Steelers minicamp is underway and there is a small explosion of articles among the beat reporters covering them. Steelers.com also posted several. I will try to group some of the more interesting ones into categories so you can get a feel for what is out there. I still feel it is too early to really predict anything about the season, but I still sense that vibe has changed. Controversy split the Steelers apart last year and I would like to think that they learned from it. “They” means the coaches and returning players alike. Last year I felt like a broken bobblehead – I wasn’t shaking my head up and down in agreement either – my head was constantly shaking from side to side as I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and that just kept going in the season. This year, I am cautiously optimistic. So, let’s get into the news.
Mini Camp Notes
Steelers.com posted some points from the mini-camp. Mike Tomlin held his normal press conference. His lips were moving, but he really didn’t say anything. Some days I just have to chuckle when I hear the words he uses. Here’s one to add to his classics:
Really, what you describe the work as is irrelevant. We’ve done similar things here that we’ve done the majority of the offseason. It’s good to continue with the growing process individually and collectively.”
Huh? Maybe he should have said “We’re preparing to prepare so we can prepare.” Tomlin is notorious for not giving anything away and using language as a subterfuge. I’ll never forget one of his first press conferences where he dropped in some poetry, I think he quoted or paraphrased Robert Frost. These kinds of statements seem to quell the questions because they make everyone’s head hurt. He stays very pleasant while talking to the media, but he gives lots of words and phrases that don’t really add up to anything tangible. I don’t mean to sound critical, because I’m not. It’s Tomlin’s style and he won’t say what he doesn’t plan to say. Alan Robinson came up with a similar assessment in his Steeler Notebook.
Training Camp Dates Set
Alan Robinson, of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review starts the Trib’s Steelers Notebook by sharing the recently announced training camp dates. Steelers players will report to Latrobe on Jul 26th, which is 15 days before their preseason opener against the NY Giants at Heinz Field. His article includes the times when the public can watch the practice. He also notes that the Steelers are the only AFC North team to hold camp away from their training facility. I’m from the southern part of Fayette county, but haven’t lived there in years. When I visit we normally end up going somewhere in Westmoreland county, usually through Latrobe, and I can just imagine how excited everyone around that area is to have the Steelers around for a few weeks. I bet the camps are mobbed again this year.
Roethlisberger gave a very upbeat interview about his recovery from the knee surgery, which is posted on Steelers.com. I think he tried to put Steeler Nation at ease by saying that if he had to he could play Sunday. We’re used to Ben playing hurt and I don’t doubt he would try to play if he needed to. However, I’m glad he still has time to heal. I still wish they did the surgery a couple of months ago, but I agree with the myriad of commentary that now is better than October. Ben addresses that questions too.
Alan Robinson addresses Roethlisberger’s comments but does not add any new information or commentary. It’s the same in Ed Bouchette’s article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Everyone seems to be taking Roethlisberger at his word right now that things went better than expected and his recovery is ahead of expectations.
Le’Veon Bell: A Starter in 2013?
Le’Veon Bell’s potential to start comes up in the Steelers.com mini camp news and Kirby Wilson addresses one of the difficult areas for running backs when they transition from college to the NFL. Robinson also adds this to his Steelers Notebook. Wilson feels that it is a difficult transition for running backs to learn pass protection:
There is so much more technique involved. You are going against skilled pass rushers, as opposed to guys in college that are just rushing. For these guys, it’s an art. There are counter moves, and these guys are very explosive that rush the passer in the NFL.”
While I think that Bell has tons of potential, I agree that they need to bring him along the right way. I think the pressure on rookies to perform at a high level as soon as they are in NFL can be unrealistic. However, fans are all cognizant of how much money the players make and sometimes do not have the patience to wait for a player “to come along.” I have to trust the coaches to recognize where the players are in their development and where they can fit in to help the Steelers be successful. I want to see the running game succeed this year, but I’m not sure all the pieces are in place just yet.
Todd Haley and his 2nd Season
Todd Haley spent some time answering reporters questions and I don’t know if it is the spin from the reporters or if Haley is just more comfortable, but I thought he came across much better this year. The scrutiny had to be a bit unnerving for Haley last year after his time at Kansas City and the way that Bruce Arians was let go. I’m sure that all added up. However, I think Haley has gotten more comfortable with the media and it doesn’t hurt that Roethlisberger’s comments are more positive too. Here’s one answer I thought was really interesting:
You said you are taking more input from the players this year. Is that right?
That’s offensive to me because I’m an open-minded guy, but I think it just comes with familiarity and getting to know people. Myself, as a coach, I know the players a lot better. They know me personality-wise. I think it’s just an evolution of how things go with anything you’re doing, business, sports, whatever it is. I think we’re seeing that happen. I think everybody is just more comfortable, which is a good thing. That leads to better communication, which in my opinion leads to better execution and better football.
Ed Bouchette also gives him take on the relationship that Haley has with Roethlisberger and the rest of the offense and while there is nothing new in this article, Ed highlights that Haley defends Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. He believes they are fast and should not be seen as lacking when compared to Mike Wallace, who he feels has a rare speed talent.
This interview is likely to make the rounds on the other media outlets for a few days. ESPN.com has some of it posted in an article posted about Ben’s recovery. Jamison Hensley who blogs for ESPN about the AFC North also quoted it.
I said before the 2012 season that communication was going to be a challenge and I think that proved true. I fully expected a mediocre season last year because of the staff changes and the Roethlisberger’s initial reaction to the changes on the offense. Now, the statements show a natural progression from people committed to getting things right so they can succeed. I would be much more concerned if it looked like Roethlisberger and Haley were going to continue to butt heads and show it publicly.
What did I miss or get wrong?
Well, that’s it for today. I know there are lots of articles rehashing the same thing and I hope I’ve sorted them in some useful semblance. It’s too early to predict anything, but like I said before, I’m cautiously optimistic. Even though I bleed black and gold, I like to think I remain objective about their capabilities. At this point, I don’t think the Steelers are a lock for a championship run or even to make it into the playoffs. The AFC North looks strong this year. However, I think they will have more than an 8-8 season and, while it’s not a ring, it’s progress.