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Old 07-20-2012, 10:42 PM   #1
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Default Ed: A year of transition

http://plus.sites.post-gazette.com/i...-of-transition
Ed: A year of transition

Here's Ed's training camp preview story for Sunday's paper.

By Ed Bouchette

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

So, the Steelers have a new offense, a new line, and a new running back. They purged themselves of longtime stars Hines Ward, James Farrior, Aaron Smith and several other mortal players.

The question in this year of transition, their most significant since Mike Tomlin became their coach in 2007, then becomes, will they regress, improve or stay on the road competitively they've followed for most of this century as annual division and Super Bowl contenders?

The team gathers at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe Wednesday to begin finding answers to those questions and more, including the most immediate: Will Mike Wallace show up?

Their Pro Bowl wide receiver skipped all of their spring activities because he has not signed his $2.742 million one-year contract offered to him as a restricted free agent. He wants a multiple-year deal for much more money and the Steelers want to give him one. The two sides just have not been able to settle on compensation and unless they do, or until he signs that one-year deal, he cannot participate.

Beyond Wallace, the Steelers have other issues to begin solving in Tomlin's sixth training camp. They must show both a mastery of Todd Haley's offense and that it can be effective. They must find a new left cornerback. They must determine if their top two rookies, guard David DeCastro (still unsigned) and tackle Mike Adams, can handle starting in that revamped offensive line. They must sort out their running backs behind Isaac Redman as Rashard Mendenhall's ACL continues to heal.

But the Steelers, who made the 2011 playoffs as a wild-card team after tying AFC North champ Baltimore with a 12-4 record, still have plenty going for them.

They return the No. 1 defense against points, total yards and passing yards. That defense lost Farrior, Smith and starting cornerback William Gay, but Farrior split time with renewed starter Larry Foote, Smith again missed most of the season with an injury and the Steelers believe they have young cornerbacks good enough for improvement at the position on the left side.

They also don't expect to lose LaMarr Woodley for half the season. Woodley was making his case for NFL defensive player of the year with nine sacks in the first eight games when a hamstring issue practically wiped out the second half of the season for him. They also lost James Harrison for five games with an eye injury and one-game suspension. Harrison tied Woodley for the team lead with nine sacks.

Another former multi-Pro Bowler, nose tackle Casey Hampton, could open the season on the physically unable to perform list as he recuperates from January ACL surgery. The Steelers, though, do not expect him to take long to return to the lineup. In the meantime, they drafted Alameda Ta'amu at the position and believe Steve McLendon can handle it as well.

The high drama could occur on offense this summer and perhaps into the season. Haley, a former Steelers ballboy and son of their longtime personnel director, threw out a playbook that was familiar to them for more than a decade. He is the first outside hire as offensive coordinator since Kevin Gilbride came aboard in 1999 for two forgettable seasons.

Players in the spring noted the difficulty learning the new terminology, but generally liked the philosophy on offense despite a few remarks by Ben Roethlisberger that seemed at times to question it. It has multiple goals that include a) committing more effort to the ground game, although not necessarily run it more often; b) using more high-percentage passes that include check-downs to running backs and allowing receivers such as Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders to use their abilities to pick up yards after catching it; c) protecting Roethlisberger, something team president Art Rooney mentioned last January would be a priority; d) improving their success inside the opponent's 20.

Whether the offense can accomplish much of that or whether players struggle to adapt sets up the drama.

And for the first time since Mendenhall replaced Willie Parker, the Steelers will have a new starter at halfback. Redman has a different style than Mendenhall, resembling more Barry Foster than the sleek, cutting style of their 2008 No. 1 draft pick. Redman rose from undrafted rookie in 2009 from little-known Bowie State to become a reliable backup to where he gained 479 yards last season and averaged 4.4 yards per carry. He still must show if he can carry 20 times a week.

Wallace's decision, of course, will affect what happens at wide receiver. Antonio Brown showed he can be his equal last season, albeit with a different style. Emmanuel Sanders finished strong after shaking off foot and then knee injuries, and veteran Jerricho Cotchery fulfilled the Hines Ward role nicely in the second half of 2011.

The Steelers hope for an offensive line that looks like this: LT Adams, LG Willie Colon, C Maurkice Pouncey, RG DeCastro, RT Marcus Gilbert. After ignoring linemen in the top two picks in the draft for nearly a decade, that would give them two first-rounders and two second-rounders in the starting lineup, along with Colon.

They re-signed Max Starks Tuesday in case Adams cannot handle the job immediately on the left side. That avoids them having to move Gilbert there, which they did not want to do.

Oh, and Haley re-installed a position on offense, a fullback. Former tight end David Johnson moved their fulltime.

