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Weekend Check Down: The Big Stories of the Past Week

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Easter and Passover greetings everyone. If you read my last post you may question how many really big stories have transpired over the last week, but there has been some news. Like last week I want to begin with something that on first blush appears small, but has, perhaps, larger ramifications for the Nation.

Baron Batch medically cleared

Read Steel34D’s piece on this issue in Fan Posts. This wouldn’t rise to the level of news normally. A low-round draft pick that didn’t survive training camp and has not participated in a preseason game much less the regular season is now ready to give it another shot. So what’s the big deal? First the disclaimer; Baron Batch has accomplished absolutely nothing in football terms. Baron Batch is about promise. Some players win our hearts in training camp; Isaac Redman is one of the more prominent recent examples. But the better comparison in this case is with Antonio Brown. Batch had already been injured by the time I made it Steelers training camp in Latrobe. I did see how Brown stood out, in camp and in preseason games. He was, in fact, impossible to ignore. Reportedly, Batch made a similar impression in the short time that he was in view before his injury.

But competence on the football field, as much as it means, is only part of the story for Baron isn’t it? We will be rooting for Baron Batch because we are hoping that he will fulfill his athletic potential and contribute in a significant way to the Steelers accumulating more Lombardi’s; that goes without saying. But to be honest, Batch is the type of guy that you are inclined to root for regardless of what he’s doing. You would root for him if he was applying for a job with your company or applying to attend your alma mater or marrying into you family. He may be one of those rare individuals who may be doing football a favor by his presence rather than the other way around.

However, the true significance here is that Batch may not be unique in character to others of the new or Tomlin Steelers. Brown and Batch are 6th and 7th round draft picks that have created an air of excitement that goes far beyond their relative modest credentials coming into the league. Add to that another player I am rooting very hard for because of character issues; safety Myron Rolle. Up to this point it would be hard to distinguish those players specifically selected during Mike Tomlin’s tenure and those who came before. In the majority of cases they are just coming into their own as players and as such are hard to gauge as to how they might impact the team as leaders. Leadership has been a topic of discussion for the weeks since Hines, Aaron and James Farrior were released. Let’s assume just for argument’s sake that Batch makes it and becomes a big contributor to the team. Would he, along with Brown, be considered as part of the future leadership of this team? Could some common characteristics be identified that might be given the label Tomlin Steelers?

The ‘Bounty’ story continues

The current phase of the story includes the appeals by Sean Payton and others of their suspensions by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The decision on those appeals have yet to made as I write this, but that aspect of the story has been overwhelmed by the release of an audio tape by filmmaker Sean Pamphilon of a defensive meeting presided over by Gregg Williams that is particularly damning. Adding additional spice is that Pamphilon’s access came through former Saints player Steve Gleason who has ALS, is reportedly distraught because he gave no permission for Pamphilon to release the tape. One thing is certain, regardless as to how these particular aspects of this issue are resolved, the general mood of Saints Nation is not one of contrition. In fact, the reaction of Saints fans is reminiscent to me of how Steelers Nation generally reacted when the hammer came down on James Harrison and other Steelers players over the past two years. Adding more intrigue is the contract situation for quarterback Drew Brees and the possibility that Bill Parcells will play coach for a year due to Payton’s absence. This one is just getting started, so stay tuned.

Demetrius Bell signs with the Eagles

The buzz was starting to build earlier this week that former Bills offensive tackle Demetrius Bell might be rejoining his former coach Sean Kugler with the Steelers. We may never know if Pittsburgh was seriously interested, but it is all moot now. With loss of tackle Jason Peters Philadelphia definitely had the greater motivation to get something done. Those who are concerned about the state of the offensive line are still at square one.

Sepulveda out. The Post-Gazette reports that unrestricted free agent Daniel Sepulveda says that the Steelers do not want him to return to the team. This should not come as a surprise given that 1) Sepulveda has had his season cut short by knee injuries during three of the last four years, and 2) his replacement, Jeremy Kapinos has done fine work in his place. This will probably be judged a failure for Kevin Colbert and the front office given the draft position of Sepulveda. In reality this is more a hard luck story rather than one of failure. We wish Daniel good health and better luck in future endeavors.

Preseason schedule released

We now know who the Steelers will be playing during August when the games don’t count. The exact time of only one of those games have been announced so far, a home game against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, August 19th, on NBC. The game will be the likely coming out party for whomever the Colts draft in the first round, probably Oliver Luck. The other home game will be the, now traditional preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers. The preseason opener will be against the Eagles in Philadelphia, and an away game against Buffalo rounds out the schedule. These last three games will be broadcast by KDKA in Pittsburgh. If, like me, you don’t live in Pittsburgh, if past practices are continued then the NFL Network will broadcast those games either live on tape delay or both.

