The Steelers have completed two weeks of OTA’s which qualify as a news event in this day and age, and that gives the Watch Tower plenty of items to shine is light upon. We begin with the topic that’s on everyone’s tongues in Steelers Nation, the likelihood of Brett Keisel’s retrun.
Press Opinion Divided on Kesiel’s Return
Will the Steelers resign Brett Kesiel for one final year or not? Everyone wants to know, and the opinions of those who get paid to talk to those who actually get to make the decision are more than divided.
Even before the Steelers 2014 Draft Class was named, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review’s Mark Kaboly was counting himself among the skeptics:
Sure sounds like the Steelers have something planned at defensive end come after the draft. Don’t think it is Keisel.
— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly_Trib) May 5, 2014
But when exactly is “yet?” After all as of June 1st the Steelers cleared part of LaMarr Woodley’s salary off of the books, freeing up money for a new contract. Dale Lolley opined that if the Steelers brought Kesiel back, it wouldn’t be until before camp, so as to give coaches a full chance to evaluate the crop of younger defensive ends.
The Tribnue Review’s Alan Robinson made a rather interesting suggestion, offering that:
With the Steelers uncomfortably thin at defensive end, Keisel could serve as a backup and a mentor to second-round draft pick Stephon Tuitt — just as former Steelers linebacker Joey Porter, now a defensive assistant, is doing with Jarvis Jones at outside linebacker.
The really peculiar part about this is that Porter is now a coach, and Kesiel would return as a player.
Much of the Steelers press corps seems to lean towards a Kesiel return. However, count Jim Wexell as a skeptic. Responding to a question posed by Steel Curtain Rising on Twitter, Wexell offered this:
Wexell didn’t stop there. He followed this up with a full story where he readily admitted he wanted to see Kesiel back for selfish reasons – Kesiel is well liked by the press and an easy interview – but in his view the Steelers have a lot of younger players with a lot of upside that they may wish to keep instead.
Steelers Digest, Steel City Insider Get Face Lifts
Two smaller, but important Steelers publications got face lifts recently, Jim Wexell’s Steel City Insider site and the Steelers Digest, the Steelers in-house publication.
The look and feel of the new Steel City Insider site represents a night and day contrast from the older site. The new site graphics are crisper and cleaner, the home page is much more image driven, and the overall site navigation is much, much more streamlined. The site also has url’s which are more search friendly than before, which means nothing to the reader, but will boost Wexell’s presence on the web.
- While neither Steel Curtain Rising nor the Watch Tower existed, then, yours truly has been a fan of Wexell’s work since the late 1990’s when he wrote for the now defunct Real Pittsburgh site.
Even then it was apparent that Wex worked hard to bring his readers stories that went deeper and offered fresh angles that other beat writers either ignored or missed. As a friend observed at the time, “The Trib and PG run the same stories with almost the same quotes, this guy Wexell’s different.”
- But quality writing only gets you so far, and working in B2B marketing has taught me that vibrant visuals always trump pretty prose.
Steel City Insider remains a freemium site – part paid, part free, but in just the last week he offered free articles on Steve McLendon’s lessons learned, Antwon Blake’s development as a player, and took one final shot at his colleagues in the national press for their tendency to regurgitate Warren Sapp’s “Old, slow and Done” refrain.
The Steelers Digest’s facelift is far lower key, and in fact mark’s the publication’s latest attempt to retain its relevance in the digital age. For those unaware, Steelers Digest is jointly published by Curtis Publishing and the Pittsburgh Steelers and has been around since 1989.
Prior to the internet, Steelers Digest provided Steelers Nation with a vital lifeline on the team, as it was the only steady source of news on the team for those outside of Western Pennsylvania, other than perhaps USA Today.
If memory serves, the Digest once boasted a circulation number of over 50,000, but in the last decade those numbers have dipped below 20,000 (again, this is on memory, as numbers could not be found.)
- The “new” Digest looks like the old, at least for Digital subscribers.
The digital rendering is a little more crisp, and it does open with a table of contents, but beyond that the features and format are still the same. Tablet readers still lack link and social media sharing capabilities, which is odd because both would provide the publication with a free means of spreading its content to potential subscribers.
Yours truly has subscribed to the Steelers Digest since 1990, and has continued to do so largely out of loyalty. This “upgraded” version of the Digest, however, includes a drop to bi-weekly publication come the regular season, so we will see if the value delivered justifies the costs.
Telling the Stories of Steelers Nation’s Unsung Heroes
This spring a new player entered the Steelers press corps in the form of Rudy “Red Dog” Reyes of 970 ESPN Radio. Reyes has taken a rather novel approach towards finding his audience (in addition to aggressive outreach via social media.)
- This past spring, Reyes has made it his business to give previously unsung Steelers heroes a chance to tell their stories.
He does this in the form of radio interviews. The John Stallworth’s, Rod Woodson’s, and Jerome Bettis’ attract much of the attention, and as well they should as these men are Hall of Fame and should be Hall of Famers.
- But even Hall of Famers need supporting casts.
And in the age of the salary cap the abilities of the guys manning roster spots number 48-53 is more important than ever. So Reyes has reached out to some of those men, and gotten them into the studio for insightful interviews. His chats with Rodney Bailey and Tyrone Carter are just two examples.
Dejan Kovacevic Celebrates 3 Years at the Tribune Review
Speaking of social media, Dejan Kovacevic celebrated 3 years at the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.
Not big on anniversaries but today marks three years since Trib hired me, had faith I could be columnist. Changed career, life. So grateful.
— Dejan Kovacevic (@Dejan_Kovacevic) June 7, 2014
Prior to that Kovacevic had worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but left Pittsburgh’s flagship newspaper for the chance to be a columnist.
- Since that time the Watch Tower has both praised and criticized Kovacevic’s work.
Looking back, the Watch Tower’s took issue with his commentary on the Bruce Arians-Todd Haley switch, and in all honestly was probably a little unduly harsh at least in its conclusion if not the overall substance of that critique.
However, the Watch Tower praised him for an in depth story on state of the Steelers locker room prior to the 2013 season, and again praised him for putting some meat on the bones of the rumored story about the organization’s displeasure with LaMarr Woodley. He also won kudos for calling out the NFL Network for attempting to claim a non-existent scoop on the Jack Bicknell firing.
And while the Watch Tower didn’t have time to mention at the moment, Kovacevic also the lone (or close to the lone) reporter to question Mike Tomlin’s decision to fly the Steelers into London at the last minute.
Congratulations on 3 years at the Trib. Dejan.