Latest Steelers Buzz: Rundown of players in the mix for roster spots up for grabs at key position battles

 

By Chris Adamski LATROBE — Using a completely rational and fairly logical standard, it could be said that the Steelers are returning 20 of their 22 starters from last season. Only at left inside linebacker (which the all-but-retired James Farrior previously manned) and left cornerback (where William Gay played before bolting for Arizona in free agency) are last season’s primary starters no longer with the team. So, a relatively quiet training camp in terms of position battles, right? Not so fast. A variety of factors — from injury to additions via the draft to holdouts — have left no fewer than nine starting positions on offense and defense in the running to be manned by different players in 2012 than 2011. A rundown of the positions that will play significant roles that are up for grabs (be it official “starters” or those at a spot where a rotation is usedRead More »

Sunday’s Camp Report: John Clay knows he has to distinguish himself and is thinking “Big”

 

By Chris Adamski John Clay is thinking big. He had better if he wants a season-long roster spot with the Steelers. The biggest running back (not counting fullback David Johnson) the Steelers have, Clay put up big numbers (the biggest of any of the Steelers’ big stable of big-time college backs) for a Big Ten team. But after going undrafted out of Wisconsin over the 2011 offseason, the 6-1, 248-pound Clay was a practice squad player much of his rookie season. He finally got onto the field for the final two regular-season games and the playoff loss at Denver, totalling 11 carries for 42 yards and a 10-yard touchdown the first time he touched the ball in an NFL game. “When I did get a chance, I was able to prove something to (team management), so now this upcoming season I can’t be satisfied with what I did last year,”Read More »

Saturday’s Camp Report: Johnson making his mark at full-back & post-practice buzz on O-line shuffle, Ben & Sanders

 

By Chris Adamski A trimmer David Johnson is out to seek and destroy. More than he ever has in his professional career, Johnson will use his “eyes” when it comes to blocking and other duties. One of the more intriguing effects of the arrival of Todd Haley as the Steelers’ new offensive coordinator was the reintroduction of a true fullback in the offense. Technically, Johnson was the team’s starting “fullback” last season — but that positional designation requires quotation marks because, in effect, Johnson was a fullback in name only. He was not the traditional definition of the position NFL had gotten accustomed to over decades. Former coordinator Bruce Arians gradually phased out the fullback in its generally-accepted form. Yes, Johnson started games, and more often than not, he was listed as the fullback. But, more often than not, he’d be on the line by the time the ball wasRead More »

Steelers-Thursday: Emmanuel Sanders has gained appreciation of training camp, expecting big year

 

By Chris Adamski LATROBE — There’s a fair percentage of NFL veterans who loathe training camp. Emmanuel Sanders was miserable during his second camp last year… but not because of the monotony or the drills or the dorm life. Sanders had a pair of bad feet heading into the 2011 camp. He was in pain and fell behind in his workouts and on the depth chart. Healthy once again, Sanders vowed never to again take camp for granted. “Oh my God, you have no idea, man,” Sanders said after the walkthrough practice Thursday morning. “Last year around this time I was down and out. Now, I have an appreciation for training camp. A lot of those guys are like, ‘Argh, I gotta go to training camp.’ I’m like, ‘Yes! Let’s go to training camp! I’m healthy, I’m finally here.’ So you know I’m enjoying it each day.” Taking advantage ofRead More »

Wednesday’s Camp Report on filling Leadership void, Roethlisberger, Wallace, Mundy & more

 

By Chris Adamski LATROBE — One of the manufactured storylines of Steelers training camp involves who will fill the leadership vacuum caused by the retirements of Aaron Smith, Chris Hoke and Hines Ward and the apparent retirement of James Farrior. Those broaching the subject forget the fact that this is still a veteran-laden team. Even without those 35-plus-year-olds roaming the St. Vincent campus anymore (Hoke is actually here doing TV work), almost half the Steelers’ defensive starters are 31 or older. The first-team offense through the first weeks of camp contains four players who are at least 29 — a fifth, if you count No. 3 receiver Jerricho Cotchery, who will likely be on the field for more than half the snaps the offense takes this season. “I don’t think we’ve had as much change from a leadership perspective as we’ve had in the past,” said safety Troy Polamalu, who,Read More »

