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Old 07-20-2012, 11:53 PM   #1
mesaSteeler
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Default In Depth Pittsburgh Steelers


Pittsburgh Steelers

July 19, 2012 6:11 PM ET
http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/story/1...burgh-steelers

By Jason La Canfora | CBS Sports NFL Insider

Projected Finish 10-6

Offense

The Steelers have changed their identity on offense the past few years, and they are clearly a pass-first, spread-formation team. With starting running back Rashard Mendenhall likely out until sometime in December that's unlikely to change. Ben Roethlisberger should be right in the prime of his career and this is a team that could approach 5,000 yards passing ... assuming of course Mike Wallace is on board (can't imagine he won't be, and more on that to come).

With Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emanuel Sanders, the Steelers have one of the best trios in the NFL. All can run and make plays all over the field, and few teams have utilized the screen game with better success than the Steelers in recent years. Now, there were major changes to the staff (again, much more there down below as well), which could certainly dictate the shape of this offense, but the game will be in Big Ben's hands and with his issues behind him and in better shape and focused more than in years past, Pittsburgh is primed to put up huge numbers.

The Steelers might also finally have an offensive line to match the rest of the roster as well. They've managed to win Super Bowls despite a group that lacked individual stars along the line and that could be overwhelmed at times. Roethlisberger absorbed too much abuse (albeit he brings some of it on himself with how he clings to the ball), and major upgrades were needed.

Drafting franchise center Maurkice Pouncey was a great step a few years back and if rookies Mike Adams and David DeCastro live up to their promise, then Pittsburgh will have its most athletic unit in a long, long time, and no one will be smiling as widely as Roethlisberger.

Defense

For all of the talk about the Steelers' age on defense, and considerable early-season hand-wringing by fans and the media, they once again were right there with the very best in the NFL. They remain stout against the run and, aside from the playoff debacle at Denver, the secondary help up better than many expected during the season. They allowed the fewest points in the regular season, which cannot be overlooked.

Still, it's true that guys like James Harrison and Troy Polamalu and Casey Hampton are not getting any younger, and few in the history of the NFL have displayed more longevity and consistency than uber-coordinator Dick LeBeau, who shunned retirement again last year and is back for a quest for yet another Lombardi. So changes may be on the horizon at some point, though with the way Kevin Colbert drafts the next man up is quite often a future Pro Bowler himself.

Key Changes

Roster Additions: TE Leonard Pope, OL Trai Essex

Roster Departures: WR Hines Ward (retired), LB James Farrior, DE Aaron Smith, G Chris Kemoeatu, NT Chris Hoke (retired)

Staff: Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians departed; Todd Haley replaced him.

The Roethlisberger/Haley vortex will be dissected all summer long. Arians had no bigger advocate than Roethlisberger, and it was no secret. They had worked together for a long time and the quarterback was incredibly comfortable with him and they achieved tremendous success together. Haley is a totally different cat. This is a major change in personality and approach.

Haley is fiery and emotional and is not afraid to clash with a star. He will challenge his players and things don't always necessarily just play out behind closed doors. He and Ben share a deep love for golf, and some who know them both well figure that's where they will probably bond first, before the classroom or practice field. Or at least that's where they probably should seek some common ground before the games start counting.

Haley will make sure the ball get spreads around, which is huge considering how many capable pass catchers are on the roster (don't forget about tight end Heath Miller, because Haley surely won't), but the interpersonal dynamics between he and Roethlisberger, and how quickly they cultivate trust, is much more important than any scheme or play call when it comes to this group.

X-Factor: Troy Polamalu

Few players are more exciting in the game. Few have made more eye-popping, instinctive, iconic plays. But since getting injured in 2010, he hasn't been quite the same according to scouts who have watched him closely. That burst, that ability to find his way to exact spot he needs to be to blow up a play, hasn't been the same.

The plays behind the line of scrimmage, screaming down on the box, haven't been there like they used to be. The sacks, forced fumbles, big plays, are way down. In fact, in 2011, he accounted for just two interceptions and no forced fumbles; a year before he had seven picks, a forced fumble and a touchdown prior to getting hurt.

When he is right, no one does it better (okay, Ed Reed perhaps). And the film was glaring in the playoffs, when free safety Ryan Clark could not play due to the altitude and his sickle cell trait. Polamalu was exposed in coverage in that game by Tim Tebow of all people, and undoubtedly that will spur him into this season.

If he is the Troy of old, then the chatter about the age of this defense goes away. Some say he may have lost a step. (This is why I wanted to draft a safety. We better get one next year because Troy is not the player of old and is one concussion from being out of the game. - mesa)

Who's next to go?

The Steelers share a unique bond with their players, but excel at knowing when to let them go. Hines Ward is just the latest example. Emotion must be parsed aside in this business, and after looking at all the money pumped into young linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons, and given some of the headaches over the years, and his age and escalating contract, you have to wonder if James Harrison is in his last year in Pittsburgh.

Harrison is also at a stage where another flagrant penalty could result in increased suspensions, and he's been fighting through several health issues in recent years as well. When he's been right, Harrison is still an elite quarterback hunter, but with Wallace just one receiver in need of a payday (Sanders and Brown aren't far behind), the small-market Steelers, who had cap problems coming into 2012, will be juggling funds and determining where they need to free up future space.

Runaway

The loss of Mendenhall so late in last season puts the 2012 season in jeopardy. The hope is he gets his legs under him sometime during the run up to the playoffs, but knee injuries have a way of limiting a running back until his next full season back. The Steelers can go by committee, and haven't felt inclined to make a free agent splurge, and rookie Chris Rainey will get a pretty good crack at things. But with the abundance of running backs still on the street, like Ryan Grant and Cedric Benson and Clinton Portis just to name a few, the possibility exists the Steelers still add a veteran to this group at some point, especially should more injuries arise. This team may have to work harder than ever to strike more offensive balance, and in the meantime Isaac Redmond figures to get plenty of work.

Mile High hangover


It's pretty unusual to see the Steelers getting shredded on the big stage, especially by a team like the 2011 Denver Broncos. One would go too far to say they were exposed, and clearly by that point the defensive roster had been gutted by injuries, but the film doesn't lie and no doubt others are studying it all offseason long.

Those types of endings can tend to mark the end of an era, or can be a springboard for greater success. A coaching staff can either use it as a motivation or bury it and never mention it again. It says here this organization, from the Rooney family to Colbert and Omar Khan in the front office to this accomplished coaching staff the Steelers will be right back in contention in 2012, but the way last season ended, with all the gaffes on defense, won't just go away.

