Between the Hashmarks: Steelers ready to take training camp to next level


Every year I get a bit antsy around the middle of July into early August.  That football bug starts biting me.  I cover the Pittsburgh Steelers 365 days a year, but there is something special about training camp at Saint Vincent’s in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, that seems to get that black and gold blood pumping through my veins just a bit quicker.  Steelers fans love training camp.  It’s their first opportunity to really get an up-close look at the team, the new draft picks, the type of offense and defense the organization will put into battle against rivals like the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals.  Like flocks of geese looking for a nice place to graze before the chill enters the air of autumn, Steelers faithfuls migrate to get a glimpse of what they can only hope will be yet another great team in a dynasty that was created when the Steelers finally found their glory days and gave the city of Pittsburgh and fans around the world a blue-collar workhorse they could saddle up and ride to victory.

It really doesn’t need to be said that the past two seasons have left some sour grapes among the ranks and the wine just didn’t sell well.  It didn’t age well, either.  Before training camp even got started, the Steelers organization determined it was time to improve the quality and thus the vintage.  Training camp is like pressing the new fruit to see what the final product will become – something worth selling to their fans or something that will take time to become a favored nectar.

Yes, a sports writer can wane poetic.  What will be true poetry will be what is witnessed on Chuck Noll field.  Triumph versus tragedy.  Cinderella story versus dark-horse emergence.  It plays like Shakespeare.

Here are some of the things that have me the most excited about camp thus far:

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has an ornery side to him in the irony he chooses in camp attire  (see the photo above).  Roethlisberger donned the #99 jersey, and we all know why – he’s petitioning in his own way for the Steelers organization to bring back defensive end Brett Keisel.  Roethlisberger is a leader and by silently displaying his intentions on his sleeve, or rather his chest, he is sending a message he wants everyone to see.  The likelihood that Keisel would return to the Steelers during training camp, thus far, has been hashed-over by nearly every media site that covers the NFL and Pittsburgh.  Stephon Tuitt is a rookie who could use some mentoring.  If the Steelers were to bring Keisel into camp, they’d likely only sign him to a one-year contract at veteran’s minimum pay to teach Tuitt the ropes.  We could posture about the possibilities to infinity, but it shows moxy that Roethlisberger has chosen Keisel as his project this year in camp.  In the past, Roethlisberger wore the jersey of Max Starks – and the Steelers ended up bringing Starks back.

Safety Mike Mitchell is determined that a groin injury isn’t going to keep him on the physically unable to perform list (PUP).  Groin injuries are often nagging, painful aggravations that take time to heal properly.  The injury didn’t happen at camp – it was something he suffered during offseason workouts this summer.  Instead of beating himself up over a frustrating situation, Mitchell has plans to keep learning and be ready to get back on the field.  “There’s still plenty of ways for me to get better,” said Mitchell.  “I can sharpen myself in the film room; take every single mental rep which I couldn’t do if I was practicing.  Now I pay attention on every rep.  There are a lot of other things I can do for my body.”  Mitchell wants the time to be well-spent so that his return will be an even great improvement to what has been predicted to be an outstanding season.  It is exciting to see such a positive attitude and having Mitchell shadow defensive backs coach Carnell Lake as teammates were given instructions, tucking away those mental notes.  “If he corrects (my teammates) it’s like he is correcting me at the same time,” admitted Mitchell, “because I literally just saw what the other guy did.”

Monday, Monday.  The day the pads come out and the two day “acclimation period” mandated by the CBA ends.  And how does Coach Mike Tomlin see Monday – as football day.  “It’s not football-like, it’s football,” said Tomlin after rain pelted Pennsylvania on Sunday.  “I’m always excited about who ascends in those situations and who shrinks…It’s a big step in the process, one that I’m sure we’re all excited about taking.”  All I know is that once the pads go on, the intensity level goes up, up and up.  Tomlin likes to get the guys pumped and if he’s excited – then we should all be excited.  This is the coach that we’ve often seen smiling quietly on the sideline during an NFL game.  I want to see the players playing and coach ‘T’ completely elated.  Don’t you?

Due to a death in his family, Ramon Foster was excused from camp on Saturday.  From me and all of us at SteelersGab – we wish Ramon the best.

