STEELERS TRAINING CAMP STORYLINE
The Pittsburgh Steelers report to training camp today and the Steelers go into camp with a lot of uncertainty. Coming off an 8-8 season, the Steelers are seen by many to be looking up to the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North. That said, the Steelers often surprise when they are viewed as likely having a down season and if this group stays healthy, they could easily be a 10 win team. The running back group tops the training camp storylines.
WILL LE’VEON BELL WIN NO. 1 RUNNING BACK JOB?
When it comes to position battles, all eyes in training camp and the preseason is going to be on the running back. Last year the Steelers rushed for just 1,537 yards and Rashard Mendenhall never getting on track saw the Steelers go the entire season without a true No. 1 running back.
Mendenhall, as expected, was not resigned and the Steelers selected Le’Veon Bell in the second round. What the Steelers like about Bell is his size/athleticism and the Steelers believe Bell can be a three down back.
“We think he’s a big back, No. 1,” offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. “And we think he’s a three-down back, which is a big thing for us. … He has very good hands and catches the ball very well out of the backfield. He’s a young kid who doesn’t have a lot of (wear) on his tires, so he has a lot ahead of him. “And he’s not a guy who you would shy away from giving the ball 30 times a game, ” Haley said’
The big question with Bell is whether he’s ready to come in and runaway with the No. 1 job. The Steelers would love for it to happen immediately going into week 1 but that remains to be seen.
The top competition for Bell will be Isaac Redman who the Steelers hold in higher regard than Jonathan Dwyer. Redman seems to have a firm grip on a roster spot as the No. 1 or No. 2 back, team sources say, while Dwyer who ended last season as the No. 1 running back is on the hot seat going into camp.
Dwyer’s just 24 years old and showed some flashes last year, but the Steelers feel they can’t trust him as he again struggled with his conditioning late in the season. The pressure is going to be on him from the start but I wouldn’t rule him out coming into camp in good shape and winning the job out of camp.
The Steelers added Larod Stephens-Howling in free agency who adds a change of pace and the ability to return kicks. Stephens-Howling is a good candidate to go into the season as the primary third down back. “We brought in two totally different guys with LaRod and Le’Veon, so it puts us back in place where we can run the ball and throw the ball out of the backfield successfully,” Haley said. “With Rashard no longer here and Chris Rainey no longer part of the mix now, we have a couple guys who can be the guy.”
Baron Batch rounds out the running group pushing for one of the likely four running back spots. Batch has third down capabilities.
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