Insider's Take


"I like the Haley/Roethlisberger thing. It will be good for him. He needs to be pushed. They think they'll be fine without Mendenhall. They like Dwyer and Heath Miller is going to be very involved in the passing game. He's going to get a lot of balls. The age is an issue on defense, but where did they finish overall last year? Exactly."

Xs and Os


By Pat Kirwan | NFL Insider

The Steelers' offense is being advertised as returning to the old school power run game under the direction of Todd Haley. There's no Jerome Bettis on this roster and the speedy wide receivers are their biggest strength. Coach Haley will do what he has to do to win.

Steelers' Rivals: AFC North

2012 Preview • Schedule
Ravens @ Steelers: 11/18 (8:20 p.m. ET)
Steelers @ Ravens: 12/2 (4:15 p.m. ET)

2012 Preview • Schedule
Bengals @ Steelers: 12/23 (1 p.m. ET)
Steelers @ Bengals: 10/21 (8:20 p.m. ET)

2012 Preview • Schedule
Browns @ Steelers: 12/30 (1 p.m. ET)
Steelers @ Browns: 11/25 (1 p.m. ET)

One year when Haley was offensive coordinator in Arizona and head coach Ken Whisenhunt told me he really wanted to run the ball, Kurt Warner -- under the direction of Haley -- called 39 pass plays a game. The Steelers have won 53 of 80 regular season games in the past five years, so don't expect big changes.

Look for Isaac Redman to be the running back early while Rashard Mendenhall recovers from injury. I expect the Steelers to be in a lot of 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR). In order to get the power running game going without a fullback in the game, the Steelers will pull a guard and run 'G' power. What will make the Steelers different is the distinct possibility that they pull their right guard, rookie David DeCastro and run power left behind LG Willie Colon and LT Mike Adams. It also sets up nicely for the right-handed Ben Roethlisberger to half-roll right off the play fake and throw the vertical game.

Pittsburgh was 55 percent run on first down last year, which isn't consistent with the perception that they were a pass-happy bunch under former coordinator Bruce Arians. For the record, the Steelers were in the dead middle of the league in run/pass ratio with 42.8 percent run and 57.2 percent pass. At the end of the 2012 season, their percentages will be very close to these numbers.

As for the communication between Haley and Roethlisberger, it will be a bit volatile on the field at times, but it will not affect the outcome of the game.

The Steelers' defense is a base 3-4 look with lots of pressures and schemes. Dick LeBeau always feels like attacking an offense and rarely sits back in a bend-but-not-break philosophy. If any offense shows fan protection with an OT stepping out for James Harrison and or LaMarr Woodley, he will bring inside pressure from his ILB.

LeBeau also does so many different things with Troy Polamalu that offensive lines usually count him as a rusher if he's near the line of scrimmage.

Draft Recap

By Rob Rang | NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst

Few first-round picks were better schematic and personality fits for their NFL teams than Stanford guard David DeCastro will prove to be. Considering how long quarterback Ben Roethlisberger likes to hold on to the ball, protecting the inside is actually more important in Pittsburgh's scheme than sealing off the edges.

Steelers Draft Analysis

Rang: From big to small, Steelers find 'em all
2012 draft picks, grades

Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams fell to the Steelers in the second round. While he certainly has shown the poor decision-making and inconsistency over his career to justify falling even further, Adams has the size and talent of a top 20 pick. If anyone can get him to play up to his potential, it will be Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

Getting a talented player to achieve up to his potential could also be the task at hand with fourth-round pick Alameda Ta'amu. The 6-3, 348-pound former Washington Husky certainly has the bulk and power to take over for Casey Hampton as the Steelers' nose guard in defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's beloved 3-4 defense. For the Steelers to enjoy the type of consistency on defense that they've had with Hampton in the middle, however, Ta'amu will have to ratchet up the intensity to levels that he didn't always play with in college.

The rest of the Steelers' picks:

1st Round - No. 24 overall - David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
2nd Round - No. 52 overall - Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
3rd Round - No. 82 overall - Sean Spence, OLB, Miami
4th Round - No. 115 overall - Alameda Ta'amu, DT, Washington
5th Round - No. 145 overall - Chris Rainey, RB, Florida
7th Round - No. 231 overall - Toney Clemons, WR, Colorado
7th Round - No. 240 overall - David Paulson, TE, Oregon
7th Round - No. 246 overall - Terrence Frederick, CB, Texas A&M
7th Round - No. 248 overall - Kelvin Beachum, OG, Southern Methodist
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Old 07-21-2012, 10:56 AM   #2
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Default Re: In Depth Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers Team Report - Steelers training camp preview
http://www.usatoday.com/sports/footb...lers/notes.htm

AFC North Standings
W L T PCT PF PA
Baltimore 12 4 0 .750 378 266
Pittsburgh 12 4 0 .750 325 227
Cincinnati 9 7 0 .563 344 323
Cleveland 4 12 0 .250 218 307
Full standings

Team Stat Leaders
Passing Att Cmp Yds TD Int
Roethlisberger 513 324 4077 21 14
Rushing Att Yds Avg TD Long
Mendenhall 228 928 4.1 9 68
Redman 110 479 4.4 3 27
Receiving Rec Yds Avg TD Long
Wallace 72 1193 16.6 8 95
Brown 69 1108 16.1 2 79

Steelers training camp preview


TRAINING CAMP GOALS

1. Pittsburgh turns another page in 2012, the largest since Mike Tomlin became coach in 2007 and they must adjust to changes quickly this summer. Tomlin changed a coordinator for the first time and a handful of iconic veterans either retired or were forced into it, including Hines Ward, James Farrior and Aaron Smith.

Offensive coordinator Todd Haley installed an entirely new system with new terminology the players struggled to learn in the spring. Ben Roethlisberger has one of his biggest challenges as he enters his 30s to operate an offense that will rely heavily on the high-percentage pass and lean more on the ground game than the deep passes and playground scrambles in which the quarterback had become comfortable.

The Steelers need to master Haley's offense more than anything else they do in Latrobe this summer. Roethlisberger and others noted how difficult it was to learn the terminology and the quarterback also talked about a new emphasis on the running game and check-down passes.

