By Dale Grdnic
LATROBE, Pa. — Many believe the Pittsburgh Steelers have a Super Bowl-caliber team this year, unless, of course, they meet up with the high-powered New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers or New Orleans Saints.
Ben Roethlisberger is in his eighth season in the NFL, and he believed the Steelers’ offense is just as talented and could be the most-explosive since he’s been their starting quarterback.
“There’s a lot of talent, so I think we should throw the ball every play,” Roethlisberger joked after practice Monday. “Honestly, though, there’s a lot of young talent, especially when I look around and see that at eight years I’m the second-oldest guy on the offense (to Hines Ward’s 14 seasons).
“So, that says a lot about how young we are, but we do have a lot of talent all the way around, and it’s going to be fun to see how everything plays out this year. … We’re making progress and getting a little better every day. And, overall, I think we’re making good progress offensively.”
With Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman at running back and wideouts Ward, Mike Wallace, Jerricho Cotchery, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown should be able to move the ball in any manner they want. The offensive line is crucial to that equation as well, but the Steelers have a chance to be really good.
“As good as we want to be,” Roethlisberger said. “Honestly, I think we can run the ball, and I think we can throw the ball. But it’s going to be up to us. Can we identify? Can we protect? Can we open up holes? Can we throw? Can we catch? As good as we want to be, I guess. (And) it’s definitely one of the keys.
“We’ve relied for such a long time on this defense to kind of carry us. Obviously, there’s games when the offense does some great things, but as a team and as an offense we want to step up every week and be as valuable an asset to this team.
“(We want) to be a team that scores lots of points and makes it easier on their defense,” Roethlisberger added. “And people can say that they won the game because their offense and defense won the game.”
The Steelers might not have their two starting defensive end when they face the Philadelphia Eagles Thursday night at 8 at Heinz Field.
Veterans Aaron Smith (right knee) and Brett Keisel (right ankle) did not practice for a second straight day and might be held out this week. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin will address the game at a press conference Tuesday at 11 a.m., but the two likely would need to practice Tuesday to play Thursday.
If they can’t go, third-year player Ziggy Hood and No. 1 draft pick Cameron Heyward likely would get the starting nods at left and right end, respectively.
Speaking of Heyward, the Ohio State product continues to show a nasty side, as well as tremendous athletic ability. He got into a couple skirmishes with Ramon Foster and Jonathan Scott and seemed to handle himself pretty well both times, during the one-on-one drill and during the aftermath.
The starting offensive guards Monday were Chris Kemoeatu, for the first time this camp, on the left and Doug Legursky on the right. It appears that Legursky will get a shot against Ramon Foster, Tony Hills and Chris Scott at that spot.
Wideout Limas Sweed was on the sideline again Monday with what appeared to be a right shoulder sprain. A quick check of past lists had Sweed missing time with a left shoulder injury. He opened camp with a hamstring issue.
Cornerbacks Cortez Allen (hamstring) and Crezdon Butler (right quad) also did not practice. Undrafted free-agent running back John Clay wasn’t injured, but he attempted to leave practice early for some reason. A student trainer ran him down and urged him to return, which he did for the final 15 minutes.