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Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Preview

 

The odds were nearly impossible, yet if you break up that negative word, it can also read as “I’m Possible”.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were on the verge of making the 2013 NFL Playoffs. They had finished strong with a 6-2 record in the 2nd Half. The Steelers did their part in winning late season games, but needed help from several other squads to weasel their way into the playoffs, and find themselves opposite of their perennial whipping boys, the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card Game.

It all rested on the foot of Kansas City Chief’s kicker, Ryan Succop.

Kansas City had already secured a playoff berth and had decided to rest the majority of it’s starters against San Diego. The scenario was set. If the Chargers win, they were in, if they lost, the Steelers were in.

Yet despite mostly unknowns playing, there were the Chiefs with a shot to bury San Diego’s dreams.

But, alas, Succop missed a 41 yard FG wide right, and the game headed to Overtime where the Chargers prevailed 27-24.

The Steelers were out…again.

The fire in Pittsburgh never quells. It rages on eternally. There is no excuse for failure. In this town, winning is expected, and anything else is irrelevant.

It’s late July here in Pittsburgh, and though the Pittsburgh Pirates are once again battling for a Division Title for the second year in a row, all eyes will be pointed in the direction of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, where the Pittsburgh Steelers will open Camp.

Mike Tomlin returns for his 7th season as Steelers Head Coach. The staff, already boasting former HC’s in Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley and Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau (HOF), saw the addition of Hall of Famer Mike Munchak as Offensive Line Coach.

Ben Roethlisberger is back and primed for another Super Bowl run. He’ll lead an offense that looks to be more balanced and efficient. It looks as if Haley will be open to letting Roethlisberger have more control over the offense, especially in the mold of a faster pace that Big Ben prefers. Roethlisberger excels at extending plays with his scrambling abilities, and loves to look for the big play when available. The 2014 Steelers offense may resemble something similar to the Buffalo Bills K-Gun ran by the great Jim Kelly.

It looks as if Bruce Gradkowski will be the Roethlisberger’s back-up. Landry Jones should make the team as the 3rd QB.

Big Ben will have an array of weapons at his disposal, as the Running Back and Wide Receiving Corps will be quick, agile, and deep.

Le’Veon Bell, who rushed for 860 yards and 8 touchdowns in his rookie season, will start at RB, and will be backed up by bruiser LeGarrette Blount who adds much needed toughness to the Steelers RB’s in short yardage situation. Burner Dri Archer who will be used in a variety of ways, gives Pittsburgh speed at the position not seen in a long time. Archer was clocked by some scouts running a sub 4.2 in the 40-yard dash. Will Johnson will be at Full Back, and has some versatility as well.

Pro Bowl Antonio Brown leads the receivers, and will be Roethlisberger’s main target. Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey were added in the off-season. Markus Wheaton looks to have a breakout year in his second season, as he looks to have a starting spot secured by opening week. Martavis Bryant was drafted out of Clemson, and his 6’4 frame will be a welcome sight to Roethlisberger who craves a big target in the Red Zone. Justin Brown and Derek Moye will be fighting for a roster spot as well. Tight End Heath Miller is back and fully healthy. He looks to return as a prime target as well. David Paulson and Matt Spaeth look to make the roster as well at the TE position.

Mike Munchak hopes to groom the offensive line into the strength of the team. If this group gels and performs to expectation, the Steeler’s offense is going to be fun to watch. Maurkice Pouncey returns as the starting Center after missing almost the entire 2013 season, as he was injured in the 1st quarter in the opening game last year. David DeCastro and Ramon Foster should be the starters at Guard. Marcus Gilbert is pegged as one of the starting Tackles, and the final spot will come down to either Kelvin Beachum or Mike Adams–more than likely. This will be a fun group to observe during Training Camp and Pre-Season.

On the defensive side, Dick LeBeau will be salivating as the Steelers added some much needed speed to several positions. LeBeau’s D runs at peak efficiency when the front seven is getting to the QB as fast as possible. It’s all about disruption and chaos.

Who better fits that description in Troy Polamalu? Polamalu, who will start at Strong Safety, may be getting older, but he remains one of the league’s best defensive players. He’ll lead a secondary that will be boosted by the addition of Mike Mitchell, formerly of the Carolina Panthers. Mitchell brings added speed to the Free Safety position, something that was sorely missing with the departed Ryan Clark. SS Will Allen, SS Shamarko Thomas, and FS Robert Golden will see time as back-ups. Cortez Allen and Ike Taylor will be the starting Corners, and William Gay, Brice McCain, Antwon Blake, and Shaquille Richardson will battle it out to back up the CB spots.

The Steelers have always been known for it’s Linebackers, and this year’s edition hopes to live up to those expectations. Jarvis Jones and Jason Worilds will be the starting OLB’s in the Steelers 3-4 scheme, and will need to step up their games and get to the opposing team’s QB with tenacity. Former star Joey Porter is a now a coach with the Steelers and has been spending a lot of time with Jones, last season’s 1st Round selection. Lawrence Timmons will guide the D as one of the ILB’s, and this year’s 1st Round selection, Ryan Shazier, out of Ohio State, will be counted on to make an immediate impact as the other starter. The Steelers love Shazier’s speed, and will look to utilize that in every way possible. Vince Williams, who started 11 games last year, will be joined by a talented group of back-ups in Chris Carter, Vic So’oto, Jordan Zumwalt, Sean Spence, Terence Garvin, and Arthur Moats, formerly of the Bills, who can play inside or out.

The biggest area of concern will be on the Defensive Line this season. They are the key to creating problems against opposing offensive lines so that the LB’s can wreak havoc. Defensive End Cam Heyward is the best of the bunch, and is a budding star. DL Steve McClendon added more weight this off-season and looks to finally live up to his expectations. The effort has always been there with McClendon, but the results have not. The Steelers added former Charger Cameron Thomas to the mix. His 6’4, 330 pound frame should fit nicely opposite of Heyward.  Stephon Tuitt, 6’5, 303, and Daniel McCullers, 6’7, 352, were drafted this year to add some strength and bulk to a young a promising group.

All in all, this will be one of the most important Training Camps in recent Steeler’s history. This is a very talented group of players, and should they stay away from any major injuries, this team should grow into a squad that will compete for the AFC North crown. Pittsburgh is hoping a strong 2nd half in 2013, bolstered by a healthy roster, will lead this team to greatness in 2014.

Many publications may be overlooking this team, but in my humble observation, I think that’s a big mistake. This could be a very fun year to be a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, as this group should be very entertaining to watch.

The Steelers open the 2014 season on September 7 at Heinz Field vs the Cleveland Browns at 1pm.

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Mike DrakulichYour source for Pittsburgh sports!

From Midland, “The Basketball Capital of Pennsylvania”, located 35 miles NW of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. This former steel town was home to storied athletes such as Dave Alston, Norm Van Lier, Simmie Hill, and the legendary 1965 Midland High School Basketball Team.


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