2. Pittsburgh is remaking the offensive line. Tackle Willie Colon moves to guard, they expect rookie David DeCastro to start at the other guard and hope rookie tackle Mike Adams wins the job at left tackle. After ignoring the line high in the draft for nearly a decade, the Steelers have poured four high draft picks there the past three seasons, starting with center Maurkice Pouncey (No. 1 pick) in 2010, followed by Marcus Gilbert (second) in 2011 and this year, DeCastro (first) and Adams (second). Last season, two undrafted players started most of the way at the two guards, Doug Legursky and Ramon Foster.

PLAYER TO WATCH

With Rashard Mendenhall opening the season on PUP after January ACL surgery, undrafted third-year pro Isaac Redman becomes the starting running back. He has shown himself to be a good power runner with good hands and has progressed steadily up the ranks from rookie practice squadder to where he earned the top backup role last season when he ran for 479 yards and a 4.4-yard average and caught 18 passes. With the increased emphasis on the running game and Mendenhall not likely to see action for at least the first half of the season and perhaps longer, Redman could double his career high of 110 carries from 2011. A handful of candidates will vie for pecking orders behind him in training camp.

ON THE HOT SEAT

Wide receiver Mike Wallace made his first Pro Bowl in his third season in 2011. As a restricted free agent, the Steelers issued him a first-round tender of $2.742 million. No other team made him an offer and Wallace has refused to sign with the Steelers. He skipped all of their spring activities and there's no telling if he'll show up on time at training camp - or at all. He's already behind learning Haley's offense and team president Art Rooney said early in June that Wallace "should be here." The sides are nowhere close on a multiple-year contract and Wallace's absence has not helped his cause - and neither did the second half of his 2011 season. He slumped, with only 393 of his 1,193 yards in the final eight games. He needs to have a good year as he heads into unrestricted free agency in 2013.

NOTES, QUOTES

Polamalu acknowledges lying about concussions

—Steelers safety Troy Polamalu admitted he has lied about head injuries to stay in games.

"Yes, I have, for sure," Polamalu told the Dan Patrick Show, noting that he has also chosen to stay in games against the medical staff's wishes.

Polamalu didn't tell any "major lies" when it comes to concussions, but said football players see a difference between a blow to the head that forces a player from a game and a lighter one that doctors see as a concussion.

"I've had, I believe, eight or nine recorded concussions. We'll have another conversation after I'm done playing football," Polamalu said on the show. "When you get your bell rung they consider that a concussion — I wouldn't ... If that is considered a concussion, I'd say any football player at least records 50 to 100 concussions a year."

More than 2,400 retired NFL players are now plaintiffs in a lawsuit that accuses the NFL of hiding the knowledge that repeated concussions could lead to brain damage.

Still, Polamalu is the latest current player to admit a willingness to conceal a head injury. Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said in February that he would lie about a concussion to stay on the field.

—Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said the team is making expected progress after the installation of the offense by new coordinator Todd Haley.

Said Colbert, "I'm not listening to what's being said intimately after a play. There's not a lot of physical errors I guess is the best way to say it: new offense, people learning about the offense and coaches learning about people, I think there will be some mistakes. I think that's just part of the growing process. It's way too early to tell, but visibly I didn't see a lot of mistakes or corrections being made, no more than usual."

—Although three rookies had only two minicamp practices all spring after waiting for their schools' semesters to end, coach Mike Tomlin believes they will have ample time in the long run to get it. The three: Guard David DeCastro (Stanford), tackle Mike Adams (Ohio State) and nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu (Washington).

"Obviously, they're working on limited time and they need to hurry up and catch up," Tomlin said. "The big thing I want to keep in mind and want them to keep in mind is largely the big picture. When it's time to play a few months from now, this will be just a memory, some short-term discomfort."

—Veteran nose tackle Casey Hampton continues to rehab from January ACL surgery. He attended all the spring OTAs and minicamp, running on the side but never practicing. He predicted he will open the season at nose tackled.

"I'm where I need to be," Hampton said during the team's minicamp last week. "I feel my goal is to be ready for the regular season."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Mike's got pictures of me ... and there's some unknowns over in Indianapolis that I was concerned about a little bit." - LB coach Keith Butler on why he turned down an offer to join the Colts as coordinator to stay on Mike Tomlin's staff.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Steelers signed veteran offensive tackle Max Starks to a one-year contract July 17. Starks had knee surgery to repair the torn ACL in his right knee. He was injured in the AFC wild-card playoff loss at Denver but passed his physical with the Steelers this week and was re-signed.

Starks is expected to compete with rookie Mike Adams at left tackle in training camp, allowing Marcus Gilbert to remain on the right side.

Starks, 30, was limited to 19 games the past two seasons by injuries. He was released before training camp in 2011, but re-signed Oct. 5 and made 12 starts.

Starks started for the Steelers in the Super Bowl in 2005 during a stretch of five games starting all but two regular-season games.

Starks tweeted a picture of the contract and wrote, "It's real and sealed! I'll be seeing you in Latrobe!"

After re-signing Starks, the Steelers released tackle Jonathan Scott.

MEDICAL WATCH: No Updates.

UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

QUARTERBACKS: Starter - Ben Roethlisberger. Backups - Byron Leftwich, Charlie Batch, Jerrod Johnson.

Roethlisberger turns 30 with a new offense and a baby on the way at home. Steelers president Art Rooney said after the 2011 season that he needed to take fewer hits as he ages, and Haley's offense is designed in part to do that. While they do not want to eliminate his effective scrambles, they would like to see him make quicker decisions with snappier releases. Leftwich again is ticketed to be the No. 1 backup but injuries have hurt that the past two seasons. Batch will get another season at age 37.

RUNNING BACKS: Starter - Isaac Redman. Backups - Jonathan Dwyer, John Clay, Baron Batch, Chris Rainey, Rashard Mendenhall, FB David Johnson, FB Will Johnson.

Redman replaces Mendenhall, who will open the season on the PUP list after January ACL surgery. It also is Mendenhall's last season under contract and it's possible he will not play until the middle of the season. Redman has power and hands more typical of a Steelers prototype back. Both Dwyer and Clay have shown flashes in limited play. Batch had a good 10 days in his rookie training camp but then had ACL surgery last August. Rainey was the hit of the spring and looks like a lock to be used as both a receiver and spot runner. Johnson moves from tight end/H-back to fulltime fullback.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter - Heath Miller. Backups - Leonard Pope, Weslye Saunders, Jamie McCoy, David Paulson.

