The biggest question mark for the next ten days will be what is going to happen with linebacker Jason Worilds. You can argue either way as to whether or not he'll be with the team two weeks from now. Steelers Nation is split on what would be the preferred outcome. This is nothing new as it won't be the first time that Steelers fans have debated as to whether Worilds is worth it. No doubt the availability of James Harrison has helped to spice up this conversation. Though Worilds suffers unfavorably in the minds of many when compared to both Harrison and any number of imagined or actual replacements, there is a bigger loser.

Jarvis Jones came under criticism from Steeler Alumnus Greg Lloyd for his work effort, more or less assuring us that Jones will, once again, spend this off season in the Steelers Nation doghouse until he can prove on the field that he is not a bust in the making.

As predicted, Jones is now being touted as a bust in that he is  forcing the team to consider resorting to the geriatric, 37 year old Harrison. The author of this piece both overstating Jones' developmental issues as well as flirting with the ageism that I had raised in earlier writings, insisting that Deebo's advanced age would suggest that he should not be able to successfully compete against a younger player.

And then there is Arthur Moats who would appear to be favored as being signed by the team. But at the moment no one is expecting him to be anything beyond be a capable backup to someone else.

Finally there are those who are prepared to declare Ryan Shazier as either a bust at inside linebacker or simply better suited playing elsewhere in the defense, including outside linebacker. This takes impatience and short attention spans to new lows.

Free agent possibilities

Teams around the league began releasing veterans this week causing many to begin salivating over the possibilities. The most likely position for the Steelers to mine for free agent talent is running back and a number of intriguing possibilities have become available. Another possibility is the acquisition of a nemesis in the person of Jacoby Jones who might not be an essential addition to the receivers room but would provide an instant upgrade to the return game, even allowing for the possibility of taking, now league superstar, Antonio Brown off punt return duty. On a lighter note there are reports that Mike Wallace would consider a return to Pittsburgh. I'm sure he would.

Steelers casualties

So far the Steelers have not cut any of their own players. Here is a collection of the possibilities.

The LeBeau factor

The fate of a number of aging veterans, perhaps chief among them Troy Polamalu is in question. A shift in the landscape occurred when Dick LeBeau joined the Tennessee Titans' staff. This raises the possibility for jilted and jilting vets to take the highway to Nashville where greater appreciation and career extension await.

Jerome Bettis and the Hall of Fame

2015 inductee Jerome Bettis continues to garner headlines as he creates a jobs initiative in Pittsburgh and receives recognition in Washington DC. In the meantime, the Hall of Fame game featuring the Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings is now sold out, the induction ceremony will soon follow.

More hall of fame news

Two seventies era Steelers who have been overlooked by Canton received some recognition as defensive end LC Greenwood and safety Donnie Shell have been inducted into the black college football hall of fame.

Position evaluations covered offensive tackles and quarterbacks this week.

The Combine

An interesting piece in Grantland by Matt Taibbi providing an interesting take on the just completed NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Scott Pavelle gives a players' focused assessment of the Combine's activities


It really isn't fair. The Browns are too easy a target and this additional piece in Grantland addressing their latest attempt at reinvention is hilarious.

New England

Does the success of the Patriots mean that it is wise to copy their methods?

Pass interference

If NFL offenses didn't have enough advantages, it appears that they may be receiving one more.

The future of sports

There have been more than a few thoughtful fans who have concerned about the direction being taken, not only by the NFL, but sports in general. A book is now out that addresses some of these concerns and proposes solutions.

Community contributions

This is the time of the year when we learn about the service activities of current and former players. Here is what David DeCastro [here]. Aaron Smith [here] and Mel Blount [here] are up to.

T rides

The Steelers may be pulling back from their subsidizing free transit rides to Heinz Field on game days.