Get ready to see what LeGarrette Blount is ready to dish out!  Tomlin admitted that Blount had a “very good spring” and some are anticipating that Blount will return to the best days he’s ever had in the NFL this season.  Who doesn’t want to see a 250-pound running back daring everyone to hit him during live tackling drills?  I haven’t been this excited about a trio of running backs in Pittsburgh in a long time.  Everyone has been raving about Dri Archer‘s seemingly magical appearance at every position possible, although he “only” set camp on fire while catching, running and returning kicks.  Only.

The only thing I am bummed about so far is that there are some minor injuries to players that could be critical, so I will be keeping an eye on the injury updates.

David Snow (Center/Guard) has a fractured foot that will require surgery to repair and the schedule has not yet been set.  Snow signed with the Steelers in December 2013 after being released by the Buffalo Bulls.  In 2013, Snow spent four weeks on the Steelers’ active roster as a backup option when Maurkice Pouncey was injured but was inactive during all four contests.

Rookie receiver Martavis Bryant has a groin injury.  Bryant was drafted by the Steelers in the fourth round (118th overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft and was expected to give the offense some vertical advantages.  Hopefully he’ll have a talk with Mitchell  and figure out how to rehab and mentally practice at the same time.

Le’Veon Bell did not finish practice due to hamstring tightness.  Remember, this is the beginning of camp.  Those muscles aren’t necessarily used to the heavy load their being called upon right now.  Notify Shaquille O’Neal and get our boy some Icy Hot and let’s get to it.  Notice to Shaquille Richardson – keep your hamstrings warm so you don’t have to do the same (pat on the back).

Long-shot undrafted rookie free agent C.J. Goodwin took a hard fall on a shoulder, but it doesn’t appear to be a serious injury.  In fact, coach Tomlin doubted that Bryant, Bell or Goodwin would miss much practice time, “if any.”

And finally…



You can get all the latest training camp buzz, rumors, injury reports right here at, but we’d like to invite you to also join all of the Gab sites at to discuss training camps across the NFL.  Just select the team you want to catch up with or add your own insights. 

If you’re at Saint Vincent’s, we’d love to have you post in a Steelers thread on the forum so everyone else can keep up.

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About the author: Christina Rivers


Christina Rivers has been a freelance journalist, writer and photographer for over 20 years with a vast range of personal experiences. Credentialed with the Pittsburgh Steelers, her work has been featured on as well as CBS Sports, CBS Sports Local, KDKA in Pittsburgh, 'The Beam' in Pittsburgh, If It Ain't Steel, SteelersDepot, SteelBlitz Steelers blog and more. She's written over 10,000 individual pieces of work and continues to add photographs to her growing portfolio. You can follow Christina's work on Facebook and via Twitter @3Rivers_Writer and Google Plus.


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  • Nice article Christina; enjoy Camp!

  • DrGeorge

    In a recent interview, Haley emphasized the new focus on the “no-huddle” and the running game to improve offensive performance (for three years comments on this site have recommended the same in order to adapt to the new rules that favor the passing game). Nonetheless, last years offense was good enough to make the playoffs. Our problem last year was the defense, and questions still remain there on the D-line and at CB particularly. The offense must be consistent in order to give the defense rest, and the defense must stop the run and the big pass plays that hurt us frequently last year. The Steelers’ season hinges on those factors.

    Christine, I also commend you, especially for knowing the rules of grammar and presenting your ideas in a well-organized, thoughtful fashion.

  • DrGeorge

    Talk about timing! Here’s proof that I’m not the only skeptic in town. Today, a Post-Gazette sports feature asked: Will the Steelers’ offense have to carry the defense this year? That was precisely what the offense was asked to do last year. And if the answer turns out to be “Yes” again in 2014, we’re very likely to get the same mediocre result. The defense must play better this year for the Steelers to be serious contenders.

  • Dr G,
    You have me puzzled. I don’t think anyone disputes that there’s gotta be balance. Neither squad can carry the other on a successful NFL team and be champs for long.

    Chris, nice piece

  • DrGeorge

    We agree, but it’s a matter of degree. Few teams are equally strong on offense and defense. On most championship teams, the defense predominates, as for the Steelers of the 1970s or the 2005 Super Bowl team. In Super Bowl 43, the offense had to compensate for defensive errors to win, but that was unusual. An offense in football cannot consistently compensate for a mediocre defense, as we’ve seen the past several years. That was the point of my comment and the Post-Gazette question.

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