Miller remains one of the best blocking/receiving combinations in the conference and both Haley and Roethlisberger have said they need to use him more as a receiver. He was third on the team in 2011 with 51 receptions, down from his high of 76 two seasons earlier. Pope is a Haley favorite, having played for him in Arizona and Kansas City and at 6-8 should be a target near the goal line. Saunders is suspended the first four games by the league and there's a chance with David Johnson moving to fullback, they will go with just two tight ends.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown. Backups - Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, Toney Clemons, Marquis Maze, Derrick Williams, Tyler Beiler, David Gilreath, Juamorris Stewart.

Wallace earned his first Pro-Bowl trip and 1,193-yard receiving season but as noted that second-half dropoff was worrisome. He's Bolt-fast but not accomplished underneath and he seemed to let his slump bother him. Brown, on the other hand, was voted the team MVP and nearly caught Wallace for the team lead with a dynamic second half. He has great hands and is outstanding underneath and after the catch. He had 1,108 yards. Injuries are the only thing holding back Sanders, who is Brown-like in his ability and came on in the second half of 2011. Cotchery replaces the departed Hines Ward as the veteran possession receiver. Maze, an undrafted rookie and just 5-8, is a playmaker who can make the team if he matches his outstanding spring.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LT Mike Adams, LG Willie Colon, C Maurkice Pouncey, RG David DeCastro, RT Marcus Gilbert. Backups - T Jonathan Scott, T/G Trai Essex, T Max Starks, G/C Doug Legursky, G Ramon Foster, T Chris Scott, T Kyle Jolly, G John Malecki, G Kevin Beachum, C/G Ryan Lee.

Major changes here as the Steelers pour high picks into their line and make a major move as Colon, who missed virtually the entire two seasons, moves from tackle to guard. The plan is for Adams, their No. 2 pick, to start, but if he cannot grasp that position, Gilbert will move over there. DeCastro, their No. 1 pick, is a lock to open the season at right guard. Pouncey is now 2-for-2 in Pro Bowls and his presence signaled the beginning of a new era for this line, which could have two first-round picks and two seconds starting the season. Gilbert did a nice job in his rookie season when Colon was lost in the opener. The Steelers have won despite their line for several seasons and now it appears that line might catch up to the rest of the offense.
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Old 07-21-2012, 10:56 AM   #3
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(part of team report article - mesa)

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LDE Ziggy Hood, RDE Brett Keisel, NT Casey Hampton. Backups - DE Cameron Heyward, NT Alameda Ta'amu, DE Al Woods, NT Steve McLendon, DE Corbin Bryant, DE Jake Stoller, DE Ikponmwosa Igbinosun, DT Mike Blanc, DT Kade Weston.

Like its counterpart on offense, the defensive line is undergoing change. After a good long run with basically three starters and one outstanding backup, the Steelers lose both Aaron Smith and Chris Hoke. Casey Hampton, their most decorated linemen, had ACL surgery in January and may open on the PUP list; this also could be the final year for the 35 year old. Keisel remains a strong presence; he's quick and strong and versatile. It's possible Heyward could push Hood - two former No. 1s - for the starting job. Ta'amu was selected as Hampton's possible replacement, but McLendon has shown an ability to play the position and he could get the nod to open the season if Hampton is not yet ready. Woods is an intriguing end who could make it. While No. 1 on defense overall, the Steelers' rush defense fell off a bit in 2011.

LINEBACKERS: Starters - LOLB LaMarr Woodley, LILB Larry Foote, RILB Lawrence Timmons, ROLB James Harrison. Backups - OLB Jason Worilds, ILB Stevenson Sylvester, ILB Sean Spence, OLB Chris Carter, ILB Mortty Ivy, Brandon Hicks, Adrian Robinson, Brandon Johnson, Ryan Baker.

The pass rush fell off dramatically last season and there were two big reasons for it - the lengthy absences of Woodley, who lost six full games to hamstring injuries, and Harrison, who lost five to an eye injury and a one-game suspension. They still tied for the team lead with nine sacks a piece - Woodley had all nine at the halfway point when he was injured. The loss of Farrior should not be that noticeable because of Foote. Worilds is the top backup on the outside and did a good job subbing for Woodley last season. Timmons has moved to the outside to replace Harrison, but the Steelers would prefer not to move him. Spence had a wonderful spring and looks as though he could easily be the top backup inside with a future as a starter there. Injuries have curtailed Carter, who the Steelers really could use to back up Harrison, who is 34.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - LCB Ike Taylor, RCB Keenan Lewis, FS Ryan Clark, SS Troy Polamalu. Backups - CB Curtis Brown, CB Cortez Allen, S Ryan Mundy, S Will Allen, S Myron Rolle, S Damon Cromartie-Smith, CB Terrence Frederick, S Robert Golden, CB Terry Carter, CB Andre Freeman, CB Walter McFadden.

Everything remains the same in the backfield except for left cornerback, where there will be a three-way competition to start among Lewis, Brown and Allen. Former starter William Gay joined the Cardinals and former starter Bryant McFadden was released. Coordinator Dick LeBeau has praised the potential of his young cornerbacks, especially Brown and Allen. Taylor had a good season, but was torched in the playoff loss to Denver and at 32 may be losing a step. Polamalu went to another Pro Bowl and brought Clark to his first along with him. LeBeau says the one thing this group must do is intercept the ball more often. They had only 11 in '11. Mundy and Allen are veteran backups who could be pushed by former Rhodes Scholar Rolle, who has committed himself to playing football.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Shaun Suisham, K Daniel Hrapmann, P Jeremy Kapinos, P Drew Butler, LS Greg Warren, LS Matt Katula, PR Emmanuel Sanders, KOR Chris Rainey.

Suisham did not have a good 2012. He made only 23 of 31 field-goal tries. However, the Steelers did not sign a real challenger to him in training camp so it appears they will at least start the season with him. Kapinos finished the last two seasons with the Steelers even though he did not start either with them. Daniel Sepulveda had one too many knee injuries and the Steelers finally cut ties with him. Warren is an excellent long snapper entering his eighth season, all with Pittsburgh. Even though Antonio Brown made the Pro Bowl as a return man last season, he will start at wide receiver so the Steelers will make changes, going with Sanders at the beginning on punts and likely rookie Chris Rainey on kickoff returns, although that could easily change during the preseason.
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Old 07-21-2012, 08:19 PM   #4
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Default Re: In Depth Pittsburgh Steelers

Burke Not Impressed With Steelers Offseason, Dom Not Impressed With Grade

Jul 21st, 2012 by DomSteelers

Some good fortune in the Draft helped Pittsburgh land two potential OL starters (Mike Adams, David DeCastro) plus a DL contributor (Alameda Ta’amu). Still, the Steelers lost a ton this offseason, mainly due to cap issues. Replacing Hines Ward, James Farrior and other long-time vets will be just as hard in the locker room as on the field. The Mike Wallace situation also could be a massive distraction this year.

