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2015 Steelers’ Training Camp Roundup

The Steelers and Le'Veon Bell are hoping that's the position the offense finishes during the regular season Photo by Jason Bridge/USA Today Sports

The Steelers and Le’Veon Bell are hoping that’s the position the offense finishes during the regular season
Photo by Jason Bridge/USA Today Sports

If I told you one calendar year ago that the Pittsburgh Steelers would have pushed out long-time defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and future Hall of Fame safety Troy Polamalu, followed by giving Ike Taylor and Brett Keisel their respective pink slips, there would be raised eyebrows in Pittsburgh. Outcry, even. Cap all of this off by announcing that the front office also rolled out the welcome mat for polarizing and controversial quarterback Mike Vick, and you would have given me the look as if I were crazy. Fortunately, (or not, for many fans) this has been the reality of the 2015 offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and boy has it been exciting.


I’m not going to tell you how to feel about the front office signing Mike Vick. Fellow TPOP contributor Tiger Rowan penned a fantastic piece regarding the subject I encourage you to read. He brings up the distinct imagery of the crimes committed and for many this is simply too much to overlook. How one feels about the signing of a controversial figure such as Vick is entirely up to them and it is not my place to dictate otherwise. That being said,  some of the backlash regarding the subject has been flat out ridiculous.

There are considered to be a handful of teams in the league that operate with a higher moral authority than others in the league. Two of them, the Steelers and the Green Bay Packers, are among the league’s most respected, decorated and successful franchises and are also universally seen as two of the leagues most “clean” franchises.  They do their best to stay out of headlines in the offseason and operate with a certain level of decency. This is also referred to as the “Steeler Way”, and it is absolute malarkey.

The name Chris Rainey brings up mixed emotions among Steelers’ fans. I was, once upon a time, a big supporter of Rainey. He had all of the tools to be a versatile weapon in the return game and on offense, if used correctly. Unfortunately, Rainey was arrested on a battery charge and was released shortly thereafter. General Manager Kevin Colbert was quoted as saying, “Under the circumstances and due to this conduct, Chris will no longer be a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers” and that was that. The Steelers organization does not tolerate this sort of behavior.

Well, let me fix that last line. The Steelers organization does not tolerate this sort of behavior from non-contributors.

Fans are all too familiar with the accusations regarding Ben Roethlisberger. It goes much deeper than just the quarterback, however. James Harrison has a history of domestic violence. Maurkice Pouncey has been pictured doing and wearing asinine things. Fan favorite Hines Ward was pulled over for a DUI and embarrassed the organization when the video of it was released to the public. Still, jerseys of all of these men are rampant in Heinz Field on Sundays despite what they’ve done. The Steelers are first and foremost a business, which makes releasing players like Rainey easy. It’s good PR and doesn’t affect the team on the field. The Steelers wouldn’t unload any of the above, and only showed Ward the door when he was no longer effective on the field. In fact, the Steelers brought James Harrison out of retirement when the depth at outside linebacker was paper thin. Releasing any of the contributors on the roster that have a checkered past would be bad for business, thus they have a comfy position on the 53-man. The notion of the “Steeler Way”, or the idea that they have moral superiority over any other organization in the NFL is a myth.

You don’t have to like Vick. You don’t have to cheer for him on Sundays. You don’t have to like the fact that he is likely going to be here for more than one season if he proves to be a capable backup to Roethlisberger. You especially don’t have to like the fact that he has a legitimate shot at obtaining a Super Bowl ring this season. But don’t for one second act like the rest of the roster are applying for sainthood after their football careers are done.


The Buffalo Bills game this past weekend was hard to watch for a number of different reasons (ahem, the play of the first team defense), but the play of Martavis Bryant may have been the hardest. No, not because he played poorly — in fact, the opposite. Bryant’s play was so dominant that accepting the fact that he won’t be on the field for the first four games of the regular season is heartbreaking.

At the end of his snaps against the Bills, Bryant’s stat line read: 3 receptions, 138 yards and 1 touchdown. All of this was accomplished by half time against the Bills’ vaunted first team defense.

