The Pittsburgh Steelers Pre-Training Camp Tidbits

TJ JenkinsAnalyst IJuly 23, 2009

PITTSBURGH - MAY 01:  Joe Burnett #40 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs a route during rookie training camp at the Pittsburgh Steelers Practice Facility on May 1, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

The summer season is slowly coming to a close. Children are lamenting as school approaches, teachers are gearing up preparing teaching lessons, and NFL players are preparing for the grueling experience that is training camp.

Rookies are nervously awaiting their first, while seasoned veterans are grumbling about getting "too old for this stuff" and fans are eagerly awaiting the kick off of the season, the preseason, the flag football league down the street—anything to get their football fix.

All Pittsburgh Steelers players must report to the team facilities in Latrobe, Penn. on July 31. Practice begins the next day. There is one night practice, and unlike the day practices which are held at St. Vincent College, it will be held at Latrobe High School and is available to the public for a small fee.

On the 13th of August, the Pittsburgh Steelers will once again clash with the Arizona Cardinals, a rematch of the Super Bowl we Steelers fans so fondly remember.

The Steelers have quite a few rookies that want to secure a spot on the opening day roster, and camp is where it all starts.

Players like Evander Hood, Kraig Urbik, Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis, Joe Burnett, Frank Summers, Ra'Shon Harris, Allan Shipley, and David Johnson were all drafted by the Steelers, three of them in the third round in this year's NFL Draft.

Hood, Ubik, Lewis, and Burnett are all likely to make the opening day roster. Summers, Wallace, and Shipley may find themselves on the practice squad. While players like Harris and Johnson are likely going to be searching for new NFL homes.

The Steelers have also signed 13 rookie free agents who may or may not have a shot at wearing the black and gold.

A young wide receiver has no better opportunity to step up to the plate than in this year's training camp, with Hines Ward's career likely coming to an end after this season and Limas Sweed not being as productive as many thought and hoped he'd be.

The pressure is on for Mike Wallace, Steven Black, Cedric Goodman, and Tyler Grisham, all of whom are rookie wide receivers either drafted or signed by the Steelers. All of them will have an equal shot to show that they have the grit and fortitude to play football in the Steelers system.

Offensive line issues from last year have once again arisen inside the inner circle of Steelers' bloggers and Internet discussions. This gives players like Urbik and Ramon Foster a golden opportunity to earn a roster position by pushing veterans to the limit.

Urbik has the best chance at securing a spot due to his versatility. He played and started at both right tackle and right guard at Wisconsin, and one is led to believe that he may be asked to make the transition to center to replace Justin Hartwig.

Rashard Mendenhall must step up and step up big in the training camp and preseason period to have any hope of being worked into the running back rotation. He must out-perform Willie Parker, who at this stage of his career has lost a step due to injuries. The quickness and speed in the open field just isn't there for Parker anymore.

Mendenhall could either be the savior for the Steelers or a bust. This is essentially his second try at a rookie season as his first was cut short by Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens.

With Larry Foote departing to the Detroit Lions, Lawrence Timmons will bring a refreshing sense of youth to the Middle Linebacker position starting alongside longtime veteran James Farrior. With a four headed monster at the linebacker position (James Harrison, Farrior, Timmons, LaMarr Woodley) the Steelers are set for the year; beyond that, a replacement for Farrior must be found.

The defensive line is getting older; Hood will be groomed to take over one of the starting spots. Whether it be the nose tackle or defensive end position is a mystery and entirely speculation at this point in time.

Casey Hampton and Aaron Smith aren't yet showing any signs of slowing down, even though they've anchored the Steelers dominant defensive line for years. It's going to show through sooner rather than later, and younger players must step up to push them.

The Steelers also signed two quarterbacks but neither of them should make the roster, perhaps the practice squad for one of them though. The team is set for years to come at the QB spot with Ben Roethlisberger leading the charge.

The weakest spot on the defensive side of the ball for the Pittsburgh Steelers is the cornerback position. With Bryant McFadden signing with the Arizona Cardinals this offseason the Steelers are left with one incumbent starter (Ike Taylor) and some question marks in DeShea Townsend, William Gay, Keiwan Ratliff, Joe Burnett, and Keenan Lewis.

Both rookies should make the roster with Ratliff possibly being th odd man out in the situation, due to the fact that Townsend knows the defensive system far better than him.

The Steelers defense will be as dominant as ever and the offensive side of the ball is doing nothing but improving. Very few question marks arise and the Steelers are poised to make another run at a Super Bowl ring.