Tuesday’s Camp Report: For some, transition of learning new offense under Haley not as complicated as many had expected

 

By Chris Adamski LATROBE — In the Steelers news vacuums that are the time between the end of the season and the draft and the time between the draft and training camp, nothing has been more dissected than the offense’s ability to adjust to new coordinator Todd Haley’s system. After every OTA, every minicamp workout and now every training camp practice, players (and coaches) are asked time and again if they are learning the new scheme. In the end, is everyone making this transition out to be way more complicated than it is? “I’ve always been a less-is-more guy for the most part,” Haley said. Some players have speculated that, after seeing Kansas City’s offense on tape in recent years (Haley was previously the head coach of the Chiefs), Haley has made the offense simpler by design so that the learning curve is less pronounced. When that theory was broachedRead More »

Sunday’s Camp Buzz: With Harrison’s age, tenous health, it’s fair to wonder if Steelers days of boasting NFL’s “top” OLB duo could be over

 

By Chris Adamski LATROBE — Last season, the Steelers ranked No. 1 in the NFL in total defense and No. 1 in the NFL in scoring defense. Toss in a No. 1 ranking in pass defense, too, if you’re so inclined. Pretty good, right? Many of the principles who are part of that unit take a markedly different view. “I just think overall we played bad as a defense, ” linebacker LaMarr Woodley said. “All the way up front and in the back.” An NFL-worst 15 turnovers forced, a middle-of-the-pack 35 sacks and, most tellingly, a poor performance during a playoff loss in Denver leaves a sour taste that a shiny ranking can’t overcome. Still, Woodley is heartened by the fact Pittsburgh’s defense was hampered by injury last season. “I think having everybody back this year will go a long way,” he said. A reasonable position to take… but willRead More »

Saturday’s Camp Report: Baron Batch not Chris Rainey showing the ability to be a “complete” third down back

 

By Chris Adamski LATROBE — Speed is arguably the skill associated with football that is easiest to quantify. A player’s time in the 40-yard dash is black-and-white. So it’s not surprising that, in the early days of training camp, the new speedy, shifty running back gets all the hype. Last year, it was Baron Batch. This season, Batch was all but forgotten with rookie Chris Rainey zooming up and down the sidelines at St. Vincent College. It would seem unlikely — though not impossible — that both Batch and Rainey would make this season’s 53-man roster. And with Rainey and his University of Florida pedigree and 4.2-speed all the rage, Batch has been viewed by some as a longshot. The first training camp practice in shoulder pads perhaps told a different story. Not only was Batch, who has a 30-pound advantage, much better in blocking drills and backers-on-backs, he alsoRead More »

Friday’s Camp Report: Willie Colon showing off quick feet at LG, Steelers are as physical and in-your-face between tackles as ever

 

By Chris Adamski News of Antonio Brown’s five-year contract extension Friday was just the latest example of the Steelers’ evolution into a more pass-happy, finesse offense. Don’t tell that to their offensive line. Between the tackles, the Steelers are as physical and in-your-face as ever. David DeCastro joins Maurkice Pouncey as first-round picks who were widely heralded for their physicality in the trenches. Barring a major surprise, by the time the Sept. 9 season opener in Denver rolls around, DeCastro will be starting at right guard, lining up next to center Pouncey. Willie Colon will flank Pouncey on the other side, moving to left guard after spending recent seasons at tackle. Pouncey, DeCastro and Colon form arguably one of the most physical trios of guards and a center in the NFL. “I’ve always been aggressive; I’m not a finesse guy,” Colon said between practices Friday. “I just like to getRead More »