Grade: C

Normally I understand how members of the media “pop-off” and say controversial things to gain more readers and stir the proverbial pot (cough*Warren Sapp*cough). Yet in Burke’s case, I believe I need to put my “Two Cents” in and wonder aloud about his offseason grades. So ready yourselves NPC readers, because today I would like discuss my issues with the “C” offseason grade given by Burke to the Steelers and why.

Introduction

To be completely fair to Burke, I believe that the criteria which he used to measure and grade each franchise and their specific successes/failures during the offseason was well-done and a fair way to grade each team’s offseason exploits, activities, and efforts to improve their franchise as a whole:

Our offseason grades take into account the 2012 draft grades, what’s occurred in Free Agency and trade markets, and any extraneous off-field circumstances (bounties and non-bounties alike).

While this is a completely sensible way to evaluate and grade team’s offseasons, I do not understand how Burke came up with a “C” grade for the Steelers if he actually followed the specific guidelines he laid out above. In fact, some of the negatives Burke alluded when he discussed Pittsburgh’s 2012 offseason to might not even be considered huge losses or negatives at all if one looks at the structure of the Steelers’ roster entering 2012 and organization as a whole. Don’t believe me, readers? Let’s take a look and you can find come to your own conclusions:

Not-So Negatives

Loss of (Veteran) Players Might Not Be So Bad, and Leadership is All Over Roster

Do the losses of Aaron Smith, James Farrior, and Hines Ward hurt to see as a life-long fan of this team? Of course. These guys were some of the most integral players in the franchise’s recent history, and three of the biggest reasons why the team won two Super Bowls.

But you know what? Their releases are not what you would call important in terms of what they would bring to the table in 2012 from an “on-the-field” perspective. And if you wanted to take things a step further, one could even argue that these moves were “addition by subtraction” in a salary cap and productivity senses to boot.

In case you did not notice Mr. Burke, Smith missed over 30 regular season games from 2009 to 2011, was a non-factor for the Defense last year, and spent too much time on the sidelines to help the Defense in any significant capacity. As for Ward, his production on Offense declined so steadily last season that by December Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery had jumped ahead of him on the depth chart and his snaps decreased as the season progressed. And Farrior, like Ward, was a shell of his former self last year, became an even bigger liability in pass coverage, and was thus a Two-Down player at best at this stage in his career.

As for the loss of the released veterans’ locker room presence, Burke’s language suggests that they were the only veterans on the Steelers’ roster which led the team or mattered one iota. Yet I must ask: Do the names Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Larry Foote, Brett Keisel, LaMarr Woodley, Willie Colon, and Heath Miller ring any bells? I am sure that a follower of professional football like you would have heard of a veteran Quarterback named Roethlisberger, right?

So as you can see, despite the fact that three of the team’s most important veterans are gone, the Steelers’ 2012 roster is not bereft of experienced players which can bring leadership to the youngsters this season and beyond. Because of this, these talented and mature players which I alluded to above are more than qualified to become adequate team leaders and do exactly what Ward, Farrior, and Smith did over their careers’ in the Steel City: impart their wisdom on the young players and become professionals. Thus, the franchise will likely not lose any sleep over the “leadership vacuum” being filled.

Mike Wallace Situation

While the Wallace situation “could” have been a massive distraction, why would you even put it into the equation to measure your offseason grades? With this in mind, I must ask one simple question: Is Wallace’s contract situation resolved? No, wait, let me check, carry the two, oh no, it is not. Has Training Camp started yet? Oh, wait, no. Heck, Wallace has not even sat out any preseason or regular season games as of right now. So let us all just calm down before we get ahead of ourselves and start hitting the “panic button” and downgrade any significant progress in the matter at hand.

In fact, just after you published your “grades,” it was reported by Jason LaCanfora of CBS.Sports.com that Wallace and the Steelers are moving closer to agreeing upon a long-term deal. There might even be a chance that Wallace will be ready to go for Training Camp next week. Sure, learning a new Offense might be a bit tough on Wallace. But if the Steelers can get him into Training Camp and signed within the month of July or even mid-August, it should be more than enough time for a Pro Bowler like Wallace to come in and at least have a decent grasp of the new system. And while Wallace still needs to hone bits and pieces of his game (route-running, blocking, etc.), he still runs a 9 route better than most in the League. Plus, Wallace and Big Ben have more than enough pass-catching weapons around them to help out while he adjusts accordingly to the new Offensive system.

Overlooked Positives

Steelers Used Free Agency Period Sensibly

To his credit, Burke actually highlighted the Steelers’ 2012 Draft as being one of the better ones in the League (A- Grade). But anybody that has any sort of vague understanding of what the Steelers’ needs were entering the Draft would have to give Colbert and Co. credit for addressing their most dire of needs. You know, from the Offensive Line (DeCastro, Adams, Kelvin Beachum), to the Inside Linebacker position (Sean Spence), to Nose Tackle depth (Ta’amu), and the 3rd-Down Back (Chris Rainey). But what Burke (as well as the rest of the media) might have overlooked is how the Steelers found two solid yet unheralded Free Agents (Leonard Pope and Brandon Johnson) which addressed other needs on the team as well.

At least to me, performance in the trade and Free Agency market should not be based on how much one team spends, but on how they spend their money. In fact, the two moves which the Steelers made during the Free Agency period should pay dividends this season in a couple of areas where Pittsburgh needs some help: blocking in the run game, a tall pass-catching option in the Red Zone, help on the Special Teams units, help in pass coverage from the Linebacker corps, and help on 3rd Downs to boot.

Were the moves to acquire Pope and Johnson “sexy” from a headline garnering standpoint? No, but that is not in the Steelers’ “Baller on a Budget” and frugal yet savvy style. Overall, the Steelers saw ways to improve their ball-club in Free Agency, worked it out financially, and made the moves accordingly. No over-spending, no big-contracts doled out to outsiders with question-marks, and low-risk/decent-reward investments.

Have Young and Developing Depth Ready to Step-Up

While the Steelers’ purse strings may have been limited in the area of signing Free Agents, it likely would not have mattered because the team already has a great deal of young depth ready to step up and play on their roster this season. And as I outlined months ago in this post, the Steelers have a youth movement (especially on Defense) to look forward to now and should be poised to strike as early as this season.