And this is where the sadness begins.

Bryant has failed four drug tests since entering the league, unbeknownst to Steeler fans. His dominant play at the end of last season excited fans and media alike, as everyone was expecting a breakout party for Bryant this season. Talk of him becoming one of the best receivers in football was rampant, and Bryant was to be one of the focal points in the league’s best offense. Unfortunately, because of numerous bad decisions, the wait for Bryant’s dominant play will have to wait until Week 5 when the team travels out west to San Diego and plays the Chargers.

We can all be collectively disappointed in Bryant. We can trust in the front office and the coaching staff to get Bryant the help he needs so a situation like this never arises in the future. We can move on. Bryant is a young man who has made poor decisions in the last calendar year. We cannot crucify him or compare him to a player like Josh Gordon, who seemingly didn’t get the message after being suspended the first two times.

Bryant was quoted recently as saying, “I embarrassed myself, I embarrassed my family, I embarrassed the team and the program. I own up to my mistake and I just want to move forward and learn from my mistake and get better.” This sounds like a young man who knows he made a mistake and will not repeat it in the future.

See you in October, Martavis.


In a game in which two different quarterbacks post perfect passer ratings against your secondary, you’d think it would be time to enter full-on meltdown mode. Both Bills quarterbacks EJ Manuel and Matt Simms posted a perfect 158.3 passer rating against the Steelers, prompting Thurman Thomas to query whether or not the Steelers were “that bad”. The comment itself was silly as none of the Steelers’ starting defense was on the field, and those that were playing are fighting for a roster spot or a spot on the practice squad.

No, Mr. Thomas, the Steelers’ defense isn’t “that bad”.

Let’s not mince words here, however: the Steeler’s defense isn’t going to be good this season. At best, Steelers fans can hope for the defense to be just good enough not to muck things up for the offense. An increase in turnovers and sacks seems likely with the new additions to the roster, but this remains a unit that is going to surrender yards and points. It’s also important to point out that, because of training camp nicks and bumps, the entirety of the starting defense has yet to play together. For a defense that lacks experience but thrives on the concept of youth, this seems to be a forgotten but important point.

In fact, things haven’t been all bad thus far. James Harrison, Jarvis Jones, Bud Dupree and Ryan Shazier have all played very well thus far in the preseason. Harrison seems to be the fountain of youth, refusing to let his age affect his play. Jones seems to be in the process of piecing his game together, flashing pass rushing moves that we have yet to see executed in a regular season game. Though Dupree was off to a rough start, he appears to have picked his game up considerably as of late, notably in the game against the Packers. Finally, Shazier is back to his pre-injury rookie form in which he was flying all over the field and consistently around the football.

As a unit, there have been disappointments, but they have notably come from linebacker Sean Spence, defensive backs Gerod Holliman and Kevin Fogg, and defensive tackle Cam Thomas. Spence is an easy player to root for as his return from a gruesome knee injury has been nothing short of remarkable, but his play on the field has left a lot to be desired. Spence is frequently caught out of position and has been the target of quarterbacks throughout the preseason. Bad angles and poor tackling have plagued him thus far. Fogg was a player that made a name for himself throughout training camp, but has failed to have steady production on the field. He was targeted throughout the Bills game with success. Holliman has disappointed in other ways as he has been unable to see the field with enough consistency to make the splash plays he was known for in Louisville. Once a player I had high hopes for, Holliman tops my personal list of disappointments so far.


Down two All-Pro players and a budding young superstar, the Steelers’ offense remains one of the most dangerous in football.

Pouncey, Le’Veon Bell and Bryant are all set to miss the opening game of the regular season. Though their absences vary in length, the Steelers’ offense is going to be down all three for the first two regular season games. This would be a scary thought to most teams, but for the Steelers, a team that has immense depth and talent on offense, it is survivable.

