The Pittsburgh Steelers open training camp in Latrobe, PA, on July 24th, and there are a ton of questions that Steelers fans have about recent reports from different sporting news outlets. In a chat conducted on June 29, 2014, Pittsburgh fans from across ‘Steelers Nation’ weighed in on their most burning questions – mainly, how the Steelers will perform in 2014 and who will emerge from the pack of hopefuls trying to make the final 53-man roster. In this installment of our Steelers Gab feature, ‘Between The Hashmarks’, we try to address many of those topics.
J.J. (Maryland) : I read on ESPN.com that Scott Brown does not believe that Le’Veon Bell will be used as the main ball carrier in the rushing game? He said he thought Bell will get “300-plus carries this season but no much more than that even if he plays every game.” That sounds pretty low to me. What do you think?
Rivers (Steelers Gab): I am not going to dispute what another football analyst says, but I am not sure that I agree that the Steelers are not sold on making Bell their workhorse at running back. Granted, the additions of LeGarrette Blount and Dri Archer will allow offensive coordinator Todd Haley and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger other options, but I don’t see Bell getting less touches simply because the NFL is trending towards the passing game. I can’t read the mind of what coaches are planning for the 2014 NFL season, but I would guess Bell’s carries will be above 300 barring injury and expect him to gain around 1,o00 yards on the ground. Training camp will definitely define the tempo of the offense and whether Blount will be mainly a short-yardage and red-zone guy. I still see Archer as more of a specialist than the go-to guy in the offense on a regular basis. Bell should still get plenty of looks in short receiving situations as well.
Black_and_Gold (Pittsburgh): Will Mike Adams give Marcus Gilbert the slip and move into the starting position at offensive tackle in 2014?
Rivers (Steelers Gab): I have never liked the footwork of Adams. In 2013, there were too many times that he didn’t move his feet fast enough to prevent defenses from getting into the backfield and in Roethlisberger’s face. That being said, offensive line coach Mike Munchak is the right guy to get Adams in shape. Gilbert, however, has an extra year of play on Adams. If the Steelers were to give the starting position before camp, it would be unlikely – as unlikely as signing either guy to a new contract before they are truly tested (and yes, Gilbert is in his final year of his contract in 2014). Munchak is going to put every member of that offensive line under fire, so expect battles for the starting position. In my opinion, competition is healthy, but Gilbert wins.
Marcus (Reppin’ Tennessee): Why don’t the Steelers bring LaMarr Woodley back to the team, or do you think he’s done in Pittsburgh period. And what about Brett Keisel?
Rivers (Steelers Gab): While I really liked Woodley, he did lose a lot in the health department. That meant he lost a step at being the effective pass-rusher off the end that he was previously. Ed Bouchette went so far as to say, “I think Joey Porter could pull on a uniform before that would happen,” in an earlier chat he held with fans. Porter is going to stay on the sidelines and get players ready (or else) in Latrobe. As for Keisel, he’s a fantastic leader, a great guy and would be an excellent mentor. The fact that the Steelers seem to have moved away from him tells me that they are looking forward. Could they bring him back? I think the only way they will is if they see little progress from their younger defensive ends or (knock on wood) a tough injury in camp.
Justin_Jammer (Cali): I keep hearing Troy Polamalu and Mike Mitchell are going to be the best safety tandem that Pittsburgh has ever had. Do you agree?
Rivers (Steelers Gab): Ever? I have a hard time committing to that idea because Donnie Shell and Mike Wagner made a pretty darn good tandem with the addition of Mel Blount at corner. Shell retired as the NFL strong safety career leader in interceptions with 51 (with 490 yards and two touchdowns). He started eleven straight years for the Steelers and was selected to the Steelers All-Time Team, the College Football Hall of Fame, and to the NFL Silver Anniversary Super Bowl Team. He also has four Super Bowl rings. Wagner went to two Pro Bowls and had 36 career interceptions, 12 fumble recoveries and five forced-fumbles. He too has four Super Bowl rings. Polamalu’s numbers thus far in his career are: 32 interceptions, 13 forced-fumbles and three touchdowns. Tack on the fact that he has been selected to the Pro Bowl eight times, is a two-time Super Bowl champion, was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week five times, won the Joe Greene Great Performance Award in 2003, etc. – Polamalu has definitely excelled. Mitchell is really untested with the Steelers, but will get his chance to shine in training camp. Last season, Mitchell had 3.5 sacks, two forced-fumbles and four interceptions. For his career: six interceptions. He entered the NFL in 2009. Together, Polamalu and Mitchell look like a fierce tandem, but I can’t sell Mitchell as the best, sorry.
Canton Rocks (Ohio): I really think that Tomlin needs to get it together this year or he’s gone. He inherited Cowher’s team and because of poor personal decisions, the organization has paid. What is your take? Is Tomlin gone if the Steelers don’t have a winning season in 2014? What about LeBeau?
Rivers (Steelers Gab): Replacing Bill Cowher has been no easier for Tomlin than it was for Cowher to replace Chuck Noll is what I think. Tomlin came in and took the Steelers to the playoffs his first season as a head coach, then took them to the Super Bowl the next year – where they won. Under Tomlin, the team has been to two Super Bowls (one win, one loss). Under Cowher in 15 seasons? The team won eight division titles and made 10 playoff appearances, went to the Super Bowl twice (one win, one loss). Cowher was only the second coach in NFL history to reach the playoffs in each of his first six seasons as head coach, something only Paul Brown has been able to accomplish. Under Noll, the team went and won four Super Bowls. Fans get a bit overworked, in my opinion, when teams do poorly – especially with sub-par personnel performances from players – and tend to blame head coaches. If Tomlin wasn’t doing what the Rooneys felt was the right thing – they’d find his replacement. As for LeBeau, I think the job as defensive genius and coordinator is his until he tells the Rooneys he’s ready to soak his feet in a pool in Florida.
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