I mean, is it really Pittsburgh’s fault that they have players like Ziggy Hood, Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown, Steve McLendon Isaac Redman, David DeCastro, Mike Adams, and Cameron Heyward on their roster and ultimately believe they can step up this season and beyond? No. In fact, the eventual (and hopeful) development of these aforementioned players should be considered a huge plus for the organization because it required Colbert and Co. to not be pressed to look outside of their franchise for help at these specific positions. But most importantly, the Steelers did not have to use the high-priced Free Agent market or any other means besides the Draft to help address these needs at all.

Will there be some “growing pains” in 2012 with these younger players? Absolutely, and we should ready ourselves as Steelers fans to see some over the course of the season. Yet what Pittsburgh’s Coaching Staff does and has done as good as if not better than all of the teams in the League over the last four decades has been developing talent to fill the shoes of departed players. Just take a look at all the players which have stepped up during the last ten to fifteen years or so and subsequently replaced some of the departed talent on this franchise (especially on Defense). Sure a few of the names might be changed this season, but the talent is ready and waiting to fill the void and should be put on display this season.

Final Thoughts

How a franchise which was given an “A-” 2012 Draft Grade, have had their most important players stay out of trouble, unloaded veteran and expendable players with huge contracts and/or diminishing/expendable skill-sets, possess more than enough experienced players on the roster to fill “leadership vacuum,” remedied a couple of extra needs in Free Agency, and have some developing depth ready to break-out in 2012 be given a “C” offseason grade by the very person which graded the Draft?

Even if one takes into account some questions which the Steelers face heading into the 2012 campaign (Safety depth, RB by Committee and Who Emerges, Wallace not being signed immediately), they cannot significantly or conceivably diminish the numerous positive things which this organization has done over the last six months to warrant just an “average” grade for their efforts. Heck, if I wanted to, I could go into the number of different ways that Todd Haley will be an upgrade over Bruce Arians in the Offensive Coordinator department. But for the sake of brevity I will leave that stone unturned for now.

I am not sure how you arrived at a “C” grade for the Steelers’ offseason Mr. Burke if you indeed evaluated Pittsburgh’s offseason by the criteria you outlined in your article, but hey, you are entitled to your opinion and I enjoy your work along with the work of the rest of the football writers on CNNSI.com. But when you hand out these grades next time, you might want to try to follow your grading scale a bit more closely or pay attention to all of the offseason moves made by franchises. Otherwise, people might be inclined to poke a few holes in your argument and raise some questions as to how and why you arrived at your conclusions.

http://nicepickcowher.com/2012/07/21...ed-with-grade/
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Old 07-21-2012, 08:33 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hawaii 5-0 View Post
Burke Not Impressed With Steelers Offseason, Dom Not Impressed With Grade

Some good fortune in the Draft helped Pittsburgh land two potential OL starters (Mike Adams, David DeCastro) plus a DL contributor (Alameda Ta’amu). Still, the Steelers lost a ton this offseason, mainly due to cap issues. Replacing Hines Ward, James Farrior and other long-time vets will be just as hard in the locker room as on the field. The Mike Wallace situation also could be a massive distraction this year.

Grade: C
Consider the source

According to Burke the Saints had a better offseason (C+) than the Steelers

http://nfl.si.com/2012/07/18/nfl-off...sct=nfl_t11_a1
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Old 07-21-2012, 08:37 PM   #6
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I agree with this article above, but as an english major, I must say that the rampant misuse of the word "which" is difficult for me to read.
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Old 07-22-2012, 03:12 PM   #7
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The Saints got a C+, nuff said.
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Old 07-22-2012, 04:52 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by mesaSteeler View Post

Pittsburgh Steelers

July 19, 2012 6:11 PM ET
http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/story/1...burgh-steelers

By Jason La Canfora | CBS Sports NFL Insider

Projected Finish 10-6

Offense

The Steelers have changed their identity on offense the past few years, and they are clearly a pass-first, spread-formation team. With starting running back Rashard Mendenhall likely out until sometime in December that's unlikely to change. Ben Roethlisberger should be right in the prime of his career and this is a team that could approach 5,000 yards passing ... assuming of course Mike Wallace is on board (can't imagine he won't be, and more on that to come).

With Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emanuel Sanders, the Steelers have one of the best trios in the NFL. All can run and make plays all over the field, and few teams have utilized the screen game with better success than the Steelers in recent years. Now, there were major changes to the staff (again, much more there down below as well), which could certainly dictate the shape of this offense, but the game will be in Big Ben's hands and with his issues behind him and in better shape and focused more than in years past, Pittsburgh is primed to put up huge numbers.

The Steelers might also finally have an offensive line to match the rest of the roster as well. They've managed to win Super Bowls despite a group that lacked individual stars along the line and that could be overwhelmed at times. Roethlisberger absorbed too much abuse (albeit he brings some of it on himself with how he clings to the ball), and major upgrades were needed.

Drafting franchise center Maurkice Pouncey was a great step a few years back and if rookies Mike Adams and David DeCastro live up to their promise, then Pittsburgh will have its most athletic unit in a long, long time, and no one will be smiling as widely as Roethlisberger.

Defense

For all of the talk about the Steelers' age on defense, and considerable early-season hand-wringing by fans and the media, they once again were right there with the very best in the NFL. They remain stout against the run and, aside from the playoff debacle at Denver, the secondary help up better than many expected during the season. They allowed the fewest points in the regular season, which cannot be overlooked.

Still, it's true that guys like James Harrison and Troy Polamalu and Casey Hampton are not getting any younger, and few in the history of the NFL have displayed more longevity and consistency than uber-coordinator Dick LeBeau, who shunned retirement again last year and is back for a quest for yet another Lombardi. So changes may be on the horizon at some point, though with the way Kevin Colbert drafts the next man up is quite often a future Pro Bowler himself.

Key Changes

Roster Additions: TE Leonard Pope, OL Trai Essex

Roster Departures: WR Hines Ward (retired), LB James Farrior, DE Aaron Smith, G Chris Kemoeatu, NT Chris Hoke (retired)

Staff: Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians departed; Todd Haley replaced him.

The Roethlisberger/Haley vortex will be dissected all summer long. Arians had no bigger advocate than Roethlisberger, and it was no secret. They had worked together for a long time and the quarterback was incredibly comfortable with him and they achieved tremendous success together. Haley is a totally different cat. This is a major change in personality and approach.

