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Thread: Ed Bouchette's training camp preview: A year of transition

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    Ed Bouchette's training camp preview: A year of transition

    Ed: A year of transition

    Friday, July 20 2012
    By Ed Bouchette
    Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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

    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.

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

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    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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    Pro Bowler Flasteel's Avatar
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    I think this off-season has seen the Steelers address their [perceived] weaknesses better than any year in recent memory...at least the way I see it. Nearly everything we could possibly point a finger at -with perhaps the glaring exception of our kicker- has seen change this off-season. Whether that change turns out to be fruitful or not remains to be seen, but I love our chances of improvement in each problem area that has seen it. Whether it's the O-line, the OC, the suddenly deep CB group, the youth movement elsewhere, or even guys coming back from injury, the demons of 2011 seem to be poised for a mass exorcism.

    Everyone can keep referring to this upcoming season as one of "transition" for the Steelers...that's cool. With all the change, it can't be denied. But sometimes a good team transitions into a great one.

    Count on that for 2012, my Black-n-Gold brethren! Woooooooooooo!!!!!!!
    Last edited by Flasteel; 07-21-2012 at 10:11 AM.



    "I hate him. Everybody says I'm supposed to be polite when I talk to you all, but I hate him..." "He talks too much, he doesn't make sense, he's fat, he's sloppy, he acts like he's the best thing since sliced bread. He's ugly, he stinks, his mouth stinks, his breath stinks, and basically his soul stinks, too.

    "Not too many people have personalities like that and survive in life. I don't know how he does it."


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    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.
    That about sums it up...running more effectively (not necessarily more often), utilizing the quick hitters we saw against NE in addition to the deep passing game, keeping Ben healthy, and becoming more efficient in the red zone.


    1.15 WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
    2.46 TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
    3.97c ILB Shayne Skov, Stanford
    4.118 CB Philip Gaines, Rice
    5.157 OT James Hurst, North Carolina
    5.173c RB Jerrick McKinnon, Georgia Southern
    6.192 CB Walt Aikens, Liberty
    6.215c DE Deandre Coleman, California
    7.230 NT Zack Kerr, Delaware

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    Steelers Training Camp: Better? Worse? Still the same ol' contender?

    July 22, 2012
    By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette



    What Mike Tomlin sees at Saint Vincent College this time around will be markedly different from the past.

    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?

    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 the 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 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 Division 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 running 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 the ball; c) protecting Roethlisberger, something team president Art Rooney mentioned in 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. Brown showed he can be his equal last season, albeit with a different style. Sanders finished strong after shaking off foot and then knee injuries, and veteran Jerricho Cotchery fulfilled the 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 there full time.

    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.

    http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/...#ixzz21JyC3b1e

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers Head to Training Camp

    July 23, 2012 By Ed Smallwood



    After an offseason of veteran purging and offensive line revamping, the 2012 version of the Pittsburgh Steelers heads to training camp in Latrobe on Wednesday. Gone are familiar faces such as Hines Ward, James Farrior, Aaron Smith, Chris Kemeoatu, William Gay, and Chris Hoke, all jettisoned in the offseason as part of a salary cap-induced youth movement. Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians “retired” and was replaced by Todd Haley, and the Steelers welcome a highly-regarded draft class to assume many of the roles previously manned by now-departed veterans. A look at what to watch for as the Steelers hit the ground at Latrobe:

    1. Ben Roethlisberger, meet Todd Haley. Ben Roethlisberger’s buddy Steelers’ offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was forced to retire (quickly un-retiring to be the Colts’ offensive coordinator) this offseason and was replaced by Todd Haley. Ben has been engaging in his usual dramatic antics, suggesting that Haley’s playbook is tough to learn and lamenting the fact that Haley hadn’t reached out to him more quickly after being hired. At the end of the day, however, Ben is a competitor and once he gets his “Bruce Arians Memorial Whining” out of the way, he and Haley figure to work together effectively. With the Steelers’ top 4 WR’s returning, as well as a rebuilt and improved offensive line, the Steelers’ offense figures to improve on its 2011 performance in which the Steelers finished tied for 21st in scoring.

    2. A revamped offensive line. There will be no bigger change on the Pittsburgh Steelers this year than on the offensive line. Chris Kemeoatu was cut in the offseason, Willie Colon returns from his second straight lost season and has been moved inside to LG, and the Steelers’ top two draft choices, David DeCastro and Mike Adams, will be in the mix to start and/or receive immediate playing time at RG and LT, respectively. Max Starks was resigned last week to play LT in the event that Adams does not win the job in camp. When the Steelers start the season back in Denver this September, the offensive line will look like this:

    Starks/Adams-Colon-Pouncey-DeCastro/Foster-Gilbert

    I anticipate that Starks will be the LT, at least to start the season, and that DeCastro will start from day one. The offensive line has been somewhere between shaky and horrendous for the past five years, but the return of Colon and the drafting of DeCastro and Adams give the Steelers optimism that a long-time weakness will become a strenght.

