Pittsburgh Steelers OTAs: Latest Reports and Analysis
The Pittsburgh Steelers are only two months away from the start of training camp. Rookie camp is in the books, and we are only 100 days until real football. After what has felt like the longest offseason ever, this is all great news.
Unfortunately, part of the reason this offseason has dragged on like a Say Yes to the Dress marathon is because this has been a very quiet time for the Steelers. Take that as a good thing for a bad thing, but the moves the Steelers have and haven’t made have kept them under the national radar.
So, with that, let’s take a look at a few of the ongoing storylines, and get the latest on what is happening as training camp approaches. Some of these you just have to read to believe.
The Story of Big Dan McCullers
One of the names from the Steelers’ rookie camp was Tennessee defensive tackle Daniel McCullers. At 6’7” and 352 pounds, McCullers is the most massive man on the Steelers roster. However, the legend of McCullers might even be bigger.
On the football side of things, McCullers understands that it is going to be consistent effort on the field that will allow him to put all those physical gifts to good use—which means hustling to the football on every play and playing until the whistle even when on plays that go away from him.
Nevertheless, with a man like this, there come the almost mythical facts that follow. Here are a few favorites from Twitter:
According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, McCullers has trimmed down from 420 pounds in high school. He also wears a size 18 shoe.
McCullers also let Robert Klemko know in his MMQB interview that he was a 270-pound 12-year old. I wore husky jeans at that age, but dang.
It is easy to want to root for McCullers. There are parts of his game where he is woefully unprepared for the NFL. However, that doesn’t mean that he can’t learn. And you just can’t teach a man to be as massive as Big Dan.
Mum's the Word on Maurkice Pouncey
When Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey went down with a torn ACL in 2013, the Steelers knew it would be a challenge to replace him. Fortunately, down the stretch, Cody Wallace did a nice job in his stead.
Nevertheless, everyone understands that this line is at its best when Pouncey is on the field. So, why are things so quiet on the Pouncey situation? It’s hard to say for sure, but we can always speculate.
Perhaps Pouncey isn’t as ready as the team would have us believe. ESPN’s Scott Brown tweeted out that according to Steelers’ offensive line coach Mike Munchak said Pouncey is “doing well."
Let’s try and be a bit more vague, coach. The truth might actually be that Pittsburgh understands that, while it is great to have Pouncey ready to roll, Wallace makes it so that he doesn’t have to be rushed back.
Sean Spence on the Mend
Speaking of injured players, let’s talk about linebacker Sean Spence. Spence was drafted in the third round of the 2012 draft and hopes were that he'd become an explosive playmaking inside defender. His speed and athleticism were off the charts.
Unfortunately, a knee injury in preseason has kept him off the field for his first two seasons. Nevertheless, the Steelers have been patient with his return, and it sounds like things might finally be coming together for Spence.
This article by Teresa Varley of Steelers.com gives a great look at where Spence is now.
Obviously, if Spence can come back and play at something close to his pre-injury form, this defense is made better. However, you have to wonder, if the prognosis for Spence is a full recovery, what is his spot?
Is he an eventual replacement for Lawrence Timmons when he becomes a free agent? A combo of a healthy Spence and Ryan Shazier in the middle would be tempting.
Spence’s continued recovery is something to certainly keep an eye on as training camp approaches.
James Harrison and Santonio Holmes to Return?
Oh boy. You have to love Steelers’ cornerback Ike Taylor. The outspoken Steelers’ defender shared some tidbits about the potential return of linebacker James Harrison and wide receiver Santonio Holmes on his weekly radio show.
Now, if Taylor says these guys want to come back, it is a safe bet they have expressed some level of interest to him personally. The problem is, I’m not sure the Steelers still need them.
Holmes never lived up to his reputation as a playmaker coming out of college. Still, his name will forever be historic among the Steeler fanbase by virtue of producing one of the signature catches in Super Bowl history against the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. And, with a pretty crowded wide receiver depth chart, this is beyond a reach.
Harrison on the other hand could really happen. The Steelers have Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones as starting outside linebackers, but little past that. A healthy Harrison as that third pass-rusher is a temping option for one season.
Tomlin on the Hot Seat?
Oh boy, part deux. This is the second offseason in a row that the Steelers have failed to live up to expectations. Back-to-back 8-8 seasons is not what the Steelers front office or fans of the team have come to expect.
But, could head coach Mike Tomlin really be in danger of losing his job? Absolutely. As Erik Lambert of goldengatesports.com speculated, another underwhelming finish and the powers that be in Pittsburgh could consider a change.
The added pressure for Tomlin comes with the fact that he is working with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the prime of his career. No team wants to squander the best years of an elite quarterback by not winning.
Another 8-8 season would probably crank up the heat a bit, but anything less in a tough AFC North and things will go from crock-pot temperature to broiler in a hurry.