Haley is fiery and emotional and is not afraid to clash with a star. He will challenge his players and things don't always necessarily just play out behind closed doors. He and Ben share a deep love for golf, and some who know them both well figure that's where they will probably bond first, before the classroom or practice field. Or at least that's where they probably should seek some common ground before the games start counting.

Haley will make sure the ball get spreads around, which is huge considering how many capable pass catchers are on the roster (don't forget about tight end Heath Miller, because Haley surely won't), but the interpersonal dynamics between he and Roethlisberger, and how quickly they cultivate trust, is much more important than any scheme or play call when it comes to this group.

X-Factor: Troy Polamalu

Few players are more exciting in the game. Few have made more eye-popping, instinctive, iconic plays. But since getting injured in 2010, he hasn't been quite the same according to scouts who have watched him closely. That burst, that ability to find his way to exact spot he needs to be to blow up a play, hasn't been the same.

The plays behind the line of scrimmage, screaming down on the box, haven't been there like they used to be. The sacks, forced fumbles, big plays, are way down. In fact, in 2011, he accounted for just two interceptions and no forced fumbles; a year before he had seven picks, a forced fumble and a touchdown prior to getting hurt.

When he is right, no one does it better (okay, Ed Reed perhaps). And the film was glaring in the playoffs, when free safety Ryan Clark could not play due to the altitude and his sickle cell trait. Polamalu was exposed in coverage in that game by Tim Tebow of all people, and undoubtedly that will spur him into this season.

If he is the Troy of old, then the chatter about the age of this defense goes away. Some say he may have lost a step. (This is why I wanted to draft a safety. We better get one next year because Troy is not the player of old and is one concussion from being out of the game. - mesa)

Who's next to go?

The Steelers share a unique bond with their players, but excel at knowing when to let them go. Hines Ward is just the latest example. Emotion must be parsed aside in this business, and after looking at all the money pumped into young linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons, and given some of the headaches over the years, and his age and escalating contract, you have to wonder if James Harrison is in his last year in Pittsburgh.

Harrison is also at a stage where another flagrant penalty could result in increased suspensions, and he's been fighting through several health issues in recent years as well. When he's been right, Harrison is still an elite quarterback hunter, but with Wallace just one receiver in need of a payday (Sanders and Brown aren't far behind), the small-market Steelers, who had cap problems coming into 2012, will be juggling funds and determining where they need to free up future space.

Runaway

The loss of Mendenhall so late in last season puts the 2012 season in jeopardy. The hope is he gets his legs under him sometime during the run up to the playoffs, but knee injuries have a way of limiting a running back until his next full season back. The Steelers can go by committee, and haven't felt inclined to make a free agent splurge, and rookie Chris Rainey will get a pretty good crack at things. But with the abundance of running backs still on the street, like Ryan Grant and Cedric Benson and Clinton Portis just to name a few, the possibility exists the Steelers still add a veteran to this group at some point, especially should more injuries arise. This team may have to work harder than ever to strike more offensive balance, and in the meantime Isaac Redmond figures to get plenty of work.

Mile High hangover


It's pretty unusual to see the Steelers getting shredded on the big stage, especially by a team like the 2011 Denver Broncos. One would go too far to say they were exposed, and clearly by that point the defensive roster had been gutted by injuries, but the film doesn't lie and no doubt others are studying it all offseason long.

Those types of endings can tend to mark the end of an era, or can be a springboard for greater success. A coaching staff can either use it as a motivation or bury it and never mention it again. It says here this organization, from the Rooney family to Colbert and Omar Khan in the front office to this accomplished coaching staff the Steelers will be right back in contention in 2012, but the way last season ended, with all the gaffes on defense, won't just go away.

Insider's Take


"I like the Haley/Roethlisberger thing. It will be good for him. He needs to be pushed. They think they'll be fine without Mendenhall. They like Dwyer and Heath Miller is going to be very involved in the passing game. He's going to get a lot of balls. The age is an issue on defense, but where did they finish overall last year? Exactly."

Xs and Os


By Pat Kirwan | NFL Insider

The Steelers' offense is being advertised as returning to the old school power run game under the direction of Todd Haley. There's no Jerome Bettis on this roster and the speedy wide receivers are their biggest strength. Coach Haley will do what he has to do to win.

Steelers' Rivals: AFC North

2012 Preview • Schedule
Ravens @ Steelers: 11/18 (8:20 p.m. ET)
Steelers @ Ravens: 12/2 (4:15 p.m. ET)

2012 Preview • Schedule
Bengals @ Steelers: 12/23 (1 p.m. ET)
Steelers @ Bengals: 10/21 (8:20 p.m. ET)

2012 Preview • Schedule
Browns @ Steelers: 12/30 (1 p.m. ET)
Steelers @ Browns: 11/25 (1 p.m. ET)

One year when Haley was offensive coordinator in Arizona and head coach Ken Whisenhunt told me he really wanted to run the ball, Kurt Warner -- under the direction of Haley -- called 39 pass plays a game. The Steelers have won 53 of 80 regular season games in the past five years, so don't expect big changes.

Look for Isaac Redman to be the running back early while Rashard Mendenhall recovers from injury. I expect the Steelers to be in a lot of 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR). In order to get the power running game going without a fullback in the game, the Steelers will pull a guard and run 'G' power. What will make the Steelers different is the distinct possibility that they pull their right guard, rookie David DeCastro and run power left behind LG Willie Colon and LT Mike Adams. It also sets up nicely for the right-handed Ben Roethlisberger to half-roll right off the play fake and throw the vertical game.

Pittsburgh was 55 percent run on first down last year, which isn't consistent with the perception that they were a pass-happy bunch under former coordinator Bruce Arians. For the record, the Steelers were in the dead middle of the league in run/pass ratio with 42.8 percent run and 57.2 percent pass. At the end of the 2012 season, their percentages will be very close to these numbers.

As for the communication between Haley and Roethlisberger, it will be a bit volatile on the field at times, but it will not affect the outcome of the game.

The Steelers' defense is a base 3-4 look with lots of pressures and schemes. Dick LeBeau always feels like attacking an offense and rarely sits back in a bend-but-not-break philosophy. If any offense shows fan protection with an OT stepping out for James Harrison and or LaMarr Woodley, he will bring inside pressure from his ILB.

LeBeau also does so many different things with Troy Polamalu that offensive lines usually count him as a rusher if he's near the line of scrimmage.

