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Between the Hashmarks: Steelers show optimism amidst growing pains


The Pittsburgh Steelers are currently 0-2 on the 2015 NFL preseason, but the team has kept a positive attitude despite the growing pains they’ve experienced from a retooled defense under Keith Butler, work that needs to be done on special teams, communication, new faces and players coming back from injury.  As the preseason continues, the Steelers have some trials ahead, but their attitude may just be what keeps them prepared for the tasks ahead.


#Repost @teamab84cueupu: #gameday #herewego #cueupu

A photo posted by AntonioBrown (@antoniobrown84) on

Receiver Antonio Brown had plenty to celebrate ahead of the Jacksonville game. He and the first-team offense came out in dazzling style and made quick work of the Jaguars defense; scoring eight points with little effort.  Fans are excited about the potential they see from the offense that has added even more talent – so much that the coaching staff may have trouble deciding who will have to be cut from the final roster.  In a way, it’s a nice place to be in.  Having extra talent to evaluate is helpful as well.  Unfortunately, the Steelers will have to trim.  

Feels good to be back in pads!! A photo posted by James Harrison (@jhharrison92) on

Outside linebacker James Harrison hasn’t been leaving any doubt in the minds of those paying attention that he is quite possibly in the best condition of his entire NFL career.  Harrison had a strip-sack of Blake Bortles in the Steelers’ second preseason game in Jacksonville, but Bortles was able to secure it.  Overall, Harrison showed the most intensity on defense in the outside edge rush.  Harrison has stepped up when it comes to the leadership position and it is something Jarvis Jones and other young linebackers can use a little extra of.  Right now the Steelers defense is struggling to find cohesion between the mass of young players.


Heading into the final week of training camp, head coach Mike Tomlin pointed out some of the details the team will need to focus on to have success moving forward and gave updates on players who had experienced injuries.  Tomlin is excited to get the team back to Saint Vincent College and continue to push mentally and physically.  “We are going to continue to do similar things,” Tomlin told the press, “but the discussions around the things that we’re doing are going to change and be more detail oriented.  We have been in a couple of (games) now so we know a couple of the issues, and I want to see guys working to eliminate some of the issues, whether it is above the neck or technical…”

Safeties Mike Mitchell and Robert Golden are working their way back into the defensive rotation.  Backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski was able to get back to work as well after suffering from a sore shoulder.  Lawrence Timmons‘ toe injury does not appear serious, so Tomlin is allowing the veteran to move at a pace that he feels comfortable with.  Receiver David Nelson was brought into camp on August 12 after both placekicker Shaun Suisham was moved to the reserve/injured list and running back Cameron Stingily moved to the waived/injured list.  Nelson will rotate in with the deep receiver group – a group that is still working to find the right combination to give quarterback Ben Roethlisberger the appropriate targets on offense.  Running back Braylon Heard will also rotate in on offense.

With the defensive backfield still searching for an identity, Tomlin was asked about the play of Ian Wild – a former linebacker in college and the Canadian Football League (CFL).  “He has gotten a lot of reps at safety because of the injuries at that position.  As some of those guys come back it is a natural way for him to continue to get reps and show some versatility in that area where the lines are short.”  Despite Wild getting into the mix, Tomlin feels that it is a “pretty big” deal to get Shamarko Thomas and Mitchell engaged more this week in camp.  As far as the thinking the coaching staff has in regards to the corners and safeties, Tomlin pointed out that the reason for camp is to develop an understanding of what is necessary to achieve success, including communication and an understanding of the defensive schemes and positional responsibilities.

With just five practices left this week, Tomlin expects the team will continue to attack any challenges that present themselves and focus on the here and now.

The Steelers are slated to face the Green Bay Packers at 1 pm (Eastern) on Sunday, August 23.

The remainder of their camp schedule:

Tuesday, August 18 Players Day Off – no Steelers practice
Wednesday, August 19 2:55 p.m. and open to public. Detailed Schedule >>
Thursday, August 20 2:55 p.m. and open to public. Detailed Schedule >>
Friday, August 21 2:55 p.m. and open to public. Detailed Schedule >>
Saturday, August 22 No Steelers Practice – camp breaks
Sunday, August 23 Third Preseason Game vs. Green Bay Packers
(1 p.m., KDKA-TV)
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