New uniforms displayed

Nike and the NFL revealed to the world the new uniforms that will be worn by NFL teams this season. Depending upon whether you are a traditionalist you will either relieved or disappointed by what you see. Besides being more form fitting, and the addition of the Nike Swoosh, the Steelers uniforms have not changed a bit, which for a traditionalist like me is just fine. There is still a bit more drama. Given the fact that this year commemorates the 80th Anniversary of the team (The Year of the Fan; another news item that I am combining in this paragraph) there will be a new throwback uniform, the design of which has yet to be released. Check the Steelers website for more information on official team activities and contests related to this event.

Kirby Wilson visits the Southside Facility

This is the real feel good story of the week. Running backs Coach Kirby Wilson who was severely burned over 40 to 50 percent of his body during the week leading up to the team’s playoff loss to the Broncos has returned to the team facility for the first time. His recovery is moving ahead of schedule by all accounts, and it seems likely that he will return to his duties with the team sometime during the upcoming season. This is great news for Coach Wilson and his family, the team and the Nation.

The Steelers come to Northern Virginia

You may have heard word of an autograph event occurring in Chantilly, Virginia, just a few miles from where I live in the Virginia suburbs of Washington DC. I honestly didn’t pay much attention to it, but a report from my friend Arla, a Pittsburgh native and a member of the Steelers Mafia got my attention; particularly since she included photos in her email to me. It turns out that the Steelers contingent at this event would be impressive by any measure. Representing the 70s Steelers was Joe Greene, Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier. Soon to be Hall Of Famer Dermontti Dawson was also present. And representing the modern era were Hines Ward, Big Ben, Ryan Clark and Mike Wallace. Not bad for Chantilly.

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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Weekend Check Down: Reviewing the Big Stories of the Past Week


It was unlikely that anything could match last week for the number of blockbuster news items during the doldrums of the NFL offseason, but we didn’t suffer a shortage of news this week either. And there was a lot of Steelers news as well. Let’s start with a feel good item from late last week that may have passed under the radar if you don’t live in the Pittsburgh area.

Transportation Link to Heinz Field Completed

For 42 years fans who didn’t travel to Steelers games by car or boat made the trek by foot over one of the bridges crossing the Allegheny River to the stadiums on the North Shore; first Three Rivers, and now Heinz Field. Last week, a light rail link was completed that will transport fans from the southern regions of the Pittsburgh area, through downtown to the very doorstep of Heinz Field. That’s good news, but it gets even better. The Steelers have subsidized the project such that on game days fans traveling from downtown to the Heinz Field will be able to do so for free over the next two years. Just one more reason to be proud of being part of Steelers Nation.

William Gay Signs with the Cardinals

The Steelers lost starting cornerback Willie Gay to free agency this week, while I lost an important tool in taunting some of the haters in Steeler Nation. Transport Steelers fans in a time machine from this time last year to this week and they would be confused and perhaps shocked by the tone of melancholy reflected in many of the reactions to the loss of Gay. In just one year he went from being a prime candidate for a Darwin Award to being one of the Steelers’ defensive standouts. It remains to be seen whether Gay’s performance this year was an anomaly, or, as PaVaSteeler has suggested that he will regress under the influence of his former position coach Ray Horton. The good news is that he left with the respect of most fans, with a few exceptions that just couldn’t let the anger of past failures go.

It should also be mentioned that this Pittsburgh/Arizona thing is pretty amusing. The Arizona desert has become a reliable conduit for Steelers’ players and coaches seeking new beginnings. This Pittsburgh West thing is for real.

The Chairman to Return. It appears that Chairman Emeritus Dan Rooney will be returning to the team sometime this summer. Mr. Rooney, who pointed out that he still is employed as US Ambassador to Ireland, would not discuss the matter, but it is speculated that he could rejoin the Steelers as early as the beginning of training camp in July and would take on undisclosed duties. Mr. Rooney attended the NFL Owners Meeting this week in Florida and his return was greeted by expressions of great respect and joy by his former colleagues. And for good reason. Without his leadership the league has struggled with navigating the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the ongoing issue of player safety and head injuries and other matters. Fans of Steeler Nation and the NFL could certainly benefit from a larger dose of Dan Rooney’s wisdom, and it would be great to have him back with the team on a day to day basis.

Mike Tomlin Part 1

The coach was in the news this week for his press conference in Florida. But a significant piece of news came out an interview conducted with Steelers President Art Rooney II.

The Steelers are looking to sign Tomlin to a new contract sometime during this off season. “We’re obviously very happy with Mike and the job he’s doing and we hope he’s going to be here for the long term and I think I’m comfortable in saying that will be the case.” Mr. Rooney said in an interview published last Saturday. This news stands in contrast to various reports over the past few months that might suggest a lack of confidence in Tomlin’s leadership. At present Tomlin owns the highest winning percentage of any coach in franchise history with four playoff appearances, three division titles and one championship in his five year tenure.