So while these are not quite the same old Steelers that have been so successful in this century, they enter training camp with the chance to at least keep the ball rolling.
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Old 07-20-2012, 11:12 PM   #2
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Default Re: Ed: A year of transition

I cant get through an Ed article without wanting to fly to Pitt and vomit all over him. Anyone read this gasbags' garbage and get anything productive out of it? He lost me at "purged themselves".
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Old 07-20-2012, 11:29 PM   #3
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Default Re: Ed: A year of transition

Ed's training camp preview

FRIDAY, 20 JULY 2012
WRITTEN BY ED BOUCHETTE

The 5 story lines for training camp

Hines Ward is gone. James Farrior is gone. Aaron Smith is gone. Bruce Arians is gone. The Steelers will spend their three-plus weeks in Latrobe and likely time beyond working to figure out not only Todd Haley's new offense but who they are as a team as Mike Tomlin enters his sixth season as coach and Ben Roethlisberger enters his first season as a 30-year-old. Will Mike Wallace report on time? Will No. 1 pick David DeCastro step into the offensive line as planned? As always, the time on the fields at Saint Vincent College this summer will be interesting for Steelers Nation.

1 LEARNING THE OFFENSE

The terminology, players said, is the toughest thing to learn. They had classes on it all spring, took home their books to study for the summer and now comes examination time. Todd Haley is the first coordinator hired outside of the organization since Bill Cowher brought in Kevin Gilbride in 1999. The Steelers have had virtually the same offense with the same language for 10 years. But change was ordered and it's time for the offense to be more efficient with all the talent it has, especially when they break inside the 20.

2 THE MIKE WALLACE WATCH

Will he sign his tender and report on time Wednesday? Will he sign a multiple-year contract and report on time? Or, will he do neither and stay away from Latrobe? Hines Ward did it with a contract for two weeks before reporting, although he did it much longer into his career. There also wasn't a new offense to learn then.

3 WHERE DID EVERYONE GO?

Things sure will be different at Saint Vincent College without Ward, James Farrior, Aaron Smith, Chris Hoke and, to a lesser degree, Bryant McFadden, William Gay and Daniel Sepulveda. How the collective lost leadership affects the team may be more a question than how they make up for the lost talent, since most of that has been fading and only Gay has found employment elsewhere.

4 NEW LOOK ON THE LINE

What used to be hook, line and stinker could become a real asset on offense if things turn out the way the Steelers hope they will and how fast that is that they do. Ignored high in the draft for years, the Steelers have funneled four high picks over the past three seasons into the line: First rounders Maurkice Pouncey in 2010 and rookie David DeCastro and second-rounders Marcus Gilbert in '11 and rookie Mike Adams. Add the big move of tackle Willie Colon to guard and the Steelers want to see an opening line, from left to right, of Adams, Colon, Pouncey, DeCastro and Gilbert.

5 REINTRODUCING ... THE GROUND GAME

Something new in Latrobe this summer. An honest-to-god fullback; two actually dot the roster. It's a small thing but signals a new commitment to the ground game, something fans at Saint Vincent should see practiced with more gusto. It does not mean they will run more often in games, just that they want to be more effective, make the play-action work more, take more heat off Ben Roethlisberger and be able to pick up those short yards when needed, especially when they're near the end zone. And with Rashard Mendenhall likely to open on PUP after January ACL surgery, Isaac Redman gets the early nod to start.

http://plus.sites.post-gazette.com/i...g-camp-preview
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Old 07-20-2012, 11:49 PM   #4
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Default Re: Ed: A year of transition

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Originally Posted by OX1947 View Post
I cant get through an Ed article without wanting to fly to Pitt and vomit all over him. Anyone read this gasbags' garbage and get anything productive out of it? He lost me at "purged themselves".
Seriously? He's the best Steelers beat writer around.
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Old 07-21-2012, 01:08 AM   #5
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Seriously? He's the best Steelers beat writer around.
Writing isn't the issue, it's him.
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Old 07-21-2012, 01:48 AM   #6
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Default Re: Ed: A year of transition

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Originally Posted by Dodens Grav View Post
Seriously? He's the best Steelers beat writer around.
I would agree. That said I tend to disagree with almost all writers and commentators nearly all the time. They always seem to be negative when things are good and blind when things are bad. And some of the things they think up just leave you wondering "wtf? is he talking about the same team?"
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Old 07-21-2012, 02:30 AM   #7
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Default Re: Ed: A year of transition

You disagree with ALMOST ALL WRITERS NEARLY ALL THE TIME? That's...an awful lot, no?
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Old 07-21-2012, 02:32 AM   #8
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Default Re: Ed: A year of transition

I don't agree with all writers, but when I do, I prefer dos equis.
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Old 07-21-2012, 02:35 AM   #9
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Default Re: Ed: A year of transition

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I would agree. That said I tend to disagree with almost all writers and commentators nearly all the time. They always seem to be negative when things are good and blind when things are bad. And some of the things they think up just leave you wondering "wtf? is he talking about the same team?"
I think I may have not made myself clear. Ed might be a great writer, respected columnist, etc, but he is still a world class a-hole. Just sayin.
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Old 07-21-2012, 02:36 AM   #10
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Default Re: Ed: A year of transition

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Originally Posted by Bayz101 View Post
I don't agree with all writers, but when I do, I prefer dos equis.
Ed Bouchette is the World's Most Interesting Steelers Beat Writer.

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Originally Posted by OX1947 View Post
I think I may have not made myself clear. Ed might be a great writer, respected columnist, etc, but he is still a world class a-hole. Just sayin.
He's crusty and contrarian. Whatever. You're taking him a little too seriously. His personality really only comes out in the chats, not his articles, so unless he slapped you down during one of those, I don't get your sensitivity to him.
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