Let’s get this out of the way: No matter what happens this season, Mike Tomlin’s job is safe. The same can’t be said for his staff though. Short of singing Kumbaya fireside, there will always be questions regarding the relationship between Todd Haley and Ben Roethlisberger. By both accounts, that bond, admittedly frosty at times in the past, is good and getting better thanks to the implementation of the no-huddle offense late last season. While the coordinator is poised to turn over more control to quarterback, if the Steelers fail to make marked improvement – particularly in the run game — it’s hard to see the organization not making a move. Roethlisberger is 32 and not getting any younger. There will be blowback if the Steelers are perceived to be wasting the remaining prime of the franchise quarterback’s career. The Roethlisberger-Haley era has yielded a 16-16 record to date.
Pos, Player 2013 Comment
RB LeGarrette Blount NE Strong complement to Bell
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey Ind Speed, but not much else
CB Brice McCain Hou Brings depth to shallow CB pool
LB Arthur Moats Buf High character player, veteran depth
FS Mike Mitchell Car Blend of speed and toughness
WR Lance Moore NO Brings talent and winning attitude
P Adam Podlesh Chi An American punter?
DL Cam Thomas SD Does he start at end or nose?
FS Ryan Clark (Was), WR Jerricho Cotchery (Car), DE Ziggy Hood (Jax), DE Brett Keisel (FA), WR Emmanuel Sanders (Den), C Fernando Velasco (Car), LB LaMarr Woodley (Oak), DE Al Woods (Ten)
THREE TO WATCH
You already know about Roethlisberger, Polamalu, Brown, Bell and Timmons. Newcomers Shazier and Tuitt? Mortal locks. Who might surprise you? Here are three players flying under the radar to consider:
1. Danny Coale: Coming off major knee surgery, there is no ball the smallish wideout won’t go over the middle for and could be an option on punt returns.
2. Brian Arnfelt: A long shot last season, Arnfelt appeared in all of two snaps but has impressed veteran teammates with his work ethic and technique.
3. Chris Elkins: The Beaver Falls product out of FCS Youngstown State impressed in the spring and could, minimally, be in line for a spot on the practice squad.
BY THE NUMBERS
0: Though the Steelers dominated the disco decade, the team’s current incarnation will have zero players born in the 1970s (So long, Brett Keisel). Ike Taylor, born on May 5, 1980 — 106 days after the Steel Curtain’s fourth Super Bowl championship — is the greyest greybeard.
“Obviously we are not a finished product. I don’t think anyone is or feels comfortable saying that they are this time of year. We’ll continue to roll the ball out and get better. Obviously, the next significant step for us is in Latrobe.” — Mike Tomlin, coach
AROUND THE AFC NORTH
Last year: 8-8; 1-1 vs. Steelers
Skinny: Has there ever been a player better suited for the Pittsburgh-Baltimore rivalry than Steve Smith? The feisty receiver joins a talented cast that is coming off a disappointing season. The Ravens haven’t missed the playoffs in consecutive years since 2004-05. The Ray Rice situation (domestic violence) puts a cloud over Baltimore.
Last year: 11-5 (Division champ); 1-1 vs. Steelers
Skinny: Coordinators Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer are gone — both took head coaching jobs — but QB Andy Dalton is back. The pieces are in place for Cincinnati, but patience is wearing thin for Dalton. Made playoffs in three straight years for first time but still haven’t won a postseason game since 1990. Ouch.
Last year: 4-12; 0-2 vs. Steelers
Skinny: Johnny Football has created a buzz around Cleveland and the NFL, but it’s doubtful that Manziel will be under center when the Browns open the season at Heinz Field on Sept. 7. Brian Hoyer will be, but he won’t have the services of all-world WR Josh Gordon. Fist-year coach Mike Pettine Jr. has his work cut out for him. If only LeBron played football …
Planning a daytrip to Latrobe this summer? Better wear a hat, bring something cool to drink and, of course, plenty of sunscreen. Here’s the Steelers’ training camp schedule, including practices open to the public at St. Vincent College and preseason games:
Friday — Players report; campus closed
Saturday — 3 p.m. (Helmets and shorts)
Sunday — 3 p.m. (Helmets and shorts)
Monday — 3 p.m.
Tuesday — Players off
Wednesday — 3 p.m.
Thursday — 3 p.m.
Friday — 7 p.m. at Latrobe Memorial Stadium
Saturday, Aug. 3 — 3 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 4 — 3 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 5 — 3 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 6 — Players off
Wednesday, Aug. 7 — 3 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 8 — 3 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 9 — Campus closed
Saturday, Aug. 10 — Preseason opener vs. Giants, 7:30 p.m. at Heinz Field
Sunday, Aug. 11 — Players off
Monday, Aug. 12 — 3 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 13 — Players off
Wednesday, Aug. 14 — 5:30 p.m. at St. Vincent College
Thursday, Aug. 15 — 3 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 16 — 3 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 17 — 3 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 18 — Break camp; campus closed
Monday, Aug. 19 — Preseason game at Redskins, 8 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 25 — Preseason game vs. Chiefs, 7:30 p.m. at Heinz Field
Thursday, Aug. 29 — Preseason game at Panthers, 7:30 p.m.