Mike Tomlin Part 2

Tomlin’s press conference at the AFC coaches breakfast during the owner’s meeting was the first extended session with the media since shortly after the playoff loss in January. The headline was Tomlin’s claim that the dismissal of former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and the hiring of new coordinator Todd Haley were both his responsibility and decision. This contradicted the notion that these actions were either initiated or heavily influenced by team president Art Rooney II. Tomlin’s silence over the past couple of months served to fuel this sort of speculation, but then again, in the tradition of Chuck Noll there is a tradition of being unconcerned with what others, particularly the media, may think about developments on the Southside. What is the truth of the matter? Who knows?

Mike Tomlin Part 3

The really important news in my point of view, and the piece that should fuel a lot of anticipation among Steelers fans was the revelation of the revamping of the Steelers offense under Haley.

This news has all kinds of exciting implications for Steelers football moving forward. First, it signals a clean break from what has characterized Steelers offensive football for over a generation. At best it can be expected that what will be unveiled this spring and summer will be an offense that is more flexible, more responsive to the opportunities and demands of offensive football in the current era and more tailored to the talents and capabilities of the offensive talent on this team without necessarily breaking from what is thought of as Steelers football. This also signals Tomlin’s exerting his philosophy on the offensive side of the ball. When you think about it, Tomlin did not come to the Steelers able to put his full imprint upon his staff. The offense was inherited from that which existed largely from the Cowher years. It is significant to me that the one area of the offense that Todd Haley will not touch is the blocking schemes for the offensive line. Kugler is Tomlin’s coach.

The team that will be unveiled this fall will likely be more fully Mike Tomlin’s team than any that we have seen thus far. It will be a team that, as the coach implied at his news conference, will have some surprises in store for its division rivals on the offensive side of the ball. It will have new leadership, relying more heavily on players who have spent most or all of their careers under Tomlin. While I have had my doubts about Haley, I have to acknowledge that Tomlin’s track record on his new assistant hires have been stellar. If this extends to Haley then it will make the Lake Effect (for example) pale in comparison. For certain it will make the months leading up to the season even more compelling than they ordinarily are for Steelers fans.

For certain it will make the months leading up to the season even more compelling than they ordinarily are for Steelers fans.

No News is Good News

The Mike Wallace Watch continues. As each day goes by, confidence grows that the team will be able to retain Wallace for at least one or two more years. There are concerns. It is still possible, but a lot less likely, that some team will make some sort of massive offer before the April 20th deadline. There are long range concerns over whether the team can retain all three of their Young Money receivers over the long haul. I believe that the results so far validate the strategy, considered risky by many, that the Steelers front office undertook in handling the Wallace situation and by extension quell concerns that they are mishandling cap management and other personnel issues generally. The main concern at this time is that until this issue is resolved the personnel process will likely be constipated, delaying the signing of other free agents.

Season Opener

According to a source with the Denver Post the Sunday night season opener will be played between the Peyton Manning led Denver Broncos and the Steelers in Denver. This potential matchup would be so intriguing and challenging on so many levels, if the league and the networks weren’t planning it they should reconsider. To say that it would be a ratings bonanza would be an understatement. The only negative from my perspective is that for second consecutive year Pittsburgh has to play a high caliber opponent in an away game. Additionally, it will mean putting safety Ryan Clark on the shelf as well. But this brings to mind a Tomlinism from a few years back that best characterizes this situation; it’s a five star matchup because we’re (Pittsburgh) in it.

Rule Changes

One of the rule changes proposed by the Steelers passed at the owners meeting in Florida.

The rules for play in overtime will now be uniform for both the regular season and the playoffs. Another rule proposed by the Steelers banning horse collar type tackles on quarterbacks did not pass. Other proposals such as allowing for a non-season ending injured reserve designation were tabled until meetings in May.

Again, considering the time of year, a busy and significant week of news.

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

Steelers GM Kevin Colbert Says Jonathan Dwyer Has To Keep His Weight In Check

I have posted quite a bit from the interview that Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert gave SiriusXM Radio after he met the media at the NFL combine on Thursday, but wanted to pass along his thoughts about running back Jonathan Dwyer.

Dwyer was placed on injured reserve in the early part of December with a broken foot and rushed for 123 yards on just 16 carries last season. Those stats were helped tremendously by a 76 yard run against the Tennessee Titans on his very first carry of the season.

Host Adam Schein asked Colbert just how good Dwyer can be going forward, as he thought Read more […]

Source: Yardbarker: Pittsburgh Steelers

Roethlisberger case settled for “less than a game check”

Word emerged late Friday afternoon that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had settled the sexual assault lawsuit filed against him in July 2009 in Nevada.  It’s the ideal time each week for otherwise significant developments to go largely unnoticed. Given the events of the intervening weekend, including two epic conference title games and the passing of…

Source: ProFootballTalk » Pittsburgh Steelers

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