Draft Recap

By Rob Rang | NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst

Few first-round picks were better schematic and personality fits for their NFL teams than Stanford guard David DeCastro will prove to be. Considering how long quarterback Ben Roethlisberger likes to hold on to the ball, protecting the inside is actually more important in Pittsburgh's scheme than sealing off the edges.

Steelers Draft Analysis

Rang: From big to small, Steelers find 'em all
2012 draft picks, grades

Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams fell to the Steelers in the second round. While he certainly has shown the poor decision-making and inconsistency over his career to justify falling even further, Adams has the size and talent of a top 20 pick. If anyone can get him to play up to his potential, it will be Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

Getting a talented player to achieve up to his potential could also be the task at hand with fourth-round pick Alameda Ta'amu. The 6-3, 348-pound former Washington Husky certainly has the bulk and power to take over for Casey Hampton as the Steelers' nose guard in defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's beloved 3-4 defense. For the Steelers to enjoy the type of consistency on defense that they've had with Hampton in the middle, however, Ta'amu will have to ratchet up the intensity to levels that he didn't always play with in college.

The rest of the Steelers' picks:

1st Round - No. 24 overall - David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
2nd Round - No. 52 overall - Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
3rd Round - No. 82 overall - Sean Spence, OLB, Miami
4th Round - No. 115 overall - Alameda Ta'amu, DT, Washington
5th Round - No. 145 overall - Chris Rainey, RB, Florida
7th Round - No. 231 overall - Toney Clemons, WR, Colorado
7th Round - No. 240 overall - David Paulson, TE, Oregon
7th Round - No. 246 overall - Terrence Frederick, CB, Texas A&M
7th Round - No. 248 overall - Kelvin Beachum, OG, Southern Methodist

Great post thanks for the update
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Old 07-23-2012, 09:45 AM   #9
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Old 07-24-2012, 12:08 AM   #10
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Playing 10 questions with the Steelers

By Alan Robinson
Published: Sunday, July 22, 2012

The questions began seconds after Demaryius Thomas of the Broncos outran Ryan Mundy and Ike Taylor to the end zone to conclude one of the biggest upset losses in Steelers’ playoff history.

There were even more after franchise fixtures Hines Ward, James Farrior, Aaron Smith and Chris Hoke retired during a busy offseason in which the Steelers became younger but less experienced.

A season gone — and just like that, on the first play of overtime — against an apparently inferior opponent. Then, four careers spanning more than 50 years of NFL experience were over, too.

And don’t think there weren’t plenty of questions after the Steelers, for the first time in 13 years, not only went outside their organization for an offensive coordinator — Todd Haley — they hired a coach with a colorful past.

The Steelers are aware of all the ”They’re-on-the-downslide” talk that’s developed since they bowed out of the playoffs — or, more precisely, Te-bowed out — by losing to Tim Tebow and the Broncos, 29-23, on Jan. 8. The loss resulted in plenty of internal soul searching by the Steelers, from team president Art Rooney II to GM Kevin Colbert to coach Mike Tomlin on down, and may have led in the part to the departure of former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and the arrival of Haley.

While their 47th training camp at Saint Vincent College begins Wednesday — the first workout fans can attend is Friday — the questions haven’t ended. Not even close.

Here’s a training camp Top 10 — and, now, let the answers begin.

1 Will Mike Wallace show up — and, if he does, when? Wallace, the Steelers’ most accomplished receiver now that Ward has retired, skipped the offseason workouts as he discussed a long-term deal. The Steelers still control his rights for one more season at $2.7 million, and they will be unhappy if he’s not in camp. How mad? If he’s a no-show, we’ll soon find out. And the Steelers don’t negotiate when a player holds out.

2 Will Haley’s comet collide with Ben? Haley has a combustible personality that’s been highly visible on more than a few NFL sidelines, while Ben Roethlisberger prefers back-patting coaches to sideline screamers. Will these two disparate personalities mesh? A few hot days at training camp may provide the first hint.

3 Are two rookies too many? For the first time in their modern history, the Steelers could start two rookie offensive linemen (Mike Adams, David DeCastro) – though it would be a major surprise if Adams beats out the newly re-signed Max Starks. No doubt Roethlisberger, sacked 40 times last year and 215 times since 2007, welcomes any offensive line upgrade.

4 Who’s the leader in the clubhouse? The Steelers lost some of their most vocal and demonstrative team leaders as Ward, Farrior, Smith and Hoke left. That’s a lot of leadership to replace in one season. But team leaders often are those who play the best and set an example for the younger players. And the Steelers have plenty of talent returning.

5 And, in this corner, it’s ... ? Keenan Lewis already is predicting a Pro Bowl season for himself, yet he’s not guaranteed to start at cornerback along with Ike Taylor. Both Tomlin and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau prominently mentioned Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen when questioned about the cornerback vacancy, and filling it could be one of the major issues during camp.

6 Running into trouble? Rashard Mendenhall, for all of his post-knee surgery optimism, probably won’t be ready to start the season. That means Isaac Redman, who has made all of two career starts, will be the starter de jour. The Steelers rarely open a season with such an inexperienced player at such a critical position, yet there seems to be a strong trust factor in Redman among his teammates and management. There’s also a lot of depth behind Redman (Jonathan Dwyer, Baron Batch, John Clay and rookie Chris Rainey).

7 Too many 30-somethings? The Steelers still have plenty of 30-plus players remaining even after all the offseason departures. There are 15 on their camp roster, including Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu. Some players hit the wall once they reach 30, becoming more prone to up-and-down performances and injuries. Obviously, the Steelers need a lot more good years out of arguably their two highest-profile players.

8 Stepping up — or taking a step back? There’s lots of league-wide chatter that this could be the season the Steelers regress, given they’re coming off successive 12-4 seasons with a veteran team. Of course, Warren Sapp observed last year that the Steelers were “old, slow and it’s over.” It wasn’t, of course — at least not until that shocker in Denver.

9 The front-runner, by a nose? Nose tackle Casey Hampton (left knee) won’t be ready for the start of camp, or the season. Steve McLendon moves in, backed by intriguing rookie Alameda Ta’amu. The question is how much any nose tackles will play, given the ever-increasing reliance on the pass by nearly every NFL team.

10 Double-digit downfall? Each of the last four times they were coming off successive double-digit win seasons (2009, ’06, ’03 and 1998), the Steelers had a major falloff that season — averaging just 7˝ wins per season. They were 12-4 each of the past two seasons, so that means they’re due for another downturn. Training camp may provide the first hint if there might be one.

http://triblive.com/sports/steelers/...ng-coordinator
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