Behind Bell sits veteran All-Pro running back DeAngelo Williams, the long-time Carolina Panthers starter who has looked impressive in his short stint in the preseason thus far. While he will only start in place for Bell for games against New England and San Francisco, Williams’ role as a mentor and change of pace ‘back are set to play out through the season. While lacking the versatility and all-around ability of Bell, Williams brings stability and consistent play to the position.

While Bryant sits out the first four games of the season, Markus Wheaton gets to start on the boundary opposite Brown. Wheaton himself has also looked very impressive in his short time in the preseason. After Wheaton brings Darrius Heyward-Bey, the long-time Raider. Heyward-Bey brings veteran leadership and the ability to stretch the field with excellent speed. Then comes third round pick Sammie Coates out of Auburn. Coates was known for his tremendous speed and ability to take the top off of a defense, similar to that of Bryant in his time at Clemson. Registering an eye-popping 21.8 yards per catch, Coates can torch a secondary with ease. The depth behind Bryant is strong, and while his absence will be noticed, the trio of Wheaton, Heyward-Bey and Coates softens the blow.

The only issue, and perhaps the most important one starting the offense in the face, is the injury to the perennial All-Pro Pouncey. For a variety of reasons, this is likely the worst injury they have faced thus far. The continuity and comfort between Pouncey and Roethlisberger cannot be understated. The level of play that Pouncey showcased last season — giving up 0.5 sack in 16 starts — is also going to be felt as Cody Wallace mans the starting center position. Wallace brings with him the ability to be a force in the run game, but has issues in pass protection, which is where losing Pouncey is going to hurt most. Wallace surrendered a sack early in the game against the Bills and struggled to keep a clean pocket for Roethlisberger. The cohesion between Pouncey and starting right guard David DeCastro is also going to be missed, as those two make up one of the best starting interior lines in football. Offensive line play relies heavily on continuity and comfort among one another and is anchored by the center. Williams best be ready to chip in on pass protection on third down to cover for Wallace.

In spite of the numerous injuries littering the offense, this is a team that is still anchored by Roethlisberger, Brown, and when he returns from suspension, Bell. There simply isn’t a better trio in football. When Bryant and Pouncey return and the offense is firing on all cylinders, there isn’t a defense in the league that can stop them. Until that time, however, the offense remains one of the best in the league despite missing two of its best players. Scary, huh?


And we let ’em off the hook! Well, not really.

The starters for the Steelers remain largely intact, injuries aside. On defense, Brandon Boykin is the fresh face that is expected to have a large amount of playing time in whatever role that may be (I’m hoping on the boundary opposite Cortez Allen). The remainder of the defense is the same as last year, for better or worse. There weren’t expected to be many surprises headed into the regular season, however. The front seven is shaping up to be one of the better young units in football, and may be just a year or two off from dominance.

As for the offense, continuity remains the name of the game as it remains largely the same. Williams’ starting role was to be expected with Bell’s suspension, and Wheaton takes the reins for the initial four games of the season while Bryant sits out. No fresh faces, no big name free agent signings. Same old, same old.


• The Steelers’ kicking situation was interesting, to say the least. After losing incumbent Shaun Suisham, the front office went out and signed kicker Garrett Hartley, only to lose him to a hamstring injury. After losing both Suisham and Hartley to season-ending injuries, the Steelers traded for long-time Jags kicker Josh Scobee, who keeps taking subtle jabs at his old team. Welcome to Pittsburgh, Josh.

• The first round of cuts made by the Steelers didn’t include any surprises. It will be interesting to see if the Steelers express any interest in former Browns nose tackle Phil Taylor, however, as the position lacks proper depth and talent. Taylor is an instant upgrade in terms of depth over Thomas.

• Dri Archer has been getting the ball quite frequently as of late. It seems as if offensive coordinator Todd Haley and head coach Mike Tomlin are trying to figure out exactly how to squeeze him into this offense. With Bryant out, it opens the door for Archer to get a few more touches in the regular season on offense. Look for him to have some sort of impact, whether in the return game or on offense, in the first quarter of the season.

Connor is a Steelers contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh.