Pittsburgh Steelers: First Impressions from Training Camp
The Pittsburgh Steelers finally kicked off training camp last Friday, and as one of the final teams to get started, they are a little behind the media curve. The Steelers have between now and August 9 to get things in order for their first preseason game.
Information is going to come fast and furious in those 12 days, and all those after until that season opener on September 7 at home against the Cleveland Browns. With only a few practices under their belts, you’d think there wouldn’t be much to report.
However, with off-the-field concerns as well as some eye-opening early reports from practice, plenty is happening good and bad in the early going. Let’s take a look at five of the early stories from Steelers training camp.
Ben Roethlisberger: No Contract? No Problem
Perhaps the biggest storyline of the first days of training camp is that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will not be negotiating a new contract until the end of the season. Scott Brown from ESPN.com reported that even though the Steelers front office has broken from tradition, it will not affect Roethlisberger.
It is more commonplace to renegotiate a contract like this with two years remaining; however, in this case, the timetable is going to be shortened up by a full year. Roethlisberger assures that this won’t affect him going into a pivotal season:
I have faith that the Steelers will do what we need to do when it's time and that's putting people on the field through free agency, trades, drafts to make us the best team that we can possibly be. When we get here there is no contract talk. When we get to camp it's time to play football and that's what I'm excited about.
I have to think that this isn’t going to affect Roethlisberger at all. There are some players who could end up distracted from something like this, but Big Ben is not that kind of player. Not to mention, with his base salary of $12.1 million for 2014, the Roethlisberger house is in sound fiscal shape.
Look for Roethlisberger to have a big 2014 season and head into the offseason with the confidence that he’s going to get that new contract, so that he finishes his career in Pittsburgh where he belongs.
Potential Legal Problems for Maurkice Pouncey
Starting off the season with legal woes is as close to worst-case scenario as it can get. For center Maurkice Pouncey, the last thing he needed coming off a season-ending injury the year before was this.
According to documents obtained by 940 WINZ radio personality Andy Slater, Pouncey and his brother Mike, a center for the Miami Dolphins, have been listed in a lawsuit reporting they assaulted three people in a Miami nightclub on July 12.
However, Pouncey contends adamantly that he and his brother did nothing wrong. And they believe that this will all pass without incident or punishment. Brown of ESPN.com wrote that Pouncey was prepared for trouble with this outing and was prepared:
We hired our own ex-police officer to go out with us the entire time and for something like this to happen is truly unbelievable. I just want to apologize to any fans that take this the wrong way. For people to say bad things, it [stinks], but sometimes you've got to deal with that in life and move on.
This is a real "good news and bad news" situation for Pouncey and the Steelers. The good news is it really seems like nothing is going to come of this from a disciplinary standpoint. Which is good news when you consider that Pouncey got a five-year extension worth $44 million.
The bad news is this is going to linger. And things like this that linger tend to be a distraction. Hopefully, Pouncey and the rest of the Steelers can remain focused on the job at hand and not let this incident get in the way of the larger goal of returning to the playoffs.
Dri Archer Getting Everyone Excited
When it comes to the first days of training camp, speed is something that always jumps out at you. That’s exactly what has happened so far with rookie running back/wide receiver Dri Archer.
Early on, Archer has been given the opportunity to display his impressive speed as a wide receiver as well as in the return game. The more ways Pittsburgh can find a way to get the football into Archer’s hands, the better this offense will be.
It will be very interesting to see what Archer does on Monday, when the Steelers finally put on the pads. Archer isn’t shy about mixing it up, so don’t look for him to shy away from contact.
Another benefit of the early news on Archer is that if he can win the starting punt returner job, it will lighten the load on wide receiver Antonio Brown. It might be hard to consider, but that could actually make Brown a more productive wide receiver than he was in 2013.
Ramon Foster Excused Early On
Starting left guard Ramon Foster has yet to practice with the team. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Ken Laird, Foster will return to practice on Monday after being excused due a death in the family.
Foster started 15 games last season at left guard and will be plugged back into the starting lineup upon his return. Veterans Cody Wallace and Adrian Hubbard have filled in while Foster has been absent.
More importantly, our hearts and prayers go out to Foster and his family. We all have jobs that we have to go to, and going to a job as demanding as his just days after an incident like this must be overwhelming.
No News Is Good News on the Injury Front
Since the Steelers were one of the last teams to report to camp, there has been less to report, both good and bad. Which isn’t a bad thing when you consider players all over the league have been dropping like flies.
At this point, the only injuries to report, per ESPN’s Brown, are groin injuries to safety Mike Mitchell and wide receiver Martavis Bryant. Neither injury appears to be serious, and both should be back in action soon.
Both Mitchell and Bryant are new to the team. So their absence delays their integration into the team fully. There’s no benefit of having safety Will Allen getting additional reps at safety, so the sooner Mitchell can get back on the field, the better.
As for Bryant, there is hope that he can become the big target Roethlisberger has been looking for. It is nice that this group of wide receivers is very deep, but having Bryant out there can only make this team better.