    3. Running back by committee. With Rashard Mendenhall almost certain to start the season on the PUP-list (which would knock him out for the first six games), the question of who will carry the ball for the Steelers becomes decision number one for Haley. Isaac Redman figures to get the bulk of the carries in Mendenhall’s absence. Redman is a solid backup who is a strong runner with who gives great effort, but he is limited, lacking top end speed and elusiveness. Chris Rainey, the Steelers’ 5th round draft choice out of Florida, is the exact opposite of Redman, operating best in space and who figures to be used very similarly to how Dexter McCluster was used by Haley in Kansas City. Jonathan Dwyer and John Clay also return, likely battling for one spot on the roster. Dwyer showed flashes in 2011, including a 107-yard performance in Week 5 against Tennessee, but his conditioning, dedication, and ability to stay healthy are always question marks. Last year’s training camp sensation, Baron Batch, looks to replace Mewelde Moore as the 3rd down back, and as long as his surgically-repaired ACL holds up, Batch will have every chance to be the 3rd down back and in the mix for carries.

    4. Will Mike Wallace sign? After releasing Jonathan Scott last week, the Steelers are approximately $6 million under the salary cap. This includes the $2.74 million tender given to Wallace, thus the Steelers have, in essence, $8.75 million to use for the 2012 season. Some of this space will go to David DeCastro (terms of his contract are still unknown), but even with that deal the Steelers should be able to absord a cap hit of $5-6 million for Wallace. Given the creativity of Steelers’ capologist Omar Khan, and given the manner by which cap hits can be manipulated through the use of roster bonuses, the Steelers have the cap space to give Wallace a large chunk of up-front, guaranteed money that’s cap hit is spread over several years. Wallace received no offers as an RFA, thus he lacks any real leverage to hold out into the 2012 season. Mike Wallace will be a Steeler in 2012. The only question is whether he is locked up on a longterm contract or if he signs his one-year tender and plays out his contract and becomes a UFA after the season. Given the Steelers’ propensity for locking up core players longterm, the smart money is on Wallace being a Steeler for a long time.

    5. CB position available. With the departures of William Gay and Bryant McFadden, the Steelers have an opening at LCB. Keenan Lewis heads into camp as the favorite for the spot, as he bounced back from two disappointing seasons to play well as the 3rd CB in 2011. Lewis has started only one game in the NFL, but has the size and man coverage skills the Steelers prefer in the corners, but he’s not particularly fast for the position and can be inconsistent. Last year’s 4th round pick out of The Citadel, Cortez Allen, will challenge Lewis for the starting spot. Allen lacks experience playing against top competition, but he possesses excellent cover skills, good speed, and possesses good size for the position. Curtis Brown will also be in the mix, but he is likely behind both Lewis and Allen.

    6. Replacing James Farrior. With James Farrior now retired, Larry Foote will likely assume Farrior’s role at the BUCK linebacker spot in Dick LeBeau’s defense. Foote has played in the Steelers’ defense for 9 of his 10 NFL seasons and is well-schooled in the complex schemes of the defense. Foote is solid against the run but struggles in coverage, a skill not improving as he enters his 11th NFL season. Stevenson Sylvester will compete with Foote for the spot. Sylvester has played less than 50 real snaps as an NFL linebacker, so it’s difficult to assess his chances, but he’s better than Foote in coverage but less stout at the point of attack. Mortty Ivy and Brandon Johnson will also figure to get looks at the spot as camp unfolds.

    It’s been a strange summer in Pittsburgh. Between the resurgence of the Pirates, the scandal at Penn State, and the Penguins’ failed pursuit of Zach Parise, the Steelers have been something of an afterthought since the draft. This all will change starting on Wednesday, and we will keep you informed of what matters as the Steelers get ready for the 2012 season.

    http://network.yardbarker.com/nfl/ar..._camp/11279128

  7. #7
    Legend RuthlessBurgher's Avatar
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    6. Replacing James Farrior. With James Farrior now retired, Larry Foote will likely assume Farrior’s role at the BUCK linebacker spot in Dick LeBeau’s defense. Foote has played in the Steelers’ defense for 9 of his 10 NFL seasons and is well-schooled in the complex schemes of the defense. Foote is solid against the run but struggles in coverage, a skill not improving as he enters his 11th NFL season. Stevenson Sylvester will compete with Foote for the spot. Sylvester has played less than 50 real snaps as an NFL linebacker, so it’s difficult to assess his chances, but he’s better than Foote in coverage but less stout at the point of attack. Mortty Ivy and Brandon Johnson will also figure to get looks at the spot as camp unfolds.
    No mention of Spence at all? I realize that the coaches already determined that Spence will be a mack backer, not a buck backer, but if Spence truly shines, isn't there a possibility that Timmons could move over to the buck with Spence at the mack? Sure, it's not the most likely scenario coming out of camp, but as the season moves along, I could see Spence getting some playing time on defense (probably in nickel and dime specialty packages) and not merely just on special teams.


    1.15 WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
    2.46 TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
    3.97c ILB Shayne Skov, Stanford
    4.118 CB Philip Gaines, Rice
    5.157 OT James Hurst, North Carolina
    5.173c RB Jerrick McKinnon, Georgia Southern
    6.192 CB Walt Aikens, Liberty
    6.215c DE Deandre Coleman, California
    7.230 NT Zack Kerr, Delaware

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